Calvin on the Papacy

However, soon after Gregory the Great, the various successive bishops of Rome started to demand that they be called 'Pope' alias ‘[Universal] Father.’    Continues Dr. Calvin: “At length [the new Emperor] Phocas…conceded to Boniface III  [who was Bishop of Rome from A.D. 607-8] what Gregory by no means demanded — viz. that Rome should be the head of all the churches….    

“Zachary the Roman Pontiff [from 741 to 752]…had the jurisdiction of the Roman See established over the churches of France….   The tyranny of the Roman Bishop was established, and ever and anon increased….    

“It is absolutely certain that [this was]…new, and of recent fabrication….     But doubtless, it was necessary that those Antichrists should proceed to such a degree of madness and blindness — so that their iniquity might be manifest to all men of sound mind who will only open their eyes….    

“Let these 'worthy' defenders of the Roman See tell me with what face they can defend the title of 'Universal Bishop' — while they see it so often anathematised by Gregory!    If effect is to be given to his testimony, then they — by making their Pontiff 'universal' — declare him to be Antichrist….  

“The existing state of the Papacy…is clearly a hundred times more corrupt than in the days of Gregory [590-604] and Bernard [1090-1153] — though even then, those holy men were so much displeased with it….   In the present day, the World is so inundated with perverse and impious doctrines; so full of all kinds of superstition; so blinded by error and sunk in idolatry — there is not one of them which has not emanated from the Papacy or at least been confirmed by it…. 

“Shall we recognize the 'Apostolic See' — where we see nothing but horrible apostasy?   Shall he [the Pope] be ‘the Vicar of Christ’ who, by his furious efforts in persecuting the Gospel — plainly declared himself to be Antichrist?   Shall he be the successor of Peter, who goes about with fire and sword demolishing everything that Peter built?   Shall he be ‘the Head of the Church’ who after dissevering the Church from Christ her only true head, tears and lacerates her members?   Rome indeed was once the mother of all the churches.   But since she began to be the seat of Antichrist [by 666 A.D.], she ceased to be what she was.    

“To some we seem slanderous and petulant, when we call the Roman Pontiff Antichrist.   But those who think so — perceive not that they are bringing a charge of intemperance against Paul, according to whom we speak….   Paul says that Antichrist would sit in the temple of God (Second Thessalonians 2:4).  

“In another passage, the Spirit…says that his reign would be with great swelling words of vanity (Daniel 7:25).   Hence we infer that his tyranny is more over souls than bodies — a tyranny set up in opposition to the spiritual Kingdom of Christ….  He [Antichrist] abolishes not the name either of ‘Christ’ or the ‘Church’ — but rather uses the name of ‘Christ’ as a pretext, and lurks under the name of ‘Church’ as under a mask.  But though all the heresies and schisms which have existed from the beginning, belong to the kingdom of Antichrist — yet, when Paul foretells that defection will come, he by the description intimates that that seat of abomination will be erected when a kind of universal defection comes upon the Church, [even]  though many members of the Church scattered  up and down should continue in the true unity of the faith…. 

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