Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Institutes Reading

This has nothing to do with anything going on in my life (that is, no one is doing evil against me that I'm aware of), this part of the Institutes just struck me as exceptionally wise.
If anything adverse happens, straightway he will raise up his heart here also unto God, whose hand can best impress patience and peaceful moderation of mind upon us. If Joseph had stopped to dwell upon his brothers’ treachery, he would never have been able to show a brotherly attitude toward them. But since he turned his thoughts to the Lord, forgetting the injustice, he inclined to gentleness and kindness, even to the point of comforting his brothers and saying: “It is not you who sold me into Egypt, but I was sent before you by God’s will, that I might save your life” [Genesis 45:5, 7-8 p.]. “Indeed you intended evil against me, but the Lord turned it into good.” [Genesis 50:20, cf. Vg.] If Job had turned his attention to the Chaldeans, by whom he was troubled, he would immediately have been aroused to revenge; but because he at once recognized it as the Lord’s work, he comforts himself with this most beautiful thought: “The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” [Job 1:21]. Thus David, assailed with threats and stones by Shimei, if he had fixed his eyes upon the man, would have encouraged his men to repay the injury; but because he knows that Shimei does not act without the Lord’s prompting, he rather appeases them: “Let him alone,” he says, “because the Lord has ordered him to curse” [2 Samuel 16:11]. By this same bridle he elsewhere curbs his inordinate sorrow: “I have kept silence and remained mute,” says he, “because thou hast done it, O Jehovah” [Psalm 39:9 p.]. If there is no more effective remedy for anger and impatience, he has surely benefited greatly who has so learned to meditate upon God’s providence that he can always recall his mind to this point: the Lord has willed it; therefore it must be borne, not only because one may not contend against it, but also because he wills nothing but what is just and expedient. To sum this up: when are unjustly wounded by men, let us overlook their wickedness (which would but worsen our pain and sharpen our minds to revenge), remember to mount up to God, and learn to believe for certain that whatever our enemy has wickedly committed against us was permitted and sent by God’s just dispensation.
Paul, to restrain us from retaliation for injuries, wisely points out that our struggle “is not with flesh and blood” [Ephesians 6:12], but with our spiritual enemy the devil [Ephesians 6:11], in order that we may prepare ourselves for the combat. Yet a most useful admonition to still all impulses to wrath is that God arms both the devil and all the wicked for the conflict, and sits as a judge of the games to exercise our patience.
But if the destruction and misery that press upon us happen without human agency, let us recall the teaching of the law: “Whatever is prosperous flows from the fountain of God’s blessing, and all adversities are his curses” [Deuteronomy 28:2 ff., 15 ff. p.]. Let this dreadful warning terrify us: “If you happen to walk contrary to me, I will also happen to walk contrary to you” [Leviticus 26:23-24, cf. Comm.]. In these words our sluggishness is rebuked as a crime; for after the common sense of the flesh we regard as fortuitous whatever happens either way, whether good or evil, and so are neither aroused by God’s benefits to worship him, nor stimulated by lashes to repentance. It is for this same reason that Jeremiah and Amos bitterly expostulated with the Jews, for they thought both good and evil happened without God’s command [Lamentations 3:38; Amos 3:6]. In the same vein is Isaiah’s declaration: “I, God, creating light and forming darkness, making peace and creating evil: I, God, do all these things” [Isaiah 45:7, cf. Vg.].