Quotes from A Little Book on the Christian Life

With our brief walk-through John Calvin’s A Little Book on the Christian Life completed, I will continue the pattern that I set after completing Mortification of Sin and Heaven Taken by Storm by listing some of my favorite quotations from throughout the book. Of course, this study I also began to give a quote of the week for each chapter, which I will go ahead and identify those here as well.

ONE | Scripture’s Call to Christian Living

The goal of God’s work in us is to bring our lives into harmony and agreement with His own righteousness, and so to manifest to ourselves and others our identity as His adopted children.

p. 3

By nature I love brevity, so perhaps even if I tried to write something larger I would not succeed in my effort.

p. 4

To begin with, what better foundation can Scripture give for the pursuit of righteousness than to tell us we should be holy because God Himself is holy?

p. 6

Holiness is the goal of our calling. Therefore we must consistently set our sights upon holiness if we would rightly respond to God’s calling. To what purpose did God pull us out of the wickedness and pollution of this world–wickedness and pollution in which we were submerged–if we allow ourselves to wallow in such wickedness and pollution for the rest of our lives?

p. 7

We have been adopted by the Lord as children with this understanding–that in our lives we should mirror Christ who is the bond of our adoption. And truly, unless we are devoted–even addicted–to righteousness, we will faithlessly abandon our Creator and disown Him as our Savior.

p. 9

Such nominal Christians demonstrate their knowledge of Christ to be false and offensive no matter how eloquently and loudly they talk about the gospel. For true doctrine is not a matter of the tongue, but of life; neither is Christian doctrine grasped only by the intellect and memory, as truth is grasped in other fields of study. Rather, doctrine is rightly received when it takes possession of the entire soul and finds a dwelling place and shelter in the most intimate affections of the heart.

pp. 12-13

But in order for doctrine to be fruitful to us, it must overflow into our hearts, spread into our daily routines, and truly transform us within.

p. 13

Therefore, let us keep trying so that we might continually make some gains in the way of the Lord, and neither let us despair over how small our successes are. For however much our successes fall short of our desire, our efforts aren’t in vain when we are farther along today than yesterday.

p. 16

Quote of the Week:

God has manifested Himself as Father to us. If we do not manifest ourselves as sons to Him in turn, we prove ourselves to be extremely ungrateful (Mal. 1:6; 1 John 3:1).

p. 9

TWO | Self-Denial in the Christian Life

The law of the Lord is the best and most suitable instruction for the proper ordering of our lives. Nevertheless, it seemed good to our heavenly teacher to conform us by an even more precise rule than what’s given in the precepts of the law. This is the sum of that rule: It is the duty of believes to present their bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God. And in this consists genuine worship of Him.

p. 21

This is great progress in the Christian life–that we nearly forget ourselves, that in all matters we hold our own concerns in less esteem, and that we faithfully strive to devote our energies to God and His commands.

p. 24

It’s indeed fitting that the Christian consider that his entire life stands in relation to God. Just as he submits all he is and does to God’s judgment and decision, so also he religiously refers every intention of his mind of God. For the one who has learned to regard God in everything he does is at the same time being drawn away from every vain thought.

p. 25

You won’t find any proper remedy to such vices other than to deny yourself, to disregard your own ambitions, and to stretch your mind to seek wholly those things that the Lord requires of you–and to seek them because they are pleasing to Him.

p. 27

But in truth, nothing is more difficult than saying goodbye to carnal reason and subduing–indeed, conquering–our desires and joining ourselves to God and our brothers. We are, essentially, contemplating the life of the angels even as we trudge through the mire of earth’s filthiness.

pp. 29-30

Everyone flatters himself and carries, as it were, a kingdom in his breast.

p. 32

We will meet many difficulties as we try to dutifully seek the good of our neighbors. We won’t make any headway in this regard unless we lay aside concern for ourselves–indeed, unless we somehow lay aside our very self.

p. 35

Scripture teaches us that all the gifts we utilize are given to us by God. And they are given along with this law of our faith–that they be put to use for the good of our neighbors.

pp. 36-37

Whatever, therefore, a godly man is able to do, he should do it for his brothers.

p. 37

But Scripture comes to our rescue with the best of reasons for doing good to all people. It teaches us not to regard others according to their own merits, but to consider in them the image of God to which we owe both honor and love.

pp. 39-40

Something more is required from Christians than wearing a cheerful face and rendering their duties attractive by friendly words.

p. 43

The help that different members of the body mutually offer one another should not–according to the law of nature–be considered a favor, but rather as an obligation that would be unnatural to refuse.

p. 44

No one, then, has properly denied himself except the one who has entirely abandoned himself to the Lord so that every aspect of his life will be governed by His will.

p. 51

Indeed, the believer should accept whatever comes with a gentle and thankful heart, because he knows that it is ordained by the Lord.

p. 53

Quote of the Week:

If we are not our own but the Lord’s, it’s clear what errors we must flee, and what we must direct our whole lives toward. We are not our own; therefore, neither our reason nor our will should dominate our plans and actions. We are not our own; therefore, let us not make the gratifications of the flesh our end. We are not our own; therefore, as much as possible, let us forget ourselves and our own interests.

Rather, we are God’s. Therefore, let us live and die to Him. We are God’s. Therefore, let His wisdom and His will govern all our actions. We are God’s. Therefore, let us—in every way in all our lives—run to Him as our only proper end. How far has he progressed who’s been taught that he is not his own—who’s taken rule and dominion away from his own reason and entrusted them to God. For the plague of submitting to our own rule leads us straight to ruin, but the surest way to safety is neither to know nor want anything on our own, but simply to follow the leading of the Lord.

pp. 22-23

THREE | Bearing Our Cross Is a Part of Self-Denial

The godly mind, however, must rise even higher–that is, to that place that Christ calls His disciples when He bids every one of them to take up his cross.

p. 57

By virtue of this communion, sufferings themselves not only become blessings to us, but they also serve to promote our salvation.

p. 59

There’s no better method for God to curb such arrogance than by demonstrating to us through experience our weakness and frailty.

p. 60

Indeed, the holiest among us know they stand by God’s grace and not by their own virtues.

p. 61

While men, then, delude themselves during times of tranquility with a notion of their own great constancy and patience, they learn the truth about themselves when humbled by times of difficulty.

p. 62

The cross destroys the false notion of our own strength that we’ve dared to entertain, and it destroys that hypocrisy in which we have taken refuge and pleasure.

p. 63

Another reason the Lord afflicts His people is to test their endurance and to train them in obedience.

p. 64

Our flesh is like a stubborn horse that becomes wild and unmanageable and doesn’t recognize its rider–however much it previously obeyed his commands–after several days spent idly grazing.

p. 67

The Lord Himself providentially opposes, conquers, and restrains the ferocity of our flesh by the medicine of the cross.

p. 68

Unbelievers become worse and more obstinate in consequence of the lashes they receive, just like slaves of earnest and deep-seated wickedness. Believers repent just like individuals gifted with the status of sonship. Choose, then, which of these you will be.

p. 71

Poverty is in fact misery if we consider it in and of itself. Exile, scorn, imprisonment, and dishonor are likewise misery. And then there’s death, the final calamity. But when God’s favor rests on us, none of these things need threaten our happiness. Let us therefore derive greater contentment from Christ’s testimony about us than from vain estimations of our own flesh.

p. 73

Though mercilessly provoked, the believer is nevertheless restrained by fear of God from bursting forth in anger.

p. 76

Rather, Scripture praises the saints for endurance when we, though knocked around by evil circumstances remain unbroken and undefeated; when we, though pricked by bitterness, are simultaneously filled with spiritual joy; when we, though oppressed by anxiety, breathe freely–cheered by the consolation of God.

pp. 79-80

But since in the end we only find attractive things that we perceive to be for our good and well-being, our kind Father comforts us also in this way–assuring us that He works for our salvation by that very cross with which He afflicts us.

pp. 84-85

Quote of the Week:

If, then, we want to be disciples of Christ, we should make it our aim to soak our minds in the sort of sensitivity and obedience to God that can tame and subdue every natural impulse contrary to His command. So it will be that no matter what kind of cross is placed upon us, we will steadily maintain endurance even through the narrowest straits of the soul. Indeed, adverse circumstances will keep their bitterness, and we will feel their bite. When afflicted by illness, we will groan and toss and long for health. When pursued by poverty, we will feel the stings of sadness and anxiety. We will bear the weight of sorrow at dishonor, and injustice. When loved ones die, we will naturally weep. But this will always be our conclusion: Nevertheless, the Lord has willed it. Therefore, let us follow His will. Indeed, this thought must intervene in the midst of sorrow’s very stings, in the midst of our groans and tears, in order to incline our hearts to endure those things with which they’re inflicted.

pp. 81-82

FOUR | Meditation on Our Future Life

In whatever trouble comes to us, we should always set our eyes on God’s purpose to train us to think little of this present life and inspire us to think more about the future life.

p. 89

Our minds, having been dulled by the blinding glare of empty wealth, power, and honor, can see no farther than these things. And our hearts, burdened with greed, ambition, and lust for gain, can rise no higher than these things. In sum, our entire soul, entangled in the enticements of the flesh, seeks its happiness on earth.

pp. 89-90

In the end, we rightly profit from the discipline of the cross when we learn that this life, considered in itself, is troubled, turbulent, attended by many miseries, and never entirely happy, and that whatever things we consider good in this life are uncertain, passing vain, and spoiled because they’re mixed with many evils.

p. 91

There’s no middle ground between these two things: either earth must become worthless to us, or we must remain bound by the chains of extravagant love for it.

p. 92

But if God desires to teach us in this way, it’s our duty in turn to hear Him when He calls to us, waking us from our slumber so that we might strive with our whole heart toward contempt of the world and meditation on the future life.

p. 95

However, the contempt for this present life that believers should cultivate shouldn’t produce hatred of this life or ingratitude toward God.

p. 95

Before He openly presents to us our inheritance of eternal glory, God desires to declare Himself our Father through smaller proofs. Such proofs are the good gifts He daily bestows on us.

p. 95

Although we may be so moved with weariness and hatred of this life that we desire its end, we must be prepared to remain in it according to the Lord’s will.

p. 99

If we remember that through death we are recalled from exile to dwell at home–indeed, our heavenly home–what can this thought produce but comfort?

p. 102

Let us, however, remember this truth: No one has made much progress in the school of Christ who doesn’t look forward joyfully both to his death and the day of his final resurrection.

pp. 103-104

Quote of the Week:

When they once have raised their heads above this earth, even though they should see the ungodly decked out in wealth and awards, enjoying the utmost tranquility, flaunting every kind of splendor and luxury, and abounding in every kind of pleasure—even if, moreover, they should be wickedly attacked by the ungodly, haughtily insulted by them, exploited by their greed, or harassed by their desires in some other way—even then believers will bear such evils. For they will set their eyes on that day when the Lord will receive His faithful people into the peace of His kingdom, wipe every tear from their eyes, clothe them in garments of glory and gladness, feed them with the indescribable sweetness of His own pleasures, raise them to fellowship in His own lofty heights, and—at last—grant them participation in His own happiness (Isa. 25:8; Rev. 7:17). But He will cast the wicked, who have flourished on earth, into utter disgrace. He will turn their pleasure into suffering, their laughter and delight into tears and hissing. He will disturb their tranquility with pains of conscience. He will punish their self-indulgence with unquenchable fire. And He will subject them to the godly, whose patience they have exhausted. For, as Paul testifies, it’s right for those who are miserable and have been unjustly afflicted to receive rest, and it’s right for the wicked who have tormented the godly to receive affliction, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven (2 Thess. 1:6-7). This, surely, is our great consolation.

pp. 106-107

FIVE | How the Present Life and Its Comforts Should Be Used

Thus, it’s with good reason that Paul urges us to make use of this world just as if we were not using it, and, similarly, to buy possessions as though we were selling them.

p. 111

We won’t go wrong in the use of God’s gifts as long as we let their use be governed by their author’s purpose in creating and designing them for us–for truly He created them for our good, not our ruin.

p. 114

Let us, then, dismiss that inhuman philosophy that only permits us to use created things out of necessity–a philosophy that spitefully deprives us of the lawful enjoyment of divine kindness and by its very nature reduces man to a block of wood, robbed of all his senses.

pp. 116-117

How can there be acknowledgement of God if our minds are enchanted by the splendor of His gifts? For many people devote their senses to pleasures so much that their minds are buried in them. Many people are so fascinated with marble, gold, and paintings that they’re transformed, as it were, into marble, metal, or painted figures. The scent from the kitchen or other sweet odors so paralyzes them that they lose all spiritual sense of smell. And the same thing is seen with the remaining senses. It’s evident, then, that in our present circumstances we should considerably curb such freedom that leads to abuse. We should, rather, conform to Paul’s rule that we make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.

p. 118

Let believers learn to bear scarcity with no less calm and patience than they experience abundance–all with moderation.

p. 119

Therefore, even if the freedom that believers have with respect to external things cannot be subjected to a fixed formula, it should nevertheless be subjected to this rule: Let them indulges themselves very little. Rather, let them—by a perpetual intention of the heart—aim to eliminate their stockpiles of superfluous wealth, and to curb extravagance, and to take caution not to turn things given to them for support into obstacles.

pp. 120-121

Therefore, let all who genuinely pursue piety strive to learn, according to the Apostle’s example, both to hunger and to be satisfied, to have much and to suffer poverty.

p. 122

The one who doesn’t frame his actions with reference to his calling will never keep the right course in his duties.

p. 125

Quote of the Week:

Consequently, the one who directs himself toward the goal of observing God’s calling will have a life well composed. Free from rash impulses, he won’t attempt more than his calling warrants. He will understand that he shouldn’t overstep his boundaries. He who lives in obscurity will live an ordinary life without complaint, so that he won’t be found guilty of deserting his divinely appointed post. Indeed, in the midst of troubles, hardships, annoyances, and other burdens, he will find great relief when he remembers that God is his guide in all these matters. The magistrate will more gladly attend to his duties. The father will more gladly commit himself to his responsibilities. Each person, in whatever his station in life, will endure and overcome troubles, inconveniences, disappointments, and anxieties, convinced that his burden has been placed upon him by God. Great consolation will follow from all of this. For every work performed in obedience to one’s calling, no matter how ordinary and common, is radiant—most valuable in the eyes of our Lord.

pp. 125-126

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