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Calvin and the Libertines


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     When the liturgies were concluded, Calvin came down from the pulpit and took his stand before the table. Lifting up the white napkin he displayed the symbols of Christ's body and blood, the food destined for believing souls. Having blessed the bread and wine, he was about to distribute them to the congregation. At that moment there was seen a movement among the Libertines as if they would seize the bread and the cup. At that moment there was seen a movement among the Libertines as if they would seize the bread and the cup. 

The Reformer, covering the sacred symbols with his hands, exclaimed in a voice that rang through the edifice, "These hands you may crush; these arms you may lop off; my life you may take; my blood is yours, you may shed it; but you shall never force me to give holy things to the profane, and dishonor the table of my God." These words broke like a thunder- peal over the Libertines. As if an invisible power had flung back the ungodly host, they slunk away abashed, the congregation opening a passage for their retreat.  As if an invisible power had flung back the ungodly host, they slunk away abashed, the congregation opening a passage for their retreat.  A deep calm succeeded; and "the sacred ordinance," says Beza, "was celebrated with a profound silence, and under a solemn awe in all present, as if the Deity himself had been visible among them."

     These two acts, Luther's at Worms and Calvin's in St. Peter's, were in fact two beacon-lights kindled by providence for the instruction of Europe. They were hung out at the opening  of  a new epoch, to enable Christendom to pilot itself past two tremendous dangers that lay right in its course. The one of these dangers was only beginning to be visible. The conflict  waged in St. Peter's on Sunday, the 3rd of September, 1553, showed how that danger was to be avoided. A Protestant Church, scripturally constituted, and faithfully governed, was the  only possible breakwater against that lawless pantheism which was even then lifting up its head and threatening society with ruin. Such was the lesson taught by the heroic act in  St. Peter's. Calvin was the first man against whom the foul and furious tide of communism dashed itself; it broke against the pulpit of St. Peter's before it precipitated itself upon the  throne of France.

Wylie J.A. History of Protestantism, bk. 14, ch. 20.

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