Monday, 14 October 2013


Reviewed for the British Church Newspaper. 

Title of book: The Life of John Calvin Author: W.J. Grier
Publisher: Banner of Truth
Publisher’s Address or address where book may be obtained: 3 Murrayfield Road, Edinburgh, Scotland EH12 6EL
Year of publication: 2012 Number of Pages: 161
Hdbk or pbk: pbk Price: £6.00
ISBN: 978 1 84871 181 5


The Banner of Truth have done the church a great favour by making this short biography and evaluation of John Calvin available to the reading public. Here we have the best of two worlds - a good author writing on a great subject. Rev WJ Grier was a convert of WP Nicholson who became a noted Reformed preacher in Ulster. He returned from studying in the USA to troublesome days in his native Presbyterian Church in Ireland The once great church of Hanna and Cooke were soon to exonerate their noted modernist apostate, Prof. JE Davy. It was Rev. Grier, as a young  theological student, who publicly challenged Davy and played a major part in his heresy trial. Interpreting the outcome as “a declaration of institutionalised unorthodoxy”  (foreword by his three sons), Grier separated with others from the PCI to help form the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Evidently, our author as a man after Calvin's own stamp is eminently fitted to write such an appreciation!

In this book, Mr Grier takes us on a short tour of the main features of Calvin's life from his earliest days unto his dying breath. He deals candidly with the burning of Servetus which he explains, as Calvinists are wont, rather than excuses. He favourably evaluates the worth of Calvin's voluminous correspondence to church leaders and kings all over Europe and especially his commentaries which cover most of the Bible books.

The book is written in a slightly dated although still popular style with short chapters for easy digestion. It would be an ideal book to give to a serious teenage Christian or a young Christian and help to encourage them to delve more into the riches of Reformed theology. Although mostly text, there are several illustrations of the leading people mentioned in Calvin’s life. As usual in Banner of Truth books, there is list at the back of books which they have published relevant to the subject at hand. Thankfully, concerning John Calvin, this is quite extensive including some commentaries and his sermons etc. Mr Grier’s book certainly whets the appetite as an introduction to what really is the next logical step. While an index would be better, the contents page with its twenty three short chapter headings help make up the slack. A good buy indeed.

Colin Maxwell


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