Stuart Olyott spoke last year at the EFCC Prayer conference on What books should I buy and read? The tape, which I listened to a few days ago, was very helpful for a number of reasons. In one particularly helpful anecdote, he told of how he only knew three people who had read all of the complete works of John Owen. (He knew lots who had read some.) For two of those three, their method was simple: to read some for 15 minutes a day. In doing so they managed to make their way through the complete works. It is amazing what progress can be made with such little steps!
Having 11 unread volumes of Owen on my shelves (and I don’t have the other five), and many others too, Olyott’s comments have spurred me on. Some time ago I began reading Calvin’s Institutes. Part of the motivation for this was that I was finding that some of the people in church had begun labelling me as a ‘calvinist’. I had never used this label of myself to anyone, yet some had picked up my theological biases. I was not offended, though I was somewhat embarrassed, since I had never actually read any Calvin! So I thought I had better find out what he actually said.
About four months ago I started commenting on it as I read through it. I was surprised at how warm-hearted Calvin is, which made it an enjoyable read (though the language is still rather old-fashioned). However, it was only a brief exercise as other things crowded out this reading. My last comment was in March.
But now the time is ripe to resume, and I do so below. I should note that this exercise is primarily for my own benefit. I would not be offended if some reading this who are well read in Calvin politely skip over these posts!
Calvin’s Institutes i.ix.1-3
Calvin points out how there are some who will often appeal to the guidance of the Holy Spirit at the expense of the reading and understanding of Scripture. But he notes that the words given to the prophets are to be with us for ever (Isa 59.21). They are not abolished with the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. Thus reading it, listening to it being read, taught and preached remain vital to the the modern Christian.
The Spirit does not deviate from Scripture. But this does not mean that somehow He is bound by some dead letter. Rather, since he is the source of Scripture he cannot deviate since to do so would be for Him to contradict Himself. In consequence, Word and Spirit are inseparably bound.
This must be so in our experience, surely? To put a low value on personal interaction with the Bible is to implicitly reveal a low value placed on the Spirit of God. We may not admit to it, but isn’t it true nonetheless?