Here’s a great introduction to the piety and godliness of John Calvin: The Soul of Life ed. Joel Beeke (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2009). It is a book about Calvin which contains much of Calvin’s own comments on Scripture, but it is not a book that puts Calvin front and center. The book puts front and center what Calvin put front and center: the Triune God and a robust body-and-soul trust in him.
There is a brief historical description of Calvin and his times by Joel Beeke, which serves as a great introduction to the Reformer. This is an easy to follow, clear, and concise summary of who Calvin was. I may use the intro itself for a Sunday School lesson in the future. [Side note: the book is small – around 3.5 x 5.5 inches or so – a nice size for the bedside or backpack.]
After the intro, Beeke briefly summarizes the book’s content and structure. First, on Calvin’s Piety: 1) Its definition and importance, and 2) Its supreme goal, God’s glory. Then Beeke explains the parts of piety: 1) Its root: mystical union, 2) Its double bond: the Spirit and faith, and 3) Its double cleansing: justification and sanctification. After this there is a brief section on church-focused piety, Psalter-grounded piety, as well as brief discussions on prayer, repentance, cross-bearing, obedience, and heavenly-mindedness. The intro and these sections cover pages 1-54. Pages 55-211 are very brief (1 to 3 page) selections from Calvin’s writings that are structured in the above manner. The selections from Calvin’s writings that make up the bulk of the book are perfect for a daily devotional – sort of tiny, understandable windows into Calvin’s God-centered focus on piety. This piety is not the typical “pietism” that we find today, the kool-aid type of piety; rather, this is the “look-away-from-yourself-to-the-risen-Christ” kind of piety.
Here’s a very short quote from the introduction (p. 29), where Beeke quotes Calvin on the definition of piety:
“I call ‘piety’ that reverence joined with love of God which the knowledge of his benefits induces…the whole life of Christians ought to be a sort of practice of godliness.”
I’ll post again on this book in the future, but in the mean time, go get it and read it!