On Thursday evening, I briefly skimmed my copy of the Institutes (the one-volume Beveridge translation). I did it the old-fashioned way, without the aid of any computers. I just flipped pages and highlighted. Even from my brief perusal, not using any computer searches at all, I came up with a lot of quotes. Keep in mind that this is many Calvinists' ultimate systematic theology.
I'm going to show you the quotes I found. And so I don't get accused of using a translation that suits my own biases, I am putting in both the Beveridge translation of the quotes and the Battles translation of the quotes (the Beveridge translation is first, and the Battles translation is second). And so I don't get accused of taking things out of context, I'm prefacing each quote with the Book, the Chapter, and the Section in which each quote is found.
On the warpath,
Book I Chap XV Sec 8
In this upright state, man possessed freedom of will, by which, if he chose, he was able to obtain eternal
life. It were here unseasonable to introduce the question concerning the secret predestination of God,
because we are not considering what might or might not happen, but what the nature of man truly was.
Adam, therefore, might have stood if he chose, since it was only by his own will that he fell; but it was
because his will was pliable in either directions and he had not received constancy to persevere, that he so
easily fell. Still he had a free choice of good and evil; and not only so, but in the mind and will there was
the highest rectitude, and all the organic parts were duly framed to obedience, until man corrupted its
good properties, and destroyed himself.
In this integrity man by free will had the power, if he so willed, to attain eternal life. Here it would be out of place to raise the question of God's secret predestination because our present subject is not what can happen or not, but what man's nature was like. Therefore Adam could have stood if he wished, seeing that he fell solely by his own will. But it was because his will was capable of being bent to one side or the other, and was not given the constancy to persevere, that he fell so easily. Yet his choice of good and evil was free, and not that alone, but the highest rectitude was in his mind and will, and all the organic parts were rightly composed to obedience, until in destroying himself he corrupted his own blessings.
Book II Chap III Sec 4
Still, the surest and easiest answer to the objection is, that those are not common endowments of nature, but special gifts of God, which he distributes in divers forms, and, in a definite measure, to men otherwise profane. For which reason, we hesitate not, in common language, to say, that one is of a good, another of a vicious nature; though we cease not to hold that both are placed under the universal condition of human depravity. All we mean is that God has conferred on the one a special grace which he has not seen it meet to confer on the other.
Here, however, is the surest and easiest solution to this question: these are not common gifts of nature, but special graces of God, which he bestows variously and in a certain measure upon men otherwise wicked. For this reason, we are not afraid, in common parlance, to call this man wellborn, that one depraved in nature. Yet we do not hesitate to include both under the universal condition of human depravity; but we point out what special grace the Lord has bestowed upon the one, while not deigning to bestow it upon the other.
Book II Chap XVI Sec 3
For God, who is perfect righteousness, cannot love the iniquity which he sees in all. All of us, therefore, have that within which deserves the hatred of God. Hence, in respect, first, of our corrupt nature; and, secondly, of the depraved conduct following upon it, we are all offensive to God, guilty in his sight, and by nature the children of hell. But as the Lord wills not to destroy in us that which is his own, he still finds something in us which in kindness he can love. For though it is by our own fault that we are sinners, we are still his creatures; though we have brought death upon ourselves he had created us for life. Thus, mere gratuitous love prompts him to receive us into favor. But if there is a perpetual and irreconcilable repugnance between righteousness and iniquity, so long as we remain sinners we cannot be completely received.
For God, who is the highest righteousness, cannot love the unrighteousness that he sees in us all. All of us, therefore, have in ourselves something deserving of God's hatred. With regard to our corrupt nature and the wicked life that follows it, all of us surely displease God, are guilty in his sight, and are born to the damnation of hell. But because the Lord wills not to lose what is his in us, out of his own kindness he still finds something to love. However much we may be sinners by our own fault, we nevertheless remain his creatures. However much we have brought death upon ourselves, yet he has created us unto life. Thus he is moved by pure and freely given love of us to receive us into grace. Since there is a perpetual and irreconcilable disagreement between righteousness and unrighteousness, so long as we remain sinners he cannot receive us completely.
Book III Chap I Sec 1
And the first thing to be attended to is, that so long as we are without Christ and separated from him, nothing which he suffered and did
for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us. ... And although it is true that we obtain this by faith, yet since we see
that all do not indiscriminately embrace the offer of Christ which is made by the gospel, the very nature of the case teaches us to ascend
higher, and inquire into the secret efficacy of the Spirit, to which it is owing that we enjoy Christ and all his blessings.
First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us. ... It is true that we obtain this by faith. Yet since we see that not all indiscriminately embrace that communion with Christ which is offered through the gospel, reason itself teaches us to climb higher and to examine into the secret energy of the Spirit, by which we come to enjoy Christ and all his benefits.
Book III Chap II Sec 11
Still it is correctly said, that the reprobate believe God to be propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation,
though confusedly and without due discernment; not that they are partakers of the same faith or regeneration with the children of God;
but because, under a covering of hypocrisy, they seem to have a principle of faith in common with them. Nor do I even deny that God
illumines their minds to this extent, that they recognize his grace; but that conviction he distinguishes from the peculiar testimony
which he gives to his elect in this respect, that the reprobate never attain to the full result or to fruition. When he shows himself
propitious to them, it is not as if he had truly rescued them from death, and taken them under his protection. He only gives them a
manifestation of his present mercy. In the elect alone he implants the living root of faith, so that they persevere even to the end. Thus
we dispose of the objection, that if God truly displays his grace, it must endure for ever. There is nothing inconsistent in this with the
fact of his enlightening some with a present sense of grace, which afterwards proves evanescent.
Yet the reprobate are justly said to believe that God is merciful toward them, for they receive the gift of reconciliation, although confusedly and not distinctly enough. Not that they are partakers of the same faith or regeneration with the children of God, but because they seem, under a cloak of hypocrisy, to have a beginning of faith in common with the latter. And I do not deny that God illumines their minds enough for them to recognize his grace; but he so distinguishes that awareness from the exclusive testimony he gives to his elect that they do not attain the full effect and fruition thereof. He does not show himself merciful to them, to the extent of truly snatching them from death and receiving them into his keeping, but only manifests to them his mercy for the time being. Only his elect does he account worthy of receiving the living root of faith so that they may endure to the end [Matthew 24:13]. Thus is that
objection answered: if God truly shows his grace, this fact is forever established. For nothing prevents God from illumining some with a momentary awareness of his grace, which afterward vanishes.
Book III Chap II Sec 12
In short, as by the revolt of the first man, the image of God could be effaced from his mind and soul, so there is nothing strange in His
shedding some rays of grace on the reprobate, and afterwards allowing these to be extinguished. ... I go farther: seeing it is evident,
from the doctrine of Scripture and from daily experience, that the reprobate are occasionally impressed with a sense of divine grace,
some desire of mutual love must necessarily be excited in their hearts. Thus for a time a pious affection prevailed in Saul, disposing
him to love God. Knowing that he was treated with paternal kindness, he was in some degree attracted by it. But as the reprobate have
no rooted conviction of the paternal love of God, so they do not in return yield the love of sons, but are led by a kind of mercenary affection.
To sum up, just as by the rebellion of the first man the image of God could be wiped out from his mind and soul, no wonder he illumines wicked persons with some rays of his grace, which he later allows to be quenched. ... Furthermore, although it is evident from the teaching of Scripture and daily experience that the wicked are sometimes touched by the awareness of divine grace, a desire to love one another must be aroused in their hearts. Thus, for a time in Saul there flourished a pious impulse to love God. For he knew God was as a father to him, and he was attracted by something delightful about His goodness [1 Samuel, chs. 9 to 11]. But as a persuasion of God's fatherly love is not deeply rooted in the reprobate, so do they not perfectly reciprocate his love as sons, but behave like hirelings.
Book III Chap II Sec 15
So deeply rooted in our hearts is unbelief, so prone are we to it, that while all confess with the lips that God is faithful, no man ever
believes it without an arduous struggle. ... Certainly, whenever God thus recommends his word, he indirectly rebukes our unbelief, the
purport of all that is said being to eradicate perverse doubt from our hearts.
For unbelief is so deeply rooted in our hearts, and we are so inclined to it, that not without hard struggle is each one able to persuade himself of what all confess with the mouth: namely, that God is faithful. ... Surely, as often as God commends his Word to us, he indirectly rebukes us for our unbelief, for he has no other intention than to uproot perverse doubts from our hearts.
When we say that faith must be certain and secure, we certainly speak not of an assurance which is never affected by doubt, nor a
security which anxiety never assails; we rather maintain that believers have a perpetual struggle with their own distrust, and are thus far
from thinking that their consciences possess a placid quiet, uninterrupted by perturbation. ... Scripture does not set before us a brighter
or more memorable example of faith than in David, especially if regard be had to the constant tenor of his life. And yet how far his
mind was from being always at peace is declared by innumerable complaints, of which it will be sufficient to select a few. When he
rebukes the turbulent movements of his soul, what else is it but a censure of his unbelief? ... He not only confesses that he is agitated by
doubt, but as if he had fallen in the contest, leaves himself nothing in reserve, -- God having deserted him, and made the hand which
was wont to help him the instrument of his destruction.
Surely, while we teach that faith ought to be certain and assured, we cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety. On the other hand, we say that believers are in perpetual conflict with their own unbelief. Far, indeed, are we from putting their consciences in any peaceful repose, undisturbed by any tumult at all. ... Scripture sets forth no more illustrious or memorable example of faith than in David, especially if you look at the whole course of his life. Yet with innumerable complaints he declares how unquiet his mind always was. From these plaints it will be enough to choose a few examples. When he reproaches his own soul for its disturbed emotions, with what else is he angry than with his own unbelief? ... and not only confesses himself to be troubled with doubt, but, as if he had fallen in the struggle, he feels that there is nothing left to him. For God has forsaken him, and has turned his hand, which was once his help, to his destruction.
Book III Chap II Sec 18
To make this intelligible, we must return to the distinction between flesh and spirit, to which we have already adverted, and which here
becomes most apparent. The believer finds within himself two principles: the one filling him with delight in recognizing the divine
goodness, the other filling him with bitterness under a sense of his fallen state; the one leading him to recline on the promise of the
Gospel, the other alarming him by the conviction of his iniquity; the one making him exult with the anticipation of life, the other
making him tremble with the fear of death. This diversity is owing to imperfection of faith, since we are never so well in the course of
the present life as to be entirely cured of the disease of distrust, and completely replenished and engrossed by faith. Hence those
conflicts: the distrust cleaving to the remains of the flesh rising up to assail the faith enlisting in our hearts. But if in the believer's mind
certainty is mingled with doubt, must we not always be carried back to the conclusion, that faith consists not of a sure and clear, but
only of an obscure and confused, understanding of the divine will in regard to us? By no means. Though we are distracted by various
thoughts, it does not follow that we are immediately divested of faith. Though we are agitated and carried to and fro by distrust, we are
not immediately plunged into the abyss; though we are shaken, we are not therefore driven from our place. The invariable issue of the
contest is, that faith in the long run surmounts the difficulties by which it was beset and seemed to be endangered.
In order to understand this, it is necessary to return to that division of flesh and spirit which we have mentioned elsewhere. It most clearly reveals itself at this point. Therefore the godly heart feels in itself a division because it is partly imbued with sweetness from its recognition of the divine goodness, partly grieves in bitterness from an awareness of its calamity; partly rests upon the promise of the gospel, partly trembles at the evidence of its own iniquity; partly rejoices at the expectation of life, partly shudders at death. This variation arises from imperfection of faith, since in the course of the present life it never goes so well with us that we are wholly cured of the disease of unbelief and entirely filled and possessed by faith. Hence arise those conflicts; when unbelief, which reposes in the remains of the flesh, rises up to attack the faith that has been inwardly conceived. But if in the believing mind certainty is mixed with doubt, do we not always come back to this, that faith does not rest in a certain and clear knowledge, but only in an obscure and confused knowledge of the divine will toward us? Not at all. For even if we are distracted by various thoughts, we are not on that account completely divorced from faith. Nor if we are troubled on all sides by the agitation of unbelief, are we for that reason immersed in its abyss. If we are struck, we are not for that reason cast down from our position. For the end of the conflict is always this: that faith ultimately triumphs over those difficulties which besiege and seem to imperil it.
Book III Chap II Sec 20
In such degrees of ignorance much doubt and trembling is necessarily implied, especially seeing that our heart is by its own natural bias
prone to unbelief. To this we must add the temptations which, various in kind and infinite in number, are ever and anon violently
assailing us. In particular, conscience itself, burdened with an incumbent load of sins, at one time complains and groans, at another
accuses itself; at one time murmurs in secret, at another openly rebels. Therefore, whether adverse circumstances betoken the wrath of
God, or conscience finds the subject and matter within itself, unbelief thence draws weapons and engines to put faith to flight, the aim
of all its efforts being to make us think that God is adverse and hostile to us, and thus, instead of hoping for any assistance from him, to
make us dread him as a deadly foe.
The greatest doubt and trepidation must be mixed up with such wrappings of ignorance, since our heart especially inclines by its own natural instinct toward unbelief. Besides this, there are innumerable and varied temptations that constantly assail us with great violence. But it is especially our conscience itself that, weighed down by a mass of sins, now complains and groans, now accuses itself, now murmurs secretly, now breaks out in open tumult. And so, whether adversities reveal God's wrath, or the conscience finds in itself the proof and ground thereof, thence unbelief obtains weapons and devices to overthrow faith. Yet these are always directed to this objective: that, thinking God to be against us and hostile to us, we should not hope for any help from him, and should fear him as if he were our deadly enemy.
Book III Chap II Sec 36
The next thing necessary is, that what the mind has imbibed be transferred into the heart. The word is not received in faith when it
merely flutters in the brain, but when it has taken deep root in the heart, and become an invincible bulwark to withstand and repel all
the assaults of temptation. But if the illumination of the Spirit is the true source of understanding in the intellect, much more manifest is
his agency in the confirmation of the heart; inasmuch as there is more distrust in the heart than blindness in the mind; and it is more
difficult to inspire the soul with security than to imbue it with knowledge.
It now remains to pour into the heart itself what the mind has absorbed. For the Word of God is not received by faith if it flits about in the top of the brain, but when it takes root in the depth of the heart that it may be an invincible defense to withstand and drive off all the stratagems of temptation. But if it is true that the mind's real understanding is illumination by the Spirit of God, then in such confirmation of the heart his power is much more clearly manifested, to the extent that the heart's distrust is greater than the mind's blindness. It is harder for the heart to be furnished with assurance than for the mind to be endowed with thought.
Book IV Chap I Sec 13
Our indulgence ought to extend much farther in tolerating imperfection of conduct. Here there is great danger of falling, and Satan
employs all his machinations to ensnare us. For there always have been persons who, imbued with a false persuasion of absolute
holiness, as if they had already become a kind of aerial spirits, spurn the society of all in whom they see that something human still
remains. Such of old were the Cathari and the Donatists, who were similarly infatuated Such in the present day are some of the
Anabaptists, who would be thought to have made superior progress. Others, again, sin in this respect, not so much from that insane
pride as from inconsiderate zeal. Seeing that among those to whom the gospel is preached, the fruit produced is not in accordance with
the doctrine, they forthwith conclude that there no church exists. The offense is indeed well founded, and it is one to which in this most
unhappy age we give far too much occasion. It is impossible to excuse our accursed sluggishness, which the Lord will not leave
unpunished, as he is already beginning sharply to chastise us. Woe then to us who, by our dissolute license of wickedness, cause weak
consciences to be wounded! Still those of whom we have spoken sin in there turn, by not knowing how to set bounds to their offense.
For where the Lord requires mercy they omit it, and give themselves up to immoderate severity. 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, which 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 Savior 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. Let them hear, in fine, that it is a thrashing floor in which the collected wheat lies concealed under the chaff,
until, cleansed by the fanners and the sieve, it is at length laid up in the granary. If the Lord declares that the Church will labor 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 (Matthew 13).
In bearing with imperfections of life we ought to be far more considerate. For here the descent is very slippery and Satan ambushes us with no ordinary devices. For there have always been those who, imbued with a false conviction of their own perfect sanctity, as if they had already become a sort of airy spirits, spurned association with all men in whom they discern any remnant of human nature. The Cathari of old were of this sort, as well as the Donatists, who approached them in foolishness. Such today are some of the Anabaptists who wish to appear advanced beyond other men. There are others who sin more out of ill-advised zeal for righteousness than out of that insane pride. When they do not see a quality of life corresponding to the doctrine of the gospel among those to whom it is announced, they immediately judge that no church exists in that place. This is a very legitimate complaint, and we give all too much occasion for it in this most miserable age. And our cursed sloth is not to be excused, for the Lord will not allow it to go unpunished, seeing that he has already begun to chastise it with heavy stripes. Woe to us, then, who act with such dissolute and criminal license that weak consciences are wounded because of us! But on their part those of whom we have spoken sin in that they do not know how to restrain their disfavor. For where the Lord requires kindness, they neglect it and give themselves over completely to immoderate severity. Indeed, because they think no church exists where there are not perfect purity and integrity of life, they depart out of hatred of wickedness from the lawful church, while they fancy themselves turning aside from the faction of the wicked. They claim that the church of Christ is holy [Ephesians 5:26]. But in order that they may know that the church is at the same time mingled of good men and bad, let them hear the parable from Christ's lips that compares the church to a net bin which all kinds of fish are gathered and are not sorted until laid out on the shore [Matthew 13:47-58]. Let them hear that it is like a field sown with good seed which is through the enemy's deceit scattered with tares and is not purged of them until the harvest is brought into the threshing floor [Matthew 13:24-3-]. Let them hear finally that it is like a threshing floor on which grain is so collected that it lies hidden under the chaff until, winnowed by fan and sieve, it is at last stored in the granary [Matthew 3:12]. But if the Lord declares that the church is to labor under this evil--to be weighed down with the mixture of the wicked--until the Day of Judgment, they are vainly seeking a church besmirched with no blemish.
Book IV Chap I Sec 14
They exclaim that it is impossible to tolerate the vice which everywhere stalks abroad like a pestilence. What if the apostle's sentiment
applies here also? Among the Corinthians it was not a few that erred, but almost the whole body had become tainted; there was not one
species of sin merely, but a multitude, and those not trivial errors, but some of them execrable crimes. There was not only corruption in
manners, but also in doctrine. What course was taken by the holy apostle, in other words, by the organ of the heavenly Spirit, by whose
testimony the Church stands and falls? Does he seek separation from them? Does he discard them from the kingdom of Christ? Does he
strike them with the thunder of a final anathema? He not only does none of these things, but he acknowledges and heralds them as a
Church of Christ, and a society of saints. If the Church remains among the Corinthians, where envyings, divisions, and contentions
rage; where quarrels, lawsuits, and avarice prevail; where a crime, which even the Gentiles would execrate, is openly approved; where
the name of Paul, whom they ought to have honored as a father, is petulantly assailed; where some hold the resurrection of the dead in
derision, though with it the whole gospel must fall; where the gifts of God are made subservient to ambition, not to charity; where
many things are done neither decently nor in order: If there the Church still remains, simply because the ministration of word and
sacrament is not rejected, who will presume to deny the title of church to those to whom a tenth part of these crimes cannot be
imputed? How, I ask, would those who act so morosely against present churches have acted to the Galatians, who had done all but
abandon the gospel (Galatians 1:6), and yet among them the same apostle found churches?
But, they cry out, it is intolerable that a plague of vices rages far and wide. Suppose the apostle's opinion here again answers them. Among the Corinthians no slight number had gone astray; in fact, almost the whole body was infected. There was not one kind of sin only, but very many; and they were no light errors but frightful misdeeds; there was corruption not only of morals but of doctrine. What does the holy apostle--the instrument of the Heavenly Spirit, by whose testimony the church stands or falls--do about this? Does he seek to separate himself from such? Does he cast them out of Christ's Kingdom? Does he fell them with the ultimate thunderbolt of anathema? He not only does nothing of the sort; he even recognizes and proclaims them to be the church of Christ and the communion of saints [1 Corinthians 1:2]! Among the Corinthians quarrels, divisions, and jealousies flare [1 Corinthians 1:11; 3:3; 5:1; 6:7; 9:1 ff.]; disputes and altercations burgeon together with greed; an evil deed is openly approved which even pagans would detest [1 Corinthians 5:1]; the name of Paul (whom they ought to have honored as a father) is insolently defamed; some mock the resurrection of the dead, to the destruction of the whole gospel as well [1 Corinthians 15:19]; God's free gifts serve ambition, not love [cf. 1 Corinthians 13:5]; and many things are done without decency or order. Yet the church abides among them because the ministry of Word and sacraments remains unrepudiated there. Who, then, would dare snatch the title "church" from these who cannot be charged with even a tenth part of such misdeeds? What, I ask, would those who rage with such churlishness against presentday
churches have done with the Galatians, all but deserters of the gospel, among whom this same apostle still recognized churches [Galatians 1:2]?
Book IV Chap I Sec 15
They also object, that Paul sharply rebukes the Corinthians for permitting an heinous offender in their communion, and then lays down
a general sentence, by which he declares it unlawful even to eat bread with a man of impure life (1 Corinthians 5:11, 12). Here they
exclaim, If it is not lawful to eat ordinary bread, how can it be lawful to eat the Lord's bread? I admit, that it is a great disgrace if dogs
and swine are admitted among the children of God; much more, if the sacred body of Christ is prostituted to them. And, indeed, when
churches are well regulated, they will not bear the wicked in their bosom, nor will they admit the worthy and unworthy indiscriminately
to that sacred feast. But because pastors are not always sedulously vigilant, are sometimes also more indulgent than they ought, or are
prevented from acting so strictly as they could wish; the consequence is, that even the openly wicked are not always excluded from the
fellowship of the saints. This I admit to be a vice, and I have no wish to extenuate it, seeing that Paul sharply rebukes it in the
Corinthians. But although the Church fail in her duty, it does not therefore follow that every private individual is to decide the question
of separation for himself. I deny not that it is the duty of a pious man to withdraw from all private intercourse with the wicked, and not
entangle himself with them by any voluntary tie; but it is one thing to shun the society of the wicked, and another to renounce the
communion of the Church through hatred of them. Those who think it sacrilege to partake the Lord's bread with the wicked, are in this
more rigid than Paul. For when he exhorts us to pure and holy communion, he does not require that we should examine others or that
everyone should examine the whole church, but that each should examine himself (1 Corinthians 11:28, 29). If it were unlawful to
communicate with the unworthy, Paul would certainly have ordered us to take heed that there were no individual in the whole body by
whose impurity we might be defiled, but now that he only requires each to examine himself, he shows that it does no harm to us though
some who are unworthy present themselves along with us. To the same effect he afterwards adds, "He that eateth and drinketh
unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself." He says not to others, but to himself And justly; for the right of admitting or
excluding ought not to be left to the decision of individuals. Cognizance of this point, which cannot be exercised without due order, as
shall afterwards be more fully shown, belongs to the whole church. It would therefore be unjust to hold any private individual as
polluted by the unworthiness of another, whom he neither can nor ought to keep back from communion.
They also object that Paul severely rebuked the Corinthians for tolerating an infamous man in their fellowship [1 Corinthians 5:2]. Then he lays down a general principle wherein he declares it wrong even to eat bread with a man of shameful life [1 Corinthians 5:11]. Here they exclaim, "If it is not permitted to eat ordinary bread, how is it permitted to eat the Lord's bread?" I confess it a great disgrace if pigs and dogs have a place among the children of God, and a still greater disgrace if the sacred body of Christ be prostituted to them. And indeed, if churches are well ordered, they will not bear the wicked in their bosom. Nor will they indiscriminately admit worthy and unworthy together to that sacred banquet. But because pastors are not always zealously on the watch, and are also sometimes more lenient than they should be, or are hindered from being able to exercise the severity they would like, the result is that even the openly wicked are not always removed from the company of the saints. This I admit to be a fault and I do not intend to excuse it, since Paul sharply rebukes it in the Corinthians. But even if the church be slack in its duty, still each and every individual has not the right at once to take upon himself the decision to separate. Indeed, I do not deny that it is the godly man's duty to abstain from all familiarity with the wicked, and not to enmesh himself with them in any voluntary relationship. But it is one thing to flee the boon companionship of the wicked; another, in hating them, to renounce the communion of the church. But in thinking it a sacrilege to partake of the Lord's bread with the wicked, they are much more rigid than Paul. For when Paul urges us to a holy and pure partaking of it, he does not require that one examine another, or every one the whole church, but that each individual prove himself [1 Corinthians 11:28]. If it were unlawful to partake of communion with an unworthy person, surely Paul would bid us investigate whether there is anyone in the multitude whose uncleanliness pollutes us. But when he requires each one to prove himself alone, he shows that we are not at all harmed if anyone unworthy foists himself upon us. What follows agrees with this: "He who eats unworthily eats and drinks judgment upon himself" [1 Corinthians 11:29]. Paul does not say "upon others," but "upon himself." And justly. For individuals ought not to have the authority to determine who are to be received and who are to be rejected. This cognizance belongs to the church as a whole and cannot be exercised without lawful order, as will be stated more fully below. It will therefore be wicked for any individual to be soiled with another's unworthiness, whom he cannot and ought not to bar from access.
Book IV Chap 1 Sec 18
On this head, Christ himself, his apostles, and almost all the prophets, have furnished us with examples. Fearful are the descriptions in
which Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Habakkuk, and others, deplore the diseases of the Church of Jerusalem. In the people, the rulers, and the
priests, corruption prevailed to such a degree, that Isaiah hesitates not to liken Jerusalem to Sodom and Gomorrah (Isaiah 1:10).
Religion was partly despised, partly adulterated, while in regard to morals, we everywhere meet with accounts of theft, robbery,
perfidy, murder, and similar crimes. The prophets, however, did not therefore either form new churches for themselves, or erect new
altars on which they might have separate sacrifices, but whatever their countrymen might be, reflecting that the Lord had deposited his
word with them, and instituted the ceremonies by which he was then worshipped, they stretched out pure hands to him, though amid
the company of the ungodly. Certainly, had they thought that they thereby contracted any pollution, they would have died a hundred
deaths sooner than suffered themselves to be dragged thither. Nothing, therefore, prevented them from separating themselves, but a
desire of preserving unity. 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
Christ himself, the apostles, and almost all the prophets have furnished us examples of this. Fearful are those descriptions with which Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Habakkuk, and others bewail the afflictions of the Jerusalem church. In people, in magistracy, and in priesthood all things had been so far corrupted that Isaiah does not hesitate to liken Jerusalem to Sodom and Gomorrah [Isaiah 1:10]. Religion was in part despised, in part besmirched. In morals one frequently notes theft, robbery, treachery, slaughter, and like evil deeds. Still the prophets did not because of this establish new churches for themselves, or erect new altars on which to perform separate sacrifices. But whatever men were like, because the prophets considered that the Lord had set his word among them and had instituted rites wherewith he was worshiped there, they stretched out clean hands to him in the midst of the assembly of the wicked. Surely, if they had thought they would become contaminated from these rites, they would have died a hundred times rather than allow themselves to be dragged thither. Nothing, consequently, kept them from creating a schism save their zeal to maintain unity. But if the holy prophets had scruples against separating themselves from the church because of many great misdeeds, not of one man or another but of almost all the people, we claim too much for ourselves if we dare withdraw at once from the communion of the church just because the morals of all do not meet our standard or even square with the profession of Christian faith.
Book IV Chap 1 Sec 19
Then what kind of age was that of Christ and the apostles? Yet neither could the desperate impiety of the Pharisees, nor the dissolute
licentiousness of manners which everywhere prevailed, prevent them from using the same sacred rites with the people, and meeting in
one common temple for the public exercises of religion. And why so. but just because they knew that those who joined in these sacred
rites with a pure conscience were not at all polluted by the society of the wicked? If anyone is little moved by prophets and apostles, let
him at least defer to the authority of Christ. Well, therefore, does Cyprian say, "Although tares or unclean vessels are seen in the
Church, that is no reason why we ourselves should withdraw from the Church; we must only labor that we may be able to be wheat; we
must give our endeavor, and strive as far as we can, to be vessels of gold or silver. But to break the earthen vessels belongs to the Lord
alone, to whom a rod of iron has been given: let no one arrogate to himself what is peculiar to the Son alone, and think himself
sufficient to winnow the floor and cleanse the chaff, and separate all the tares by human judgment. What depraved zeal thus assumes to
itself is proud obstinacy and sacrilegious presumption" (Cyprian, Lib. iii. Ep. v). Let both points, therefore, be regarded as fixed; first,
that there is no excuse for him who spontaneously abandons the external communion of a church in which the word of God is preached
and the sacraments are administered; secondly, that not withstanding of the faults of a few or of many, there is nothing to prevent us
from there duly professing our faith in the ordinances instituted by God, because a pious conscience is not injured by the unworthiness
of another, whether he be a pastor or a private individual; and sacred rites are not less pure and salutary to a man who is holy and
upright, from being at the same time handled by the impure.
Now what was the world like in the time of Christ and the apostles? Even then the desperate impiety of the Pharisees and the dissolute life which commonly prevailed could not prevent them from practicing the same rites along with the people, and from assembling in one temple with the rest for public exercises of religion. How did this happen, except that those who participated in these same rites with a clean conscience knew that they were not at all contaminated by association with the wicked? If anyone is not convinced by prophets and apostles, let him at least yield to Christ's authority. Cyprian, then, has put it well: "Even though there seem to be tares or unclean vessels in the church, there is no reason why we ourselves should withdraw from the church; rather, we must toil to become wheat; we must strive as much as we can to be vessels of gold and silver. But the breaking of earthen vessels belongs solely to the Lord, to whom has also been entrusted an iron rod [Psalm 2:9; Revelation 2:27]. And let no one so claim for himself what is the Son's alone, that it is enough to winnow the chaff and thresh the straw [cf. Matthew 3:12; Luke 3:17] and by human judgment to separate out all the tares [cf. Matthew 13:38-41]. Proud, indeed, is this stubbornness and impious presumption, which wicked madness takes upon itself," etc. Let the following two points, then, stand firm. First, he who voluntarily deserts the outward communion of the church (where the Word of God is preached and the sacraments are administered) is without excuse. Secondly, neither the vices of the few nor the vices of the many in any way prevent us from duly professing our faith there in ceremonies ordained by God. For a godly conscience is not wounded by the unworthiness of another, whether pastor or layman; nor are the sacraments less pure and salutary for a holy and upright man because they are handled by unclean persons.
Book IV Chap II Sec 11
Still, as in ancient times, there remained among, the Jews certain special privileges of a Church, so in the present day we deny not to the Papists those vestiges of a Church which the Lord has allowed to remain among them amid the dissipation. When the Lord had once made his covenant with the Jews, it was preserved not so much by them as by its own strength, supported by which it withstood their impiety. Such, then, is the certainty and constancy of the divine goodness, that the covenant of the Lord continued there, and his faith could not be obliterated by their perfidy; nor could circumcision be so profaned by their impure hands as not still to be a true sign and sacrament of his covenant. Hence the children who were born to them the Lord called his own (Ezekiel 16:20), though, unless by special blessing, they in no respect belonged to him. So having deposited his covenant in Gaul, Italy, Germany, Spain, and England, when these countries were oppressed by the tyranny of Antichrist, He, in order that his covenant might remain inviolable, first preserved baptism there as an evidence of the covenant: -- baptism, which, consecrated by his lips, retains its power in spite of human depravity; secondly, He provided by his providence that there should be other remains also to prevent the Church from utterly perishing. But as in pulling down buildings the foundations and ruins are often permitted to remain, so he did not suffer Antichrist either to subvert his Church from its foundation, or to level it with the ground (though, to punish the ingratitude of men who had despised his word, he allowed a fearful shaking and dismembering to take place), but was pleased that amid the devastation the edifice should remain, though half in ruins.
Of old, certain peculiar prerogatives of the church remained among the Jews. In like manner, today we do not deprive the papists of those traces of the church which the Lord willed should among them survive the destruction. God had once for all made his covenant with the Jews, but it was not they who preserved the covenant; rather, leaning upon its own strength, it kept itself alive by struggling against their impiety. Therefore--such was the certainty and constancy of God's goodness--the Lord's covenant abode there. Their treachery could not obliterate his faithfulness, and circumcision could not be so profaned by their unclean hands as to cease to be the true sign and sacrament of his covenant. Whence the Lord called the children born to them his children [Ezekiel 16:20-21], when these belonged to him only by a special blessing. So it was in France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and England after the Lord established his covenant there. When those countries were oppressed by the tyranny of Antichrist, the Lord used two means to keep his covenant inviolable. First, he maintained baptism there, a witness to this covenant; consecrated by his own mouth, it retains its force despite the
impiety of men. Secondly, by his own providence he caused other vestiges to remain, that the church might not utterly die. And just as often happens when buildings are pulled down the foundations and ruins remain, so he did not allow his church either to be destroyed to the very foundations by Antichrist or to be leveled to the ground, even though to punish the ungratefulness of men who had despised his word he let it undergo frightful shaking and shattering, but even after this very destruction willed that a half-demolished building remain.
Book IV Chap II Sec 12
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. The question we raise only relates to the true and legitimate constitution of the Church, implying communion in sacred rites,
which are the signs of profession, and especially in doctrine. Daniel and Paul foretold that Antichrist would sit in the temple of God
(Daniel 9:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:4); we regard the Roman Pontiff as the leader and standard-bearer of that wicked and abominable
kingdom. By placing his seat in the temple of God, it is intimated that his kingdom would not be such as to destroy the name either of
Christ or of his Church. Hence, then, it is obvious that we do not at all deny that churches remain under his tyranny; churches, however,
which by sacrilegious impiety he has profaned, by cruel domination has oppressed, by evil and deadly doctrines
like poisoned potions has corrupted and almost slain; churches where Christ lies halfburied, the, Gospel is suppressed, piety is put to flight, and the worship of God almost abolished; where, in short, all things are in such disorder as to present the appearance of Babylon rather than the holy city of God. 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. But as, on the other hand, those marks to which we ought especially to have respect in this discussion are effaced, I say that the whole body, as well as every single assembly, want the form of a legitimate Church.
However, when we categorically deny to the papists the title of the church, we do not for this reason impugn the existence of churches among them. Rather, we are only contending about the true and lawful constitution of the church, required in the communion not only of the sacraments (which are the signs of profession) but also especially of doctrine, Daniel [Daniel 9:27] and Paul [2 Thessalonians
2:4] foretold that Antichrist would sit in the Temple of God. With us, it is the Roman pontiff we make the leader and standard bearer of that wicked and abominable kingdom. The fact that his seat is placed in the Temple of God signifies that his reign was not to be such as to wipe out either the name of Christ or of the church. From this it therefore is evident that we by no means deny that the churches under his tyranny remain churches. But these he has profaned by his sacrilegious impiety, afflicted by his inhuman domination, corrupted and well-nigh killed by his evil and deadly doctrines, which are like poisoned drinks. In them Christ lies hidden, half buried, the gospel overthrown, piety scattered, the worship of God nearly wiped out. bin them, briefly, everything is so confused that there we see the face of Babylon rather than that of the Holy City of God. To sum up, I call them churches to the extent that the Lord wonderfully preserves in them a remnant of his people, however woefully dispersed and scattered, and to the extent that some marks of the church remain--especially those marks whose effectiveness neither the devil's wiles nor human depravity can destroy. But on the other hand, because in them those marks have been erased to which we should pay particular regard in this discourse, I say that every one of their congregations and their whole body lack the lawful form of the church.
Another special requisite to moderation of discipline is, as Augustine discourses against the Donatists, that private individuals must
not, when they see vices less carefully corrected by the Council of Elders, immediately separate themselves from the Church; nor must
pastors themselves, when unable to reform all things which need correction to the extent which they could wish, cast up their ministry,
or by unwonted severity throw the whole Church into confusion. What Augustine says is perfectly true: "Whoever corrects what he
can, by rebuking it, or without violating the bond of peace, excludes what he cannot correct, or unjustly condemns while he patiently
tolerates what he is unable to exclude without violating the bond of peace, is free and exempted from the curse" (August. contra
Parmen. Lib. ii. c. 4). He elsewhere gives the reason. "Every pious reason and mode of ecclesiastical discipline ought always to have
regard to the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. This the apostle commands us to keep by bearing mutually with each other. If it is
not kept the medicine of discipline begins to be not only superfluous, but even pernicious, and therefore ceases to be medicine" (Ibid.
Lib. 3: c. 1). "He who diligently considers these things, neither in the preservation of unity neglects strictness of discipline, nor by
intemperate correction bursts the bond of society" (Ibid. cap. 2). He confesses, indeed, that pastors ought not only
to exert themselves in removing every defect from the Church, but that every individual ought to his utmost to do so; nor does he disguise the fact, that he who neglects to admonish, accuse, and correct the bad, although he neither favors them, nor sins with them, is guilty before the Lord; and if he conducts himself so that though he can exclude them from partaking of the Supper, he does it not, then the sin is no longer that of other men, but his own. Only he would have that prudence used which our Lord also requires, "lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them" (Matthew 13:29). Hence he infers from Cyprian, "Let a man then
mercifully correct what he can; what he cannot correct, let him bear patiently, and in love bewail and lament."
This is also a prime requisite for the moderation of discipline, as Augustine argues against the Donatists: that individual lay-men, if they see vices not diligently enough corrected by the council of elders, should not therefore at once depart from the church; and that the pastors themselves, if they cannot cleanse all that needs correction according to their hearts' desire, should not for that reason resign their ministry or disturb the entire church with unaccustomed rigor. For what Augustine writes is very true: "Whoever either corrects what he can by reproof, or excludes, without breaking the bond of peace, what he cannot correct--disapproving with fairness, bearing with firmness--this man is free and loosed from the curse." In another passage he gives the reason: "All pious method and measure of ecclesiastical discipline ought ever to look to 'the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace' [Ephesians 4:3], which the apostle orders us to keep by 'forbearing one another' [Ephesians 4:2], and when it is not kept, the medicine of punishment begins to be not only superfluous but also harmful, and so ceases to be medicine." "He who diligently ponders these things," Augustine says, "neither neglects severe discipline in the maintenance of unity, nor by intemperate correction breaks the bond of fellowship." He indeed admits that not only ought pastors to exert themselves to the end that no fault may remain in the church, but that every man ought to strive to the same end according to his strength. And Augustine does not hide the fact that he who neglects to warn, reprove, and correct evil men, even though he does not favor them or sin with them, is guilty before the Lord. But if he plays such a part that he is able to cut the evil men off from partaking of the sacraments, and does not do so, he sins not in another's misdeed, but in his own. Only, Augustine would have that prudence used which the Lord also requires "lest, when the tares are being uprooted, the grain be harmed" [Matthew 13:29]. From this point he concludes with Cyprian: "Let a man mercifully correct what he can; let him patiently bear what he cannot correct, and groan and sorrow over it with love."
This he says on account of the moroseness of the Donatists, who, when they saw faults in the Church which the bishops indeed rebuked
verbally, but did not punish with excommunication (because they did not think that anything would be gained in this way), bitterly
inveighed against the bishops as traitors to discipline, and by an impious schism separated themselves from the flock of Christ. Similar,
in the present day, is the conduct of the Anabaptists, who, acknowledging no assembly of Christ unless conspicuous in all respects for
angelic perfection, under pretense of zeal overthrow everything which tends to edification. "Such (says Augustin. contra Parmen. Lib.
3: c. 4), not from hatred of other men's iniquity, but zeal for their own disputes, ensnaring the weak by the credit of their name, attempt
to draw them entirely away, or at least to separate them; swollen with pride, raving with petulance, insidious in calumny, turbulent in
sedition. That it may not be seen how void they are of the light of truth, they cover themselves with the shadow of a stern severity: the
correction of a brother's fault, which in Scripture is enjoined to be done with moderation, without impairing the sincerity of love or
breaking the bond of peace, they pervert to sacrilegious schism and purposes of excision. Thus Satan transforms himself into an angel
of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) when, under pretext of a just severity, he persuades to savage cruelty, desiring nothing more than to
violate and burst the bond of unity and peace; because, when it is maintained, all his power of mischief is feeble. his wily traps are
broken, and his schemes of subversion vanish."
But Augustine says this because of the overscrupulousness of the Donatists, who, when they observed faults in the church which the
bishops reproved in words but did not punish with excommunication (because they thought they could gain nothing in this way), inveighed fiercely against the bishops as betrayers of discipline and in an impious schism separated themselves from Christ's flock. The Anabaptists act in the same way today. While they recognize no assembly of Christ to exist except one conspicuous in every respect for its angelic perfection, under the pretense of their zeal they subvert whatever edification there is. "Such persons," says Augustine, "not out of hatred of other men's wickedness but out of fondness for their own contentions, ensnaring the weak folk by
boasting of their own name, strive either to draw them all to their side or at least to divide them. Puffed up in their pride, mad in their stubbornness, deceitful in their slanders, and turbulent in their seditions, they draw the shade of a rigid severity to hide their lack of the light of truth. Those things which Scripture enjoins to be done to correct the vices of the brethren with a modest remedy while sincere love is kept and unity of peace preserved, they seize upon and turn to the sacrilege of schism and the occasion of cutting off." Thus, "Satan transforms himself into an angel of light" [2 Corinthians 11:14, cf. Vg.] when, on occasion of just severity, he prompts men to merciless cruelty, seeking only to corrupt and break the bond of peace and unity. While this bond remains firm among Christians, all his powers are powerless to do harm, the mousetraps of his treachery are weakened, and his schemes of subversions vanish away.
One thing Augustine specially commends -- viz. that if the contagion of sin has seized the multitude, mercy must accompany living
discipline. "For counsels of separation are vain, sacrilegious, and pernicious, because impious and proud, and do more to disturb the
weak good than to correct the wicked proud" (August. Ep. 64). This which he enjoins on others he himself faithfully practised. For,
writing to Aurelius, Bishop of Carthage, he complains that drunkenness, which is so severely condemned in Scripture, prevails in
Africa with impunity, and advises a council of bishops to be called for the purpose of providing a remedy. He immediately adds, "In
my opinion, such things are not removed by rough, harsh, and imperious measures, but more by teaching than commanding, more by
admonishing than threatening. For thus ought we to act with a multitude of offenders. Severity is to be exercised against the sins of a
few" (August. Ep. 64). He does not mean, however, that the bishops were to wink or be silent because they are unable to punish public
offenses severely, as he himself afterwards explains. But he wishes to temper the mode of correction, so as to give soundness to the
body rather than cause destruction. And, accordingly, he thus concludes: "Wherefore, we must on no account neglect the injunction of
the apostle, to separate from the wicked, when it can be done without the risk of violating peace, because He did not wish it to be done
otherwise (1 Corinthians 5:13); we must also endeavor, by bearing with each other, to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace"
Augustine especially commends this one thing: if the contagion of sin invades the multitude, the severe mercy of a vigorous discipline is necessary. "For advice to separate," he says, "is vain, harmful, and sacrilegious, because it becomes impious and proud; and it disturbs weak good men more than it corrects bold bad ones." And what he there enjoins on others, he himself has faithfully followed. For, writing to Aurelius, bishop of Carthage, he complains that drunkenness (so severely condemned in Scripture) is raging unpunished in Africa, and he advises calling a council of bishops to provide a remedy. He then adds: "These things, in my judgment, are removed not roughly or harshly, or in any imperious manner; and more by teaching than by commanding, more by monishing than by menacing. For so we must deal with a great number of sinners. But we are to use severity toward the sins of a few." Yet he does not mean that bishops should on this account condone public crimes, or remain silent because they cannot punish them more severely, as he explains afterward. But he wishes the method of correction to be so tempered that, as far as possible, it may bring health rather than death to the body. Therefore, he concludes as follows: "That precept of the apostle on the separation of evil persons must accordingly by no means be neglected when it can be applied without danger of violating peace. For he did not wish it to be done otherwise. And this principle must also be kept: bearing with one another, we should try to keep 'the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace' [1 Corinthians 5:3-7; Ephesians 4:2-3]?
But as our faith is slender and weak, so if it be not propped up on every side, and supported by all kinds of means, it is forthwith
shaken and tossed to and fro, wavers, and even falls.
But as our faith is slight and feeble unless it be propped on all sides and sustained by every means, it trembles, wavers, totters, and at last gives way.
It is irrational to contend that sacraments are not manifestations of divine grace toward us, because they are held forth to the ungodly
also, who, however, so far from experiencing God to be more propitious to them, only incur greater condemnation. By the same
reasoning, the Gospel will be no manifestation of the grace of God because it is spurned by many who hear it; nor will Christ himself
be a manifestation of grace, because of the many by whom he was seen and known, very few received him. Something similar may be
seen in public enactments. A great part of the body of the people deride and evade the authenticating seal, though they know it was
employed by their sovereign to confirm his will; others trample it under foot, as a matter by no means appertaining to them; while
others even execrate it: so that, seeing the condition of the two things to be alike, the appropriateness of the comparison which I made
above ought to be more readily allowed. It is certain, therefore, that the Lord offers us his mercy, and a pledge of his grace, both in his
sacred word and in the sacraments, but it is not apprehended save by those who receive the word and sacraments with firm faith: in like
manner as Christ, though offered and held forth for salvation to all, is not, however, acknowledged and received by all.
They are not reasoning closely enough when they argue that the sacraments are not testimonies of God's grace because they are also
offered to the wicked, who, however, do not find God more favorable but rather incur a heavier condemnation. For by the same argument, because the gospel is heard but rejected by many, and because Christ was seen and recognized by many but very few of them accepted him, neither gospel nor Christ would be a testimony of God's grace. A similar thing can be seen in official documents. For most of the people ridicule and scorn that authentic seal, although they know that it was put forth by a prince to attest his will. Some treat it with indifference as not applying to them; others even curse it. Thus as it can apply equally to both, the comparison used by me above ought to be received with increasing favor. It is therefore certain that the Lord offers us mercy and the pledge of his grace both in his Sacred Word and in his sacraments. But it is understood only by those who take Word and sacraments with sure faith, just as Christ is offered and held forth by the Father to all unto salvation, yet not all acknowledge and receive him.
The sacraments are confirmations of our faith in. such a sense, that the Lord, sometimes, when he sees meet to withdraw our assurance
of the things which he had promised in the sacraments, takes away the sacraments themselves.
Sacraments, moreover, are so much confirmations of our faith that the Lord sometimes, when he would remove confidence in the very things that had been promised by him in the sacraments, takes away the sacraments themselves.
Book IV Chap XV Sec 16
Moreover, if we have rightly determined that a sacrament is not to be estimated by the hand of him by whom it is administered, but is to
be received as from the hand of God himself, from whom it undoubtedly proceeded, we may hence infer that its dignity neither gains
nor loses by the administrator. And, just as among men, when a letter has been sent, if the hand and seal is recognized, it is not of the
least consequence who or what the messenger was; so it ought to be sufficient for us to recognize the hand and seal of our Lord in his
sacraments, let the administrator be who he may. This confutes the error of the Donatists, who measured the efficacy and worth of the
sacrament by the dignity of the minister. Such in the present day are our Catabaptists, who deny that we are duly baptized, because we
were baptized 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.
Be it that those who baptized us were most ignorant of God and all piety, or were despisers, still they did not baptize us into a
fellowship with their ignorance or sacrilege, but into the faith of Jesus Christ, because the name which they invoked was not their own
but God's, nor did they baptize into any other name. But if baptism was of God, it certainly included in it the promise of forgiveness of
sin, mortification of the flesh, quickening of the Spirit, and communion with Christ. Thus it did not harm the Jews that they were
circumcised by impure and apostate priests. It did not nullify the symbol so as to make it necessary to repeat it. It was enough to return
to its genuine origin. The objection that baptism ought to be celebrated in the assembly of the godly, does not prove that it loses its
whole efficacy because it is partly defective. When we show what ought to be done to keep baptism pure and free from every taint, we
do not abolish the institution of God though idolaters may corrupt it. Circumcision was anciently vitiated by many superstitions, and
yet ceased not to be regarded as a symbol of grace; nor did Josiah and Hezekiah, when they assembled out of all Israel those who had
revolted from God, call them to be circumcised anew.
Now, suppose what we have determined is true -- that a sacrament must not be judged by the hand of the one by whom it is ministered, but as if it were from the very hand of God, from whom it doubtless has come. From this we may then infer that nothing is added to it or taken from it by the worth of him by whose hand it is administered. Among men, if a letter is sent, provided the handwriting and seal are sufficiently recognized, it makes no difference who or of what sort the carrier is. In like manner, it ought to be enough for us to recognize the hand and seal of our Lord in his sacraments, whatever carrier may bring them. This argument neatly refutes the error of the Donatists, who measured the force and value of the sacrament by the worth of the minister. Such today are our Catabaptists, who deny that we have been duly baptized because we were baptized by impious and idolatrous men under the papal
government.F574 They therefore passionately urge rebaptism. We shall be armed against their follies with a strong enough argument if we think of ourselves as initiated by baptism not into the name of any man, but into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit [Matthew 28:19]; and that baptism is accordingly not of man but of God, no matter who administers it. Ignorant or even contemptuous as those who baptized us were of God and all piety, they did not baptize us into the fellowship of either their ignorance or sacrilege, but into faith in Jesus Christ, because it was not their own name but God's that they invoked, and they baptized us into no other name. But if it was the baptism of God, it surely had, enclosed in itself, the promise of forgiveness of sins, mortification of the flesh, spiritual vivification, and participation in Christ. Thus it was no hindrance to the Jews to be circumcised by impure and apostate priests; nor was the sign therefore void so that it had to be repeated, but it was a sufficient means by which to return to the real source. Their objection that baptism ought to be celebrated in the assemblies of the godly does not have the effect of extinguishing the whole force of what is only partially faulty. For when we teach what ought to be done in order that baptism may be pure and free of all defilement, we do not abolish God's ordinance, however idolaters may corrupt it. For when in ancient times circumcision was corrupted by many superstitions, it did not cease nevertheless to be regarded as a symbol of grace. And when Josiah and Hezekiah called out of all Israel those who had forsaken God [2 Kings, chs. 22; 23; 18], they did not summon them to a second circumcision.
Book IV Chap XVI Sec 17
But how, they ask, are infants regenerated, when not possessing a knowledge of either good or evil? We answer, that the work of God, though beyond the reach of our capacity, is not therefore null.
But how (they ask) are infants, unendowed with knowledge of good or evil, regenerated? We reply that God's work, though beyond our understanding, is still not annulled.
But faith, they say, cometh by hearing, the use of which infants have not yet obtained, nor can they be fit to know God, being, as Moses
declares, without the knowledge of good and evil (Deuteronomy 1:39). But they observe not that where the apostle makes hearing the
beginning of faith, he is only describing the usual economy and dispensation which the Lord is wont to employ in calling his people,
and not laying down an invariable rule, for which no other method can be substituted. Many he certainly has called and endued with the
true knowledge of himself, by internal means, by the illumination of the Spirit, without the intervention of preaching. But since they
deem it very absurd to attribute any knowledge of God to infants, whom Moses makes void of the knowledge of good and evil, let them
tell me where the danger lies if they are said now to receive some part of that grace, of which they are to have the full measure shortly
after. For if fullness of life consists in the perfect knowledge of God, since some of those whom death hurries away in the first
moments of infancy pass into life eternal, they are certainly admitted to behold the immediate presence of God. Those, therefore, whom
the Lord is to illumine with the full brightness of his light, why may he not, if he so pleases, irradiate at present with some small beam,
especially if he does not remove their ignorance, before he delivers them from the prison of
the flesh? I would not rashly affirm that they are endued with the same faith which we experience in ourselves, or have any knowledge at all resembling faith (this I would rather leave undecided); but I would somewhat curb the stolid arrogance of those men who, as with inflated cheeks, affirm or deny whatever suits them.
But faith, they say, comes by hearing [Romans 10:17], the use of which infants have not yet acquired; nor can they be capable of knowing God, for, as Moses teaches, they are without the knowledge both of good and of evil [Deuteronomy 1:39].F627 But these men do not perceive that when the apostle makes hearing the beginning of faith he is describing only the ordinary arrangement and dispensation of the Lord which he commonly uses in calling his people-not, indeed, prescribing for him an unvarying rule so that he may use no other way. He has certainly used such another way in calling many, giving them true knowledge of himself by inward means, that is, by the illumination of the Spirit apart from the medium of preaching. But since they think that it would be quite absurd
for any knowledge of God to be attributed to infants, to whom Moses denies the knowledge of good and evil, let them only tell me, I ask, what the danger is if infants be said to receive now some part of that grace which in a little while they shall enjoy to the full? For if fullness of life consists in the perfect knowledge of God, when some of them, whom death snatches away in their very first infancy, pass over into eternal life, they are surely received to the contemplation of God in his very presence. Therefore, if it please him, why may the Lord not shine with a tiny spark at the present time on those whom he will illumine in the future with the full splendor of his light -- especially if he has not removed their ignorance before taking them from the prison of the flesh? I would not rashly affirm that they are endowed with the same faith as we experience in ourselves, or have entirely the same knowledge of faith -- this I prefer
to leave undetermined -- but I would somewhat restrain the obtuse arrogance of those who at the top of their lungs confidently deny or assert whatever they please.
His third point is, That all who believe not in the Son remain in death, the wrath of God abideth on them (John 3:36); and, therefore,
infants who are unable to believe lie under condemnation. I answer, that Christ does not there speak of the general guilt in which all the
posterity of Adam are involved, but only threatens the despisers of the gospel, who proudly and contumaciously spurn the grace which
is offered to them. ... Servetus afterwards adds, that no man becomes our brother unless by the Spirit of adoption, who is only conferred
by the hearing of faith. I answer, that he always falls back into the same paralogism, because he preposterously applies to infants what
is said only of adults. Paul there teaches that the ordinary way in which God calls his elect, and brings them to the faith, is by raising up
faithful teachers, and thus stretching out his hand to them by their ministry and labors. Who will presume from this to
give the law to God, and say that he may not engraft infants into Christ by some other secret method?
He brings up a third objection: that all who do not believe in the Son of God remain in death, and God's wrath remains upon them [John 3:36]. Therefore, infants, who cannot believe, lie in their own damnation. I reply: Christ does not speak there of the general guilt in which all the posterity of Adam is entangled, but only threatens the despisers of the gospel, who haughtily and stubbornly reject the grace offered them. ... He afterward adds that no one can become our brother except through the Spirit of adoption [Romans 8:15], which is conferred only through the hearing of faith [Galatians 3:2]. I reply: he always falls back into the same false reasoning, for he preposterously applies to infants what was said concerning adults alone. Paul teaches there [Romans 10:17; Galatians 3:5] that this is God's ordinary manner of calling -- to draw his elect to faith while he raises up for them faithful teachers, by whose ministry and labor he reaches out his hand. Who would dare, on the basis of this, to impose a law upon him, that he should not engraft infants into Christ by another secret means?
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