Home > Christianity, Exposition, Living, Quotations, Theology > John Calvin on ‘Man Before God’s Majesty’

John Calvin on ‘Man Before God’s Majesty’

Hence that dread and wonder with which Scripture commonly represents the saints as stricken and overcome whenever they felt the presence of God. Thus it comes about that we see men who in his absence normally remained firm and constant, but who, when he manifests his glory, are so shaken and struck dumb as to be laid low by the dread of death–are in fact annihilated. As a consequence, we must infer that man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God’s majesty. Moreover, we have numerous examples of this consternation both in The Book of Judges and in the Prophets. So frequent was it that this expression was common among God’s people:  ‘We shall die, for the Lord has appeared to us” [Judg. 13:22; Isa. 6:5; Ezek. 2:1; 1:28; Judg. 6:22-23; and elsewhere]. The story of Job, in its description of God’s wisdom, power, and purity, always expresses a powerful argument that overwhelms men with the realization of their own stupidity, impotence, and corruption [cf. Job 38:1 ff.]. And not without cause:  for we see how Abraham recognizes more clearly that he is earth and dust [Gen. 18:27] when once he had come nearer to beholding God’s glory; and how Elijah, with uncovered face, cannot bear to await his approach, such is the awesomeness of his appearance [1 Kings 19:13]. And what can man do, who is rottenness itself [Job 13:28] and a worm [Job 7:5; Ps. 22:6], when even the very cherubim must veil their faces out of fear [Isa. 6:2]? It is this indeed of which the prophet Isaiah speaks:  ‘The sun will blush and the moon be confounded when the Lord of Hosts shall reign’ [Isa. 24:23]; that is, when he shall bring forth his splendor and cause it to draw nearer, the brightest thing will become darkness before it [Isa. 2:10, 19].

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 1, §3

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  1. March 26, 2012 at 4:13 am

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