Matthew Poole (1624-1679): An English Protestant’s answer to a Popish Priest’s accusation of schism

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The English Nonconformist theologian Matthew Poole (1624-1679), most commonly known for his 5-vol Synopsis Criticorum (a biblical commentary in which he incorporates the views of 150 biblical critics from an array of theological traditions) and for his English Annotations upon the Holy Bible, published a book in 1667 called A Dialogue between a Popish Priest and an English Protestant, which was intended for a popular audience, unlike his more scholarly defence of Protestantism titled The Nullity of the Romish Faith, which was published the year before. In this Dialogue, Poole has the English Protestant and the Popish priest discuss various key points and arguments for their respective positions. One of these is the Popish priest’s accusation that the Protestant is guilty of schism. This is from p. 41-45 of the 1843 reprint:

Popish Priest: It is sufficient against you, that your church is schismatical, and you are all guilty of schism, in departing from the true catholic church, which is but one, and that is the Roman.

Protestant: I desire to know of you, whether in no case a man may separate from the church whereof he was a member, without schism?

Popish Priest: Yes, certainly, if there be sufficient cause for it; for the apostles did separate from the church of the Jews after Christ’s death; and the orthodox separated from the Arian churches, and all communion with them; yet none ever charged them with schism.

Protestant: Since you mention that instance, I pray you tell me why they separated from the Arians.

Popish Priest: Because they held this heresy, that Christ was a creature, and not the true God.

Protestant: Very well; hence then I conclude, that if your church do hold any heresy, and require all her members to hold it too, it is no schism for us to separate from you.

Popish Priest: That must needs be granted; but this is but a slander of yours, for our church holds no such heresies.

Protestant: Your church does not hold one, but many dangerous errors and heresies, as I do not doubt to manifest ere you and I part; and, if you please, we will leave the present argument to this issue: if I do not prove your church guilty of heresy, and the imposition of it too, I am content you should charge us with schism; if I do, you shall mention it no more.

Popish Priest: You speak reason; let it rest there.

Protestant: Besides, methinks, you deal barbarously with us; you drive us out from you by your tyranny, and then you blame us for departing; as if Sarah had called Hagar a schismatic for going out of Abraham’s family. From which she forced her. Tell me, I pray you, if the case be so that I must depart from the Roman church, or from God, what must I do?

Popish Priest: The case is plain; you must rather depart from that church.

Protestant: This is the case; if I do not depart from your church, she will force me to live in many mortal sins. I must believe a hundred lies, I must worship the cross, and relics, and images, which God commands me, under pain of his highest displeasure, not to worship. I must worship the sacrament with Divine worship, which I am assured is no other for substance than bread; for your church is not content to hold these opinions, but she enjoins these practices to all her members. And if things be thus, I think you will not have the confidence any more to charge us with schism for obeying the command of God to come out of Babylon, since you force all your members to partake with you in your sins, Rev. xviii. 4. Besides all this, let me ask you, upon what account you charge us with schism?

Popish Priest: For departing from the catholic church, and from your mother church of Rome, and from the pope, whose subjects once you were.

Protestant: If, then, I can prove that we are not departed from the catholic church, nor from our mother church, nor from any of that subjection we owe to the pope, I hope you will acquit us from schism.

Popish Priest: That I cannot deny.

Protestant: Then this danger is over. For, 1. We never did depart from the catholic church, which is not your particular Roman church, as you most ridiculously call it, but the whole multitude of believers and Christians in the world. Nay, the truth is, you are the schismatics, in renouncing all communion with all the Christian churches in the world, except your own, which are equal to yours in number, and many of them far superior in true piety. Next, we do not own you for our mother: Jerusalem which is above (not Babylon that is beneath) is the mother of us all, Gal. iv. 26. If we grant you now are a true church, yet you were but a sister-church.

Popish Priest: You forget that you received the gospel from our hands.

Protestant: Suppose we did really so; does that give you authority over us? If it did, not Rome, but Jerusalem should be the mother-church, from whom you also received the gospel. This you deny, which shows that you do not believe your own argument to be good. And as to the pope’s universal and infallible authority, which he pretends over all Christians, I have diligently read your arguments for it, and I freely profess to you, I find your pretences, both from Scripture and the fathers, so weak and frivolous, that I durst commend it to any understanding and disinterested person, as a most likely means to convince him of the vanity and falseness of that doctrine, that he would peruse any of your best authors, and the very sight of the weakness and impertinency of your arguments would abundantly satisfy him of the badness of your cause.

For another Protestant defence against the Catholic accusation of schism, see this recent post from French Huguenot Pierre Jurieu (1637-1713)

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758): His majesty is infinitely awful… and yet he is one of infinite condescension

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“There do meet in Jesus Christ, infinite highness, and infinite condescension. Christ, as he is God, is infinitely great and high above all. He is higher than the kings of the earth; for he is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. He is higher than the heavens, and higher than the highest angels of heaven. So great is he, that all men, all kings and princes, are as worms of the dust before him, all nations are as the drop of the bucket, and the light dust of the balance; yea, and angels themselves are as nothing before him. He is so high, that he is infinitely above any need of us; above our reach, that we cannot be profitable to him, and above our conceptions, that we cannot comprehend him. Proverbs 30:4, “What is his name, and what is his Son’s name, if thou canst tell?” Our understandings, if we stretch them never so far, can’t reach up to his divine glory. Job 11:8, “It is high as heaven, what canst thou do?” Christ is the Creator, and great possessor of heaven and earth: he is sovereign lord of all: he rules over the whole universe, and doth whatsoever pleaseth him: his knowledge is without bound: his wisdom is perfect, and what none can circumvent: his power is infinite, and none can resist him: his riches are immense and inexhaustible: his majesty is infinitely awful.

And yet he is one of infinite condescension. None are so low, or inferior, but Christ’s condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of them. He condescends not only to the angels, humbling himself to behold the things that are done in heaven, but he also condescends to such poor creatures as men; and that not only so as to take notice of princes and great men, but of those that are of meanest rank and degree, “the poor of the world” (James 2:5). Such as are commonly despised by their fellow creatures, Christ don’t despise. 1 Corinthians 1:28, “Base things of the world, and things that are despised, hath God chosen.” Christ condescends to take notice of beggars (Luke 16:22) and of servants, and people of the most despised nations: in Christ Jesus is neither “Barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free” (Colossians 3:11). He that is thus high, condescends to take a gracious notice of little children. Matthew 19:14, “Suffer little children to come unto me.” Yea, which is much more, his condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of the most unworthy, sinful creatures, those that have no good deservings, and those that have infinite ill deservings.

Yea, so great is his condescension, that it is not only sufficient to take some gracious notice of such as these, but sufficient for everything that is an act of condescension. His condescension is great enough to become their friend: ’tis great enough to become their companion, to unite their souls to him in spiritual marriage: ’tis great enough to take their nature upon him, to become one of them, that he may be one with them: yea, it is great enough to abase himself yet lower for them, even to expose himself to shame and spitting; yea, to yield up himself to an ignominious death for them. And what act of condescension can be conceived of greater? Yet such an act as this, has his condescension yielded to, for those that are so low and mean, despicable and unworthy!”

- Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), “The Excellency of Christ,” Works of Jonathan Edwards Online, vol. 19, p. 565-566

Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686): A labour full of ease

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As you rest from your labours and toils on this Lord’s Day, here is something to reflect on. This is from Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686), A Body of Practical Divinity, p. 471:

“In the Kingdom of Heaven we shall be freed from the toylsome Labours of this Life. God enacted a Law in Paradise, In the sweat of thy Brows thou shalt eat Bread, Gen. 3:9. There is the Labour of the Hand in Manufacture, and the Labour of the Mind in Study; Eccl. 1:8. All things are full of Labour; but in the Kingdom of Heaven we shall be freed from our Labours.

There needs no Labour, when a Man hath got to the Haven he hath no more need of sailing. In Heaven there needs no Labour, because the Saints shall have that Glory which they laboured for.

There shall be no Labour, Rev. 14:13. They rest from their Labours. As God when he had finished the Work of Creation rested from his Labours, Gen. 2:2. So when the Saints have finished the Work of Sanctification, they rest from their Labours. Where should there be rest but in the Heavenly Center? Not that this sweet rest in the Kingdom of Heaven excludes all Motion, for Spirits cannot be idle; but the Saints Glorified shall rest from all wearisome Imployment; it shall be a labour full of ease, a Motion full of Delight: The Saints in Heaven shall love God, and what labour is that? Is it any Labour to love Beauty? They shall praise God, and that sure is delightful: When the Bird sings, it is not so much a Labour as a pleasure.”

Pierre Jurieu (1637-1713): Rectifying the Papist idea of schism

Pierre Jurieu

Pierre Jurieu (1637-1713), a French Huguenot leader and grandson of the well-known Huguenot pastor Pierre Du Moulin, lived in extremely testing times. His lifetime was marked by great persecution of Protestants by Catholics in France. Like many other Huguenots, Jurieu ended up fleeing to the Netherlands, which at the time was a safe haven for Protestants in Europe, settling in Rotterdam, where he became pastor of the Flemish Walloon Church, the French-speaking Reformed Church in the Netherlands. After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, Catholic persecution of Protestants in France went rampant.

Four years later, in 1689, Jurieu published a work titled Lettres pastorales adressées aux fidèles de France qui gémissent sous la captivité de Babylon (Pastoral Letters addressed to the Faithful of France who are Groaning under the Captivity of Babylon), which was secretly circulated around France and elsewhere in Europe. The main thrust of these letters are an encouragement to Huguenots in France to persevere in the Reformed faith and not go back to the Catholic Church, offering many arguments and reasons not to do so. This was much easier said than done, of course, since their safety would have been secured if they were to return, and there were a host of persuasive polemical arguments from the Papists which convinced many Huguenots to return to the Roman Church. Throughout these letters, Jurieu addresses these polemical arguments, one of which we will consider below.

One of the stronger polemical arguments the Papists made, which convinced many Protestants to return to Rome, was that the Huguenots had broken away from the one and only true Universal Church, and that consequently they had excluded themselves from salvation.  In Letter 13 of Volume 1, there is a section in which Jurieu discusses this allegation and the Papist view of schism:

“[Breaking the unity of the Roman Church through schism] is a point which your converters [Papists who attempt to convert Huguenots back to Catholicism] continually repeat, and beat upon you. Schism, say they, is a hideous crime: schismatics are out of the Church; there is no salvation for them: and although the Church of Rome itself were corrupt, you ought not to break with her. Their modern writers who seem willing to soften the maxims of the Roman Church do nevertheless observe no measure on this subject, and on this point. They proceed so far as to maintain, that although it should be true that even the Church of Rome should be fallen into idolatry, we ought not to forsake her, and could not justly set up altar against altar…

They say, that even though the Church should fall into idolatry, we cannot be saved if we separate from it. And I say, although even the Church of Rome should have reason at the bottom, and were not idolatrous, and that we were out in our separation, we should not hazard our salvation by continuing as we are [i.e. by continuing as Protestants]. Men are everywhere well where they have Christianity and the marrow and substance of it; and it is a folly to imagine that the salvation of men depends upon the temper of their guides. It may be therefore that Luther and Calvin were mistaken, i.e. that the corruption of the Church of Rome was not great enough to oblige the faithful to go out of her: let us suppose that would have done better to leave things as they were, I do nevertheless maintain, that at this day you do not in any way hazard your salvation by continuing where they have placed you [i.e. in the Protestant Church]; because however it may be, you have Christianity in its integrity, you have it wholly pure and incorrupt. In every society where that is found, a man may be saved, after whatever manner it be formed. The idea which men have formed of schism for many ages past is the most false that can be imagined: but besides the falsehood of it, it is the most dangerous and cruel chimera that could be found. Every society would be Catholic Church to the exclusion of all others. The Church of Rome pretends thus far for herself. The Greek Church makes no less pretence thereto. He that goes out of this Church breaks the unity, and he that breaks it is no longer in the Church. Now, he who is no longer in the Church, is no longer in a state and way of salvation, whatever he say and whatever he do. Behold what they say; behold the chimera.

We must therefore rectify this idea of schism, according to the unity which we have given you. The unity of the Universal Church does not subsist within the bounds of one certain communion, nor in adherence to certain pastors, to the exclusion of all others: but in the unity of spirit, doctrine, sacraments, and evangelical ministry in general, i.e. of pastors declaring the truth of the Gospel. What must be done then to make a schism with respect to the Church Universal? He must renounce the Christian doctrine, the sacraments of the Church, and the Gospel ministry; that is to say, he must be an apostate or a heretic. But every society that goes out of another and greater society of which it was part, makes no schism with respect to the Church Universal, whilst it retains the doctrine, the sacraments, and the ministry of the Gospel: it goes not out of the Church because it carries the Church with it, and it carries the Church with it, because it carries Christianity with it. It carries, say I, the Church with it, in such a manner nevertheless, that it leaves it in the society which it leaves; for leaving true Christianity there, it leaves the true Church there also. And the advantage of being the Church, and of having Christianity, is a privilege which may be possessed entirely, and without prejudice to other Christian societies.”

Jurieu then goes on to distinguish between two kinds of schism: universal and particular schism. He defines universal schism as:

“the renunciation of the Universal Church, by renouncing her doctrine, sacraments, and ministry.”

In other words, universal schism is to break away from the Church entirely and become apostate or utterly heretical. He then defines particular schism as:

“when a man separates from a particular Church, be it for some point of doctrine, be it for some quarrel about discipline, be it for some personal differences of the guides among themselves.”

Jurieu mentions several such particular schisms throughout church history, arguably the greatest example being, of course, the schism between the Greek (Eastern Orthodox) and Latin (Roman Catholic) Churches in 1054. He also mentions schisms in the Latin Church during the later Middle Ages, that of Popes and Anti-Popes, the one seated at Rome and the other at Avignon. He then comes to the Reformation, which he classifies as one of these particular schism, and states:

“…in these last times a great schism has happened in the Latin Church, which is divided into three great bodies: the Papists, the Lutherans, and the Reformed.”

Jurieu argues that the problem with the Papist view of schism is that they confound these two kinds of schism, since they regard particular schisms (such as the Reformation) as universal ones, and hence consider such schismatics as apostates who are altogether excluded from salvation. He would go on to argue that though “peace is to be preferred before division,” nevertheless the separation was made “for reasons of some worth and value, i.e. because of corruption in doctrine and worship,” and since this corruption still persists in the Church of Rome, we therefore cannot return to her.

Jacques Abbadie (c. 1654-1727): The sense of our indigence is one of the greatest marks of our greatness

Jacques Abbadie

Tonight I came across this interesting discussion by the French Huguenot Jacques Abbadie (c. 1654-1727), in which he argues that man’s imperfections are, quite paradoxically, also an indication of his excellence. The main thrust I get out of this is that the consciousness of our imperfections reveals that we were made, to put it in simple terms, for “bigger things,” and herein consists our excellence. Read it for yourself, and think on it a bit. This is from his work Traité de la Verité de la Religion Chrétienne (Treatise on the Truth of the Christian Religion), vol. 1, chapter 13:

“Man, I confess, has his imperfections; his soul finds itself shut up within a very narrow compass: He sees himself confined on all sides, in the middle of an unlimited extent of space. He finds himself obliged to follow the condition of matter, which is much inferior to him in perfection. He perceived himself miserable and poor in the midst of prosperity and abundance. Nothing fills him; nothing satisfies him: He loathes everything, and desires everything. He is always seeking knowledge, and understands nothing perfectly. He admires, because he is ignorant. He has a curiosity to know, because he knows nothing. He is not only the sport of others, but in some manner his own. Equity and rectitude, with relation to him, are whatever his passions make them to be; and truth is nothing but what pleases him. His imperfections are great, and because they are great, they are not to be met with, but in an excellent being, and therefore serve better than anything else to show the perfection of man. This is what may easily be conceived with a little consideration and reflection upon ourselves.

Well, let those spaces be never so great which encompass me, I still find myself greater than they are. My body which is but an atom in comparison to the sun, is a colossus in respect to a mite. The sun which is a prodigious colossus with respect to me, is but an atom compared with that immense space, and those vast spheres wherewith it is itself encompassed. The greatness therefore or smallness of matter, does depend upon different respects, under which it is represented to us, or the different comparisons which may be made of it. It is my soul that makes those comparisons, my soul therefore has something more noble and great in it, than that whose greatness surprised me, or whose minuteness was too exquisite to be perceived by me.

Everything keeps its rank in nature; but man, who maintains his rank in the world, and knows it, is more perfect than all other [created] beings; and the narrower the space is which the soul is confined to, the greater subject of wonder is it; since by a particular prodigy, whenever it pleases, it draws together into the compass of an atom, heaven and earth, whatever we see of the immense spaces which encompass us, and all that lies beyond, out of our sight: It runs through all the parts of the universe, without any motion of its own, and that in a more amazing and wonderful manner, than if it moved itself. In the same simple undivided subject, it assembles together past, present, and future things, life and death, light and darkness, the most contrary elements, and most inconsistent qualities: And though it lies concealed, and (as it were) buried in a corner of the universe, it fetches in the universe to itself, when it pleases.

It is a surprising thing, I own, to see an intelligence so vast, subject to the laws of such a limited portion of matter, and a being so noble, wedded to the interests of a body which does not seem to have anything in common with it. And in this respect, methinks, it may be said, that it is most surprising to see the soul of man depending on matter, than separated from it; and that our life has something more astonishing in it than our death. For in fine, search as far as you please into the knowledge of the structure and constitution of the body, let the glandula pinealis be the centre of the motion of the animal spirits, or fix it in some other part of the brain; it is impossible there should be any true proportion between the motions of this gland, or this other part of our brain, and the thoughts of our soul; and though we should reason about it for ten thousand ages together, this agreement or proportion could never be found.

But is not this dependence of thought upon corporeal motion, and this dependence of corporeal motion upon thought, which are mutual occasions of one another, without any manner of proportion discoverable between them, is not this, I say, another wonder which ought infinitely to astonish us?

By this mark, I know that my soul was created: This is the character and seal of its dependence: And that it might appear the free production of an Understanding sovereignly free, it was necessary that this soul should depend upon matter, which is of a nature much inferior to it.

Moreover, of all the beings, we behold, man alone perceives his misery and wants; he is therefore the most perfect: For he must needs be of a more noble and exalted nature than other [created] beings, else he could not be miserable, since without knowledge, there can be no misery.

Besides, the mere privation of some good, is not properly indigence or want, but the privation of some good that seemed due. Cyrus whilst a shepherd, did not think himself miserable, because he was not seated on the throne: But the same Cyrus knowing himself to be of royal extraction, cannot be content except he reign.

What sort of being then is man, who is always poor and miserable, whatever degree of prosperity he enjoys? Why, he must necessarily be such a being whose excellence is no way proportioned to whatever we see. Wherefore the sense of our indigence is one of the greatest marks of our greatness.

Both our understanding and our heart, are (I confess) equally insatiable: The one is never tired with knowing, and the other never weary of desiring.  But that which occasions their extravagance in that respect, denotes their perfection.

The desire of knowledge, shows indeed that man does not know everything; that is, that he is not infinite; but it shows also that he may always be advancing in knowledge, and consequently, that his excellence is not limited in that respect.

It is the same case with the desires of man’s heart, which are perpetually renewed, and can never find anything capable of satisfying them. They show indeed that man does not enjoy all that is necessary to make him happy; but at the same time, they discover, that all temporal advantages are incapable of satisfying him; that he is above the world, and all the happiness the world can afford, and that no less than an infinite object is able to fill the vast capacity of his soul.

The admiration of the understanding is more wonderful than all he admires, and the desires of man are more noble than all the objects desired by him. That infinite thirst of our understanding tells us, that our excellence is on some sense unlimited; and the infinite appetite of our heart teaches us, that we may aspire to an infinite happiness. What we are ignorant of, humbles us; what we know, satisfies us; and that which we cannot attain to the knowledge of, does in some manner raise us higher than what we do know, and shows us that our soul shall not always continue in that low state it is now in; that it shall not always be taken up with those little interests and advantages, which are all its employs and concerns now, without the power of procuring it any true satisifaction.

It is a fault in covetous man, to be always desiring new additions of wealth; but it is a perfection not to be content with so inconsiderable a trifle as riches. Worldly-minded men are guilty of ignorance and blindness, and in that respect they sin; but properly speaking, they do not sin by being covetous, and pursuing their interest. They are to blame only for blindingly desiring what cannot satisfy them; but not for being insatiable after the possession of what they ought not to be contented with.”

Abbadie then, without offering an extensive discussion thereof (seeing that he says that he intends first to establish the existence of God in the subsequent chapters before doing so), offers some glimpses of what the perfection of man consists of, namely that man:

“…by a special privilege has the honour of representing the Supreme Being; which finds in itself some traces of that Knowledge and Wisdom it is obliged to ascribe originally to God… [man is] a being designed to collect the glory that streams from all created perfections, in order to reflect it back to their Great Maker…”

“[the perfection of man in this life consists…] …in the glorious state of virtue, regulating his desires by temperance, renouncing his passions, to practise the duties of piety, devoting the present to his duty, and gaining a sure title to the future, by his good use of the present; sacrificing his vicious desires to God, renouncing himself for the love of him who gave him all things, raising himself above time and the world by a sublime hope which carries him to far more solid objects than any time or the world can afford; and referring everything to the glory of God, as to the greatest and noblest end of all his thoughts and actions.”

Philippe du Plessis Mornay (1549-1623): Our doings can have no end to rest upon here, but only in the life to come

Philippe Du Plessis Mornay

Chapter 18 of De la Verité de la Religion Chrestienne: contre les Athées, Épicuriens, Payens, Juifs, Mahumedistes, et autres Infideles (Of the Truth of the Christian Religion, against Atheists, Epicureans, Paynims, Jews, Muslims, and Other Unbelievers) by the French Huguenot Philippe du Plessis Mornay (1549-1623) contains a discussion of man’s highest end, by no means identical to but reminiscent of Thomas Aquinas’ discussion of the beatific vision.

Mornay demonstrates the vanity of man seeking his highest good in the things of this world – in riches, honour, power and authority, in himself, in beauty, bodily pleasure, voluptuousness, sensuality, virtue, politics, earthly wisdom, and so forth. He then shows that God himself is man’s highest good and ultimate end, which though partially attainable in this life, is ultimately only attained in the life to come. In the excerpt below, which is from the end of the chapter, he argues along the lines of Hebrews 11:1 (“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”):

“And what is this faith in God, but a believing that our good lies in him? What is the believing, but the hoping for it? What is hope, but the desiring of it? What is the desire of it, but the not having it? And to be short, what is the continual belief of it here, but [a confirmation] that here we can neither have it nor see it? If we have not faith, what have we but ignorance? And if we have faith, what have we but only a desire and longing, considering that the greater our faith is, the more we despise these base things [of the world], and the greater our desire is, the more we hate ourselves, and the more earnestly do we love God. To be short, what is faith? Salvation promised. But we would [want to] see it. Again, what is faith? The way unto felicity. But we would [want to] possess and enjoy it. Look then what proportion is between that which is present, and that which is to come; such proportion is there between the hope which we have here (yea, even above the world and above ourselves), and the perfect and full fruition of the good which we seek to attain unto. But let us in a few words gather together what we have said heretofore. Whereas we seek for an end or resting-point, the world is made for man, man for the soul, the soul for the mind, the mind for a much higher thing than itself, and what else can that be but God? As for that which we understand here concerning God by our natural wisdom, it is but ignorance; and by our supernatural, is but belief; and belief makes not things perfect, but only moves the understanding. It follows then that our doings can have no end to rest upon here, but only in the life to come, which is the beholding and knowing of God. Again, if we seek the sovereign good, our appetites owe obedience to our will, our will to our reason, and the perfection of our reason is the knowing of God. And so our contentment of our will is our possessing of God. Now we possess not God, but so far as we love him; we love him not but so far as we know him: and neither can ignorance engender full and perfect fruition, but only a certain hope, which hope is accompanied by impatience even in the best of us. It follows therefore that we cannot enjoy our sovereign good, until we have come to our utmost end; nor have our full contentment, until we have full knowledge: that is, we cannot have it in this world, nor in man, which two cannot content the mind or satisfy the will of man, forasmuch as either of them both is a world of wretchedness: but though we have a double life, yet can we have our utmost resting-point and our sovereign good nowhere else but only in God and in the everlasting life.

Here I should declare what that felicity of man shall be, when he has come to his utmost resting-point. But who will be so rash as to open his mouth on this behalf, after him who has told us that neither eye has seen it nor heart can conceive it? And how should we know it here, being unable either to see it or to have it here? Now therefore in one word, let us be content with this, that all our desires shall be satisfied at that day, seeing they extend not but to the things that are, and that in God we shall at that day see, have, and know all things.”

John Calvin (1509-1564) on progress in the Christian life

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“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.”

- John Calvin (1509-1564), Institutes of the Christian Religion, III.vi.5.