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Exhortation to move on

John Calvin's exhortation to live the Christian life begins with the reminder that we can't live perfectly in this world. How beautiful is the Christian faith! It is aware of man's limitations, does not burden him with back-breaking toil for an otherwise unattainable salvation, but offers him the assurance that all he needs is to put his faith not in himself but in God.

I insist not that the life of the Christian shall breathe nothing but the perfect Gospel, though this is to be desired, and ought to be attempted. I insist not so strictly on evangelical perfection, as to refuse to acknowledge as a Christian any man who has not attained it. In this way all would be excluded from the Church, since there is no man who is not far removed from this perfection, while many, who have made but little progress, would be undeservedly rejected.

But the young Calvin turns us back to God's Word, as if to tell us, "I know your frustrations." I wonder how much of The Institutes is autobiographical. I read the passage below and think that this mirrors my own experience: the struggle to worship God amidst the filth and dirt of sin, failing, but moving on, getting closer to the goal of Christlikeness inch by inch, until the time when God calls me home.

What then? Let us set this before our eye as the end at which we ought constantly to aim. Let it be regarded as the goal towards which we are to run. For you cannot divide the matter with God, undertaking part of what his word enjoins, and omitting part at pleasure. For, in the first place, God uniformly recommends integrity as the principal part of his worship, meaning by integrity real singleness of mind, devoid of gloss and fiction, and to this is opposed a double mind; as if it had been said, that the spiritual commencement of a good life is when the internal affections are sincerely devoted to God, in the cultivation of holiness and justice. But seeing that, in this earthly prison of the body, no man is supplied with strength sufficient to hasten in his course with due alacrity, while the greater number are so oppressed with weakness, that hesitating, and halting, and even crawling on the ground, they make little progress, let every one of us go as far as his humble ability enables him, and prosecute the journey once begun. No one will travel so badly as not daily to make some degree of progress. This, therefore, let us never cease to do, that we may daily advance in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair because of the slender measure of success. How little soever the success may correspond with our wish, our labour is not lost when to-day is better than yesterday, provided with true singleness of mind we keep our aim, and aspire to the goal, not speaking flattering things to ourselves, nor indulging our vices, but making it our constant endeavour to become better, until we attain to goodness itself. If during the whole course of our life we seek and follow, we shall at length attain it, when relieved from the infirmity of flesh we are admitted to full fellowship with God. (Emphasis mine.)

Comments

  1. I am glad to have visited your blog today, Lance. As pilgrims on this side of glory, we need the daily reminder that "No one will travel so badly as not daily to make some degree of progress. This, therefore, let us never cease to do, that we may daily advance in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair because of the slender measure of success. "

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    1. Thanks, RG. You should update your blog soon, too.

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