Mondays with Calvin

20 Mar

Preachers, get specific…

“…the intellect is very rarely deceived in general definition or in the essence of the thing; but that it is illusory when it goes farther, 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 flatter himself in his own adultery. Herein is man’s ignorance: when he comes to a particular case, he forgets the general principle that he has just laid down…”

Counselors, think about who you are talking to…

[This] rule, however is not without exception. Sometimes the shamefulness of evil-doing presses upon the conscience so that one, imposing upon himself no false image of the good, knowingly and willingly rushes into wickedness. Out of such disposition of mind comes statements like this: ‘I see what is better and approve it, but I follow the worse.’ To my mind, Aristotle has made a very shrewd distinction between incontinence and intemperance: ‘Where incontinence reigns,’ he says, ‘the disturbed mental state or passion so deprives the mind of particular knowledge that it cannot mark the evil in its own misdeed which it generally discerns in like instances; when the perturbation subsides, repentance straightway returns. Intemperance, however, is not extinguished or shattered by the awareness of sin, but on the contrary, stubbornly persists in choosing its habitual evil.”

Calvin’s Institutes vol. 1, p.282,283

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