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Theological Book Reviews - Calvin’s Calvinism

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Some of Calvin’s most valuable thoughts on reprobation, divine foreknowledge, and predestination; including the secret counsel of God.

Theological Book Reviews – Calvin’s Calvinism
Reviewed by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon

Calvin’s Calvinism: Treatises on the Eternal Predestination of God & the Secret knowledge of God
by John Calvin, translated by Henry Cole.
Reformed Free Publishing Association, Grandville, MI: 1950.
354 Pages, Paperback.

In the teaching of this book, Calvin sets forth his views on God’s eternal predestination and providence. This is John Calvin’s Calvinism stated plainly, and apologetically. It is divided into two sections where Calvin treats predestination in the first and the providence of God in the second. Both treatises are exemplary works for the truth of Christ and for the Gospel of salvation. In these treatise, though, Calvin will go much farther than many “Calvinists” would like him to go, reaching into the “secret” foreknowledge of God and the work of His providence.

Calvin writes against Pighius in a continuation from his other work “The Bondage and Liberation of the Will” which he had written while Pighius was alive. Here, in this volume, Pighius was the recipient of Calvin’s pen though he was not alive to read it. However, Calvin also writes against Georgius, another Catholic opponent.

What is striking in these two treatise is the blunt power Calvin stabs forth with the sword of the Spirit. His logical and systematic style is unsurpassed (except possibly by Augustus Toplady on the same subjects).

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I agreed with Calvin on all his points, including his emphasis and oasis concerning God’s love for all men. His treatment of the doctrine of predestination is a most excellent and helpful diagnosis of the will of God; which includes his exegetical prowess in interpretation.

As if that was all Calvin wrote, he continues in the second part of his book on the providence of God, or the secret foreknowledge of God. This is a masterful treatment of the “way God works”. He is in complete and total sovereign control of all things, and by the way Calvin writes here he was deeply persuaded by this. The only barrier to overcome is Calvin’s antiquated style and manner of speaking. If this is not a problem for you then I would heartily recommend this book.

The book is hard to find, but the Reformed Free Publishing Association still publishes this book at low cost. It may be well worth buying more than one copy to hand out to others who may be struggling with these doctrines.

Some Quotes:
“Now, in the first place, if there be one grain of the fear of God in this man Pighius, could he ever had dared thus insolently to call God to order? For he absolutely prescribes it as a rule to the Most High, that He ought to extend His bounty to all equally as a public treasury. This leaving nothing to God by which to exercise His free beneficence.”

“The difficulty which, according to Pighius, lies in that other place of Paul, where the apostle affirms that “God will have all men saved, and come unto the knowledge of the truth,” (1 Tim. 2:4), is solved in one moment, and by one question, How does God wish all men to come to a knowledge of the truth? For Paul couples this salvation and this coming to a knowledge of the truth together. Now, I would ask, did the same will of God stand the same from the beginning of the world or not? For if God willed, or wished, that His truth should be known unto all men, how was it that He did not proclaim and make known His law to the Gentiles also?”

“But with reference to the hardening of men’s hearts, that is a different way of God’s working, as I have just observed. Because God does not govern the reprobate by His regenerating Spirit; but He gives them over to the devil, and leaves them to be his slaves; and He so overrules their depraved wills by His secret judgment and counsel, that they can do nothing but that which He has decreed.”

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