(Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 4, part 21)
Chapter 19. Of the five sacraments, falsely so called. Their 
spuriousness proved, and their true character explained. 
    There are two divisions of this chapter, - I. A general 
discussion of these five sacraments, sec. 1-3. II. A special 
consideration of each. 1. Of Confirmation, sec. 4-13. 2. Of Penance, 
sec. 14-17. 3. Of Extreme Unction, sec. 18-21. 4. Of Order, in which 
the seven so-called sacraments have originated, sec. 22-33. 5. Of 
Marriage, sec. 34-37. 
1. Connection of the present discussion with that concerning Baptism 
    and the Lord's Supper. Impiety of the Popish teachers in 
    attributing, more to human rites than to the ordinances of God. 
2. Men cannot institute sacraments. Necessary to keep up a 
    distinction between sacraments and other ceremonies. 
3. Seven sacraments not to be found in ecclesiastical writers. 
    Augustine, who may represent all the others, acknowledged two 
    Sacraments only. 
4. Nature of confirmation in ancient times. The laying on of hands. 
5. This kind of confirmation afterwards introduced. It is falsely 
    called a sacrament. 
6. Popish argument for confirmation answered. 
7. Argument confirmed by the example of Christ. Absurdity and 
    impiety of Papists in calling their oil the oil of salvation. 
8. Papistical argument, that Baptism cannot be complete without 
    conformation. Answered. 
. Argument, that without confirmation we cannot be fully Christians. 
10. Argument, that the Unction in confirmation is more excellent 
    than Baptism. Answer. 
L1. Answer continued. Argument, that confirmation has greater 
12. Argument from the practice of antiquity. Augustine's view of 
13. The ancient confirmation very praiseworthy. Should be restored 
    in churches in the present day. 
14. Of Penitence. Confused and absurd language of the Popish 
    doctors. Impositions of hands in ancient times. This made by 
    the Papists a kind of foundation of the sacrament of Penance. 
15. Disagreement among Papists themselves, as to the grounds on 
    which penance is regarded as a sacrament. 
16. More plausibility in calling the absolution of the priest, than 
    in calling penance a sacrament. 
17. Penance not truly a sacrament. Baptism the sacrament of 
18. Extreme Unction described. No foundation for it in the words of 
19. No better ground for making this unction a sacrament, than any 
    of the other symbols mentioned in Scripture. 
20. Insult offered by this unction to the Holy Spirit. It cannot be 
    a sacrament, as it was not instituted by Christ, and has no 
    promise annexed to it. 
21. No correspondence between the unction enjoined by James and the 
    anointing of the Papists. 
22. Of ecclesiastical orders. Two points for discussion. Absurdities 
    here introduced. Whether ecclesiastical order is a sacrament. 
    Papists not agreed as to holy orders. 
23. Insult to Christ in attempting to make him their colleague. 
24. The greater part of these orders empty names implying no certain 
    office. Popish exorcists. 
25. Absurdity of the tonsure. 
26. The Judaizing nature of the tonsure. Why Paul shaved his head in 
    consequence of a vow. 
27. Origin of this clerical tonsure as given by Augustine. Absurd 
    ceremonies in consecrating Doorkeepers, Readers, Exorcists, and 
28. Of the higher class of orders called Holy Orders. Insult offered 
    to Christ when ministers are regarded as priests. Holy orders 
    have nothing of the nature of a sacrament. 
29. Absurd imitation of our Saviour in breathing on his apostles. 
30. Absurdity of the anointing employed. 
31. Imposition of hands. Absurdity of, in Papistical ordination. 
32. Ordination of deacons. Absurd forms of Papists. 
33. Of sub-deacons. 
31. Marriage not a sacrament. 
sin Nothing in Scripture to countenance the idea that marriage is a 
36. Origin of the notion that marriage is a sacrament. 
37. Practical abuses from this erroneous idea of marriage. 
    1. The above discourse concerning the sacraments might have the 
effect, among the docile and sober-minded of preventing them from 
indulging their curiosity or from embracing without authority from 
the word, any other sacraments than those two which they know to 
have been instituted by the Lord. But since the idea of seven 
sacraments almost common in the mouths of all, and circulated in all 
schools and sermons, by mere antiquity, has struck its roots, and is 
even now seated in the minds of men, I thought it might be worth 
while to give a separate and closer consideration of the other five, 
which are vulgarly classed with the true and genuine sacraments of 
the Lord, and, after wiping away every gloss, to hold them up to the 
view of the simple, that they may see what their true nature is, and 
how falsely they have hitherto been regarded as sacraments. Here, at 
the outset, I would declare to all the pious, that I engage not in 
this dispute about a word from a love of wrangling, but am induced, 
by weighty causes, to impugn the abuse of it. I am not unaware that 
Christians are the masters of words, as they are of all things, and 
that, therefore, they may at pleasure adapt words to things, 
provided a pious meaning is retained, though there should be some 
impropriety in the mode of expression. All this I concede, though it 
were better to make words subordinate to things than things to 
words. But in the name of sacrament, the case is different. For 
those who set down seven sacraments, at the same time give this 
definition to all, viz., that they are visible forms of invisible 
grace; and at the same time, make them all vehicles of the holy 
Spirit, instruments for conferring righteousness, causes of 
procuring grace. Accordingly, the Master of Sentences himself denies 
that the sacraments of the Mosaic Law are properly called by this 
name, because they exhibited not what they figured. Is it tolerable, 
I ask, that the symbols which the Lord has consecrated with his own 
lips, which he has distinguished by excellent promises, should be 
regarded as no sacraments and that, meanwhile, this honour should be 
transferred to those rites which men have either devised of 
themselves, or at least observe without any express command from 
God? Therefore, let them either change the definition, or refrain 
from this use of the word, which may afterwards give rise to false 
and absurd opinions. Extreme unction, they say, is a figure and 
cause of invisible grace, because it is a sacrament. If we cannot 
possibly admit the inference, we must certainly meet them on the 
subject of the name, that we may not receive it on terms which may 
furnish occasion for such an error. On the other hand, when they 
prove it to be a sacrament, they add the reason, because it consists 
of the external sign and the word. If we find neither command nor 
promise, what else can we do than protest against it? 
    2. It now appears that we are not quarrelling about a word, but 
raising a not unnecessary discussion as to the reality. Accordingly, 
we most strenuously maintain what we formerly confirmed by 
invincible argument, that the power of instituting a sacrament 
belongs to God alone, since a sacrament ought by the sure promise of 
God, to raise up and comfort the consciences of believers, which 
could never receive this assurance from men. A sacrament ought to be 
a testimony of the good-will of God toward us. Of this no man or 
angel can be witness, since God has no counsellor, (Isa. 40: 13; 
Rom. 11: 34.) He himself alone, with legitimate authority, testifies 
of himself to us by his word. A sacrament is a seal of the 
attestation or promise of God. None, it could not be sealed by 
corporeal things or the elements of this world, unless they were 
confirmed and set apart for this purpose by the will of God. Man, 
therefore, cannot institute a sacrament, because it is not in the 
power of man to make such divine mysteries lurk under things so 
abject. The word of God must precede to make a sacrament to be a 
sacrament, as Augustine most admirably shows, (Hom. in Joann. 80.) 
Moreover, it is useful to keep up some distinction between 
sacraments and other ceremonies, if we would not fall into many 
absurdities. The apostles prayed on their bended knees; therefore 
our knees may not be bent without a sacrament, (Acts 9: 20; 20: 36.) 
The disciples are said to have prayed toward the east; thus looking 
at the east is a sacrament. Paul would have men in every place to 
lift up pure hands, (1 Tim. 2: 8;) and it is repeatedly stated that 
the saints prayed with uplifted hands, let the out stretching, 
therefore, of hands also become a sacrament; in short, let all the 
gestures of saints pass into sacraments, though I should not greatly 
object to this, provided it was not connected with those greater 
    3. If they would press us with the authority of the ancient 
Church, I say that they are using a gloss. This number seven is 
nowhere found in ecclesiastical writers, nor is it well ascertained 
at what time it crept in. I confess, indeed, that they sometimes use 
freedom with the term sacraments but what do they mean by it? All 
ceremonies, external rites, and exercises of piety. But when they 
speak of those signs which ought to be testimonies of the divine 
favour toward us, they are contented with those two, Baptism and the 
Eucharist. Lest any one suppose that this is falsely alleged by me, 
I will here give a few passages from Augustine. "First, I wish you 
to hold that the principal point in this discussion is that our Lord 
Jesus Christ (as he himself says in the gospel) has placed us under 
a yoke which is easy, and a burden which is light. Hence he has knit 
together the society of his new people by sacraments, very few in 
number, most easy of observance, and most excellent in meaning; such 
is baptisms consecrated by the name of the Trinity; such is the 
communion of the body and blood of the Lord, and any other, if 
recommended in the canonical Scriptures," (August. ad Januar. Ep. 
118.) Again, "After the resurrection of our Lord, our Lord himself, 
and apostolic discipline, appointed, instead of many, a few signs, 
and these most easy of performance, most august in meaning, most 
chaste in practice; such is baptism and the celebration of the body 
and blood of the Lord," (August. De Doct. Christ. Lib. 3 cap. 9.) 
Why does he here make no mention of the sacred number, I mean seven? 
Is it probable that he would have omitted it if it had then been 
established in the Church, especially seeing he is otherwise more 
curious in observing numbers than might be necessary? Nay, when he 
makes mention of Baptism and the Supper, and is silent as to others, 
does he not sufficiently intimate that these two ordinances excel in 
special dignity, and that other ceremonies sink down to an inferior 
place? Wherefore, I say, that those sacramentary doctors are not 
only unsupported by the word of God, but also by the consent of the 
early Church, however much they may plume themselves on the pretence 
that they have this consent. But let us now come to particulars. 
    Of Confirmation. 
    4. It was anciently customary for the children of Christians, 
after they have grown up, to appear before the bishop to fulfil that 
duty which was required of such adults as presented themselves for 
baptism. These sat among the catechumens until they were duly 
instructed in the mysteries of the faith, and could make a 
confession of it before bishop and people. The infants, therefore, 
who had been initiated by baptism, not having then given a 
confession of faith to the Church, were again, toward the end of 
their boyhood, or on adolescence, brought forward by their parents, 
and were examined by the bishop in terms of the Catechism which was 
then in common use. In order that this act, which otherwise justly 
required to be grave and holy, might have more reverence and 
dignity, the ceremony of laying on of hands was also used. Thus the 
boy, on his faith being approved, was dismissed with a solemn 
blessing. Ancient writers often made mention of this custom. Pope 
Leo says, (Ep 39,) "If any one returns from heretics, let him not be 
baptised again, but let that which was there wanting to him, viz., 
the virtue of the Spirit, be conferred by the laying on of the hands 
of the bishop." Our opponents will here exclaim, that the name of 
sacrament is justly given to that by which the Holy Spirit is 
conferred. But Leo elsewhere explains what he means by these words, 
(Ep 77 j) "Let not him who was baptised by heretics be rebaptised, 
but be confirmed by the laying on of hands with the invocation of 
the Holy Spirit, because he received only the form of baptism 
without sanctification." Jerome also mentions it, (Contra Luciferan) 
Now, though I deny not that Jerome is somewhat under delusion when 
he says that the observance is apostolical, he is, however, very far 
from the follies of these men. And he softens the expression when he 
adds, that this benediction is given to bishops only, more in honour 
of the priesthood than from any necessity of law. This laying on of 
hands, which is done simply by way of benediction, I commend, and 
would like to see restored to its pure use in the present day. 
    5. A later age having almost obliterated the reality, 
introduced a kind of fictitious confirmation as a divine sacrament. 
They feigned that the virtue of confirmation consisted in conferring 
the Holy Spirit, for increase of grace, on him who had been prepared 
in baptism for righteousness, and in confirming for contest those 
who in baptism were regenerated to life. This confirmation is 
performed by unction, and the following form of words: - "I sign 
thee with the sign of the holy cross, and confirm thee with the 
chrism of salvation, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and 
of the Holy Spirit." All fair and venerable. But where is the word 
of God which promises the presence of the Holy Spirit here? Not one 
iota can they allege. How will they assure us thus their chrism is a 
vehicle of the Holy Spirit? We see oil, that is, a thick and greasy 
liquid, but nothing more. "Let the word be added to the element," 
says Augustine, "and it will become a sacrament." Let them, I say, 
produce this word if they would have us to see any thing more in the 
oil than oil. But if they would show themselves to be ministers of 
the sacraments as they ought, there would be no room for further 
dispute. The first duty of a minister is not to do anything without 
a command. Come, then, and let them produce some command for this 
ministry, and I will not add a word. If they have no command, they 
cannot excuse their sacrilegious audacity. For this reason cur 
Saviour interrogated the Pharisees as to the baptism of John, "Was 
it from heavens or of men?" (Matth. 21: 25.) If they had answered, 
Of men, he held them confessed that it was frivolous and vain; if of 
heaven, they were forced to acknowledge the doctrine of John. 
Accordingly, not to be too contumelious to John, they did not 
venture to say that it was of men. Therefore, if confirmation is of 
men, it is proved to be frivolous and vain; if they would persuade 
us that it is of heaven, let them prove it. 
    6. They indeed defend themselves by the example of the 
apostles, who, they presume, did nothing rashly. In this they are 
right, nor would they be blamed by us if they showed themselves to 
be imitators of the apostles. But what did the apostles do? Luke 
narrates, (Acts 8: 15, 17,) that the apostles who were at Jerusalem, 
when they heard that Samaria had received the word of God, sent 
thither Peter and John, that Peter and John prayed for the 
Samaritans, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, who had not yet 
come upon any of them, they having only been baptised in the name of 
Jesus; that after prayer they laid their hands upon them, and that 
by this laying on of hands the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit. 
Luke repeatedly mentions this laying on of hands. I hear what the 
apostles did, that is, they faithfully executed their ministry. It 
pleased the Lord that those visible and admirable gifts of the Holy 
Spirit, which he then poured out upon his people, should be 
administered and distributed by his apostles by the laying on of 
hands. I think that there was no deeper mystery under this laying on 
of hands, but I interpret that this kind of ceremony was used by 
them to intimate, by the outward acts that they commended to God, 
and, as it were, offered him on whom they laid hands. Did this 
ministry which the apostles then performed, still remain in the 
Church, it would also behave us to observe the laying on of hands; 
but since that gift has ceased to be conferred, to what end is the 
laying on of hands? Assuredly the Holy Spirit is still present with 
the people of God; without his guidance and direction the Church of 
God cannot subsist. For we have a promise of perpetual duration, by 
which Christ invites the thirsty to come to him, that they may drink 
living water, (John 7: 37.) But those miraculous powers and manifest 
operations, which were distributed by the laying on of hands, have 
ceased. They were only for a time. For it was right that the new 
preaching of the gospel, the new kingdom of Christ, should be 
signalised and magnified by unwonted and unheard-of miracles. When 
the Lord ceased from these, he did not forthwith abandon his Church 
but intimated that the magnificence of his kingdom, and the dignity 
of his word, had been sufficiently manifested. In what respect then 
can these stage-players say that they imitate the apostles? The 
object of the laying on of hands was, that the evident power of the 
Holy Spirit might be immediately exerted. This they effect not. Why 
then do they claim to themselves the laying on of hands, which is 
indeed said to have been used by the apostles, but altogether to a 
different end? 
    7. The same account is to be given were any one to insist that 
the breathing of our Lord upon his disciples (John 20: 22) is a 
sacrament by which the Holy Spirit is conferred. But the Lord did 
this once for all, and did not also wish us to do it. In the same 
way, also, the apostles laid their hands, agreeably to that time at 
which it pleased the Lord that the visible gifts of the Spirit 
should be dispensed in answer to their prayers; not that posterity 
might, as those apes do, mimic the empty and useless sign without 
the reality. But if they prove that they imitate the apostles in the 
laying on of hands, (though in this they have no resemblance to the 
apostles, except it be in manifesting some absurd false zeal,) where 
did they get their oil which they call the oil of salvation? Who 
taught them to seek salvation in oil? Who taught them to attribute 
to it the power of strengthening? Was it Paul, who draws us far away 
from the elements of this world, and condemns nothing more than 
clinging to such observances? This I boldly declare, not of myself 
but from the Lord: Those who call oil the oil of salvation abjure 
the salvation which is in Christ, deny Christ, and have no part in 
the kingdom of God. Oil for the belly, and the belly for oil, but 
the Lord will destroy both. For all these weak elements, which 
perish even in the using, have nothing to do with the kingdom of 
God, which is spiritual, and will never perish. What, then, some one 
will say, do you apply the same rule to the water by which we are 
baptised, and the bread and wine under which the Lord's Supper is 
exhibited? I answer, that in the sacraments of divine appointment, 
two things are to be considered: the substance of the corporeal 
thing which is set before us, and the form which has been impressed 
upon it by the word of God, and in which its whole force lies. In as 
far, then, as the bread, wine, and water, which are presented to our 
view in the sacraments, retain their substance, Paul's declaration 
applies, "meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God 
shall destroy both it and them," (1 Cor. 6: 13.) For they pass and 
vanish away with the fashion at this world. But in as far as they 
are sanctified by the word of God to be sacraments, they do not 
confine us to the flesh, but teach truly and spiritually. 
    8. But let us make a still closer inspection, and see how many 
monsters this greasy oil fosters and nourishes. Those anointers say 
that the Holy Spirit is given in baptism for righteousness, and in 
confirmation, for increase of grace, that in baptism we are 
regenerated for life, and in confirmation, equipped for contest. 
And, accordingly, they are not ashamed to deny that baptism can be 
duly completed without confirmation. How nefarious! Are we not, 
then, buried with Christ by baptism, and made partakers of his 
death, that we may also be partners of his resurrection? This 
fellowship with the life and death of Christ, Paul interprets to 
mean the mortification of our flesh, and the quickening of the 
Spirit, our old man being crucified in order that we may walk in 
newness of life, (Rom. 6: 6.) What is it to be equipped for contest, 
if this is not? But if they deemed it as nothing to trample on the 
word of God, why did they not at least reverence the Church, to 
which they would be thought to be in everything so obedient? What 
heavier charge can be brought against their doctrine than the decree 
of the Council of Melita? "Let him who says that baptism is given 
for the remission of sins only, and not in aid of future grace, be 
anathema." When Luke, in the passage which we have quoted, says, 
that the Samaritans were only "baptised in the name of the Lord 
Jesus," (Acts 8: 16,) but had not received the Holy Spirit, he does 
not say absolutely that those who believed in Christ with the heart, 
and confessed him with the mouth, were not endued with any gift of 
the Spirit. He means that receiving of the Spirit by which 
miraculous power and visible graces were received. Thus the apostles 
are said to have received the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, (Acts 
2: 4,) whereas Christ had long before said to them, "It is not ye 
that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you," 
(Matth. 10: 20.) Ye who are of God see the malignant and pestiferous 
wile of Satan. What was truly given in baptism, is falsely said to 
be given in the confirmation of it, that he may stealthily lead away 
the unwary from baptism. Who can now doubt that this doctrine, which 
dissevers the proper promises of baptism from baptism, and transfers 
them elsewhere, is a doctrine of Satan? We have discovered on what 
foundation this famous unction rests. The word of God says, that as 
many as have been baptised into Christ, have put on Christ with his 
gifts, (Gal. 3: 27.) The word of the anointers says that they 
received no promise in baptism to equip them for contest, (De 
Consecr. Dist. 5, cap. Spit. Sanct.) The former is the word of 
truth, the latter must be the word of falsehood. I can define this 
baptism more truly than they themselves have hitherto defined it, 
viz., that it is a noted insult to baptism, the use of which it 
obscures, nay abolishes: that it is a false suggestion of the devil, 
which draws us away from the truth of God; or, if you prefer it, 
that it is oil polluted with a lie of the devil, deceiving the minds 
of the simple by shrouding them, as it were, in darkness. 
    9. They adds moreover, that all believers ought, after baptism, 
to receive the holy Spirit by the laying on of hands, that they may 
become complete Christians, inasmuch as there never can be a 
Christians who has not been chrismed by episcopal confirmation. 
These are their exact words. I thought that everything pertaining to 
Christianity was prescribed and contained in Scripture. Now I see 
that the true form of religion must be sought and learned elsewhere 
than in Scripture. Divine wisdom, heavenly truth, the whole doctrine 
of Christ, only begins the Christian; it is the oil that perfects 
him. By this sentence are condemned all the apostles and the many 
martyrs who, it is absolutely certain, were never chrismed, the oil 
not yet being made, besmeared with which, they might fulfil all the 
parts of Christianity, or rather become Christians, which, as yet, 
they were not. Though I were silent, they abundantly refute 
themselves. How small the proportion of the people whom they anoint 
after baptism? Why, then, do they allow among their flock so many 
half Christians, whose imperfection they might easily remedy? Why, 
with such supine negligence, do they allow them to omit what cannot 
be omitted without grave offence? Why do they not more rigidly 
insist on a matter so necessary, that, without it, salvation cannot 
be obtained unless, perhaps, when the act has been anticipated by 
sudden death? When they allow it to be thus licentiously despised 
they tacitly confess that it is not of the importance which they 
    10. Lastly, they conclude that this sacred unction is to be 
held in greater veneration than baptism, because the former is 
specially administered by the higher order of priests, whereas the 
latter is dispensed in common by all priests whatever, (Distinct. 5, 
De his vero.) What can you here say, but that they are plainly mad 
in thus pluming themselves on their own inventions, while, in 
comparison with these, they carelessly condemn the sacred ordinances 
of God? Sacrilegious mouth! dare you oppose oil merely polluted with 
your fetid breath, and charmed by your muttered words, to the 
sacrament of Christ, and compare it with water sanctified by the 
word of God? But even this was not enough for your improbity: you 
must also prefer it. Such are the responses of the holy see, such 
the oracles of the apostolic tripod. But some of them have begun to 
moderate this madness, which, even in their own opinion, was carried 
too far, (Lombard. Sent. Lib. 4 Dist. 7, c. 2.) It is to be held in 
greater veneration, they say, not, perhaps, because of the greater 
virtue and utility which it confers, but because it is given by more 
dignified persons, and in a more dignified part of the body, the 
forehead; or because it gives a greater increase of virtue, though 
baptism is more effectual for forgiveness. But do they not, by their 
first reason, prove themselves to be Donatists, who estimate the 
value of the sacrament by the dignity of the minister? Grant, 
however, that confirmation may be called more dignified from the 
dignity of the bishop's hand, still should any one ask how this 
great prerogative was conferred on the bishops, what reason can they 
give but their own caprice? The right was used only by the apostles, 
who alone dispensed the Holy spirit. Are bishops alone apostles? Are 
they apostles at all? However, let us grant this also; why do they 
not, on the same grounds, maintain that the sacrament of blood in 
the Lord's Supper is to be touched only by bishops? Their reason for 
refusing it to take is that it was given by our Lord to the apostles 
only. If to the apostles only, why not infer then to bishops only? 
But in that place, they make the apostles simple Presbyters whereas 
here another vertigo seizes them, and they suddenly elect them 
bishops. Lastly, Ananias was not an apostle, and yet Paul was sent 
to him to receive his sight, to be baptised and filled with the Holy 
Spirit, (Acts 9: 17.) I will add, though cumulatively, if, by divine 
right, this office was peculiar to bishops, why have they dared to 
transfer it to plebeian Presbyters, as we read in one of the 
Epistles of Gregory? (Dist. 95, cap. Pervenis.) 
    11. How frivolous, inept, and stolid the other reasons that 
their confirmation is worthier than the baptism of God, because in 
confirmation it is the forehead that is besmeared with oil, and in 
baptism the cranium. As if baptism were performed with oil, and not 
with water. I take all the pious to witness whether it be not the 
one aim of these miscreants to adulterate the purity of the 
sacraments by their leaven. I have said elsewhere, that what is of 
God in the sacraments, can scarcely be got a glimpse of among the 
crowd of human inventions. If any did not then give me credit for 
the fact, let them now give it to their own teachers. Here, passing 
over water, and making it of no estimation, they set a great value 
on oil alone in baptism. We maintain, against them that in baptism 
also the forehead is sprinkled with water, in comparison with which, 
we do not value your oil one straw, whether in baptism or in 
confirmation. But if any one alleges that oil is sold for more, I 
answer, that by this accession of value any good which might 
otherwise be in it is vitiated, so far is it from being lawful 
fraudulently to vend this most vile imposture. They betray their 
impiety by the third reason, when they pretend that a greater 
increase of virtue is conferred in confirmation than in baptism. By 
the laying on of hands the apostles dispensed the visible gifts of 
the Spirit. In what respect does the oil of these men prove its 
fecundity? But have done with these guides, who cover one sacrilege 
with many acts of sacrilege. It is a Gordian knot, which it is 
better to cut than to lose so much labour in untying. 
    12. When they see that the word of God, and every thing like 
plausible argument, fail them, they pretend, as usual, that the 
observance is of the highest antiquity, and is confirmed by the 
consent of many ages. Even were this true, they gain nothing by it. 
A sacrament is not of earth, but of heaven; not of men, but of God 
only. They must prove God to be the author of their confirmation, if 
they would have it to be regarded as a sacrament. But why obtrude 
antiquity, seeing that ancient writers, whenever they would speak 
precisely, nowhere mention more than two sacraments? Were the 
bulwark of our faith to be sought from men, we have an impregnable 
citadel in this, that the fictitious sacraments of these men were 
never recognised as sacraments by ancient writers. They speak of the 
laying on of hands, but do they call it a sacrament? Augustine 
distinctly affirms that it is nothing, but prayer, (De Bapt. cont. 
Donat. Lib. 3 cap. 16.) Let them not here yelp out one of their vile 
distinctions, that the laying on of hands to which Augustine 
referred was not the confirmatory, but the curative or 
reconciliatory. His book is extant and in men's hands; if I wrest it 
to any meaning different from that which Augustine himself wrote it, 
they are welcome not only to load me with reproaches after their 
wonted manner, but to spit upon me. He is speaking of those who 
returned from schism to the amity of the Church. He says that they 
have no need of a repetition of baptism, for the laying on of hands 
is sufficient, that the Lord may bestow the Holy Spirit upon them by 
the bond of peace. But as it might seem absurd to repeat laying on 
of hands more than baptism, he shows the difference. - "What," he 
asks, "is the laying on of hands but prayer over the man?" That this 
is his meaning is apparent from another passages where he says, 
"Because of the bond of charity, which is the greatest gift of the 
Holy Spirit, without which all the other holy qualities which a man 
may possess are ineffectual for salvation, the hand is laid on 
reformed heretics," (Lib. 5 cap. 23.) 
    13. I wish we could retain the custom, which as I have 
observed, existed in the early Church, before this abortive mask of 
a sacrament appeared. It would not be such a confirmation as they 
pretend, one which cannot even be named without injury to baptism, 
but catechising by which those in boyhood, or immediately beyond it, 
would give an account of their faith in the face of the Church. And 
the best method of catechising would be, if a form were drawn up for 
this purpose, containing, and briefly explaining, the substance of 
almost all the heads of our religion, in which the whole body of the 
faithful ought to concur without controversy. A boy of ten years of 
age would present himself to the Church, to make a profession of 
faith, would be questioned on each head, and give answers to each. 
If he was ignorant of any point, or did not well understand it, he 
would be taught. Thus while the whole Church looked on and 
witnessed, he would profess the one true sincere faith with which 
the body of the faithful, with one accord, worship one God. Were 
this discipline in force in the present day, it would undoubtedly 
whet the sluggishness of certain parents, who carelessly neglect the 
instruction of their children, as if it did not at all belong to 
them, but who could not then omit it without public disgrace; there 
would be greater agreement in faith among the Christian people, and 
not so much ignorance and rudeness; some persons would not be so 
readily carried away by new and strange dogmas; in fine, it would 
furnish all with a methodical arrangement of Christian doctrine. 
    14. The next place they give to Penitence of which they 
discourse so confusedly and unmethodically, that consciences cannot 
derive anything certain or solid from their doctrine. In another 
place, (Book 3 chap. 3 and 4) we have explained at length, first, 
what the Scriptures teach concerning repentance, and, secondly, what 
these men teach concerning it. All we leave now to advert to is the 
grounds of that opinion of it as a sacrament which has long 
prevailed in schools and churches. First, however, I will speak 
briefly of the rite of the early Church, which those men have used 
as a pretext for establishing their fiction. By the order observed 
in public repentance, those who had performed the satisfactions 
imposed upon them were reconciled by the formal laying on of hands. 
This was the symbol of absolution by which the sinner himself 
regained his confidence of pardon before God, and the Church was 
admonished to lay aside the remembrance of the offence, and kindly 
receive him into favour. This Cyprian often terms "to give peace". 
In order that the act might have more weight and estimation with the 
people, it was appointed that the authority of the bishop should 
always be interposed. Hence the decree of the second Council of 
Carthage, "No presbyter may publicly at mass reconcile a penitent;" 
and another, of the Council of Arausica, "Let those who are 
departing this life, at the time of penitence, be admitted to 
communion without the reconciliatory laying on of hands; if they 
recover from the disease, let them stand in the order of penitents, 
and after they have fulfilled their time, receive the reconciliatory 
laying on of hands from the bishop." Again, in the third Council of 
Carthage, "A presbyter may not reconcile a penitent without the 
authority of the bishop." The object of all these enactments was to 
prevent the strictness, which they wished to be observed in that 
matter, from being lost by excessive laxity. Accordingly, they 
wished cognisance to be taken by the bishop, who, it was probable, 
would be more circumspect in examining. Although Cyprian somewhere 
says that not the bishop only laid hands, but also the whole clergy. 
For he thus speaks, "They do penitence for a proper time; next they 
come to communion, and receive the right of communion by the laving 
on of the hands of the bishop and clergy," (Lib. 3 Ep. 14.) 
Afterwards in process of time, the matter came to this, that they 
used the ceremony in private absolutions also without public 
penitence. Hence the distinction in Gratian (Decret. 26, Quest. 6) 
between public and private reconciliation. I consider that ancient 
observance of which Cyprian speaks to have been holy and salutary to 
the Church, and I could wish it restored in the present day. The 
more modern form, though I dare not disapprove, or at least strongly 
condemn, I deem to be less necessary. Be this as it may, we see that 
the laying on of hands in penitence was a ceremony ordained by men, 
not by God, and is to be ranked among indifferent things, and 
external exercises, which indeed are not to be despised, but occupy 
an inferior place to those which have been recommended to us by the 
word of the Lord. 
    15. The Romanists and Schoolmen, whose wont it is to corrupt 
all things by erroneous interpretation, anxiously labour to find a 
sacrament here, and it cannot seem wonderful, for they seek a thing 
where it is not. At best, they leave the matter involved, undecided, 
uncertain, confused, and confounded by the variety of opinions. 
Accordingly, they say, (Sent. Lib. 4 Dist. 22, cap. 3,) either that 
external penitence is a sacrament, and, if so, ought to he regarded 
as a sign of internal penitence; i. e., contrition of heart, which 
will be the matter of the sacrament, or that both together make a 
sacrament, not two, but one complete; but that the external is the 
sacrament merely, the internal, the matter, and the sacrament, 
whereas the forgiveness of sins is the matter only, and not the 
sacrament. Let those who remember the definition of a sacrament, 
which we have given above, test by it that which they say is a 
sacrament, and it will be found that it is not an external ceremony 
appointed by God for the confirmation of our faith. But if they 
allege that my definition is not a law which they are necessarily 
bound to obey, let them hear Augustine whom they pretend to regard 
as a saint. "Visible sacraments were instituted for the sake of 
carnal men, that by the ladder of sacraments they may be conveyed 
from those things which are seen by the eye, to those which are 
perceived by the understanding," (August. Quaest. Vet. Test. Lib. 
3.) Do they themselves see, or can they show to others, any thing 
like this in that which they call the sacrament of penance? In 
another passage, he says, "It is called a sacrament, because in it 
one thing is seen, another thing is understood. What is seen has 
bodily appearance, what is understood has spiritual fruit," (Serm. 
de Bapt. Infant.) These things in no way apply to the sacrament of 
penance, as they feign it; there, there is no bodily form to 
represent spiritual fruit. 
    16. And (to despatch these beasts in their own arena) if any 
sacrament is sought here, would it not have been much more plausible 
to maintain that the absolution of the priest is a sacrament, than 
penitence either external or internal? For it might obviously have 
been said that it is a ceremony to confirm our faith in the 
forgiveness of sins, and that it has the promise of the keys, as 
they describe them; "Whatsoever ye shall bind or loose on earth, 
shall be bound or loosed in heaven." But some one will object that 
to most of those who are absolved by priests, nothing of the kind is 
given by the absolution, whereas according to their dogma, the 
sacraments of the new dispensation ought to effect what they figure. 
This is ridiculous. As in the eucharist, they make out a twofold 
eating, a sacramental, which is common to the good and the bad 
alike, and a spiritual, which is proper only to the good, why should 
they not also pretend that absolution is given in two ways? And yet 
I have never been able to understand what they meant by their dogma. 
How much it is at variance with the truth of God, we showed when we 
formally discussed that subject. Here I only wish to show that no 
scruple should prevent them from giving the name of a sacrament to 
the absolution of the priest. For they might have answered by the 
mouth of Augustine, that there is a sanctification without a visible 
sacrament, and a visible sacrament without internal sanctification. 
Again, that in the elect alone, sacraments effect what they figure. 
Again, that some put on Christ so far as the receiving of the 
sacrament, and others so far as sanctification; that the former is 
done equally by the good and the bad, the latter by the good only. 
Surely they were more deluded than children, and blind in the full 
light of the sun, when they toiled with so much difficulty, and 
perceived not a matter so plain and obvious to every man. 
    17. Lest they become elated, however, whatever be the part in 
which they place the sacrament, I deny that it can justly be 
regarded as a sacrament; first, because there exists not to this 
effect any special promise of God, which is the only ground of a 
sacrament; and, secondly, because whatever ceremony is here used is 
a mere intention of man; whereas, as has already been shown, the 
ceremonies of sacraments can only be appointed by God. Their fiction 
of the sacrament of penance, therefore, was falsehood and imposture. 
This fictitious sacrament they adorned with the befitting eulogium, 
that it was the second plank in the case of shipwreck, because, if 
any one had, by sin, injured the garment of innocence received in 
baptism, he might repair it by penitence. This was a saying of 
Jerome. Let it be whose it may, as it is plainly impious, it cannot 
be excused if understood in this sense; as if baptism were effaced 
by sin, and were not rather to be recalled to the mind of the sinner 
whenever he thinks of the forgiveness of sins, that he may thereby 
recollect himself, regain courage, and be confirmed in the belief 
that he shall obtain the forgiveness of sins which was promised him 
in baptism. What Jerome said harshly and improperly, viz., that 
baptism, which is fallen from by those who deserve to be 
excommunicated from the Church, is repaired by penitence, these 
worthy expositors wrest to their own impiety. You will speak most 
correctly, therefore, if you call baptism the sacrament of 
penitence, seeing it is given to those who aim at repentance to 
confirm their faith and seal their confidence. But lest you should 
think this our invention, it appears that besides being conformable 
to the words of Scripture, it was generally regarded in the early 
Church as an indubitable axiom. For in the short Treatise on Faith 
addressed to Peter, and bearing the name of Augustine, it is called, 
The sacrament of faith and repentance. But why have recourse to 
doubtful writings, as if any thing can be required more distinct 
than the statement of the Evangelist, that John preached "the 
baptism of repentance for the remission of sins?" (Mark 1: 1; Luke 
3: 3.) 
    Of extreme unction, so called. 
    18. The third fictitious sacrament is Extreme Unction, which is 
performed only by a priest, and, as they express it, in extremis, 
with oil consecrated by the bishop, and with this form of words, "By 
this holy unction, and his most tender mercy, may God forgive you 
whatever sin you have committed, by the eye, the ear, the smell, the 
touch, the taste," (see Calv. Epist. de Fugiend. Illicit. Sac.) They 
pretend that there are two virtues in it - the forgiveness of sins, 
and relief of bodily disease, if so expedient; if not expedient, the 
salvation of the soul. For they say, that the institution was set 
down by James, whose words are, "Is any sick among you? let him send 
for the elders of the Church; and let them pray over him, anointing 
him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith shall 
save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up: and if he have 
committed sins they shall be forgiven him" (James 5: 14.) The same 
account is here to be given of this unction as we lately gave of the 
laying on of hands; in other words it is mere hypocritical 
stage-play, by which, without reason or result, they would resemble 
the apostles. Mark relates that the apostles, on their first 
mission, agreeably to the command which they had received of the 
Lord, raised the dead, cast out devils, cleansed lepers, healed the 
sick, and, in healing, used oil. He says, they "anointed with oil 
many that were sick, and healed them," (Mark 6: 13.) To this James 
referred when he ordered the presbyters of the Church to be called 
to anoint the sick. That no deeper mystery lay under this ceremony 
will easily be perceived by those who consider how great liberty 
both our Lord and his apostles used in those external things. Our 
Lord, when about to give sight to the blind man, spat on the ground, 
and made clay of the spittle; some he cured by a touch, others by a 
word. In like manner the apostles cured some diseases by word only, 
others by touch, others by anointing. But it is probable that 
neither this anointing nor any of the other things were used at 
random. I admit this; not, however, that they were instruments of 
the cure, but only symbols to remind the ignorant whence this great 
virtue proceeded, and prevent them from ascribing the praise to the 
apostles. To designate the Holy Spirit and his gifts by oil is trite 
and common, (Ps. 45: 8.) But the gift of healing disappeared with 
the other miraculous powers which the Lord was pleased to give for a 
time, that it might render the new preaching of the gospel for ever 
wonderful. Therefore, even were we to grant that anointing was a 
sacrament of those powers which were then administered by the hands 
of the apostles, it pertains not to us, to whom no such powers have 
been committed. 
    19. And what better reason have they for making a sacrament of 
this unction, than of any of the other symbols which are mentioned 
in Scripture? Why do they not dedicate some pool of Siloam, into 
which, at certain seasons, the sick may plunge themselves? That, 
they say, were done in vain. Certainly not more in vain than unction 
Why do they not lay themselves on the dead, seeing that Paul, in 
raising up the dead youth, lay upon him? Why is not clay made of 
dust and spittle a sacrament? The other cases were special, but this 
is commanded by James. In other words, James spake agreeably to the 
time when the Church still enjoyed this blessing from God. They 
affirm, indeed, that there is still the same virtue in their 
unction, but we experience differently. Let no man now wonder that 
they have with so much confidence deluded souls, which they knew to 
be stupid and blind, because deprived of the word of God, that is, 
of his light and life, seeing they blush not to attempt to deceive 
the bodily perceptions of those who are alive, and have all their 
senses about them. They make themselves ridiculous, therefore, by 
pretending that they are endued with the gift of healing. The Lord, 
doubtless, is present with his people in all ages, and cures their 
sicknesses as often as there is need, not less than formerly; and 
yet he does not exert those manifest powers, nor dispense miracles 
by the hands of apostles, because that gift was temporary, and 
owing, in some measure, to the ingratitude of men, immediately 
    20. Wherefore, as the apostles, not without cause, openly 
declared, by the symbol of oil, that the gift of healing committed 
to them was not their own, but the power of the Holy Spirit; so, on 
the other hand, these men insult the Holy Spirit by making his power 
consist in a filthy oil of no efficacy. It is just as if one were to 
say that all oil is the power of the Holy Spirit, because it is 
called by that name in Scripture, and that every dove is the Holy 
Spirit, because he appeared in that form. Let them see to this: it 
is sufficient for us that we perceive, with absolute certainty, that 
their unction is no sacrament, as it is neither a ceremony appointed 
by God, nor has any promise. For when we require, in a sacrament, 
these two things, that it be a ceremony appointed by God, and have a 
promise from God, we at the same time demand that that ceremony be 
delivered to us, and that that promise have reference to us. No man 
contends that circumcision is now a sacrament of the Christian 
Church, although it was both an ordinance of God, and had his 
promise annexed to it, because it was neither commanded to us, nor 
was the promise annexed to it given us on the same condition. The 
promise of which they vaunt so much in unction, as we have clearly 
demonstrated, and they themselves show by experience, has not been 
given to us. The ceremony behaved to be used only by those who had 
been endued with the gift of healing, not by those murderers who do 
more by slaying and butchering than by curing. 
    21. Even were it granted that this precept of unction, which 
has nothing to do with the present age, were perfectly adapted to 
it, they will not even thus have advanced much in support of their 
unction, with which they have hitherto besmeared us. James would 
have all the sick to be anointed: these men besmear, with their oil, 
not the sick, but half-dead carcasses, when life is quivering on the 
lips, or, as they say, in extremis. If they have a present cure in 
their sacrament, with which they can either alleviate the bitterness 
of disease, or at least give some solace to the soul, they are cruel 
in never curing in time. James would have the sick man to be 
anointed by the elders of the Church. They admit no anointer but a 
priestling. When they interpret the elders of James to be priests, 
and allege that the plural number is used for honour, the thing is 
absurd; as if the Church had at that time abounded with swarms of 
priests, so that they could set out in long procession, bearing a 
dish of sacred oil. James, in ordering simply that the sick be 
anointed, seems to me to mean no other anointing than that of common 
oil, nor is any other mentioned in the narrative of Mark. These men 
deign not to use any oil but that which has been consecrated by a 
bishop, that is warmed with much breath, charmed by much muttering, 
and saluted nine times on bended knee, Thrice Hail, holy oil! thrice 
Hail, holy chrism! thrice Hail, holy balsam! From whom did they 
derive these exorcisms? James says, that when the sick man shall 
have been anointed with oil, and prayer shall have been made over 
him if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him, viz., 
that his guilt being forgiven, he shall obtain a mitigation of the 
punishment, not meaning that sins are effaced by oil, but that the 
prayers by which believers commended their afflicted brother to God 
would not be in vain. These men are impiously false in saying that 
sins are forgiven by their sacred, that is, abominable unction. See 
how little they gain, even when they are allowed to abuse the 
passage of James as they list. And to save us the trouble of a 
laborious proof, their own annals relieve us from all difficulty; 
for they relate that Pope Innocent, who presided over the church of 
Rome in the age of Augustine, ordained, that not elders only but all 
Christians, should use oil in anointing, in their own necessity, or 
in that of their friends. Our authority for this is Sigebert, in his 
    Of Ecclesiastical Orders. 
    22. The fourth place in their catalogue is held by the 
sacrament of Orders, one so prolific, as to beget of itself seven 
lesser sacraments. It is very ridiculous that after affirming that 
there are seven sacraments, when they begin to count, they make out 
thirteen. It cannot be alleged that they are one sacrament, because 
they all tend to one priesthood, and are a kind of steps to the same 
thing. For while it is certain that the ceremonies in each are 
different, and they themselves say that the graces are different, no 
man can doubt that if their dogmas are admitted, they ought to be 
called seven sacraments. And why debate it as a doubtful matter, 
when they themselves plainly and distinctly declare that they are 
seven? First, then we shall glance at them in passing, and show to 
how many absurdities they introduce us when they would recommend 
their orders to us as sacraments; and, secondly, we shall see 
whether the ceremony which churches use in ordaining ministers ought 
at all to be called a sacrament. They make seven ecclesiastical 
orders, or degrees, which they distinguish by the title of a 
sacrament. These are, Doorkeepers, Readers, Exorcists, Acolytes, 
Subdeacons, Deacons, and Priests. And they say that they are seven, 
because of the seven kinds of graces of the Holy Spirit with which 
those who are promoted to them ought to be endued. This grace is 
increased and more liberally accumulated on promotion. The mere 
number has been consecrated by a perversion of Scripture, because 
they think they read in Isaiah that there are seven gifts of the 
Holy Spirit, whereas truly not more than six are mentioned by Isaiah 
who, however, meant not to include all in that passage. For, in 
other passages are mentioned the spirit of life, of sanctification, 
of the adoption of sons, as well as there, the spirit of wisdom and 
understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of 
knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord. Although others who are more 
acute make not seven orders, but nine, in imitation, as they say, of 
the Church triumphant. But among theses also, there is a contest; 
because some insist that the clerical tonsure is the first order of 
all, and the episcopates the last; while others, excluding the 
tonsure, class the office of archbishop among the orders. Isiodorus 
distinguishes differently, for he makes Psalmists and Readers 
different. To the former, he gives the charge of chanting, to the 
latter, that of reading the Scriptures for the instruction of the 
common people. And this distinction is observed by the canons. In 
this great variety, what would they have us to follow or to avoid? 
Shall we, say that there are seven orders? So the master of the 
school teaches, but the most illuminated doctors determine 
otherwise. On the other hand, they are at variance among themselves. 
Besides, the most sacred canons call us in a different direction. 
Such, indeed, is the concord of men when they discuss divine things 
apart from the word of God. 
    23. But the crowning folly of all is, that in each of these 
they make Christ their colleague. First, they say, he performed the 
office of Doorkeeper when, with a whip of small cords he drove the 
buyers and sellers from the temple. He intimates that he is a 
Doorkeeper when he says, "I am the door." He assumed the office of 
Reader, when he read Isaiah in the synagogue. He performed the 
office of Exorcist when, touching the tongue and ears of the deaf 
and dumb man with spittle, he restored his hearing. He declared that 
he was an Acolyte by the words, "He that followeth me shall not walk 
in darkness." He performed the office of Subdeacon, when, girding 
himself with a towel, he washed the feet of his disciples. He acted 
the part of a Deacon, when he distributed his body and blood in the 
Supper. He performed the part of a Priest, when, on the cross, he 
offered himself in sacrifice to the Father. As these things cannot 
be heard without laughter, I wonder how they could have been written 
without laughter, if, indeed, they were men who wrote them. But 
their most notable subtlety is that in which they speculate on the 
name of Acolyte, calling him Ceroferarius, a magical term, I 
presume, one certainly unknown to all nations and tongues; 
"akolouthos", in Greek, meaning simply attendant. Were I to stop and 
seriously refute these things, I might myself justly be laughed at, 
so frivolous are they and ludicrous. 
    24. Still, lest they should be able to impose on silly women, 
their vanity must be exposed in passing. With great pomp and 
solemnity they elect their readers, psalmists, doorkeepers, 
acolytes, to perform those services which they give in charge, 
either to boys, or at least to those whom they call laics. Who, for 
the most part, lights the tapers, who pours wine and water from the 
pitcher, but a boy or some mean person among laics, who gains his 
bread by so doing? Do not the same persons chant? Do they not open 
and shut the doors of churches? Who ever saw, in their churches, 
either an acolyte or doorkeeper performing his office? Nay, when he 
who as a boy performed the office of acolyte, is admitted to the 
order of acolyte, he ceases to be the very thing he begins to be 
called, so that they seem professedly to wish to cast away the 
office when they assume the title. See why they hold it necessary to 
be consecrated by sacraments, and to receive the Holy Spirit! It is 
just to do nothing. If they pretend that this is the defect of the 
times, because they neglect and abandon their offices, let them, at 
the same time, confess that there is not in the Church, in the 
present day, any use or benefit of these sacred orders which they 
wondrously extol, and that their whole Church is full of anathema, 
since the tapers and flagons, which none are worthy to touch but 
those who have been consecrated acolytes, she allows to be handled 
by boys and profane persons; since her chants, which ought to be 
heard only from consecrated lips, she delegates to children. And to 
what end, pray, do they consecrate exorcists? I hear that the Jews 
had their exorcists, but I see they were so called from the 
exorcisms which they practised, (Acts 19: 13.) Who ever heard of 
those fictitious exorcists having given one specimen of their 
profession? It is pretended that power has been given them to lay 
their hands on energumens, catechumens, and demoniacs, but they 
cannot persuade demons that they are endued with such power, not 
only because demons do not submit to their orders, but even command 
themselves. Scarcely will you find one in ten who is not possessed 
by a wicked spirit. All, then, which they babble about their paltry 
orders is a compound of ignorant and stupid falsehoods. Of the 
ancient acolytes, doorkeepers, and readers, we have spoken when 
explaining the government of the Church. All that we here proposed 
was to combat that novel invention of a sevenfold sacrament in 
ecclesiastical orders, of which we nowhere read except among silly 
raving Sorbonnists and Canonists. 
    25. Let us now attend to the ceremonies which they employ. And 
first, all whom they enrol among their militia they initiate into 
the clerical status by a common symbol. They shave them on the top 
of the head, that the crown may denote regal honour, because clergy 
ought to be kings in governing themselves and others. Peter thus 
speaks of them: "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a 
holy nation, a peculiar people," (1 Pet. 2: 9.) But it was sacrilege 
in them to arrogate to themselves alone what is given to the whole 
Church, and proudly to glory in a title of which they had robbed the 
faithful. Peter addresses the whole Church: these men wrest it to a 
few shaven crowns, as if it had been said to them alone, Be ye holy: 
as if they alone had been purchased by the blood of Christ: as if 
they alone had been made by Christ kings and priests unto God. Then 
they assign other reasons, (Sent. Lib. 4 Dist. 24.) The top of the 
head is bared, that their mind may be shown to be free, with 
unveiled face, to behold the glory of God; or that they may be 
taught to cut off the vices of the eye and the lip. Or the shaving 
of the head is the laying aside of temporal things, while the 
circumference of the crown is the remnants of good which are 
retained for support. Everything is in figure, because, forsooth, 
the veil of the temple is not yet rent. Accordingly, persuaded that 
they have excellently performed their part because they have figured 
such things by their crown, they perform none of them in reality. 
How long will they delude us with such masks and impostures? The 
clergy, by shaving off some hair, intimate (Sent. loco cit.) that 
they have cast away abundance of temporal good - that they 
contemplate the glory of God - that they have mortified the 
concupiscence of the ear and the eye: but no class of men is more 
rapacious, more stupid, more libidinous. Why do they not rather 
exhibit true sanctity, than give a hypocritical semblance of it in 
false and lying signs? 
    26. Moreover, when they say that the clerical crown has its 
origin and nature from the Nazarene, what else do they say than that 
their mysteries are derived from Jewish ceremonies, or rather are 
mere Judaism? When they add that Priscilla, Aquila, and Paul 
himself, after they had taken a vow, shaved their head that they 
might be purified, they betray their gross ignorance. For we nowhere 
read this of Priscilla, While, with regard to Aquila, it is 
uncertain, since that tonsure may refer equally well to Paul as to 
Aquila, (Acts 18: 18.) But not to leave them in possession of what 
they ask, viz., that they have an example in Paul, it is to be 
observed, to the more simple, that Paul never shaved his head for 
any sanctification, but only in subservience to the weakness of 
brethren. Vows of this kind I am accustomed to call vows of charity 
not of piety: in other words, vows not undertaken for divine 
worship, but only in deference to the infirmity of the weak, as he 
himself says, that to the Jews he became a Jew, (1 Cor. 9: 20.) This 
therefore, he did, and that once and for a short time, that he might 
accommodate himself for a little to the Jews. When these men would, 
for no end, imitate the purifications of the Nazarene, (Num. 6: 18,) 
what else do they than set up a new, while they improperly affect to 
rival the ancient Judaism? In the same spirit the Decretal Epistle 
was composed, which enjoins the clergy, after the apostle, not to 
nourish their hair, but to shave it all round, (Cap. Prohibitur, 
Dist. 24;) as if the apostle, in showing what is comely for all men, 
had been solicitous for the spherical tonsure of the clergy. Hence, 
let my readers consider what kind of force or dignity there can be 
in the subsequent mysteries, to which this is the introduction. 
    27. Whence the clerical tonsure had its origin, is abundantly 
clear from Augustine alone, (De Opera. Monaco. et Retract.) While in 
that age none wore long hair but the effeminate and those who 
affected an unmanly beauty and elegance, it was thought to be of bad 
example to allow the clergy to do so. They were therefore enjoined 
either to cut or shave their hair, that they might not have the 
appearance of effeminate indulgence. And so common was the practice, 
that some monks, to appear more sanctimonious than others by a 
notable difference in dress, let their locks hang loose. But when 
hair returned to use, and some nations, which had always worn long 
hair, as France, Germany and England, embraced Christianity, it is 
probable that the clergy everywhere shaved the head, that they might 
not seem to affect ornament. At length, in a more corrupt age, when 
all ancient customs were either changed, or had degenerated into 
superstition, seeing no reason for the clerical tonsure, (they had 
retained nothing but a foolish imitation,) they retook themselves to 
mystery, and now superstitiously obtrude it upon us in support of 
their sacrament. The Doorkeepers, on consecration, receive the keys 
of the Church, by which it is understood that the custody of it is 
committed to them; the readers receive the Holy Bible; the 
Exorcists, forms of exorcism which they use over the possessed and 
catechumens; the Acolytes, tapers and the flagon. Such are the 
ceremonies which, it would seem, possess so much secret virtue, that 
they cannot only be signs and badges, but even causes of invisible 
grace. For this, according to their definition, they demand, when 
they would have them to be classed among sacraments. But to dispatch 
the matter in a few words, I say that it is absurd for schools and 
canons to make sacraments of those minor orders, since, even by the 
confession of those who do so, they were unknown to the primitive 
Church, and were devised many ages after. But sacraments as 
containing a divine promise ought not to be appointed, either by 
angels or men, but by God only, to whom alone it belongs to give the 
    28. There remain the three orders which they call major. Of 
these, what they call the subdeacon ate was transferred to this 
class, after the crowd of minor began to be prolific. But as they 
think they have authority for these from the word of God, they 
honour them specially with the name of Holy Orders. Let us see how 
they wrest the ordinances of God to their own ends. We begin with 
the order of presbyter or priest. To these two names they give one 
meaning, understanding by them, those to whom as they say, it 
pertains to offer the sacrifice of Christ's body and blood on the 
altar, to frame prayers, and bless the gifts of God. Hence, at 
ordination, they receive the patena with the host, as symbols of the 
power conferred upon them of offering sacrifices to appease God, and 
their hands are anointed, this symbol being intended to teach that 
they have received the power of consecrating. But of the ceremonies 
afterwards. Of the thing itself, I say that it is so far from 
having, as they pretend, one particle of support from the word of 
God, that they could not more wickedly corrupt the order which he 
has appointed. And first, it ought to be held as confessed, (this we 
maintained when treating of the Papal Mass,) that all are injurious 
to Christ who call themselves priests in the sense of offering 
expiatory victims. He was constituted and consecrated Priest by the 
Father, with an oath, after the order of Melchizedek, without end 
and without successor, (Psalm 110: 4; Heb. 5: 6; 7: 3.) He once 
offered a victim of eternal expiation and reconciliation, and now 
also having entered the sanctuary of heaven, he intercedes for us. 
In him we all are priests, but to offer praise and thanksgiving, in 
fine, ourselves, and all that is ours to God. It was peculiar to him 
alone to appease God and expiate sins by his oblation. When these 
men usurp it to themselves, what follows, but that they have an 
impious and sacrilegious priesthood? It is certainly wicked overmuch 
to dare to distinguish it with the title of sacrament. In regard to 
the true office of presbyter, which was recommended to us by the 
lips of Christ, I willingly give it that place. For in it there is a 
ceremony which, first, is taken from the Scriptures; and, secondly, 
is declared by Paul to be not empty or superfluous, but to be a 
faithful symbol of spiritual grace, (1 Tim. 4: 14.) My reason for 
not giving a place to the third is, because it is not ordinary or 
common to all believers, but is a special rite for a certain 
function. But while this honour is attributed to the Christian 
ministry, Popish priests may not plume themselves upon it. Christ 
ordered dispensers of his gospel and his sacred mysteries to be 
ordained, not sacrificers to be inaugurated, and his command was to 
preach the gospel and feed the flock, not to immolate victims. He 
promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, not to make expiation for 
sins, but duly to undertake and maintain the government of the 
Church, (Matth. 28: 19; Mark 16: 15; John 21: 15.) 
    29. With the reality the ceremonies perfectly agree. When our 
Lord commissioned the apostles to preach the gospel, he breathed 
upon them, (John 20: 22.) By this symbol he represented the gift of 
the Holy Spirit which he bestowed upon them. This breathing these 
worthy men have retained; and, as if they were bringing the Holy 
Spirit from their throat, mutter over their priestlings, "Receive 
the Holy Spirit." Accordingly, they omit nothing which they do not 
preposterously mimic. I say not in the manner of players, (who have 
art and meaning in their gestures,) but like apes who imitate at 
random without selection. We observe, say they, the example of the 
Lord. But the Lord did many things which he did not intend to be 
examples to us. Our Lord said to his disciples, "Receive the Holy 
Spirit," (John 20: 22.) He said also to Lazarus, "Lazarus, come 
forth," (John 11: 43.) He said to the paralytic, "Rise, take up thy 
bed, and walk," (John 5: 8.) Why do they not say the same to all the 
dead and paralytic? He gave a specimen of his divine power when, in 
breathing on the apostles, he filled them with the gift of the Holy 
Spirit. If they attempt to do the same, they rival God, and do all 
but challenge him to the contest. But they are very far from 
producing the effect, and only mock Christ by that absurd gesture. 
Such, indeed, is the effrontery of some, that they dare to assert 
that the Holy Spirit is conferred by them; but what truth there is 
in this, we learn from experience, which cries aloud that all who 
are consecrated priests, of horses become asses, and of fools 
madmen. And yet it is not here that I am contending against them; I 
am only condemning the ceremony itself, which ought not to be drawn 
into a precedent, since it was used as the special symbol of a 
miracle, so far is it from furnishing them with an example for 
    30. But from whom, pray, did they receive their unction? They 
answer, that they received it from the sons of Aaron, from whom also 
their order derived its origin, (Sent. Lib. 4 Dist. 14, cap. 8, et 
in Canon. Dist. 21, cap. 1.) Thus they constantly choose to defend 
themselves by perverse examples, rather then confess that any of 
their rash practices is of their own devising. Meanwhile, they 
observe not that in professing to be the successors of the sons of 
Aaron, they are injurious to the priesthood of Christ, which alone 
was adumbrated and typified by all ancient priesthoods. In him, 
therefore, they were all concluded and completed, in him they 
ceased, as we have repeatedly said, and as the Epistle to the 
Hebrews, unaided by any gloss, declares. But if they are so much 
delighted with Mosaic ceremonies, why do they not hurry oxen, 
calves, and lambs, to their sacrifices? They have, indeed, a great 
part of the ancient tabernacle, and of the whole Jewish worship. The 
only thing wanted to their religion is, that they do not sacrifice 
oxen and calves. Who sees not that this practice of unction is much 
more pernicious than circumcision, especially when to it is added 
superstition and a Pharisaical opinion of the ment of the work? The 
Jews placed their confidence of justification in circumcision, these 
men look for spiritual gifts in unction. Therefore, in desiring to 
be rivals of the Levites, they become apostates from Christ, and 
discard themselves from the pastoral office. 
    31. It is, if you please, the sacred oil which impresses an 
indelible character. As if oil could not be washed away by sand and 
salt, or if it sticks the closer, with soap. But that character is 
spiritual. What has oil to do with the soul? Have they forgotten 
what they quote from Augustine, that if the word be withdrawn from 
the water, there will be nothing but water, but that it is owing to 
the word that it is a sacrament? What word can they show in their 
oil? Is it because Moses was commanded to anoint the sons of Aaron? 
(Exod. 30: 30.) But he there receives command concerning the tunic, 
the ephod, the breastsplate, the mitre, the crown of holiness with 
which Aaron was to be adorned; and concerning the tunics, belts, and 
mitres which his sons were to wear. He receives command about 
sacrificing the calf, burning its fat, about cutting and burning 
rams about sanctifying earrings and vestments with the blood of one 
of the rams, and innumerable other observances. Having passed over 
all these, I wonder why the unction of oil a!one pleases them. If 
they delight in being sprillkled, why are they sprinkled with oil 
rather than with blood? They are attempting, forsooth, an ingenious 
device; they are trying, by a kind of patchwork, to make one 
religion out of Christianity, Judaism, and Paganism. Their unction, 
therefore, is without savor; it wants salt, that is, the word of 
God. There remains the laying on of hands which, though I admit it 
to be a sacrament in true and legitimate ordination, I do deny to 
have any such place in this fable, where they neither obey the 
command of Christ, nor look to the end to which the promise ought to 
lead us. If they would not have the sign denied them, they must 
adapt it to the reality to which it is dedicated. 
    32. As to the order of the diaconate, I would raise no dispute, 
if the office which existed under the apostles, and a purer Church, 
were restored to its integrity. But what resemblance to it do we see 
in their fictitious deacons? I speak not of the men, lest they 
should complain that I am unjustly judging their doctrine by the 
vices of those who profess it; but I contend that those whom their 
doctrine declares to us, derive no countenance from those deacons 
whom the apostolic Church appointed. They say that it belongs to 
their deacons to assist the priests, and minister at all the things 
which are done in the sacraments, as in baptism, in chrism, the 
patena, and chalice, to bring the offerings and lay them on the 
altar, to prepare and dress the table of the Lord, to carry the 
cross, announce and read out the gospel and epistle to the people, 
(Sent. Lib. 4 Dist. 24, cap. 8; Item, Cap. Perlectis,Dist. 25.) Is 
there here one word about the true office of deacon? Let us now 
attend to the appointment. The bishop alone lays hands on the deacon 
who is ordained; he places the prayer book and stole upon his left 
shoulder, that he may understand that he has received the easy yoke 
of the Lord, in order that he may subject to the fear of the Lord 
every thing pertaining to the left side: he gives him a text of the 
gospel, to remind him that he is its herald. What have these things 
to do with deacons? But they act just as if one were to say he was 
ordaining apostles, when he was only appointing persons to kindle 
the incense, clean the images, sweep the churches, set traps for 
mice, and put out dogs. Who can allow this class of men to be called 
apostles, and to be compared with the very apostles of Christ? After 
this, let them not pretend that those whom they appoint to mere 
stage-play are deacons. Nay, they even declare, by the very name, 
what the nature of the office is. For they call them Levites, and 
wish to trace their nature and origin to the sons of Levi. As far as 
I am concerned, they are welcome, provided they do not afterwards 
deck themselves in borrowed feathers. 
    33. What use is there in speaking of subdeacons? For, whereas 
in fact they anciently had the charge of the poor, they attribute to 
them some kind of nugatory function, as carrying the chalice and 
patena, the pitcher with water, and the napkin to the altar, pouring 
out water for the hands, &c. Then, by the offerings which they are 
said to receive and bring in, they mean those which they swallow up, 
as if they had been destined to anathema. There is an admirable 
correspondence between the office and the mode of inducting to it, 
viz., receiving from the bishop the patena and chalice, and from the 
archdeacon the pitcher with water, the manual and trumpery of this 
kind. They call upon us to admit that the Holy Spirit is included in 
these frivolities. What pious man could be induced to grant this? 
But to have done at once, we may conclude the same of this as of the 
others and there is no need to repeat at length what has been 
explained above. To the modest and docile (it is such I have 
undertaken to instruct,) it will be enough that there is no 
sacrament of God, unless where a ceremony is shown annexed to a 
promise, or rather where a promise is seen in a ceremony. Here there 
is not one syllable of a certain promise, and it is vain, therefore, 
to seek for a ceremony to confirm the promise. On the other hand, we 
read of no ceremony appointed by God in regard to those usages which 
they employ, and, therefore, there can be no sacrament. 
                             Of Marriage 
    The last of all is Marriage, which, while all admit it to be an 
institution of God, no man ever saw to be a sacrament, until the 
time of Gregory. And would it ever have occurred to the mind of any 
sober man? It is a good and holy ordinance of God. And agriculture, 
architecture, shoemaking, and shaving, are lawful ordinances of God; 
but they are not sacraments. For in a sacrament, the thing required 
is not only that it be a work of God, but that it be an external 
ceremony appointed by God to confirm a promise. That there is 
nothing of the kind in marriage, even children can judge. But it is 
a sign, they say, of a sacred thing, that is, of the spiritual union 
of Christ with the Church. If by the term sign they understand a 
symbol set before us by God to assure us of our faith, they wander 
widely from the mark. If they mean merely a sign because it has been 
employed as a similitude, I will show how acutely they reason. Paul 
says, "One star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the 
resurrection of the dead," (1 Cor. 15: 41, 42.) Here is one 
sacrament. Christ says, "The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of 
mustard-seed," (Matth. 13: 31.) Here is another sacrament. Again, 
"The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven," (Matth. 13: 33.) Here 
is a third sacrament. Isaiah says, "He shall feed his flock like a 
shepherd," (Isaiah 40: 11.) Here is a fourth sacrament. In another 
passage he says, "The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man," (Isaiah 
42: 13.) Here is a fifth sacrament. And where will be the end or 
limit? Every thing in this way will be a sacrament. All the parables 
and similitudes in Scripture will be so many sacraments. Nay, even 
theft will be a sacrament, seeing it is written, "The day of the 
Lord so comes as a thief in the night," (1 Thess. 5: 2.) Who can 
tolerate the ignorant garrulity of these sophists? I admit, indeed, 
that whenever we see a vine, the best thing is to call to mind what 
our Saviour says, " I am the true vine, and my Father is the 
husbandman." "I am the vine, ye are the branches," (John 15: 1, 6.) 
And whenever we meet a shepherd with his flock, it is good also to 
remember, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known 
of mine," (John 10: 14.) But any man who would class such 
similitudes with sacraments should be sent to bedlam. 
    35. They adduce the words of Paul, by which they say that the 
name of a sacrament is given to marriage, "He that loveth his wife 
loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but 
nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church: for we 
are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this 
cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined 
unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great 
mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church," (Eph. 5: 28, 
32.) To treat Scripture thus is to confound heaven and earth. Paul, 
in order to show husbands how they ought to love their wives, sets 
Christ before them as an example. As he shed his bowels of affection 
for the Church, which he had espoused to himself, so he would have 
every one to feel affected toward his wife. Then he adds, "He that 
loveth his wife loveth himself," "even as the Lord the Church." 
Moreover, to show how Christ loved the Church as himself, nay, how 
he made himself one with his spouse the Church, he applies to her 
what Moses relates that Adam said of himself. For after Eve was 
brought into his presence, knowing that she had been formed out of 
his side, he exclaimed, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of 
my flesh," (Gen. 2: 23.) That all this was spiritually fulfilled in 
Christ, and in us, Paul declares when he says, that we are members 
of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones, and so one flesh with 
him. At length he breaks out into the exclamation, "This is a great 
mystery;" and lest any one should be misled by the ambiguity, he 
says that he is not speaking of the connection between husband and 
wife, but of the spiritual marriage of Christ and the Church. And 
truly it is a great mystery that Christ allowed a rib to be taken 
from himself, of which we might be formed; that is that when he was 
strong, he was pleased to become weak, that we might be strengthened 
by his strength, and should no longer live ourselves, but he live in 
us, (Gal. 2: 20.) 
    36. The thing which misled them was the term sacrament. But, 
was it right that the whole Church should be punished for the 
ignorance of these men? Paul called it a mystery. When the Latin 
interpreter might have abandoned this mode of expression as uncommon 
to Latin ears, or converted it into "secret," he preferred calling 
it sacramentum, but in no other sense than the Greek term 
"musterion" was used by Paul. Let them go now and clamour against 
skill in languages, their ignorance of which leads them most 
shamefully astray in a matter easy and obvious to every one. But why 
do they so strongly urge the term sacrament in this one passage, and 
in others pass it by with neglect? For both in the First Epistle to 
Timothy, (1 Tim. 3: 9, 16,) and also in the Epistle to the 
Ephesians, it is used by the Vulgate interpreter, and in every 
instance, for mystery. Let us, however, pardon them this lapses, 
though liars ought to have good memories. Marriage being thus 
recommended by the title of a sacrament, can it be anything but 
vertiginous levity afterwards to call it uncleanness, and pollution, 
and carnal defilement? How absurd is it to debar priests from a 
sacrament? If they say that they debar not from a sacrament but from 
carnal connection, they will not thus escape me. They say that this 
connection is part of the sacrament, and thereby figures the union 
which we have with Christ in conformity of nature, inasmuch as it is 
by this connection that husband and wife become one flesh; although 
some have here found two sacraments, the one of God and the souls in 
bridegroom and bride, another of Christ and the Church, in husband 
and wife. Be this as it may, this connection is a sacrament from 
which no Christian can lawfully be debarred, unless, indeed, the 
sacraments of Christians accord so ill that they cannot stand 
together. There is also another absurdity in these dogmas. They 
affirm that in a sacrament the gift of the Holy Spirit is conferred; 
this connection they hold to be a sacrament, and yet they deny that 
in it the Holy Spirit is ever present. 
    37. And, that they might not delude the Church in this matter 
merely, what a long series of errors, lies, frauds, and iniquities 
have they appended to one error? So that you may say they sought 
nothing, but a hiding-place for abominations when they converted 
marriage into a sacrament. When once they obtained this they 
appropriated to themselves the cognisance of conjugal causes: as the 
thing was spiritual, it was not to be intermeddled with by profane 
judges. Then they enacted laws by which they confirmed their 
tyranny, - laws partly impious toward God, partly fraught with 
injustice toward men; such as, that marriages contracted between 
minors, without the consent of their parents, should be valid; that 
no lawful marriages can be contracted between relations within the 
seventh degree, and that such marriages if contracted, should be 
dissolved. Moreover, they frame degrees of kindred contrary to the 
laws of all nations and even the polity of Moses, and enact that a 
husband who has repudiated an adulteress may not marry again - that 
spiritual kindred cannot be joined in marriage - that marriage 
cannot be celebrated from Septuagesimo to the Octaves of Easter, 
three weeks before the nativity of John, nor from Advent to 
Epiphany, and innumerable others which it were too tedious to 
mention. We must now get out of their mire, in which our discourse 
has stuck longer than our inclination. Methinks, however, that much 
has been gained if I have, in some measure, deprived these asses of 
their lion's skin. 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volume 4
(continued in part 22...)

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