Faith and Hope, or, When Calvin had a good day in 1538

I’m currently reading John Hesselink’s book on Calvin’s First Catechism (WJK, 1997). Truth in advertising, Calvin didn’t really write the following in 1538. That’s just when he published a Latin version of this catechism, having previously published it in the Genevan vernacular for Geneva’s own use . . . in 1537. But in 1538 he was in the midst of the controversy over his dismissal with Farel from Geneva and wanted the catechism to get wider circulation for propaganda purposes. On top of that, there’s a lot of parallel between this catechism and the 1536 edition of the Institutes and I haven’t checked to see if this language comes from that earlier work. So my alternative title might be two years off…

In any case, enough splitting hairs. What Calvin says about faith and hope here is an instance of his linguistic genius which rightly earned him a renowned place in the history of Protestant theology. As always, bold is mine:
If faith (as we have said) is a sure persuasion of the truth of God, a persuasion that cannot lie to us, deceive us, or vex us, then those who have grasped this assurance expect that it will straightway come to pass that God will fulfill his promises, since according to their opinion they cannot but be true. To sum up, hope is nothing else than the expectation of those things that faith believed to have been truly promised by God.

Thus faith believes God to be truthful; hope waits for him to show us truth at the right occasion. Faith believes God to be our Father; hope waits for him ever to act as such toward us. Faith believes eternal life has been given us; hope waits for it sometime to be revealed. Faith is the foundation on which hope leans; hope nourishes faith and sustains it. For as no one can expect from God anything unless he has previously believed God’s promises, so on the other hand ought we by patiently hoping and waiting to sustain and cherish the weakness of our faith, lest it wearily fall. (p. 27)

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Comments

Kevin Davis said…
hope nourishes faith and sustains it

That is worth memorizing.
Indeed. I should go back and bold that too...

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