Sermons on the Deity of Christ, by John Calvin. Tr. Leroy Nixon. Audubon, New Jersey: Old Paths Publications, 1997. 302 pp. $34.95 (cloth). (Reviewed by the editor)
To what is fast becoming a very valuable and attractive set of otherwise out-of-print sermons by John Calvin, Old Paths Publications has now added this volume of 20 sermons by the Reformer on the birth, suffering, resurrection, ascension, outpouring of the Spirit, and return of Jesus Christ. The other volumes are Calvin’s sermons on Galatians; Psalm 119; and the predestination of Jacob and Esau according to Genesis.
Whereas the earlier volumes made available in modern English sermons that had been out-of-print for more than 400 years, this one restores a work that had been published in 1950.
As do the others in the set, this book gives us the preaching of Calvin to his own congregation in Geneva, as it was taken down by scribes at the time. All of the sermons in this latest volume are directly on the person and ministry of the Savior. The title of the book is taken from the first sermon, on John 1:1-5. In addition, the book contains one sermon on Jesus’ birth; eight sermons on Jesus’ suffering and death; one sermon on the resurrection; four sermons on the ascension; four sermons on Pentecost; and one sermon on the second coming.
Although as a rule Calvin ignored the Christian holidays in his preaching, he did once preach a special sermon on Christmas Day, and twice he preached special sermons on Easter Sunday (1559 and 1560). The Christmas sermon and one of the Easter sermons are included in the book.
Elsewhere in this issue, we publish one of the sermons. This may serve as an example of Calvin’s preaching and of the content of the book.
In connection with his explanation of the outstanding events that make up Christ’s ministry, Calvin gives instruction to the people concerning various doctrines of the Christian faith: God’s accommodation to us (His “stuttering”) in an infallibly inspired Scripture (sermon one); God’s sovereignty over sin (sermon 19); the nature of faith (sermon 20). It is surprising to learn that Calvin regarded at least one phase of Jesus’ temptation by the devil in the wilderness as having taken place in an “illusion” (p. 157).
Like the other books of sermons, this one is especially profitable for edification. Reformed people should make such works as these their devotional reading. Much of the supposedly devotional material that clamors for the money and time of Reformed Christians—the charismatic and the self-centered evangelical stuff—is junk food for the soul, worthless at best and harmful at worst.
Calvin, we discover, was a typical expository preacher. At the end of one sermon, he told his congregation, “This is what the Gospel-writer wished to indicate. I omit other things, because time does not permit us to speak of them further, and already I have spoken too long.” And then he went on for two more pages. Ah, yes.