Monday, 21 September 2009

True Religion

I call "piety" that reverence joined with love of God which the knowledge of his benefits induces. Until men recognize that they owe everything to God, that they are nourished by his Fatherly care, that he is the author of every good, that they should seek nothing beyond him -- they will never yield him winning service. No, unless they establish their complete happiness in him, they will never give themselves truly and sincerely to him.

... the pious mind does not dream up for itself any god it pleases, but contemplates the one and only true God. I does not attach to him whatever it pleases, but is content to hold him to be as he manifests himself; furthermore, the mind always exercises the utmost diligence and care not to wander astray, or rashly and boldly to go beyond his will.

Because it understand him to be the author of every good, if anything oppresses, if anything is lacking, immediately it takes itself to his protection, waiting for help from him. Because it is persuaded that he is good and merciful, it reposes in him with perfect trust, and doubts not that in his loving kindness a remedy will be provided for all its ills. Because it acknowledges him as Father and Lord, the pious mind also deems it meet and rights to observe his authority in all things, reverence his Majesty, take care to advance his glory, and obey his commands. Because it sees him to be a righteous judge, armed with severity to punish wickedness, it ever holds his judgement seat before its gaze, and through fear of him restrains itself from provoking his anger. And yet is not so terrified by the awareness of his judgement as to wish to withdraw, even if some way of escape were open. But it embraces him no less as punisher of the wicked than as benefactor of the pious. The pious mind realises that the punishment of the impious and the wicked and the reward of life eternal for the righteous equally pertain to God's glory.

Beside, this mind restrains itself from sinning, not out of dread of punishment alone; but, because it loves and reveres God as Father, it worships and adores him as Lord. Even if there were no hell, it would still shudder at offending him alone.

Here indeed is pure and real religion: faith so joined with earnest fear of God that this fear also embraces willing reverence, and carries with it such legitimate worship as is prescribed in the law.

(Calvin's Institutes, Vol 1 Ch 2.1 & 2)

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