Nailed by Calvin
I’m reading some of Calvin’s Institutes every day. It’s amazing how often I feel like he’s nailed me. For instance:
The poor man yields to the rich, the plebeian to the noble, the servant to the master, the unlearned to the learned, and yet every one inwardly cherishes some idea of his own superiority. Thus each flattering himself, sets up a kind of kingdom in his breast; the arrogant, to satisfy themselves, pass censure on the minds and manners of other men, and when contention arises, the full venom is displayed.
Yes! I see that, and hate that, about myself. This is like a 16th century version of Counterfeit Gods.
And then Calvin writes about our “frenzied desire” to get ahead:
We have a frenzied desire, an infinite eagerness, to pursue wealth and honour, intrigue for power, accumulate riches, and collect all those frivolities which seem conducive to luxury and splendour. On the other hand, we have a remarkable dread, a remarkable hatred of poverty, mean birth, and a humble condition, and feel the strongest desire to guard against them.
The course which Christian men must follow is this: first, they must not long for, or hope for, or think of any kind of prosperity apart from the blessing of God; on it they must cast themselves, and there safely and confidently recline. For, however much the carnal mind may seem sufficient for itself when in the pursuit of honour or wealth, it depends on its own industry and zeal, or is aided by the favour of men, it is certain that all this is nothing, and that neither intellect nor labour will be of the least avail, except in so far as the Lord prospers both. On the contrary, his blessing alone makes a way through all obstacles, and brings every thing to a joyful and favourable issue. Secondly, though without this blessing we may be able to acquire some degree of fame and opulence (as we daily see wicked men loaded with honours and riches), yet since those on whom the curse of God lies do not enjoy the least particle of true happiness, whatever we obtain without his blessing must turn out ill. But surely men ought not to desire what adds to their misery…[We] should always have respect to the Lord, that under his auspices we may be conducted to whatever lot he has provided for us.
I never anticipated that Calvin would be so good at revealing the temptations I face often, specifically a warped sense of entitlement. I’m glad I’m not alone.
It’s a little long, but the Institutes are turning out to be very good devotional reading, although a little bit convicting in parts.