10 Quotes from “Institutes of the Christian Religion: Book One”

In it’s original form in 1536, Calvin’s Institutes consisted of only six sections: The Ten Commandments, The Apostles Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, The Sacraments, Christian Liberty, and Political Theology. Calvin added to it over the years, and it came to be what we have now.

Many dismiss the Institutes because they flatly dismiss “Calvinism.” I must contend that this is a poor position to hold. Whether or not you would agree with the so called “five points” you should not let that keep you from reading this book. Over the roughly 1,000 pages Calvin deals directly with election and predestination very infrequently. So if that’s been your excuse, find a better one, or just read the thing. You’ll be edified.

The overarching emphasis of his work is God’s glory in all things. Regardless of where you land on the TULIP, that’s a pretty good emphasis to have. Ultimately, this will be a four-post series (one post of quotes for each book in the volume) and will have a total of 85 quotes. If I’m honest, it was really difficult to get down to 85 quotes so I urge you to go and read it so you can get all of the goodness!

This first post will have quotes from only Book One. In this book, Calvin takes up the topics of God, Scripture, and man’s knowledge of God and himself. For a bit more background on all four books you can read an overview by Ligonier Ministries here. If you’d like to buy the whole volume, you can do so here.

Here are 10 of my favorite quotes from Book One. Enjoy!

1. Book 1.1.3

But though the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves are bound together by a mutual tie, due arrangement requires that we treat of the former in the first place and then descend to the latter.

2. Book 1.5.6

Let each of us, therefore, in contemplating his own nature, remember that there is one God who governs all natures, and, in governing, wishes us to have respect to himself, to make him the object of our faith, worship, and adoration.

3. Book 1.7.4

But although we may maintain the sacred word of God against gainsayers, it does not follow that we shall forthwith implant the certainty which faith requires in their hearts.

4. Book 1.10.2

Moreover, the knowledge of God, which is set before us in the Scriptures, is designed for the same purpose as that which shines in creation, i.e., that we may thereby learn to worship him with perfect integrity of heart and unfeigned obedience, and also to depend entirely on his goodness.

5. Book 1.11.8

The human mind, stuffed as it is with presumptuous rashness, dares to imagine a God suited to its own capacity; as it labors under dullness, no, is sunk in the grossest ignorance, it substitutes vanity and an empty phantom in the place of God.

6. Book 1.12.1

But it is necessary to attend to the observation with which I set out, i.e., that unless everything peculiar to divinity is confined to God alone, he is robbed of his honor, and his worship is violated.

7. Book 1.13.17

The words Father, Son, and  Holy Spirit certainly indicate a real distinction, not allowing us to suppose that they are merely epithets by which God is variously designated from his works. Still they indicate distinction only, not division.

8. Book 1.16.9

All future events being uncertain to us, seem in suspense as if ready to take either direction. Still, however, the impression remains seated in our hearts, that nothing will happen which the Lord has not provided.

9. Book 1.17.5

He obeys God, who, being instructed in his will, hastens in the direction in which God calls him. But how are we so instructed unless by his word? The will declared by his word, therefore, that which we must keep in view in acting. God requires of us nothing but what he enjoins.

10. Book 1.18.2

The sum of the whole is this–since the will of God is said to be the cause of all things, all the counsels and actions of men must be held to be governed by his providence; so that he not only exerts his power in the elect, who are guided by the holy spirit, but also forces the reprobate to do him service.