Faith and Christianity


In my J.A Wylie – History of Protestantism reading group we have come to the chapter on Calvin’s Institutes.

In this post and the next I present two introductions to this work, since it is likely that like myself, my readers have never actually read the work. This first post has the Table of Contents and the short introductions to each of the four books that make up the Institutes. the line spacing makes to post a bit long…but focus on the introductions at the end, they are any easy read.

Table of Contents


By John Calvin

Table of Contents

Book 1

Of the Knowledge of God the Creator.

Eighteen Chapters

1. Connection between the Knowledge of God and the Knowledge of Ourselves. Nature of the connection.

2. What it is to Know God. Tendency of this Knowledge.

3. The Human Mind naturally imbued with the Knowledge of God.

4. This Knowledge stifled or corrupted, ignorantly or maliciously.

5. The Knowledge of God displayed in the fabric and constant Government of the Universe.

6. The need of Scripture as a Guide and Teacher in coming to God as a Creator.

7. The Testimony of the Spirit necessary to give full authority to Scripture. The impiety of pretending that the Credibility of Scripture depends on the judgement of the Church.

8. The Credibility of Scripture sufficiently proved, in so far as Natural Reason admits.

9. All the principles of piety subverted by fanatics who substitute revelations for Scripture.

10. In Scripture, the true God opposed, exclusively, to all the gods of the Heathen.

11. Impiety of attributing a visible form to God. The setting up of Idols a revolt against the True God.

12. God distinguished from Idols, that He may be the exclusive object of Worship.

13. The Unity of the Divine Essence in Three Persons taught in Scripture, from the foundation of the World.

14. In the Creation of the World, and all things in it, the True God distinguished by certain marks from fictitious gods.

15. State in which man was created. The Faculties of the Soul – The Image of God – Free Will – Original Righteousness.

16. The World, created by God, still cherished and protected by Him. Each and all of its parts governed by His Providence.

17. Use to be made of this Doctrine.

18. The instrumentality of the wicked employed by God, while He continues free from every taint.

Book 2

Of the knowledge of God the Redeemer, in Christ, as first manifested to the fathers under the law, and thereafter to us under the Gospel.

Seventeen Chapters

1. Through the Fall and revolt of Adam the whole Human race made accursed and degenerate. Of Original Sin.

2. Man now deprived of Freedom of Will, and miserably enslaved.

3. Every thing proceeding from the corrupt Nature of Man damnable.

4. How God works in the hearts of men.

5. The Arguments usually alleged in support of Free Will refuted.

6. Redemption for lost man to be sought in Christ.

7. The Law given, not to retain a people for itself, but to keep alive the Hope of Salvation in Christ until his Advent.

8. Exposition of the Moral Law.

9. Christ, though known to the Jews under the Law, yet only manifested under the Gospel.

10. The resemblance between the Old Testament and the New.

11. The difference between the two Testaments.

12. Christ, to perform the Office of Mediator, behaved to become man.

13. Christ clothed with the true substance of Human Nature.

14. How two natures constitute the Person of the Mediator.

15. Three things chiefly to be regarded in Christ; viz., his Offices of Prophet, King, and Priest.

16. How Christ performed the Office of Redeemer in procuring our salvation. The Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ.

17. Christ rightly and properly said to have merited Grace and Salvation for us.

Book 3

The mode of obtaining the grace of Christ. The benefits it confers, and the effects resulting from it.

Twenty-Five Chapters

1. The Benefits of Christ made available to us by the Secret Operation of the Spirit.

2. Of Faith. The Definition of it. Its peculiar properties.

3. Regeneration by Faith. Of Repentance.

4. Penitence, as explained in the sophistical jargon of the Schoolmen, widely different from the purity required by the Gospel. Of Confession and Satisfactions.

5. Of the modes of Supplementing Satisfactions, viz., Indulgences and Purgatory.

6. The Life of a Christian Man. Scriptural Arguments exhorting to it.

7. A Summary of the Christian Life. Of Self-Denial.

8. Of Bearing the Cross – one branch of Self-Denial.

9. Of Meditating on the Future Life.

10. How to use the Present Life, and the comforts of it.

11. Of Justification by Faith. Both the name and the reality defined.

12. Necessity of contemplating the Judgement-seat of God, in order to be seriously convinced of the Doctrine of Gratuitous Justification.

13. Two things to be observed in Gratuitous Justification.

14. The beginning of Justification. In what sense progressive.

15. The boasted merit of Works subversive both of the Glory of God, in bestowing Righteousness, and of the certainty of Salvation.

16. Refutation of the Calumnies by which it is attempted to throw odium on this doctrine.

17. The Promises of the Law and the Gospel reconciled.

18. The Righteousness of Works improperly inferred from Rewards.

19. Of Christian Liberty.

20. Of Prayer – a perpetual exercise of Faith. The daily benefits derived from it.

21. Of the Eternal Election, by which God has predestinated some to Salvation and others to Destruction.

22. This Doctrine confirmed by Proofs from Scripture.

23. Refutation of the Calumnies by which this Doctrine is always unjustly assailed.

24. Election confirmed by the Calling of God. The Reprobate bring upon themselves the righteous destruction to which they are doomed.

25. Of the Last Resurrection.

Book 4

Of the external means or helps by which God allures us into fellowship with Christ, and keeps us in it.

Twenty Chapters

1. Of the True Church. Duty of cultivating Unity with her, as the mother of all the godly.

2. Comparison between the False Church and the True.

3. Of the Teachers and Ministers of the Church. Their Election and Office.

4. Of the State of the Primitive Church, and the Mode of Government in use before the Papacy.

5. The Ancient Form of Government utterly corrupted by the tyranny of the Papacy.

6. Of the Primacy of the Romish See.

7. Of the Beginning and Rise of the Romish Papacy, till it attained a height by which the Liberty of the Church was destroyed, and all true Rule overthrown.

8. Of the Power of the Church in Articles of Faith. The unbridled license of the Papal Church in destroying Purity of Doctrine.

9. Of Councils and their Authority.

10. Of the Power of making Laws. The cruelty of the Pope and his adherents, in this respect, in tyrannically oppressing and destroying Souls.

11. Of the Jurisdiction of the Church and the Abuses of it, as exemplified in the Papacy.

12. Of the Discipline of the Church, and its principal use in Censures and Excommunication.

13. Of Vows. The miserable entanglements caused by Vowing rashly.

14. Of the Sacraments.

15. Of Baptism.

16. Paedobaptism. Its accordance with the Institution of Christ, and the nature of the sign.

17. Of the Lord’s Supper, and the benefits conferred by it.

18. Of the Popish Mass. How it not only profanes, but annihilates the Lord’s Supper.

19. Of the Five Sacraments, falsely so called. Their spuriousness proved, and their true character explained.

20. Of Civil Government.

These are the 4 book introductions.

Book 1. Argument


The First Book treats of the knowledge of God the Creator. But as it is in the creation of man that the divine perfections are best displayed, so man also is made the subject of discourse. Thus the whole book divides itself into two principal heads – the former relating to the knowledge of God, and the latter to the knowledge of man. In the first chapter, these are considered jointly; and in each of the following chapters, separately: occasionally, however, intermingled with other matters which refer to one or other of the heads; e.g., the discussions concerning Scripture and images, falling under the former head, and the other three concerning the creation of the world, the holy angels and devils, falling under the latter. The last point discussed, viz., the method of the divine government, relates to both.

With regard to the former head, viz., the knowledge of God, it is shown, in the first place, what the kind of knowledge is which God requires, Chap. 2. And, in the second place (Chap. 3-9), where this knowledge must be sought, namely, not in man: because, although naturally implanted in the human mind, it is stifled, partly by ignorance, partly by evil intent, Chap. 3 and 4; not in the frame of the world: because, although it shines most clearly there, we are so stupid that these manifestations, however perspicuous, pass away without any beneficial result, Chap. 5; but in Scripture (Chap. 6), which is treated of, Chap. 7-9. In the third place, it is shown what the character of God is, Chap. 10. In the fourth place, how impious it is to give a visible form to God (here images, the worship of them, and its origin, are considered), Chap. 11. In the fifth place, it is shown that God is to be solely and wholly worshipped, Chap. 12. Lastly, Chap. 13 treats of the unity of the divine essence, and the distinction of three persons.

With regard to the latter head, viz., the knowledge of man, first, Chap. 14 treats of the creation of the world, and of good and bad angels (these all having reference to man). And then Chap. 15, taking up the subject of man himself, examines his nature and his powers.

The better to illustrate the nature both of God and man, the three remaining Chapters, viz., 16-18, proceed to treat of the general government of the world, and particularly of human actions, in opposition to fortune and fate, explaining both the doctrine and its use. In conclusion, it is shown, that though God employs the instrumentality of the wicked, he is pure from sin and from taint of every kind.

Book 2. Argument


The First Part of the Apostles’ Creed, viz., the knowledge of God the Creator, being disposed of, we now come to the Second Part, which relates to the knowledge of God as a Redeemer in Christ. The subjects treated of accordingly are, first, the Occasion of Redemption, viz., Adam’s fall; and, secondly, Redemption itself. The first five chapters are devoted to the former subject, and the remainder to the latter.

Under the Occasion of Redemption, the Fall is considered not only in a general way, but also specially in its effects. Hence the first four chapters treat of original sin, free will, the corruption of human nature, and the operation of God in the heart. The fifth chapter contains a refutation of the arguments usually urged in support of free will.

The subject of redemption may be reduced to five particular heads:

I. The character of him in whom salvation for lost man must be sought, Chap. 6.

II. How he was manifested to the world, namely, in a twofold manner. First, under the Law. Here the Decalogue is expounded, and some other points relating to the law discussed, Chap. 7 and 8. Secondly, under the Gospel. Here the resemblance and difference of the two dispensations are considered, Chap. 9, 10, 11.

III. What kind of person Christ was, and behaved to be, in order to perform the office of Mediator, viz., God and man in one person, Chap. 12, 13, 14.

IV. For what end he was sent into the world by the Father. Here Christ’s prophetical, kingly, and priestly offices are considered, Chap. 15.

V. In what way, or by what successive steps, Christ fulfilled the office of our Redeemer, Chap. 16. Here are considered his crucifixion, death, burial, descent to hell, resurrection, ascension to heaven, and seat at the right hand of the Father, together with the practical use of the whole doctrine. Chapter 17 contains an answer to the question, Whether Christ is properly said to have merited the grace of God for us.

Book 3. Argument


The two former Books treated of God the Creator and Redeemer. This Book, which contains a full exposition of the Third Part of the Apostles’ Creed, treats of the mode of procuring the grace of Christ, the benefits which we derive and the effects which follow from it, or of the operations of the Holy Spirit in regard to our salvation.

The subject is comprehended under seven principal heads, which almost all point to the same end, namely, the doctrine of faith.

I. As it is by the secret and special operation of the Holy Spirit that we enjoy Christ and all his benefits, the First Chapter treats of this operation, which is the foundation of faith, new life, and all holy exercises.

II. Faith being, as it were, the hand by which we embrace Christ the Redeemer, offered to us by the Holy Spirit, Faith is fully considered in the Second Chapter.

III. In further explanation of Saving Faith, and the benefits derived from it, it is mentioned that true repentance always flows from true faith. The doctrine of Repentance is considered generally in the Third Chapter, Popish Repentance in the Fourth Chapter, Indulgences and Purgatory in the Fifth Chapter. Chapters Sixth to Tenth are devoted to a special consideration of the different parts of true Repentance, viz., mortification of the flesh, and quickening of the Spirit.

IV. More clearly to show the utility of this Faith, and the effects resulting from it, the doctrine of Justification by Faith is explained in the Eleventh Chapter, and certain questions connected with it explained from the Twelfth to the Eighteenth Chapter. Christian liberty a kind of accessory to Justification, is considered in the Nineteenth Chapter.

V. The Twentieth Chapter is devoted to Prayer, the principal exercise of faith, and, as it were, the medium or instrument through which we daily procure blessings from God.

VI. As all do not indiscriminately embrace the fellowship of Christ offered in the Gospel, but those only whom the Lord favors with the effectual and special grace of his Spirit, lest any should impugn this arrangement, Chapters Twenty-First to Twenty-Fourth are occupied with a necessary and apposite discussion of the subject of Election.

VII. Lastly, as the hard warfare which the Christian is obliged constantly to wage may have the effect of disheartening him, it is shown how it may be alleviated by meditating on the final resurrection. Hence the subject of the Resurrection is considered in the Twenty-Fifth Chapter.

Book 4. Argument


In the former Books an exposition has been given of the three parts of the Apostles’ Creed concerning God the Creator. the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier. It now remains to treat, in this last Book, of the Church, and the Communion of Saints, or of the external means or helps by which God invites us to fellowship with Christ, and keeps us in it.

The twenty Chapters of which it consists may be conveniently reduced to three particular heads, viz., 1. Of the Church. 2. Of the Sacraments. 3. Of Civil Government.

The first head occupies the first thirteen Chapters; but these may all be reduced to four, viz.,

1. Of the marks of the Church, or the means by which the Church may be discerned, since it is necessary to cultivate unity with the Church. This is considered in Chapters 1 and 2.

2. Of the rule or government of the Church. The order of government, Chap. 3. The form in use in the primitive Church, Chap. 4. The form at present existing in the Papacy, Chap. 5. The primacy of the Pope, Chap. 6. The gradual rise of his usurpation, Chap. 7.

3. Of the power of the Church. The power in relation to doctrine as possessed either by individuals, Chap. 8; or universally as in Councils, Chap. 9. The power of enacting laws, Chap. 10. The extent of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, Chap. 11.

4. Of the discipline of the Church. The chief use of discipline, Chap. 12. The abuse of it, Chap. 13.

The second general head, Of the Sacraments, comprehends three particulars:

1. Of the Sacraments in general, Chap. 14;

2. Of the two Sacraments in particular. Of Baptism, Chap. 15. Of Paedobaptism, Chap. 16. Of the Lord’s Supper, Chap. 17. Of profaning the Lord’s Supper, Chap. 18.

3. Of the five Sacraments falsely so called, Chap. 19.

The third general head, Of Civil Government. This considered first generally, and then under the separate heads of Magistrates, Laws, and People.

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