III. – THE ERRORS OF CALVIN. – 87. -Calvin adopts the errors of Luther, 88.-Calvin’s errors regarding the Scriptures. 89.-The Trinity. 90.-Jesus Christ. 91. -The Divine Law 92.-Justification, 93.-Good Works and Free Will. 94.-That God predestines man to sin and to hell, and Faith alone in Jesus Christ is sufficient for salvation. 95.-The Sacraments, and especially Baptism. 96.-Penance. 97-The Eucharist and the Mass. 98.-He denies Purgatory and Indulgences; other errors.
87. Calvin adopted almost all the principal errors of Luther, who adopted almost all the errors of the ancient heretics, as we shall hereafterwards show in the refutation of Luther and Calvin. Prateolus (1) reckons two hundred and seven heretical doctrines, promulgated by Calvin, and another author (2) makes the number amount to fourteen hundred. At present I will only speak of the principal errors of Calvin, and will give in the last part of the work a particular treatise to refute them.
(1) Prateol. Hær. 13. (2) Francisc. Forvandes. in Theo mach. Calv.
88. As regards the Holy Scriptures, Calvin, in his book against the Council of Trent (3), says the Church has no right to interpret and judge of the true sense of the Scriptures. Second He refuses to receive the Canon of the Scriptures as settled by the Council. Third He denies the authority of the Vulgate. Fourth He denies the Canonicity of the books of Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, Tobias, Judith, and the Maccabees, and totally rejects Apostolical Traditions (4).
89. Regarding the Persons of the Trinity, he does not like the words Consubstantial, Hypostasis, or even Trinity. ” I wish,” he says, ” all these words were buried in oblivion, and we had this Faith alone, that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are one God” (5). The Church, however, has inserted in the Office of the Breviary the Athanasian Creed, in which it is positively laid down that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are not only one God, but also three distinct Persons; for otherwise one might fall into the errors of Sabellius, who said that these were but simple words, and that in the Trinity there is but one Divine Nature, and one Person, and on that account the Holy Fathers made use of the words Hypostatic and Consubstantial to explain both the distinction and the equality of the Divine Persons. Second It is a foolish thing, he says, to believe in the continual actual generation of the Son from the Eternal Father (6); but this doctrine is not only the general one among Theologians (7), but is proved by the Scriptures : “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee” (Ps. ii, 7). St. Augustine, explaining this text, says : ” This day, that is, from all eternity, and in every continuous instant, he begets me according to my Divine Nature, as his Word and his Natural Son.”
90. Speaking of Jesus Christ, he says that he was the mediator of mankind with his Eternal Father before he became man, and before Adam sinned (8). ” Not alone,” he says in one of his letters, ” did Christ discharge the office of a mediator after the fall of Adam, but as the Eternal Word of God.” This is a manifest error, for it was when Christ took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary that he became the mediator of reconciliation between God and man; as the Apostle says, ” for there is one God, and one mediator of God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (I. Timothy, ii. 5). He also blasphemously taught, that when Christ descended into hell (and he understands it as the hell of the damned), that he suffered the pains of the damned, and this was the great price he offered to his Eternal Father for our redemption. Cardinal Gotti says (9), that, like Nestorius, he recognized two Persons in Christ (10).
(3) Calvin. Antid. ad Synod. Trident, ad Sess. IV. (4) Calvin, in Autid. loc. cit. (5) Calvin. Instit. 1. 1, c. 13, sec. (6) Calvin, vide loc. cit. (7) Calvin. Epist. ad Stanearum. (8) Calvin, Instit. I. 2, c. 16. (9) Gotti, Vera Chiesa, t. 1, c. 8, sec. 1, n. 9 (10) Calvin. Inst. l. 1, c. 13, sec. 9, n. 23, 24.
91. Concerning the Divine law, and the sins of mankind (11), he says it is impossible for us to observe the law imposed on us by God, and that original concupiscence, or that vicious leaning to sin which exists in us, though we do not consent to it, is still sinful, since such desires arise from the wickedness which reigns in us; that there are no venial sins, but that all are mortal; that every work which even the just man performs is sinful; that good works have no merit with God, and that to say the contrary is pride, and proceeds from a wish to depreciate* grace (12).
92. Concerning justification, he says that it does not consist in the infusion of sanctifying grace, but in the imposition of the justice of Christ, which reconciles the sinner with God. The sinner, he says in another place, puts on the justice of Christ by Faith, and clothed in that, appears before God not as a sinner, but as one of the just, so that the sinner, though continuing a sinner still, is justified by being clothed with masked as it were the justice of Christ, and appears just by that means (13). He also says, that man, in a state of sin, is not justified by contrition, but by Faith alone, believing in the promises and in the merits of Jesus Christ (14). This was the doctrine of the French Calvinists in their celebrated profession of faith” We believe that we are made participators of this justification by Faith alone, and this so happens because the promises of life offered to us in Christ are applied to our use.” He likewise said, that those who are justified should believe with a certainty of Faith that they are in a state of grace, and that this certainty should be understood not only of perseverance, but even of eternal salvation; so that one should consider himself as one of the elect, as St. Paul was by the special revelation he received from God (15).
(11) Calv. L 3, c. 3, sec. 10. . (12) Idem l. 3, c. 14, sec. 4. (13) Idem. 1. 3, c. 11, sec. 15, 16. (14) Idem, l. 3, c. 11, sec. 3. (15) Calv. Inst. l. 3, c. 2, sec. 16, & seq.
He likewise said, that Faith and justification belong to the elect alone, and that once in possession of them, they cannot be lost, and if any one thinks he lost them, he never had them. The Synod of Dort, however (16), opposed this doctrine, when it decided that in particular instances one may lose the Divine grace. We should not at all be surprised at this disagreement in the same sect, for as the heresiarchs separate from the Church, they cannot blame their disciples for separating from them; as Tertullian says, when each follows his own will, the Valentinians have the same right to their own opinion as Valentine himself (17).
93. He uttered horrible blasphemies when speaking of human actions as meritorious to salvation, or otherwise. The first is, -that man has no free will, and that this word, free will, is but a name without the substance (18). The first man alone, he said, had free will, but he and all his posterity lost it through sin; hence, anything that man does, he does through necessity, for God has so willed it, and it is God himself moves him to do it, which movement man cannot resist. But then, it may be said, when man acts without free will, and through necessity, both when he does what is good, as well as when he does what is evil, how can he have merit or demerit ? Calvin again blasphemously answers this, and says, that to acquire merit, or deserve punishment, it is enough that man should act spontaneously, without being driven to it by others, though all the while he acts without liberty and through necessity. But if God moves the will of man even to commit sin, then God is the author of sin ? ” No,” says Calvin, ” because the author of sin is he alone who commits it, not he who commands or moves the sinner to commit it.” He does not blush, then, to give utterance to a third blasphemy, that every sin is committed by the Divine authority and will; and those, he says, who assert that God merely permits sins, but does not wish them, or instigate them, oppose the Scriptures.
(16) Idem, l. 3, c. 2, sec. 11, 12. (17) Tertull. de Script. Hærat. c. 42. (18) Calv. Inst.l. 2 c . 2
“They feign that he permits those things, which the Scripture pronounces are done not only by his permission, but of which he is the author” (19). . He bases this falsehood on that text of David (20) : “Whatsoever the Lord pleased he both done in heaven and on the earth” (Psalms, cxxxiv, 6); but he appears to forget what the Psalmist says in another place : ” Thou art not a God that wiliest iniquity” (Psalms, v, 5). If God, I ask, moves man to commit sin, how can he avoid it ? Calvin not being able to get out of this difficulty, says, that carnal men, as we are, we cannot understand it (21).
94. It is a necessary consequence of this doctrine, that the sinner who is lost, is lost by Divine ordinance, and even this horrible blasphemy did not affright Calvin; monstrous as it is, he agrees to it, and concludes that God, knowing beforehand the salvation or reprobation of each person, as he has decreed it, that some men are predestined to eternal torment by the Almighty, solely by his will, and not by their evil actions (22). Such, reader, is the fine theology of these new Reformers of the Church, Luther and Calvin, who make the Almighty a tyrant, a deceiver, unjust and wicked a tyrant, because he creates men for the purpose of tormenting them for all eternity; a deceiver, because he imposes on them a law which they never can, by any means in their power, observe; unjust, since he condemns men to eternal punishment, while, at the same time, they are not at liberty to avoid sin, but constrained to commit it; and wicked, for he himself first causes a man to sin, and then punishes him for it. Finally, they make God distribute his rewards unjustly, since he gives his grace and heaven to the wicked, merely because they have Faith; that they are justified, though they should not even be sorry for their sins. Calvin says that this is the benefit of the death of Christ; but I answer him thus : If, according to his system, a man may be saved, then good works are no longer necessary, and Christ died to destroy every precept both of the old and new law, and to give freedom and confidence to Christians to do whatever they like, and to commit even the most enormous sins, since it is enough to secure their salvation without any cooperation on their part; that they should merely believe firmly that God does not impute to them their sins, but wishes to save them through the merits of Christ, though they do everything in their power to gain hell. This certain faith in our salvation, which he calls confidence, God, he says, gives to the elect alone.
(19) Calv. l. 2, c. 3. (20) Calvin, de Prædest, Dei, æterna. (21) Calv. Inst. l. 3, c. 23. (22) Calv. ibid.
95. Speaking of the Sacraments, he says, that they have effect on the elect alone, so that those who are not predestined to eternal happiness, though they may be in a state of grace, receive not the effect of the Sacrament. He also says that the words of the ministers of the Sacraments are not consecrating, but only declaratory, intended alone to make us understand the Divine promises (23), and hence he infers, that the Sacraments have not the power of conferring grace, but only of exciting our faith, like the preaching of the Divine Word (24), and he ridicules our Theological term, ex opere operate, for explaining the power of the Sacraments, as an invention of ignorant Monks; but in this, he only shows his own ignorance, as he understands by opus operatum, the good work of the ministers of the Sacraments (25). We, Catholics, understand, by opus operatum, not the act of the minister himself, so much as the power which the Almighty gives to the Sacraments (if not hindered by sin), of operating in the soul; that which the Sacrament signifies as Baptism, to wash; Penance, to forgive; the Eucharist, to nourish. He denies that there is any difference between the Sacraments of the Old and the New Law (26); but St. Paul says that the former were but weak and needy elements (Gal. iv, 9), and a shadow of things to come (Collos. ii, 17). He ridicules the Sacramental character, which is impressed by Baptism, Confirmation, and Orders (27), and Christ, he says, only instituted three Sacraments Baptism, the Supper, and Ordination; the first two he positively asserts to be Sacraments, and the third he admits. ” The imposition of hands,” he says, “which is performed in true and lawful Ordinations, I grant to be a Sacrament ;” but he totally rejects the Sacraments of Confirmation, Penance, Extreme Unction, and Matrimony (28).
(23) Calvin. Instit. l. 4, c. 14, s. 4. (24) Idem, l. 4, c. 14, s. 11.. (25) Idem, 1. 4, c. 14, s. 26. (26) Idem, l. 4, c. 14, s. 23. (27) Calvin, Instit. in Antid. Conc. Trid. ad Can. 9, Sess. 7 (28) Idem, l. 4, c. 19. s. 19, 20.
Though he admits Baptism as a Sacrament, he denies that it is necessary for salvation (29), because children, he says, snatched off by death, though they are not baptized, are saved, for they are members of the Church when they are born, for all children of Christians, he says, being born in the alliance of the New Law (30), are all born in grace (31), and he teaches that laymen and women cannot baptize a child even in danger of death (an error most dangerous to the salvation of these poor innocents), because, though they die without baptism, they are saved (32). Finally, he teaches that the Baptism of John the Baptist was of the same efficacy as the Baptism instituted by Jesus Christ (33).
96. He not alone denies that Penance is a Sacrament, but he teaches many errors concerning it; for the sins committed after Baptism, he says, are remitted by the remembrance of Baptism, and do not require the Sacrament of Penance (34); that the absolution of the Confessor has no power to remit sins, but is merely an abstraction of the remission God grants us, by the promise made to Christians; that the confession of sins is not of Divine right, but only ordained by Innocent III., in the Council of Lateran; and that it is not necessary to make satisfaction for our sins, because God is not to be pleased with our works, and such satisfaction would be to derogate from that atonement made by Christ for our sins.
97. Regarding the Sacrament of the Eucharist, against which all his malice is directed, as we see in his book, “De Cæna Domini,” he says, that Transubstantion, as believed by Catholics, is nothing but a mere invention, and that the Eucharist ought not to be preserved or adored, because it is a Sacrament only while it is used, and that the essence of this Sacrament is eating by Faith (35). He denies (and this is the error he most furiously defends) the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
(29) Idem, c. 19, s. 31. (30) Idem, l. 4, c. 15, n. 20. (31) Bossuet Variat. t. 3, l. 14, n. 37. (32) Calvin, l. 4, c. 15,s. 20 & seq. (33) Idem, l. 3, c. 15, s. 3& 4. (34) Vide loc. cit. (35) Calvin, loc. cit. de Cæna Dom.
The words of consecration : ” This is my body, and this is my blood,” are to be taken, he says, not in reality, as we believe them, but figuratively, and that they do not mean the conversion of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, but that the bread and wine in the Sacrament are merely figures f the body and blood of our Lord (36), and that in the communion, we receive the life and substance of Jesus Christ, but not his proper flesh and blood; then he says, ” we do and do not receive Jesus Christ,” proving that he did not believe in, or admit, the Real Presence in the Eucharist (37). Nothing, he says, can be more reprehensible than dividing the Supper in other words, giving communion under one kind. When such is their doctrine, we ought surely be surprised to see the Calvinists in their famous Synod of Charenton, in 1631, deciding that the Lutherans, who they knew believed in the Real Presence, should be admitted to their communion, because, as they asserted, both believed in the fundamental articles (38). Daille denies (39) that there is any thing in this Decree contrary to piety or to the honour of God; but we may ask the Calvinists : Is not idolatry contrary to the honour of God ? and are not the Lutherans idolaters, when they adore as God, mere bread ? Calvin denies, also, that the Mass is a Sacrifice instituted by Jesus Christ for the living and the dead (40), and it is, he says, injurious to the Sacrifice of the Cross to say so, and that private Masses are in direct opposition to the institution of Christ.
98. Calvin, likewise, denies Purgatory (41), the value of Indulgences (42), the Intercession of Saints, and the Veneration of Images (43); and St. Peter, he says, enjoyed among the Apostles merely a supremacy of honour, but not of jurisdiction (44), and then he rejects the primacy of St. Peter and the Pope (45). The Church and General Councils, he says, are not infallible in the definition of articles of Faith, or the interpretation of the Scriptures. He entirely renounces Ecclesiastical Laws, and the rites appertaining to discipline (46), such rites, as he alleges, being pernicious and impious, and he rejects the Fast of Lent (47), and the Celibacy of the Clergy (48); vows to fast or to go on a pilgrimage, and the religious vows, he says, are superstitious (49).
(36) Calvin. Instit. l. 4, c. 17, s. 32. (37) Mem, loc. cit. s. 33, 34. (38) Calvin. l. 4, c. 17, s. 4648. (39) Dallasus Apol. Eccl. Reform, p. 43.. (40) Calvin. Instit. l. 4, c. 18. (41) Idem, L 3, c. 5, s. 6, 10. (42) Calvin. Inst. Idem l. 3, c. 5, s. 2. (43) Idem l. 3, c. 20. (44) Idem I. c. II. (45) Idem l. 4, c. 6. (46) Idem l. 4, c. 9. (47) Idem l. 4, c. 20. (48) Idem l. 4, c. 12, n. 19 & 20. (49) Ibid, s. 23. (50) Idem, l. 4, c. 13, s. 6.
Usury, he says, may be permitted, for there is no text of Scripture prohibiting it. Noel Alexander and Cardinal Gotti (50) enumerate many other errors of his, and in a word, he preached and wrote so many blasphemies, that it was not without reason, at his death, that he cursed his life, his studies, and his writings, and called on the devil to take him, as we read above (N. 70) (51).
(51) Calvin Respons. de Usur. inter Epist. p. 223; Nat. Alex. t. 19, art. 13, s. 2; Gotti, t. 2, c. 3, s. 5.