The Australian Presbyterian Free Church's Rev. Rowland Ward makes an astute observation in his 1990 book Baptism in Scripture (page 67). "Against the mindless Anabaptism of his own day and the Ultra-Protestantism of our own," insists Ward, "Calvin's further comments are relevant."
For even before the Protestant Reformation, explains Calvin,62 God would not and "did not suffer Antichrist either to subvert His Church from its foundation, or to level it with the ground…. He allowed a fearful shaking and dismembering to take place. But He was pleased that, amid the devastation, the edifice should remain — though half in ruins. Therefore, while we are unwilling simply to concede the name of 'Church' to the Papists — we do not deny that there are churches among them….
"Daniel and Paul foretold that antichrist would sit in the Temple of God. Daniel 9:27; Second Thessalonians 2:4. We regard the Roman Pontiff as the leader and standard-bearer of that wicked and abominable kingdom. By placing his seat in the Temple of God — it is intimated that his kingdom would not be such as to destroy the name either of Christ or of His Church.
"Hence, then, it is obvious that we do not at all deny that churches remain under his [antichrist’s] tyranny; churches, however, which by sacrilegious impiety he has profaned…. I call them churches, inasmuch as the Lord there wondrously preserves some remains of His people, though miserably torn and scattered, and inasmuch as some symbols of the Church still remain — symbols especially whose efficacy neither the craft of the devil nor human depravity can destroy." Indeed, symbols such as the ineradicable sign of trinitarian baptism itself!
Calvin rejects Romish 'holy water' as quasi-rebaptistic
Yet Calvin insists63 that Romanism's repeated resprinklings of holy water upon those already duly baptized — comes perilously close to the hemerobaptistic heresy of constantly rebaptizing baptizees even on a daily basis. "Should any one ask them [the Romanists] where they get their holy water,
they will at once answer — 'from the apostles!' As if I did not know who the Roman bishop is, to whom history ascribes the invention — and who, if he had admitted the apostles to his council, assuredly never would have adulterated baptism by a foreign and unseasonable symbol" such as 'holy water' (sic)!
Calvin continues: "It does not seem probable to me that the origin of that consecration is so ancient as is there recorded. For when Augustine says (Epistle 118) that certain churches in his day rejected the formal imitation of Christ in the washing of feet, lest that rite should seem to pertain to baptism — he intimates that there was then no kind of washing which has any resemblance to baptism. Be that as it may — I will never admit that the Spirit of the apostles gave rise to that daily sign [of sprinkling with ‘holy water’] by which baptism, while brought back to remembrance, is in a manner repeated." For baptism is totally unrepeatable.
Calvin concludes by observing that Christ's "baptism administered by the apostles while He was still on earth, was called His baptism" — [viz., Christ-ian baptism]. Now certain “ancient writers.” continues Calvin, “say that the one baptism [of John the Baptizer] was only preparative to the other [baptism in the Name of the Triune God].” They say this, “because they read that those who had received the ‘baptism of John’ were [so they say!] again baptized by Paul (Acts 19:3-5 & Matthew 3:11). How greatly they are mistaken in this!"