Calvin on the Papacy

Now it should not be thought that Calvin was blind to the few commendable features of Papists.   Thus in his Sermons on Deuteronomy (4:6-10), he frankly enjoins his Christian addressees: “Look upon the Turks [alias the Muslims]!   They have some reverence to their religion….   So have the Papists….   Still, both of them are cut off from the Church of God — through their own fault.”12  

Calvin’s condemnations of the Romish Papacy in his Decalogical Sermons on Deuteronomy 

In a sermon on Deuteronomy 5:4-7, Calvin remarks on God’s First Commandment requiring that God alone be worshipped: “We see the horrible confusion that is in Popery: but yet, there is not any doctrine to pluck men back to God.   Nay, rather, that doctrine which is there — draws them quite and clean [away] from Him.   And we see that the Devil has gotten such footing there — that all is full of trumpery and illusions, and the living God is quite forsaken.”13 

The Pope’s transgressions of God’s Second Commandment, are obvious.   For his backslidden communion is notorious for its employment of images in worship, and also for the ugly idolatry of transubstantiation.   God’s Fifth Commandment requires men to honour their superiors [including God as the Superior of all superiors].   Preaching on Deuteronomy 5:16, John Calvin remarks:14 “We perceive the more plainly how much we ought to abhor the cursed Popedom.   For it is an overstateliness crept up in the World, to none other end than to drive God out of His seat and to bereave Him of the honour that belongs to Him.    

“For the Pope will grant well enough that he ought to be subject to his Superiors [viz. God the Father, Son and Spirit].   But what, though?   Does he keep any order, either of God or of nature?  No!   But contrarywise, his meaning is to despise all that is contained in the Holy Scripture — overthrowing all the order and policy that God has commanded us.    

“He terms himself Christ’s Vicar [or earthly Representative].   But yet, notwithstanding [that] — the World keeps on seeing that he has thrust Jesus Christ out of His seat, so that He is no more the Head of [the deformed and Roman Catholic part of] His Church….   This hellish Popedom…has no foundation at all!” 

Preaching on Deuteronomy 5:18 re God’s Seventh Commandment against adultery, John Calvin remarks that the “apostate or backsliding Church of Rome is the very seat of Antichrist.”15   For she is essentially a spiritual whore.

Indeed, in a sermon on Deuteronomy 5:21 re God’s Tenth Commandment against covetousness,16 Dr. John Calvin insists: “It was requisite that God should uncover the shame of the Popedom — and show that the greatest clerics there, are duller witted than the silly infidels that neither heard one word of Holy Scripture.   Why so?   For we must take that which is written – in the Law!”    

Finally, Dr. John Calvin sums all of this up in a sermon on Deuteronomy 6:1-4, re all ten of the Commandments.   There, he bodly asks: “Were there ever any superstitions more gross and more outrageous, than are to be seen nowadays in the Popedom?”17  

Calvin’s condemnations of the Romish Papacy from his Sermons on Deuteronomy (9-12) 

In a sermon on Deuteronomy 9:8-12, Calvin asks: “Is there any question of the hearing of God in the Popedom?   Nay, verily, they work all the abominations that are against God’s Word….   We see how shameless the Pope and all his rabble have been, in usurping such liberty to forge articles of faith, to make laws for men’s souls [Daniel 7:25], and to bring the Church in[to] such bondage as to bury all pure doctrine, so that their own dreams and dotages which they had devised contrary to God’s Word might be followed….   Now then, whereas the Papists allege their humbleness in observing the Commandments of their Church or rather hellish synagogue – it is but a devilish overweening through which they advance themselves openly against God, in commending their own folly and beastliness as highly as though their own inventions were far greater and [of a] more exquisite perfection than the wisdom of God.”18 

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