All Calvin Did Was Worth Nothing

In reading through John Calvin’s last letter to the ministers at Geneva, I was struck by the following paragraph.

I have had many infirmities which you have been obliged to bear with, and what is more, all I have done has been worth nothing. The ungodly will greedily seize upon this word, but I say it again that all I have done has been worth nothing, and that I am a miserable creature. But certainly I can say this that I have willed what is good, that my vices have always displeased me, and that the root of the fear of God has been in my heart; and you may say that the disposition was good; and I pray you, that the evil be forgiven me, and if there was any good, that you conform yourselves to it and make it an example.

Jules Bonnet, Dr., vol. 4, Letters of John Calvin. Vol. I-IV (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 375.

I wonder what Calvin meant by “all I have done has been worth nothing.” Surely Calvin was aware of his great contributions to the reformation and the gospel of Jesus Christ. I almost expected him conclude that statement with something like “compared to the surpassing greatness of what God has done for us in Christ.” But he does not. However, I can only assume that is what he means. He indicates such when he points out that the “ungodly will greedily seize upon this word.”

In death, Calvin in short words reminds us that he, and we, are miserable creatures when compared to the greatness of God’s kindness in Christ.

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