50 John Calvin Quotes From the French Theologian


Our latest collection of John Calvin quotes about Christianity and theology.

Who was John Calvin, and what was he best known for? Well, he is the father of Calvinism, a development of the system of Christian theology. He was a French theologian, pastor, and reformer in Geneva during the Protestant Reformation which happened in the 1500s.

Aspects of Calvinism include the doctrines of predestination and of the absolute sovereignty of God in the salvation of the human soul from death and eternal damnation. That is why a good portion of these John Calvin quotes speak to suffering, the power of prayer, and faith. The Augustinian and other Christian traditions influenced Calvin’s doctrines.

Calvin began his career as a lawyer. He left the Roman Catholic Church around 1530 amidst religious tensions. These tensions resulted in widespread and deadly attacks against Protestant Christians in France. Calvin avoided these by fleeing Basel, Switzerland. Once there, he published the first edition of the Institutes.

One difference between Catholicism and Calvin is based on the concept of sin. From a Calvinist viewpoint, people sin because they are predestined to do so. It doesn’t matter what sin a person commits, they will go to Heaven or Hell based on that determination. They do not believe a person can repent for sin.

Keep reading through these John Calvin quotes to learn more about the differences between the branches of Christianity.

Don’t forget to also check out these Christianity quotes to inspire faith & love.

Famous John Calvin quotes about prayer

1. “Prayer unaccompanied by perseverance leads to no result.” ― John Calvin

2. “Prayers will never reach God unless they are founded on free mercy.” ― John Calvin

3. “Men in prayer give greater license to their unlawful desires than if they were telling jocular tales among their equals.” ― John Calvin

4. “Let the first rule of right prayer then be, to have our heart and mind framed as becomes those who are entering into converse with God.” ― John Calvin

5. “Let everyone in professing to pray turn thither all his thoughts and feelings, and be not (as is usual) distracted by wandering thoughts; because nothing is more contrary to the reverence due to God than that levity which bespeaks a mind too much given to license and devoid of fear.” ― John Calvin

6. “Let us know, then, that none duly prepare themselves for prayer but those who are so impressed with the majesty of God that they engage in it free from all earthly cares and affections.” ― John Calvin

7. “There is not an instant of time during which our want does not exhort us to prayer.” ― John Calvin

8. “One of the requisites of legitimate prayer is repentance.” ― John Calvin

9. “Doubtful prayer is no prayer at all.” ― John Calvin

10. “Prayers are vainly poured out into the air unless accompanied with faith, in which, as from a watchtower, we may quietly wait for God.” ― John Calvin

John Calvin quotes about free will and wisdom

11. “Free will does not enable any man to perform good works unless he is assisted by grace; indeed, the special grace which the elect alone receives through regeneration. For I stay not to consider the extravagance of those who say that grace is offered equally and promiscuously to all.” ― John Calvin

12. “Let that ethical philosophy therefore of free-will be far from a Christian mind.” ― John Calvin

13. “Free will is an empty term.” ― John Calvin

14. “Free-will cannot will good and of necessity serves sin.” ― John Calvin

15. “In discussing the subject of free will, the question is not, whether external obstacles will permit a man to execute what he has internally resolved, but whether, in any matter whatever, he has a free power of judging and of willing.” ― John Calvin

16. “Our true wisdom is to embrace with meek docility, and without reservation, whatever the holy scriptures have delivered.” ― John Calvin

17. “True and sound wisdom consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” ― John Calvin

John Calvin quotes about faith and hope

18. “We should ask God to increase our hope when it is small, awaken it when it is dormant, confirm it when it is wavering, strengthen it when it is weak, and raise it up when it is overthrown.” ― John Calvin

19. “True faith is ever connected with hope.” ― John Calvin

20. “Faith and patience are exceptional virtues in those that suffer. Patience is the fruit and evidence of faith.” ― John Calvin

21. “The principal hinge on which faith turns is this, that we must not consider the promises of mercy, which the Lord offers, as true only to others and not to ourselves; but rather make them our own, by embracing them in our hearts.” ― John Calvin

22. “A perfect faith is nowhere to be found, so it follows that all of us are partly unbelievers.” ― John Calvin

23. “It is not necessary that faith and repentance should always precede baptism. They are only required from those whose age makes them capable of both. It will be sufficient, then, if, after infants have grown up, they exhibit the power of their baptism.” ― John Calvin

24. “Is it faith to understand nothing and merely submit your convictions implicitly to the Church?” ― John Calvin

25. “Can true repentance exist without faith? By no means. But although they cannot be separated, they ought to be distinguished.” ― John Calvin

26. “The word hope I take for faith and indeed hope is nothing else but the constancy of faith.” ― John Calvin

John Calvin quotes about suffering, fear, and sin

27. “The torture of a bad conscience is the hell of a living soul.” ― John Calvin

28. “Without the fear of God, men do not even observe justice and charity among themselves.” ― John Calvin

29. “Seeing that a Pilot steers the ship in which we sail, who will never allow us to perish even in the midst of shipwrecks, there is no reason why our minds should be overwhelmed with fear and overcome with weariness.” ― John Calvin

30. “The Holy Spirit has consecrated us as temples of God. We, therefore, must let the glory of God shine through us, and we must not pollute ourselves with sin.” ― John Calvin

31. “We shall find that the reason why we doubt of God’s promises is because we sinfully detract from his power.” ― John Calvin

32. “If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house, than in a field…it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light.” ― John Calvin

33. “Informing an estimate of sins, we are often imposed upon by imagining that the more hidden the less heinous they are.” ― John Calvin

34. “When pain and suffering strike, our faith is well-founded if it is standing on the promises of God. For all of God’s promises, have strong confirmation in Christ.” ― John Calvin

John Calvin quotes about miracles, love, and joy

35. “There is no worse screen to block out the Spirit than confidence in our own intelligence.” ― John Calvin

36. “You must submit to supreme suffering in order to discover the completion of joy.” ― John Calvin

37. “All the arts come from God and are to be respected as divine inventions.” ― John Calvin

38. “There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.” ― John Calvin

39. “We must remember that Satan has his miracles, too.” ― John Calvin

40. “For where love is wanting, the beauty of all virtue is mere tinsel, is empty sound, is not worth a straw, nay more, is offensive and disgusting.” ― John Calvin

41. “While all men seek after happiness, scarcely one in a hundred looks for it from God.” ― John Calvin

42. “For so blindly do we all rush in the direction of self-love, that everyone thinks he has a good reason for exalting himself and despising all others in comparison.” ― John Calvin

43. “We are nowhere forbidden to laugh.” ― John Calvin

44. “It teaches us not to regard others according to their own merits, but to consider in them the image of God to which we owe both honor and love.” ― John Calvin

45. “The gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life. It cannot be grasped by reason and memory only, but it is fully understood when it possesses the whole soul and penetrates to the inner recesses of the heart.” ― John Calvin

John Calvin quotes about prosperity

46. “Prosperity inebriates men, so that they take delights in their own merits.” ― John Calvin

47. “Men are undoubtedly more in danger from prosperity than from adversity. For when matters go smoothly, they flatter themselves and are intoxicated by their success.” ― John Calvin

48. “Nothing is more dangerous than to be blinded by prosperity.” ― John Calvin

49. “There is no tribunal so magnificent, no throne so stately, no show of triumph so distinguished, no chariot so elevated, as is the gibbet on which Christ hath subdued death and the devil.” ― John Calvin

50. “Let us, therefore, leaving off all other things, aim exclusively at this—that we may be approved by God and may be satisfied to have His approbation alone, as it justly ought to be regarded by us as of more value than all the applause of the whole world.” ― John Calvin

What did you learn from these John Calvin quotes?

Calvin wrote more than reforms to existing doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. He also wrote commentaries about the Bible, confessions, and various other theological works.

Calvin conducted sermons in Geneva until the governing council of the Reformation in Geneva expelled him from the movement. From there, he found himself in Strasbourg, ministering the Word of God to a church of French refugees. Ultimately, Geneva invited him back to lead the city church.

Calvin used his influence on the movement to introduce new forms of church government and liturgy. This did not sit well with the influential families of Geneva, who tried to limit his authority. He denounced Michael Servetus, a Spaniard regarded by both Roman Catholics and Protestants as a heretic, with the council ruling he should be burned at the stake. This led to more supportive refugees and new elections to the council, which forced Calvin’s naysayers out.

Do you think that some of us are predestined to be sinners and that God will not forgive them? One big difference between Calvin’s views and other forms of Christianity is the concept of free will. Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below, along with any other favorite John Calvin quotes and sayings.



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