50 “Catholic” Views of Protestant Leader John Calvin

50 “Catholic” Views of Protestant Leader John Calvin October 7, 2015

. . . Where His Views Are Harmonious With Catholic Teaching


[public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

All sources with Roman numerals (example: IV, 4:20) are from The Institutes of the Christian Religion (translated by Henry Beveridge for the Calvin Translation Society in 1845, from the 1559 edition in Latin; reprinted by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1995): available online.

Note: I don’t intend to imply that Calvin agrees with Catholics in every jot and tittle of all the following categories. What is agreed-upon is what is actually stated in these particular comments, which may be just a part of a doctrine or practice, not all of it. Two parties can agree, for example, on the basic fundamentals of a question, and then go on to differ on more minute particulars that each feels are a logical extension of the premises.

That said, the areas of agreement are voluminous and extraordinary, and my hope is that this compendium will give both Catholics and Calvinists a feel for how close we really are in many respects, despite our many honest, serious differences.

All the citations below were included in the extensive, 66-page compilation at the end of my book, Biblical Catholic Answers for John Calvin. That section thus accounts for about 18% of the 388 pages (minus the introductory sections).

See also the “nutshell” version: Top 15 “Catholic” Beliefs of John Calvin.

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1. The Church as “Mother”

[T]o those to whom he is a Father, the Church must also be a mother. (IV, 1:1)

[L]et us learn, from her single title of Mother, how useful, nay, how necessary the knowledge of her is, . . . (IV, 1:4)

2. No Salvation Outside of the Church

[B]eyond the pale of the Church no forgiveness of sins, no salvation, can be hoped for, . . . the abandonment of the Church is always fatal. (IV, 1:4)

[N]one obtain forgiveness but those who are citizens, and of the household of the Church, (IV, 1:20)

3. The Church as Guardian of True Doctrine and Truth

[T]o prevent the truth from perishing in the world, the Church is its faithful guardian, because God has been pleased to preserve the pure preaching of his word by her instrumentality . . . (IV, 1:10)

I always hold that the truth does not perish in the Church . . . (IV, 9:13)

4. Authority of Church Councils

We readily admit, that when any doctrine is brought under discussion, there is not a better or surer remedy than for a council of true bishops to meet and discuss the controverted point. There will be much more weight in a decision of this kind, to which the pastors of churches have agreed in common after invoking the Spirit of Christ, than if each, adopting it for himself, should deliver it to his people, or a few individuals should meet in private and decide. (IV, 9:13)

5. The Church Can Impose Penances

[P]astors, according to the necessity of the times, exhort the people . . . to other exercises of humiliation, repentance, and faith, the time, mode, and form of these not being prescribed by the Word of God, but left to the judgment of the Church. (IV, 12:14)

There were, moreover, solemn rites, which, as indications of repentance, were wont to be prescribed to those who had lapsed. (IV, 12:6)

6. De Facto “Indulgences” (Relaxation of Temporal Penalties)

For they have the word of God by which they condemn the perverse: they have the word by which they take back the penitent into favour. (IV, 11:2)

This was the method observed by the ancient and purer Church, . . . When the penitent had thus made satisfaction to the Church, he was received into favour by the laying on of hands. (IV, 12:6)

7. The Church Has the Power of Excommunication

. . . the discipline of excommunication which has been committed to the Church. Now, the Church binds him whom she excommunicates, not by plunging him into eternal ruin and despair, but condemning his life and manners, and admonishing him, that, unless he repent, he is condemned. (IV, 11:2)

[H]e is then, as a despiser of the Church, to be debarred from the society of believers. (IV, 12:2)

8. Excommunication is Not Damnation

. . . the Church, which does not consign those who are excommunicated to perpetual ruin and damnation, but assures them, when they hear their life and manners condemned, that perpetual damnation will follow if they do not repent. Excommunication . . . rebukes and animadverts upon his manners; and although it also punishes, it is to bring him to salvation, by forewarning him of his future doom. (IV, 12:10)

9. Authority of the Clergy

Wherefore, let us not on our part decline obediently to embrace the doctrine of salvation, delivered by his command and mouth; because, although the power of God is not confined to external means, he has, however, confined us to his ordinary method of teaching, which method, when fanatics refuse to observe, they entangle themselves in many fatal snares. . . . (IV, 1:5)

Whoever, therefore, studies to abolish this order and kind of government of which we speak, or disparages it as of minor importance, plots the devastation, or rather the ruin and destruction, of the Church. For neither are the light and heat of the sun, nor meat and drink, so necessary to sustain and cherish the present life, as is the apostolical and pastoral office to preserve a Church in the earth. (IV, 3:2)

10. Pastors Are Called and in Some Sense “Ordained”

It remains to consider the form of ordination, to which we have assigned the last place in the call . . . It is certain, that when the apostles appointed any one to the ministry, they used no other ceremony than the laying on of hands. . . . by such a symbol the dignity of the ministry should be commended to the people, and he who is ordained, reminded that he is no longer his own, but is bound in service to God and the Church. (IV, 3:16)

I speak of those which were instituted for the use of the whole Church. For the laying on of hands, by which the ministers of the Church are initiated into their office, though I have no objection to its being called a sacrament, I do not number among ordinary sacraments. (IV, 14:20)

Christ ordered dispensers of his gospel and his sacred mysteries to be ordained, . . . (IV, 19:28)

There remains the laying on of hands, . . . I admit it to be a sacrament in true and legitimate ordination, . . . (IV, 19:31)

11. Pastors Are in Some Sense Successors of the Apostles

[A]ll ecclesiastical officers may be properly called apostles, because they are all sent by the Lord and are his messengers . . . pastors (except that each has the government of a particular church assigned to him) have the same function as apostles. (IV, 3:5)

Such is the sacred, inviolable, and perpetual law, enjoined on those who succeed to the place of the apostles,—they receive a commission to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments. Whence we infer that those who neglect both of these falsely pretend to the office of apostles. . . . In short, what the apostles did to the whole world, every pastor should do to the flock over which he is appointed. (IV, 3:6)

12. The Primacy of Peter Among the Disciples

One was chief among the apostles, . . . That twelve had one among them to direct all is nothing strange. Nature admits, the human mind requires, that in every meeting, though all are equal in power, there should be one as a kind of moderator to whom the others should look up. There is no senate without a consul, no bench of judges without a president or chancellor, no college without a provost, no company without a master. Thus there would be no absurdity were we to confess that the apostles had conferred such a primacy on Peter. (IV, 6:8)

13. Apostolic Deposit: Nothing Essential Can Ever Be Added to It

We conclude, therefore, that it does not now belong to faithful ministers to coin some new doctrine, but simply to adhere to the doctrine to which all, without exception, are made subject. When I say this, I mean to show not only what each individual, but what the whole Church, is bound to do. (IV, 8:9)

Having proved that no power was given to the Church to set up any new doctrine, . . . (IV, 9:13)

14. Sacred, Passed-Down Tradition in Some Sense

But if this guardianship consists in the ministry of the Prophets and Apostles, it follows, that the whole depends upon this—viz. that the word of the Lord is faithfully preserved and maintained in purity. (IV, 8:12)

15. Development of Doctrine

[T]hese are fulfilments of the Law, rather than additions or diminutions. Now, if the Lord does not permit anything to be added to, or taken from the ministry of Moses, though wrapt up, if I may so speak, in many folds of obscurity, until he furnish a clearer doctrine by his servants the Prophets, and at last by his beloved Son, why should we not suppose that we are much more strictly prohibited from making any addition to the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms, and the Gospel? (IV, 10:17)

16. Holy and Sacred Places

It was inconsiderate in Xerxes when, by the advice of the magians, he burnt or pulled down all the temples of Greece, because he thought it absurd that God, to whom all things ought to be free and open, should be enclosed by walls and roofs, as if it were not in the power of God in a manner to descend to us, that he may be near to us, and yet neither change his place nor affect us by earthly means, but rather, by a kind of vehicles, raise us aloft to his own heavenly glory, which, with its immensity, fills all things, and in height is above the heavens. (IV, 1:5)

17. Sinners in the Visible Church

Thinking there is no church where there is not complete purity and integrity of conduct, they, through hatred of wickedness, withdraw from a genuine church, while they think they are shunning the company of the ungodly. They allege that the Church of God is holy. But that they may at the same time understand that it contains a mixture of good and bad, let them hear from the lips of our Saviour that parable in which he compares the Church to a net in which all kinds of fishes are taken, but not separated until they are brought ashore. Let them hear it compared to a field which, planted with good seed, is by the fraud of an enemy mingled with tares, and is not freed of them until the harvest is brought into the barn. . . . If the Lord declares that the Church will labour under the defect of being burdened with a multitude of wicked until the day of judgment, it is in vain to look for a church altogether free from blemish (Mt. 13). (IV, 1:13)

[F]or we have shown, first, that wherever it exists entire and unimpaired, no errors of conduct, no defects should prevent us from giving the name of Church; . . . (IV, 2:1)

18. Denominations and Schism Ruled Out

Hence the Church is called Catholic or Universal (August. Ep. 48), for two or three cannot be invented without dividing Christ; and this is impossible. All the elect of God are so joined together in Christ, that as they depend on one head, so they are as it were compacted into one body, . . . (IV, 1:2)

The more detestable are the apostates who delight in producing schisms in churches, just as if they wished to drive the sheep from the fold, and throw them into the jaws of wolves. (IV, 1:5)

No crime can be imagined more atrocious than that of sacrilegiously and perfidiously violating the sacred marriage which the only begotten Son of God has condescended to contract with us. (IV, 1:10)

But if the holy prophets felt no obligation to withdraw from the Church on account of the very numerous and heinous crimes, not of one or two individuals, but almost of the whole people, we arrogate too much to ourselves, if we presume forthwith to withdraw from the communion of the Church, because the lives of all accord not with our judgment, or even with the Christian profession. (IV, 1:18)

19. Roman Primacy in Some Sense in the Early Church

I deny not that the early Christians uniformly give high honour to the Roman Church, and speak of it with reverence. . . . pious and holy bishops, when driven from their sees, often betook themselves to Rome as an asylum or haven. . . . It therefore added very great authority to the Roman Church, that in those dubious times it was not so much unsettled as others, and adhered more firmly to the doctrine once delivered, as shall immediately be better explained. . . . she was held in no ordinary estimation, and received many distinguished testimonies from ancient writers. (IV, 6:16)

20. Semblance of Remaining Christianity in Catholicism

Therefore, while we are unwilling simply to concede the name of Church to the Papists, we do not deny that there are churches among them. . . . In one word, I call them churches, inasmuch as the Lord there wondrously preserves some remains of his people, though miserably torn and scattered, and inasmuch as some symbols of the Church still remain—symbols especially whose efficacy neither the craft of the devil nor human depravity can destroy. (IV, 2:12)

21. Good Works as the Necessary Proof of True Saving Faith

[R]epentance being properly understood it will better appear how a man is justified freely by faith alone, and yet that holiness of life, real holiness, as it is called, is inseparable from the free imputation of righteousness. That repentance not only always follows faith, but is produced by it, ought to be without controversy . . . For since pardon and forgiveness are offered by the preaching of the Gospel, in order that the sinner, delivered from the tyranny of Satan, the yoke of sin, and the miserable bondage of iniquity, may pass into the kingdom of God, it is certain that no man can embrace the grace of the Gospel without retaking himself from the errors of his former life into the right path, and making it his whole study to practice repentance. (III, 3:1)

. . . the gift of good works, which shows that we have received the Spirit of adoption. (III, 14:18)

Our last sentence may refute the impudent calumny of certain ungodly men, who charge us, first, with destroying good works . . . The allegation is that justification by faith destroys good works. . . . that when faith is so highly extolled, works are deprived of their proper place. But what if they are rather ennobled and established? We dream not of a faith which is devoid of good works, nor of a justification which can exist without them: . . . This faith, however, you cannot apprehend without at the same time apprehending sanctification; . . . whom he justifies he sanctifies. But as the question relates only to justification and sanctification, to them let us confine ourselves. Though we distinguish between them, they are both inseparably comprehended in Christ. . . . you cannot possess him without being made a partaker of his sanctification: for Christ cannot be divided. . . . he bestows both at once but never the one without the other. Thus it appears how true it is that we are justified not without, and yet not by works, since in the participation of Christ, by which we are justified, is contained not less sanctification than justification. (III, 16:1)

22. Progressive Sanctification

This renewal, indeed, is not accomplished in a moment, a day, or a year, but by uninterrupted, sometimes even by slow progress God abolishes the remains of carnal corruption in his elect, cleanses them from pollution, and consecrates them as his temples, restoring all their inclinations to real purity, so that during their whole lives they may practice repentance, . . . (III, 3:9)

I admit that we are not to labour feebly or coldly in urging perfection, far less to desist from urging it; but I hold that it is a device of the devil to fill our minds with a confident belief of it while we are still in our course. (IV, 1:20)

Nor must we hence assume a licence of sinning for the future (there is certainly nothing in it to countenance such audacity), . . . Those who, from hopes of impunity, seek a licence for sin, only provoke the wrath and justice of God. (IV, 15:3)

He had discoursed of free justification, but as some wicked men thence inferred that they were to live as they listed, because their acceptance with God was not procured by the merit of works, he adds, that all who are clothed with the righteousness of Christ are at the same time regenerated by the Spirit, and that we have an earnest of this regeneration in baptism. Hence he exhorts believers not to allow sin to reign in their members. (IV, 15:12)

23. Only God Absolutely Knows Who is Among the Elect

[W]e are not enjoined here to distinguish between the elect and the reprobate (this belongs not to us, but to God only), . . . (IV, 1:3)

Such as have, therefore, been expelled from the Church, it belongs not to us to expunge from the number of the elect, or to despair of, as if they were already lost. (IV, 12:9)

24. Cooperation With God’s Grace (Synergism) and Merit

Some, with equal unskilfulness, wrest the saying of Paul, “We are labourers together with God,” (1 Cor. 3:9). There cannot be a doubt that these words apply to ministers only, who are called “labourers with God,” not from bringing any thing of their own, but because God makes use of their instrumentality after he has rendered them fit, and provided them with the necessary endowments. (II, 5:17)

In short, in several passages he . . . makes himself a fellow-worker with God, . . . (1 Cor. 3:9). All these things he certainly never uttered with the view of attributing to himself one iota apart from God, . . . (IV, 1:6)

For it corresponds admirably with the Apostle’s design to understand him to mean, that, while it is peculiarly the work of God to build his temple, or cultivate his vineyard, he calls forth ministers to be fellow-laborers, by means of whom He alone works; but, at the same time, in such a way, that they in their turn labor in common with him. (Commentary on 1 Corinthians [3:9], translated by John Pringle)

25. St. Paul and Others as Distributors of God’s Salvation

In short, in several passages he . . . attributes to himself the province of bestowing salvation (1 Cor. 3:9). (IV, 1:6)

. . . other creatures which the divine liberality and kindness has destined for our use, and by whose instrumentality he bestows the gifts of his goodness upon us . . . (IV, 14:12)

26. Acknowledgment of the Existence of “Good” Persons

Still, however, even the good are sometimes affected by this inconsiderate zeal for righteousness, . . . (IV, 1:16)

27. Approximation of Catholic “Baptism of Desire”

But this controversy will at once be disposed of when we maintain, that children who happen to depart this life before an opportunity of immersing them in water, are not excluded from the kingdom of heaven. (IV, 15:22)

This, moreover, plainly explodes the fiction of those who consign all the unbaptised to eternal death. . . . We nowhere read of his having condemned him who was not yet baptised. I would not be understood as insinuating that baptism may be contemned with impunity. So far from excusing this contempt, I hold that it violates the covenant of the Lord. The passage only serves to show, that we must not deem baptism so necessary as to suppose that every one who has lost the opportunity of obtaining it has forthwith perished. By assenting to their fiction, we should condemn all, without exception, whom any accident may have prevented from procuring baptism, how much soever they may have been endued with the faith by which Christ himself is possessed. (IV, 16:26)

The thief on the cross, when converted, became the brother of believers, though he never partook of the Lord’s Supper. (IV, 16:31)

28. Fasting and Abstinence as Helpful Spiritual Practices

[P]astors, according to the necessity of the times, exhort the people either to fasting and solemn prayer, . . . as often as any weighty matter occurred the people were assembled, and supplication and fasting appointed. In this, therefore, the apostles followed a course which was not new to the people of God, and which they foresaw would be useful. . . . whenever, in short, any matter of difficulty and great importance is under consideration: on the other hand, when manifestations of the divine anger appear, as pestilence, war, and famine, the sacred and salutary custom of all ages has been for pastors to exhort the people to public fasting and extraordinary prayer. . . . it is clear that the apostles also acted thus; (IV, 12:14)

A holy and lawful fast has three ends in view. We use it either to mortify and subdue the flesh, that it may not wanton, or to prepare the better for prayer and holy meditation; or to give evidence of humbling ourselves before God, when we would confess our guilt before him. (IV, 12:15)

[W]henever supplication is to be made to God on any important occasion, it is befitting to appoint a period for fasting and prayer. (IV, 12:16)

29. Bodily Mortification Approved

In like manner, therefore, as persons accused were anciently wont, in order to excite the commiseration of the judge, to humble themselves suppliantly with long beard, dishevelled hair, and coarse garments, so when we are charged before the divine tribunal, to deprecate his severity in humble raiment is equally for his glory and the public edification, and useful and salutary to ourselves. . . . the assembly, and weeping and fasting, and the like, undoubtedly belong, in an equal degree, to our age, whenever the condition of our affairs so requires. For seeing it is a holy exercise both for men to humble themselves, and confess their humility, why should we in similar necessity use this less than did those of old? (IV, 12:17)

They slept on the ground, their drink was water, their food bread, herbs, and roots, their chief luxuries oil and pulse. From more delicate food and care of the body they abstained. . . . By such rudimentary training they prepared themselves for greater offices. . . . it appears that pious men were wont to prepare for the government of the Church by monastic discipline, that thus they might be more apt and better trained to undertake the important office . . . (IV, 13:8)

And as the twig derives substance and nourishment from the root to which it is attached, so those who receive baptism with true faith truly feel the efficacy of Christ’s death in the mortification of their flesh, and the efficacy of his resurrection in the quickening of the Spirit. (IV, 15:5)

30. Self-Denial Practices Not Much Different from Lent

But there is another temporary fast, when we retrench somewhat from our accustomed mode of living, either for one day or a certain period, and prescribe to ourselves a stricter and severer restraint in the use of that ordinary food. This consists in three things—viz. the time, the quality of food, and the sparing use of it. By the time I mean, that while fasting we are to perform those actions for the sake of which the fast is instituted. For example, when a man fasts because of solemn prayer, he should engage in it without having taken food. The quality consists in putting all luxury aside, and, being contented with common and meaner food, so as not to excite our palate by dainties. In regard to quantity, we must eat more lightly and sparingly, only for necessity and not for pleasure. (IV, 12:18)

31. “Puritanical” Legalism and Spiritual Pride

For there always have been persons who, imbued with a false persuasion of absolute holiness, as if they had already become a kind of aërial spirits, spurn the society of all in whom they see that something human still remains. (IV, 1:13)

32. Contraception is Gravely Sinful

I will contend myself with briefly mentioning this, as far as the sense of shame allows to discuss it. It is a horrible thing to pour out seed besides the intercourse of man and woman. Deliberately avoiding the intercourse, so that the seed drops on the ground, is double horrible. For this means that one quenches the hope of his family, and kills the son, which could be expected, before he is born. This wickedness is now as severely as is possible condemned by the Spirit, through Moses, that Onan, as it were, through a violent and untimely birth, tore away the seed of his brother out the womb, and as cruel as shamefully has thrown on the earth. Moreover he thus has, as much as was in his power, tried to destroy a part of the human race. When a woman in some way drives away the seed out the womb, through aids, then this is rightly seen as an unforgivable crime. Onan was guilty of a similar crime, by defiling the earth with his seed, so that Tamar would not receive a future inheritor.

(Commentary on Genesis [38:10], translated by John King)

33. The Perpetual Virginity of Mary

Helvidius displayed excessive ignorance in concluding that Mary must have had many sons, because Christ’s ‘brothers’ are sometimes mentioned.

(Harmony of Matthew, Mark & Luke, section 39; Geneva, 1562, Vol. II; from Calvin’s Commentaries, translated by William Pringle, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1949, p. 215; on Matthew 13:55)

[On Matthew 1:25:] The inference he [Helvidius] drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband . . . No just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words . . . as to what took place after the birth of Christ. He is called ‘first-born’; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin . . . What took place afterwards the historian does not inform us . . . No man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation.

(Pringle, ibid., Vol. I, p. 107)

Under the word ‘brethren’ the Hebrews include all cousins and other relations, whatever may be the degree of affinity.

(Pringle, ibid., Vol. I, p. 283; Commentary on John, [7:3] )

34. Mary is Honored and Called “Blessed”

She deserves to be called blessed, for God has accorded her a singular distinction, to prepare his Son for the world, in whom she was spiritually reborn. To this day we cannot enjoy the blessing brought to us in Christ without thinking at the same time of that which God gave us as adornment and honor to Mary, in willing her to be the mother of his only-begotten Son.

(New Testament Commentaries, edited by David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1972, Vol. I, p. 32)

35. Sacraments Can Only be Instituted by Christ

Accordingly, we most strenuously maintain what we formerly confirmed by invincible argument, that the power of instituting a sacrament belongs to God alone, . . . (IV, 19:2)

36. Sacraments Do Something In and To Us

They, by sealing it to us, sustain, nourish, confirm, and increase our faith. (IV, 14:7)

The sacraments do not avail one iota without the energy of the Holy Spirit; . . . in hearts previously taught by that preceptor, there is nothing to prevent the sacraments from strengthening and increasing faith. (IV, 14:9)

[H]e spiritually nourishes our faith by means of the sacraments, . . . (IV, 14:12)

[S]acraments are ceremonies, by which God is pleased to train his people, first, to excite, cherish, and strengthen faith within . . . (IV, 14:19)

There never can be a sacrament without a promise of salvation. (IV, 18:19)

37. Distinction Between Sacraments and Sacramentals

Moreover, it is useful to keep up some distinction between sacraments and other ceremonies, if we would not fall into many absurdities. The apostles prayed on their bended knees; . . . (IV, 19:2)

38. Baptism Initiates Us Into the Body of Christ

Baptism is the initiatory sign by which we are admitted to the fellowship of the Church, that being ingrafted into Christ we may be accounted children of God. (IV, 15:1)

The last advantage which our faith receives from baptism is its assuring us not only that we are ingrafted into the death and life of Christ, but so united to Christ himself as to be partakers of all his blessings. (IV, 15:6)

[C]hildren derive some benefit from their baptism, when, being ingrafted into the body of the Church, . . . (IV, 16:9)

God, regenerating us in baptism, ingrafts us into the fellowship of his Church, and makes us his by adoption, . . . (IV, 17:1)

Baptism being a kind of entrance into the Church, an initiation into the faith, . . . (IV, 18:19)

39. Catholic Baptism is Valid

Such in the present day are our Catabaptists, who deny that we are duly baptised, because we were baptised in the Papacy by wicked men and idolaters; hence they furiously insist on anabaptism. Against these absurdities we shall be sufficiently fortified if we reflect that by baptism we were initiated not into the name of any man, but into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and, therefore, that baptism is not of man, but of God, by whomsoever it may have been administered. (IV, 15:16)

40. Baptism Has Some Sort of Relation to Regeneration

We ought to consider that at whatever time we are baptised, we are washed and purified once for the whole of life. Wherefore, as often as we fall, we must recall the remembrance of our baptism, and thus fortify our minds, so as to feel certain and secure of the remission of sins. For though, when once administered, it seems to have passed, it is not abolished by subsequent sins. (IV, 15:3)

. . . forgiveness, which at our first regeneration we receive by baptism alone . . . we are washed from our sins by the blood of Christ. And what is the sign and evidence of that washing if it be not baptism? We see, then, that that forgiveness has reference to baptism. (IV, 15:4)

Now, the first access to God, the first entrance to immortal life, is the remission of sins. Hence it follows, that this corresponds to the promise of our cleansing in baptism. (IV, 16:3)

God, regenerating us in baptism, . . . (IV, 17:1)

41. Validity of Infant Baptism: the Analogy of Circumcision

What do these words mean, but just that the truth and completion of baptism is the truth and completion of circumcision, since they represent one thing? For his object is to show that baptism is the same thing to Christians that circumcision formerly was to the Jews. (IV, 16:11)

42. Validity of Infant Baptism: the Analogy of Jesus Welcoming Children

[O]ur Saviour, in ordering little children to be brought to him, adds the reason, “of such is the kingdom of heaven.” And he afterwards testifies his good-will by act, when he embraces them, and with prayer and benediction commends them to his Father. If it is right that children should be brought to Christ, why should they not be admitted to baptism, the symbol of our communion and fellowship with Christ? If the kingdom of heaven is theirs, why should they be denied the sign by which access, as it were, is opened to the Church, that being admitted into it they may be enrolled among the heirs of the heavenly kingdom? (IV, 16:7)

43. Baptismal Immersion is Not Strictly Necessary

Whether the person baptised is to be wholly immersed, and that whether once or thrice, or whether he is only to be sprinkled with water, is not of the least consequence: churches should be at liberty to adopt either, according to the diversity of climates, although it is evident that the term baptise means to immerse, and that this was the form used by the primitive Church. (IV, 15:19)

44. The Eucharist is Related to Salvation in Some Sense

As bread nourishes, sustains, and protects our bodily life, so the body of Christ is the only food to invigorate and keep alive the soul. . . . to foster, refresh, strengthen, and exhilarate. (IV, 17:3)

. . . nourishing us unto life eternal, . . . (IV, 17:4)

For there are some who define the eating of the flesh of Christ, and the drinking of his blood, to be, in one word, nothing more than believing in Christ himself. But Christ seems to me to have intended to teach something more express and more sublime in that noble discourse, in which he recommends the eating of his flesh—viz. that we are quickened by the true partaking of him, which he designated by the terms eating and drinking, lest any one should suppose that the life which we obtain from him is obtained by simple knowledge. For as it is not the sight but the eating of bread that gives nourishment to the body, so the soul must partake of Christ truly and thoroughly, that by his energy it may grow up into spiritual life. . . . by virtue of true communication with him, his life passes into us and becomes ours, just as bread when taken for food gives vigour to the body. (IV, 17:5)

I am not satisfied with the view of those who, while acknowledging that we have some kind of communion with Christ, only make us partakers of the Spirit, omitting all mention of flesh and blood. As if it were said to no purpose at all, that his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed; that we have no life unless we eat that flesh and drink that blood; and so forth. (IV, 17:7)

Nay, the very flesh in which he resides he makes vivifying to us, that by partaking of it we may feed for immortality. . . . by this food believers are reared to eternal life. (IV, 17:8)

Now, who sees not that the communion of the flesh and blood of Christ is necessary to all who aspire to the heavenly life? . . . But the very close connection which unites us to his flesh, he illustrated with still more splendid epithets, when he said that we “are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (Eph. 5:30). (IV, 17:9)

That sacred communion of flesh and blood by which Christ transfuses his life into us, just as if it penetrated our bones and marrow, . . . (IV, 17:10)

[T]he true and substantial communication of the body and blood of the Lord, . . . are received not by the imagination or intellect merely, but are enjoyed in reality as the food of eternal life. (IV, 17:19)

Such, I say, is the corporeal presence which the nature of the sacrament requires, and which we say is here displayed in such power and efficacy, that it not only gives our minds undoubted assurance of eternal life, but also secures the immortality of our flesh, since it is now quickened by his immortal flesh, and in a manner shines in his immortality. (IV, 17:32)

For the Lord there communicates his body so that he may become altogether one with us, and we with him. Moreover, since he has only one body of which he makes us all to be partakers, we must necessarily, by this participation, all become one body. (IV, 17:38)

45. Holy Communion Ought to be at Least a Weekly Observance

[T]he sacrament might be celebrated in the most becoming manner, if it were dispensed to the Church very frequently, at least once a-week. (IV, 17:43)

. . . that all Christians might have it in frequent use, . . . That such was the practice of the Apostolic Church, . . . Thus we ought always to provide that no meeting of the Church is held without the word, prayer, the dispensation of the Supper, and alms. (IV, 17:44)

Each week, at least, the table of the Lord ought to have been spread for the company of Christians, . . .(IV, 17:46)

46. Partaking of the Eucharist Presupposes Doctrinal Unity

. . . by partaking of the Lord’s Supper profess unity in true doctrine and charity, . . . (IV, 1:7)

For men of this description, who without any spark of faith, without any zeal for charity, rush forward like swine to seize the Lord’s Supper, do not at all discern the Lord’s body. For, inasmuch as they do not believe that body to be their life, they put every possible affront upon it, stripping it of all its dignity, and profane and contaminate it by so receiving; inasmuch as while alienated and estranged from their brethren, they dare to mingle the sacred symbol of Christ’s body with their dissensions. . . . For while they have no faith in Christ, yet, by receiving the sacrament, they profess to place their salvation only in him, and abjure all other confidence. Wherefore they themselves are their own accusers; they bear witness against themselves; they seal their own condemnation. (IV, 17:40)

47. Partaking of the Eucharist in Grave Sin is Harmful to the Soul

For, just as corporeal food, when received into a stomach subject to morbid humours, becomes itself vitiated and corrupted, and rather hurts than nourishes, so this spiritual food also, if given to a soul polluted with malice and wickedness, plunges it into greater ruin, not indeed by any defect in the food, but because to the “defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure” (Titus 1:15), . . . (IV, 17:40)

48. Approximation of the Catholic Sacrament of Confirmation

It was anciently customary for the children of Christians, after they had grown up, to appear before the bishop to fulfil that duty which was required of such adults as presented themselves for baptism. These sat among the catechumens until they were duly instructed in the mysteries of the faith, and could make a confession of it before bishop and people. The infants, therefore, who had been initiated by baptism, not having then given a confession of faith to the Church, were again, toward the end of their boyhood, or on adolescence, brought forward by their parents, and were examined by the bishop in terms of the Catechism which was then in common use. In order that this act, which otherwise justly required to be grave and holy, might have more reverence and dignity, the ceremony of laying on of hands was also used. Thus the boy, on his faith being approved, was dismissed with a solemn blessing. Ancient writers often make mention of this custom. . . . This laying on of hands, which is done simply by way of benediction, I commend, and would like to see restored to its pure use in the present day. (IV, 19:4)

. It pleased the Lord that those visible and admirable gifts of the Holy Spirit, which he then poured out upon his people, should be administered and distributed by his apostles by the laying on of hands. (IV, 19:6)

49. Approximation of the Catholic Sacrament of Penance

I will speak briefly of the rite of the early Church, . . . By the order observed in public repentance, those who had performed the satisfactions imposed upon them were reconciled by the formal laying on of hands. This was the symbol of absolution by which the sinner himself regained his confidence of pardon before God, and the Church was admonished to lay aside the remembrance of the offence, and kindly receive him into favour. . . . I consider that ancient observance of which Cyprian speaks to have been holy and salutary to the Church, and I could wish it restored in the present day. (IV, 19:14)

50. Approximation of the Catholic Sacrament of Anointing

Mark relates that the apostles, on their first mission, agreeably to the command which they had received of the Lord, raised the dead, cast out devils, cleansed lepers, healed the sick, and, in healing, used oil. He says, they “anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them” (Mark 6:13). To this James referred when he ordered the presbyters of the Church to be called to anoint the sick. (IV, 19:18)

The Lord, doubtless, is present with his people in all ages, and cures their sicknesses as often as there is need, not less than formerly . . . (IV, 19:19)



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