Calvin is usually the boogey man for a lot of different theological arguments. One is Lordship Salvation (i.e. that Christians must display the fruit of salvation to have assurance of salvation). Usually differing theologians like to picture Calvin, or those agreeing with him, as espousing another form of legalism. Or, this doctrine as another way to “brow-beat” weak Christians. In contrast with these characterizations is reality. Calvin’s point was simply that once one has been redeemed he begins, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to move in the direction of glorification (sanctification). At times this process may seem extremely slow, but any progress is assuring. As he put it:
No one…has sufficient strength to press on with due eagerness, and weakness so weighs down the greater number that, with wavering and limping and even creeping along the ground, they move at a feeble rate… No one shall set out so inauspiciously as not daily to make some headway, though it be slight… Let us not despair at the slightness of our success; for even though attainment may not correspond to desire, when today outstrips yesterday the effort is not lost. Only let us look toward our mark with sincere simplicity and aspire to our goal…that we may surpass ourselves in goodness until we attain to goodness itself.
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), III:6, p. 689.