free from unnaturalness and austerity

From “The Essence of Christianity” preached by Geerhardus Vos at Princeton Theological Seminary, 22 November 1903:

Circumstances arose in which Jesus demanded the giving away of all earthly goods, where he even warned against yielding to the claims of natural affection, where he refused permission to go and bury one’s father and advised abstention from marriage because the interests of the Kingdom of God could not be properly served without these renunciations. But here again he kept clearly in view the positive end to which all self-denial must be directed. The negative self-repression must be accompanied by a positive self-surrender to God and the concerns of his kingdom. Without the cultivation of the latter, the former would not only be useless but harmful. Our Lord himself is the great example in this respect. He not only perfectly glorified God in his use of the natural world, but also kept his detachment from the world free from every taint of unnaturalness and austerity by the positive joy and satisfaction he found in always serving the Father.

Vos touches on the fact that knowing goodness and true enjoyment is the only valid reason for any abstinence. Negation or avoidance is not in God’s original (or final) economy. This passage also opens the door to a great deal of monastic zeal and discipline in the Christian walk.

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