Faith Unfeigned – A Review by Brian Garrard
This is a new translation by Robert-White of four sermons by John Calvin (JC). First published in 1552, the original title (in English) was ‘Four sermons of Master John Calvin, entreating of matters very profitable for our time, with a brief Exposition of Psalm 87.’ Included here are three letters by JC, one of the recipients being Edward VI of England.
The 1500s were difficult and dangerous times for Protestant believers, and many were suffering greatly in the cause of Christ. So it was far from certain what the future would be for the Church, yet JC believed God would ultimately raise up His cause again. Sadly, though, there were those who sought to escape persecution by compromising with Roman Catholicism. These JC dubbed ‘Nicodemites’ because of their refusal to openly confess Christ. Against this background, JC preached these sermons.
The first (page 5) is from Psalm 16:4 ‘Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips.’ It deals with the need for believers to refrain from involvement ‘with popish abominations which are completely opposed to the Christian religion…’ (author’s preface on pages 1,2).In attending such worship they disown the Lord who redeemed them. A number of subtle arguments were advanced by these ‘Nicodemites’ to justify their attendance at the Mass and other Roman Catholic rites, but JC demolishes them all. The spirit, soul and body belongs to the Lord, and all must be kept clear of idolatry. This is particularly true of the Mass, which he describes as ‘a repudiation of the death of Jesus Christ and a sacrilege forged by Satan to destroy the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper’ (page 15). JC appreciated it was not easy to refrain from these things, but he exhorts his hearers/readers to seek strength from God in order to stand.
Sermon 2 (pages 29) is on Hebrews 13:13 ‘Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.’ Here, Calvin encourages believers to remain faithful in persecution and be strong and steadfast, even if it means death. They are to live to the glory of God, and ‘not refuse to suffer abuse in the world’s eyes, that we may be honoured before God and His angels’ (page 35). He also appeals to the example of the martyrs (pages 41-42), and exhorts all believers to remain fearless for Christ, not counting the cost of losing their lives for Him if need be. God’s strengthening word comes over in this preaching.
The final sermons (3 and 4) deal with the importance of belonging to a Gospel church. serving Him faithfully within it (pages 51 and 73). These are taken from Psalm 27:4,8 and are typical of Calvin’s forthright yet gracious style. As before, he insists that they do not spiritually compromise. There then follows an exposition of Psalm 87 (pages 95-108), which urges beleaguered Christians to remain faithful to the Lord, knowing that He will sustain His church through all ages. This, with a covering letter, was sent to Edward VI with the hope that he would continue his reforming work of the church (Appendix 1, page 109).
Appendix 2 is a letter from JC to an unidentified friend and is similar to the letter given in Appendix 3. This is to Nicolas Duchemin, and both are powerful exhortations not to concede anything to Romanism, especially by attending the Mass and other idolatrous ceremonies. The Duchemin letter covers 56 pages – an epistle of considerable length. Although its tone is gentler than some things written and spoken by JC, the message is just as firm and uncompromising.There is to be no fellowship with Rome and her errors and blasphemies. Whatever the cost, and martyrdom could not be ruled out, Protestant believers are to remain faithful to Christ.
In reading this little work and considering its message, it becomes clear that things have not changed that much. So-called Evangelicals and Protestants are compromising over many issues today, especially with ecumenism and Romanism. Calvin’s Faith Unfeigned needs to be read and re-read today by every Christian.It is a message that cries out to be heard and powerfully applied to us all. May the Lord preserve and revive His Church in our evil day!
Four Sermons Concerning Matters Most Useful for the Present Time with a Brief Exposition of Psalm 87
This is a new translation by Robert-White of four sermons by John Calvin (JC). First published in 1552, the original title (in English) was ‘Four sermons of Master John Calvin, entreating of matters very profitable for our time, with a brief Exposition of Psalm 87.’ Included here are three letters by JC, one of the […]
Taken with permission from the Bible League Quarterly Jan-Mar 2016, Issue No. 464
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