And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit,
seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
—1 Tim. 3.16.

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A Sermon on the Birth of our Lord

JESUS CHRIST.

By John Calvin.


[ According to the Edition ]

[ Translated by Tho. Stocker, and ]

At London printed

for George Byſhop.

1581.

Luke chapter 2.

  1. ANd it came to pass in those days, that there was a commandment from Augustus Cæsar, that all the world should be taxed.
  2. (This first taxing was made when Cyrenius was Governor of Syria,)
  3. Therefore all went to be taxed, every man to his own City.
  4. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of a City called Nazareth into Judea, unto the City of David, which is called Bethlehem, (because he was of the house and lineage of David)
  5. To be taxed with Mary that was given him to wife, which was with child.
  6. And so it fell out, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
  7. And she brought forth her first begotten Son, & wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the Inn.
  8. And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field and keeping watch by night, because of their flock.
  9. And lo, the Angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone about them, and they were sore afraid.
  10. Then the Angel said unto them, be not afraid, for behold I bring you tidings of great joy that shall be to all people.
  11. That is, that unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord.
  12. And he shall be a sign to you, ye shall find the child swaddled and laid in a Manger. {12:V}
  13. And straightway there was with the Angel, a multitude of heavenly soldiers, praising God and saying,
  14. Glory be to God in the high heavens, & peace in earth, and towards men good will.

WE know (beloved in the Lord) that all our felicity, joy, & peace, is this, even to be conjoined & knit together with the son of God, for as he is our head, so are we likewise his body, and do also receive from him our life, & health, and all whatsoever blessedness else.  And beside, we see in very deed, how miserable our estate should be, if we ran not to him, to be preserved under his protection.  But by the way, we are never able to attain and reach so high (seeing we are scarcely able to crawl upon the ground) without [unless] he were already come near unto us by reason of his birth, who hath taken upon him our flesh, and is thereby become our brother.  Neither could we at this present [time] fly unto our Lord Jesus Christ sitting at the right hand of God his father, in the glory of the heavens, without [unless] he had abased himself to become a mortal man, & his estate & condition to become also like unto ours.  And here we may likewise see, why the name of man was given unto him, when as he is called the Mediator between God and man [1 Tim. 2.5]: and so by the self same reason is called Immanuel, which is as much to say, as God with us. [Isaiah 7.14; Matt. 1.23.] 

And therefore as often as we seek to be relieved and eased of our miseries by our Lord Jesus Christ, and to make him our sure and undoubted defence, we must first of all begin at his birth.  Now, we are not only here taught that he was made man like unto us, but was also so despised and made of so small account, as that he was scarcely taken to be named among the number of men.  For he was as it were banished & denied all harbour [shelter] and company, and was lodged in a Stable, and laid in a Manger. 

Since then it is thus, let us here acknowledge that God of his goodness hath bountifully spread abroad his infinite treasures, when as he would in this sort abase his dear Son for our sakes.  And let us also acknowledge that our Lord {13:R} Jesus Christ hath so suffered for us, as that, so often as we seek him, we need never to go very far about, to find him, nor yet [in order] to unite ourselves truly unto him.  For, for that cause was he contented to submit himself unto all shame and rebuke, insomuch that all men as it were utterly forsook him.  And therefore let us here learn also by the way, humbleness and lowliness, if we mean that he should entertain us.  For it is very good reason, that at the least there should be a conformity or an even agreement between the head and the members.  Neither must we so despise ourselves as to make no reckoning of ourselves: for we shall by nature find such poverty and wants in ourselves, as that we shall have very good occasion altogether to abase ourselves.  But let us acknowledge ourselves to be such as indeed we are, to the end we might offer up ourselves in true humility unto our Lord Jesus Christ, that he might acknowledge & allow us for his. 

We have moreover to note by the way, that in the history which Luke here reciteth, that on the one side we are to learn, that the son of God made himself of no reputation, for our salvation: and yet on the other side, notwithstanding that he ceased not to be a sure and undoubted testimony, that he was the Redeemer of the world, promised from the beginning: [ Neither ceased he to testify likewise, that though he took on him our nature, yet he still preserved his heavenly Majesty. ]  Both which are here set down unto us: for our Lord Jesus Christ was laid in a Manager, as one clean forsaken of the world, and in extreme poverty, without honour, without reputation, and as one subject to all bondage and slavery: and yet did the Angels in heaven magnify him, doing him all homage and reverence. 

And here in the first place, an Angel brought tidings of his birth: but he was soon after accompanied with an whole army, who were all present and appeared, as witnesses sent from God, to shew, that although our Lord Jesus Christ was so abased, for our salvation, yet was he for all that the King of the whole world, and had all things under his power and rule. 

And beside, the place of Bethlehem yielded a good proof that it was even he that was promised from the beginning.  For the Prophet Micah [5.2,] had so prophesied of him, where it is said, And thou Bethlehem, although thou be of no great reputation, like unto a village which maketh no {13:V} great shew, neither very well inhabited, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me, who shall be the ruler of my people: whose goings forth have been from everlasting.  And here we see, that our Lord Jesus Christ hath not spared himself, to the end we might have ready passage unto him, & not doubt but that he will receive us as his own body, seeing he would not only become a mortal man, clothed with our nature, but also become like unto a poor worm of the earth, void of all felicity.  And therefore, let us not doubt how miserable soever we be, but that he will take us always for his members. 

Howbeit on the other side, we see him marked as it were by the hand of God, to the end he should be willingly received, as the man from whom we must look for our salvation, & by whom we are received into the kingdom of God, from which we were before banished.  For we see a divine or heavenly power & majesty to be in him, because the Angels took him as it were for their superior & sovereign king: neither must we doubt that when we are under his protection, that he hath wherewithal to defend & preserve us.  Howbeit, let us know this by the way, that although he hath so abased himself, yet that it is no whit derogatory from his divine power, neither yet any hindrance to us, from being safe & sure under his government. 

Here, therefore, we see the sum & effect of this history: which is, that in the first place we might acknowledge the son of God, even our Mediator, to be linked unto us with such a bond, as that we should not doubt, but that we are always partakers, both of his life, & also of his riches.  And in the mean while, let us likewise acknowledge, that he brought with himself to us, whatsoever was requisite for our salvation.  For (as we have already said) he was not made of so vile reputation, but that he always kept with him his heavenly power & majesty: and although the world accounted him to be of no credit, yet nevertheless, he was always not only the inheritor of this world (because he is head of the Church) but also very God for ever. 

Moreover let us learn of them who are here appointed to be our masters & guides, how to come to our Lord Jesus Christ.  In very deed, the wise men of this world, so swell with pride & presumption, as that they will scarcely vouchsafe to be taught of simple men, and of shepherds of the field: and yet all the wisdom we have, is to learn of these shepherds (of whom we have here spoken) to come unto our Lord Jesus Christ.  For if our heads were fraught with all the knowledge in the world, to what end served it if we had not life, to {14:R} wit, him, in whom, as Paul saith, all the treasures of the world lie hid. [Col. 2.3.]  Here we see therefore at which end we must begin: which is, That it is not hurtful unto us to follow their steps, who have shewed us the way to come unto our Lord Jesus Christ.  Now God hath not done this honour unto the mighty men of this world, neither to the wise, nor to the rich, either yet to the noble: but hath chosen very shepherds for the purpose.  And since it is so, let us follow the order there set down.  It is very true that the wise men came from the East to do homage unto our Lord Jesus Christ, [Matth. 2.1]; but it so fell out, that the shepherds first began, to the end all pride and presumption might be cut off, and that he who would be taken for a Christian, might be as it were a fool here in this world.  Wherefore, let not foolish arrogancy so carry us away, as to judge of the wonderful secrets of God, after our own fantasies, but simply worship them. [1 Cor. 3.18.]  Moreover, let us consider of the faith of these shepherds, and then we shall think it no hard thing to follow them: For, they came to worship the Redeemer of the world: but in what case found they him? Forsooth they found him lodged in a Manger, and swaddled in poor and simple swaddling clouts, according to the sign which the Angel had given them.  Now, this strange sight might serve to abash them, yea, and to make them go back, and not to acknowledge Jesus Christ to be a Saviour.  For the Scribes and doctors of the Jews, thought in very deed, that the Redeemer which was promised, should come with great pomp, and bring all the world under his subjection, and be in such wonderful prosperity, as that they should have the world at will, & get all the substance & riches of the earth into their possession.  And thus we see, that the message which was told them, that they should find him in a Stable swaddled in blankets, was such a stumbling block unto these poor men, as was able to have broken the very hearts of them, and make them to be of that mind, never to come near our Lord Jesus Christ, but rather altogether to flee his company.  Now, we see that this was the sign which was given of the Redeemer, that he was laid in a Manger, as one not worthy the company and fellowship of men.  And yet would not all this withdraw their minds from the visiting of him.  Their coming then was for this cause, to acknowledge him to be as it were the Lord, confessing that God had compassion of them, and would in the end accomplish and fulfil the promise which he had {14:V} made them from the beginning, and so confirmed themselves thereof by this spectacle.  Seeing then these Shepherds had so great faith, that it strave [did strive] against all whatsoever might pull them back from coming unto our Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be worthy double-blame, and without all excuse, except we learn and take forth this lesson in their school: and make not the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ (although there appeared no worldly dignity, pomp, or nobleness therein) a stumbling block to stay, or withdraw us from the right way, to come to submit ourselves unto him as unto our liege king, and unto him, unto whom all power and dominion is given both in heaven and earth.  And surely this is an admonition very needful for us: for as I have already said, The doctrine of the Gospel is a very stumbling-block to all proud and foolish men, and to such as think themselves wise.  We see also that many fantastical fellows spurn against whatsoever is contrary to their own minds.  On the other side, there were many mockers & scorners, who were never ravished with any feeling of their sins: and because they are profane people, who never think to come to an account, and know not any other better life than this which they see here below, they think it therefore mere foolishness so to follow the Son of God, and to be acquainted with him.  And the more we see this, so much the more ought this advertisement to strengthen us, to wit, that the Son of God loseth not a jot of his majesty and glory, neither is any whit lessened, because he hath abased himself for our salvation: but we ought rather to wonder at it, knowing his inestimable goodness & love towards us.  We see then how we must put this doctrine in practice, which is, we must not cease to come unto our Lord Jesus Christ, although we find not at his hands at the first chop, the thing which our flesh, or natural affection, desireth.  And although at his birth he was swaddled up in clouts, and laid in a Manger, yet let us know & be fully resolved that he was notwithstanding a Mediatour to draw us unto his Father, to open the kingdom of heaven for us, from which we had been entirely shut out. And although even at this day, he reigneth not gloriously, and his Church [is] despised, yet remaineth there such a plainness in his word, as the mighty, even of this world, reject: howbeit let not us for all that cease to hold ourselves unto {15:R} him continually, and submit ourselves under his dominion, in true obedience of faith.  As for example, when any man preacheth, it is not the thing that greatly draweth us according to our custom.  We hear a man speak, and what is that?  It is of no great dignity and credit: and besides, in effect, there is nothing but the word: on the other side, in that which is preached by the Gospel, there are many things which seem to us to be against all reason, if we should judge thereof after our own minds.  Let us therefore understand that we shall never submit ourselves unto the thing which God sheweth and declareth unto us, except we humble ourselves in the first place. 

And for a confirmation which he hath added us, unto his word, we have the Sacraments.  And will one drop of water suffice to assure us of remission of our sins, and that God hath adopted us for his children, and that although we be frail, we shall notwithstanding be clothed with his heavenly glory, which never shall decay?  Is it possible for us to take a pawn and pledge of so notable and great things, in so small a deal of water?  May a piece of bread, and a little Wine in the Supper of the Lord suffice to assure us that God alloweth us for his children, that we live in Jesus Christ, and [there is] no separation between us?  For this might seem rather to be a matter of nothing, to see such Ceremonies wherein is no great glory and pomp.  So then, we somewhat better see, this thing which is here spoken about the Shepherds, belongeth to us, and that we have to make our profit thereof at this day: to wit, let not us cease to draw near unto our Lord Jesus Christ, and assure ourselves that he it is in whom we must find all goodness, and all joy and glory, although it seemeth that he is yet as it were in the Stable, in the Manger, and in his swaddling clothes: to wit, that there are many things which are able to make us become dissolute or wanton, or at the least blear our eyes, that we shall not be able to perceive the heavenly glory which GOD his Father hath given him: I say in the same human nature, which he took from us.  For inasmuch as he is GOD, he hath all things of himself (as it is said in the seventeenth chapter of John) but in that he is man, whatsoever he bringeth us, he hath received of free gift, that we {15:V} might draw out of his fullness, [John 1.16,] and find in him whatsoever is to be desired, and so rest & content ourselves in him alone. 

Moreover, let us here note, that the Holy Ghost meaneth to assure us, that we following the Pastors who are here appointed for ministers and guides, ought not to fear falling away: for seeing, the Shepherds had none other sign but the Stable and a Manger, we may say: Behold a sort of simple idiots, who are foolishly, and without any reason, made to believe, that this was the Redeemer of the world: and yet this would be too too easy a matter for us to do.  And therefore we might stand in doubt: but on the other side, the shepherds were confirmed very certainly that he was the Son of God, even he that lay so in the Manger: to wit, when the Angel appeared unto them, and after they had heard this song which Luke setteth down, where all the kingdom of heaven bear witness of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he had all power over the creatures both of heaven and earth. 

Let us therefore learn to receive (in the assurance of the faith of Jesus Christ) whatsoever is here set before us.  For this is certain and sure, that God meaneth to convince all those, of unthankfulness, who at this day vouchsafe not to worship his only Son, seeing he sent such a multitude of Angels to declare that he was the promised Redeemer.  We then have a trim way to flatter ourselves in our incredulity, as we see a number of blockish people do, who make no reckoning of whatsoever is written in the Gospel.  There are also certain scorners of God so senseless, as that, whatsoever is preached, is to them all one, for they account of it no better than of the telling of fables.  Now, as many as submit not themselves to the worship of our Lord Jesus Christ, are to be condemned of most obstinate and devilish rebellion.  And because there are many faithless people, an infinite number of Angels of heaven shall bear witness against them: for they are the Ministers of the truth of God.  Let all the wicked therefore, and as many as lie powdered and seasoned in their sins and corruptions, smooth, and harden themselves as much as they will in their infidelity [unbelief], and they are sure of this, that they have over many sufficient witnesses to ratify and confirm their condemnation.  For the Angels in heaven appeared, to the end we should not be excused, when as {16:R} we will not receive Jesus Christ for our sovereign King, and submit ourselves unto his majesty. 

And therefore by the way, Let us for our part note, that God procured our salvation, when as he sent such a multitude of Angels, that we might come to our Lord Jesus Christ with a cheerful mind, without any more disputing or doubting;  But being fully resolved, that we shall find in him whatsoever is wanting in us, and that he will have wherewith to supply all our poverties and miseries:  And to be short, That it is even he, by whom God meant to communicate himself unto us.  And will we then seek for our life, any other where [place] than in God?  Now, all the fullness of the Godhead is in our Lord Jesus Christ. [Col. 2.9.]  And therefore when we have such a testimony, it is as much as if God stretched forth his arms, to make us feel his inestimable goodness, and only to shew, that when we have faith in Jesus Christ (I mean no hypocritical faith) we might fully rest on him, and considering that we must hold all of him, we shall then be partakers of all his benefits, which we want, and hunger after.  Moreover, although we see not at this day the Angels, who for that time only appeared, yet is this testimony registered, that it might be authentical.  For the Holy Ghost hath spoken it by the mouth of Luke.  Wherefore, let us be contented that we have such a testimony from God, as telleth us that the Angels have borne witness of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we knowing that he was made man, yea, & that of no estimation, for our sakes, might have an earnest desire to attain unto the kingdom of heaven, to the end to cleave unto him in the true unity of faith. 

We are next to consider also of the place of his birth, to wit, of Bethlehem.  Which thing is no small nor light confirmation, when as we see the Son of God to be born, which the Prophet so long time before had foretold.  For if Joseph and Mary had had their house in Bethlehem, and remained there, it had been no strange case if she had been there delivered, and Jesus Christ to have been born in the same place: But the thing which at this day should have served our purpose, had been very greatly darkened: for it had not been known that the Prophet had not said without cause, And thou Bethlehem, although {16:V} at this day thou be of no great reputation, like unto a village which maketh no great shew, yet shalt thou bring forth him, who shall be the ruler of my people.  But when Joseph and Mary abode in Nazareth, and came unto the Town of Bethlehem at the very time when she was upon the point of her deliverance, and Jesus Christ born, who seeth not but that the hand of GOD guided all this gear?  And therefore it cannot be but that men must be willingly and wickedly blind, when as they will not acknowledge here the handiwork of God, who hath set a mark of his only Son, that he might without all doubt be received, as the promised Messiah.  In very deed there was good occasion that made Joseph to come unto Bethlehem, and that was the public Edict of the Roman Emperour: but to bring a woman thither great with child, and upon the point of her deliverance, surely this was not any deed of man, but the handiwork of God.  And again we see that GOD useth strange kind of dealing for the accomplishing of his will.  For what imported this Edict of Cæsars, but a tyrannical subjection for the taxing of the people of the Jews, and a laying of a tribute of every man at that time, which was a signification that they should not look for any more liberty:  Jesus Christ was promised to deliver the Jews and all the faithful from the subjection of Satan, and from all tyranny: and it seemed that this Edict was made to close up the gate, that GOD should never accomplish the thing that he had promised to his people: and yet this was the means to perform it.  For when Joseph and Mary came like poor souls to serve a Tyrant, a Pagan, and an Infidel, we see the Prophecy prove true, that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  And GOD himself (as I have already said) giveth here a full certainty unto all his, not to doubt of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And here we see how we must apply the instruction of these things which are here recited unto ourselves.  For it was not the meaning of Luke, or rather of the Holy Ghost who spake by his mouth, simply to describe unto us an history of that which came to pass: But [he] hath on the one side laid forth unto us, that GOD spared not his only Son for us, [Rom. 8.32]: {17:R} and besides on the other side, that he brought an undoubted testimony with him that he was the redeemer of the world, and that he might be so received.  Let us now consider with ourselves to make our profit by this history, so that we may agree with the song of Angels in glorifying of God, and receive also that which it affordeth us for the gladding of our souls.  In the first place, The Angel (who brought the message unto the Shepherds) said, Be not afraid, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy.  And besides, this was the common testimony of all the multitude of the Heavenly Soldiers, which GOD had sent, And peace in earth to men.  And thus we see what it is that we must hold fast in the first place, which is, we must seek all our joy in Jesus Christ.  For to say the truth, when as we are full of delights and voluptuousness, it is without question, we will bathe ourselves in all pleasures: and yet if we be not too too drowsy, yea altogether blockish, our consciences will never be quiet, but be tormented without end and measure: For this worm (whereof the Scripture speaketh) will gnaw us, our sins will check us, and we shall feel that God of very right, is utterly against us, and our professed enemy.  And therefore cursed are all the joys of the world, because they shall be turned into gnashing of teeth, until such time as we are an atonement [at united agreement] with God.  Cursed then are all joys, all honours, and all things else that are to be desired, until we feel God’s mercy upon us: and when we are thus reconciled unto him, we may not only rejoice with an earthly joy, but with that joy which is namely promised in the holy Ghost, to the end we might look for the same in him.

Now, peace and joy are things which cannot be separated: For how can it be that we should have any thing wherein to joy, when as we see ourselves compassed about with so many miseries?  And besides, when we see ourselves cursed in Adam, The children of wrath, and God being our judge, armed to execute vengeance to the throwing of us down into the bottomless depth, what joy is it possible for us to conceive, who stand in such a desperate estate?  And surely when we think hereon, It cannot be that we should be only tormented with {17:V} unquiet minds, but also be oppressed with the horror of Hell fire, which surpasseth all the griefs of this world: except surely the Devil hath bewitched us: as many we see which cease not herein to make themselves merry, although they be at open defiance even with God himself.  But if we had but one drop of feeling within us, without doubt we should always live in torment, until such time as we find God to shew himself merciful unto us. 

And therefore this peace must go before, that we are fully assured that God alloweth us for his children and that because he imputeth not our sins unto us.  Now, are we in this sort at peace with God?  And if we be so, then surely we have wherefore to rejoice: yea even with God, according to that which I have already touched.  For the very Infidels have a certain kind of peace (that is to say, They are so senseless, as that they make no reckoning of the judgment of God, yea they are even angry with him) but it [their peace,] is not with God.  For they never are at peace and rest, without [except] it be when they forget both God, & themselves, & become altogether brutish, howbeit Paul exhorteth us to be at peace with God [Rom. 5.1]: that is to say, to look unto him & search how we may be at peace, that is, we drawing near unto him, are certain & sure of his love.  But how shall this be done: forsooth even by the forgiveness of our sins, through the love which he beareth us in our Lord Jesus Christ.  Let us here now note, that the peace which the Angels of heaven preached at this time, brought this joy, whereof the first Angel made mention, saying, Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, that is, The salvation which you have in Jesus Christ.  For he is called our peace: and this title declareth unto us, that we should be [would be] altogether separated from God, without [unless] he received us, by the means of his only Son.

Moreover, hereon we have also whereof to glory, when God alloweth us for his children, and giveth us leave to claim him with open mouth as our Father, to come freely unto him, and in him to have our refuge.  Let us hereupon gather by the way, that God hath so appointed his Gospel to be preached by the mouth of men, as yet notwithstanding the Angels have gone before them and led them the way.  True it is, that at this day the Church must be taught by the mean of mortal creatures {18:R} But however it is, this is no strange thing that we bring, but [we] do only recite the preaching of the Angels of heaven: and that of no small number neither, but of an infinite multitude, and of an huge army.

Moreover, we cannot but needs be inflamed to magnify our God, whenas we are throughly certified of his goodness.  See now why these two things are joined together, that the Angels exhort all the world to glorify GOD, it is because he gave such a peace upon the earth; we enjoy therefore the benefit which God hath largely bestowed upon us, by the means of our Lord Jesus Christ, his only son.  And he hath taken the possession of this peace, to the end our praises might be heard to the heavens, & pierce the clouds, and that all the world might resound this song.  The Lord be blessed and magnified for ever.  Hereupon we are to gather, that our mouths must always be stopped, and that we can never praise God, until such time as he hath caused us to feel his great goodness.  For to say truly, how is it possible for miserable sinners to bless and magnify the name of God, so long as they have that trouble of conscience, that they know not whether God loveth or hateth them?  But contrariwise, their mouths, by reason of their griefs, must needs be fast closed up, so that they are not once able to open their lips.  And therefore must GOD let us so understand in very good earnest the love he beareth us, as that we may be fully assured, that he is always our Father: and then shall we have wherefore to bless his name.

But as we cannot possibly, in truth, praise God, until such time as he hath declared unto us his bounty, even so let us also learn not to have a dead and idle faith: but when we see that he hath bountifully bestowed upon us the great treasures of his mercy, let our mouth then do his office in stirring up itself to bless his name, and let our whole life also answer the same.  For this is the very right sign, Every [one] of us must consecrate himself to the true service & worship of God, because we knowing, that he hath so dearly bought us, ought by good reason to bestow all our thoughts & deeds in the blessing & magnifying of his most holy & glorious name.  And that when we acknowledge ourselves {18:V} to be in very deed his, we might understand that it proceedeth of his free mercy and goodness, that it hath so pleased him to accept us unto himself.  And therefore, this saying is not set down without cause, That peace is granted to men: not for any deserving, or for that we have purchased the same, but because it pleased God.  For the speech, which Luke useth, importeth this much, that we must seek after none other reason why our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to us, but because that God had compassion of our miseries: as it is also said in John, That God so loved the world, as that he spared not to deliver his only begotten Son to death for us, [John 3.16.] 

And therefore let us after this manner come unto our Lord Jesus Christ: to wit, that the message which is here published unto us by the Angels, might be a burning Lantern to shew us the way, & faith to be our guide, so that we might understand that he is now God in us, because he is God with us.  For (as I have already said) he is declared to be our God with us, when as he meant to dwell in our human nature, as in his temple. But he is now God in us: that is to say, we feel him conjoined to us in far greater power, than when he shewed and declared himself a mortal man.  Yea, for he is now both God and man in us.  For, first he quickeneth us by the power of his Holy Spirit; and he is besides, man in us, because he maketh us partakers of the Sacrifice which he offered up for our salvation: and declareth unto us that it was not without cause that he said, that his flesh was meat indeed, and his blood drink indeed. [John 6.55.] 

And therefore, we see why the holy table is made ready for us, [at the Lord’s Supper,] to wit, to the end that we knowing our Lord Jesus to be descended here below, and utterly abased, yet that he is not for all that separated from us, although he be ascended into the heavens in glory and majesty.  But rather upon this condition, that we might be partakers of his body and blood. [John 6.35.]  And why so?  For we know that his righteousness and obedience was the satisfaction for our sins, and hath appeased the wrath of God, through the Sacrifice which he offered of his body and blood in the same human nature which he took of us.

Since then it is so, let not us doubt when Jesus Christ biddeth us to this Table, although we can perceive nothing else but bread & wine, but that he verily dwelleth in us, and we [are] so surely knit unto {19:R} him, that there is nothing which is his, but he will communicate the same to us.  Let us therefore (I say) acknowledge this, to the end we might know to make our profit of this Sacrament which he himself hath established: and let us understand, that so often as we receive the same, that he might very well have delivered us by some other mean from the bottomless pit of Condemnation, wherein we were, if it had pleased him: but that his meaning was to grant us more assurance of the love he bear us, when as we have Jesus Christ for a sure pledge, so that we might seek after our salvation in him: and acknowledge that we are no manner of way whatsoever, able to rejoice, until such time as he be given us as it were amongst us, and be so near us, as that by his means we might be brought to the kingdom of heaven, whereof we were deprived by reason of our sins. 

And thus we see that Jesus Christ must be the ready way for our salvation, if ever we intend to come unto God, & desire to have a true spiritual joy, and a spiritual contentation and quietness: and if we also desire to be armed against all the temptations wherewith Satan is able to endeavour our destruction.  But and if we will be partakers of this holy table, let us consider well with ourselves, & in the first place acknowledge our miseries, and be displeased, and utterly ashamed of them.  Moreover, let us acknowledge and confess, that God meant to assuage all our sorrows & griefs, when as he so liberally shewed himself in his only begotten Son, and would have us fully and wholly joy in him.  And although we be subject to many miseries in this world, and are besieged with enemies like unto ravening wolves, so that the devil ceaseth not to make a prey of us, and the Infidels bark at us like mastiff curs: although (I say) we be on every side troubled and threatened: and although we must abide many griefs: yet let us hold this for a most sure ground, that we shall have always peace in our God, [Phil. 4.7]: and let us beseech him, that he will make us feel it by his Holy Spirit, because it is a thing that surpasseth all man’s reason (as we have already touched of Paul) and learn to be so contented with our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the spiritual benefits whereof we are partakers, as that we may patiently abide all the afflictions and miseries of this world.  And besides, let us {19:V} beseech him that we take it not in evil part to be contemned [by men], and on every side troubled, to be short, to be put to all reproach and shame, so [long as] Jesus Christ be with us, and blesseth all our miseries and afflictions, and that we bring forth such fruit thereby, as that it may be known, that in the midst of all our miseries we desire nothing else but the glorifying of our GOD.  And where the worldlings triumph to their shame and confusion, because all their joy is to strive against GOD, Let our true joy be to serve him in all fear and humility, and yield our selves wholly to his obedience.  And here we see the way by which we must make our profit upon this doctrine.

Let us now fall down before the Majesty of our good GOD, and acknowledge our faults, beseeching him to make us more and more to feel them: and hereby we may learn to submit ourselves unto our Lord Jesus Christ: knowing that if we be separated from him, all our whole life, and whatsoever benefits else we receive from GOD, shall turn to our most grievous condemnation.  And that we may feel his death and passion to be communicated unto us, and be taken for the members of his body, to the end the afflictions which we shall abide here in this world, may be so many helps and furtherances unto salvation.  So that we may all say, O most Mighty GOD, and Heavenly Father, &c.


The Celebration of Christ’s Birth

On Annual Festival Days:

Thoughts from a Pastor & Reformer,

And the Warning of an Apostle.

YOU have often been admonished, it is good to set aside one day out of the year in which we are reminded of all the good that has occurred because of Christ’s birth in the world, and in which we hear the story of his birth retold, which will be done Lord’s-day.  But if you think that Jesus Christ was born today, [December 25th,] you are as crazed as wild beasts.  For when you elevate one day alone for the purpose of worshipping God, you have just turned it into an idol.  True, you insist that you have done so for the honor of God, but it is more for the honor of the Devil.

—John Calvin, Sermons on the Book of Micah, Translated by B. W. Farley and Published by P&R Publishing, 2003. Page 303.

BUT now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?  Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.  I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

—The Apostle Paul, Epistle to the Galatians, Chapter 4, Verses 9-11.


The above sermon has been prepared according to the text found in the original publication, Divers Sermons of Master Iohn Calvin, concerning the Divinitie, Humanitie, and Natiuitie of our Lord Ieſus Chriſte: &c., printed at London in 1581.  General updates have been made to spelling, but the original language has been retained except a few places where awkward or confusing translations needed improvement.  A later translation from Leroy Nixon, reprinted by Old Paths Publications, was helpful for this purpose, especially in identifying where Calvin’s original French used the term for Pastor, variously translated as Shepherd or Minister.  The final quote, appended to the end, about the celebration of Christmas, is part of a larger comment made available in English through a recent translation of Calvin’s Sermons on Micah.  The text, as indicated above, is followed, with the exception of a correction to the translation of “dimanche,” which properly means Lord’s-day.  The comment is clearly indicative of John Calvin’s opposition to Christmas keeping: an opposition which reflects a desire for Biblical Worship consistent with that of the Presbyterians of Scotland and Puritans of various nations.  Their intention was in no way to detract from the doctrine of Christ’s Deity or the Wonder of the Incarnation, both asserted above; but to exalt Christ’s Authority as King of his Church, and submit to the one Shepherd who is alone qualified to appoint the ordinances of his worship and service by men.——JTKER::2014.12.16.