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    March 16, 1888

    “Historical Necessity of the Third Angel’s Message. No. 3” The Signs of the Times 14, 11, pp. 167, 168.

    IN 1560 Melancthon died, glad, as he said on his death-bed, to be freed from the contentions of theologians. After his death, many who wished to see these divisions and animosities healed, hoped to bring the contests to an end. After many vain attempts, in 1568 the elector of Saxony and the duke of Saxe-Weimar summoned the most eminent men of each party to meet at Altenburg, and there, in an amicable spirit, sought to reconcile their differences. But this effort came to naught. Then the dukes of Wirtemberg and Brunswick joined in the scheme, and James Andreas, professor at Tubingen, under their patronage traveled through all parts of Germany working in the interests of concord. At last, they were so far successful as to gather, after several conferences, a company of leading divines at Torgau in 1576, where a treatise, composed by Andreas, was examined, discussed, and corrected; and finally proposed to the deliberations of a select number, who met at Berg, near Magdeburg. There all points were fully and carefully weighed, and discussed anew; and as the result of all there was adopted the “Form of Concord.” And now that the “Form of Concord” was adopted, discord was fully assured; for it was only a source of new tumults, and furnished matter for dissensions and contests as violent as nay that had gone before. Besides this, the field was now widened, so that the Calvinists and Zwinglians were all included in the whirl of controversy.SITI March 16, 1888, page 167.1

    When Calvin appeared upon the scene, the field was not only enlarged, but new material was supplied; for he differed from both Lutherans and Zwinglians, not only on the Lord’s Supper, but his essential tent of the absolute decrees of God, in the salvation of men, differed from these churches. This was also an entirely new element in the strife; and in the very nature of the case it propagated a multitude of new disputes. It is not necessary to enlarge upon these, nor to draw them out in their full numbers. It will be sufficient to merely name the leading subjects. Differing from both Lutherans and Zwinglians on the presence of Christ in the Supper, of course the controversy on that subject was reopened, and again canvassed through all its forms: 1. What is the nature of the institutions called sacraments? 2. What are the fruits of the same? 3. How great is the majesty and glory of Christ’s human nature? 4. How are the divine perfections communicated to the human nature of Christ? 5. What is the inward frame of spirit that is required in the worship addressed to the Saviour?SITI March 16, 1888, page 167.2

    Calvin’s doctrine of the divine decrees was this:—SITI March 16, 1888, page 167.3

    “We assert that by an eternal immutable counsel, God hath once for all determined both whom he would admit to salvation, and whom he would condemn to destruction. We affirm that this counsel, as far as concerns the elect, is founded on his gratuitous mercy, totally irrespective of human merit; but that to those whom he devotes to condemnation, the gate of life is closed by a just and irreprehensible, but incomprehensible, judgment.”SITI March 16, 1888, page 167.4

    On this subject the controversy ran through the following scale:—SITI March 16, 1888, page 167.5

    1. What is the nature of the divine attributes? 2. Particularly those of justice and goodness. 3. Fate and necessity. 4. What is the connection between human liberty and divine prescience? 5. What is the extent of God’s love to mankind? 6. What are the benefits that arise from the merits of Christ as mediator? 7. What are the operations of the divine Spirit, in rectifying the will, and sanctifying the affections of men? 8. The final perseverance of the elect.SITI March 16, 1888, page 167.6

    Other subjects of controversy were as follows:—SITI March 16, 1888, page 167.7

    Other subjects of controversy were as follows: 1. What is the extent of external ceremonies in religious worship.” 2. What are the special characteristics of things indifferent? 3. How far is it lawful to comply with the demands of an adversary in discussing things indifferent? 4. What is the extent of Christian liberty? 5. Is it lawful to retain, out of respect to the prejudices of the people, ancient rites and ceremonies which have a superstitious aspect, yet may be susceptible of a favorable and rational interpretation?SITI March 16, 1888, page 167.8

    Bear in mind that these are only the leading subjects that lay between Calvinism on the one hand, and Lutheranism, and the Zwinglians on the other. Calvin had yet other controversies to conduct on his own account. Among these were: (1) The Immortality of the Soul; (2) the Trinity; (3) Predestination (against his opponents in Geneva); and above all, (4) in acquiring and maintaining his own absolute supremacy in Geneva.SITI March 16, 1888, page 167.9

    It will be seen at the first glance that this last list is almost nothing in comparison with that which agitated the Lutheran Church, or with that which lay between the Calvinists and Lutherans. But there is an excellent reason for this; and that is, none but the most intrepid dared to question the doctrines of Calvin in Geneva. All opposers of Calvin there had to fairly take their lives in their hands. And some did not escape even that way. To give a proper view of affairs in Geneva, we quote a passage of the highest authority (“Encyclopedia Britannica,” ninth edition, art. “Calvin”), written by W. L. Alexander, D.D., one of the Bible revisers, and which is prima facie favorable to him:—SITI March 16, 1888, page 167.10

    “His system of church polity was essentially theocratic; it assumed that every member of the State was also under the discipline of the church; and he asserted that the right of exercising this discipline was vested exclusively in the consistory, or body of preachers and elders. His attempts to carry out these views brought him into collision both with the authorities and with the populace,—the latter being enraged at the restraints imposed upon the disorderly by the exercise of church discipline, and the former being inclined to retain in their own hands a portion of that power in things spiritual which Calvin was bent on placing exclusively in the hands of the church rulers. His dauntless courage, his perseverance, and his earnestness at length prevailed.... His work, as has been justly said, ‘embraced everything;’ he was consulted on every affair, great and small, that came before the council.”SITI March 16, 1888, page 167.11

    It is plain, therefore, that where “every member of the State” “was subject to the discipline of the church,” and where this discipline was exercised exclusively by the body of preachers and elders,” with Calvin the head of that body, his power was practically unlimited. It is equally plain that opposition to his doctrines could have no chance at all to spread, if he should choose to exert his power; and that he did choose to exert it, needs no argument. I proceed to the controversies that arose in Geneva.SITI March 16, 1888, page 167.12

    One of the first of his opponents was Gruet, who attacked him vigorously on his supremacy, and called him “bishop of Asculum,” and “the new Pope.” Amongst a good many other things he denied the immortality of the soul. He may have been an infidel; but at any rate he was brought before the council, and punished with death. Another opponent was Castalio, master of the public schools of Geneva, who attacked the doctrine of unconditional predestination. He was deposed from his office, and banished. Another was Jerome Bolsec, a monk who had been converted to Protestantism. He, too, attacked the doctrine of absolute decrees. He was thrown into prison, and after a two days’ debate with Calvin before the council, was banished.SITI March 16, 1888, page 168.1

    Out of this grew still another. Jacques de Bourgogne, a lineal descendant of the dukes of Burgundy and an intimate friend and patron of Calvin, had settled at Geneva solely to have the pleasure of his company. Bourgogne had employed Bolsec as his physician, and when Bolsec became involved in his difficulty with Calvin, Bourgogne came to his support, and tried to prevent his ruin. This so incensed Calvin that he turned his force against the nobleman (a noble man, too), who was obliged to leave Geneva, lest a worse thing should befall him.SITI March 16, 1888, page 168.2

    Another, and the most notable opponent, was Servetus, who had opposed the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity, and also infant baptism; and had published a book entitled “Christianity Restored,” in which he declared his sentiments. He had been condemned to death by the Catholics for heresy, but he escaped from their prison in Dauphiné, in France, and in making his way to Italy, passed through Geneva, and there remained a few days. He was just about to start for Zurich, when at the instigation of Calvin he was seized, and out of the book before mentioned, was accused of blasphemy. The result, as everybody knows, was that he was burned to death. Dr. Alexander says further: “The heresy of Servetus was not extirpated by his death; but none of his followers were visited with severer penalties than banishment from Geneva. The trials of several of these, with the conferences and controversies connected with them, occupied much of Calvin’s time for several years.”SITI March 16, 1888, page 168.3

    From the foregoing it is very easy to see why the Calvinistical body was so much more exempt from divisions and tumults than was the Lutheran.SITI March 16, 1888, page 168.4

    J.

    (To be continued.)

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