Monday, June 22, 2009

John Calvin, Sin and the Goodness of God

Before I actually read Calvin for myself the impression I was given from others was that when he wasn't talking about predestination he was talking about what sinners we all are. Granted, he talked about sin but he had a profound sense of the devastating effects it has in the life of the believer and what an offense it was in the sight of God. But he was a pastor and knew that we could go too far in thinking about our sin and how the enemy could use that to his advantage. I remember the first time I read this passage was to fulfill a reading obligation for my class on Calvin. That night I saw Calvin in a way I had never envisioned--I saw him with a pastor's heart. The quote from Bernard is especially good.

"Those who are really religious experience what sort of punishments and shame, confusion, groaning, displeasure with self, and other emotions that arise out of a lively recognition of sin. Yet we must remember to exercise restraint, lest sorrow engulf us. For nothing more readily happens to fearful consciences than falling into despair. And also by this stratagem, whomever Satan sees overwhelmed by the fear of God he more and more submerges in that deep whirlpool of sorrow that they may never rise again. That fear cannot, indeed, be too great which ends in humility, and does not depart from the hope of pardon. Nevertheless, in accordance with the apostle's injunction the sinner ought always to beware lest, while he worries himself into dissatisfaction weighed down by excessive fear, he become faint [Heb. 12:3]. For in this way we flee from God, who calls us to himself through repentance. On this matter Bernard's admonition is also useful: 'Sorrow for sins is necessary if it be not unremitting. I beg you to turn your steps back sometimes from troubled and anxious remembering of your ways, and to go forth to the tableland of serene remembrance of God's benefits. Let us mingle honey with wormwood that is wholesome bitterness may bring health when it is drunk tempered with sweetness. If you take thought upon yourselves in your humility, take thought likewise upon the Lord in his goodness.'" (Institutes 3.3.15)

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