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Sermons on the Acts of the Apostles: Chapters 1-7 Hardcover – February 1, 2008
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Many people think of Calvin as the sternest and most intimidating (maybe even the most frightening) of all the magisterial reformers. Here we have a collection of his sermons from 460 years ago; sermons in which he painstakingly worked his way though about 10 pages of Biblical text verse by verse, taking a year and a half to do it. One could probably be forgiven for thinking that curling up with a book like that would be a painful experience.
One would be wrong.
Calvin has gotten a bad rap, based much more on what people have said about him than on his own teaching and preaching. The Renaissance concept of ad fontes, returning to the sources, certainly applies here. If you want to know about Calvin, you should read Calvin.
These sermons show us Calvin as pastor, teaching his congregation the whole counsel of God. He's concerned about their knowledge of doctrine, their behavior in the world, and the strength and reputation of the Church. But, most of all, he's always passionate about bringing honor and glory to God.
Dr. Rob Roy McGregor brings the text to life with his excellent translation from the French. Many of the most commonly used translations of Calvin's works into English were done in the 1800's, often based on work done even earlier. That handicaps the modern reader with the burden of processing the out-dated English of the translation before he or she can get to what the author was trying to convey.
Dr. McGregor makes us feel as if we are in Calvin's congregation, listening to him speak. He conveys the depth of Calvin's teaching without sanitizing his colorful approach. Calvin's penchant for railing against doctrinal "stupidity", religious "frivolity", and his weekly rants against the Papacy are all here, but all in context. Far from off-putting, I find his passion a breath of fresh air.
The only real downer in the book is the occasional reference to the fact that so much of the record of the pulpit in Geneva has been lost. The church hired a stenographer who transcribed all of their pastor's messages. These were bound and saved, eventually filling forty bound volumes.
They were given to the University Library in Geneva in 1613, but the library disposed of most of them in 1805. They needed the shelf space.
I'm sure that seemed like a good idea at the time.
What remains for us, however, is a treasure. Whether you are looking for reference material for teaching or preaching, reading material to feed your own mind and soul, or just a good book to curl up with, you'll be hard pressed to do better.