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Helvetic Churches. Difference between Zuinglius and Calvin.
Triumph of Calvinisin. Its five points. Genevan Academy. Controversies with the Lutherans. Internal dissensions. Spiritual Brethren and Sisters. Castalio. Bolsec. Seruetus. Persecutions from the Catholics. Rise of Arminianism. Synod of Dort. Decline of Calvinism in Holland, England, France, Switzerland. Disputes in Holland. Present state of the reformed Churches. Literature of the Calvinists. Distinguished men. Five points of Arminius. Persecution of his followers. Their restoration and prosperity.
Tue Helvetic Churches, which adhered to Zuinglius in the sacramental controversy, and in his simple forms of divine worship, and which, in opposition to hoth the Lutheran and Catholic, assumed the title of REFORMED, received, at his dea the doctrine and discipline of Calvin. They were subjected by this act, to many changes.
Zuinglius had given unbounded power in the government of the churches, to the civil magistrate. But Calvin directed that the churches should be governed by presbyteries and synods composed of clergy and laity; without bishops or any clerical subordination ; leaving it to the civil magistrates only to provide for their support, and defend them from their enemies. This form of government was called PRESBYTERIAN.
Zuinglius viewed the bread and wine in the sacrament only as symbolical of the body and blood of Christ; but Calvin, hoping to reconcile the Lutherans, acknowledged a real, though spiritual presence of Christ in the ordinance.
Zuinglius permitted all persons, regenerate and unregenerate, to partake of the supper.
Calvin viewed it as improper for any 10 partake, who had not been born of the Spirit.
Zuinglius suffered the doctrine of divine decrees to form no part of his theology. Calvin made it an essential part of his.
Zuinglius confined the power of excommunication, to the magistrate. Calvin, to the ministers and churches; but thought the magistrate should punish the dissolute.
The Swiss, however, would not at once readily accede to all Calvin's views, especially to his forms of church government. But the talents and perseverance of Calvin, at length gained a
triumph here, and among the reformed churches in France, Holland, Scotland, over the descendants of the Waldenses, the valleys of Piedmons, and over very many Lutheran churches in Germany, Poland, Prussia, Hungary, and Transylvania.
Among this vast collection of churches, however, which, in a short time became Calvinistic, there was never a perfect uniformity of doctrine or government. The leading articles
Calvin's faith, were predestination, particular redemption, total depravity, effectual calling, and saints' perseverance. On these points he maintained,
I. 46 That God hath chosen a certain number of the fallen race of Adam, in Christ, before the foundation of the world, unto eternal glory, according to his immutable purpose, and of his free grace and love, without the least foresight of faith, good works, or any conditions performed by the creature, and that the rest of mankind he was pleased to pass by, and ordain to dishonour and wrath, for their sins, to the praise of his vindictive justice.
II. “ That though the death of Christ be a most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sins of infinite value, and abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world, and though, on this ground, the Gospel is to be preached to all mankind indiscriminately; yet it was the will of God, that Christ, by the blood of the cross, should efficaciously redeem all those, and those only, who were from eternity elected to salvation and given to him by the Father.
III. " That mankind are totally depraved in consequence of the fall of the first man, who, being their public head, his sins involved the corruption of all his posterity, and which corruption extends over the whole soul, and renders it unable to turn to God, or to do any thing truly good, and exposes it to his righteous displeasure, both in this world and that which is to
IV. " That all whom God hath predestinated unto eternal life, he is pleased, in his appointed time, effectually to call by his word and Spirit out of that state of sin and death in which they were by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ.
V.“ That those whom God has effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, shall never finally fall from a state of grace. That true believers may fall partially, and would fall totally and finally, but for the mercy and faithfulness of God, who helpeth the feet of the saints ; also, that he who bestoweth the grace of perseverance, bestoweth it by means of reading and
hearing the word, meditation, exhortations, threatenings and promises ; but that none of these things imply the possibility of a believer's falling from a state of justification.”
Calvin also taught the doctrine of three co-ordinate persons in the Godhead, in one nature, and of two natures in Jesus Christ, forming one person, of justification by faith, and of the eternal happiness of the righteous, and endless misery of the finally impenitent.
These principles were fully embodied in the catechism of Heidelberg, drawn up by Ursinus for the use of the church of the palatinate in Germany, which, first under the elector Frederick III. in 1560, and afterwards under John, in 1583, embraced the discipline of Geneva. The protestants in Holland, Poland, and Hungary, received Calvin's views of the sacrament, but not readily, of predestination. The church of England became,
under Edward VI., Calvinistic in doctrine, but would not renounce episcopacy. The Bohemian and Moravian brethren, also received the creed of the Calvinists, while they retained their ancient government. The French and Scotch churches, came entirely into Calvin's views. To the consistory of Geneva, the Scotch added a general assembly of the whole church -a tribunal, to which were to be referred matters of highest moment.
Of the reformed churches, Calvin was the life and the soul. From his academy at Geneva, proceeded for many years, a great number of distinguished students, who filled England, Scotland, France, Italy, and Germany, with his doctrine. He was succeeded by his colleague Theodore Beza, who published a Latin version of the New Testament enriched with critical observations, and maintained, for many years, the high reputation of the academy.
In their early stages, these churches were engaged in violent controversies with the Lutherans. The chief point of difference regarded the Lord's Supper. They differed also, concernning the decrees of God; the Lutherans' affirming that these decrees proceeded from a previous knowledge' of men's sentiments and characters, and the Reformed, that they are free and unconditional, founded on the will of God;-and concerning some Catholic rites and institutions—the use of images in the churches, of wafers in the supper, exorcism in baptism, private confession of sin and clerical vestments, which the Lutherans thought proper and useful, but which the Reformed condemned, on the principle that the worship of the Christian church ought to be restored to its primitive simplicity. In
these controversies, the Calvinists were generally triumphant, and brought over to their communion many
Lutheran churches. With divisions and disputes among themselves, they were much less afflicted than the Lutherans ; but they were not wholly unmolested. A sect called the spiritual brethren and sisters, spread in Flanders, affirming that God was the sole operating cause in the mind of man, and the immediate author of all human actions; that religion consisted in an union of the spirit with God, and that those who had formed this union could not sin, do what they would. Being favoured by Margaret queen of Navarre, they gave Calvin no small trouble. At Geneva, Calvin's doctrine of degrees was openly contemned by Castalio, master of the public school, and Jerome Bolsec, a French monk. Both were banished from the city. Michael Servetus, a spanish physician, who had written against the doctrine of the Trinity, came to Geneva in 1553. Calvin caused him to be apprehended and brought before the Senate. Being condemned as a heretic, Servetus appealed to the four Swiss churches. They approved of the sentence and he was burnt Oct. 27. Calvin wished to have the mode of his execution changed, but he thought the sentence should be capital. It was the opinion of the age that erroneous religious principles should be capitally punished by the civil magistrate. A miserable way of opposing and subduing error. The severity of Calvin's doctrine and discipline (for he not only excommunicated all the flagitious from the church, but even had them punished by the magistrate and banished from the city) roused the resentment and malignity of the libertines of Geneva, who gave him perpetual trouble.
Calvin and Beza differed some on the divine decrees relating to the fall of man. The former held that God permitted the first man to fall into transgression without absolutely pre: determining his fall; the latter, that God decreed that Adam should fall, in order that God should glorify his justice and mercy in the destruction of some and salvation of others. Two parties were formed called Sublapsarians and Supralapsarians.
Wherever the Catholics could reach them, they caused the Reformed to drink to the dregs the cup of bitterness. The awful sufferings of the Huguenots in France have passed before us. Near 800,000 were destroyed in about 30 years in that kingdom. By the revocation of the edict of Nantez about 50,000 were driven into exile. Sorte fled to Holland, where
they erected churches and enjoyed religious liberty. Among these were Dumont, Dubosc, and the eloquent Saurin.*
The most horrid scenes of violence and bloodshed were exbibited from 1660 to 1690 among the Waldenses, whom the Papists persecuted with relentless fury.
The churches in Great Britain, as we shall see in subsequent chapters, suffered both from internal commotion and the fires of Papal persecution.
The church of the Palatinate passed under a Roman Catholic prince, and was almost extinguished.
At the opening of the 17th century the Reformed churches were distracted by the Arminian schism. This originated with James Arminius, professor of divinity at Leyden, who rejected the whole of Calvin's system relating to predestination and grace. He was warmly upheld and applauded in his views by many men of learning and power in Holland. He met however with warm opposition, especially from Gomer his colleague. After his death in 1609, the controversy became general, and so violent were the debates, such the tumults and broils, that the magistrates interfered, and the states general
convened a general synod at Dort in 1618, to consider and de1cide the whole controversy.
This was one of the most learned and important councils ever assembled. It was composed of the most able divines of Holland, England, Scotland, Switzerland, Bremen, Hessia and the Palatinate. At the opening of the Synod, the Arminians demanded the liberty of disproving the sentiments of Calvin, especially upon reprobation, but the Synod forbade them and required them first to prove their own sentiments. This they refused to do; and for their refusal, were banished from the Assembly. Their system was then examined and condemned. The Arminians were driven from their churches and country.
But the decisions of the Synod were not popular, and operated to the detriment of Calvinism. Many of the Arminiang were men of learning and eloquence, and correct lives, whose sufferings excited the sympathy of the public. The authority of the Synod was not universally acknowledged among the
• Saurin was born at Nismes, 1677. He left France on the revocation of the edict of Nantez and went to Geneva. There he studied with great assiduity and then pursued for a little time a military life. Relinquishing this he entered the ministry, and in 1705 setled at the Hague. There he preached his eloquent sermons to crowded and brilliant audiences with astonishing effect. He died Dec. 30, 1730.