When we examine ourselves in light of God’s truth, we should be disabused of the idea that we ever be confident in our own abilities or desiring to brag about ourselves. Instead, we should be inclined to submit to God’s will. We all should follow this path if we desire to attain the true goal God has for us. I am aware how tempted we can be to meditate on our good qualities rather than our bad ones, which can overwhelm with shame. There is nothing better to the human mind than flattery. And when told that humans possess great qualities, it is easy for the human mind to be puffed up with pride. Therefore, it is not strange that most people struggle with an over-inflated view of themselves. Because of our innate self-love which blinds us, we are find it difficult to believe that we contain anything within us which deserves hatred. We push things further by even believing that humanity is perfectly sufficient in itself to have a good and happy life.
Some people may admit that God somehow factors into the picture. They may believe that somethings from God might be necessary. But even when doing this, they still ground their confidence and happiness in themselves. Then, if someone says something that flatters the pride within the human heart, nothing seems more delightful. In every era, those who praise the excellence of human natures received the most applause. Yet, those who teach the excellence of humanity apart from God, teach people to rest in themselves. Their teaching does nothing more than deceive others and drown in condemnation everyone who believes it. Such teaching does not produce real virtue but instead keeps people on the path to destruction. This is the best that can happen to those who confidence in their own abilities. Therefore, whoever pays attention to such teachers—those who tell us to only contemplate our good qualities—do not make progress in coming to know themselves but in actuality are plunged into pernicious ignorance.
“Blogging the Institutes” is my on-going attempt to paraphrase John Calvin’s work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. You can find out more about the series in the Introduction. For all the posts in this series, check out the Master List.