Sheldon Clowdus

Disciple . Husband . Father


Thoughts on Calvin's Institutes
I have begun reading through Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. One thing I am certain of is this......this is going to kick my tail in just about every manner conceivable. I have already found myself challenged intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.

Just a few thoughts on the first 2 chapters:

For Calvin, everything begins and end with God. There is nothing without Him and any pretense to the contrary is folly. To know God is to know that He is the author of every good thing. To find goodness or wisdom or virtue or anything else profitable apart from God is impossible. Calvin also understood the importance of knowing the awesome majesty of God.

Hence that dread and amazement with which as Scripture uniformly relates, holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God. When we see those who previously stood firm and secure so quaking with terror, that the fear of death takes hold of them, nay, they are, in a manner, swallowed up and annihilated, the inference to be drawn is that men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.

The only thing that shakes us out of the idea that we are ok the way we are is seeing God for who He is. Once we have glimpsed the glory of God, no other option but to recognize our own sin and insignificance is possible. Without the majesty of God, we are content to live our lives believing that, while not perfect, we are not terrible either. We need a holy God to contrast ourselves against so we understand the depth and magnitude of our own sinfulness.

For, first of all, the pious mind does not devise for itself any kind of God, but looks alone to the one true God; nor does it feign for him any character it pleases, but is contented to have him in the character in which he manifests himself always guarding, with the utmost diligences against transgressing his will, and wandering, with daring presumptions from the right path.

We must be willing to receive God as He is, not as we would have Him be. He is not malleable, or moldable to our ideas of who He is or who He should be. He does not conduct Himself according to our concepts of love, justice, mercy, or kindness. He acts according to His own nature and cannot do otherwise. Our option is only to know Him as He is, or not to know Him at all. There is no middle ground.

Besides, it is not the mere fear of punishment that restrains him from sin. Loving and revering God as his father, honouring and obeying him as his master, although there were no hell, he would revolt at the very idea of offending him.

Such is pure and genuine religion, namely, confidence in God coupled with serious fear—fear, which both includes in it willing reverence, and brings along with it such legitimate worship as is prescribed by the law. And it ought to be more carefully considered that all men promiscuously do homage to God, but very few truly reverence him. On all hands there is abundance of ostentatious ceremonies, but sincerity of heart is rare.

This point really hit home with me. Even though our God is awe inspiring and fearful at times, fear is not the only reason we obey Him (although it does play a part). We also obey Him because the very thought of offending Him who gave His only Son for us we find appalling. It should turn our stomachs to think that by thought, speech, or action we are offending our Savior and Lord.

That is all for now.....I would like to point out that I have only read 8 of the 1000+ pages to this point. I think the most encouraging thing for me is to realize that I can know God the same way that Calvin did. God will reveal Himself to me just as He did to Calvin and the other great theologians of the past if I seek Him with all my heart.

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband, and a father. I teach 5th grade in my hometown of Rome, Georgia.


  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. Ruth,

    Thanks for coming by. I am glad you have enjoyed it. I hope to hear from you again.


  3. Have you seen the digitized Institutes collection on It contains five editions, including the 1559 Latin edition, the 1560 French edition, and the English translations by Norton, Allen, and Beveridge. I thought you might be interested.


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