FROM INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION
Part One The Sum Of The Christian Life – The Denial Of Ourselves
Sections 1-3 The Christian Philosophy
of Unworldliness and Self-Denial: We Are Not Our Own; We Are God’s
Section 1 We Are Not Our Own Masters, but Belong to God
ALTHOUGH the Law of God contains a perfect rule of conduct admirably arranged, it has seemed proper to our divine Master to train His people by a more accurate method to the rule that is enjoined in the Law. The leading principle in the method is that it is the duty of believers to present their “bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is their reasonable service” (Rom 12:1). Hence He draws the exhortation: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:2). The great point then is that we are consecrated and dedicated to God and therefore should not henceforth think, speak, design, or act without a view to His glory. What He hath made sacred cannot, without signal insult to Him, be applied to profane use.
But if we are not our own but the Lord’s (1Co 6:19), it is plain both what error is to be shunned and to what end the actions of our lives ought to be directed.
We are not our own: therefore, neither our own reason nor will is to rule our acts and counsels. We are not our own: therefore, let us not make it our end to seek what may be agreeable to our carnal nature. We are not our own: therefore, as far as possible, let us forget ourselves and the things that are ours.
On the other hand, we are God’s: let us therefore live and die to Him (Rom 14:8). We are God’s: therefore, let His wisdom and will preside over all our actions. We are God’s: to Him, then, as the only legitimate end, let every part of our life be directed (Rom 14:8; 1Co 6:19). O, how great the proficiency of him who, [when] taught that he is not his own, has withdrawn the dominion and government of himself from his own reason that he may give them to God! For as the surest source of destruction to men is to obey themselves, so the only haven of safety is to have no other will, no other wisdom, than to follow the Lord wherever He leads.
Let this then be the first step: to abandon ourselves and devote the whole energy of our minds to the service of God. By service, I mean not only that which consists in verbal obedience, but that by which the mind, divested of its own carnal feelings, implicitly obeys the call of the Spirit of God. This transformation, which Paul calls the renewing of the mind (Rom 12:2; Eph 4:23), though it is the first entrance to life, was unknown to all the philosophers. They give the government of man to reason alone, thinking that she alone is to be listened to; in short, they assign to her the sole direction of the conduct. But Christian philosophy bids her give place and yield complete submission to the Holy Spirit, so that the man himself no longer lives, but Christ lives and reigns in him (Gal 2:20)