An Abridgment of an Abridgement
Based on the original work by Timothy Tow Summarised in the Editor’s Words

Summary of Book I (Chapter XIII-XIV)

The Scriptures from the beginning teach us the immensity and spirituality of God. This immensity ought to inspire us with awe, that we should not attempt to measure Him with our senses. The Manichees err in this respect who maintain the existence of two original principles. They make God the origin of all good things and the devil the producer of all evil natures. By doing so, they make the devil, as it were, to be equal with God, thus detracting from the glory of God. The right teaching concerning evil is, that nothing in the universe was first created evil in nature, but the depravity and wickedness of men and devils, proceed rather from a corruption of nature.

On the other hand, the spirituality of God’s nature forbids us from any earthly or carnal speculations of Him. Thus, the Anthropomorphites err by imagining God to be corporeal, because the Scriptures frequently depict Him as having a mouth, eyes, hands and feet. What they fail to understand is that these are forms of expression that do not clearly explain the nature of God, but accommodate the knowledge of God to our narrow capacity.

That God is supreme over all gods can be seen in the doctrine of the Trinity. While God declares Himself to be One, He is to be distinctly considered as Three persons. Without this doctrine, we will only have a bare and empty name of God floating in our heads.

The doctrine of the Trinity can be summarised as such – “There is only one God, yet three persons in the Godhead. These three persons are the same in substance, equal in power and glory, yet not divided or separated, but distinguished. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. The Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Spirit. The Spirit is not the Father.”

Concerning the distinction between the persons in the Trinity, we see that to the Father is attributed the principle of action, the fountain and source of all things; to the Son, wisdom, counsel, and the arrangements of all operations; and the power and efficacy of the action is assigned to the Spirit. Thus, we see a functional hierarchy in the Godhead. The Son is said to be proceeding from the Father, and the Spirit from both the Father and the Son. And, in Romans 8, the Spirit is called the Spirit of Christ.

Besides the doctrine of the Trinity, we also see how the True God is distinguished in the Scripture from all false gods by the creation of the world. In order that we might not be misled by our own stupidity to worship false gods, or to regard God as just the soul of the world, God had given to us through Moses a history of the creation. The knowledge of the origin of the human race is useful not only to contradict with the fables of Egypt and the other countries, but also gives us a clearer picture of the eternity of God.

The Scriptures teach that the work of God was completed not in one moment, but in six days, with man as the apex of God’s creation. In the order of creation, we see the paternal love of God towards the human race. Adam was created only after the earth was enriched with an abundant supply of everything conducive to happiness. If the reader consider himself with these things and apprehend them by faith, he will truly see the majesty of the one living and true God. We observe how God has appointed all things for our benefit and safety, and while perceiving His power and grace in ourselves, we may excite ourselves to confide in Him, to praise Him and love Him.

By Timothy Tow
Extracted from an Interview with Patricia Lee in 1998

As explained in earlier weeklies, the summaries of Calvin’s Institutes in a Nutshell is based upon Rev. Timothy Tow’s original abridgement. All credit must go to him for the numerous hours and bountiful labour spent in producing the work.

Here in this interview concerning the difficulty in abridging Calvin’s Institutes taken from an interview with Patricia Lee in 1998. You can read the rest of the interviews she had with Rev. Tow in the latest edition of The Burning Bush, published by the Far Eastern Bible College. The latest journal is entitled, “Faith of Our Father”. I will be distributing a copy to every household for those households who have requested for the Lord’s Supper to be administered.

PL: Rev Tow, moving on away from songs to books, I understand that you’ve written perhaps more than 30 books.

TT: Yes.

PL: Would you like to comment on one of the toughest books that you’ve written?

TT: Alright. The greatest I think is “Calvin’s Institutes Abridged.” That’s on the top there.

PL: You took three to four years to complete that.

TT: I took maybe about two years to finish books one and two. And then thereafter, I took another one or two years to finish three and four. But then I didn’t publish book three and four until very lately. The reason is that, book one and two, I printed 7000 copies. And I sent 1000 to Dr McIntire in America and they distributed and so forth. And I had 6000. And I was quite a daring fellow to print so many you know. And how the money came I don’t know, I forget how I got the money but it was printed. And it took all these years to consume the remaining 6000. So, I was constrained to print it as one book when it came to the end of the 6000, because there is no more. But before we came to 6000, I said, “Why do I print to sell all this? We sell and we distribute.” And the white book, the first two books in one volume, was very saleable. Dr Stephen Ton, you’ve heard of him? Bought 200 copies for his seminary and this is an illustration of how the books had a very popular sale.

PL: What inspired you to write the abridgement of Calvin’s Institutes?

TT: Because when I went to Faith Seminary in America, and I learnt all the subjects, Greek and Hebrew and all the theology and so forth. And when we came to the theology of John Calvin, and immediately there’s a grip because Calvin is a theologian of theologians. Because when he writes, it’s quite different from others and he writes most progressively and logically and very powerfully and most deeply. So, I was a first year student and was introduced to Calvin’s Institutes. I was so gripped by it that in the following summer, three to four months in America, I used the Chambers dictionary to read the four books of Calvin, 1600 pages. With the dictionary, I still have the book, where I annotated the deep meanings of the words. So, I was completely sold to Calvin’s theology because suddenly, I realised I have a sovereign God who controls everything. I did not know this because I was a green horn when I came to seminary. And that He saved us and saved us forever. Once saved, always saved. I was very happy to learn this. So, when I came back to Singapore to teach in 1962, I began to teach Calvin. As I taught the course, I began to abridge. So then lately, because we are coming to the end of the sales of the white book, the first volume, then I got books three and four typed out, and we print it as one book. And this was about two years ago.