Calvin, Institutes, Vol.3, Part 7
(... continued from part 6)
Chapter 6. 
6. The life of a Christian man. Scriptural arguments exhorting to 
    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. 6. Secondly, in regard to the standard by which 
every man ought to regulate his life, although it seems to be 
considered in chap. 7 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. 8 treats professedly of the utility 
of the cross, and chap. 9 invites to meditation on the future life. 
Lastly, chap. 10 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 sixth 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. 
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. 2:,) 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. 19: 1; 1 Pet. 1: 
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. 15: 1, 2; 
24: 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. 5: 
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. 4: 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. 
[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. 1: 6; Eph. 5: 1; 1 John 3: 1, 3; Eph. 5: 26; Rom. 6: 1- 4; 1 
Cor. 6: 11; 1 Pet. 1: 15, 19; 1 Cor. 6: 15; John 15: 3; Eph. 5: 2, 
3; Col. 3: 1, 2; 1 Cor. 3: 16; 6: 17; 2 Cor. 6: 16; 1 Thess. 5: 23. 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 3, Part 7

(continued in part 8...)

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