The Necessity of Reforming the Church (1543) John Calvin 3

The Necessity of Reforming the Church (1543)

Number One

Number Two

Number Three

Number Four

Reformation Required Without Delay

But how deservedly soever we complain that the doctrine of truth was corrupted, and the whole body of Christianity sullied by numerous blemishes, still our censurers deny that this was cause sufficient for so disturbing the church, and, in a manner, convulsing the whole world.

We, indeed, are not so stupid as not to perceive how desirable it is to avoid public tumults, nor so savage as not to be touched, and even to shudder in our inmost soul, on beholding the troubled condition in which the church now is. But with what fairness is the blame of existing commotions imputed to us, when they have not been, in the least degree, excited by us? Nay, with what face is the crime of disturbing the church laid to our charge by the very persons who obviously are the authors of all these disturbances? This is just the case of the wolves complaining of the lambs.

When Luther at first appeared, he merely touched, with a gentle hand, a few abuses of the grossest description, now grown intolerable.

And he did it with a modesty which intimated that he had more desire to see them corrected, than determination to correct them himself.

The opposite party forthwith sounded to arms; and when the contention was more and more inflamed, our enemies deemed it the best and shortest method to suppress the truth by cruelty and violence.

Accordingly, when our people challenged them to friendly discussion, and desired to settle disputes by calm arguments,

they were cruelly persecuted with sanguinary edicts, until matters have been brought to the present miserable pass.

Nor is this calumny against us without precedent. With the very same charge which we are now forced to hear, wicked Ahab once upbraided Elijah: that is, that he was the disturber of Israel. But the holy prophet by his reply acquitted us. "I," says he,

"have not troubled Israel, but thou and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim," (1 Kings 18:17-18).

It is unfair, therefore, to load us with odium, on account of the fierce contest concerning religion which this day rages in Christendom, unless, indeed, it be thought proper first to condemn Elijah, with whom we have a common defense.

His sole excuse is, that he had fought only to vindicate the glory and restore the pure worship of God, and he retorts the charge of exciting contention and disturbances upon those who stirred up tumults as a means of resisting the truth.

And what is it that we have done hitherto, and what do we even now, but strive that the one God may be worshipped amongst us, and that his simple truth may reign in the church?

If our adversaries deny this, let them, at least, convict us of impious doctrine before they charge it upon us, as a fault, that we dissent from others.

For what were we to do? The only terms on which we could purchase peace were to betray the truth of God by silence. Though, indeed, it would not have been enough to be silent, unless we had also, by tacit consent, approved of impious doctrine, of open blasphemies against God, and the most degrading superstitions. What else, then, at the very least, could we do, than testify with a clear voice that we had no fellowship with impiety? We have, therefore, simply studied to do what was our duty. That matters have blazed forth into hostile strife is an evil, the blame of which must rest with those who chose to confound heaven and earth, rather than give a place to pious and sound doctrine? their object being, by whatever means, to keep possession of the tyranny which they had usurped.

It ought to be sufficient, and more than sufficient, for our defense, that the sacred truth of God, in asserting which we sustain so many contests, is on our side, whereas our adversaries, in contending with us, war not so much against us as God himself. Then it is not of our own accord that we engage in this fervor of contention. It is their intemperance which has dragged us into it against our expectation. Let the result, then, have been what it may, there is no reason why we should be loaded with hatred. For as it is not ours to govern events, neither is it ours to prevent them.

But there is an ancient practice which the wicked have resorted to in all ages: that is, to take occasion from the preaching of the gospel to excite tumult, and then to defame the gospel as the cause of dissension? dissension which, even in the absence of opportunity, they wickedly and eagerly court.

And, as in the primitive church, the prophecy behooved to be fulfillled, that Christ should be to his own countrymen a stone of stumbling and rock of offense, so it is not surprising if the same thing holds true in our time also. It may well indeed be thought strange for the builders to reject the stone which ought to occupy the principal place in the foundation, but as this happened at the beginning, in the case of Christ, let it not surprise us that it is also a common event in the present day.

Here I entreat your imperial majesty, and you, most illustrious princes, that as oft as this unhappy rending of the church, and the other countless evils which have sprung from dissension, either occur to your own thoughts, or are suggested by others,

you would, at the same time, call to mind, that Christ has been set up as a sign to be spoken against, and that his gospel, wherever it is preached, instantly inflames the rage and resistance of the wicked.

Then, from conflict a shock must necessarily ensue. Hence the uniform fate of the gospel, from its first commencement, has been, and always will be, even unto the end, to be preached in the world amid great contention.

But it is the part of the prudent to consider from what source the EVIL SPRINGS. Whoever does this will readily free us from all blame. It certainly behooved us to bear testimony to the truth, as we have done.

Woe to the world if it chooses to challenge Christ to combat, rather than embrace the peace which he offers!

The man who will not bear to be corrected will undoubtedly be crushed by him.

But here again it is objected, that all the corruptions of the church are not to be corrected by such harsh remedies? that they are not to be cut into the quick? that not even is medicine to be applied to all, but some are to be treated gently, and others submitted to, if they cannot without difficulty be removed.

I answer, that we are not so unacquainted with ordinary life as not to know that the church always has been, and always will be, liable to some defects which the pious are indeed bound to disapprove,

but which are to be borne rather than be made a cause of fierce contention.

But our adversaries are unjust when they accuse us of being excessively morose, as if we had brought the church into trouble on account of small and trivial errors.

For to their other misrepresentations they add this one also, of endeavoring, by every artifice in their power, to extenuate the importance of the things which we have made the subject of controversy;

the object being to make it seem that we have been hurried on by a love of quarrelling, and not that we were drawn into it by a just cause.

This they do, not in ignorance, but with cunning design, namely, because they know that there is nothing more odious than the rash haste which they impute to us.

And yet they, at the same time, betray their own impiety in speaking so contemptuously of matters of the greatest moment.

And is it indeed so, that when we complain that the worship of God was PROFANED; that his honor was utterly impaired; that the doctrine of salvation was entangled with numerous destructive errors; that the virtue of Christ's death was suppressed; and that, in short, all things sacred were sacrilegiously polluted;

is it indeed so, that we are to be derided and charged with the folly of disturbing ourselves and the whole world besides, to no purpose, with disputes about insignificant questions?

But as a cursory glance at these things is not sufficient, it will now be necessary more diligently to explain to you the dignity and importance of the points in dispute, so as to make it manifest, not only that they were not unworthy of notice, but that we could not possibly overlook them without involving ourselves in the greatest guilt, and becoming chargeable with impious perfidy towards God. This is the third of the three heads, of which at the outset I proposed to treat.

First, then, I wish to know, with what face they can call themselves Christians, when they charge us with rashly disturbing the church with disputes about matters of no importance.

For, if they set as much value on our religion as the ancient idolaters did on their superstitions, they would not speak so contemptuously of zeal for its preservation, but, in imitation of idolaters, would give it the precedence of all other cares and business.

For, when idolaters spoke of fighting for their altars and their hearths, they alleged what they believed to be the best and strongest of all causes.

Our opponents, on the contrary, regard as almost superfluous a contest which is undertaken for the glory of God and the salvation of men.

For it is not true, as has been alleged that we dispute about a worthless shadow. The whole substance of the Christian religion is brought into question.

Were nothing else involved, is the eternal and inviolable truth of God? that truth to which he rendered so many illustrious testimonies, in confirming which so many holy prophets and so many martyrs met their death, truth heralded and witnessed by the Son of God himself, and ultimately sealed with his blood? is that truth of so little value, that it may be trampled under foot, while we look on and are silent?

But I descend to particulars. We know how execrable a thing idolatry is in the sight of God, and history abounds with narratives of the dreadful punishments with which he visited it, both in the Israelitish people and in other nations. From his own mouth, we hear the same vengeance denounced against all ages. For to us he speaks when he swears by his holy name, that he will not suffer his glory to be transferred to idols, and when he declares that he is a jealous God, taking vengeance, to the third and fourth generation, upon all sins, and more especially on this one.

This is the sin on account of which Moses, who was otherwise of so meek a temper, being inflamed by the Spirit of God, ordered the Levites "to go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor" (Ex. 32:27);

the sin on account of which God so often punished his chosen people, afflicting them with sword, pestilence, and famine, and, in short, all kinds of calamity;

the sin on account of which, especially, the kingdom, first of Israel, and then of Judah, was laid waste, Jerusalem the holy city destroyed, the temple of God (the only temple then existing in the world) laid in ruins,

and the people whom he had selected out of all the nations of the earth to be peculiarly his own, entering into covenant with them, that they alone might bear his standard, and live under his rule and protection? the people,

in short, from whom Christ was to spring?

were doomed to all kinds of disaster, stripped of all dignity, driven into exile, and brought to the brink of destruction.

It were too long here to give a full detail, for there is not a page in the prophets which does not proclaim aloud that there is nothing which more provokes the divine indignation. What then? When we saw idolatry openly and everywhere stalking abroad, were we to connive at it? To have done so would have just been to rock the world in its sleep of death, that it might not awake.

Be pleased, most invincible Csar, and most illustrious princes, to call to mind the many corruptions by which, as I have already shown, the worship of God was polluted, and you will assuredly find that impiety had broken out like a deluge, under which religion was completely submerged.

Hence, divine honors were paid to images, and prayers everywhere offered to them, under the pretence that the power and deity of God resided in them.

Hence, too, dead saints were worshipped exactly in the manner in which of old the Israelites worshipped Baalim.

And by the artifice of Satan, numerous other modes had been devised by which the glory of God was torn to pieces. The Lord exclaims that he burns with jealousy when any idol is erected, and Paul demonstrates, by his own example, that his servants should be zealous in asserting his glory (Acts 17:16). It is no common zeal for the house of God which ought to penetrate and engross the hearts of believers.

When, therefore, the divine glory was polluted, or rather lacerated, in so many ways, would it not have been perfidy if we had winked or been silent?

A dog, seeing any violence offered to his master, will instantly bark; could we, in silence, see the sacred name of God dishonored so blasphemously? In such a case, how could it have been said, "The reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me?" (Ps. 69:9).

The mockery which worships God with nought but external gestures and absurd human fictions, how could we, without sin, allow to pass unrebuked? We know how much he hates hypocrisy, and yet in that fictitious worship, which was everywhere in use, hypocrisy reigned.

We hear how bitter the terms in which the prophets inveigh against all worship fabricated by HUMAN RASHNESS. But a good intention? that is, an INSANE licence of daring whatever man pleased? was deemed the perfection of worship.

For it is certain that in the whole body of worship which had been established, there was scarcely a single observance which had an authoritative sanction from the word of God.

We are not in this matter to stand either by our own or by other men's judgments. We must listen to the voice of God, and hear in what estimation he holds that profanation of worship which is displayed when men, overleaping the BOUNDARIES of his WORD, run riot in their own inventions.

The reasons which he assigns for punishing the Israelites with blindness, after they had lost the pious and holy discipline of the church, are two: namely, the prevalence of hypocrisy, and will-worship (ethelothreeskia), meaning thereby a form of worship contrived by man.

"Forasmuch," says he, "as the people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men; therefore I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid" (Isa. 29:13-14).

Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you,
 
and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord. Ezek 33:30
 
And they come unto thee as the people cometh,
 
and they sit before thee as my people,
 
and they hear thy words,
but they will not do them:
for with their mouth they shew much love, (erotic praise songs)
 
but their heart goeth after their covetousness. Ezek 33:31
Ye hypocrites (actors), well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, Matt 15:7
 
This people draweth nigh unto me
 
with their mouth,
 
and honoreth me with their lips;
but their heart is far from me. Matt 15:8
 
But in vain they do worship me,
teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Matt 15:9
 
And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:Matt 15:10
 
But He spoke to them in parables and they couldn't understand because they had the wrong "seeker" motive.
And, lo, thou art unto them
 
as a very lovely song
 
of one that hath a pleasant voice,
 
and can play well on an instrument:
 
for they hear thy words,
 
but they do them not. Ezek 33:32
 
And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,)
 
then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them. Ezek 33:33
Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man;
 
but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. Matt 15:11
 
Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? Matt 15:12
 
But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Matt 15:13
 
Let them alone:they be blind leaders of the blind.
 
And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Matt 15:14
\When God stirred us up, a similar or worse perversity openly domineered throughout the church. While God, then, was thundering from heaven, were we to sit quiet?

Perhaps they will consider as a trivial error the custom which prevailed, in defiance of the clear prohibition of God, of repeating the public prayers in an unknown tongue. But since it is manifest that by such procedure God was mocked, they cannot deny that we had too good cause to object to it. Then, what shall I say of the blasphemies which rung in the public hymns, and which no pious man is able to hear without the utmost horror? We all know the epithets which they applied to Mary? styling her the gate of heaven, hope, life, and salvation; and to such a degree of infatuation and madness had they proceeded, that they even gave her a right to order Christ!

For still in many churches is heard the execrable and impious stanza, "Ask the Father; command the Son."

In terms in no respect more modest do they celebrate certain of the saints, and these, too, saints of their own making: namely, individuals whom they, on their own judgment, have admitted into the catalogue of saints.

For, among the multitude of praises which they sing to Claud, they call him "the light of the blind," "the guide of the erring," "the life and resurrection of the dead." The forms of prayer in daily use are stuffed with similar blasphemies. The Lord denounces the severest threatenings against those who, either in oaths or in prayers, confounded his name with Baalim. What vengeance, then, impends over our heads when we not only confound him with saints as minor gods, but with signal insult rob Christ of the proper and peculiar titles with which he is distinguished, in order that we may bestow them on creatures? Were we to be silent here, also, and by perfidious silence call down on ourselves his heavy judgments?

I say nothing of the fact that no man prayed, and that indeed no man could pray, to God with firm faith, that is, in good earnest. For Christ being, in a manner, buried, the necessary consequence was, that men were always in doubt whether God had a Father's kindness toward them? whether he was disposed to assist them? and whether he took any interest in their salvation. What! Was it an error either trivial or tolerable, when the eternal priesthood of Christ, as if it had been set up to be preyed upon, was bestowed, without distinction, on any individual among the saints? Let us remember that Christ, by his death, purchased for himself the honor of being the eternal Advocate and Peacemaker to present our prayers and our persons to the Father, to obtain supplies of grace for us, and enable us to hope we shall obtain what we ask. As he alone died for us, and redeemed us by his death, so he admits of no partnership in this honor. Therefore, what fouler blasphemy than that which is ever and anon in the mouths of our opponents: namely, that Christ is indeed the only mediator of redemption, but that all the saints are mediators of intercession? Is not Christ in this way left inglorious? as if, after having once in his death performed the office of priest, he had ever after resigned it to the saints.

Are we, then, to be silent when the peculiar dignity of Christ, the dignity which cost him such a price, is wrested from him with the greatest contumely, and distributed among the saints, as if it were lawful spoil? But it seems that when they speak thus they do not deny that Christ intercedes for us even now; only we are to understand that he does it along with the saints, that is, just as any other one in the catalogue. It must have been a mighty honor which Christ purchased for himself by his blood, if all he obtained was to be the associate of Hugo, Lubin, or some of the merest dregs of saintship which the Roman pontiff has conferred at his own pleasure. For the question is not, whether the saints even do pray (this being a subject of which it is better to have no knowledge, as scripture does not mention it), but the question is, whether, after passing by Christ, or treating him with neglect, or positively abandoning him altogether, we are entitled to look round for the patronage of saints; or, if they will have it in plainer terms, whether Christ is the only priest who opens up an asylum for us in heaven, leads us thither by the hand, and, by his intercession, inclines the Father to listen to our prayers, so that we ought to cast ourselves entirely on his advocacy, and present our prayers in his name; or whether, on the contrary, he holds this office in common with the saints?

I have shown above that Christ was in a great measure defrauded, not of the honour of the priesthood merely, but also of the gratitude due for his benefits.

True, he is called a Redeemer, but in a manner which implies that men also, by their own free will, redeem themselves from the bondage of sin and death.

True, he is called righteousness and salvation, but so that men still procure salvation for themselves, by the merit of their works; for this inestimable gift, which no eloquence of men or angels is able adequately to describe, the school men are not ashamed to restrict, telling us that though he confers the first merit, i.e., as they explain it, the occasion of meriting,

yet after receiving this help, we merit eternal life by our own works.

True, they confess that we are washed from our sins by the blood of Christ,

but so that every individual cleanses himself by washings elsewhere obtained.

True, the death of Christ receives the name of a sacrifice, but so that sins are expiated by the daily sacrifices of men. True, Christ is said to have reconciled us to the Father, but with this reservation, that men, by their own satisfactions, buy off the punishments which they owe to the justice of God. When supplementary aid is sought from the benefit of the keys, no more honour is paid to Christ than to Cyprian or Cyricius. For, in making up the treasury of the Church, the merits of Christ and of martyrs are thrown together in the slump.

In all these things, have we not just as many execrable blasphemies as we have words? blasphemies by which the glory of Christ is rent, and torn to shreds? For, being in a great measure despoiled of his honor, he retains the name, while he wants the power. Here, too, no doubt, we might have been silent, though we saw the Son, on whom the Father hath bestowed all authority, and power, and glory, and in whom alone he bids us glory, so classified with his servants, that he had scarcely any preeminence above them. When we saw his benefits thus in oblivion; when we saw his virtue destroyed by the ingratitude of men; when we saw the price of his blood held in no estimation, and the fruits of his death almost annihilated; when, in fine, we saw him so deformed by false and profane opinions, that he had more resemblance to an unsubstantial phantom than to himself, did it behoove us to bear it calmly and silently? O accursed patience, if, when the honor of God is impaired, not to say prostrated, we are so slightly affected, that we can wink and pass on! O ill-bestowed benefits of Christ, if we can permit the memory of them to be thus suppressed by impious blasphemies!

I again return to the second branch of Christian doctrine.

Who can deny that men are laboring under a kind of delirium, when they suppose that they procure eternal life by the merit of their works? I admit that they conjoin the grace of God with their works, but inasmuch as their confidence of obtaining acceptance is made to depend on their own worthiness, it is clear that the ground of their confidence and boasting lies in their works. The trite and favorite doctrine of the schools, the opinion deeply seated in almost all minds, is that every individual is loved by God in exact proportion to his deserts. Entertaining this view, are not souls, by means of a confidence which the devil inspires, raised to a height, from which, as from a loftier precipice, they are afterwards plunged into the gulf of despair?

Again, when they pretend to merit the favor of God, it is not merely by true obedience, but by frivolous observances, of no value. The meritorious works to which the first place is assigned are these: to mumble over a multitude of little prayers, to erect altars, and place statues or pictures thereon, to frequent churches, and run up and down from one church to another, to hear many masses, and to buy some; to wear out their bodies, by I know not what abstinences? abstinences having nothing in common with Christian fasting; and, in particular, to be most careful in observing the traditions of men.

In the matter of satisfactions, is it not even a greater infatuation which makes them, after the manner of the heathen, set out in quest of expiations, by which they may reconcile themselves to God? After all these attempts, after great and long fatigue, what did they gain? Doing everything with a dubious and trembling conscience, they were always exposed to that fearful anxiety, or rather that dire torment, of which I have already spoken, because they were enjoined to doubt whether their persons and their works were not hateful to God. Confidence being in this way overthrown, the necessary consequence was, as Paul declares, that the promise of the eternal inheritance was made void. In such circumstances, what became of the salvation of men? Where there was such necessity for speaking, had we kept silence, we should have been not only ungrateful and treacherous towards God, but also cruel towards men, over whom we saw eternal destruction impending, unless they were brought back into the proper path.

Were a dog to see an injury offered to his master, equal to the insult which is offered to God in the sacraments, he would instantly bark, and expose his own life to danger, sooner than silently allow his master to be so insulted.

Ought we to show less devotedness to God than a brute is wont to show to man? I say nothing of the fact that rites, founded merely on human authority, have been put on a footing with the mysteries instituted by Christ, and recommended by his divine authority, though the procedure is deserving of the severest rebuke. But when the mysteries themselves were thus corrupted, by the many superstitions, and dishonored by the many false opinions, to which we have already adverted, for base and filthy lucre, ought we to have dissembled and borne it, or pretended not to see?

Christ with a whip drove the money-changers out of the temple, threw down their tables, and scattered their merchandise. I admit it is not lawful for every man to take the whip into his own hand, but it is incumbent on all who professedly belong to Christ to burn with the zeal with which Christ was animated, when he vindicated the glory of his Father. Therefore, that profanation of the temple, at which he, in a manner so marked, expressed his strong displeasure, it is at least our part to condemn, in a free, firm, and decided tone. Who is ignorant that sacraments have now for a long time been sold in churches, as openly as the wares which stand exposed in the public market? Other rites, too, have their fixed price, while as to some a bargain is not struck till after long haggling.

But since the instances which are exhibited in the Lord's supper are manifest, and of a nature more heinous than in the case of other rites, come and say with what conscience could we have connived at profanations of it, at once so numerous and so blasphemous? Seeing that even now I want words to express them, with what justice are we charged with excessive vehemence in inveighing against them?

By the sacred body of Christ, which hung in sacrifice for us, by the holy blood which he shed for our ablution, I here beseech your imperial majesty, and you, most illustrious princes, that you will be pleased seriously to consider how great must be the mystery in which that body is set before us for meat, and that blood for drink; to consider how carefully, how religiously, it ought to be kept unpolluted.

What ingratitude, then, must it be when this heavenly mystery, which Christ has committed to us like a most precious jewel, is trodden under feet of swine, for any man to look on, and be silent? But we may see it not only trodden, but also defiled by every species of pollution.

What an insult was offered, when the efficacy of Christ's death was transferred to a theatrical performance by men;

when some priestling, as if he had been the successor of Christ, interposed himself as a Mediator between God and man; when, after destroying the virtue of the only sacrifice, a thousand sacrifices of expiation were daily offered in a single city;

when Christ was sacrificed a thousand times a day, as if he had not done enough in once dying for us? In heaping all these insults upon Christ, they abused the character of the holy supper; for they are all included in this single notion of sacrifice.

I am not ignorant of the glosses which our opponents employ, in order to screen their absurdities. Up to the present age, they impudently practiced all the abominations to which I have referred; but being now detected, they burrow in new holes, without being able, however, to hide their turpitude.

They taught that the mass was a sacrifice, by which the sins not only of the living, but also of the dead, were expiated. What do they now gain by quibbling, except it be to betray their impudence? How deeply, too, is the sacrament polluted,

when, instead of the open preaching of the word, which constitutes its legitimate consecration, a charm is wrought with the bread by means of whiffs and whispers?

When, instead of being distributed among the assembly of the faithful, it is devoured apart by one man, or set aside for another's use?

And when, even in the case where a kind of distribution is made, the people are, in defiance of the clear injunction of our Lord, defrauded of the half, I mean the cup?

What delirium to fancy that by their exercises the substance of bread is transmuted into Christ? How shameful to see a trade in masses plied as unblushingly as a trade in shoes! For if it is true, as they say, that the thing they vend is the merit of Christ's death, the insult which they offer to Christ is not less gross than if they spat in his face.

Be pleased, most invincible emperor, and most illustrious princes, to call to mind the disaster which of old befell the Corinthians on account of one, and that not at first sight, so very heinous an abuse of this sacrament.

Each brought from home his own supper, not as a common contribution, but that the rich might feast luxuriantly while the poor hungered.

For this cause the Lord chastised them with a severe and deadly pestilence. Such is the account of Paul, who, at the same time, bids us regard it as a paternal rod, by which the Lord called them to repentance. From this infer what we have at this day to expect, who have not declined merely in some little iota from the genuine institution of Christ, but wandered to an immeasurable distance from it; who have not only corrupted its purity in one instance, but defaced it in numerous instances, and these, too, of a shocking description; who have not merely interfered with its legitimate end, by some single abuse, but perverted its whole administration.

Nor can it be doubted, that now, for some time, God has begun to avenge this impiety. Now, for many years in succession, the world has been pressed by numerous varying troubles and calamities, until it has at length arrived at almost the extreme of wretchedness. We, indeed, stand amazed at our disasters, or suggest other reasons why God so afflicts us.

But if we reflect how slight the error by which the Corinthians had vitiated the sacred supper was? if contrasted with all the defilements by which, in the present day, it is sullied and polluted amongst ourselves? it is strange not to perceive that God, who so severely punished them, is justly more offended with us.

Were I to follow out all the flagitious corruptions of ecclesiastical government, I should enter an interminable forest. Of the lives of the priests, for many reasons, I at present decline to speak; but there are three vices of an intolerable description, on which each individual may reflect for himself:

First, disregarding the character of a holy vocation, clerical offices are everywhere acquired either by violence or by simony, or by other dishonest and impious arts;

secondly, the rulers of the church, insofar as regards the performance of their duties, are more like empty shadows or lifeless images than true ministers; and,

thirdly, when they ought to govern consciences in accordance with the word of God, they oppress them with an iniquitous tyranny, and hold them in bondage by the fetters of many impious laws.

Is it true, that, not only in contempt of the laws of God and man, but in the absence of everything like a sense of shame, foul disorder reigns in the appointment of bishops and presbyters? that caprice assumes the place of justice, simony is seldom absent, and, as if these were evils of no consequence, the correction of them is deferred to a future age?

What is become of the duty of teaching? the proper characteristic of the ministry? As to true liberty of conscience, we know how many struggles Paul engaged in, and how earnestly he contended in its defense; but every person who judges impartially must certainly perceive, that at the present time we have much more cause to contend for it.

In a corruption of sound doctrine so extreme, in a pollution of the sacraments so nefarious, in a condition of the church so deplorable, those who maintain that we ought not to have felt so strongly, would have been satisfied with nothing less than a perfidious tolerance, by which we should have betrayed the worship of God, the glory of Christ, the salvation of men, the entire administration of the sacraments, and the government of the church.

There is something specious in the name of moderation, and tolerance is a quality which has a fair appearance, and seems worthy of praise; but the rule which we must observe at all hazards is, never to endure patiently that the sacred name of God should be assailed with impious blasphemy; that his eternal truth should be suppressed by the devil's lies; that Christ should be insulted, his holy mysteries polluted, unhappy souls cruelly murdered, and the church left to writhe in extremity under the effect of a deadly wound. This would be not meekness, but indifference about things to which all others ought to be postponed.

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