Category Archives: Calvin
Collectif, Premier registre de la Compagnie des Pasteurs, Genève, 1546-1553. Détail d’une page avec la signature de Jean Calvin. © Eglise protestante de Genève. Exposé au MIR.
For more of these kinds of treasures visit the Museum of the Reformation in Geneva.
THE CONSENSUS TIGURINUS
WRITTEN BY CALVIN, 1549
FOR THE PURPOSE OF UNITING ALL BRANCHES OF THE REFORMED CHURCH IN A COMMON DOCTRINE AS TO THE LORD’S SUPPER
HEADS OF CONSENT
The whole Spiritual regimen of the Church leads us to Christ
I. Since Christ is the end of the Law, and the knowledge of Him comprehends in itself the entire sum of the Gospel, there is no doubt bat that the whole spiritual regimen of the Church is designed to lead us to Christ; as through Him alone we reach God, who is the ultimate end of a blessed (holy) life; and so whoever departs in the least from this truth will never speak rightly or fitly respecting any of the ordinances of God.
A true knowledge of the Sacraments from a knowledge of Christ
II. Moreover since the Sacraments are auxiliaries (appendices) of the Gospel, he certainly will discuss both aptly and usefully their nature, their power, their office and their fruit, who weaves his discourse from Christ; not merely touching the name of Christ incidentally, but truthfully holding forth the purpose for which He was given to us by the Father, and the benefits which He has conferred upon us.
Knowledge of Christ, what it involves
III. Accordingly it must be held, that Christ, being the eternal Son of God, of the same essence and glory with the Father, put on our flesh in order that, by right of adoption, He might communicate to us what by nature was solely His own, to wit, that we should be sons of God. This takes place when we, ingrafted through faith into the body of Christ, and this by the power of the Holy Spirit, are first justified by the gratuitous imputation of righteousness, and then regenerated into a new life, that, new-created in the image of the Heavenly Father, we may put off the old man.
Christ, Priest and King
IV. We must therefore regard Christ in His flesh as a Pries:, who has expiated our sins by His death, the only Sacrifice, blotted out all our iniquities by His obedience, procured for us a perfect righteousness, and now intercedes for us that we may have access to God; as an expiatory Sacrifice whereby God was reconciled to the world; as a Brother, who from wretched sons of Adam has made us blessed sons of God; as a Restorer (Reparator), who by the power of His Spirit transforms all that is corrupt (vitiosum) in us, that we may no longer live unto the world and the flesh, and God himself may live in us; as a King, who enriched us with every kind of good, governs and preserves us by His power, establishes us with spiritual arms, delivers us from every evil, and restrains and directs us by the sceptre of His month; and He is to be so regarded, that He may lift us up to Himself, very God, and to the Father, until that shall be fulfilled which is to be at last, that God be all in all.
How Christ communicates Himself to us.
V. Moreover in order that Christ may manifest Himself such a one to us and produce such effects in us, it behooves us to be made one with Him and grow together in His body. For He diffuses His life in us is no other way than by being our Head; “from whom the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body” (Eph. 4:16).
Communion spiritual. Sacraments instituted.
VI. This communion which we have with the Son of God, is spiritual; so that He, dwelling in us by His Spirit, makes all of us who believe partakers of all the good that resides in Him. To bear witness of this, both the preaching of the Gospel and the use of the Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Holy Supper were instituted.
The Ends of the Sacraments
VII. The Sacraments, however, have also these ends:—to be marks and tokens of Christian profession and (Christian) association, or brotherhood; to incite gratitude (thanksgiving), and to be exercises of faith and a pious life, in short, bonds (sealed contracts) making these things obligatory. But among other ends this one is chief, that by these Sacraments God attests, presents anew, and seals to us His grace. For while they indeed signify nothing more than is declared in the word itself, yet it is no small matter that they are presented to our eyes as lively symbols which better affect our feeling, leading us to the reality (in rem), while they recall to memory Christ’s death and all the benefits thereof, in order that faith may have more vigorous exercise; and finally, it is of no little moment that what was proclaimed to us by the month of God, is confirmed and sanctioned by seals.
VIII. Moreover, since the testimonials and seals of His grace, which the Lord has given us, are verities, surely He himself will beyond all doubt make good to us inwardly, by His Spirit, what the Sacraments symbolize to our eyes and other senses, viz., possession of Christ as the ountain of all blessings, then reconciliation to God by virtue of His death, restoration by the Spirit unto holiness of life, and finally attainment of righteousness and salvation; accompanied with thanksgiving for hese mercies, which were formerly displayed on the cross, and through aith are daily received by us.
The signs and the things signified are not separated, but distinct
IX. Wherefore, though we rightly make a distinction between the signs and the things signified, yet we do not separate the verity from the signs; but we believe, that all who by faith embrace the promises therein offered, do spiritually receive Christ and His spiritual gifts, and so also they who have before been made partakers of Christ, do continue and renew their communion.
In the Sacraments the promise is chiefly to be kept in view
X. For not to the bare signs, but rather to the promise which is annexed to them, it becomes us to look. As far then as our faith advances in the promise offered in the Sacraments, so for will this power and efficacy of which we speak exert itself. Accordingly the matter materia) of the water, bread or wine, by no means present Christ to us, nor makes us partakers of His spiritual gifts; but we must look rather to the promise, whose office it is to lead us to Christ by the right way of faith, and this faith makes us partakers of Christ.
The Elements are not to be superstitiously worshipped
XI. Hence the error of those who superstitiously worship (obstupescunt) the elements, and rest therein the assurance of their salvation, falls to the ground. For the Sacraments apart from Christ are nothing but empty masks; and they themselves dearly declare to all this truth, that we must cling to nothing else but Christ alone, and in nothing else must the free gift of salvation be sought.
The Sacraments (per se) have no efficacy
XII. Furthermore, if any benefit is conferred upon us by the Sacraments, this does not proceed from any virtue of their own, even though the promise whereby they are distinguished be included. For it is God alone who works by His Spirit. And in using the instrumentality of the Sacraments, He thereby neither infuses into them His own power, nor abates in the least the efficiency of His Spirit; but in accordance with the capacity of our ignorance (ruditas) He uses them as instruments in such a way that the whole efficiency (facultas agendi) remains solely with Himself.
God uses the instrument but in such a way that all the power (virtus) is His
XIII. Therefore, as Paul advises us that “neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase” 1 Cor. 3:7); so also it may be said of the Sacraments, that they are nothing, for they will be of no avail except God work the whole to completion (in solidum omnia efficiat). They are indeed instruments with which God works efficiently, when it pleases Him, but in such a manner that the whole work of our salvation must be credited solely to Him.XIV. We have therefore decided that it is solely Christ who verily baptizes us within, who makes us partakers of Him in the Supper, who, in fine, fulfils what the Sacraments symbolize, and so uses indeed, then instruments, that the whole efficiency resides in His Spirit.
How the Sacraments confirm
XV. So the Sacraments are sometimes called seals, are said to nourish, confirm, and promote faith; and yet the Spirit alone is properly the seal, and the same Spirit is the originator and perfecter of our faith. For all these attributes of the Sacraments occupy a subordinate place, so that not even the least portion of the work of our salvation is transferred from its sole author to either the creature or the elements.
Not all who participate in the Sacraments partake also of the verily
XVI. Moreover, we sedulously teach that God does not exert His power promiscuously in all who receive the Sacraments, but only in the elect. For just as he enlightens unto faith none but those whom He has foreordained unto life, so by the hidden power of His spirit. He causes only the elect to receive what the Sacraments offer.
The Sacraments do not confer grace
XVII. This doctrine refutes that invention of sophists which teaches that the Sacraments of the New Covenant confer grace on all who do not interpose the impediment of a mortal sin. For besides the truth that nothing is received in the Sacraments except by faith, it is also to be held that God’s grace is not in the least so linked to the Sacraments themselves that whoever has the sign possesses also the reality (res); for the signs are administered to the reprobate as well as to the elect, but the verity of the signs comes only to the latter.
God’s gifts are offered to all; believers alone receive them
XVIII. It is indeed certain that Christ and His gifts (dona) are offered to all alike, and that the verity of God is not so impaired by the unbelief of men that the Sacraments do not always retain their proper virtue (viz); but all persons are not capable of receiving Christ and His gifts (dona). Therefore on God’s part there is no variableness, but on the part of men each one receives according to the measure of his faith.
Believers have communion with Christ, before and without the use of the Sacraments
XIX. Moreover, as the use of the Sacraments confers on unbelievers nothing more than if they had abstained therefrom, indeed, is only pernicious to them; so without their use the verity which they symbolise endures to those who believe. Thus in Baptism were washed away Paul’s sins, which had already been washed away before. Thus also Baptism was to Cornelius the washing of regeneration, and yet he had already received the gift of the Holy Spirit. So in the Supper Christ communicates himself to us, and yet He imparted himself to us before, and abides continually in us forever. For since each one is commanded to examine himself, it hence follows that faith is required of each before he comes to the Sacraments. And yet there is no faith without Christ; but in so far as in the Sacraments faith is confirmed and grows, God’s gifts are confirmed in us, and so in a measure Christ grows in us and we in Him.
Grace is not so joined to the act of the Sacraments, that their fruit is received immediately after the act
XX. The benefit also which we derive from the Sacraments should by no means be restricted to the time in which they are administered to us; just as if the visible sign when brought forward into view, did at the same moment with itself bring God’s grace. For those who are baptized in early infancy, God regenerates in boyhood, in budding youth, and sometimes even in old age. So the benefit of Baptism lies open to the whole course of life; for the promise which it contains is perpetually valid. It may, also, sometimes happen, that a partaking of the Supper, which in the act itself brought us little good because of our inconsiderateness or dullness, afterward brings forth its fruit.
Local imagination should be suppressed
XXI. Especially should every conception of local (bodily) presence be suppressed. For while the signs are here in the world seen by the eyes, and felt by the hands, Christ, in so far as He is man, we must contemplate as in no other place but heaven, and seek Him in no other way than with the mind and faith’s understanding. Wherefore it is a preposterous and impious superstition to enclose Him under elements of this world.
Exposition of the words of the Lord’s Supper, “This is my body.”
XXII. We therefore repudiate as absurd interpreters, those who urge the precise literal sense, as they say, of the customary words in the Supper, “This is my body,” “This is my blood.” For we place it beyond all controversy that these words are to be understood figuratively, so that the bread and the wine are said to be that which they signify. And verily it ought not to seem novel or unusual that the name of the thing signified be transferred by metonomy to the sign, for expressions of this land are scattered throughout the Scriptures; and saying this we assert nothing that does not plainly appear in all the oldest and most approved writers of the Church.
Concerning the eating of the body of Christ
XXIII. Moreover, that Christ, through faith by the power of His Holy Spirit, feeds our souls with the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood, is not to be understood as if any commingling or transfusion of substance occurred, but as meaning that from flesh once offered in sacrifice and blood once poured out in expiation we derive life.
Against Transubstantiation and other silly conceits
XXIV. In this way not only is the invention of Papists about transubstantiation refuted, but also all the gross fictions and futile subtleties which are either derogatory to His divine glory or inconsistent with the verity of His human nature. For we consider it no less absurd to locate Christ under the bread, or conjoin Him with the bread, than to transubstantiate the bread into His body.
Christ’s body is in heaven as in a place
XXV. But in order that no ambiguity may remain, when we say that Christ should be contemplated as in heaven, the phrase implies and expresses a difference of place (a distance between places). For though, philosophically speaking, “above the heavens” is not a locality, yet because the body of Christ—as the nature and the limitation of the human body show—is finite, and is contained in heaven as in a place, it is therefore necessarily separated from us by as great an interval as lies between heaven and earth.
Christ is not to be worshipped in the bread
XXVI. But if it is not right for us in imagination to affix Christ to the bread and wine, much less is it lawful to worship Him in the bread. For though the bread is presented to us as a symbol and pledge of our communion with Christ, yet because it is the sign, not the reality, neither has the reality enclosed in it or affixed to it, they therefore who bend their minds upon it to worship Christ, make it an idol.
All theology, when separated from Christ, is not only vain and confused, but is also mad, deceitful, and spurious; for, though the philosophers sometimes utter excellent sayings, yet they have nothing but what is short-lived, and even mixed up with wicked and erroneous sentiments. — John Calvin
“The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned,” (1 Cor. 2:14). Whom does he mean by the “natural man”? The man who trusts to the light of nature. Such a man has no understanding in the spiritual mysteries of God. Why so? Is it because through sloth he neglects them? Nay, though he exert himself, it is of no avail; they are “spiritually discerned.” And what does this mean? That altogether hidden from human discernment, they are made known only by the revelation of the Spirit; so that they are accounted foolishness wherever the Spirit does not give light. — John Calvin
Once the Queen of Navarre attempted to gag Calvin, but he wrote a letter telling her that “a dog barks and stands at bay if he sees any one assault his master. I should be indeed remiss if, seeing the truth of God thus attacked, I should remain dumb, without giving one note of warning.”*
*Henry Henderson, Calvin in His Letters (London: J. M. Dent & Company, 1909), 66.
Let it therefore be held as fixed, that those who are inwardly taught by the Holy Spirit acquiesce implicitly in Scripture; that Scripture, carrying its own evidence along with it, deigns not to submit to proofs and arguments, but owes the full conviction with which we ought to receive it to the testimony of the Spirit. Enlightened by him, we no longer believe, either on our own judgment or that of others, that the Scriptures are from God; but, in a way superior to human Judgment, feel perfectly assured—as much so as if we beheld the divine image visibly impressed on it—that it came to us, by the instrumentality of men, from the very mouth of God. We ask not for proofs or probabilities on which to rest our Judgment, but we subject our intellect and judgment to it as too transcendent for us to estimate.
This, however, we do, not in the manner in which some are wont to fasten on an unknown object, which, as soon as known, displeases, but because we have a thorough conviction that, in holding it, we hold unassailable truth; not like miserable men, whose minds are enslaved by superstition, but because we feel a divine energy living and breathing in it—an energy by which we are drawn and animated to obey it, willingly indeed, and knowingly, but more vividly and effectually than could be done by human will or knowledge. Hence, God most justly exclaims by the mouth of Isaiah, “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen, that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he,” (Isa. 43:10).
Such, then, is a conviction which asks not for reasons; such, a knowledge which accords with the highest reason, namely knowledge in which the mind rests more firmly and securely than in any reasons; such in fine, the conviction which revelation from heaven alone can produce. I say nothing more than every believer experiences in himself, though my words fall far short of the reality. I do not dwell on this subject at present, because we will return to it again: only let us now understand that the only true faith is that which the Spirit of God seals on our hearts. Nay, the modest and teachable reader will find a sufficient reason in the promise contained in Isaiah, that all the children of the renovated Church “shall be taught of the Lord,” (Isaiah 54:13).
This singular privilege God bestows on his elect only, whom he separates from the rest of mankind. For what is the beginning of true doctrine but prompt alacrity to hear the Word of God? And God, by the mouth of Moses, thus demands to be heard: “It is not in heavens that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart,” (Deut. 30:12, 14). God having been pleased to reserve the treasure of intelligence for his children, no wonder that so much ignorance and stupidity is seen in the generality of mankind.
In the generality, I include even those specially chosen, until they are ingrafted into the body of the Church. Isaiah, moreover, while reminding us that the prophetical doctrine would prove incredible not only to strangers, but also to the Jews, who were desirous to be thought of the household of God, subjoins the reason, when he asks, “To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1). If at any time, then we are troubled at the small number of those who believe, let us, on the other hand, call to mind, that none comprehend the mysteries of God save those to whom it is given. Inst I,vii,5
Via our friends in Zurich, at the ‘Reformation Reloaded’ exhibition.
Calvin’s married life, though happy in mutual companionship, was one of sorrow through the trials incident to human experience. His only child, Jacques, born July 28, 1542, lived but a few days; and his wife’s health was always feeble after the birth of their son. On March 29, 1549, she, too, was taken from him. In spite of the severe repression of Calvin’s references to his affliction,—a fortitude of mind worthy of admiration in the judgment of his intimate friends at the time,—it would be an injustice to regard his sense of bereavement as other than profound and lasting. His marriage, though having little of romance in its beginnings, had in it much of the satisfaction that comes from mutual trust, and of loving absorption, at least on the part of the wife, in the other’s interests and work.*
Who was this little known woman? The best description is that found in Smyth’s excellent volume –
There was in Strasburg a pious lady named Idelette de Bure. She was a widow, and all her time was spent in training the children she had had by her first husband, John Storder, of the Anabaptist sect. She was born in a small town of Guelders, in Holland. She came to the capital of Alsace as a place of refuge for victims of persecution. The learned Dr. Bucer knew Idelette de Bure, and it was he apparently who recommended her to Calvin’s attention.
Externally, there was in this woman nothing very attractive. She was encumbered with several children of a first marriage; she had no fortune; she was dressed in mourning; her person was not particularly handsome. But for Calvin, she possessed the best of treasures, a living and tried faith, an upright conscience, and lovely as well as strong virtues. As he afterwards said of her, she would have had the courage to bear with him exile, poverty, death itself, in attestation of the truth. Such were the noble qualities which won the Reformer.
The nuptial ceremony was performed in September, 1540. Calvin was then thirty-one years old and two months. He was not constrained by juvenile passion, but obeyed the voice of nature, reason and duty. The papists who constantly reproach the Reformers are mistaken. Luther and Calvin, both of them, married at mature age: they did what they ought to do and nothing more.
No pomp in Calvin’s marriage, no ill-timed rejoicings. All was calm and grave, as suited the piety and gravity of the married pair. The consistories of Neufchatel and of Valengin, in Switzerland, sent deputies to Strasburg to attend this marriage; a striking mark of their attachment and respect for Calvin.**
She was, by all accounts, the perfect wife for Calvin. Sadly, their marriage lasted very little time at all due to her untimely death. Still, she’s a person with whom you ought to become acquainted. Smyth’s volume already cited contains an entire lengthy appendix which is devoted completely to her biography.
*W. Walker, John Calvin: The Organiser of Reformed Protestantism (p. 237).
**T. Smyth, Calvin and his enemies: A memoir of the life, character, and principles of Calvin. (pp. 170–172).
During the ravages of the pestilence in 1545 more than twenty men and women were burnt alive for witchcraft, and a wicked conspiracy to spread the horrible disease.
Calvin himself states this fact in a letter to Myconius of Basel, March 27, 1545 (Opera, XII. 55; Bonnet, I. 428), where he says: “A conspiracy of men and women has lately been discovered, who, for the space of three years, had spread the plague through the city by what mischievous device I know not. After fifteen women have been burnt, some men have even been punished more severely, some have committed suicide in prison, and while twenty-five are still kept prisoners,—the conspirators do not cease, notwithstanding, to smear the door-locks of the dwelling-houses with their poisonous ointment. You see in the midst of what perils we are tossed about. The Lord hath hitherto preserved our dwelling, though it has more than once been attempted. It is well that we know ourselves to be under His care.”
Geneva needed rule by an iron fist. What the citizens of that moral cesspool would have done without Calvin’s presence no one can even guess.
God arms the devil, as well as all the wicked, for conflict, and sits as umpire, that he may exercise our patience. But if the disasters and miseries which press us happen without the agency of men, let us call to mind the doctrine of the Law (Deut. 28:1), that all prosperity has its source in the blessing of God, that all adversity is his curse. And let us tremble at the dreadful denunciation, “And if ye will not be reformed by these things, but will walk contrary unto me; then will I also walk contrary unto you,” (Lev. 26:23, 24). These words condemn our torpor, when, according to our carnal sense, deeming that whatever happens in any way is fortuitous, we are neither animated by the kindness of God to worship him, nor by his scourge stimulated to repentance. And it is for this reason that Jeremiah (Lament. 3:38), and Amos (Amos 3:6), expostulated bitterly with the Jews, for not believing that good as well as evil was produced by the command of God. To the same effect are the words in Isaiah, “I form the light and create darkness: I make peace and create evil. I the Lord do all these things,” (Is. 45:7). Institutes 1.17.8
1. As to those who are caught in fornication, if it be an unmarried man with an unmarried woman, they are to be imprisoned for six days on bread and water, and pay sixty sous amends.
2. If it be adultery, one or the other being married, they are to be imprisoned for nine days on bread and water, and pay amends at the discretion of their Lordships, as the crime is much more grave.
3. Those who are promised in marriage are not to cohabit as man and wife until the marriage be celebrated in church, otherwise they will be punished as for fornication. — Church Ordinance, 1547.
Man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he have previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself. For (such is our innate pride) we always seem to ourselves just, and upright, and wise, and holy, until we are convinced, by clear evidence, of our injustice, vileness, folly, and impurity. Convinced, however, we are not, if we look to ourselves only, and not to the Lord also—He being the only standard by the application of which this conviction can be produced. — John Calvin
In a letter to Farel, Calvin remarks
“The King is only half wise. He prohibits, under severe penalties, besides depriving them of the ministry, the priests and bishops who enter upon matrimony; he retains the daily masses; he wishes the seven sacraments to remain as they are. In this way he has a mutilated and torn gospel, and a church stuffed full as yet with many toys and trifles. Then he does not suffer the Scripture to circulate in the language of the common people throughout the kingdom, and he has lately put forth a new verdict by which he warns the people against the reading of the Bible. He lately burned a worthy and learned man [John Lambert] for denying the carnal presence of Christ in the bread. Our friends, however, though sorely hurt by atrocities of this kind, will not cease to have an eye to the condition of his kingdom.”
On 14 March, 1542, Calvin wrote to Myconius
“I value the public peace and concord so highly, that I lay restraint upon myself; and this praise even the adversaries are compelled to award to me. This feeling prevails to such an extent, that, from day to day, those who were once open enemies have become friends; others I conciliate by courtesy, and I feel that I have been in some measure successful, although not everywhere and on all occasions.
“On my arrival it was in my power to have disconcerted our enemies most triumphantly, entering with full sail among the whole of that tribe who had done the mischief. I have abstained; if I had liked, I could daily, not merely with impunity, but with the approval of very many, have used sharp reproof. I forbear; even with the most scrupulous care do I avoid everything of the kind, lest even by some slight word I should appear to persecute any individual, much less all of them at once. May the Lord confirm me in this disposition of mind.”
Things didn’t stay friendly. Do they ever?
Or, in more modern terms- God doesn’t answer your prayers right off because your spiritual life is undeveloped and you sin so much that he just isn’t in any rush to give you a hand.
And, frankly, why should he?
Or at least you couldn’t in 1559…
We learn from the state-register of March 13, 1559, that romance-reading was altogether prohibited in Geneva. It is said:—“Inasmuch as many persons are in the habit of reading Amadis de Gaule, which contains much that is licentious and wicked, let them be gravely admonished, and let the said book be abolished and destroyed.” Shortly after Calvin’s time, Henry Stephens was excommunicated and imprisoned, because he had written a dissolute book. In conclusion, we refer to a little work entitled ‘The Life of the Christian, and a View of Eternal Life,’ as affording a further proof of Calvin’s spiritual feelings, and care for souls. – Paul Henry
Indeed, those romance novels are nasty. And gross. Some books need to be banned. Not Brunner’s or Bultmann’s by any means, but we can all agree that NT Wright’s definitely need to be.
It daily happens that those who seemed to belong to Christ revolt from him and fall away: Nay, in the very passage where he declares that none of those whom the Father has given to him have perished, he excepts the son of perdition. This, indeed, is true; but it is equally true that such persons never adhered to Christ with that heartfelt confidence by which I say that the certainty of our election is established: “They went out from us,” says John, “but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would, no doubt, have continued with us,” (1 John 2:19). I deny not that they have signs of calling similar to those given to the elect; but I do not at all admit that they have that sure confirmation of election which I desire believers to seek from the word of the gospel. — John Calvin
- Zwingli suffered from ulcers, and died of a halberd in the face.
- Luther suffered from gall stones, and died of liver disease.
- Calvin suffered from a plethora of illnesses, and died after a very long illness.
What’s this mean? That being a Reformer ruins your body. Don’t be a Reformer.