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Institutes of the Christian Religion

1541 Edition


John Calvin

Cover image for John Calvin's 'Institutes of the Christian Religion'
5 out of 5 based on 4 customer ratings
(4 customer reviews)
Weight 2.56 lbs
Dimensions 8.8 x 5.75 x 2.2 in

Calvin, John


Cloth-bound, Kindle (.mobi), ePub, Cloth-bound & Kindle, Cloth-bound & ePub






Christian Living, General Theology, Jesus Christ, The Holy Spirit, Doctrines of Grace




Whole Bible

Original Pub Date


Banner Pub Date

Sep 18, 2014

Book Description

The Institutes of the Christian Religion is Calvin’s single most important work, and one of the key texts to emerge from the Reformation of the sixteenth century. The book accompanied the Reformer throughout his life, growing in size from what was essentially an expanded catechism in 1536 to a full-scale work of biblical theology in 1559/1560.

Among the intermediate editions of the Institutes, none deserves to be better known than the first French edition of 1541. Avoiding the technical details and much of the polemics of the final work, the Institutes of 1541 offer a clear and comprehensive account of the work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in creation, revelation and redemption, in the life of the individual Christian and in the worship and witness of the church.

Not doctrine only but its practical use is Calvin’s abiding concern. The author of the Institutes invites us both to know and to live the truth, and thus allow God’s Spirit to transform us.

The present translation is newly made from the French of 1541. It has been designed and annotated with the needs of a wide readership in mind.

Table of Contents Expand ↓

Translator’s Introduction vii
Outline of the Present Book xv
Prefatory Letter to Francis I xvii
Institutes of the Christian Religion (1541 Edition)
Chapter 1: The Knowledge of God 1
Chapter 2: The Knowledge of Man and Free Will 29
Chapter 3: The Law 109
Chapter 4: Faith, with an Explanation of the Apostles’ Creed 183
Chapter 5: Repentance 295
Chapter 6: Justification by Faith and the Merits of Works 351
Chapter 7: The Similarity and Difference between the Old and New Testaments 429
Chapter 8: The Predestination and Providence of God 463
Chapter 9: Prayer, with an Explanation of Our Lord’s Prayer 517
Chapter 10: The Sacraments 561
Chapter 11: Baptism 579
Chapter 12: The Lord’s Supper 623
Chapter 13: The Five Ceremonies Falsely Called Sacraments 669
Chapter 14: Christian Freedom 707
Chapter 15: The Power of the Church 721
Chapter 16: Civil Government 755
Chapter 17: The Christian Life 785
Appendix: Comparative Table of the 1541 and 1560 Institutes 823
Index of Scripture References 837
Index of Names 873
Index of Principal Subjects 877


4 testimonials for Institutes of the Christian Religion

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  1. 5 out of 5


    Wonderful! A fresh translation, accessible, rich in truth, devotional. Very recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5


    This is my favorite edition of the Institues. Translated from French, Calvin’s native tongue, it is a fresh and lucid version that I reach for and reference often.

  3. 5 out of 5


    If you ever ask a reformed theologian or pastor what are the top 10 books they recommend to anyone new to the Christian faith, it seems that Calvin’s Institutes is almost always in the list. They don’t even have to be a reformed theologian, though. I have heard countless quotes and references to Calvin’s seminal classic for years. I decided, after some apprehension (because let’s face it, at 822 pages this book is long and therefore intimidating, and that’s only the 1541 edition) to read this massive book, to study it and reflect on a lot of what I read. This turned out to be a great decision.
    Background first
    So first, some background on this book. When people think of or talk about Calvin’s Institutes they most assuredly are thinking of the two-volume work published in 1960 edited by John T. McNeil and translated by Ford Lewis Battles. This is the English version of the 1559 Latin text edition of the Institutes. Hopefully, you’ve noticed some disparity in the dates. This is a review/post on the 1541 edition, but I just mentioned the most familiar edition is the 1559. What’s up with that? Well, almost 25 years separates the first edition of the Institutes from the final version, which was initially Latin and a year later, in 1560 Calvin translated it into French. The very first edition of the Institutes was published in 1536 by Calvin. The goal of the Institutes was simple: It was a primer for the absolute essential doctrines of Christianity. The first edition was a huge success, which that honestly is an understatement. So 3 years later, Calvin more fully expounded and exposited on the previously released edition and released a very much enlarged edition (the second edition) in 1539 in Latin. However, Calvin recognized that his audience was small and limited with just the Latin edition, so in 1541 he published this revised and expanded edition in French. Now his audience of countrymen and contemporaries grew exponentially. Calvin referred to his 1541 French edition as the “essentials” edition for many reasons, vanguard of those reason was it being disseminated and published in the normal tongue of the day. Calvin continued editing, expanding and enlarging his Institutes throughout the rest of his life as he progressively gained more knowledge of Scripture and hermeneutical, exegetical and theological understanding of Christian doctrine, until 1559.
    This version is a new (published first in 2014) translation of the 1541 edition from French to English. This book has incredible strengths. The clarity of the English is almost startling, especially when one realizes this is a translation of a 16th century book! There weren’t many passages I had to re-read to understand. The book’s translation is very clear, and according to other reviews of this edition, the English is extraordinarily faithful to the original French texts. I love having such clear fidelity. This is a huge strength about this book.
    A Brief Overview
    This edition covers 17 chapters, starting from man’s knowledge of God and ending with the Christian life. It is a little shorter than the two volume edition of the 1559 Institutes. Probably the most familiar chapter among all of Calvin’s works is his chapter on man’s knowledge of God—this is by far the most often referenced section of the Institutes. “The whole sum of our wisdom—wisdom, that is, which deserves to be called true and assured—broadly consists of two parts, knowledge of God and knowledge of ourselves” (p. 1). This thesis is proven beautifully with pithy metaphorical statements, myriad Biblical cross references and extremely sharp prowess from Calvin’s pen. I was blown away with the clarity of his points and how easy they were to understand. However, this doesn’t stop with this first thesis, he does this over and over again in every single section of this book. One of my favorite things about Calvin is he doesn’t try to make the elusive and difficult passages and doctrines intimidating. He explains them in very simple ways, assuring you that in fact much of it is simple, but it’s our sinfulness that often fogs things.
    This book was written in the 16th century during the Reformation. Therefore, this book is quite saturated with critiques of Roman Catholicism. The guidance offered on recovering Biblical Christianity is magnificent in this work. I have never read any author who has such a systematic understanding of Scripture as Calvin, albeit this is mainly what he is remembered for—his understanding of Scripture. I am so thankful for these titans of the Christian faith who offer us such guidance. It is no surprise, then, that Calvin is referred to by many as one of the greatest and influential theologians of Church history.
    More on his style
    Calvin wasn’t joking when he critiqued Catholic theologians and their theology. He often refers to them as “monkeys” and their explanations as “monkey tricks”. I found this humorous, though the time separating me from Calvin’s era is massive (almost 500 years) and I know that these titles were much more serious in his day. Also, I must add that his chapter on the similarity and difference between the Old and New Testaments was incredible. I learned so much and never realized how often the Old Testament speaks of Heaven. What Calvin is most known for today, likely because of how controversial it is, is his view and teachings on Predestination. He devotes quite a meaty chapter to this topic. I’d recommend anyone, whether you’re prescient or Augustinian in terms of your view on election, to read this chapter. It truly will be edifying and eye opening. Calvin constantly goes back to Soli Deo Gloria—he consistently is bringing doxology into his teachings and explaining how every single aspect of Christianity is for God’s glory alone.
    I recommend this to any Christian, no matter their maturity or understanding of God’s word to read this. It’s a big book, though, but it’s one that should be on your book shelf I believe. Why? Because the clarity Calvin offers is magnificent; he has an extraordinary systematic understanding of Scripture; he is Biblical and lets Scripture rule, not his experience, emotions or desires. Perhaps reading a little of each section daily for about a year or so would get you through the entire book and it would be tremendously edifying. Some notable guidance (though, I am not writing a lot about this book since it is so long I can’t cover it all on here!) I found was on the power of the keys and what Jesus meant in Matthew 16 in his elusive words, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (16:18, 19). I’ll leave that as a teaser in hopes that you will go read his section on this. This interpretation very much has influenced the classical Protestant understanding of this words juxtaposed to Rome’s understanding.
    Overall, my final words concerning this book are this: Go buy it and start reading.

  4. 5 out of 5


    Just purchased the 1541 edition of The Institutes of the Christian Religion and the companion volume titled Knowing God and Ourselves by David B Calhoun. Awesome! My plan is to use these volumes as my devotional for the next three years. Thanks to the Lord for his grace and mercy. Amen.

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