Sermons on Titus – A Review by Gervase Charmley
Calvin’s sermons on Paul’s epistle to Titus have been available in the form of a facsimile of the 1579 edition of Calvin’s sermons on the letters to Timothy and Titus.
This new translation by Robert White, however, has the pleasing effect of making them more accessible to the modern reader, as well as more portable. Rather than setting out the sermons in two columns, expressed in Elizabethan English, this edition presents an entirely new translation from the original French. The text flows easily. The translation is both reverent and warm; where Calvin is more informal. The English prose is accessible without being facile. As to the matter, well, it is Calvin, and so must be agreeable to good taste and sound doctrine.
As might be expected, Calvin’s primary task is to address the question of preachers and preaching. The reformer contrasts the arrogant claims of the Roman Catholic hierarchy with the simple task of preaching, and describes the work and character of a preacher, reminding ministers of Paul’s rebuke to the Corinthians ‘what hast thou that thou didst not receive?’ as a caution against pride. Indeed, the recollection on the part of any of the Lord’s people that it is God, and God alone, who makes his people to differ should lay all pride in the dust. Yet at the same time, Calvin notes, that God has called men into the ministry, and that it behoves Christians to listen to those to whom God has entrusted the preaching of his holy word.
Whilst the sermons are particularly valuable for preachers, there is much matter of comfort and counsel to the general reader. Considering patience, Calvin counsels his hearers and readers:
‘If we have faith we will be patient in the face of all adversity. Why so? Because faith should lift us upward and make us forget the world, or at least help us to pass through it. Unless we are strangers here below, how can we say that our inheritance is in the kingdom of heaven? So let us pass through this world and let it not detain us. And if we must suffer tribulation and distress, we will be better able to bear them patiently as long as we make heaven our aim, for it is there that God calls us.’
Such counsel will always be needed whilst this world exists, but in the present evil age, where there is so much, in a material sense, which may become a snare, these words are timely indeed. This is a book which will repay much study.
Taken with permission from the current edition of Peace and Truth, 2016:4