9/05/2014

The Two Most Important Things To Know

John Calvin states, “There is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God.” Thus, the two most important things to know are:
  1. A true knowledge of God.
  2. A true knowledge of ourselves.
What John Calvin wrote in Institutes of the Christian Religion, Chapter 1, Sections 1,2.

True wisdom consists of two connecting parts. OUR wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.

No person can know themselves without turning to God. For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone. In the second place, those blessings which unceasingly distil to us from heaven, are like streams conducting us to the fountain.

Until we know how bad we are, we cannot know how good God is. ...the infinitude of good which resides in God becomes more apparent from our poverty. ...our feeling of ignorance, vanity, want, weakness, in short, depravity and corruption, reminds us (see Calvin on John 4:10), that in the Lord, and none but He, dwell the true light of wisdom, solid virtue, exuberant goodness. We are accordingly urged by our own evil things to consider the good things of God; and, indeed, we cannot aspire to Him in earnest until we have begun to be displeased with ourselves.

Until you truly know yourself, you won't seek God. For what man is not disposed to rest in himself? ...so long as he is unknown to himself; ...contented with his own endowments, and unconscious or unmindful of his misery? Every person, therefore, on coming to the knowledge of himself, is not only urged to seek God, but is also led as by the hand to find him.

No true self-knowledge without contemplating God, because in our pride we always think we're basically good. ...it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he have previously contemplated the face of God, and...after such contemplation to look into himself. For (such is our innate pride) we always seem to ourselves just, and upright, and wise, and holy, until we are convinced, by clear evidence, of our injustice, vileness, folly, and impurity.

...since we are all naturally prone to hypocrisy, any empty semblance of righteousness is quite enough to satisfy us instead of righteousness itself. And since nothing appears...around us that is not tainted with very great impurity, so ... anything which is in some small degree less defiled delights us as if it were most pure...

Flattering ourselves. ...when we look up to the sun, and gaze at it unveiled, the sight which did excellently well for the earth is instantly so dazzled and confounded by the refulgence, as to oblige us to confess that our acuteness in discerning terrestrial objects is mere dimness when applied to the sun. Thus too, it happens in estimating our spiritual qualities. So long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue; we address ourselves in the most flattering terms...

Until we see God for who He truly is... But should we once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and reflect what kind of Being he is, and how absolute the perfection of that righteousness, and wisdom, and virtue, to which, as a standard, we are bound to be conformed, what formerly delighted us by its false show of righteousness will become polluted with the greatest iniquity; ...and what presented the appearance of (virtue) will be condemned as the most miserable impotence. So far are those qualities in us, which seem most perfect, from corresponding to the divine purity.