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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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William

How Ought We to View Other Men's Sin?

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by John Calvin

 

"...we are but dead men until God quickens us by his grace alone...we never cease fighting against God until he has brought us to his obedience by the Holy Spirit...

 

...we see secret compacts, poisonings spittings, malices, treasons, and wicked practices. To be brief, we see some so devilish that they fling themselves altogether headlong, as though they meant to make war willfully against God. These are things that may astonish us. And although we are dull, yet we ought to have some remorse when we see things to be so disorderly in the world. Nevertheless, St. Paul says that if we consider what is done, and how all things are turned upside down, and what license the world takes to itself to resist God, it behooves us to apply the same to ourselves and to conclude thus: The same could happen to me, and just as much as I see to be the case in them that are most wretched. For when we look on the diseases that are around us how some are eaten with cancers and other evil diseases, and others have the worst possible sickness, we must look at ourselves and say, As ill, and even worse still, could happen to me, if God had not taken pity on me. For all of us carry the seed of them about us, and that not only in our bodies. there may be some diversity of constitution so that some are stronger and more robust than others, but the soul of man is utterly corrupted and marred. So then, the sins that reign in us are all of them warnings to make us cast down our eyes and be ashamed before God and his angels, and even to cause us to hate and utterly abhor our persons.

 

Thus you see why St. Paul has added here that the devil is at work still. He uses the word 'now', as if he should say, 'My friends, if in looking upon your present state, you find anything well, and that the same keeps you from humbling yourselves thoroughly and feeling how miserable you would have been if God had not shown pity and mercy towards you, see what is happening all about you; see how the unbelievers behave themselves, and you shall find them to be like wild beasts and enemies of their own salvation. You find them stark mad against all right. In short, you shall see such great enormities as shall shame men and make them say, Alas, is it possible that it should be thus? And so you see what you are. Do not say, Fie upon you, you wicked man! You may well find fault with such a one, but you must, at the same time, add presently for a sauce to season it, How great God's mercy been towards me!.

 

Let us never condemn the sin, then, that we see everywhere, without considering at the same time that if God had not checked us, we would have fallen as deeply as we see others have fallen; and therefore let it stir ourselves up immediately to pray God that he lead us not into temptation, [Matt 6:13] and let us acknowledge God's infinite goodness, in that it pleases him to check us in such a way that we do not fall into the horrible pits that we see all around us. For when we look upon the most wicked folk in the world, and even upon such as we are driven to abhor as monsters, we must (as I said before) conclude thus within ourselves, 'Alas, as much would have befallen us, if God had not remedied it'. And so you see how we ought to bring this teaching into use."

 

- John Calvin, Sermon on Eph 2:1-5, From John Calvin's Sermons on Ephesians

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