Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin.
Book 2: Of the knowledge of God the Redeemer, in Christ, as first manifested to the fathers, under the law, and thereafter to us under the gospel.
Chapter 1: “Through Fall of Adam, the Human Race Made Accursed”
Section 1: Mankind should strive to know more about itself, but not to focus on its own glory but to make a careful and reasoned assessment of its place in God’s economy and to realize more clearly its own failures in light of God’s unmeasurable perfection. It is only in light of this that we can clearly see God’s role (and our right response) in our salvation. That stated, mankind is a creation of God and that our lives are held by Him and at a determined length at His pleasure. Secondly, our status in God’s creation is less than that of any of His other creations as none of them sought to supplant his authority with their own. This knowledge should drive us to our knees and lead us to seek Him daily in humble service, cognizant of our consistent failure to achieve even the very barest of the requirements set out in the standard of His perfection.
Section 2: In examining ourselves we must refuse to place confidence in our own abilities. That is part of what led us to the fall. While it is much more enjoyable to focus on our “good qualities”, in relation to the glory of God, we must refuse to do so. Calvin states, “There is nothing that is more acceptable to the human mind than flattery” which is why it is more common to find people focusing on our agreeable attributes. When looking at ourselves in relation to God, however, we must look at the whole of mankind and see ourselves as we truly are. If we, after learning of our own greatness, then trust in ourselves for salvation we are denying the truth of ourselves (as seen in our entirety) and are accepting a lie that will lead to our own destruction.
Section 3: In our own self evaluation we determine that our knowledge of ourselves is complete and thus that our actions are all for the good of ourselves. When a problem (sin) is found in our lives, we tend to approach them with the idea that we can expel it by our own merit or effort and when we have fought with it enough we either conquer it or determine that our failure to conquer it is merely revealing that it was something that’s just “part of” us and never meant to be removed. God, however, wants us to remain focused on our lost perfection and to keep our failures in view. It is this focus that brings humility in that we realize that we cannot attain to God’s standard for perfection. We groan under the pains and pressure of God’s standard, knowing that we cannot reach the ring of salvation by our own effort or merit and therefore we are prodded on to destroy our confidence in ourselves and humbly trust in God alone for deliverance. While our fleshly self-evaluation foolishly leads us to believe we can sufficiently perform our duty before God, the God-focused self-evaluation reveals our inability to perform any just duty before Him.