Reading Calvin has been slow-going but so beneficial — Kevin DeYoung was right when he described the Institutes as ‘much more readable than you might think, and filled with beautiful passages that will inspire as well as inform.‘
Calvin on natural law, conscience, judgment and its arbitrariness:-
… the intellect is very rarely deceived in general definition or in the essence of the thing; but it is illusory when it goes further, that is, applies the principle to particular cases. In reply to the general question, every man will affirm that murder is evil. But he who is plotting the death of an enemy contemplates murder as something good. The adulterer will condemn adultery in general, but will privately flatter himself in his own adultery. Herein is man’s ignorance: when he comes to a particular case, he forgets the general principles he has just laid down.
I’ve often thought, it’s not that we naturally become more mature or obedient as we age, it’s that we become better at justifying our behaviour to ourselves and others. We pick up debating skills, learn longer words, adopt aggressive stances. It’s true of myself: In most cases I’ve not sinned less, just differently, and have more tools at my disposal to explain it all away.
So the quote above is remarkably astute. How many times have I excused myself, “Yes, _____ is sinful according to Scripture, but in my situation it’s a perfectly reasonable response”? Or, “Sure, Paul says that _____ is wrong, but he didn’t mean it when _____(insert my case) happens”?
How brilliant we are at deceiving ourselves! And how thankful we should be that He deigns to open our eyes, shower upon us His grace, and transform us into His image nonetheless.