Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Calvin and the Parables of the Hidden Treasure and Pearl

Later this week I will talk about two forthcoming lectures by Professor Christopher Rowland. Both lectures will be Reception History oriented, and we are very excited to host Dr. Rowland.

But first, a quick post to continue the series on Calvin and the parables:

According to Calvin, Jesus tells the parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl to instruct Christians to prefer the kingdom of heaven to the whole world. As a result, Christians will deny themselves all the desires of the flesh so that nothing will prevent them from obtaining the most valuable possession of all: the kingdom of Heaven. This warning is necessary for all humans, because we become so captivated by “the allurements of the world, that eternal life fades from our view.” Through these parables, then, Jesus shows us the “excellence of eternal life,” first by comparing it to a hidden treasure:
First, he says, that the kingdom of heaven is like a hidden treasure. We commonly set a high value on what is visible, and therefore the new and spiritual life, which is held out to us in the Gospel, is little esteemed by us, because it is hidden, and lies in hope. There is the highest appropriateness in comparing it to a treasure, the value of which is in no degree diminished, though it may be buried in the earth, and withdrawn from the eyes of men. These words teach us, that we ought not to estimate the riches of the grace of God according to the views of our flesh, or according to their outward display, but in the same manner as a treasure, though it be hidden, is preferred to a vain appearance of wealth.            
The parable of the Pearl, according to Calvin,  conveys the same message in that a small pearl can be so highly valued that a skillful merchant will sell all that he has so that he may purchase it. Once again, human beings tend not to see the real worth of life in heaven, since it cannot be seen “in the flesh”; we have to deny “all that glitters in our eyes” and value above all, God and God’s kingdom: “We now perceive the leading object of both parables. It is to inform us, that none are qualified for receiving the grace of the Gospel but those who disregard all other desires, and devote all their exertions, and all their faculties, to obtain it.”

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