Eyes That See

“I Once Was Blind”

He said it better than me…

I recently bought a copy of John Calvin’s “Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life.”  As I read the first chapter, I felt a little pride when I realized that some of it was along the same lines that I was trying to communicate in my blog “Perfection?”  You know the old saying “pride goes before the….”

The pride was short-lived as I quickly realized that he much more competently handled the issue.  So I decided to go ahead and post the first chapter here.  Both the book and the chapter are brief, and you can buy the book for as low as $3.78 (+ S&H) on amazon.com.  His version of “Perfection?” is found under bold heading V, but I enjoyed the rest of it too much to only post the one section! 

“Chapter 1 – Humble Obedience, the True Imitation of Christ

I. Scripture is the rule of life.

1. The goal of the new life is that God’s children exhibit melody and harmony in their conduct. What melody? The song of God’s justice. What harmony? The harmony between God’s righteousness and our obedience.  Only if we walk in the beauty of God’s law do we become sure of our adoption as children of the Father.  The law of God contains in itself the dynamic of the new life by which his image is fully restored in us; but by nature we are sluggish, and, therefore, we need to be stimulated, aided in our efforts by a guiding principle.  A sincere repentance from the heart does not guarantee that we shall not wander from the straight path and sometimes become bewildered.  Let us then search Scripture to find the root principle for the reformation of our life.

2. Scripture contains a great number of exhortations, and to discuss them all would fill a large volume.  The church fathers have written big works on the virtues without prating; even a scholarly treatise cannot exhaust the profundity of one virtue.  For true devotion, however, it is not necessary to read the excellent works of the church fathers, but only to understand the one basic rule of the Bible.

3. No one should draw the conclusion that the brevity of one treatise on Christian conduct makes the elaborate discussion of others superfluous, or that philosophy has no value.  Philosophers, however, are accustomed to speak of general principles and specific rules, but Scripture has an order all its own.  Philosophers are ambitious, and, therefore, aim at exquisite clarity and dexterous ingenuity; but Scripture has a beautiful conciseness, and a certainty which excels all philosophers.  Philosophers often make a show of affection, but the Holy Spirit has a different method which ought not to be neglected.

II. Holiness is the key principle.

1. The plan of Scripture for a Christian walk is twofold: first, that we be instructed in the law to love righteousness, because by nature we are not inclined to do so; second, that we be shown a simple rule that we may not waver in our race.  Of the many excellent recommendations, is there any better than the key principle: Be thou holy, for I am holy?  When we were dispersed like scattered sheep, and lost in the labyrinth of the world, Christ gathered us together again, that he might bring us back to himself.

2. When we hear any mention of our mystical union with Christ, we should remember that holiness is the channel to it.  Holiness is not a merit by which we can attain communication with God, but a gift from Christ, which enables us to cling to him, and to follow him.  It is God’s own glory that he cannot have anything to do with iniquity and uncleanness; therefore, we must keep this in mind if we desire to pay attention to his invitation.  For why were we delivered from the quagmire of iniquity and pollution of this world, if we want to wallow in it as long as we live?  God’s holiness admonishes us that we must inhabit the holy city of Jerusalem if we wish to belong to the people of God.  Jerusalem is hallowed ground, therefore it cannot be profaned by impure inhabitants.  The Psalmist says, “This one shall abide in the tabernacle of the Lord who walks uprightly and works righteousness.”  The sanctuary of the Holy One must be kept immaculate (Lev. 19:2; 1 Pet. 1:16; Isa. 35:10; Ps. 15:1-2; 24:3-4)

III. Holiness means full obedience to Christ

1. Scripture does not only show the principle of holiness, but also that Christ is the way to it.  Because the Father has reconciled us to himself in Christ, therefore he commands us to be conformed to Christ as to our pattern.  Let those who think that philosophers have the only just and orderly system of morality show us a more excellent plan than to obey and follow Christ.  The sublimest virtue according to philosophers is to live the life of nature, but Scripture points us to the perfect Christ as our example.  We should exhibit the character of Christ in our lives, for what can be more effective than this one stirring consideration? Indeed, what can be required besides?

2. The Lord has adopted us to be his children on this condition that we reveal an imitation of Christ who is the mediator of our adoption.  Unless we ardently and prayerfully devote ourselves to Christ’s righteousness we do not only faithlessly revolt from our Creator, but we also abjure him as our Savior.

3. Scripture accompanies its exhortations with the promise of God’s countless blessings and of the all-embracing salvation he grants us.  Therefore, since God has revealed himself as a Father, we would be guilty of the basest ingratitude if we did not behave as his children.  Since Christ has purified us through the baptism in his blood, we should not become defiled by fresh pollution.  Since Christ has united us to his body as his members, we should be anxious not to disgrace him by any blemish.  Since Christ, our Head, has ascended to heaven, we should leave our carnal desires behind and lift our hearts upward to him.  Since the Holy Spirit has dedicated us as temples of God, we should exert ourselves not to profane his sanctuary, but to display his glory.  Since both our soul and body are destined to inherit an incorruptible and never-fading crown, we should keep them pure and undefiled till the day of our Lord.  Such are the best foundations for a proper code of conduct.  Philosophers never rise above the natural dignity of man. (But Scripture points us to our only sinless Savior, Jesus Christ. Rom. 6:44ff; 8:29)

IV. External Christianity is not enough.

1. Let us ask those who possess nothing but church membership, and yet want to be called Christians, how they can glory in the sacred name of Christ?  For no one has any communion with Christ but he who has received the true knowledge of him from the word of the gospel.  The apostle denies that anyone actually knows Christ who has not learned to put off the old man, corrupt with deceitful lusts, and to put on Christ.  External knowledge of Christ is found to be only a false and dangerous make-believe, however eloquently and freely lip servants may talk about the gospel.

2. The gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life.  It cannot be grasped by reason and memory only, but it is fully understood when it possesses the whole soul and penetrates to the inner receses of the heart.  Let nominal Christians cease from insulting God by boasting themselves to be what they are not, and let them show themselves disciples not unworthy of Christ, their Master.  We must assign first place to the knowledge of our religion, for that is the beginning of our salvation.  But our religion will be unprofitable if it does not change our heart, pervade our manners, and transform us into new creatures.

3. The philosophers rightly condemn and banish with disgrace from their company those who profess to know the art of life, but who are in reality vain babblers.  With much better reason Christians ought to detest those who have the gospel on their lips but not in their hearts.  The exhortations of the philosophers are cold and lifeless if compared with the convictions, affections, and boundless energy of the real believers (Eph. 4:22ff).

V. Spiritual progress is necessary.

1. We should not insist on absolute perfection of the gospel in our fellow Christians, however much we may strive for it ourselves.  It would be unfair to demand evangelical perfection before we acknowledge anyone as a Christian.  There would be no church if we set a standard of absolute perfection, for the best of us are still far from the ideal, and we would have to reject many who have made only small progress.

2. Perfection must be the final mark at which we aim, and the goal for which we strive.  It is not lawful for you to make a compromise with God: to try to fulfill part of your duties and to omit others at your own pleasure.  The Lord first of all wants sincerity in his service, simplicity of heart without guile and falsehood.  A double mind is in conflict with the spiritual life, for this implies an unfeigned devotion to God in the search for holiness and righteousness.  No one in this earthly prison of the body has sufficient strength of his own to press forward with a due degree of watchfulness, and the great majority of Christians are kept down with such great weakness that they stagger and halt and even creep on the ground, and so make very slight advances.

3. But let everyone proceed according to his given ability and continue the journey he has begun.  There is no man so unhappy that he will not make some progress, however small.  Let us not cease to do the utmost, that we may incessantly go forward in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair because of the smallness of our accomplishment.  Though we fall short, our labor is not lost if this day surpasses the preceeding one.

4. The one condition for spiritual progress is that we remain sincere and humble.  Let us keep our end in view, let us press forward to our goal.  Let us not indulge in pride, nor give in to our sinful passions.  Let us steadily exert ourselves to reach a higher degree of holiness till we shall finally arrive at a perfection of goodness which we seek and pursue as long as we live, but which we shall attain then only, when, freed from all earthly infirmity, we shall be admitted by God into his full communion.”

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October 14, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. I’m ready for the 6-pack blog . . .

    Comment by Billy Newhouse | October 15, 2007 | Reply


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