A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin (book review)

A Little Book on the Christian Life

I was surprised to find out how utterly readable John Calvin is when I first delved into reading him myself. As I stated (in other words) in my review of Simonetta Carr’s biography of Calvin, his immense contribution to Christianity made me think that somehow his writing would be “beyond my understanding.” Instead, what I found is that one of his talents is breaking down high-theological concepts for the average person.

He was a genius, but the type of genius that can talk to normal people. The kind we need in the church! So when I got a copy of this book, it was my first real experience reading Calvin. Of course, this is a translation since Calvin didn’t write in English. Gratitude is owed to the men who took the time and effort to convert this gem for us, Drs. Aaron Denlinger and Burk Parsons. Here is the blurb from the website where you can purchase the book: Ligonier.

For centuries, Christians of all ages have turned to John Calvin’s A Little Book on the Christian Life to help them on their journey as they follow Christ. This book is one of the great classics of the Christian faith, calling believers to pursue holiness and endure suffering as they rest in Christ alone.

In this new translation from the Latin, Drs. Aaron Denlinger and Burk Parsons capture Calvin’s biblical faithfulness, theological integrity, and pastor’s heart. This is a book for every Christian to pick up, read, and apply.

This book is divided into several small sections, each building on the previous and offering encouragement and edification to believers. One thing that is notable is that it is an excerpt from his larger opus, Institutes of the Christian Religion.


A Little Book on the Christian Life is a great introduction to Calvin’s Institutes, as well as a formidable help in understanding the Christian life. Its devotional tone and logical progression allow a reader to read a lot or a little in a sitting. My family even used it for family worship.

The book itself is small. Easily fitting in a large pocket or a purse, and the front and back covers unfold…and…whether this was intentional or not, they make perfect page markers. There are multiple cover designs to choose from, and all are affordable at only $6.40 as of this review.

The chapter titles are

  1. Scripture’s Call to Christian Living
  2. Self-Denial in the Christian Life
  3. Bearing Our Cross Is a Part of Self-Denial
  4. Meditation on Our Future Life
  5. How the Present Life and Its Comforts Should Be Used

But each chapter is divided into smaller sections marked off by extra spacing and bold print beginning new thoughts. It makes it very easy to select stopping points in your study. And there is a scripture index at the end of the book. I highly recommend this book. New Christians will benefit as well as long-time Christians because Calvin’s writing about the Scripture is evergreen. There is joy in trusting the unchangeable nature of the Scriptures, and Calvin’s writing follows that example well. Because he sticks close to the scripture and explains the scripture’s meaning, his writing is able to live on for long after he could have even expected.

Strongly recommended!

You can buy the book here: https://www.ligonier.org/store/collection/a-little-book-on-the-christian-life

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