from Chapter 11, Book 2, of the "Institutes of the Christian Religion."
by John Calvin (1509-1564).
of the leading lights of the Reformation in Europe, John Calvin was born in Noyon, Picardy
France. What Martin Luther had begun by God’s mighty power,
carried on, teaching the doctrine and application of justification by faith
alone in the Christ revealed in Scripture alone; and endeavouring to apply
Scriptural teaching to every area of life. Pressed by a friend named William Farel to stay in Geneva to preach (that city being a haven for persecuted Christians), Calvin at length complied, and the
became a centre of the Protestant Reformation. The Scottish Reformer
of the Church in
as “the most perfect
Christ since the days of the apostles”.
we may see in what respect the legal is compared with the evangelical
covenant, the ministry of Christ with that of Moses. If the comparison
referred to the substance of the promises, there would be a great repugnance
between the two covenants; but since the nature of the case leads to a
different view, we must follow it in order to discover the truth. Let us,
therefore, bring forward the covenant which God once ratified as eternal and
unending. Its completion, whereby it is fixed and ratified, is Christ. Till
such completion takes place, the Lord, by Moses, prescribes ceremonies which
are, as it were, formal symbols of confirmation. The point brought under
discussion was, Whether or not the ceremonies ordained in the Law behoved to
give way to Christ. Although these were merely accidents of the covenant, or
at least additions and appendages, and, as they are commonly called,
accessories, yet because they were the means of administering it, the name of
covenant is applied to them, just as is done in the case of other sacraments.1
Hence, in general, the Old Testament is the name given to the solemn method of
confirming the covenant comprehended under ceremonies and sacrifices. Since
there is nothing substantial in it, until we look beyond it, the Apostle
contends that it behoved to be annulled and become antiquated (Heb. vii. 22),
to make room for Christ, the surety and mediator of a better covenant, by whom
the eternal sanctification of the elect was once purchased, and the
transgressions which remained under the Law wiped away. But if you prefer it,
take it thus: the covenant of the Lord was old, because veiled by the shadowy
and ineffectual observance of ceremonies; and it was therefore temporary,
being, as it were, in suspense until it received a firm and substantial
confirmation. Then only did it become new and eternal when it was consecrated
and established in the blood of Christ. Hence the Saviour, in giving the cup
to his disciples in the last supper, calls it the cup of the new testament in
his blood; intimating, that the covenant of God was truly realised, made new,
and eternal, when it was sealed with his blood.
is now clear in what sense the Apostle said (Gal. iii. 24; iv. 1), that by the
tutelage of the Law the Jews were conducted to Christ, before he was exhibited
in the flesh. He confesses that they were sons and heirs of God, though, on
account of nonage, they were placed under the
guardianship of a tutor. It was fit, the Sun of Righteousness not yet having risen,
that there should neither be so much light of revelation nor such clear
understanding. The Lord dispensed the light of his word, so that they could
behold it at a distance, and obscurely. Accordingly, this slender measure of
intelligence is designated by Paul by the term childhood, which the Lord was pleased to train by the elements of
this world, and external observances, until Christ should appear. Through him
the knowledge of believers was to be matured. This distinction was noted by
our Saviour himself when he said that the Law and the Prophets were until
John, that from that time the gospel of the kingdom was preached (Matth.
xi. 13). What did the Law and the Prophets deliver to the men of their time?
They gave a foretaste of that wisdom which was one day to be clearly
manifested, and showed it afar off. But where Christ can be pointed to with
the finger, there the
is manifested. In him are contained all the treasures of wisdom and
understanding, and by these we penetrate almost to the very shrine of heaven.
et aliis Sacramentis dari
solet.” French, “comme l’Escriture
a coustume d’attribuer
aux sacremens le nom des choses qu’ils
represent;” – just as Scripture is wont to give sacraments the names of
the things which they represent.
of the Christian Religion,” by John Calvin. WM. B. Eerdmans
Publishing Company, USA, 1957.
Book II, chapter 11. pp 391-392.