A few years ago I read through some of With Calvin in the Theater of God (by John Piper and David Mathis). The book spotlights a reality of Calvin’s theology that has been noticed by many who read him: Calvin was enthralled with the creation of God because in it he perceived the manifold perfections of the God of Creation. Might we all be so observant of God’s glory.
This morning, as I have picked up Calvin’s two volume devotional—what others consider his theological treatise—I was struck by Calvin’s wonder at God’s creation and the way it calls men and women made in his image to see God in his creation. Although the translation below (which is available for free online) is a little more difficult to read than Battles’ translation, it captures the same breathtaking truth: Man is not excused from worshiping God, because all creation testifies to God’s beauty.
Consider Calvin’s Scripture-saturated meditation and drink in the wonder of how God has revealed himself in creation:
Since the perfection of blessedness consists in the knowledge of God, he has been pleased, in order that none might be excluded from the means of obtaining felicity, not only to deposit in our minds that seed of religion of which we have already spoken, but so to manifest his perfections in the whole structure of the universe, and daily place himself in our view, that we cannot open our eyes without being compelled to behold him.
His essence, indeed, is incomprehensible, utterly transcending all human thought; but on each of his works his glory is engraven in characters so bright, so distinct, and so illustrious, that none, however dull and illiterate, can plead ignorance as their excuse. Hence, with perfect truth, the Psalmist exclaims, “He covereth himself with light as with a garment,” (Psalm 104:2); as if he had said, that God for the first time was arrayed in visible attire when, in the creation of the world, he displayed those glorious banners, on which, to whatever side we turn, we behold his perfections visibly portrayed.
In the same place, the Psalmist aptly compares the expanded heavens to his royal tent, and says, “He layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters, maketh the clouds his chariot, and walketh upon the wings of the wind,” sending forth the winds and lightnings as his swift messengers. And because the glory of his power and wisdom is more refulgent in the [heavens], it is frequently designated as his palace. And, first, wherever you turn your eyes, there is no portion of the world, however minute, that does not exhibit at least some sparks of beauty; while it is impossible to contemplate the vast and beautiful fabric as it extends around, without being overwhelmed by the immense weight of glory.
Hence, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews elegantly describes the visible worlds as images of the invisible (Heb. 11:3), the elegant structure of the world serving us as a kind of mirror, in which we may behold God, though otherwise invisible. For the same reason, the Psalmist attributes language to celestial objects, a language which all nations understand (Psalm 19:1), the manifestation of the Godhead being too clear to escape the notice of any people, however obtuse. The apostle Paul, stating this still more clearly, says, “That which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead,” (Rom. 1:20). (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, I.5.1.)
Soli Deo Gloria, dss