Calvin on the Papacy

On Deuteronomy 12:32, Calvin comments:7 “In order to the keeping of the First Commandment, a knowledge of God is required — derived from His Word, and mixed with faith.   By forbidding the addition or diminishing of anything, He plainly condemns as illegitimate whatever men invent of their own imagination.   Whence it follows that they who in worshipping God are guided by any rule save that which He Himself has prescribed, make to themselves false gods….   Now, since all the ceremonies of the papal worship are a mass of superstitions — no wonder that all her chief rulers…should be blinded with that stupidity with which God has threatened them!” 

On the Second Commandment, Calvin comments:8 “It is unquestionable that the supreme power of Christ was represented in the person of Aaron.   And hence the folly of the Papists is refuted, who transfer or rather wrest this example to the state of the Christian Church, so as to…fabricate the ‘primacy’ of the Roman See.    

“But if the true meaning of this figure be sought, it will be more appropriate to reason that whatever Ministers and Pastors of the Church are now appointed, they are placed as it were under the hand of Christ  — in order that they may usurp no dominion, but behave themselves modestly….   Hence we conclude that the Papacy is founded only in wicked sacrilege.   For Christ is unjustly deprived of His Own, if anyone else is feigned to be Aaron’s successor.”  

Calvin’s condemnations of the Romish Papacy from his Sermons on Deuteronomy (1-4) 

The Book of Deuteronomy sets out in exhaustive detail the duties of true believers in terms of their obedience to the Law of God.   No wonder, then, that Calvin’s Sermons on Deuteronomy offer us a massive amount of material against Papists and the Papacy. 

Preaching on Deuteronomy 1:1-3, Calvin already remarks:9 “The Pope has marred and corrupted the whole order of the Church, by his taking upon him[self] to be a lawmaker to devise laws [cf. Daniel 7:24-25] and to lay them upon men’s necks at his own pleasure, to forge and contrive new articles of faith, and to enforce men to receive his inventions as [if they were] the Holy Scriptures.   Is this not a turning upside

down of things?   Yes, for God never meant that men should have such liberty and sway in the Church, as to set forth any of their own inventions there!    But only He Himself wants to be heard there.” 

Again, preaching on Deuteronomy 1:9-15, Dr. Calvin insists:10 “What has caused such barbarous tyranny in the Church, as is to be seen in the Popedom?   Behold, the Pope has usurped an universal supremacy over the whole World.   For there must needs be one head — says he.   Verily! …  Who should say that Jesus Christ were discharged, Who was ordained to be the Head of both men and angels?    No: but the Pope will needs thrust the Son of God out of His place! 

In Deuteronomy 4:1f,  the inspired Moses said to the people of God: “You shall not add anything to the word which I command you!   Neither shall you take anything away from it — to the intent you may keep the Commandments of the Lord your God which I command you!” 

Observes Dr. Calvin in his sermon on that text:11 “On the contrary part, it is certain that all Popery must needs fall to the ground — except men’s inventions may have their full course….   [For] God’s Word may be mingled, turmoiled, stuffed, yes, and even falsified with men’s devices….    “The Papists cannot yield to this reason, that God should be obeyed according to His Word, and that men should be contented to be taught by Him in His school.   Indeed, they will not be so bold as to deny that God’s Law is holy and rightful.   But yet to their seeming, God has spoken but by halves, and men [they] say had need of a higher and profounder doctrine and of straiter laws” than God’s! 

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