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Calvin - Institutes of the Christian Religion Book4 Chapter5

Calvin - Institutes of the Christian Religion Book4 Chapter5

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Published by: api-3803803 on Oct 17, 2008
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(Appointment of unqualified persons without vote of the people, 1-3)

Now it behooves us to turn our attention to the order of church
government adhered to today by the Roman see and all its satellites, and
the whole picture of that hierarchy which they are always talking about;
also, to compare with it our description of the first and ancient church.
From such a comparison will appear the nature of that church which these
men have who are raging to oppress\u2014or rather to destroy\u2014us by its mere

It is best to begin with the call, that we may see who and what type are called to this ministry and in what manner. Then we shall consider how faithfully they discharge their office.

We shall give first place to bishops. Would that it were an honor to give them first place in this discussion! But the reality does not allow me to touch even lightly upon this matter, without great shame to them. Still, I shall remember in what sort of writing I am presently engaged, and not allow my discourse, which ought to be framed to simple teaching, to

exceed its limits.
But let any one of them who has not utterly lost shame answer me what
sort of bishops are commonly elected today!
The practice of having an examination of learning has, to be sure, become
too old-fashioned. But if learning is held in any regard, they choose a
lawyer who knows how to plead in a court rather than how to preach in a

church. This is certain, that for a hundred years scarcely one man in a
hundred has been elected who has comprehended anything of sacred
learning. I spare the previous centuries not because they were much better,
but because our question concerns only the present church. If their morals
are appraised, we shall find few or almost none whom the ancient canons
would not have judged unworthy. He who was not a drunkard was a
fornicator; he who was also free of this crime was a dice player or hunter,
or dissolute in some part of life. For there are less serious faults which,
according to the ancient canons, exclude a man from the episcopate. But

this is by far the most absurd thing\u2014that boys scarcely ten years old, by
the pope\u2019s dispensation, are made bishops. And they have reached such
lengths of shamelessness and stupidity that they do not bristle with horror
even at this extreme and monstrous transgression which is repulsive to the
very feeling of nature. From this it is evident how scrupulous were the

elections where there was such heedless negligence.F121

Now all the people\u2019s right in electing a bishop has been taken away.
Votes, assent, subscriptions, and all their like have vanished; the whole
power has been transferred to the canons alone. They confer the
episcopate on whom they please; they introduce him directly before the
people, but to be adored, not to be examined.

Yet Leo cries out that no reason allows this, and declares it a violent
imposition.F122 Cyprian, in testifying that only election by the people\u2019s

consent flows from divine right, shows that the contrary custom conflicts with God\u2019s Word.F123 Very many decrees of synods stringently forbid its being done otherwise, and, if it be done otherwise, declare it void.F124 If these things are true, no canonical election remains today in the entire

papacy either by divine or by ecclesiastical right.

But even if this be the only evil, who could excuse the fact that they have thus despoiled the church of its right? But, they say, the corruption of the times required that, since among people and magistrates hatred and party spirit prevailed more in selecting bishops than did right and sound

judgment, the decision of this matter should be delegated to a few.F125
Obviously, this was an extreme remedy for evil in deplorable
circumstances! But when the medicine has seemed more deadly than the

disease itself, why is this new evil not also remedied? But, they say, the
canons have exactly prescribed the procedure that ought to be followed in
elections.F126 But ado we doubt that the people of old, when they met to
choose a bishop, understood that they were bound by most holy laws,
since they saw the rule laid down for them by God\u2019s Word? Indeed, that
single utterance of God, with which he describes the true likeness of a
bishop, justly ought to be of more weight than countless tens of thousands
of canons. Nonetheless, corrupted by a most ignoble passion, they had no
regard for law or equity. Thus today, even if the best laws are written,
they remain buried in documents. Sometimes, the promotion of drunkards,
fornicators, and most frequently gamblers to this office qs for the most
part condoned, and even approved (as if it were done by design)! I am not

exaggerating: bishoprics are the rewards for adulteries and panderings. For

when they are given to hunters and falconers, we are to suppose that
things have turned out admirably! To excuse such indecency in any way is
a very shameful thing. The people once had an excellent canon, I say, to
whom the Word of God prescribed that a bishop ought to be above
reproach, a teacher, not contentious, etc.

[<540301> 1 Timothy 3:1-7; cf.<560107> Titus 1:7-9]. Why, then, has the
responsibility of choosing been removed from the people to such fellows?
Obviously, because the Word of God was not being heeded among tumults
and factions of the people. And why is it not today transferred back from
such fellows, who not only violate all laws, but, casting away shame,
wantonly, selfishly, and ambitiouslymingle and confuse human things with

But when they say that this was devised as a remedy they are lying. We

read that in old times cities were often in tumult over the choice of
bishops; yet no one ever dared think of taking away the right from the
citizens. For they had other ways of avoiding these faults or, once they
had occurred, of correcting them. The truth shall be told.

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