Discover the Lives & Teachings of the Protestant Reformers

John Calvin Quotes

We have attempted to compile the most complete list of John Calvin quotes available today. Next to Martin Luther, no other Protestant reformer comes to mind as readily as John Calvin. He is often considered to be the theologian of the Reformation. His sayings may not be as numerous as others, but are still oft quoted by Christians today. We hope you enjoy these John Calvin quotes.

  • A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.
  • A man will be justified by faith when, excluded from righteousness of works, he by faith lays hold of the righteousness of Christ, and clothed in it, appears in the sight of God not as a sinner, but as righteous.
  • A perfect faith is nowhere to be found, so it follows that all of us are partly unbelievers.
  • All men were created to busy themselves with labor for the common good.
  • All the arts come from God and are to be respected as divine inventions.
  • All the blessings we enjoy are Divine deposits, committed to our trust on this condition, that they should be dispensed for the benefit of our neighbors.
  • As far as sacred Scripture is concerned, however much froward men try to gnaw at it, nevertheless it clearly is crammed with thoughts that could not be humanly conceived. Let each of the prophets be looked into: none will be found who does not far exceed human measure. Consequently, those for whom prophetic doctrine is tasteless ought to be thought of as lacking taste buds.
  • Augustine does not disagree with this when he teaches that it is a faculty of the reason and the will to choose good with the assistance of grace; evil, when grace is absent.
  • Each eye can have its vision separately; but when we are looking at anything . . . our vision, which in itself is divided, joins up and unites in order to give itself as a whole to the object that is put before it.
  • Every one of us is, even from his mother’s womb, a master craftsman of idols.
  • Everything bad that they (the ungodly) can seize hold of in our life is twisted maliciously against Christ and His teaching. The result is that by our fault God’s sacred name is exposed to insult. The more closely we see ourselves being watched by our enemies, the more intent we should be to avoid their slanders, so that their ill-will strengthens us in the desire to do well.
  • For earthly princes lay aside their power when they rise up against God, and are unworthy to be reckoned among the number of mankind. We ought, rather, to spit upon their heads than to obey them.
  • For there is no one so great or mighty that he can avoid the misery that will rise up against him when he resists and strives against God.
  • For though we very truly hear that the kingdom of God will be filled with splendor, joy, happiness and glory, yet when these things are spoken of, they remain utterly remote from our perception, and as it were, wrapped in obscurities, until that day.
  • For, to my mind, this is a certain principle, that nothing is here treated of but the visible form of the world. He who would learn astronomy, and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere.
  • God does not bind the ancient folk to outward doctrine as if they were learning their ABC’s.
  • God preordained, for his own glory and the display of His attributes of mercy and justice, a part of the human race, without any merit of their own, to eternal salvation, and another part, in just punishment of their sin, to eternal damnation.
  • God tolerates even our stammering, and pardons our ignorance whenever something inadvertently escapes us – as, indeed, without this mercy there would be no freedom to pray.
  • He only who is reduced to nothing in himself, and relies on the mercy of God is poor in spirit.
  • Hence that dread and amazement with which as Scripture uniformly relates holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God. Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance until they have.
  • However many blessings we expect from God, His infinite liberality will always exceed all our wishes and our thoughts.
  • I consider looseness with words no less of a defect than looseness of the bowels.
  • I was always exceedingly delighted with that saying of Chrysostom, “The foundation of our philosophy is humility”; and yet more pleased with that of Augustine: “As the orator, when asked, What is the first precept in eloquence? answered, Delivery: What is the second? Delivery: What is the third? Delivery: so if you ask me concerning the precepts of the Christian religion, I will answer, first, second, and third, Humility.
  • If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house, then in a field,…it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light.
  • If we are not our own, but the Lord’s, it is clear to what purpose all our deeds must be directed. We are not our own, therefore neither our reason nor our will should guide us in our thoughts and actions.
    We are not our own, therefore we should not seek what is only expedient to the flesh. We are not our own, therefore let us forget ourselves and our own interests in as far as possible.
  • In a way, the futile excuses many people use to cover their superstitions are demolished. They think it is enough to have some sort of religious fervor, however ridiculous, not realizing that true religion must be according to God’s will as the perfect measure; that He can never deny Himself and is no mere spirit form to be changed around according to individual preference.
  • In forming an estimate of sins, we are often imposed upon by imagining that the more hidden the less heinous they are.
  • Instrumental music was only tolerated, on account of the times and of the people. But in gospel times, we must not have recourse to these, unless we wish to destroy the evangelical perfection, and to obscure the meridian light, which we enjoy in Christ our Lord.
  • Is it faith to understand nothing, and merely submit your convictions implicitly to the Church?
  • It behooves us to accomplish what God requires of us, even when we are in the greatest despair respecting the results.
  • It is a promise which eminently deserves our observation that all who are united to Christ and acknowledge Him to be Christ and Mediator will remain to the end safe from all danger, for what is said of the body of the Church belongs to each of its members since they are one in Christ.
  • It would be the height of absurdity to label ignorance tempered by humility “faith”!
  • Just as the light of the sun, while it invigorates a living and animated body, produces effluvia in a carcass; so it is certain that the sacraments where the Spirit of faith is not present, breathes mortiferous rather than vital odour.
  • Knowledge of the sciences is so much smoke apart from the heavenly science of Christ.
  • Let us not cease to do the utmost, that we may incessantly go forward in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair of the smallness of our accomplishments.
  • Man should weigh his abilities – or rather lack of abilities.
  • Man with all his shrewdness is as stupid about understanding by himself the mysteries of God, as an ass is incapable of understanding musical harmony.
  • Man’s mind is like a store of idolatry and superstition; so much so that if a man believes his own mind it is certain that he will forsake God and forge some idol in his own brain.
  • Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.
  • Men are undoubtedly more in danger from prosperity than from adversity. For when matters go smoothly, they flatter themselves, and are intoxicated by their success.
  • Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The Papists therefore, have foolishly borrowed, this, as well as many other things, from the Jews. Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise; but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostles is far more pleasing to him. Paul allows us to bless God in the public assembly of the saints, only in a known tongue (1 Corinthians 14:16) What shall we then say of chanting, which fills the ears with nothing but an empty sound?
  • No man is excluded from calling upon God, the gate of salvation is set open unto all men: neither is there any other thing which keepeth us back from entering in, save only our own unbelief.
  • No one can travel so far that he does not make some progess each day. So let us never give up. Then we shall move forward daily in the Lord’s way. And let us never despair because of our limited success. Even though it is so much less than we would like, our labour is not wasted when today is better than yesterday!
  • Original sin, therefore, appears to be a hereditary, depravity and corruption of our nature, diffused through all the parts of the soul, rendering us obnoxious to the divine wrath and producing in us those works which the scripture calls ‘works of.
  • Our prayer must not be self-centered. It must arise not only because we feel our own need as a burden we must lay upon God, but also because we are so bound up in love for our fellow men that we feel their need as acutely as our own. To make intercession for men is the most powerful and practical way in which we can express our love for them.
  • Philosophers are like a traveler passing through a field at night who in a momentary lightning flash sees far and wide, but the sight vanishes so swiftly that he is plunged again into the darkness of night before he can take even a step-let alone be directed on the way by its help.
  • Seeing that a Pilot steers the ship in which we sail, who will never allow us to perish even in the midst of shipwrecks, there is no reason why our minds should be overwhelmed with fear and overcome with weariness.
  • The decree is dreadful indeed, I confess.
  • The gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life. It cannot be grasped by reason and memory only, but it is fully understood when it possesses the whole soul and penetrates to the inner recesses of the heart.
  • The Lord commands us to do good unto all men without exception, though the majority are very undeserving when judged according to their own merits… [The Scripture] teaches us that we must not think of man’s real value, but only of his creation in the image of God to which we owe all possible honor and love.
    The pastor ought to have two voices: one, for gathering the sheep; and another, for warding off and driving away wolves and thieves. The Scripture supplies him with the means of doing both.
  • The torture of a bad conscience is the hell of a living soul.
  • The whole world is a theatre for the display of the divine goodness, wisdom, justice, and power, but the Church is the orchestra, as it were—the most conspicuous part of it; and the nearer the approaches are that God makes to us, the more intimate and condescending the communication of his benefits, the more attentively are we called to consider them.
  • Then let us not think that this Law is a special Law for the Jews; but let us understand that God intended to deliver us a general rule, to which we must yield ourselves. Since, it is so, it is to be concluded, not only that it is lawful for all kings and magistrates, to punish heretics and such as have perverted the pure truth; but also that they be bound to do it, and that they misbehave themselves towards God, if they suffer errors to rest without redress, and employ not their whole power to shew greater zeal in their behalf than in all other things.
  • There is no knowing that does not begin with knowing God.
  • There is no work, however vile or sordid, that does not glisten before God.
  • There is no worse screen to block out the Spirit than confidence in our own intelligence.
  • There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.
  • This is why Paul upholds the teaching of the gospel in such a forceful way … Seeing such an example and such a picture of man’s great weakness and fickleness, Paul states that the truth of the gospel must supersede anything that we may devise … he is showing us that we ought to know the substance of the doctrine which is brought to us in the name of God, so that our faith can be fully grounded upon it. Then we will not be tossed about with every wind, nor will we wander about aimlessly, changing our opinions a hundred times a day; we will persist in this doctrine until the end. This, in brief, is what we must remember.
  • Those who set up a fictitious worship, merely worship and adore their own delirious fancies; indeed, they would never dare so to trifle with God, had they not previously fashioned him after their own childish conceits.
  • Though Satan instills his poison, and fans the flames of our corrupt desires within us,we are yet not carried by any external force to the commission of sin, but our own flesh entices us, and we willingly yield to its allurements.
  • True wisdom consists in two things: Knowledge of God and Knowledge of Self.
  • We must remember that Satan has his miracles, too.
  • We ought to contemplate providence not as curious and fickle persons are wont to do but as a ground of confidence and excitement to prayer. When he informs us that the hairs of our head are all numbered it is not to encourage trivial speculations but to instruct us to depend on the fatherly care of God which is exercised over these frail bodies.
  • We should ask God to increase our hope when it is small, awaken it when it is dormant, confirm it when it is wavering, strengthen it when it is weak, and raise it up when it is overthrown.
  • Were the judgments of mankind correct, custom would be regulated by the good. But it is often far otherwise in point of fact; for, whatever the many are seen to do, forthwith obtains the force of custom. But human affairs have scarcely ever been so happily constituted as that the better course pleased the greater number. Hence the private vices of the multitude have generally resulted in public error, or rather that common consent in vice which these worthy men would have to be law.
  • Wherever we find the Word of God surely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there, it is not to be doubted, is a church of God.
  • With respect to ceremonies, there is some appearance of a change having taken place; but it was only the use of them that was abolished, for their meaning was more fully confirmed. The coming of Christ has taken nothing away even from ceremonies, but, on the contrary, confirms them by exhibiting the truth of shadow.
  • Without the fear of God, men do not even observe justice and charity among themselves.
  • Yet consider now, whether women are not quite past sense and reason, when they want to rule over men.
  • You must submit to supreme suffering in order to discover the completion of joy.

There is one response to John Calvin Quotes

  1. Jeff:
    October 30th, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    I have been really enjoying reading many of the quotes from reformers in early history, especially Calvin. However I was wondering if someone could direct me in a path as to how these quotes were derived in the first place. Obviously they had to of originally come from somewhere. Take “I consider looseness with words no less of a defect than looseness of the bowels” for instance. Where is it documented? I only ask so I can possibly understand what its original intent was. THANKS!!!

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