It was 11 January, 1546, that Calvin’s Order for the Visitation of the Ministers and Parishes dependent on Geneva appeared. It
… shows that at this time the reformer realized the need for drawing up a new draft for organizing a regular inspection of the country churches, in order to ensure the maintenance of good order and the supervision of ministers in the exercise of their functions, as well as of the congregations in the discharge of their religious duties. Calvin presented his draft to the meeting of the Council on January 25, 1546 when it was adopted. The Register of the Venerable Company reports the introduction of these visitations in these terms: “In the month of (? January) 1546, it was resolved by the brethren met in general assembly, that henceforth visitations be made of all the parishes of the Church of Geneva. It was also agreed by those present, and ordained, that two counsellors should also go with the ministers to visit the local lords, so that the minister on his side might make enquiry concerning the doctrine and life of the pastor of the place and the counsellors of the life of the squire.” This rule later found a place in the Ordinances of 1561.*
Can you imagine such a thing taking place today? Every mega-church would be closed down and Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll, and their ilk would be shown the outbound road of town and ordered never to return. And that’s why we call them ‘the good old days’.
Here are the five major purposes of the ‘inspection’:
First, in order to maintain proper uniformity of doctrine in the whole body of the Church of Geneva, that is to say in the city and also in the parishes dependent on the Seigneury, the Magistracy is to elect two of their Lordships of the Council and similarly the Ministers two of their Congregation, who will be charged with going once a year to visit each parish, to enquire whether the Ministry of the place have accepted any doctrine in any sense new and repugnant to the purity of the gospel.
Second, this Visitation is to enquire whether the Minister preaches edifyingly, or whether there be anything at all scandalous, or unfitting to the instruction of the people because it is obscure, or treats of superfluous questions, or exercises too great rigour, or some similar fault.
Third, to exhort the people to attendance at Service, to have a liking for it, and to find profit in it for Christian living; and to expound what is the office of the Ministry, in order that they understand how they ought to discharge it.
Fourth, to know whether the Minister is diligent not only in preaching but also in visiting the sick, and particularly in admonishing those that need it, and to prevent anything that might be for the dishonour of God.
Fifth, to discover whether he lead an honest life, and show a good example, or if he commit any dissoluteness or frivolity which renders him contemptible, or if he get on well with his people and likewise with all his family.
Yessir- the mega-churchers would be finished, and so would a lot of so called churches where everything but the Gospel is preached and ministers of all sorts of depraved cravings fleece the flock.
Oh for the really, really good old days…
*J.K.S. Reid, Calvin: Theological Treatises, p. 73.