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Book Review – Sermons on Genesis – John Calvin – Banner of Truth

March 2010 | by Philip Eveson

Sermons on Genesis – Chapters 1-11

 

John Calvin

Banner of Truth; 867 pages; £20.00; ISBN: 978-1-84871-038-2

 

The translator of Calvin’s sermons on the Acts of the Apostles 1-7, Rob Roy McGregor, has now given us this superb English version of 49 sermons that Calvin delivered in Geneva between September 1559 and January 1560. These sermons give us a fresh glimpse into the content and style of Calvin’s preaching.

The original manuscripts were not written out or edited by Calvin for publication, but are the result of shorthand notes taken down by those who heard Calvin preach. They were later written out in full. Reading these sermons is, therefore, like being present with the Genevan congregation, listening to Calvin as he explains and applies the text of Scripture.

Calvin entered the pulpit with nothing but the Hebrew text of Scripture, but it is clear that he had done his homework and came with a worshipful spirit. The sermons reveal that he wore his learning lightly and concentrated on opening up the whole text, using non-technical language and illustrations, and applying lessons from it in a direct and personal way.

Unlike Luther, Calvin is much more careful with the biblical text and its context. But he rarely takes us directly to Christ. One will be disappointed with his treatment, for instance, of Genesis 3:15. The most explicit references to Jesus Christ and his saving work are reserved for his treatment of the tree of life and animal sacrifice.

But it must not be forgotten that often the same people who heard Calvin’s sermons regularly on weekdays heard his New Testament sermons at Sunday services. It is also noticeable that the closing prayer for each Genesis sermon invariably brings us to Christ and the gospel.

This publication is not meant primarily for an academic study of this great Protestant preacher and theologian, but for church members and preacher-pastors to be challenged and encouraged by Calvin’s example and the content of his messages.

Philip H. Eveson

Wrexham