Pierre Viret: The Angel of the Reformation – Reviewed by Kevin Rau

Kevin Rau assisting in the Seminary library.

Kevin Rau assisting in the Seminary library.

Kevin Rau, who has been helping me in the PRC Seminary library now for several months, is also an avid reader. I don’t believe a week has gone by that he has not taken home a book he has seen while putting books away on the shelves. A good reader is Kevin. And a good writer, for he has also contributed to the Young Calvinists’ blog.

Sheats_pierre_viret-2012After his latest read, I asked him if you would be willing to write a short review of it for this blog, and he not only consented, he sent me one tonight! So, that’s what we post this evening, for the benefit of all of you.

Thank you for this, Kevin. It is a fine, brief introduction to a lesser-known Reformer – Pierre Viret.

God uses many people to reform His church. Some of these people, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin are really well known, whereas others are more obscure.

Pierre Viret is one of these lesser known individuals. He was born on May 6,1531 in Orbe, Switzerland and was converted to Protestantism during his college years. God used his preaching to convert his own parents, among other people. I recently came across this man while working in the Protestant Reformed library and found out that he was an influential figure in the Swiss Reformation. I learned more about him by reading a book entitled: Pierre Viret: The Angel of the Reformation by R.A. Sheats (Zurich Publishing, 2012, 323 pp., hardcover).

This title comes from the peaceful disposition that he had in spite of facing illness, the death of his first wife and a daughter as well as church controversies. He had many enemies, especially when he tried to reclaim the power of excommunication from the state and take it to the church. In spite of this he was acknowledged to be a godly man, even by his enemies. “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7).

This is an interesting book that shows Pierre Viret’s life and his long ministry, as well as his close relationships with John Calvin and William Farel. He displayed sound, biblical theology. The chapters are mostly short, yet informative. I recommend this book to anyone interested in a lesser-known Reformer that God used to build His church in Switzerland and France.

From the publisher’s website you will also find this brief description of the book and its author:

Pierre Viret (1511-1571), the son of a tailor, was born in the town or Orbe, eighteen miles north of Lausanne, Switzerland. Though raised in obscurity, he grew to become a crucial Reformed leader during the infancy of the Protestant Reformation in Frnch Switerzerland. Viret, together with his closest associates John Calvin and William Farel, formed the Swiss Triumvirate, the three leading Reformers in the French-speaking world. Know as the Angel of the Reformation because of extraordinary Christian character and temperament, Viret was a model pastor during his ministry in Lausanne, Geneva, and France. Most of his ministry was served in Lausanne where he developed the Lausanne Academy. That institution would later relocate and become the Genevan Academy. after almost thirty years’ ministry in Lausanne and Geneva, Viret spent his last ten years in fruitful ministry in France as the leader of the French Reformed Church. His theological output was immense, with over forty books to his credit. In his day he was a leading authority on political theory, applied Biblical law, economics, and apologetics.

This publication, undertaken in honor of the five hundredth anniversary of the birth of Pierre Viret, marks the first time of the availability of a full biography of Pierre Viret to the English speaking world. In this biography R.A. Sheats brings to light the fascinating history and life of this important early reformer of the Protestant Reformation. Also contaminating [sic] a lengthy chronology of Viret’s life, a detailed listing of his books, and over sixty pages of illustrations and maps, Pierre Viret: the Angel of the Reformation will be an excellent tool for researchers, scholars, and those interested in the Swiss and French Reformation.

Author  R.A. Sheats resides in Florida. She is currently engaged in the translation of Pierre Viret’s original works from 16th century French into modern English.

Thomas Bradwardine: Defender of God’s Sovereignty – Rev. C.Griess

SB-Reform-Nov-2015Back on Reformation Day 2015 (Oct.31), I called attention to the latest special Reformation issue of the Standard Bearer. This issue focuses on the period of the Middle Ages and the pre-Reformers the Lord raised up to give light to His people who sat in darkness.

Today I call your attention to one of the special articles in this issue – an article that introduces us to a man I would guess few of us know or at least know very well; Thomas Bradwardine (c.1290-1349). In his fine piece on this godly man, Rev. Cory Griess calls him the “defender of God’s Sovereignty”.

This is how Rev.Griess opens his article and explains his significance in the history of the church in the Middle Ages:

     It is always a wonderful thing to find another who loves the sovereignty of God as the truth of God revealed in scripture. It is especially wonderful to find such in the Middle Ages. Thomas Bradwardine, though little known, is such a man. If Gottschalk is rightly remembered in particular for His defense of sovereign predestination in the Middle Ages, Bradwardine ought to be remembered for His defense of the absolute sovereignty of God during the same era.
Bradwardine was born in England sometime around 1290 AD. He was a brilliant man earning him the nickname, “The Profound Doctor.” He produced accomplished works in many areas of study, including logic, geometry, and physics, and some of his works are still required reading for advanced research in math and science today.

But his main contribution was in theology which he studied and later taught at Oxford. His great work as a theologian is De Causa Dei (The Cause of God), which was written against the Pelagians who were prevalent in his time. The title helps up know not only the content of the book, but Bradwardine’s own view of his role in God’s kingdom in in the 13th and 14th centuries. Bradwardine rightly viewed himself as a defender of the sovereignty and supremacy of God in the midst of a philosophical climate that exalted man and dethroned God. Gordon Leff describes Bradwardine’s purpose with the book and his life, He was “concerned to cut, root and branch, at that outlook which started from men, not from God…to rebut the consequences which flowed from such a wrong attitude and to win back all attention to God.”

TBradwardineTo read all of this article and the other special ones in this “SB” Reformation issue, visit the home page to receive a copy and/or to subscribe.

Prayers of the Reformers (9): Protection of God’s Cause and Preservation of His Church

prayersofreformers-manschreckFrom the little treasure of collected Prayers of the Reformers compiled by Clyde Manschreck (Muhlenberg Press, 1958) come these two from John Knox (dated 1554) and Philip Melanchthon (also dated 1554) respectively.

Place yourself in the context of the fresh age of reformation in the church in the 16th century, and then fast-forward to our own time, and see the relevancy of these prayers then and now.

That God may protect His cause

Ah, Lord, most strong and mighty God, Thou destroyest the counsels of the ungodly, and riddest this world of tyrants, so that no counsel or force can resist Thine eternal counsel and everlasting determination. We Thy poor creatures and humble servants do most earnestly desire Thee, for the love that Thou hast to Thy well-beloved and only-begotten Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that Thou wilt look upon Thy cause, for it is Thine, O Lord; and bring to nought all those things that are… against Thee and Thy holy word.

Let not the enemies of Thy truth oppress Thy Word and Thy servants which seek Thy glory…. Give unto the mouth of Thy people truth and wisdom which no man may resist. And although we may have most justly deserved this plague and famine of Thy Word, yet, upon our true repentance, grant, we beseech Thee, that we may be thereof released.

And here we promise, before Thy divine Majesty, better to use Thy gifts than we have done, and more straitly to order our lives, according to Thy holy will and pleasure; and we will ever sing praises to Thy most blessed name, world without end, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Knox, 1554)

For preservation of the church

To Thee, almighty God, eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Creator of all things, including Thy church, and to Thy Son, and to the Holy Spirit: O God of wisdom and goodness, justice and mercy, we give thanks to Thee, because Thou hast preserved Thy church; and we ask Thee for the sake of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to continue to watch over the church. Put upon her lips Thy gospel, that many hearts may turn to Thee, obey Thee, and be members of Thy church everlasting. Grant peace in these lands, O God, and unity among those who govern. Amen. (Melanchthon, 1554)

Introducing the 2015 “Standard Bearer” Reformation Issue

RefDay-post-tenebras-luxOn this Reformation Day 2015 we may call your attention to the annual special Reformation issue of The Standard Bearer, just out and coming to your mailbox or digital device (ours came in the mail yesterday).

The November 1, 2015 issue focuses on the pre-Reformers God raised up to bring light in dark times and prepare the stage of the church and world for the full reform of His church. You may remember that one of the mottos by which the Reformation era is known is the Latin expression post tenebras lux – after darkness, light. With that in mind the editors decided to give this special issue the theme “Pre-Reformation Light in the Dark Ages.”

Prof.R. Dykstra (one of the editors) provides this brief summary of what the issue is about:

What comes to mind with the term “Middle Ages”? Perhaps dark and dreary lives. Perhaps castles and knights. Perhaps crusades.

For church history, what may come to mind is a seemingly endless parade of corrupt popes. Surely all Reformed readers think of the apostasy and corruption in the church that required the most significant Reformation the church has ever had –1517, and Martin Luther. There is, however, more to the Middle Ages than immediately meets the eye.
The goal of this special issue is to introduce some key church figures of the Middle Ages. Though the age was indeed one of astounding ignorance, wickedness, and apostasy, God preserved His church, and God preserved the church’s foundation, that is, His truth, as it centers in Jesus Christ. This issue will bring to light some of the men and movements that God used for His sovereign purposes to that end. Most readers are aware of the noteworthy pre-reformers – Wycliffe and Hus. We invite you to learn about a few others.

Be instructed, be encouraged, and give thanks for the evidence that the Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world gathers, defends, and preserves His church, and that He did so also in the Middle Ages.

Below is the cover of this special issue, with the table of contents. You will find a fascinating collection of articles inside the magazine.

SB-Reform-Nov-2015To receive a copy and/or subscribe to the “SB”, visit the home page.

Great Reformation Resources Available Today!

What can we do for Friday (fun?!) with regard to Reformation Day? Lots of things, of course. But what better way than to highlight some great book deals.

KParrBookLigonier Ministries has some great deals on Reformation resources today for their weekly (Friday) $5 sale – fantastic books (hardcover and audio), DVDs, and CDs. Check out the link below and stock up! But you’d better hurry – I doubt these items will last long!

Source: Reformed Theology Resources: Browse $5 Friday Products | Ligonier Ministries Store

Also, do not forget Monergism’s great website, with many free resources, including a multitude of Reformation resources.

Another good place to check is Tim Challies blog – he is also putting together great book lists, specially the best Christian digital deals (Go back and review his “ala carte” posts).

Two Rare Reformation Books

In the PRC Seminary library we have a rare book cabinet, which contains among other special books two rare books with roots in the Reformation. These will be the focus of our Reformation remembrance post for today.

The first is a 1618 edition of John Calvin’s Institutes in LatinInstitutio Christianae Religionis published in Geneva. You may recall that Calvin’s final and fullest edition of the Institutes was in 1559, and it appears that this is the Latin of that edition. The edition we have, then, is only 59 years after it first appeared – quite a treasure.


Calvin’s “Institutes” – 1618

It is also evident that the volume we have has been rebound and that the title page has been reproduced, though the rest of the contents look original and are intact.

Title page of 1618 "Institutes"

Title page of 1618 “Institutes”

The second volume is a 1652 edition of Martin Luther’s quaint and famous Tabletalk, printed by William Du-Gard in London. Only, the title page of this edition carries a little different title than the one we are accustomed to: Dr. Martini Lutheri Colloquia Mensalia: or Dr. Martin Luther’s Divine Discourses At his Table….

M.Luther's "Discourses"

M.Luther’s “Discourses”

Title page of Luther's "Tabletalk"

Title page of Luther’s “Tabletalk”

While I do not know how or from where we obtained the 1618 edition of Calvin’s Institutes, this edition of Luther’s Tabletalk bears the stamp of Mr. Justin Kortering from Holland, MI, the father of Rev. Jason Kortering, an emeritus pastor in the PRC. But, of course, I would still like to know from where he obtained it. Perhaps his son knows the “rest of the story.”

Inside pages of Luther's "Discourses"

Inside pages of Luther’s “Discourses”

I hope you enjoy this look at these rare Reformation volumes in our Seminary library. Stop in some time and you may look at them more closely.

Published in: on October 29, 2015 at 4:42 PM  Leave a Comment  

Calvin’s Wisdom (and Reformation Truth) – G.Miller

Calvins-wisdom-GMiller-1992One of my favorite books in my personal library is a collection of John Calvin quotes edited by Graham Miller titled Calvin’s Wisdom: An Anthology Arranged Alphabetically (Banner of Truth, 1992) – a book I have had for 21 years now.

The beauty of the book is that it lets Calvin speak for himself, under a variety of subjects. So for this Wednesday of Reformation remembrance week, we will let Calvin speak on several topics of great importance to that great movement of God to restore His church to her roots and to the truth of the gospel.

The Bible

Our wisdom ought to consist in embracing with gentle docility, and without any exception, all that is delivered in the sacred Scriptures. Inst. I: xviii.7

It is the foundation of all true religion to depend on the mouth or word of God; and it is also the foundation of our salvation. Jer.III:460

They who wish to build the Church by rejecting the doctrine of the word, build a hog’s sty, and not the Church of God. Is.IV:148

The Church

There are three things on which the safety of the Church is founded, namely, doctrine, discipline and the sacraments. Tracts I:50

Let us not doubt that there will always be a Church; and when it appears to be in a lamentably ruinous condition, let us entertain good hope of its restoration. Is.III:389

God begets and multiplies his Church only by means of his word. It is by the preaching of the grace of God alone that the Church is kept from perishing. Ps.I:388,389

Justification by Faith

Justification…is the principal hinge by which religion is supported. Inst.III:xi.i

The safety of the Church depends as much on this doctrine as human life does on the soul. If the purity of this doctrine is in any degree impaired, the Church has received a deadly wound. Tracts I:137

Satan has laboured at nothing more assiduously than to extinguish, or to smother the gratuitous justification by faith, which is here…asserted [Gen.15:6]… Abraham obtained righteousness…by imputation. Gen.I:405

Roman Catholicism at the time of the Reformation

Their whole doctrine contains nothing else than big words and bombast, because it is inconsistent with the majesty of Scripture, the efficacy of the Spirit, the gravity of the prophets, and the sincerity of the apostles… It is…an absolute profanation of real theology. Past.Epp.174

What is the worship of God in the papacy in these days but a confused jumble, which they have thrown together from numberless fictions? …fabricated by the will of man. Ezek.II:310

The whole of Popery …is built on ignorance of Christ. Col.177


Salvation ought to be ascribed exclusively to his election, which is of free grace. Is.IV:21

Every part and particle of our salvation depends on God’s mercy only. Four Last Bks of Moses II:319

We must seek all the parts of our salvation in Jesus Christ; for we shall not find a single drop of it anywhere else. Past.Epp. 335

Sovereignty of God

That time is most fit for God to work when there is no hope or counsel to be looked for at man’s hands. Acts I:268

As we ought to presume nothing of ourselves, so we should presume everything of God. Dedication to the Institutes

God on high governs all things in such a manner as to promote the benefit of his elect. Is.III:395

Martin Luther: 7000 Sermons – Steven Lawson

Source: Martin Luther: 7000 Sermons by Steven Lawson | Ligonier Ministries Blog

As we reflect on the significance of the great Reformation of the 16th century this week, we turn today to this Ligonier post by Dr. Steve Lawson on the importance of preaching for the magisterial Reformer Martin Luther.

MLuther-SLawsonThis is an excerpt from Lawson’s book on Luther, The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther (Reformation Trust, 2013).

This is the opening paragraph of the post; find the rest at the Ligonier link above. Still better, obtain and read the book. :)

In the tempestuous days of the Reformation, the centerpiece of Luther’s ministry was his bold biblical preaching. Fred W. Meuser writes: “Martin Luther is famous as reformer, theologian, professor, translator, prodigious author, and polemicist. He is well known as hymn-writer, musician, friend of students, mentor of pastors, and pastor to countless clergy and laity. Yet he saw himself first of all as a preacher.” Luther gave himself tirelessly to this priority. E. Theodore Bachmann adds, “The church … is for Luther ‘not a pen-house, but a mouth-house,’ in which the living Word is proclaimed.” Indeed, Luther wrote voluminously, yet he never put his written works on the same level with his proclamation of God’s Word. He maintained, “Christ Himself wrote nothing, nor did He give command to write, but to preach orally.” By this stance, Luther strongly underscored the primacy of the pulpit.

Jan Hus – Pre-Reformer and Martyr

With this week ending with Reformation Day 2015 (October 31 – anniversary #498!), we will make the great Reformation of the 16th century the focus of our posts this week.

286-1_Page_43And we begin with a pre-Reformer, Jan Hus (Jan of Husinec or John Huss, 1369-1416), from southwest Bohemia in the Czech Republic. C.P Hallihan has a thorough study of Hus in the summer issue of the Trinitarian Bible Society’s Quarterly Record (July-Sept. 2015), [to be continued in a later issue] and it is from this article that I quote.

We quote Hallihan from the end of his article, where he is treating Hus’ trial on Protestant heresy charges before the Roman Catholic Council of Constance in 1415.

Hus should now confess his errors, promise never to hold or preach them and retract them publicly. Hus declined, not insolently but firmly. As no errors had been proved from Scripture, how could he confess or retract them? He declared to John of Chlum,

…If I was conscious that I had written or preached aught against the law, or gospel, or Mother Church, I would gladly and humble recant my errors. God is my witness. But I am anxious now as ever that they will show me Scriptures of greater weight and value than those which I have quoted in writing and teaching. If these shall be shown to me, I am prepared and willing to recant.

The Council laboured to obtain recantation. To bring pressure they publicly burned his books and declared a Bohemian associate as heretical for teaching Communion in two kinds. To Prague University Hus wrote,

I, Master John Hus, in chains and in prison, now standing on the shore of this present life and expecting on the morrow a dreadful death…find no heresy in myself, and accept with all my heart any truth whatsoever that is worthy of belief.

With a paper cone on his head inscribed ‘heresiarch’ he went to the stake, 6 July 1415. Being dead, his bodily remains, stake and chains were burnt again; the heart being found separately was held on a stick over these last embers.

…To his ‘Faithful Bohemians’ Jan Hus wrote,

I am trusting that God will raise up others after me, braver men than there are to-day, who shall better reveal the wickedness of Antichrist and lay down their lives for the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will grant eternal joy both to you and to me. Amen. (pp.48-49).

What an amazing testimony! Shall we thank the Lord for raising up this godly pre-Reformer?!

By the way, you may also look for a fine article on Hus in the upcoming Standard Bearer, Nov.1, 2015 – the annual special Reformation issue. This one focuses on the Middle Ages and the pre-Reformers. Look for it soon in your mailboxes!

Prayers of the Reformers (8) – J. Calvin on Worship

JCalvinPic1The following prayer of John Calvin for purity of worship is found in the profitable collection of prayers titled, Prayers of the Reformers, compiled by Clyde Manschreck and published by Muhlenberg Press in 1958 (p.60).

This too is fitting as we end the Lord’s Day in God’s house of worship.

Grant, almighty God, inasmuch as Thou hast deigned to gather us into Thy church, that we may never turn aside in the least from the purity of Thy worship. May we always regard what pleases Thee, and learn to direct our doings and our thoughts in obedience to Thy truth, and worship Thee purely both in spirit and in external forms that Thy name may be glorified.

May we retain that purity which Thou commendest to us, that we may be indeed members of Thy only-begotten Son.  As Thy Son has sanctified Himself on our account, grant that we may also through His Spirit be made partakers of the same, until He at length will gather us into His heavenly kingdom, which He has obtained for us by His own blood. Amen.


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