Calvin the preacher

‘[Calvin] the preacher does not so much move forward from point to point as be borne onwards by the movement of his author’s thought. Even so, this is not a simple, uncomplicated stepping from clause to clause; for within each clause there is movement and counter-movement of one sort or another. The sermons are like rivers, moving strongly in one direction, alive with eddies and crosscurrents, now thundering in cataracts, now a calm mirror of the banks and the sky; but never still, never stagnant. Calvin’s intention (like that of the medieval theology lecturers) was to expound each passage. Usually this entailed the continuous exposition of sentence by sentence, sometimes of clause by clause. After a brief preface to remind the congregation of what the previous passage had said, and thus to set the present verses within their context, he would embark on the exposition of the sentences, usually rendering them in a slightly different (sometimes very different) form from the head text; this partly because he was translating direct as he went along, partly for the sake of clarification by paraphrasing. The exposition will consist where necessary of simple exegesis and the unravelling of any difficulties (perhaps discrepancies with other passages of Scripture, which, again like medieval lecturing, had always to be reconciled); after this he will apply the place to “our” use so that “we” may profit from it and be “edified”’.

– Thomas Henry Louis Parker, Calvin’s Preaching (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1992), 132–3.

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