If you have ever wanted a taste of Calvin’s Institutes but without committing to the whole thing, you may want to try reading A Little Book on the Christian Life. It is an excerpt of the larger work, and one focused largely on Christian living. Here’s an extract from a new edition translated by Aaron Denlinger and Burk Parsons.
In striving for either convenience or tranquility in this present life, Scripture calls us to resign our wills and everything that is ours to the Lord, and to turn the affections of our hearts over to Him to be tamed and bridled.
Our lust is furious and our greed limitless in pursuing wealth and honors, chasing after power, heaping up riches, and gathering all those vain things which seem to give us grandeur and glory. On the other hand, we greatly fear and hate poverty, obscurity, and humility, and so we avoid these realities in every way. Thus, we see that those who order their lives according to their own counsel have a restless disposition. We see how many tricks they try, how many pursuits they exhaust themselves with in order to secure the objects of their ambition or greed, while trying to avoid, on the other hand, poverty and humility.
Therefore, in order not to be entangled in such snares, godly men must hold this course: First of all, they must neither desire, nor aspire, nor expect to prosper for any other reason than the Lord’s blessing. Therefore, let them safely and confidently cast themselves on and rest in that blessing. The flesh might seem beautifully sufficient to itself while it strives by its own power, or ascends by its own zeal, or is assisted by the favor of men toward honors and wealth. However, it’s nevertheless certain that all these things will come to nothing and that we will accomplish nothing by our talents or efforts, except insofar as the Lord prospers both. But, on the contrary, His blessing by itself finds a way, in spite of every obstacle, to bring all things to a glad and prosperous end to us.
Second, we are admittedly able to secure for ourselves, entirely apart from His blessing, something of glory and riches, just as we often see great honors and wealth piled up by ungodly men. Yet whatever we obtain will turn to evil without His blessing, since those on whom God’s curse remains do not taste even the smallest amount of true happiness. We obviously shouldn’t desire what makes us more miserable.