Andrew W. Blackwood told us in class that, in his day, Calvin was known as much (if not more) for his sermons as for his theological writings. His sermons were translated and sent all over the world. Unfortunately, most of them are lost. But from those that have survived a later generation that failed to appreciate him, we can learn one striking fact: Calvin preached contemporary sermons.
No, I don’t mean that he took up subjects of his day—surely he did so, as he exposed the errors of Romanism—but that isn’t what I mean. Rather, as you can see, from the very first sermon on Galatians where he declares his views on the subject, he intended to preach the Bible as though it were written for his congregation. I say written for, not written to. Of course, he was perfectly aware of the fact that it was an epistle to the Galatians, not to St. Peter’s church in Switzerland!
Well, then, what did he mean? He meant that it was the Spirit’s intention from the outset to write through human authors to the church in all ages. Therefore, he argued, it should so be preached. That he believed enough to practice what he set forth is clearly seen in all of his extant sermons. He constantly spoke to his people as if the text were written to them. To hear him say, “Paul says to you . . .” gives you the idea.
This emphasis would go a long way toward combating the austere, cold, formalism of those who have learned to “academicize” preaching to three abstract points and a poem! How much richer, when the congregation hears the Scriptures preached as letters and books written for their edification! Think about this. Read Calvin’s sermons and see for yourself what I am talking about. I am purposely not quoting a line or two from them, though originally that had been my intention. Instead, I want you to enjoy the rich, contemporaneity of the sermons for yourself. You won’t be sorry.