This week in Lit: January 11, 2012


A notation on the First Commandment.

You can easily understand what and how much this commandment requires, namely, that man’s entire heart and all his confidence be placed in God alone, and in no one else. For to have God, you can easily perceive, is not to lay hold of Him with our hands or to put Him in a bag [as money], or to lock Him in a chest [as silver vessels]. 14] But to apprehend Him means when the heart lays hold of Him and clings to Him. 15] But to cling to Him with the heart is nothing else than to trust in Him entirely. For this reason He wishes to turn us away from everything else that exists outside of Him, and to draw us to Himself, namely, because He is the only eternal good. As though He would say; Whatever you have heretofore sought of the saints, or for whatever [things] you have trusted in Mammon or anything else, expect it all of Me, and regard Me as the one who will help you and pour out upon you richly all good things.


Calvin makes the following illustration when considering the status of our souls against the glory of God.

If, at mid-day, we either look down to the ground, or on the surrounding objects which lie open
to our view, we think ourselves endued with a very strong and piercing eyesight; but 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, and seem only less than demigods. 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; what strangely imposed upon us under the
name of wisdom will disgust by its extreme folly; and what presented the appearance of
virtuous energy will be condemned as the most miserable impotence.


How encouraging is the thought of the Redeemer’s never- ceasing intercession for us. When
we pray, he pleads for us; and when we are not praying, he is advocating our cause, and by his
supplications shielding us from unseen dangers. Notice the word of comfort addressed to
Peter—“Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat; but”—what?
“But go and pray for yourself.” That would be good advice, but it is not so written. Neither does
he say, “But I will keep you watchful, and so you shall be preserved.” That were a great blessing.
No, it is, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” We little know what we owe to our
Saviour’s prayers. When we reach the hill-tops of heaven, and look back upon all the way whereby
the Lord our God hath led us, how we shall praise him who, before the eternal throne, undid the
mischief which Satan was doing upon earth. How shall we thank him because he never held his
peace, but day and night pointed to the wounds upon his hands, and carried our names upon his
breastplate! Even before Satan had begun to tempt, Jesus had forestalled him and entered a plea in
heaven. Mercy outruns malice. Mark, he does not say, “Satan hath desired to have you.” He checks
Satan even in his very desire, and nips it in the bud. He does not say, “But I have desired to pray
for you.” No, but “I have prayed for you: I have done it already; I have gone to court and entered
a counterplea even before an accusation is made.” O Jesus, what a comfort it is that thou hast
pleaded our cause against our unseen enemies; countermined their mines, and unmasked their
ambushes. Here is a matter for joy, gratitude, hope, and confidence.

The Heidelberg Catechism

Q. How do you come to know your misery?
A. The law of God tells me.

Q. What does God’s law require of us?

A. Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22:37-40:
“‘You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and first commandment.
“And a second is like it:
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
“On these two commandments hang”

Q. Can you live up to all this perfectly?
A. No.
I have a natural tendency
to hate God and my neighbor.

all the law and the prophets.”


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