In John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life, Herman J. Selderhuis notes how Calvin took the term labyrinth from the humanistic tradition where it was used in a pejorative way against scholasticism, and re-cast it to refer to a type of thinking that kept a person from a true knowledge of God and self. In the reading assignment for January 20th, we discover Calvin referring to God’s countenance as an inextricable labyrinth such that a person cannot keep to the path without the thread of God’s word (1.6.3, emphasis added, Beveridge translation):
It being thus manifest that God, foreseeing the inefficiency of his image imprinted on the fair form of the universe, has given the assistance of his Word to all whom he has ever been pleased to instruct effectually, we, too, must pursue this straight path, if we aspire in earnest to a genuine contemplation of God – we must go, I say, to the Word, where the character of God, drawn from his works is described accurately and to the life; these works being estimated, not by our depraved judgement, but by the standard of eternal truth. If, as I lately said, we turn aside from it, how great soever the speed with which we move, we shall never reach the goal, because we are off the course. We should consider that the brightness of the Divine countenance, which even an apostle declares to be inaccessible (1Ti. 6:16), is a kind of labyrinth – a labyrinth to us inextricable, if the Word do not serve us as a thread to guide our path; and that it is better to limp in the way, than run with the greatest swiftness out of it. Hence the Psalmist, after repeatedly declaring (Psa. 93:1-5, Psa. 96:1-13, Psa. 97:1-12, Psa. 99:1-9, &c.) that superstition should be banished from the world in order that pure religion may flourish, introduces God as reigning; meaning by the term, not the power which he possesses and which he exerts in the government of universal nature, but the doctrine by which he maintains his due supremacy: because error never can be eradicated from the heart of man until the true knowledge of God has been implanted in it.
One of the main reasons I love to read the Puritans and Reformers is because of the light they shine on the Scriptures and the human heart (knowledge of God and of self), and thus become a means of beholding His face in a mirror more clearly, albeit dimly, in comparison to what is to come (1 Cor. 13:12; Psa. 27:8). And so on we go, by the grace of God!
Links to Reformation 21 blogs through the Institutes for upcoming daily readings: