John Calvin Complete Commentary - John 9:22 - 9:22

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John Calvin Complete Commentary - John 9:22 - 9:22


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22.The Jews had determined. This passage shows that the custom of excommunication is ancient, and has been observed in all ages; for excommunication was not then for the first time invented, but it was a custom which had been anciently used against apostates and despisers of the Law, and was turned against the disciples of Christ. We learn, therefore, that the practice of excommunication arose out of the most ancient discipline of the Church. We learn also that it is a crime which has not been of recent origin, and has not been peculiar to a single age, that wicked and unbelieving (264) men should corrupt the holy ordinances of God by their deeds of sacrilege. God determined, from the beginning of the world, (265) that there should be some form of correction, by which rebels should be restrained. The priests and scribes not only abused this power in a tyrannical manner to oppress innocent men; but at length they basely attacked God himself and his doctrine. The truth of Christ being so powerful that they were not able to put it down by law, or by a regular course of proceedings, they launched the thunders of excommunications to crush it.

The same thing has also been done with the Christian people; for it is impossible to express the barbarous tyranny which the pretended bishops have exercised in enslaving the people, so that no man dared to whisper; and now we see with what cruelty they throw this dart of excommunication against all who worship God. But we ought to believe that excommunication, when it is violently applied to a different purpose by the passions of men, may safely be treated with contempt. For when God committed to his Church the power of excommunicating, he did not arm tyrants or executioners to strangle souls, but laid down a rule for governing his people; and that on the condition that he should hold the supreme government, and that he should have men for his ministers. Let the pretended bishops then thunder as they think fit, by their empty noises they will not terrify any but those who wander about in doubt and uncertainty, not having yet been instructed, by the voice of the Chief Shepherd, what is the true fold.

In short, nothing can be more certain than that those who, we see, are not subject to Christ are deprived of the lawful power of excommunicating. Nor ought we to dread being excluded by them from their assembly, since Christ, who is our life and salvation, is banished from it. So far are we from having any reason to dread being thrown out, that, on the contrary, if we desire to be united to Christ, we must, of our own accord, withdraw from the synagogues of Satan. Yet though the ordinance of excommunication was so basely corrupted in the ancient Church, still Christ did not intend that it should be abolished by his coming, but restored it to its purity, that it might be in full vigor amongst us. Thus, though at the present day there prevails in Popery a base profanation of this holy discipline, yet, instead of abolishing it, we ought rather to give the utmost diligence to restore it to its former completeness. There never will be so good order the world, that even the holiest Laws of God shall not degenerate into corruption, through the fault of men. Assuredly, it would give too much power to Satan, if he could reduce to nothing every thing that he corrupts. We would then have no Baptism, no Lord’ Supper, and, in short, no religion; for there is no part of it which he has left uncontaminated by its pollutions.

(264) “Les infideles.”

(265) “Des le commencement du monde.”