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John Calvin on The Psalms – A Review by A W MacColl

Category Book Reviews
Date March 26, 2010

Calvin’s fame as the prince of theologians rests firmly on his ability and wisdom as an interpreter of God’s Word. In his commentaries on the Holy Scriptures we see that God-given skill put to a practical use. Indeed Calvin’s commentaries are still indispensable to serious students of the Bible almost 500 years after their original publication.

David C Searle’s abridgement of Calvin’s five-volume commentary on the Psalms is to be welcomed if it succeeds in attracting a wider circle of readers who would perhaps not otherwise take up the full unabridged version. We find in Commentary on the Psalms* the authentic voice of the Geneva Reformer speaking with authority and faithfulness to the plain teaching of the text. Searle has done his literary work well in that regard. Yet in some ways it is a sad indication of the superficiality of the present state of religion that such an abridgement is deemed necessary, at least as far as preachers are concerned. As Searle himself writes in the Foreword:

During my years of ministry at Rutherford House, I was often saddened by the realisation that few teachers and preachers of the gospel ever used Calvin’s commentaries, either on the Psalms or on the rest of the Christian Scriptures.

The Introduction contains a useful summary of Calvin’s method of interpretation and the leading doctrines he emphasises. Calvin referred to the Psalms as ‘an anatomy of all the parts of the soul’ and we see his pastoral sensitivity in such comments as the following on Psalm 118:18:

We should always recognise our adversities as coming from God’s hand to crucify our sinful natures . . . and humble us so that we might meditate on the heavenly life. Those who champ impatiently on the bit do not see that their afflictions are God’s rod administered in fatherly care . . . He deals in mercy with his people, that his chastening may serve as medicine and be their cure.

No doubt many useful passages have been omitted for the sake of condensation and it is to be regretted once again that the English Standard Version is generally used for quotations. Nevertheless, this handy and attractive commentary will prove useful to anyone desiring to get a lucid and brief overview of the contents of each of the Psalms and may lead them on to study the unabridged version for themselves.

Notes

Taken with permission from the March 2010 edition of The Free Presbyterian Magazine.

www.fpchurch.org.uk

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