Monday, February 04, 2013

“Dung in their faces”: “All the dignity which ye pretend shall be abolished”

Roman Catholics have a few “end-of-the-line” kinds of positions. Fallback positions they take when all of their other “oh yeah, but what about this” objections fail.

One of these is “Sola Scriptura isn’t in the Bible”. Another is an appeal to Augustine’s writings vs the Donatists, as if the Reformers were somehow equivalent to the Donatists. But this appeal is shown to be spurious in the Reformed Confessions as well as in Calvin’s own writings.

First, the 2nd Helvetic Confession, Chapter 17 notes:

We, therefore, call this Church catholic because it is universal, scattered through all parts of the world, and extended unto all times, and is not limited to any times or places. Therefore, we condemn the Donatists who confined the Church to I know not what corners of Africa. Nor do we approve of the Roman clergy who have recently passed off only the Roman Church as catholic.

For the Reformed, there is an equal condemnation of the Donatist errors and the claims of exclusivity of the Roman hierarchy. As seen further in Chapter 18:

Moreover, we strongly detest the error of the Donatists who esteem the doctrine and administration of the sacraments to be either effectual or not effectual, according to the good or evil life of the ministers. For we know that the voice of Christ is to be heard, though it be out of the mouths of evil ministers; because the Lord himself said: "Practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do" (Matt. 23:3). We know that the sacraments are sanctified by the institution and the word of Christ, and that they are effectual to the godly, although they be administered by unworthy ministers.

That much is not in question. You give lip service to the notion that it would be “the greatest calamity” if “successors” were not “perfect and blameless”, saying “I’m not aware of anyone who would disagree with the quote that you supplied”.

However, men like Cardinal Mahoney are not only “not perfect and blameless, but they are the worst kind of criminals. Then you quickly to sidestep that whole notion.

What is a “great calamity” Pete? Is it a reason to make you cheerful to be a Roman Catholic? You, as a Roman Catholic, should be leading the charge to find and prosecute all of those bishops – and there are hundreds if not thousands of them around the world – who actively obstructed justice and protected pedophile priests.

You should have absolute fear, for these leaders of the Roman Catholic church, and for yourself for supporting, and thus participating in their sins.

In the same section of the 2nd Helvetic Confession:

THE LORD RESERVES TRUE POWER FOR HIMSELF. This power the Lord reserves to himself, and does not transfer it to any other, so that he might stand idly by as a spectator while his ministers work. For Isaiah says, "I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David" (Isa. 22:22), and again, "The government will be upon his shoulders, but still keeps and uses his own power, governing all things.

If you want to attribute “the keys” to Peter based on this verse [and then make the next argument that there are somehow “successors” to Peter], note that three verses later, Isaiah 22:25 warns of a day in which “the peg that was fastened in a secure place will give way, and it will be cut down and fall, and the load that was on it will be cut off, for the LORD has spoken”:

And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father's house. And they will hang on him the whole honor of his father's house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the cups to all the flagons. In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, the peg that was fastened in a secure place will give way, and it will be cut down and fall, and the load that was on it will be cut off, for the Lord has spoken.”

Surely the Lord of Hosts permits “pegs in a secure place” to be shown to “give way” and the load that it bears be “cut off”. This is the natural result when Eliakim is given keys that he can’t bear: to him whom the keys are given in this prophecy, and all that he bears up, are “cut off”.

This image of “calamity” and disaster among previously appointed leadership is reinforced, as Calvin notes in his commentary on Malachi. If it is true that God created “the succession” [and I do not allow that he did God is well within his rights to “cut them off” as well, and more, to “rub dung in their faces”:

But as the Jews flattered themselves on account of their descent, and ever boasted of their fathers, and as that preeminence with which God had favored them proved to them an occasion of haughtiness and pride, the Prophet here ridicules this foolish confidence, I will scatter dung, he says, on your faces: “Ye are a holy nation, ye are the chosen seed of Abraham, ye are a royal priesthood; these are your boastings; but the Lord will render your faces filthy with dung; this will be your nobility and preeminence! there is then no reason for you to think yourselves exempt from punishments because God has adopted you; for as ye have abused his benefits and profaned his name, so ye shall also find in your turn, that he will cover you with everything disgraceful and ignominious, so as to make you wholly filthy: ye shall then be covered all over with dung, and shall not be the holy seed of Abraham.”

“I myself,” he says, “am present, to whom ye think your sacrifices to be acceptable; I then will destroy your seed, and I will also cast dung on your faces; all the dignity which ye pretend shall be abolished, for ye think that ye are defended by a sort of privilege, when ye boast yourselves to be the seed of Abraham: it is dung, it is dung,” he says. He afterwards shows what was especially the dung and the filth: for when they objected and said, “What! have our sacrifices availed nothing?” he answers, “Nay, I will cast that dung upon you, because the chief pollution is in your sacrifices, for ye vitiate and adulterate my service: and what else is your sacrifice but profanation only? ye are sacrilegious in all your empty pomps. Since then all your victims have an ill-savor and displease me, and as I nauseate them, (as it is also said in the first and last chapter of Isaiah,) I will heap the dung on your own heads, because ye think it to be your chief expiation.”

He adds at last, It shall take you to itself; that is, “Ye shall be dung altogether; and thus all your boastings, that ye are descended from the holy Patriarch Abraham, shall be wholly useless; though I made a covenant and promised that you should be to me a royal priesthood, yet the dung shall take you to itself, and thus whatever dignity I have hitherto conferred on you shall be taken away.”

To be sure, it is Rome which is guilty of schism, not the church of the Reformers. Calvin makes a point of this in his Letter to Sadoleto:

... the most serious charge of all is, that we have attempted to dismember the Spouse of Christ. Were that true, both you and the whole world might well regard us as desperate. But I will not admit the charge, unless you can make out that the Spouse of Christ is dismembered by those who desire to present her as a chaste virgin to Christ,—who are animated by a degree of holy zeal to preserve her spotless for Christ,—who, seeing her polluted by base seducers, recall her to conjugal fidelity,—who unhesitatingly wage war against all the adulterers whom they detect laying snares for her chastity. And what but this have we done? Had not your faction of a Church attempted nay, violated her chastity, by strange doctrines? Had she not been violently prostituted by your numberless superstitions? Had she not been defiled by that vilest species of adultery, the worship of images? And because, forsooth, we did not suffer you so to insult the sacred chamber of Christ, we are said to have lacerated his Spouse! But I tell you that that laceration, of which you falsely accuse us, is witnessed not obscurely among yourselves; a laceration not only of the Church, but of Christ himself, who is there beheld miserably mangled. How can the Church adhere to her Spouse, while she has him not in safety? For where is the safety of Christ, while the glory of his justice, and holiness, and wisdom, is transferred elsewhere?

It is the “strange doctrines” which should concern you here:

For how have arisen so great impieties under the Papacy, except that pastors have exercised tyranny and not just government? For they have not regarded the purpose for which they have been called into their office, but as the name of pastor is in itself honorable, they have dared to raise themselves above the clouds, and to assume to themselves the authority of God himself. Hence it has been, that they have dared to bind consciences by their own laws, to change the whole truth, and to corrupt the whole worship of God: and hence also followed the scandalous sale of justice. How have these things happened? Because priests were counted as angels come down from heaven; and this same danger is ever to be feared by us.

This then is the vice which the Prophet now refers to; and he shows that the priests had no reason to think that they could shake off the yoke, Ye shall know, he says, that to you belongs this command. We indeed see what they objected to Jeremiah,

“The law shall not depart from the priests nor counsel and wisdom from the elders.” (Jeremiah 18:18.)

These are the weapons by which the Papists at this day defend themselves. When we allege against them plain proofs from Scripture, they find themselves clearly reproved and convicted by God’s word; but here is their Ajax’s shield, under which they hide all their wickedness, retailing as it were from the ungodly and wicked priests what is related by Jeremiah, “‘The law shall not depart from the priests;’ we are the Church, can it err? is not the Holy Spirit dwelling in the midst of us? ‘I am with you always to the end of the world,’ (Matthew 28:20;) did Christ intend to deceive his Church when he said this to his Apostles? and we are their successors.” The Prophet now gives the answer, Ye shall know, he says, that to you, belongs this command.

And in his commentary on Zechariah he says:

And he adds, not without severity, that my covenant may be with Levi; as though he had said, “On what account are ye thus elated? for God cannot get a hearing for himself, yet ye say that the covenant with Levi is not to be void, as though God had put Levi in his own place, and divested himself of all authority when he appointed that tribe, and made you ministers of the temple and teachers of the people; is he nothing? What was God’s purpose when he honored you with that dignity? He certainly did not mean to reduce himself to nothing, but, on the contrary, his will was, that his own right should remain entire and complete. When therefore I reprove your vices, and show that ye are become vile, and as it were dung, that ye are defiled by everything disgraceful, — when I make these things openly known, I do not violate the covenant made with Levi. God then justly summons you before his tribunal, and strips you of your honor, in order that the covenant he made with Levi may be confirmed and ratified.” This is, as I have said, a severe derision.

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