On the Christian Life by John Calvin

ON THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
by John Calvin

(From the Institutes of the Christian Religion, Bk. 3, chs. VI?X.)

CHAPTER I.

THE LIFE OF A CHRISTIAN MAN. SCRIPTURAL ARGUMENTS EXHORTING TO IT.

This and the four following chapters treat of the Life of the
Christian, and are so arranged as to admit of being classed under
two principal heads.
First, it must be held to be an universally acknowledged
point, that no man is a Christian who does not feel some special
love for righteousness, chap. i. Secondly, in regard to the
standard by which every man ought to regulate his life, although
it seems to be considered in chap. ii. only, yet the three
following chapters also refer to it. For it shows that the
Christian has two duties to perform. First, the observance being
so arduous, he needs the greatest patience. Hence chap. iii.
treats professedly of the utility of the cross, and chap. iv.
invites to meditation on the future life. Lastly, chap. v. clearly
shows, as in no small degree conducive to this end, how we are to
use this life and its comforts without abusing them.
This first chapter consists of two parts,?I. Connection
between this treatise on the Christian Life and the doctrine of
Regeneration and Repentance. Arrangement of the treatise, sec. 1-
3. II. Extremes to be avoided; 1. False Christians denying Christ
by their works condemned, sec. 4. 2. Christians should not
despair, though they have not attained perfection, provided they
make daily progress in piety and righteousness.


Sections.

1. Connection between this chapter and the doctrine of
Regeneration. Necessity of the doctrine concerning the Christian
Life. The brevity of this treatise. The method of it. Plainness
and unadorned simplicity of the Scripture system of morals.
2. Two divisions. First, Personal holiness. 1. Because God is
holy. 2. Because of our communion with his saints.
3. Second division, relating to our Redemption. Admirable
moral system of Scripture. Five special inducements or
exhortations to a Christian Life.
4. False Christians who are opposed to this life censured 1.
They have not truly learned Christ. 2. The Gospel not the guide of
their words or actions. 3. They do not imitate Christ the Master.
4. They would separate the Spirit from his word.
5. Christians ought not to despond: Provided 1. They take the
word of God for their guide. 2. Sincerely cultivate righteousness.
3. Walk, according to their capacity, in the ways of the Lord. 4.
Make some progress. 5. Persevere.

1. We have said that the object of regeneration is to bring
the life of believers into concord and harmony with the
righteousness of God, and so confirm the adoption by which they
have been received as sons. But although the law comprehends
within it that new life by which the image of God is restored in
us, yet, as our sluggishness stands greatly in need both of helps
and incentives it will be useful to collect out of Scripture a
true account of this reformations lest any who have a heartfelt
desire of repentance should in their zeal go astray. Moreover, I
am not unaware that, in undertaking to describe the life of the
Christian, I am entering on a large and extensive subject, one
which, when fully considered in all its parts, is sufficient to
fill a large volume. We see the length to which the Fathers in
treating of individual virtues extend their exhortations. This
they do, not from mere loquaciousness; for whatever be the virtue
which you undertake to recommend, your pen is spontaneously led by
the copiousness of the matter so to amplify, that you seem not to
have discussed it properly if you have not done it at length. My
intention, however, in the plan of life which I now propose to
give, is not to extend it so far as to treat of each virtue
specially, and expatiate in exhortation. This must be sought in
the writings of others, and particularly in the Homilies of the
Fathers.1 For me it will be sufficient to point out the method by
which a pious man may be taught how to frame his life aright, and
briefly lay down some universal rule by which he may not
improperly regulate his conduct. I shall one day possibly find
time for more ample discourse, [or leave others to perform an
office for which I am not so fit. I have a natural love of
brevity, and, perhaps, any attempt of mine at copiousness would
not succeed. Even if I could gain the highest applause by being
more prolix, I would scarcely be disposed to attempt it,2] while
the nature of my present work requires me to glance at simple
doctrine with as much brevity as possible. As philosophers have
certain definitions of rectitude and honesty, from which they
derive particular duties and the whole train of virtues; so in
this respect Scripture is not without order, but presents a most
beautiful arrangement, one too which is every way much more
certain than that of philosophers. The only difference is, that
they, under the influence of ambition, constantly affect an
exquisite perspicuity of arrangement, which may serve to display
their genius, whereas the Spirit of God, teaching without
affectation, is not so perpetually observant of exact method, and
yet by observing it at times sufficiently intimates that it is not
to be neglected.
2. The Scripture system of which we speak aims chiefly at two
objects. The former is, that the love of righteousness, to which
we are by no means naturally inclined, may be instilled and
implanted into our minds. The latter is, (see chap. ii.,) to
prescribe a rule which will prevent us while in the pursuit of
righteousness from going astray. It has numerous admirable methods
of recommending righteousness.3 Many have been already pointed out
in different parts of this work; but we shall here also briefly
advert to some of them. With what better foundation can it begin
than by reminding us that we must be holy, because "God is holy?"
(Lev. xix. 1; 1 Pet. i. 16.) For when we were scattered abroad
like lost sheep, wandering through the labyrinth of this world, he
brought us back again to his own fold. When mention is made of our
union with God, let us remember that holiness must be the bond;
not that by the merit of holiness we come into communion with him,
(we ought rather first to cleave to him, in order that, pervaded
with his holiness, we may follow whither he calls,) but because it
greatly concerns his glory not to have any fellowship with
wickedness and impurity. Wherefore he tells us that this is the
end of our calling, the end to which we ought ever to have
respect, if we would answer the call of God. For to what end were
we rescued from the iniquity and pollution of the world into which
we were plunged, if we allow ourselves, during our whole lives, to
wallow in them? Besides, we are at the same time admonished, that
if we would be regarded as the Lord's people, we must inhabit the
holy city Jerusalem, (Isaiah rev. 8, et alibi;) which, as he hath
consecrated it to himself, it were impious for its inhabitants to
profane by impurity. Hence the expressions, "Who shall abide in
thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh
uprightly, and worketh righteousness," (Ps. xv. 1, 2; xxiv. 3, 4;)
for the sanctuary in which he dwells certainly ought not to be
like an unclean stall.
3. The better to arouse us, it exhibits God the Father, who,
as he hath reconciled us to himself in his Anointed, has impressed
his image upon us, to which he would have us to be conformed,
(Rom. v. 4.) Come, then, and let them show me a more excellent
system among philosophers, who think that they only have a moral
philosophy duly and orderly arranged. They, when they would give
excellent exhortations to virtue, can only tell us to live
agreeably to nature. Scripture derives its exhortations from the
true source,4 when it not only enjoins us to regulate our lives
with a view to God its author to whom it belongs; but after
showing us that we have degenerated from our true origin, viz.,
the law of our Creator, adds, that Christ, through whom we have
returned to favour with God, is set before us as a model, the
image of which our lives should express. What do you require more
effectual than this? Nay, what do you require beyond this? If the
Lord adopts us for his sons on the condition that our life be a
representation of Christ, the bond of our adoption,?then, unless
we dedicate and devote ourselves to righteousness, we not only,
with the utmost perfidy, revolt from our Creator, but also abjure
the Saviour himself. Then, from an enumeration of all the
blessings of God, and each part of our salvation, it finds
materials for exhortation. Ever since God exhibited himself to us
as a Father, we must be convicted of extreme ingratitude if we do
not in turn exhibit ourselves as his sons. Ever since Christ
purified us by the laver of his blood, and communicated this
purification by baptism, it would ill become us to be defiled with
new pollution. Ever since he ingrafted us into his body, we, who
are his members, should anxiously beware of contracting any stain
or taint. Ever since he who is our head ascended to heaven, it is
befitting in us to withdraw our affections from the earth, and
with our whole soul aspire to heaven. Ever since the Holy Spirit
dedicated us as temples to the Lord, we should make it our
endeavour to show forth the glory of God, and guard against being
profaned by the defilement of sin. Ever since our soul and body
were destined to heavenly incorruptibility and an unfading crown,
we should earnestly strive to keep them pure and uncorrupted
against the day of the Lord. These, I say, are the surest
foundations of a well-regulated life, and you will search in vain
for any thing resembling them among philosophers, who, in their
commendation of virtue, never rise higher than the natural dignity
of man.
4. This is the place to address those who, having nothing of
Christ but the name and sign, would yet be called Christians. How
dare they boast of this sacred name? None have intercourse with
Christ but those who have acquired the true knowledge of him from
the Gospel. The Apostle denies that any man truly has learned
Christ who has not learned to put off "the old man, which is
corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and put on Christ,"
(Eph. iv. 22.) They are convicted, therefore, of falsely and
unjustly pretending a knowledge of Christ, whatever be the
volubility and eloquence with which they can talk of the Gospel.
Doctrine is not an affair of the tongue, but of the life; is not
apprehended by the intellect and memory merely, like other
branches of learning; but is received only when it possesses the
whole soul, and finds its seat and habitation in the inmost
recesses of the heart. Let them, therefore, either cease to insult
God, by boasting that they are what they are not, or let them show
themselves not unworthy disciples of their divine Master. To
doctrine in which our religion is contained we have given the
first place, since by it our salvation commences; but it must be
transfused into the breast, and pass into the conduct, and so
transform us into itself, as not to prove unfruitful. If
philosophers are justly offended, and banish from their company
with disgrace those who, while professing an art which ought to be
the mistress of their conduct, convert it into mere loquacious
sophistry, with how much better reason shall we detest those
flimsy sophists who are contented to let the Gospel play upon
their lips, when, from its efficacy, it ought to penetrate the
inmost affections of the heart, fix its seat in the soul, and
pervade the whole man a hundred times more than the frigid
discourses of philosophers?
5. 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. 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.



CHAPTER II.

A SUMMARY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. OF SELF-DENIAL.5

The divisions of the chapter are,?I. The rule which permits
us not to go astray in the study of righteousness, requires two
things, viz., that man, abandoning his own will, devote himself
entirely to the service of God; whence it follows, that we must
seek not our own things, but the things of God, sec. 1, 2. II. A
description of this renovation or Christian life taken from the
Epistle to Titus, and accurately explained under certain special
heads, sec. 3 to end.


Sections.

1. Consideration of the second general division in regard to
the Christian life. Its beginning and sum. A twofold respect. 1.
We are not our own. Respect to both the fruit and the use. Unknown
to philosophers, who have placed reason on the throne of the Holy
Spirit.
2. Since we are not our own, we must seek the glory of God,
and obey his will. Self-denial recommended to the disciples of
Christ. He who neglects it, deceived either by pride or hypocrisy,
rushes on destruction.
3. Three things to be followed, and two to be shunned in
life. Impiety and worldly lusts to be shunned. Sobriety, justice,
and piety, to be followed. An inducement to right conduct.
4. Self-denial the sum of Paul's doctrine. Its difficulty.
Qualities in us which make it difficult. Cures for these
qualities. 1. Ambition to be suppressed. 2. Humility to be
embraced. 3. Candour to be esteemed. 4. Mutual charity to be
preserved. 5. Modesty to be sincerely cultivated.
5. The advantage of our neighbour to be promoted. Here self-
denial most necessary, and yet most difficult. Here a double
remedy. 1. The benefits bestowed upon us are for the common
benefit of the Church. 2. We ought to do all we can for our
neighbour. This illustrated by analogy from the members of the
human body. This duty of charity founded on the divine command.
6. Charity ought to have for its attendants patience and
kindness. We should consider the image of God in our neighbours,
and especially in those who are of the household of faith. Hence a
fourfold consideration which refutes all objections. A common
objection refuted.
7. Christian life cannot exist without charity. Remedies for
the vices opposed to charity. 1. Mercy. 2. Humility. 3. Modesty.
4. Diligence. 5. Perseverance.
8. Self-denial, in respect of God, should lead to equanimity
and tolerance. 1. We are always subject to God. 2. We should shun
avarice and ambition. 3. We should expect all prosperity from the
blessing of God, and entirely depend on him.
9. We ought not to desire wealth or honours without the
divine blessing, nor follow the arts of the wicked. We ought to
cast all our care upon God, and never envy the prosperity of
others.
10. We ought to commit ourselves entirely to God. The
necessity of this doctrine. Various uses of affliction. Heathen
abuse and corruption.


1. Although the Law of God contains a perfect rule of conduct
admirably arranged, it has seemed proper to our divine Master to
train his people by a more accurate method, to the rule which is
enjoined in the Law; and the leading principle in the method is,
that it is the duty of believers to present their "bodies a living
sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is their reasonable
service," (Rom. xii. 1.) Hence he draws the exhortation: "Be not
conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of
your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable,
and perfect will of God." The great point, then, is, that we are
consecrated and dedicated to God, and, therefore, should not
henceforth think, speak, design, or act, without a view to his
glory. What he hath made sacred cannot, without signal insult to
him, be applied to profane use. But if we are not our own, but the
Lord's, it is plain both what error is to be shunned, and to what
end the actions of our lives ought to be directed. We are not our
own; therefore, neither is our own reason or will to rule our acts
and counsels. We are not our own; therefore, let us not make it
our end to seek what may be agreeable to our carnal nature. We are
not our own; therefore, as far as possible, let us forget
ourselves and the things that are ours. On the other hand, we are
God's; let us, therefore, live and die to him (Rom. xiv. 8.) We
are God's; therefore, let his wisdom and will preside over all our
actions. We are God's; to him, then, as the only legitimate end,
let every part of our life be directed. O how great the
proficiency of him who, taught that he is not his own, has
withdrawn the dominion and government of himself from his own
reason that he may give them to God! For as the surest source of
destruction to men is to obey themselves, so the only haven of
safety is to have no other will, no other wisdom, than to follow
the Lord wherever he leads. Let this, then be the first step, to
abandon ourselves, and devote the whole energy of our minds to the
service of God. By service, I mean not only that which consists in
verbal obedience, but that by which the mind, divested of its own
carnal feelings, implicitly obeys the call of the Spirit of God.
This transformation, (which Paul calls the renewing of the mind,
Rom. xii. 2; Eph. iv. 23,) though it is the first entrance to
life, was unknown to all the philosophers. They give the
government of man to reason alone, thinking that she alone is to
be listened to; in short, they assign to her the sole direction of
the conduct. But Christian philosophy bids her give place, and
yield complete submission to the Holy Spirit, so that the man
himself no longer lives, but Christ lives and reigns in him, (Gal.
ii. 20.)
2. Hence follows the other principle, that we are not to seek
our own, but the Lord's will, and act with a view to promote his
glory. Great is our proficiency, when, almost forgetting
ourselves, certainly postponing our own reason, we faithfully make
it our study to obey God and his commandments. For when Scripture
enjoins us to lay aside private regard to ourselves, it not only
divests our minds of an excessive longing for wealth, or power, or
human favour, but eradicates all ambition and thirst for worldly
glory, and other more secret pests. The Christian ought, indeed,
to be so trained and disposed as to consider, that during his
whole life he has to do with God. For this reason, as he will
bring all things to the disposal and estimate of God, so he will
religiously direct his whole mind to him. For he who has learned
to look to God in everything he does, is at the same time diverted
from all vain thoughts. This is that self-denial which Christ so
strongly enforces on his disciples from the very outset, (Matth.
xvi. 24,) which, as soon as it takes hold of the mind, leaves no
place either, first, for pride, show, and ostentation; or,
secondly, for avarice, lust, luxury, effeminacy, or other vices
which are engendered by self love. On the contrary, wherever it
reigns not, the foulest vices are indulged in without shame; or,
if there is some appearance of virtue, it is vitiated by a
depraved longing for applause. Show me, if you can, an individual
who, unless he has renounced himself in obedience to the Lord's
command, is disposed to do good for its own sake. Those who have
not so renounced themselves have followed virtue at least for the
sake of praise. The philosophers who have contended most strongly
that virtue is to be desired on her own account, were so inflated
with arrogance as to make it apparent that they sought virtue for
no other reason than as a ground for indulging in pride. So far,
therefore, is God from being delighted with these hunters after
popular applause with their swollen breasts, that he declares they
have received their reward in this world, (Matth. vi. 2,) and that
harlots and publicans are nearer the kingdom of heaven than they,
(Matth. xxi. 31.) We have not yet sufficiently explained how great
and numerous are the obstacles by which a man is impeded in the
pursuit of rectitude, so long as he has not renounced himself. The
old saying is true, There is a world of iniquity treasured up in
the human soul. Nor can you find any other remedy for this than to
deny yourself, renounce your own reason, and direct your whole
mind to the pursuit of those things which the Lord requires of
you, and which you are to seek only because they are pleasing to
Him.
3. In another passage, Paul gives a brief, indeed, but more
distinct account of each of the parts of a well-ordered life: "The
grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should
live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearance of the
great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us,
that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a
peculiar people, zealous of good works," (Tit. ii. 11-14.) After
holding forth the grace of God to animate us, and pave the way for
His true worship, he removes the two greatest obstacles which
stand in the way, viz., ungodliness, to which we are by nature too
prone, and worldly lusts, which are of still greater extent. Under
ungodliness, he includes not merely superstition, but everything
at variance with the true fear of God. Worldly lusts are
equivalent to the lusts of the flesh. Thus he enjoins us, in
regard to both tables of the Law, to lay aside our own mind, and
renounce whatever our own reason and will dictate. Then he reduces
all the actions of our lives to three branches, sobriety,
righteousness, and godliness. Sobriety undoubtedly denotes as well
chastity and temperance as the pure and frugal use of temporal
goods, and patient endurance of want. Righteousness comprehends
all the duties of equity, in every one his due. Next follows
godliness, which separates us from the pollutions of the world,
and connects us with God in true holiness. These, when connected
together by an indissoluble chain, constitute complete perfection.
But as nothing is more difficult than to bid adieu to the will of
the flesh, subdue, nay, abjure our lusts, devote ourselves to God
and our brethren, and lead an angelic life amid the pollutions of
the world, Paul, to set our minds free from all entanglements,
recalls us to the hope of a blessed immortality, justly urging us
to contend, because as Christ has once appeared as our Redeemer,
so on his final advent he will give full effect to the salvation
obtained by him. And in this way he dispels all the allurements
which becloud our path, and prevent us from aspiring as we ought
to heavenly glory; nay, he tells us that we must be pilgrims in
the world, that we may not fail of obtaining the heavenly
inheritance.
4. Moreover, we see by these words that self-denial has
respect partly to men and partly (more especially) to God, (sec.
8-10.) For when Scripture enjoins us, in regard to our fellow men,
to prefer them in honour to ourselves, and sincerely labour to
promote their advantages (Rom. xii. 10; Phil. ii. 3,) he gives us
commands which our mind is utterly incapable of obeying until its
natural feelings are suppressed. For so blindly do we all rush in
the direction of self-love, that every one thinks he has a good
reason for exalting himself and despising all others in
comparison. If God has bestowed on us something not to be repented
of, trusting to it, we immediately become elated, and not only
swell, but almost burst with pride. The vices with which we abound
we both carefully conceal from others, and flatteringly represent
to ourselves as minute and trivial, nay, sometimes hug them as
virtues. When the same qualities which we admire in ourselves are
seen in others, even though they should be superior, we, in order
that we may not be forced to yield to them, maliciously lower and
carp at them; in like manner, in the case of vices, not contented
with severe and keen animadversion, we studiously exaggerate them.
Hence the insolence with which each, as if exempted from the
common lot, seeks to exalt himself above his neighbour,
confidently and proudly despising others, or at least looking down
upon them as his inferiors. 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. Many bear about with them
some measure of mildness so long as all things go smoothly and
lovingly with them, but how few are there who, when stung and
irritated, preserve the same tenor of moderation? For this there
is no other remedy than to pluck up by the roots those most
noxious pests, self-love and love of victory, (filoneicia cai
filantia.) This the doctrine of Scripture does. For it teaches us
to remember, that the endowments which God has bestowed upon us
are not our own, but His free gifts, and that those who plume
themselves upon them betray their ingratitude. "Who maketh thee to
differ," saith Paul, "and what hast thou that thou didst not
receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if
thou hadst not received it?" (1 Cor. iv. 7.) Then by a diligent
examination of our faults let us keep ourselves humble. Thus while
nothing will remain to swell our pride, there will be much to
subdue it. Again, we are enjoined, whenever we behold the gifts of
God in others, so to reverence and respect the gifts, as also to
honour those in whom they reside. God having been pleased to
bestow honour upon them, it would ill become us to deprive them of
it. Then we are told to overlook their faults, not, indeed, to
encourage by flattering them, but not because of them to insult
those whom we ought to regard with honour and good will.6 In this
way, with regard to all with whom we have intercourse, our
behaviour will be not only moderate and modest, but courteous and
friendly. The only way by which you can ever attain to true
meekness, is to have your heart imbued with a humble opinion of
yourself and respect for others.
5. How difficult it is to perform the duty of seeking the
good of our neighbour! Unless you leave off all thought of
yourself and in a manner cease to be yourself, you will never
accomplish it. How can you exhibit those works of charity which
Paul describes unless you renounce yourself, and become wholly
devoted to others? "Charity (says he, 1 Cor. xiii. 4) suffereth
long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not
itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh
not her own, is not easily provoked &c. Were it the only thing
required of us to seek not our own, nature would not have the
least power to comply: she so inclines us to love ourselves only,
that she will not easily allow us carelessly to pass by ourselves
and our own interests that we may watch over the interests of
others, nay, spontaneously to yield our own rights and resign it
to another. But Scripture, to conduct us to this, reminds us, that
whatever we obtain from the Lord is granted on the condition of
our employing it for the common good of the Church, and that,
therefore, the legitimate use of all our gifts is a kind and
liberal communication of them with others. There cannot be a surer
rule, nor a stronger exhortation to the observance of it, than
when we are taught that all the endowments which we possess are
divine deposits entrusted to us for the very purpose of being
distributed for the good of our neighbour. But Scripture proceeds
still farther when it likens these endowments to the different
members of the body, (1 Cor. xii. 12.) No member has its function
for itself, or applies it for its own private use, but transfers
it to its fellow-members; nor does it derive any other advantage
from it than that which it receives in common with the whole body.
Thus, whatever the pious man can do, he is bound to do for his
brethren, not consulting his own interest in any other way than by
striving earnestly for the common edification of the Church. Let
this, then, be our method of showing good-will and kindness,
considering that, in regard to everything which God has bestowed
upon us, and by which we can aid our neighbour, we are his
stewards, and are bound to give account of our stewardship;
moreover, that the only right mode of administration is that which
is regulated by love. In this way, we shall not only unite the
study of our neighbour's advantage with a regard to our own, but
make the latter subordinate to the former. And lest we should have
omitted to perceive that this is the law for duly administering
every gift which we receive from God, he of old applied that law
to the minutest expressions of his own kindness. He commanded the
first-fruits to be offered to him as an attestation by the people
that it was impious to reap any advantage from goods not
previously consecrated to him, (Exod. xxii. 29; xxiii. 19.) But if
the gifts of God are not sanctified to us until we have with our
own hand dedicated them to the Giver, it must be a gross abuse
that does not give signs of such dedication. It is in vain to
contend that you cannot enrich the Lord by your offerings. Though,
as the Psalmist says "Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not
unto thee," yet you can extend it "to the saints that are in the
earth," (Ps. xvi. 2, 3;) and therefore a comparison is drawn
between sacred oblations and alms as now corresponding to the
offerings under the Law.7
6. Moreover, that we may not weary in well-doing, (as would
otherwise forthwith and infallibly be the case,) we must add the
other quality in the Apostle's enumeration, "Charity suffiereth
long, and is kind, is not easily provoked," (1 Cor. xiii. 4.) The
Lord enjoins us to do good to all without exception, though the
greater part, if estimated by their own merit, are most unworthy
of it. But Scripture subjoins a most excellent reason, when it
tells us that we are not to look to what men in themselves
deserve, but to attend to the image of God, which exists in all,
and to which we owe all honour and love. But in those who are of
the household of faith, the same rule is to be more carefully
observed, inasmuch as that image is renewed and restored in them
by the Spirit of Christ. Therefore, whoever be the man that is
presented to you as needing your assistance, you have no ground
for declining to give it to him. Say he is a stranger. The Lord
has given him a mark which ought to be familiar to you: for which
reason he forbids you to despise your own flesh, (Gal. vi. 10.)
Say he is mean and of no consideration. The Lord points him out as
one whom he has distinguished by the lustre of his own image,
(Isaiah lviii. 7.) Say that you are bound to him by no ties of
duty. The Lord has substituted him as it were into his own place,
that in him you may recognize the many great obligations under
which the Lord has laid you to himself. Say that he is unworthy of
your least exertion on his account; but the image of God, by which
he is recommended to you, is worthy of yourself and all your
exertions. But if he not only merits no good, but has provoked you
by injury and mischief, still this is no good reason why you
should not embrace him in love, and visit him with offices of
love. He has deserved very differently from me, you will say. But
what has the Lord deserved?8 Whatever injury he has done you, when
he enjoins you to forgive him, he certainly means that it should
be imputed to himself. In this way only we attain to what is not
to say difficult but altogether against nature,9 to love those
that hate us, render good for evil, and blessing for cursing,
remembering that we are not to reflect on the wickedness of men,
but look to the image of God in them, an image which, covering and
obliterating their faults, should by its beauty and dignity allure
us to love and embrace them.
7. We shall thus succeed in mortifying ourselves if we fulfil
all the duties of charity. Those duties, however, are not
fulfilled by the mere discharge of them, though none be omitted,
unless it is done from a pure feeling of love. For it may happen
that one may perform every one of these offices, in so far as the
external act is concerned, and be far from performing them aright.
For you see some who would be thought very liberal, and yet
accompany every thing they give with insult, by the haughtiness of
their looks, or the violence of their words. And to such a
calamitous condition have we come in this unhappy age, that the
greater part of men never almost give alms without contumely. Such
conduct ought not to have been tolerated even among the heathen;
but from Christians something more is required than to carry
cheerfulness in their looks, and give attractiveness to the
discharge of their duties by courteous language. First, they
should put themselves in the place of him whom they see in need of
their assistance, and pity his misfortune as if they felt and bore
it, so that a feeling of pity and humanity should incline them to
assist him just as they would themselves. He who is thus minded
will go and give assistance to his brethren, and not only not
taint his acts with arrogance or upbraiding but will neither look
down upon the brother to whom he does a kindness, as one who
needed his help, or keep him in subjection as under obligation to
him, just as we do not insult a diseased member when the rest of
the body labours for its recovery, nor think it under special
obligation to the other members, because it has required more
exertion than it has returned. A communication of offices between
members is not regarded as at all gratuitous, but rather as the
payment of that which being due by the law of nature it were
monstrous to deny. For this reason, he who has performed one kind
of duty will not think himself thereby discharged, as is usually
the case when a rich man, after contributing somewhat of his
substance, delegates remaining burdens to others as if he had
nothing to do with them. Every one should rather consider, that
however great he is, he owes himself to his neighbours, and that
the only limit to his beneficence is the failure of his means. The
extent of these should regulate that of his charity.
8. The principal part of self-denial, that which as we have
said has reference to God, let us again consider more fully. Many
things have already been said with regard to it which it were
superfluous to repeat; and, therefore, it will be sufficient to
view it as forming us to equanimity and endurance. First, then, in
seeking the convenience or tranquillity of the present life,
Scripture calls us to resign ourselves, and all we have, to the
disposal of the Lord, to give him up the affections of our heart,
that he may tame and subdue them. 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. Hence, in regard to those who frame their life after
their own counsel, we see how restless they are in mind, how many
plans they try, to what fatigues they submit, in order that they
may gain what avarice or ambition desires, or, on the other hand,
escape poverty and meanness. To avoid similar entanglements, 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.
9. Therefore, if we believe that all prosperous and desirable
success depends entirely on the blessing of God, and that when it
is wanting all kinds of misery and calamity await us, it follows
that we should not eagerly contend for riches and honours,
trusting to our own dexterity and assiduity, or leaning on the
favour of men, or confiding in any empty imagination of fortune;
but should always have respect to the Lord, that under his
auspices we may be conducted to whatever lot he has provided for
us. First, the result will be, that instead of rushing on
regardless of right and wrong, by wiles and wicked arts, and with
injury to our neighbours, to catch at wealth and seize upon
honours, we will only follow such fortune as we may enjoy with
innocence. Who can hope for the aid of the divine blessing amid
fraud, rapine, and other iniquitous arts? As this blessing attends
him only who thinks purely and acts uprightly, so it calls off all
who long for it from sinister designs and evil actions. Secondly,
a curb will be laid upon us, restraining a too eager desire of
becoming rich, or an ambitious striving after honour. How can any
one have the effrontery to expect that God will aid him in
accomplishing desires at variance with his word? What God with his
own lips pronounces cursed, never can be prosecuted with his
blessing. Lastly, if our success is not equal to our wish and
hope, we shall, however, be kept from impatience and detestation
of our condition, whatever it be, knowing that so to feel were to
murmur against God, at whose pleasure riches and poverty, contempt
and honours, are dispensed. In shorts he who leans on the divine
blessing in the way which has been described, will not, in the
pursuit of those things which men are wont most eagerly to desire,
employ wicked arts which he knows would avail him nothing; nor
when any thing prosperous befalls him will he impute it to himself
and his own diligence, or industry, or fortune, instead of
ascribing it to God as its author. If, while the affairs of others
flourish, his make little progress, or even retrograde, he will
bear his humble lot with greater equanimity and moderation than
any irreligious man does the moderate success which only falls
short of what he wished; for he has a solace in which he can rest
more tranquilly than at the very summit of wealth or power,
because he considers that his affairs are ordered by the Lord in
the manner most conducive to his salvation. This, we see, is the
way in which David was affected, who, while he follows God and
gives up himself to his guidance, declares, "Neither do I exercise
myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I
have behaved and quieted myself as a child that is weaned of his
mother," (Ps. cxxxi. 1, 2.)
10. Nor is it in this respect only that pious minds ought to
manifest this tranquillity and endurance; it must be extended to
all the accidents to which this present life is liable. He alone,
therefore, has properly denied himself, who has resigned himself
entirely to the Lord, placing all the course of his life entirely
at his disposal. Happen what may, he whose mind is thus composed
will neither deem himself wretched nor murmur against God because
of his lot. How necessary this disposition is will appear, if you
consider the many accidents to which we are liable. Various
diseases ever and anon attack us: at one time pestilence rages; at
another we are involved in all the calamities of war. Frost and
hail, destroying the promise of the year, cause sterility, which
reduces us to penury; wife, parents, children, relatives, are
carried off by death; our house is destroyed by fire. These are
the events which make men curse their life, detest the day of
their birth, execrate the light of heaven, even censure God, and
(as they are eloquent in blasphemy) charge him with cruelty and
injustice. The believer must in these things also contemplate the
mercy and truly paternal indulgence of God. Accordingly, should he
see his house by the removal of kindred reduced to solitude even
then he will not cease to bless the Lord; his thought will be,
Still the grace of the Lord, which dwells within my house, will
not leave it desolate. If his crops are blasted, mildewed, or cut
off by frost, or struck down by hail,10 and he sees famine before
him, he will not however despond or murmur against God, but
maintain his confidence in him; "We thy people, and sheep of thy
pasture, will give thee thanks for ever," (Ps. lxxix. 13;) he will
supply me with food, even in the extreme of sterility. If he is
afflicted with disease, the sharpness of the pain will not so
overcome him, as to make him break out with impatience, and
expostulate with God; but, recognising justice and lenity in the
rod, will patiently endure. In short, whatever happens, knowing
that it is ordered by the Lord, he will receive it with a placid
and grateful mind, and will not contumaciously resist the
government of him, at whose disposal he has placed himself and all
that he has. Especially let the Christian breast eschew that
foolish and most miserable consolation of the heathen, who, to
strengthen their mind against adversity, imputed it to fortune, at
which they deemed it absurd to feel indignant, as she was ascopoV
(aimless) and rash, and blindly wounded the good equally with the
bad. On the contrary, the rule of piety is, that the hand of God
is the ruler and arbiter of the fortunes of all, and, instead of
rushing on with thoughtless violence, dispenses good and evil with
perfect regularity.



CHAPTER III.

OF BEARING THE CROSS?ONE BRANCH OF SELF-DENIAL.

The four divisions of this chapter are,?I. The nature of the
cross, its necessity and dignity, sec. 1, 2. II. The manifold
advantages of the cross described, sec. 3-6. III. The form of the
cross the most excellent of all, and yet it by no means removes
all sense of pain, sec. 7, 8. IV. A description of warfare under
the cross, and of true patience, (not that of philosophers,) after
the example of Christ, sec. 9-11.


Sections.

1. What the cross is. By whom, and on whom, and for what
cause imposed. Its necessity and dignity.
2. The cross necessary. 1. To humble our pride. 2. To make us
apply to God for aid. Example of David. 3. To give us experience
of God's presence.
3. Manifold uses of the cross. 1. Produces patience, hope,
and firm confidence in God, gives us victory and perseverance.
Faith invincible.
4. 2. Frames us to obedience. Example of Abraham. This
training how useful.
5. The cross necessary to subdue the wantonness of the flesh.
This portrayed by an apposite simile. Various forms of the cross.
6. 3. God permits our infirmities, and corrects past faults,
that he may keep us in obedience. This confirmed by a passage from
Solomon and an Apostle.
7. Singular consolation under the cross, when we suffer
persecution for righteousness. Some parts of this consolation.
8. This form of the cross most appropriate to believers, and
should be borne willingly and cheerfully. This cheerfulness is not
unfeeling hilarity, but, while groaning under the burden, waits
patiently for the Lord.
9. A description of this conflict. Opposed to the vanity of
the Stoics. Illustrated by the authority and example of Christ.
10. Proved by the testimony and uniform experience of the
elect. Also by the special example of the Apostle Peter. The
nature of the patience required of us.
11. Distinction between the patience of Christians and
philosophers. The latter pretend a necessity which cannot be
resisted. The former hold forth the justice of God and his care of
our safety. A full exposition of this difference.


1. The pious mind must ascend still higher, namely, whither
Christ calls his disciples when he says, that every one of them
must "take up his cross," (Matth. xvi. 24.) Those whom the Lord
has chosen and honoured with his intercourse must prepare for a
hard, laborious, troubled life, a life full of many and various
kinds of evils; it being the will of our heavenly Father to
exercise his people in this way while putting them to the proof.
Having begun this course with Christ the first-born, he continues
it towards all his children. For though that Son was dear to him
above others, the Son in whom he was "well pleased," yet we see,
that far from being treated gently and indulgently, we may say,
that not only was he subjected to a perpetual cross while he dwelt
on earth, but his whole life was nothing else than a kind of
perpetual cross. The Apostle assigns the reason, "Though he was a
Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered,"
(Heb. v. 8.) Why then should we exempt ourselves from that
condition to which Christ our Head behoved to submit; especially
since he submitted on our account, that he might in his own person
exhibit a model of patience? Wherefore, the Apostle declares, that
all the children of God are destined to be conformed to him. Hence
it affords us great consolation in hard and difficult
circumstances, which men deem evil and adverse, to think that we
are holding fellowship with the sufferings of Christ; that as he
passed to celestial glory through a labyrinth of many woes, so we
too are conducted thither through various tribulations. For, in
another passage, Paul himself thus speaks, "we must through much
tribulation enter the kingdom of God," (Acts xiv. 22;) and again,
"that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the
fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his
death," (Rom viii. 29.) How powerfully should it soften the
bitterness of the cross, to think that the more we are afflicted
with adversity, the surer we are made of our fellowship with
Christ; by communion with whom our sufferings are not only blessed
to us, but tend greatly to the furtherance of our salvation.
2. We may add, that the only thing which made it necessary
for our Lord to undertake to bear the cross, was to testify and
prove his obedience to the Father; whereas there are many reasons
which make it necessary for us to live constantly under the cross.
Feeble as we are by nature, and prone to ascribe all perfection to
our flesh, unless we receive as it were ocular demonstration of
our weakness, we readily estimate our virtue above its proper
worth, and doubt not that, whatever happens, it will stand
unimpaired and invincible against all difficulties. Hence we
indulge a stupid and empty confidence in the flesh, and then
trusting to it wax proud against the Lord himself; as if our own
faculties were sufficient without his grace. This arrogance cannot
be better repressed than when He proves to us by experience, not
only how great our weakness, but also our frailty is. Therefore,
he visits us with disgrace, or poverty, or bereavement, or
disease, or other afflictions. Feeling altogether unable to
support them, we forthwith, in so far as regards ourselves, give
way, and thus humbled learn to invoke his strength, which alone
can enable us to bear up under a weight of affliction. Nay, even
the holiest of men, however well aware that they stand not in
their own strength, but by the grace of God, would feel too secure
in their own fortitude and constancy, were they not brought to a
more thorough knowledge of themselves by the trial of the cross.
This feeling gained even upon David, "In my prosperity I Said, I
shall never be moved. Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my
mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was
troubled," (Ps. xxx. 6, 7.) He confesses that in prosperity his
feelings were dulled and blunted, so that, neglecting the grace of
God, on which alone he ought to have depended, he leant to
himself, and promised himself perpetuity. If it so happened to
this great prophet, who of us should not fear and study caution?
Though in tranquillity they flatter themselves with the idea of
greater constancy and patience, yet, humbled by adversity, they
learn the deception. Believers, I say, warned by such proofs of
their diseases, make progress in humility, and, divesting
themselves of a depraved confidence in the flesh, betake
themselves to the grace of God, and, when they have so betaken
themselves, experience the presence of the divine power, in which
is ample protection.
3. This Paul teaches when he says that tribulation worketh
patience, and patience experience. God having promised that he
will be with believers in tribulation, they feel the truth of the
promise; while supported by his hand, they endure patiently. This
they could never do by their own strength. Patience, therefore,
gives the saints an experimental proof that God in reality
furnishes the aid which he has promised whenever there is need.
Hence also their faith is confirmed, for it were very ungrateful
not to expect that in future the truth of God will be, as they
have already found it, firm and constant. We now see how many
advantages are at once produced by the cross. Overturning the
overweening opinion we form of our own virtue, and detecting the
hypocrisy in which we delight, it removes our pernicious carnal
confidence, teaching us, when thus humbled, to recline on God
alone, so that we neither are oppressed nor despond. Then victory
is followed by hope, inasmuch as the Lord, by performing what he
has promised, establishes his truth in regard to the future. Were
these the only reasons, it is surely plain how necessary it is for
us to bear the cross. It is of no little importance to be rid of
your self-love, and made fully conscious of your weakness; so
impressed with a sense of your weakness as to learn to distrust
yourself?to distrust yourself so as to transfer your confidence to
God, reclining on him with such heartfelt confidence as to trust
in his aid, and continue invincible to the end, standing by his
grace so as to perceive that he is true to his promises, and so
assured of the certainty of his promises as to be strong in hope.
4. Another end which the Lord has in afflicting his people is
to try their patience, and train them to obedience?not that they
can yield obedience to him except in so far as he enables them;
but he is pleased thus to attest and display striking proofs of
the graces which he has conferred upon his saints, lest they
should remain within unseen and unemployed. Accordingly, by
bringing forward openly the strength and constancy of endurance
with which he has provided his servants, he is said to try their
patience. Hence the expressions that God tempted Abraham, (Gen.
xxi. 1, 12,) and made proof of his piety by not declining to
sacrifice his only son. Hence, too, Peter tells us that our faith
is proved by tribulation, just as gold is tried in a furnace of
fire. But who will say it is not expedient that the most excellent
gift of patience which the believer has received from his God
should be applied to uses by being made sure and manifest?
Otherwise men would never value it according to its worth. But if
God himself, to prevent the virtues which he has conferred upon
believers from lurking in obscurity, nay, lying useless and
perishing, does aright in supplying materials for calling them
forth, there is the best reason for the afflictions of the saints,
since without them their patience could not exist. I say, that by
the cross they are also trained to obedience, because they are
thus taught to live not according to their own wish, but at the
disposal of God. Indeed, did all things proceed as they wish, they
would not know what it is to follow God. Seneca mentions (De Vit.
Beata, cap. xv.) that there was an old proverb when any one was
exhorted to endure adversity, "Follow God;" thereby intimating,
that men truly submitted to the yoke of God only when they gave
their back and hand to his rod. But if it is most right that we
should in all things prove our obedience to our heavenly Father,
certainly we ought not to decline any method by which he trains us
to obedience.
5. Still, however, we see not how necessary that obedience
is, unless we at the same time consider how prone our carnal
nature is to shake off the yoke of God whenever it has been
treated with some degree of gentleness and indulgence. It just
happens to it as with refractory horses, which, if kept idle for a
few days at hack and manger, become ungovernable, and no longer
recognize the rider, whose command before they implicitly obeyed.
And we invariably become what God complains of in the people of
Israel?waxing gross and fat, we kick against him who reared and
nursed us, (Deut. xxxii. 15.) The kindness of God should allure us
to ponder and love his goodness; but since such is our malignity,
that we are invariably corrupted by his indulgence, it is more
than necessary for us to be restrained by discipline from breaking
forth into such petulance. Thus, lest we become emboldened by an
over-abundance of wealth; lest elated with honour, we grow proud;
lest inflated with other advantages of body, or mind, or fortune,
we grow insolent, the Lord himself interferes as he sees to be
expedient by means of the cross, subduing and curbing the
arrogance of our flesh, and that in various ways, as the advantage
of each requires. For as we do not all equally labour under the
same disease, so we do not all need the same difficult cure. Hence
we see that all are not exercised with the same kind of cross.
While the heavenly Physician treats some more gently, in the case
of others he employs harsher remedies, his purpose being to
provide a cure for all. Still none is left free and untouched,
because he knows that all, without a single exception, are
diseased.
6. We may add, that our most merciful Father requires not
only to prevent our weakness, but often to correct our past
faults, that he may keep us in due obedience. Therefore, whenever
we are afflicted we ought immediately to call to mind our past
life. In this way we will find that the faults which we have
committed are deserving of such castigation. And yet the
exhortation to patience is not to be founded chiefly on the
acknowledgment of sin. For Scripture supplies a far better
consideration when it says, that in adversity "we are chastened of
the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world," (1 Cor.
xi. 32.) Therefore, in the very bitterness of tribulation we ought
to recognise the kindness and mercy of our Father, since even then
he ceases not to further our salvation. For he afflicts, not that
he may ruin or destroy but rather that he may deliver us from the
condemnation of the world. Let this thought lead us to what
Scripture elsewhere teaches: "My son, despise not the chastening
of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the Lord
loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he
delighteth," (Prov. iii 11, 12.) When we perceive our Father's
rod, is it not our part to behave as obedient docile sons rather
than rebelliously imitate desperate men, who are hardened in
wickedness? God dooms us to destruction, if he does not, by
correction, call us back when we have fallen off from him, so that
it is truly said, "If ye be without chastisement," "then are ye
bastards, and not sons," (Heb. xii. 8.) We are most perverse then
if we cannot bear him while he is manifesting his good-will to us,
and the care which he takes of our salvation. Scripture states the
difference between believers and unbelievers to be, that the
latter, as the slaves of inveterate and deep-seated iniquity, only
become worse and more obstinate under the lash; whereas the
former, like free-born sons turn to repentance. Now, therefore,
choose your class. But as I have already spoken of this subject,
it is sufficient to have here briefly adverted to it.
7. There is singular consolation, moreover, when we are
persecuted for righteousness' sake. For our thought should then
be, How high the honour which God bestows upon us in
distinguishing us by the special badge of his soldiers. By
suffering persecution for righteousness' sake, I mean not only
striving for the defence of the Gospel, but for the defence of
righteousness in any way. Whether, therefore, in maintaining the
truth of God against the lies of Satan, or defending the good and
innocent against the injuries of the bad, we are obliged to incur
the offence and hatred of the world, so as to endanger life,
fortune, or honour, let us not grieve or decline so far to spend
ourselves for God; let us not think ourselves wretched in those
things in which he with his own lips has pronounced us blessed,
(Matth. v. 10.) Poverty, indeed considered in itself, is misery;
so are exile, contempt, imprisonment, ignominy: in fine, death
itself is the last of all calamities. But when the favour of God
breathes upon is, there is none of these things which may not turn
out to our happiness. Let us then be contented with the testimony
of Christ rather than with the false estimate of the flesh, and
then, after the example of the Apostles, we will rejoice in being
"counted worthy to suffer shame for his name," (Acts v. 41.) For
why? If, while conscious of our innocence, we are deprived of our
substance by the wickedness of man, we are, no doubt, humanly
speaking, reduced to poverty; but in truth our riches in heaven
are increased: if driven from our homes we have a more welcome
reception into the family of God; if vexed and despised, we are
more firmly rooted in Christ; if stigmatised by disgrace and
ignominy, we have a higher place in the kingdom of God; and if we
are slain, entrance is thereby given us to eternal life. The Lord
having set such a price upon us, let us be ashamed to estimate
ourselves at less than the shadowy and evanescent allurements of
the present life.
8. Since by these, and similar considerations, Scripture
abundantly solaces us for the ignominy or calamities which we
endure in defence of righteousness, we are very ungrateful if we
do not willingly and cheerfully receive them at the hand of the
Lord, especially since this form of the cross is the most
appropriate to believers, being that by which Christ desires to be
glorified in us, as Peter also declares, (1 Pet. iv. 11, 14.) But
as to ingenuous natures, it is more bitter to suffer disgrace than
a hundred deaths, Paul expressly reminds us that not only
persecution, but also disgrace awaits us, "because we trust in the
living God," (1 Tim. iv. 10.) So in another passage he bids us,
after his example, walk "by evil report and good report," (2 Cor.
vi. 8.) The cheerfulness required, however, does not imply a total
insensibility to pain. The saints could show no patience under the
cross if they were not both tortured with pain and grievously
molested. Were there no hardship in poverty, no pain in disease,
no sting in ignominy, no fear in death, where would be the
fortitude and moderation in enduring them? But while every one of
these, by its inherent bitterness, naturally vexes the mind, the
believer in this displays his fortitude, that though fully
sensible of the bitterness and labouring grievously, he still
withstands and struggles boldly; in this displays his patience,
that though sharply stung, he is however curbed by the fear of God
from breaking forth into any excess; in this displays his
alacrity, that though pressed with sorrow and sadness, he rests
satisfied with spiritual consolation from God.
9. This conflict which believers maintain against the natural
feeling of pain, while they study moderation and patience, Paul
elegantly describes in these words: "We are troubled on every
side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed," (2
Cor. iv. 8, 9.) You see that to bear the cross patiently is not to
have your feelings altogether blunted, and to be absolutely
insensible to pain, according to the absurd description which the
Stoics of old gave of their hero as one who, divested of humanity,
was affected in the same way by adversity and prosperity, grief
and joy; or rather, like a stone, was not affected by anything.
And what did they gain by that sublime wisdom? they exhibited a
shadow of patience, which never did, and never can, exist among
men. Nay, rather by aiming at a too exact and rigid patience, they
banished it altogether from human life. Now also we have among
Christians a new kind of Stoics, who hold it vicious not only to
groan and weep, but even to be sad and anxious. These paradoxes
are usually started by indolent men who, employing themselves more
in speculation than in action, can do nothing else for us than
beget such paradoxes. But we have nothing to do with that iron
philosophy which our Lord and Master condemned?not only in word,
but also by his own example. For he both grieved and shed tears
for his own and others' woes. Nor did he teach his disciples
differently: "Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall
rejoice," (John xvi. 20.) And lest any one should regard this as
vicious, he expressly declares, "Blessed are they that mourn,"
(Matth. v. 4.) And no wonder. If all tears are condemned, what
shall we think of our Lord himself, whose "sweat was as it were
great drops of blood falling down to the ground?" (Luke xxii. 44;
Matth. xxvi. 38.) If every kind of fear is a mark of unbelief,
what place shall we assign to the dread which, it is said, in no
slight degree amazed him; if all sadness is condemned, how shall
we justify him when he confesses, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful,
even unto death?"
10. I wished to make these observations to keep pious minds
from despair, lest, from feeling it impossible to divest
themselves of the natural feeling of grief, they might altogether
abandon the study of patience. This must necessarily be the result
with those who convert patience into stupor, and a brave and firm
man into a block. Scripture gives saints the praise of endurance
when, though afflicted by the hardships they endure, they are not
crushed; though they feel bitterly, they are at the same time
filled with spiritual joy; though pressed with anxiety, breathe
exhilarated by the consolation of God. Still there is a certain
degree of repugnance in their hearts, because natural sense shuns
and dreads what is adverse to it, while pious affection, even
through these difficulties, tries to obey the divine will. This
repugnance the Lord expressed when he thus addressed Peter:
"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou
girdedst thyself and walkedst whither thou wouldst; but when thou
shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another
shall gird thee; and carry thee whither thou wouldest not," (John
xxi. 18.) It is not probable, indeed, that when it became
necessary to glorify God by death he was driven to it unwilling
and resisting; had it been so, little praise would have been due
to his martyrdom. But though he obeyed the divine ordination with
the greatest alacrity of heart, yet, as he had not divested
himself of humanity, he was distracted by a double will. When he
thought of the bloody death which he was to die, struck with
horror, he would willingly have avoided it: on the other hand,
when he considered that it was God who called him to it, his fear
was vanquished and suppressed, and he met death cheerfully. It
must therefore be our study, if we would be disciples of Christ,
to imbue our minds with such reverence and obedience to God as may
tame and subjugate all affections contrary to his appointment. In
this way, whatever be the kind of cross to which we are subjected,
we shall in the greatest straits firmly maintain our patience.
Adversity will have its bitterness, and sting us. When afflicted
with disease, we shall groan and be disquieted, and long for
health; pressed with poverty, we shall feel the stings of anxiety
and sadness, feel the pain of ignominy, contempt, and injury, and
pay the tears due to nature at the death of our friends: but our
conclusion will always be, The Lord so willed it, therefore let us
follow his will. Nay, amid the pungency of grief, among groans and
tears this thought will necessarily suggest itself and incline us
cheerfully to endure the things for which we are so afflicted.
11. But since the chief reason for enduring the cross has
been derived from a consideration of the divine will, we must in
few words explain wherein lies the difference between
philosophical and Christian patience. Indeed, very few of the
philosophers advanced so far as to perceive that the hand of God
tries us by means of affliction, and that we ought in this matter
to obey God. The only reason which they adduce is, that so it must
be. But is not this just to say, that we must yield to God,
because it is in vain to contend against him? For if we obey God
only because it is necessary, provided we can escape, we shall
cease to obey him. But what Scripture calls us to consider in the
will of God is very different, namely, first justice and equity,
and then a regard to our own salvation. Hence Christian
exhortations to patience are of this nature, Whether poverty, or
exile, or imprisonment, or contumely, or disease, or bereavement,
or any such evil affects us, we must think that none of them
happens except by the will and providence of God; moreover, that
every thing he does is in the most perfect order. What! do not our
numberless daily faults deserve to be chastised, more severely,
and with a heavier rod than his mercy lays upon us? Is it not most
right that our flesh should be subdued, and be, as it were,
accustomed to the yoke, so as not to rage and wanton as it lists?
Are not the justice and the truth of God worthy of our suffering
on their account?11 But if the equity of God is undoubtedly
displayed in affliction, we cannot murmur or struggle against them
without iniquity. We no longer hear the frigid cant, Yield,
because it is necessary; but a living and energetic precept, Obey,
because it is unlawful to resist; bear patiently, because
impatience is rebellion against the justice of God. Then as that
only seems to us attractive which we perceive to be for our own
safety and advantage, here also our heavenly Father consoles us,
by the assurance, that in the very cross with which he afflicts us
he provides for our salvation. But if it is clear that
tribulations are salutary to us, why should we not receive them
with calm and grateful minds? In bearing them patiently we are not
submitting to necessity but resting satisfied with our own good.
The effect of these thoughts is, that to whatever extent our minds
are contracted by the bitterness which we naturally feel under the
cross, to the same extent will they be expanded with spiritual
joy. Hence arises thanksgiving, which cannot exist unless joy be
felt. But if the praise of the Lord and thanksgiving can emanate
only from a cheerful and gladdened breasts and there is nothing
which ought to interrupt these feelings in us, it is clear how
necessary it is to temper the bitterness of the cross with
spiritual joy.



CHAPTER IV.

OF MEDITATING ON THE FUTURE LIFE.

The three divisions of this chapter,?I. The principal use of
the cross is, that it in various ways accustoms us to despise the
present, and excites us to aspire to the future life, sec. 1, 2.
II. In withdrawing from the present life we must neither shun it
nor feel hatred for it; but desiring the future life, gladly quit
the present at the command of our sovereign Master, see. 3, 4.
III. Our infirmity in dreading death described. The correction and
safe remedy, sec. 6.


Sections.

1. The design of God in afflicting his people. 1. To accustom
us to despise the present life. Our infatuated love of it.
Afflictions employed as the cure. 2. To lead us to aspire to
heaven.
2. Excessive love of the present life prevents us from duly
aspiring to the other. Hence the disadvantages of prosperity.
Blindness of the human judgment. Our philosophizing on the vanity
of life only of momentary influence. The necessity of the cross.
3. The present life an evidence of the divine favour to his
people; and therefore, not to be detested. On the contrary, should
call forth thanksgiving. The crown of victory in heaven after the
contest on earth.
4. Weariness of the present life how to be tempered. The
believer's estimate of life. Comparison of the present and the
future life. How far the present life should be hated.
5. Christians should not tremble at the fear of death. Two
reasons. Objection. Answer. Other reasons.
6. Reasons continued. Conclusion.


1. Whatever be the kind of tribulation with which we are
afflicted, we should always consider the end of it to be, that we
may be trained to despise the present, and thereby stimulated to
aspire to the future life. For since God well knows how strongly
we are inclined by nature to a slavish love of this world, in
order to prevent us from clinging too strongly to it, he employs
the fittest reason for calling us back, and shaking off our
lethargy. Every one of us, indeed, would be thought to aspire and
aim at heavenly immortality during the whole course of his life.
For we would be ashamed in no respect to excel the lower animals;
whose condition would not be at all inferior to ours, had we not a
hope of immortality beyond the grave. But when you attend to the
plans, wishes, and actions of each, you see nothing in them but
the earth. Hence our stupidity; our minds being dazzled with the
glare of wealth, power, and honours, that they can see no farther.
The heart also, engrossed with avarice, ambition, and lust, is
weighed down and cannot rise above them. In short, the whole soul,
ensnared by the allurements of the flesh, seeks its happiness on
the earth. To meet this disease, the Lord makes his people
sensible of the vanity of the present life, by a constant proof of
its miseries. Thus, that they may not promise themselves deep and
lasting peace in it, he often allows them to be assailed by war,
tumult, or rapine, or to be disturbed by other injuries. That they
may not long with too much eagerness after fleeting and fading
riches, or rest in those which they already possess, he reduces
them to want, or, at least, restricts them to a moderate
allowance, at one time by exile, at another by sterility, at
another by fire, or by other means. That they may not indulge too
complacently in the advantages of married life, he either vexes
them by the misconduct of their partners, or humbles them by the
wickedness of their children, or afflicts them by bereavement. But
if in all these he is indulgent to them, lest they should either
swell with vain-glory, or be elated with confidence, by diseases
and dangers he sets palpably before them how unstable and
evanescent are all the advantages competent to mortals. We duly
profit by the discipline of the cross, when we learn that this
life, estimated in itself, is restless, troubled, in numberless
ways wretched, and plainly in no respect happy; that what are
estimated its blessings are uncertain, fleeting, vain, and
vitiated by a great admixture of evil. From this we conclude, that
all we have to seek or hope for here is contest; that when we
think of the crown we must raise our eyes to heaven. For we must
hold, that our mind never rises seriously to desire and aspire
after the future, until it has learned to despise the present
life.
2. For there is no medium between the two things: the earth
must either be worthless in our estimation, or keep us enslaved by
an intemperate love of it. Therefore, if we have any regard to
eternity, we must carefully strive to disencumber ourselves of
these fetters. Moreover, since the present life has many
enticements to allure us, and great semblance of delight, grace,
and sweetness to soothe us, it is of great consequence to us to be
now and then called off from its fascinations.12 For what, pray,
would happen, if we here enjoyed an uninterrupted course of honour
and felicity, when even the constant stimulus of affliction cannot
arouse us to a due sense of our misery? That human life is like
smoke or a shadow, is not only known to the learned; there is not
a more trite proverb among the vulgar. Considering it a fact most
useful to be known, they have recommended it in many well-known
expressions. Still there is no fact which we ponder less
carefully, or less frequently remember. For we form all our plans
just as if we had fixed our immortality on the earth. If we see a
funeral, or walk among graves, as the image of death is then
present to the eye, I admit we philosophise admirably on the
vanity of life. We do not indeed always do so, for those things
often have no effect upon us at all. But, at the best, our
philosophy is momentary. It vanishes as soon as we turn our back,
and leaves not the vestige of remembrance behind; in short, it
passes away, just like the applause of a theatre at some pleasant
spectacle. Forgetful not only of death, but also of mortality
itself, as if no rumour of it had ever reached us, we indulge in
supine security as expecting a terrestrial immortality. Meanwhile,
if any one breaks in with the proverb, that man is the creature of
a day,13 we indeed acknowledge its truth, but, so far from giving
heed to it, the thought of perpetuity still keeps hold of our
minds. Who then can deny that it is of the highest importance to
us all, I say not, to be admonished by words, but convinced by all
possible experience of the miserable condition of our earthly
life; since even when convinced we scarcely cease to gaze upon it
with vicious, stupid admiration, as if it contained within itself
the sum of all that is good? But if God finds it necessary so to
train us, it must be our duty to listen to him when he calls, and
shakes us from our torpor, that we may hasten to despise the
world, and aspire with our whole heart to the future life.
3. Still the contempt which believers should train themselves
to feel for the present life, must not be of a kind to beget
hatred of it or ingratitude to God. This life, though abounding in
all kinds of wretchedness, is justly classed among divine
blessings which are not to be despised. Wherefore, if we do not
recognize the kindness of God in it, we are chargeable with no
little ingratitude towards him. To believers, especially, it ought
to be a proof of divine benevolence, since it is wholly destined
to promote their salvation. Before openly exhibiting the
inheritance of eternal glory, God is pleased to manifest himself
to us as a Father by minor proofs, viz., the blessings which he
daily bestows upon us. Therefore, while this life serves to
acquaint us with the goodness of God, shall we disdain it as if it
did not contain one particle of good? We ought, therefore, to feel
and be affected towards it in such a manner as to place it among
those gifts of the divine benignity which are by no means to be
despised. Were there no proofs in Scripture, (they are most
numerous and clear,) yet nature herself exhorts us to return
thanks to God for having brought us forth into light, granted us
the use of it, and bestowed upon us all the means necessary for
its preservation. And there is a much higher reason when we
reflect that here we are in a manner prepared for the glory of the
heavenly kingdom. For the Lord hath ordained, that those who are
ultimately to be crowned in heaven must maintain a previous
warfare on the earth, that they may not triumph before they have
overcome the difficulties of war, and obtained the victory.
Another reason is, that we here begin to experience in various
ways a foretaste of the divine benignity, in order that our hope
and desire may be whetted for its full manifestation. When once we
have concluded that our earthly life is a gift of the divine
mercy, of which, agreeably to our obligation, it behoves us to
have a grateful remembrance, we shall then properly descend to
consider its most wretched condition, and thus escape from that
excessive fondness for it, to which, as I have said, we are
naturally prone.
4. In proportion as this improper love diminishes, our desire
of a better life should increase. I confess, indeed, that a most
accurate opinion was formed by those who thought, that the best
thing was not to be born, the next best to die early. For, being
destitute of the light of God and of true religion, what could
they see in it that was not of dire and evil omen? Nor was it
unreasonable for those14 who felt sorrow and shed tears at the
birth of their kindred, to keep holiday at their deaths. But this
they did without profit; because, devoid of the true doctrine of
faith, they saw not how that which in itself is neither happy nor
desirable turns to the advantage of the righteous: and hence their
opinion issued in despair. Let believers, then, in forming an
estimate of this mortal life, and perceiving that in itself it is
nothing but misery, make it their aim to exert themselves with
greater alacrity, and less hinderance, in aspiring to the future
and eternal life. When we contrast the two, the former may not
only be securely neglected, but, in comparison of the latter, be
disdained and contemned. If heaven is our country, what can the
earth be but a place of exile? If departure from the world is
entrance into life, what is the world but a sepulchre, and what is
residence in it but immersion in death? If to be freed from the
body is to gain full possession of freedom, what is the body but a
prison? If it is the very summit of happiness to enjoy the
presence of God, is it not miserable to want it? But "whilst we
are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord," (2 Cor. v.
6.) Thus when the earthly is compared with the heavenly life, it
may undoubtedly be despised and trampled under foot. We ought
never, indeed, to regard it with hatred, except in so far as it
keeps us subject to sin; and even this hatred ought not to be
directed against life itself. At all events, we must stand so
affected towards it in regard to weariness or hatred as, while
longing for its termination, to be ready at the Lord's will to
continue in it, keeping far from everything like murmuring and
impatience. For it is as if the Lord had assigned us a post, which
we must maintain till he recalls us. Paul, indeed, laments his
condition, in being still bound with the fetters of the body, and
sighs earnestly for redemption, (Rom. vii. 24;) nevertheless, he
declared that, in obedience to the command of Gods he was prepared
for both courses, because he acknowledges it as his duty to God to
glorify his name whether by life or by death, while it belongs to
God to determine what is most conducive to His glory, (Phil. i.
20-24.) Wherefore, if it becomes us to live and die to the Lord,
let us leave the period of our life and death at his disposal.
Still let us ardently long for death, and constantly meditate upon
it, and in comparison with future immortality, let us despise
life, and, on account of the bondage of sin, long to renounce it
whenever it shall so please the Lord.
5. But, most strange to say, many who boast of being
Christians, instead of thus longing for death, are so afraid of it
that they tremble at the very mention of it as a thing ominous and
dreadful. We cannot wonder, indeed, that our natural feelings
should be somewhat shocked at the mention of our dissolution. But
it is altogether intolerable that the light of piety should not be
so powerful in a Christian breast as with greater consolation to
overcome and suppress that fear. For if we reflect that this our
tabernacle, unstable, defective, corruptible, fading, pining, and
putrid, is dissolved, in order that it may forthwith be renewed in
sure, perfect, incorruptible, in fine, in heavenly glory, will not
faith compel us eagerly to desire what nature dreads? If we
reflect that by death we are recalled from exile to inhabit our
native country, a heavenly country, shall this give us no comfort?
But everything longs for permanent existence. I admit this, and
therefore contend that we ought to look to future immortality,
where we may obtain that fixed condition which nowhere appears on
the earth. For Paul admirably enjoins believers to hasten
cheerfully to death, not because they a would be unclothed, but
clothed upon," (2 Cor. v. 2.) Shall the lower animals, and
inanimate creatures themselves even wood and stone, as conscious
of their present vanity, long for the final resurrection, that
they may with the sons of God be delivered from vanity, (Rom.
viii. 19;) and shall we, endued with the light of intellect, and
more than intellect, enlightened by the Spirit of God, when our
essence is in question, rise no higher than the corruption of this
earth? But it is not my purpose, nor is this the place, to plead
against this great perverseness. At the outset, I declared that I
had no wish to engage in a diffuse discussion of common-places. My
advice to those whose minds are thus timid is to read the short
treatise of Cyprian De Mortalitate, unless it be more accordant
with their deserts to send them to the philosophers, that by
inspecting what they say on the contempt of death, they may begin
to blush. This, however let us hold as fixed, that no man has made
much progress in the school of Christ who does not look forward
with joy to the day of death and final resurrection, (2 Tim. iv.
18; Tit. ii. 13:) for Paul distinguishes all believers by this
mark; and the usual course of Scripture is to direct us thither
whenever it would furnish us with an argument for substantial joy.
"Look up," says our Lord, "and lift up your heads: for your
redemption draweth nigh," (Luke xxi. 28.) Is it reasonable, I ask,
that what he intended to have a powerful effect in stirring us up
to alacrity and exultation should produce nothing but sadness and
consternation? If it is so, why do we still glory in him as our
Master? Therefore, let us come to a sounder mind, and how
repugnant so ever the blind and stupid longing of the flesh may
be, let us doubt not to desire the advent of the Lord not in wish
only, but with earnest sighs, as the most propitious of all
events. He will come as a Redeemer to deliver us from an immense
abyss of evil and misery, and lead us to the blessed inheritance
of his life and glory.
6. Thus, indeed, it is; the whole body of the faithful, so
long as they live on the earth, must be like sheep for the
slaughter, in order that they may be conformed to Christ their
head, (Rom. viii. 36.) Most deplorable, therefore, would their
situation be did they not, by raising their mind to heaven, become
superior to all that is in the world, and rise above the present
aspect of affairs, (1 Cor. xv. l9.) On the other hand, when once
they have raised their head above all earthly objects, though they
see the wicked flourishing in wealth and honour, and enjoying
profound peace, indulging in luxury and splendour, and revelling
in all kinds of delights, though they should moreover be wickedly
assailed by them, suffer insult from their pride, be robbed by
their avarice, or assailed by any other passion, they will have no
difficulty in bearing up under these evils. They will turn their
eye to that day, (Isaiah xxv. 8; Rev. vii. 17,) on which the Lord
will receive his faithful servants, wipe away all tears from their
eyes, clothe them in a robe of glory and joy, feed them with the
ineffable sweetness of his pleasures, exalt them to share with him
in his greatness; in fine, admit them to a participation in his
happiness. But the wicked who may have flourished on the earth, he
will cast forth in extreme ignominy, will change their delights
into torments, their laughter and joy into wailing and gnashing of
teeth, their peace into the gnawing of conscience, and punish
their luxury with unquenchable fire. He will also place their
necks under the feet of the godly, whose patience they abused.
For, as Paul declares, "it is a righteous thing with God to
recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who
are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed
from heaven," (2 Thess. i. 6, 7.) This, indeed, is our only
consolation; deprived of it, we must either give way to
despondency, or resort to our destruction to the vain solace of
the world. The Psalmist confesses, "My feet were almost gone: my
steps had well nigh slipt: for I was envious at the foolish when I
saw the prosperity of the wicked," (Psalm lxxiii. 3, 4;) and he
found no resting-place until he entered the sanctuary, and
considered the latter end of the righteous and the wicked. To
conclude in one word, the cross of Christ then only triumphs in
the breasts of believers over the devil and the flesh, sin and
sinners, when their eyes are directed to the power of his
resurrection.



CHAPTER V.

HOW TO USE THE PRESENT LIFE, AND THE COMFORTS OF IT.

The divisions of this chapter are,?I. The necessity and
usefulness of this doctrine. Extremes to be avoided, if we would
rightly use the present life and its comforts, sec. 1, 2. II. One
of these extremes, viz, the intemperance of the flesh, to be
carefully avoided. Four methods of doing so described in order,
sec. 3-6.


Sections.

1. Necessity of this doctrine. Use of the goods of the
present life. Extremes to be avoided. 1. Excessive austerity. 2.
Carnal intemperance and lasciviousness.
2. God, by creating so many mercies, consulted not only for
our necessities, but also for our comfort and delight.
Confirmation from a passage in the Psalms, and from experience.
3. Excessive austerity, therefore, to be avoided. So also
must the wantonness of the flesh. 1. The creatures invite us to
know, love, and honour the Creator. 2. This not done by the
wicked, who only abuse these temporal mercies.
4. All earthly blessings to be despised in comparison of the
heavenly life. Aspiration after this life destroyed by an
excessive love of created objects. First, Intemperance.
5. Second, Impatience and immoderate desire. Remedy of these
evils. The creatures assigned to our use. Man still accountable
for the use he makes of them.
6. God requires us in all our actions to look to his calling.
Use of this doctrine. It is full of comfort.


1. By such rudiments we are at the same time well instructed
by Scripture in the proper use of earthly blessings, a subject
which, in forming a scheme of life, is by no mean to be neglected.
For if we are to live, we must use the necessary supports of life;
nor can we even shun those things which seem more subservient to
delight than to necessity. We must therefore observe a mean, that
we may use them with a pure conscience, whether for necessity or
for pleasure. This the Lord prescribes by his word, when he tells
us that to his people the present life is a kind of pilgrimage by
which they hasten to the heavenly kingdom. If we are only to pass
through the earth, there can be no doubt that we are to use its
blessings only in so far as they assist our progress, rather than
retard it. Accordingly, Paul, not without cause, admonishes us to
use this world without abusing it, and to buy possessions as if we
were selling them, (1 Cor. vii. 30, 31.) But as this is a slippery
place, and there is great danger of falling on either side, let us
fix our feet where we can stand safely. There have been some good
and holy men who, when they saw intemperance and luxury
perpetually carried to excess, if not strictly curbed, and were
desirous to correct so pernicious an evil, imagined that there was
no other method than to allow man to use corporeal goods only in
so far as they were necessaries: a counsel pious indeed, but
unnecessarily austere; for it does the very dangerous thing of
binding consciences in closer fetters than those in which they are
bound by the word of God. Moreover, necessity, according to
them,15 was abstinence from every thing which could be wanted, so
that they held it scarcely lawful to make any addition to bread
and water. Others were still more austere, as is related of
Cratetes the Theban, who threw his riches into the sea, because he
thought, that unless he destroyed them they would destroy him.
Many also in the present day, while they seek a pretext for carnal
intemperance in the use of external things, and at the same time
would pave the way for licentiousness, assume for granted, what I
by no means concede, that this liberty is not to be restrained by
any modification, but that it is to be left to every man's
conscience to use them as far as he thinks lawful. I indeed
confess that here consciences neither can nor ought to be bound by
fixed and definite laws; but that Scripture having laid down
general rules for the legitimate uses we should keep within the
limits which they prescribe.
2. Let this be our principle, that we err not in the use of
the gifts of Providence when we refer them to the end for which
their author made and destined them, since he created them for our
good, and not for our destruction. No man will keep the true path
better than he who shall have this end carefully in view. Now
then, if we consider for what end he created food, we shall find
that he consulted not only for our necessity, but also for our
enjoyment and delight. Thus, in clothing, the end was, in addition
to necessity, comeliness and honour; and in herbs, fruits, and
trees, besides their various uses, gracefulness of appearance and
sweetness of smell. Were it not so, the Prophet would not
enumerate among the mercies of God "wine that maketh glad the
heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine," (Ps. civ. 15.)
The Scriptures would not everywhere mention, in commendation of
his benignity, that he had given such things to men. The natural
qualities of things themselves demonstrate to what end, and how
far, they may be lawfully enjoyed. Has the Lord adorned flowers
with all the beauty which spontaneously presents itself to the
eye, and the sweet odour which delights the sense of smell, and
shall it be unlawful for us to enjoy that beauty and this odour?
What? Has he not so distinguished colours as to make some more
agreeable than others? Has he not given qualities to gold and
silver, ivory and marble, thereby rendering them precious above
other metals or stones? In short, has he not given many things a
value without having any necessary use?
3. Have done, then, with that inhuman philosophy which, in
allowing no use of the creatures but for necessity, not only
maliciously deprives us of the lawful fruit of the divine
beneficence, but cannot be realised without depriving man of all
his senses, and reducing him to a block. But, on the other hand,
let us with no less care guard against the lusts of the flesh,
which, if not kept in order, break through all bounds, and are, as
I have said, advocated by those who, under pretence of liberty,
allow themselves every sort of license. First one restraint is
imposed when we hold that the object of creating all things was to
teach us to know their author, and feel grateful for his
indulgence. Where is the gratitude if you so gorge or stupify
yourself with feasting and wine as to be unfit for offices of
piety, or the duties of your calling? Where the recognition of
God, if the flesh, boiling forth in lust through excessive
indulgences infects the mind with its impurity, so as to lose the
discernment of' honour and rectitude? Where thankfulness to God
for clothing, if on account of sumptuous raiment we both admire
ourselves and disdain others? if, from a love of show and
splendour, we pave the way for immodesty? Where our recognition of
God, if the glare of these things captivates our minds? For many
are so devoted to luxury in all their senses that their mind lies
buried: many are so delighted with marble, gold, and pictures,
that they become marble-hearted?are changed as it were into metal,
and made like painted figures. The kitchen, with its savoury
smells, so engrosses them that they have no spiritual savour. The
same thing may be seen in other matters. Wherefore, it is plain
that there is here great necessity for curbing licentious abuse,
and conforming to the rule of Paul, "make not provision for the
flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof," (Rom. xiii. 14.) Where too
much liberty is given to them, they break forth without measure or
restraint.
4. There is no surer or quicker way of accomplishing this
than by despising the present life and aspiring to celestial
immortality. For hence two rules arise: First, "it remaineth, that
both they that have wives be as though they had none;" "and they
that use this world, as not abusing it," (1 Cor. vii. 29, 31.)
Secondly, we must learn to be no less placid and patient in
enduring penury, than moderate in enjoying abundance. He who makes
it his rule to use this world as if he used it not, not only cuts
off all gluttony in regard to meat and drink, and all effeminacy,
ambition, pride, excessive shows and austerity, in regard to his
table, his house, and his clothes, but removes every care and
affection which might withdraw or hinder him from aspiring to the
heavenly life, and cultivating the interest of his soul.16 It was
well said by Cato: Luxury causes great care, and produces great
carelessness as to virtue; and it is an old proverb,?Those who are
much occupied with the care of the body, usually give little care
to the soul. Therefore while the liberty of the Christian in
external matters is not to be tied down to a strict rule, it is,
however, subject to this law?he must indulge as little as
possible; on the other hand, it must be his constant aims not only
to curb luxury, but to cut off all show of superfluous abundance,
and carefully beware of converting a help into an hinderance.
5. Another rule is, that those in narrow and slender
circumstances should learn to bear their wants patiently, that
they may not become immoderately desirous of things, the moderate
use of which implies no small progress in the school of Christ.
For in addition to the many other vices which accompany a longing
for earthly good, he who is impatient under poverty almost always
betrays the contrary disease in abundance. By this I mean, that he
who is ashamed of a sordid garment will be vain-glorious of a
splendid one; he who not contented with a slender, feels annoyed
at the want of a more luxurious supper, will intemperately abuse
his luxury if he obtains it; he who has a difficulty, and is
dissatisfied in submitting to a private and humble condition, will
be unable to refrain from pride if he attain to honour. Let it be
the aim of all who have any unfeigned desire for piety to learn,
after the example of the Apostle, "both to be full and to be
hungry, both to abound and to suffer need," (Philip. iv. 12.)
Scripture, moreover, has a third rule for modifying the use of
earthly blessings. We have already adverted to it when considering
the offices of charity. For it declares that they have all been
given us by the kindness of God, and appointed for our use under
the condition of being regarded as trusts, of which we must one
day give account. We must, therefore, administer them as if we
constantly heard the words sounding in our ears, "Give an account
of your stewardship." At the same time, let us remember by whom
the account is to be taken, viz., by him who, while he so highly
commends abstinence, sobriety, frugality, and moderation,
abominates luxury, pride, ostentation, and vanity; who approves of
no administration but that which is combined with charity, who
with his own lips has already condemned all those pleasures which
withdraw the heart from chastity and purity, or darken the
intellect.
6. The last thing to be observed is, that the Lord enjoins
every one of us, in all the actions of life, to have respect to
our own calling. He knows the boiling restlessness of the human
mind, the fickleness with which it is borne hither and thither,
its eagerness to hold opposites at one time in its grasp, its
ambition. Therefore, lest all things should be thrown into
confusion by our folly and rashness, he has assigned distinct
duties to each in the different modes of life. And that no one may
presume to overstep his proper limits, he has distinguished the
different modes of life by the name of callings. Every man's mode
of life, therefore, is a kind of station assigned him by the Lord,
that he may not be always driven about at random. So necessary is
this distinction, that all our actions are thereby estimated in
his sight, and often in a very different way from that in which
human reason or philosophy would estimate them. There is no more
illustrious deed even among philosophers than to free one's
country from tyranny, and yet the private individual who stabs the
tyrant is openly condemned by the voice of the heavenly Judge. But
I am unwilling to dwell on particular examples; it is enough to
know that in every thing the call of the Lord is the foundation
and beginning of right action. He who does not act with reference
to it will never, in the discharge of duty, keep the right path.
He will sometimes be able, perhaps, to give the semblance of
something laudable, but whatever it may be in the sight of man, it
will be rejected before the throne of God; and besides, there will
be no harmony in the different parts of his life. Hence, he only
who directs his life to this end will have it properly framed;
because free from the impulse of rashness, he will not attempt
more than his calling justifies, knowing that it is unlawful to
overleap the prescribed bounds. He who is obscure will not decline
to cultivate a private life, that he may not desert the post at
which God has placed him. Again, in all our cares, toils,
annoyances, and other burdens, it will be no small alleviation to
know that all these are under the superintendence of God. The
magistrate will more willingly perform his office, and the father
of a family confine himself to his proper sphere. Every one in his
particular mode of life will, without repining, suffer its
inconveniences, cares, uneasiness, and anxiety, persuaded that God
has laid on the burden. This, too, will afford admirable
consolation, that in following your proper calling, no work will
be so mean and sordid as not to have a splendour and value in the
eye of God.



NOTES

[1]The French adds, "C'est a dire, sermons populaires ;"?that is
to say, popular sermons.

[2]The passage in brackets is omitted in the French.

[3]The French begins the sentence thus, "Quant est du premier
poinct; ?As to the former point.

[4]Mal. i. 6; Eph. v. 1; 1 John iii. 1, 3; Eph. v. 26; Rom. vi. 1-
4; 1 Cor. vi. 11; 1 Pet. i. 15, 19; 1 Cor. vi. 15; John xv. 3;
Eph. v. 2, 3; Col. iii. 1, 2; 1 Cor. iii. 16; vi. 17; 2 Cor. vi.
16; 1 Thess. v. 23.

[5]On this and the three following chapters, which contain the
second part of the Treatise on the Christian Life, see Augustine,
De Moribus Ecclesiae Catholicae, and Calvin de Scandalis.

[6]Calvin. de Sacerdotiis Eccles. Papal. in fine.

[7]Heb. xiii. 16; 2 Cor.ix. 12.

[8]French, "Car si nous disons qu' il n'a merite que mal de nous;
Dieu nous pourra demander quel mal il nous a fait, lui dont nous
tenons tout notre bien;"?For if we say that he has deserved
nothing of us but evil, God may ask us what evil he has done us,
he of whom we hold our every blessing.

[9]Matth. v. 44; vi. 14; xviii. 35; Luke xvii. 3.

[10]The French is, "Soit que ses bleds et vignes soyent gastees et
destruites par gelee, gresle, ou autre tempeste;"?whether his corn
and vines are hurt and destroyed by frost, hail, or other tempest.
11See end of sec. 4, and sec. 5, 7, 8.

[12]French, "Or pource que la vie presente a tousiours force de
delices pour nous attraire, et a grande apparence d'amenite, de
grace et de douceur pour nous amieller, il nous est bien mestier
d'estre retire d'heure en d'heure, ? ce que nous ne soyons point
abusez, et comme ensorcelez de telles flatteries;"?Now because the
present life has always a host of delights to attract us, and has
great appearance of amenity, grace, and sweetness to entice us, it
is of great importance to us to be hourly withdrawn, in order that
we may not be deceived, and, as it were, bewitched with such
flattery.
[13]Latin, " Animal esse efhmeron;"?is an ephemereal animal.

[14]French, "Le peuple des Scythes;"?the Scythians.

[15]See Chrysost. ad Heb. Hi. As to Cratetes the Theban, see
Plutarch, Lib. de Vitand. aere alien. and Philostratus in Vita
Apollonii.

[16]French, "Parer notre ame de ses vrais ornemens;"?deck our soul
with its true ornaments.

Translated by Henry Beveridge, Esq., 1845
for the Calvin Translation Society.

This book is in the public domain.
Digitized by Harry Plantinga, June 1994.