Sunday, March 7, 2010

Humility and the Will

Much of the beginning of this second book deals with the knowledge of ourselves, because without knowledge of ourselves we cannot properly know God.  Calvin opens with a reiteration of what he said earlier.  "...whoever is utterly cast down and overwhelmed by the awareness of his calamity, poverty, nakedness, and disgrace has this advanced farthest in knowledge of himself.  For there is no danger of man's depriving himself of too much so long as he learns that in God must be recouped what he himself lacks.  Yet he cannot claim for himself ever so little beyond what is rightfully his without losing himself in vain confidence and without usurping God's honor, and this becoming guilty of monstrous sacrilege."  In other words, when we realize how small and sinful we are, we truly come to an understanding of ourselves.  If we try to give ourselves credit for any good, we are claiming God's work as our own. 

Augustine is quoted when Calvin begins his discussion on humility.  "When a certain rhetorician was asked what was the cheif rule in eloquence, he replied, 'Delivery'; what was the second rule, 'Delivery'; what was the third rule, 'Delivery'; so if you ask me concerning the precepts of the Christian religion, first, second, third, and always I would answer, 'Humility.'"  We must be humble before God.  We must be humble in what we think of ourselves and our goodness.  Man is filled with self-love and ambition and thinks more highly of himself than he ought.  We must look at ourselves "in the faithful mirror of Scripture."  Only then can we see ourselves for who we truly are.

Through man's sin, the world was changed.  Supernatural gifts such as faith, love of God, and charity among others were withdrawn by sin.  Through grace and faith in Christ, these gifts are restored to us.  Natural gifts such as reason and will were marred by sin.  According to Calvin it is because of reason that we are different from the beasts.  If we had totally lost reason because of sin, we would be just like the beasts.  About the will he wrote, "Similarly the will, because it is inseparable from man's nature, did not perish, but was so bound to wicked desires that it cannot strive after the right."  He called this a "complete definition" for will, but went on to write another three paragraphs. 

Tomorrow's reading: 2.2.13-2.2.16

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