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Title: An examination of the form and content of John Calvin's prayers
Author: Maurer, Hans W.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1959
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The -writings on the life and work of John Calvin are numerous. Calvin's importance has always been recognised by the theologians both those who have been interested in the history of the Church and those who have been dealing with the trend of theology since the days of the Reformation. Special interest in Calvin has been shown by recent writers. There is the enlightening book by R. Stickelberger, who, in his biography of Calvin, has drawn a better balanced picture of the Reformer than others before. More important still are the works on Calvin's theology. Of the most outstanding ones, there may be mentioned: Erwin Miilhaupt's 'Die Predigt Calvins', which is a study of form and basic thoughts of Calvin's sermonsj T.P. Torrance's 'Calvin's doctrine of man*, a careful study of Calvin's understanding of man as he is in relation to God; Wilhelm Niesel's 'Die Theologie Calvins', which is a concise outline of the Reformer's theology; Heinrich Quistorp's 'Die letsten Dinge im Zeugnis Calvins', and others. However, in spite of all the many extensive investigations by so many theologians, very little attention has actually been paid to the prayers of John Calvin. Even an expert on Reformed theology like Alfred de Quervain, who has written an excellent book on prayer, refers very little to Calvin. So far there are only two books dealing with Calvin's prayers. One is by an English writer the other by a German. •Devotions and prayers of John Calvin* by E. Edwards, a small compilation of prayers and extracts from sermons. Then Johannes Calvin: Gebete zu den Vorlesungen uber Jeremia und Hesekiel' by Werner Dahm, also a small compilation of prayers. Except in each case for a short preface the writers make no comments on the prayers. An investigation into the form and content of John Calvin's prayers is therefore a fairly new undertaking. Admittedly, the ecclesiastical prayers, or parts of them, have been used for centuries by various churches, especially of the Reformed tradition of the French language. But also in other traditions was this the case. For instance, when the German speaking Reformed Church of the Canton of Aargau, Switzerland, introduced a new liturgy in 1950, more elements of Calvin's ecclesiastical prayers have been taken over than was the case in the earlier liturgies. However, the ecclesiastical prayers form actually only a small part, although an important one, of the many hundreds of prayers by the Reformer. Row as far as the sources are concerned some difficulties have arisen. The Corpus Reformatorum, which normally provides the student with the writings of Calvin, proved to be of little help. Strange enough, the editors omitted the vast majority of Calvin's prayers which were attached to his lectures and sermons, except for some few. It was therefore necessary to go back to old editions which, very fortunately, have printed those prayers throughout. Most of the citations given in this study are taken from the Amsterdam edition, 1667, the Recueil des Opuscules, 1566, 200 sermons on Deuteronomy, 1567, then from Arthur Golding's translation, 1583 and 1584. Of great help were also the volumes of the Calvin Translation Society, which, fortunately, printed the prayers throughout. A further valuable source has been the manuscripts of yet unpublished sermons and prayers which are to be found in the Biblioth&que Publique in Geneva. The history of those manuscripts is a very lamentable one. 2) According to Gagnebin some 43 volumes containing 2023 sermons in manuscript disappeared from the Biblioth&que Publique at the beginning of the 19th century. Apparently, they were sold to various people because the library was short of space. In 1823 eight of those volumes have been rediscovered in a second-hand dealer's shop by two students of theology who handed them back to the library. 3) As the situation is at present, out of 44 volumes that were originally in possession of the Biblioth&que Publique only twelve have been discovered and regained. 4) Some of them are now being printed and published under the supervision of Hanns Ruckert. This means that our investigation of Calvin's prayers will be incomplete in the sense that not all prayers that were originally written by Raguenier and his companions could be looked up for the simple reason that over one thousand sermons, together with the attached prayers, are still missing. 6) But although we cannot alter the fact that so many sermons and prayers are lost, perhaps beyond rediscovery, there is still a vast number available in print and also in manuscript. That should provide us with material enough to draw a fairly adequate picture of the form and content of John Calvin's prayers. As to the order of this study, it seemed expedient to give an outline of Calvin's doctrine of prayer. This will be done in the first chapter which is based mainly on the Institutes. It is supposed to provide the reader with the basic thoughts of Calvin on the subject of prayer. Thus an appropriate starting point will be made for our investigations in the actual prayers. Chapter two and three will deal with the form and the use of metaphor, simile, and illustrations. Chapter four to nine deal with the content where the main points of the Reformer's theology will be worked out. The final chapter will be of a critical survey of the matter treated, and certain conclusions will be drawn. One great problem must be mentioned here, namely: What is the better test of what a man really believes, systematic writings or prayers? There may well be a discrepancy between the content of Calvin's systematic theology as set forth in the Institutes and the content of his prayers which were mainly spoken ex tempore. Which of the two is more genuine in the sense that it represented more closely what was really important to Calvin ? Can one be held against the other ? Or should both be seen together in order to reach a balanced view ? These questions are most important in the case of Calvin as he was not only a theological writer but also one of the great public preachers of all time, and a man who played a leading part in the whole life of the Church. Many of his opponents who judged Calvin predominantly, if not solely, by the Institutes, and in fact by the least attractive things that he said in the Institutes, have wondered at the influence exercised by such a repulsive man on his Christian contemporaries. It would throw some light on the matter if we remember that a man in Calvin's position would exercise just as much influence through, for instance, his conduct of public worship as he did through such writings as the Institutes. For this reason it is doubly important to examine carefully such things as Calvin's public prayers and we are indeed fortunate that in spite of serious losses mentioned above so much of this material has survived. As it will be shown below it is the belief of the writer that Calvin's prayers do in fact not only correct some of the mistakes in emphasis but furnish us with new insight into many of the features of the Christian faith that are not adequately expressed elsewhere.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available