by Abraham Kuyper
1 Corinthians 7:7:
7For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.
There is an evil abroad among the devout friends of the Lord which should be corrected.
This wrong consists in this, that in things spiritual one tries to impose a law of his own upon another.
They limit piety to one given form. In the way in which they practice piety everyone else must practice it. Small divergencies may be tolerated, but, in the main, one and the same sort of piety must show itself in all God's children. And then in the nature of the case, the piety which they practice is set up as the standard for all spiritual order and spiritual criticism.
That pride has a part here can not be doubted, yet pride, at least at first, is not the motive.
It rather proceeds like this. That one began with an earnest desire of soul to belong to the people of God, partly to assure oneself of his own salvation, but, very really as well, to be able to take a zealous part in the work of hallowing the Name of the Lord and in the advancement of His kingdom.
Both at home and elsewhere one had met certain persons who made a deeply devotional impression, and of whom it was said in general that they were esteemed as very godly people. Such persons were to be envied. Oh, if one could only be like them. And so he sought the company of these godly folk. He watched their ways. He took notice both of what they did and of what they avoided. And as he listened to their conversations, gradually an idea was formed of what one himself should be, in order with equal assurance to be introduced as one of God's dear children into His hidden walk.
Thus a given type of piety was set before the mind. After this fixed type one sought to reform his life in the world, his life with believers, and his life before God. And when finally he had reached this standard, he rejoiced as one who had won the prize; and when he was received by the "pious" as one of their own, he was supremely happy. From now on he pursued his way under the positive impression that every one else should come along exactly the selfsame way, should correspond entirely to the selfsame type, should go through the entirely selfsame experiences, yea, show in their very language and stereotyped phrases the very same thing, which as an ideal had long escaped the censor himself, and which now at length he had obtained.
Our fathers used to say that this is putting oneself in the place of the Word of God. The standard by which to test the genuineness of childship, as well as the genuineness of the gold of our godliness, should not be borrowed from ourselves, nor from any saint whatever, but exclusively from the Word of God.
These critics did not deny this; only they took pains to show you that God's Word makes the same demands and requires the same marks of true grace which they themselves advocated, and which with severity they applied among themselves.
But the one thing they forgot was the thing that gave rise to much harmful spiritual unnaturalness; they failed to see that as in everything else, so also in the spiritual life, the Word of God allows room for very great diversity, and that in this very diversity it seeks strength.
This does not mean that Scripture recognizes two kinds of children of God. Of course not. There is but one kind, and yet, among this one true kind Scripture recognizes an almost endless diversity, an always new variety, an ever surprising individuality, difference and alternation in every way; not only in the groups but also in the individual child of God.
It is in this as it is in the world of flowers. The rose among flowers is in a class by itself. No one will confuse a lily and a rose, or take a field violet for a rose. The rose, in order to be a rose, and to be a real rose must correspond to certain fixed marks, or else it is no rose. But, what endless diversity there is between the Belgian rose and the swamp rose, the tea-rose and the Alpine rose. What varieties again in each of these groups. What difference in growth, leaf, color and fragrance. Yea, does not every richly unfolded rose address us as a something by itself, with its own peculiar charm and beauty?
So it is in the whole creation of God. God calls every star in the firmament by its name, and in this name lies the expression of an individual nature. And on the earth every mountain line is different, different is every animal, even every insect, and different, likewise, every vegetable and every food that springs from the ground.
And in like sense, among the children of men every one is "after his kind," every race, every tribe, every nation, every family, and every person in the family is different. No mother is ever mistaken in her children.
And just so it is in the spiritual. "The Holy Spirit divideth to every man severally as He will" (1 Corinthians 12:11), or to express it yet more strongly with the Apostolic word: the one can be no standard for the other. Paul himself as Apostle refuses to be this. And he states with utmost emphasis: "Every man (i. e., each individual, head for head) hath his proper gift of God, the one after this manner and the other after that" (I Corinthians 7:7).
So it is, and so it must be, just because our spiritual life, if genuine, is not our work, but a work of God.
It is a difference as between writing and printing. What the printing-press throws off is in all the copies of the same work precisely alike; in the writing of each man's hand a particular character comes out. It is the difference between what nature, and what the factory, produces. A factory produces things after a fixed model, all alike; in nature, wherein God works, everything differs and everything exhibits something of its own.
If, now, the spiritual life of piety is pressed and forced violently into one and the selfsame form, then the work of man chokes the work of God; then one obtains spiritual unnaturalnesspainted flowers, not real flowers; then no virtue goes out from it, and this sort of imprinted piety does not bring one nearer to God, but rather puts up a wall of separation between God and our soul.
Then follows spiritual depression, dullness and morbidity, whereas God's children should glory in their liberty, and by reason of this free, glorious feeling of the breaking of bands, should rejoice with an angel-song in the heart.
The lark that flies upward to meet the sun with a song; not the snail that on the hard clay marks his slimy track, is the Image of the redeemed in Christ.
Only, confuse not here liberty with license. Every bird sings its own sort of song, but it received this sort from God. And so has God, Who created you, inlaid and in-created in the hidden parts of your being that individuality of yours from which must spring your character, your person and so likewise your own form of childship.
Everything in you hangs organically together. Your ancestry, the sensitiveness of your nerve life, the connection between your understanding and your imagination, the stringing of your heart, your disposition, the embroidery of your inclinations and sympathies, the range of your conscience, your susceptibility to emotions and sensations, your education, your environment your businessall this together puts a peculiar stamp upon your whole spiritual being.
The one is after this manner, and the other after that. And in connection herewith the Holy Spirit divides His spiritual gifts, without ever making a mistake, and not as you imagine it to yourself, or as some one else demands it of you, but as He wills.
Spiritual uniformity of a selfsame cut is thereby unimaginable. As God clothes the lilies of the field diversely, so He also weaves for each one of His children its own spiritual robe. The uniformity must be dropped, and this your own spiritual garment must unfold itself in the sight of God and of men.
As every precious stone has its own lustre, and the jasper can not become an emerald, so in your heart the diamond of your childship must sparkle with its own brightness.
Then only, the hidden walk with your God becomes free and spirited, and full of meaning. For so only can you appear before your God and Father in the form, clothed with the spiritual robe, and adorned with the spiritual ornaments, which your Father has presented to His child.
To be near unto God is not a going with the crowd, but an approach unto God in this unique, particular, personal and peculiar way, which God has appointed for you.
A mother knows each of her children by his own voice, even though she does not see him. So does your Father Which is in heaven know you by that particular child voice, which He Himself elicits from your soul.
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This devotional classic offers 110 meditations on a single thought from Psalm 73: "As for me, it is good to be near to God." The author states, "The fellowship of being near unto God must become reality ... it must permeate and give color to our feeling, our perceptions, our sensations, our thinking, our imagining, our willing, our acting, our speaking. It must not stand as a foreign factor in our life, but it must be the passion that breathes throughout our whole existence."
The meditations reflect the blending of spiritual vigor with doctrinal loyalty so consistently expressed in the life of Abraham Kuyper. These are devotions with true substance, avoiding the extremes about which Kuyper adds a word of caution: "Stress in creedal confession, without drinking from the Living Fountain, runs dry in barren orthodoxy, just as truly as spiritual emotion, without clearness in confessional standards, makes one sink in the bog of sickly mysticism."
Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) was a Dutch political leader and Calvinist theologian. Elected to parliament in 1874, he became Prime Minister in 1901 and served in that capacity until 1905. As a theologian, he revived a systematic, orthodox Calvinism. He founded the Free Reformed Church and the Free University of Amsterdam. His other works include Principles of Sacred Theology, Lectures on Calvinism, and The Work of the Holy Spirit