Aroused consciences, when they have to do with God, feel this [free justification in Christ alone] to be the only asylum in which they can breathe safely. For if the stars which shine most brightly by night lose their brightness on the appearance of the sun, what do we think will be the case with the highest purity of man when contrasted with the purity of God? For the scrutiny will be most strict, penetrating to the most hidden thoughts of the heart.
“Whenever we come upon these matters in secular writers, let that admirable light of truth shining in them teach us that the mind of man, though fallen and perverted from its wholeness, is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God’s excellent gifts. If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God. For by holding the gifts of the Spirit in slight esteem, we contemn and reproach the Spirit himself. What then? Shall we deny that the truth shone upon the ancient jurists who established civic order and discipline with such great equity? Shall we say that the philosophers were blind in their fine observation and artful description of nature? Shall we say that those men were devoid of understanding who conceived the art of disputation and taught us to speak reasonably? Shall we say that they are insane who developed medicine, devoting their labor to our benefit? What shall we say of all the mathematical sciences? Shall we consider them the ravings of madmen? No, we cannot read the writings of the ancients on these subjects without great admiration. We marvel at them because we are compelled to recognize how preeminent they are. But shall we count anything praiseworthy or noble without recognizing at the same time that it comes from God? Let us be ashamed of such ingratitude, into which not even the pagan poets fell, for they confessed that the gods had invented philosophy, laws, and all useful arts. Those men whom Scripture, calls ‘natural men’ were, indeed, sharp and penetrating in their investigation of inferior things. Let us, accordingly, learn by their example how many gifts the Lord left to human nature even after it was despoiled if its true [spiritual] good.”
– John Calvin, Book 2, Chapter 2 of the Institutes, pgs. 273-74
Isn’t it amazing how something granted to man as a gracious and merciful gift (to sinners even) could be taken and used in the service of defaming and ruining His name and honor nowadays? One more example of the total depravity of man.
I’ve been reading through John Calvin’s magnum opus on the Christian faith lately, a piece of writing (whether people realize it or not nowadays) that has been one the biggest influences on the theological thinking of the evangelical Protestant church. I just wanted to share some choice quotes I have found recently and thought they might be encouraging to you.
“Whoever then heeds such teachers as hold us back with thought only of our good traits will not advance in self-knowledge, but will be plunged into the worst ignorance.”
“Here then is what God requires us to seek in examining ourselves: it requires the kind of knowledge that will strip us of all confidence in our own ability, deprive us of all occasion for boasting, and lead us to submission.”
“Nothing pleases man more than the sort of alluring talk that tickles the pride that itches in his very marrow. Therefore in nearly every age when anyone publicly extolled human nature in most favorable terms, he was listened to with applause.”
“… But it does nothing but delight in its own sweetness; indeed, it so deceives as to drive those who assent to it into utter ruin.”
– John Calvin, Book 2, Chapter 1 of the Institutes, pgs. 242-43
“If there is no good in us, if man is wholly sin from head to foot, if he is not even allowed to test how far the power of the will can be effective – how could anyone possibly parcel out the credit for good works between God and man?”
“Whoever is utterly cast down and overwhelmed by the awareness of his calamity, poverty, nakedness, and disgrace has thus advanced farthest in knowledge of himself.”
“If it is the devil’s word that exalts man in himself, let us give no place to it unless we want to take advice from our enemy.”
“We should not rely on any opinion of our own strength, however small it is, if we want God to be favorable toward us, Who ‘opposes the proud but gives grace to the meek.’ [James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5]”
“These [passages] testify that no one is permitted to receive God’s blessings unless he is consumed with the aware of his own poverty [before Him].” (My insertions for clarification)
– John Calvin, Book 2, Chapter 2 of the Institutes, pgs. 267-68
If you want to get this, the best version is the one edited by John T. McNeill which you can buy here: http://www.monergismbooks.com/Institute … 16211.html . An amazing gift to the church!
Excerpt from the Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book I, Chapter 16, Section 2, by John Calvin.
That this distinction may be the more manifest, we must consider that the Providence of God, as taught in Scripture, is opposed to fortune and fortuitous causes. By an erroneous opinion prevailing in all ages, an opinion almost universally prevailing in our own day, viz., that all things happen fortuitously, the true doctrine of Providence has not only been obscured, but almost buried. If one falls among robbers, or ravenous beasts; if a sudden gust of wind at sea causes shipwreck; if one is struck down by the fall of a house or a tree; if another, when wandering through desert paths, meets with deliverance; or, after being tossed by the waves, arrives in port, and makes some wondrous hair-breadth escape from death – all these occurrences, prosperous as well as adverse, carnal sense will attribute to fortune. But whose has learned from the mouth of Christ that all the hairs of his head are numbered, (Matt 10:30) will look farther for the cause, and hold that all events whatsoever are governed by the secret counsel of God. With regard to inanimate objects again we must hold that though each is possessed of its peculiar properties, yet all of them exert their force only in so far as directed by the immediate hand of God. Hence they are merely instruments, into which God constantly infuses what energy he sees meet, and turns and converts to any purpose at his pleasure.
No created object makes a more wonderful or glorious display than the sun. For, besides illuminating the whole world with its brightness, how admirably does it foster and invigorate all animals by its heat, and fertilise the earth by its rays, warming the seeds of grain in its lap, and thereby calling forth the verdant blade! This it supports, increases, and strengthens with additional nurture, till it rises into the stalk; and still feeds it with perpetual moisture, till it comes into flower; and from flower to fruit, which it continues to ripen till it attains maturity. In like manner, by its warmth trees and vines bud, and put forth first their leaves, then their blossom, then their fruit. And the Lord, that he might claim the entire glory of these things as his own, was pleased that light should exist, and that the earth should be replenished with all kinds of herbs and fruits before he made the sun. No pious man, therefore, will make the sun either the necessary or principal cause of those things which existed before the creation of the sun, but only the instrument which God employs, because he so pleases; though he can lay it aside, and act equally well by himself: Again, when we read, that at the prayer of Joshua the sun was stayed in its course, (Josh. 10: 13) that as a favour to Hezekiah, its shadow receded ten degrees, (2 Kings 20: 11) by these miracles God declared that the sun does not daily rise and set by a blind instinct of nature, but is governed by Him in its course, that he may renew the remembrance of his paternal favour toward us. Nothing is more natural than for spring, in its turns to succeed winter, summer spring, and autumn summer; but in this series the variations are so great and so unequal as to make it very apparent that every single year, month, and day, is regulated by a new and special providence of God.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
– Ephesians 2:8-9
“Christian! The only thing that makes you differ from the vilest being that pollutes the earth, or from the darkest fiend that gnaws his chains in hell, is the free grace of God!”
– Octavious Winslow
“This [conversion of the will], I maintain is wholly the work of God, because, as the Apostle testifies, we are not ‘sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves,’ (2 Cor. 3: 5.) Accordingly, he elsewhere says, not merely that God assists the weak or corrects the depraved will, but that he worketh in us to will, (Philip. 2: 13.) From this it is easily inferred, as I have said, that everything good in the will is entirely the result of grace.”
– Calvin, Institutes, II.VI
“Christ has conquered all in his own person first, and he is ‘over all, God blessed for ever’ (Rom. 9:5), and therefore over sin, death, hell, Satan and the world. And, as he has overcome them in himself, so he overcomes them in our hearts and consciences. We commonly say that conscience makes a man kingly or contemptible, because it is planted in us to judge for God, either with us or against us. Now if natural conscience be so forcible, what will it be when, besides its own light, it has the light of divine truth put into it? It will undoubtedly prevail, either to make us hold up our heads with boldness, or abase us beneath ourselves. If it subjects itself, by grace, to Christ’s truth, then it boldly faces death, hell, judgment and all spiritual enemies, because then Christ sets up his kingdom in the conscience and makes it a kind of paradise. The sharpest conflict which the soul has is between the conscience and God’s justice. Now if the conscience, sprinkled with the blood of Christ, has prevailed over assaults fetched from the justice of God, now satisfied by Christ, it will prevail over all other opposition whatsoever.”
– Richard Sibbes
“I know that through grace you are saved, not of works, but by the will of God, through Jesus Christ.”
“Now, the wonder of wonders is, that we are proved guilty, and yet we are justified: the verdict has been brought in against us, guilty; and yet, notwithstanding, we are justified. Can any earthly tribunal do that? No; it remained for the ransom of Christ to effect that which is an impossibility to any tribunal upon earth. We are all guilty. Read the 23rd verse, immediately preceding the text—’For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.’ There the verdict of guilty is brought in, and yet we are immediately afterwards said to be justified freely by his grace.”
– C.H. Spurgeon