For All Time: A Brief Outline of the Christian Faith, by John Calvin, translated by Stuart
Banner of Truth Trust, 1998, paperback, xi + 77 pages, £2.95.
Available from the Free Presbyterian Bookroom, 133 Woodlands Road, Glasgow, G3 6LE.
JOHN CALVIN is noted for his Institutes of the Christian Religion, a work which he revised repeatedly between its
first appearance in 1536 and his final edition of 1559. In the Institutes Calvin aimed to provide a systematic statement
of Biblical doctrine which, as he put it, "will be a kind of key opening up to all the children of God a right and
ready access to the understanding of the sacred volume...an introduction to the profitable reading both of the Old and
New Testament". His concern, as in his commentaries and lectures, was to let the Word of God be heard.
The Brief Outline was published by Calvin as a popularly written summary of the first edition of the Institutes. For
various reasons the work was replaced by others, but the publishers have considered it worthwhile to bring it out again
in a new translation from the French.
There are six sections: Knowing God and knowing ourselves. The Law of the Lord; Faith; Prayer; The Sacraments; Order
in Church and State. Included are brief expositions of the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed.
Sections and sub-sections are short. Sentences are clear and to the point. The approach is warmly devotional, experimental
and practical. In short compass Calvin introduces readers to a wide range of Biblical truth.
The book can be read through at one sitting and then studied more carefully paragraph by paragraph for maximum benefit.
The goodly number of young people scattered throughout our congregations who show an interest in the Gospel would probably
be helped by it in their desire to develop a framework of Biblical doctrine. Even those who have read quite widely will
benefit from being confronted in a simple though profound way with basic Christian truth. Careful reading should provoke
thought, promote understanding, and even whet the appetite for the Institutes themselves.
It is a pity that the plural rather than the singular is used in the occasional places where God is addressed when
the English language has the ability to reflect accurately the original languages in this respect. It is also necessary
to guard against wrong deductions from Calvin’s statements regarding aspects of the Sabbath which he regarded as shadows
done away in Christ. Though Calvin considered that the Sabbath had temporary typical implications for the Jews prior to
the coming of Christ, it is clear from his writings that he also maintained that the day was of Divine appointment and
has been retained in the New Testament Church, that God’s reasons for appointing it are equally applicable to us, and that
those ‘restless spirits’ who were ‘making an outcry’ about the observance of the Lord’s Day were to be opposed. He was
resisting a superstitious use of the Sabbath. Even Calvin’s statements must be assessed in the context of his general teaching,
and must be examined in the sight of God’s Word. Calvin would approve of that approach.
Rev. H. M. Cartwright
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