Blog 119: 3.9.5 - 3.10.4

How can we happily contemplate the future life when the access route to it is by death?  The natural fear of the dissolution of our bodies surely makes encouragement to contemplate the future life a counsel of perfection.

Not for Calvin!  He is convinced that there are other laws at work which counter this dark law of gravity. The Christian does not see his physical death abstracted from the sure promise of the resurrection. Furthermore, the craving to endure can be satisfied only by the realities offered to us in the gospel on the other side of death and in a mind set on the future.  Shame on us, then, if the whole creation is longing for that day but we are not!

Receive Calvin's challenge, then: "Let us . . . consider this settled: that no one has made progress in the school of Christ who does not joyfully await the day of death and final resurrection" (III.9.6).

There is a broader context, of course, for this--reflection on the destinies of believers and unbelievers. There is comfort for the one who, in faith, looks to eternal salvation when all tears will be wiped away and the delights of fellowship with God are fully experienced.  Without this there is not nothingness but laughter turned into weeping, peace become torment.

But how then are we to live in this world and to use it?  Here Calvin distances himself from his beloved Augustine. The Christian does not see the world as an unavoidable evil to be used as little as possible. He views it as a great, if fallen, creation. 

So the principles of the justified sinner are:

• Use God's gifts for the ends for which he gave them--which includes utility and pleasure.
• Remember you are a sinner--resist the desires of ever-present lust.
• Live with an open hand--possessing all you have as though it were not yours. For, after all, nothing is yours. Everything you have is a trust from God. Yes, it is for your use, enjoyment, and pleasure. But still it remains his, not yours.

Perhaps you need to apply one, or all, of these principles today?