And so here we are. Oberman quoted this part, and it is the reason I had to get the book for myself. Speaking of God dwelling between the cherubim (2 Sam. 6:2), Calvin writes:
Nevertheless, in order that we might know that God does not want to frustrate us, and that the signs which he gives us are not frivolous and empty baggage, like toys for little children, it says that God truly dwells between the cherubim. This does not mean that his essence is enclosed in the ark, but that he wishes to display his virtue there for the salvation of his people. Similarly, today in the waters of baptism, it is the same as if the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ poured down from heaven to water our souls and cleanse them from their uncleanness. When we have the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper, it is the same as if Jesus Christ were coming down from heaven and making himself our food, so that we could be filled with him. We must not, therefore, take these signs as visible things and figures which are to feed our spiritual senses, but are to realise that God joins his virtue and truth to them, so that the thing and the effect are joined to the figure. There, in sum, is what we must keep in mind from the statement that the ark of God has the name: the name of God of hosts, dwelling between the cherubim.
~ Sermons on 2 Samuel (Banner of Truth) pg. 236.
So is this the “Lutheran” Calvin? I mean, jeepers.
God wishes to display his virtue in the visible means for the salvation of the people.
Baptism is as if Jesus’ blood is being poured down from heaven to nourish our souls.
The Lord’s Supper is as if Jesus were coming down to earth to feed us his flesh.
And then we get a rather technical phrase, “God joins his virtue and truth to them, so that the thing and the effect are joined to the figure.” That is the sacramental union. The res is joined to the sign.
That last part really cannot be overstated. It is systematic language. The place of the “joining” is the sign. However the joining works, and it is most certainly the mystical union, it cannot be construed to mean “not joined.”
For Calvin, it is true that the blood of Christ is joined to the waters of baptism. For Calvin, it is true that the Body of Christ is joined to the Bread.
The means of reception, that is, our part of the deal, is faith.