Young Calvin about the Lord’s Supper (3)

In the first and second post about Young Calvin and the Lord’s Supper, I pointed out that his Epistolae Duae and his Articles concernant l’organisation de l’église et du culte a Genève appeared in print in January 1537, only four days separated from each other. However, that is not the last writing of Calvin in that month. At the end of the month his Instruction et Confession de Foy dont on use en leglise de Geneve (Geneva Catechism) was published. So we have a unique possibility to reconstruct his views on the sacraments at the end of 1536 and the start of 1537 from different angles.  In this post I will give a long quotation about the nature of the sacraments.

“Les sacremens sont instituez a ceste fin quilz feussent exercices de nostre foy tant devant Dieu que devant les hommes. Et certes devant Dieu ilz exercent nostre foy quand ilz la confirment en la verite de Dieu. Car le Seigneur nous a propose avoir les haulx et celestes secretz soubz choses charnelles, ainsi quil cognoissoit estere expediant a lignorance de nostre chair. Non pas que telles qualitez soient en la nature des choses lesquelles nous sont proposees au sacrament, mais parce que par la parolle du Seigneur elles sont marquees en ceste signification. Car tousiours la promesse precede laquelle est comprinse en la parolle: le signe est adiouste, lequel confirme et seelle icelle promesse et la nous rend comme plus testifiee, ainsi que le Seigneur voit quil convient a la capacite de nostre rudesse. Car nostre foy est tant petite et debile que si elle nest appuyee de tous costez et soustenue par tous moiens soubdain elle est esbranlee en toutes pars, agitee et vacilante. Or elle est aussi par les sacremens exercee envers les hommes, quand elle sort en confession publique et est incitee a rendre louanges au Seigneur. (…)

Sacrement doncques est un signe exterieur par lequel le Seigneur nous represente et testifie sa bonne volonte envers nous, pour soustenir limbecillite de nostre foy, ou (pour dire plus briefvement et plus clairement) cest un tesmoignage de la grace de Dieu declare par signe exterieur.”

The sacraments are instituted in order to exercise our fatih, both for God and man. For God they exercise our faith, in as far as they give us assurance in God’s truth. Bread and wineFor the Lord gave us these exalted and heavenly secrets in carnal form, because He acquainted with the ignorance of our flesh. It’s not that such qualities are in the nature of the things which are given unto us as sacraments, but it is because their meaning is given by the word of the Lord. Because, always the promise, contained in the word, precedes; the sign is adjusted, which confirms and seals this promise and gives us more testimony, in a way which the Lord has judged necessary because of our rudeness.  For our faith is so little and weak, that it would collapse, fluctuate and be wholly unstable if it’s not  underpinned from all sides and supported with all means. (…)

A sacrament therefore is an exterior sign, by which the Lord represents and testifies to us his good will towards us, in order to support the weakness of our faith; or (to state it shorter and more clearly) it’s a testimony of the Lord’s grace, declared by an external sign.  

Advertisements