Excerpts from John Calvin’s Golden Book of the True Christian Life

The cross teaches obedience:

“The heavenly Physician takes care of the well-being of all his patients”


If everything proceeded according to their wishes, they would not understand what it means to follow God.  – 53

For we are not all equally afflicted with the same disease or all in need of the same severe cure. This is the reason why we see different persons disciplined with different crosses.  The heavenly Physician takes care of the well-being of all his patients; he gives some a milder medicine and purifies others by more shocking treatments, but he omits no one; for the whole world, without exception, is ill (Deut 32:15)


The cross brings repentance:

When we recognize the rod of a father, should we not show ourselves docile children rather than rebelliously desperate men who have been hardened in their evil doings?  – 56

Scripture points out this difference between believers and unbelievers; the latter, as old slaves of their incurable perversity, cannot endure the rod; but the former, like children of noble birth, profit by repentance and correction.  – 57

“…the more we are oppressed by the cross, the fuller will be our spiritual joy.”  – 66

That they may not become too complacent or delighted in married life, he makes them distressed by the shortcomings of their partners, or humbles them through willful offspring, or afflicts them with the want or loss of children. But, if in all these matters he is more merciful to them, he shows them by diseases and dangers how unstable and passing all mortal blessings are, that they may not be puffed up with vain glory.  – 69

But it must be admitted that our heart is never seriously inclined to wish for and to mediate on the future life unless it has first thoroughly learned to forsake the vanities of the present world.  – 69

We are inclined to overestimate the present life:

There is no golden mean between these two extremes; either this early life must become low in our estimation, or it will have our inordinate love. – 70

The blessings of this present life should not be despised:

Nevertheless, our constant efforts to lower our estimate of the present world should not

Map of Calvin’s Geneva

lead us to hate life or to be ungrateful toward God.

For this life, though it is full of countless miseries, deserves to be reckoned among the divine blessings which should not be despised.

Therefore, if we discover nothing of God’s goodness in it, we are already guilty of no small ingratitude toward him. – 72

What is earth, if compared to heaven?

When we come to a comparison of heaven and earth, then we may indeed not only forget all about the present life, but even despise and scorn it.  – 74

But the present life should never be hated, except insofar as it subjects us to sin, although even that hatred should not properly be applied to life itself.  – 75

But this we may positively state, that nobody has made any progress in the school of Christ unless he cheerfully looks forward to the day of his death and to the day of the final resurrection.  – 78

Chapter V – The Right Use of the Present Life

Even if this earth is only a vestibule, we ought undoubtedly to make such a use of its blessing that we are assisted rather than delayed in our journey.  – 84

For there have been some people, otherwise good and holy, who saw that intemperance and luxury time and again drive man to throw off all restraints unless he is curbed by the

The pulpit where Calvin preached in Geneva

utmost severity.  And in their desire to correct such a pernicious evil they have adopted the only method which they saw fit, namely to permit earthly blessings only insofar as they were an absolute necessity. This advice showed the best of intentions but was far too rigid. For they committed the very dangerous error of imposing on the consequence of others stricter rules than those laid down in the Word of the Lord. By restricting people within the demands of necessity, they meant abstinence from everything possible. – 85

On the other hand, there are many nowadays who seek a pretext to excuse intemperance in the use of the external things, and who desire to indulge the lusts of the flesh.  Such people take for granted that liberty should not be restricted by any limitations at all; but to this we can never agree. We must grant, indeed, that it is not right or possible to bind the consciences of others with hard and fast rules.  – 85

“Where is our acknowledgement of God if our thoughts are fixed on the glamour of our garments?”  – 85

There is also an old proverb, that they who pay much attention to the body generally neglect the soul.  – 90

If we follow our divine calling, we shall receive this unique consolation that there is no work so mean and so sordid that does not look truly respectable and highly important in the sight of God (Coram Deo!) (Gen 1:28; Col 1:1ff) – 94


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3 Responses to Excerpts from John Calvin’s Golden Book of the True Christian Life

  1. Mirlaine says:

    I want to finish my thguhot here. If God treated us fairly Jesus would have never died on the cross. and we would have never been offered salvation. I praise God that He loves me, He never fails me and He goes to plan B and on. Look ho w He blessed Israel, they sinned and went away from God countless times, but He was faithful and loved them any way. Romans 5:8 But God commended His love toward us, in that while we were sinners Christ died for us. Praise be to God!

  2. joe caporale says:

    I only wish I had read this book earlier in my Christian Life , however Providence would have it that I may learn from these writings now as I pray over what Im reading for God’s Grace to apply to my life and all believers.
    There are many lessons for all true believers to learn from the wisdom and council John Calvin has imparted to us who by God’s gracious hand has preserved for His people to read and contimplate. Thanks be to Him that loves His own.

  3. john smed says:

    I find more wisdom in this little edited version of the Golden Booklet than many other books. Plain simple and truthful spiritual counsel is strong but needed medicine. Not intending it, I kept ‘lent’ this year as the Lord brought me under conviction. An attitude of indulgence hid under the pretext of liberty. The Golden Booklet helped a great deal. A thoughtful reading once a year is a great help. The scripture passages I meditated on “Set yourself an example of speech life love and purity…pay heed to your life and doctrine… in doing so you will save yourself and your hearers.” also the reminder “Love joy peace patience kindness goodness faithfulness gentleness self control” Peace

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