40 Quotes from “Institutes of Christian Religion: Book Three”

This is the third post in a four part series. The previous posts had a list of quotes from Book One and Book Two of Calvin’s Institutes. If you’re only going to read the quote lists of this four part volume, I’d encourage you to go back and read those lists as well. If you want to read the whole thing, you can purchase the full volume here.

In Book One Calvin took up the topics of God, Scripture, and man’s knowledge of God and himself. Book Two deals primarily with God the Redeemer in Christ. In this he takes us through the topics of the fall, the Law, the incarnation, and the atonement. Here in Book Three, Calvin is concerned with the way in which we receive the grace of Christ — faith, justification, the Christian life, and more. For a bit more background on all four books you can read an overview by Ligonier Ministries here.

Here are 40 of my favorite quotes from Book Three. Enjoy!

1. Book 3.2.2

Is it faith to understand nothing, and merely submit your convictions implicitly to the church? Faith consists not in ignorance, but in knowledge–knowledge not of God merely, but of the divine will. We do not obtain to salvation either because we are prepared to embrace every dictate of the church as true, or leave to the church the province of inquiring and determining; but when we recognize God as a propitious Father though the reconciliation made by Christ, and Christ as given to us for righteousness sanctification, and life.

2. Book 3.2.28

The chief security lies in the expectation of future life, which is placed beyond doubt by the word of God.

3. Book 3.2.31

But because all our conceptions of the power and works of God are evanescent without the word, we are not rash in maintaining, that there is no faith until God present us with clear evidence of his grace.

4. Book 3.2.31

The word is, in regard to those to whom it is preached, like the sun which shines upon all, but is of no use to the blind. In this matter we are all naturally blind; and hence the word cannot penetrator mind unless the Spirit, that internal teacher, by his enlightening power make an entrance for it.

5. Book 3.2.42

…faith believes that God is true; hope expects that in due season he will manifest his truth. Faith believes that he is our Father; hope expects that he will always act the part of a Father toward us. Faith believes that eternal life has been given to us; hope expects that it will one day be revealed. Faith is the foundation on which hope rests; hope nourishes and sustains faith. For as no man can expect anything from God without previously believing his promises, so, on the other hand the weakness of our faith, which might grow weary and fall away, must be supported and cherished by patient hope and expectation.

6. Book 3.3.5

Wherefore, it seems to me, that repentance may be not inappropriately defined thus: A real conversion of our life unto God, proceeding from sincere and serious fear of God; and consisting in the mortification of our flesh and the old man, and the quickening of the Spirit.

7. Book 3.3.7

By godly sorrow he means when we not only tremble at the punishment, but hate and abhor the sin, because we know it is displeasing to God.

8. Book 3.3.9

That believers may attain to it, God assigns repentance as the goal toward which they must keep running during the whole house of their lives.

9. Book 3.4.3

But there is a great difference between teaching that forgiveness of sins is merited by a full and complete contribution (which the sinner never can give), and instructing him to hunger and thirst after the mercy of God, that recognizing his wretchedness, his turmoil, weariness, and captivity, you may show him where he should seek refreshment, rest, and liberty; in fine, teach him in his humility ti give glory to God.

10. Book 3.4.9

To whom are we to confess? to Him surely–that is, we are to fall down before him with a grieved and humbled heart and sincerely accusing and condemning ourselves, seek forgiveness of his goodness and mercy.

11. Book 3.4.29

Here I must entreat the reader not to listen to any glosses of mine, but only to give some deference to the word of God.

12. Book 3.6.3

Ever since God exhibited himself to us as a Father, we must be convicted of extreme ingratitude if we do not in turn exhibit ourselves as his sons.

13. Book 3.6.4

Doctrine is not an affair of the tongue, but of the life; it is not apprehended by the intellect and memory merely, like other branches of learning; but it is received on when it possesses the whole should, and finds it’s seat and habitation in the inmost recesses of the heart.

14. Book 3.7.5

The only way by which you can ever attain to true meekness, is to have your heart imbued with a humble opinion of yourself and respect for others.

15. Book 3.9.6

The psalmist confesses, “My feet were almost gone: my steps had well nigh slipt: for I was envious at the foolish when I saw the property of the wicked” (Ps 73:3, 4); and he found no resting-place until he entered the sanctuary, and considered the latter end of the righteous and the wicked. To conclude in one word, the cross of Christ then only triumphs in the breasts of believers over the devil and the flesh, sin and sinners, when their eyes are directed to the power of the resurrection.

16. Book 3.11.1

The whole may be thus summed up: Christ given to us by the kindness of God is apprehended and possessed by faith, by means of which we obtain in particular a twofold benefit; first, being reconciled by the righteousness of Christ, God becomes, instead of judge, and indulgent Father; and secondly, being sanctified by his Spirit, we aspire to integrity and purity of life.

17. Book 3.11.13

Hence it follows, that so long as the minutest portion of our own righteousness remains, we have still some ground for boasting. Now if faith utterly excludes boasting, the righteousness of works cannot in any way be associated with the righteousness of faith.

18. Book 3.11.16

The order of justification which it sets before us is this: first, God of his mere gratuitous goodness is pleased to embrace the sinner, in whom he sees nothing that can move him to mercy but wretchedness, because he sees him altogether naked and destitute of good works. He, therefore, seeks the cause of kindness in himself, that thus he may affect the sinner by a sent of his goodness, and induce him, in distrust of his own good works, to cast himself entirely upon his mercy for salvation. This is the meaning of faith by which the sinner comes into the possession of salvation, when, according to the doctrine of the Gospel, he perceives that he is reconciled by God; when, the the intercession of Christ, he obtains the pardon of his sins, and is justified; and, though renewed by the Spirit of God, considered that instead of leaning on his own works, he must look solely to the righteousness which is treasured up for him in Christ.

19. Book 3.13.3

Conscience, when it belongs to God, must either have a secure peach with his justice, or be beset by the terrors of hell.

20. Book 3.13.4

If the method is asked, we must come to the sacrifice by which God was appeased, for no man will ever cease to tremble, until he hold that God is propitiated solely by that expiation in which Christ endured his anger. In short, peace must be sought nowhere but in the agonies of Christ our redeemer.

21. Book 3.14.9

We admit, that when God reconciles us to himself by the intervention of the righteousness of Christ, and bestowing upon us the free pardon of sins regards us as righteousness, his goodness is at the same time conjoined with mercy, so that he dwells in us by means of his Holy Spirit, by whose agency the lusts of our flesh are every day more and more mortified, while that we ourselves are sanctified; that is, consecrated to the Lord for true purity of life, our hearts being trained to the obedience of the law. It thus becomes our leading desire to obey his will, and in all things advance his glory only.

22. Book 3.15.5

No man, therefore, is well founded in Christ who has not entire righteousness in him, since the apostle says not that he was sent to assist us in procuring, but was himself to be our righteousness.

23. Book 3.16.1

Christ, therefore, justifies no man without also sanctifying him. These blessings are conjoined by a perpetual and inseparable tie. Those whom he enlightens by his wisdom he redeems; whom he redeems he justifies; whom he justifies he sanctifies.

24. Book 3.16.4

Our doctrine is, that justification is a thing of such value, that it cannot be put into the balance with any good quality of ours; and therefore could never be obtained unless it were gratuitous: moreover, that it is gratuitous to us, but not also to Christ, who paid so dearly for it; namely, his own most sacred blood, out of which there was no price of sufficient value to pay what was due to the justice of God.

25. Book 3.17.1

Our only confidence and boasting, our only anchor of salvation is, that Christ the Son of God is ours, and that we are in him sons of God and heirs of the heavenly kingdom, to be called, not by our worth, but the kindness of God, to the hope of eternal blessedness.

26. Book 3.17.6

Therefore, if it be asked, what is the first cause which gives the saints free access to the kingdom of God, and a firm and permanent footing in it? the answer is easy. The Lord in his mercy once adopted and ever defends them. But if the question relates to the manner, we must defend to regeneration, and the fruits of it, as enumerated in Ps. 15.

27. Book 3.17.8

Justification, moreover, we thus define: The sinner being admitted into communion with Christ is, for his sake, reconciled to God; when purged by his blood he obtains the remission of sins, and clothed with righteousness, just as if it were his own, stands secure before the judgement seat of heaven.

28. Book 3.18.6

What we give to our brethren in the exercise of charity is a deposit with the Lord, who, as a faithful depositary, will ultimately restore it with abundant interest.

29. Book 3.19.2

For the question is, not how we may be righteous, but how, though unworthy and unrighteous, we may be regarded as righteous.

30. Book 3.19.9

Certainly ivory and gold, and riches, are the good creatures of God, permitted, not destined, by divine providence for the use of man; now was it ever forbidden to laugh, or to be full, or to add new to old and hereditary possessions, or to be delighted with music, or to drink wine. This is true, but when the means are supplied to roll and wallow in luxury, to intoxicate the mind and soul with present, and be always hunting after new pleasures, is very far from a legitimate us of the gifts of God. Let them, therefore, suppress immoderate desire, immoderate procession, vanity, and arrogance, that they may use the gifts of God purely with pure conscience.

31. Book 3.20.26

But some seem to be moved by the fact that the prayer of saints are often said to have been heard. Why? Because they prayed…Let us also pray after their example, that like them, we too may be heard.

32. Book 3.20.29

For he does not there forbid us to pray long or frequently, or with great fervor, but warns us agains supposing that we can extort anything from God by importuning him with garrulous loquacity, as if he were to be persuaded after the manner of men.

33. Book 3.20.46

But the prayer comprehends more than at first sight it seems to do. For if the Spirit of God is our strength in waging the contest with Satan, we cannot gain the victory unless we are filled with him, and thereby freed from all infirmity of the flesh. Therefore, when we pray to be delivered from sin and Satan, we a the same time desire to be enriched with new supplies of divine grace until completely replenished with them, we triumph over every evil.

34. Book 3.20.51

If, with minds thus framed to obedience, we allow ourselves sot be governed by the laws of divine providence, we shall easily learn to preserver in prayer, and suspending our own desires, wait patiently for the Lord, certain, however little the appearance of it may be, that he is always present with us, and will in his own time show how very far he was from turning a deaf ear to prayers, though to the eyes of men the may seem to be disregarded.

35. Book 3.21.3

Therefore, in order to keep the legitimate course in this matter, we must return to the word of God, in which we are furnished with the right rule of understanding. For Scripture is the school of the Holy Spirit, in which as nothing useful and necessary to be know has been omitted, so nothing is taught but what it is of importance to know.

36. Book 3.21.7

We say, then, that Scripture clearly proves this much, that God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once and for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and this whom, on the other hand, it was his pleasure to doom to destruction. We maintain that this counsel, as it regards the elect, is founded on his free mercy, without any respect to human worth, while this whom he dooms rot destruction are excluded from access to life by a just and blameless, but at the same time incomprehensible judgement. In regard to the elect, we regard calling as the evidence of election, and justification as another symbol of its manifestation, until it is fully accomplished by the attainment of glory. But as the Lord seals his elect by calling and justification, so by excluding the reprobate either from the knowledge of his name or the sanctification of his Spirit, he by these marks in a manner discloses judgement which awaits them.

37. Book 3.23.2

The will of God is the supreme rule of righteousness, so that everything which he wills must be held to be righteous by the mere fact of his willing it. Therefore, when it is asked why the Lord did so, we must answer, Because he pleased. But if you proceed farther to ask why he pleased, you ask for something greater and more sublime than the will of God, and nothing such can be found. Let human temerity then be quiet, and cease to inquire after what exists not, lest perhaps it fails to find what does exist.

38. Book 3.23.11

Since God inflicts due punishment on those whom he reprobates, and bestows unmerited favor on those whom he calls, he is free from every accusation; just as it belongs to the creditor to forgive debt to the one, and exact it of another. The Lord therefore may show favor to whom he will, because he is merciful; not show it to all, because he is a just judge. In giving to some what they do not merit, he shows his free favor; in not giving to all, he declares what all deserve.

39. Book 3.24.5

But if we are elected in him, we cannot find the certainty of our election in ourselves; and not even in God the Father, if we look at him apart from the Son. Christ, then, is the mirror in which we ought, and in which, without deception, we may contemplate our election. For since it is into his body that the Father has decreed to engraft those whom from eternity he wished to be his, that he may regard as sons all whom he acknowledges to be his members, if we are in communion with Christ, we have proof sufficiently clear and strong that we are written in the Book of Life.

40. Book 3.25.3

Paul was not thrown down on the way by the power of a dead man, but felt that hew home he was opposing was possessed of sovereign authority. To Stephen he appeared for another purpose, i.e., that he might overcome the fear of death by the certainty of life. To refuse assent to these numerous and authentic proofs is not diffidence, but deprived and therefore infatuated obstinacy.

Book Four