09 September 2002

From Calvin's 200th Sermon on Deuteronomy, preached Wednesday, 15 July 1556, a sermon on Deuteronomy 34, particularly verse 9, "And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the Spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him"--an excerpt:
...the same is to be seen all the more in the Sacraments of which the Scriptures speak, more than in all other signs that are to be had in the world. I have spoken before of the sign of a feather or wand being given as a pledge to one who purchases an inheritance. But there is still much more in the Sacraments. We must go one step higher. For in them our Lord works by his power, that which humans cannot do.

It is true that [in the case of the feather or wand] when such a ceremony is once done and performed, that the law will consider a person in possession of the thing that he has purchased, but in a sacrament that is not all. For (as I said before), God performs by the secret power of his Spirit whatsoever he shows and witnesses to the eye.

So then we must ever come to this point, that the Sacraments are effectual and that they are not trifling signs that vanish away in the air, but that the truth is always matched with them, because God who is faithful shows that he has not ordained anything in vain. And that is the reason why in Baptism we truly receive the forgiveness of sins, we are washed and cleansed with the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are renewed by the operation of his Holy Spirit.

And how so? Does a little water have such power when it is cast upon the head of a child? No. But because it is the will of our Lord Jesus Christ that the water should be a visible sign of his blood and of the Holy Spirit. Therefore baptism has that power and whatsoever is there set forth to the eye is forthwith accomplished in very deed.