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Traditions And God’s Word

John Calvin

How many people are there in this world who have continued to sit at the feet of ignorance when the Word of God was close at hand? Satan has so captured the minds of men with sinful lusts that they have become blind to the Gospel. They have replaced God’s Word with the traditions of men and have ignored the true and living God. Therefore, they have created and worshiped idols and traditions which continuously spring from the darkened mind. The following is an excerpt from a sermon of John Calvin:

Unto the pure all things are pure; but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him: being abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. (Titus 1:15-16)

It has been the case in all ages that men have despised God’s law for the sake of their own traditions. Our Lord Jesus Christ upbraided the Pharisees, when He saith, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition” (Mat. 15:3). Thus it was in former times, in the days of the prophets. Isaiah crieth out, “Wherefore the Lord said, forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work and wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid” (chap. 25:13). While men occupy themselves about traditions, they pass over the things that God hath commanded in His Word.

This it is that caused Isaiah to cry out against such as set forth men’s traditions; telling them plainly that God threatened to blind the wisest of them, because they turned away from the pure rule of His Word to follow their own foolish inventions. St. Paul likewise alludes to the same thing, when he saith they have no fear of God before their eyes. Let us not deceive ourselves; for we know that God requires men to live uprightly, and to abstain from all violence, cruelty, malice, and deceit; that none of these things should appear in our life. But those that have no fear of God before their eyes, it is apparent that they are out of order, and that there is nothing but uncleanness in their whole life.

If we wish to know how our life should be regulated, let us examine the contents of the Word of God; for we cannot be sanctified by outward show and pomp, although they are so highly esteemed among men. We must call upon God in sincerity, and put our whole trust in Him; we must give up pride and presumption, and resort to Him with true lowliness of mind that we be not given to fleshly affections. We must endeavor to hold ourselves in awe, under subjection to God, and flee from gluttony, whoredom, excess, robbery, blasphemy, and other evils. Thus we see what God would have us do, in order to have our life well regulated. (“The Word our Only Rule”)

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