Calvin, Institutes, Vol.3, Part 23
(... continued from part 22)

    19. Moreover since he himself is the only way and the only 
access by which we can draw near to God, those who deviate from this 
way, and decline this access, have no other remaining; his throne 
presents nothing but wrath, judgment, and terror. In short, as the 
Father has consecrated him our guide and head, those who abandon or 
turn aside from him in any way endeavour, as much as in them lies, 
to sully and efface the stamp which God has impressed. Christ, 
therefore, is the only Mediator by whose intercession the Father is 
rendered propitious and exorable, (1 Tim. 2: 5.) For though the 
saints are still permitted to use intercessions, by which they 
mutually beseech God in behalf of each others salvation, and of 
which the Apostle makes mention, (Eph. 6: 18, 19; 1 Tim. 2: 1;) yet 
these depend on that one intercession, so far are they from 
derogating from it. For as the intercessions which, as members of 
one body we offer up for each other, spring from the feeling of 
love, so they have reference to this one head. Being thus also made 
in the name of Christ, what more do they than declare that no man 
can derive the least benefit from any prayers without the 
intercession of Christ? As there is nothing in the intercession of 
Christ to prevent the different members of the Church from offering 
up prayers for each other, so let it be held as a fixed principle, 
that all the intercessions thus used in the Church must have 
reference to that one intercession. Nay, we must be specially 
careful to show our gratitude on this very account, that God 
pardoning our unworthiness, not only allows each individual to pray 
for himself, but allows all to intercede mutually for each other. 
God having given a place in his Church to intercessors who would 
deserve to be rejected when praying privately on their own account, 
how presumptuous were it to abuse this kindness by employing it to 
obscure the honour of Christ? 
    20. Moreover, the Sophists are guilty of the merest trifling 
when they allege that Christ is the Mediator of _redemption_, but 
that believers are mediators of _intercession_; as if Christ had 
only performed a temporary mediation, and left an eternal and 
imperishable mediation to his servants. Such, forsooth, is the 
treatment which he receives from those who pretend only to take from 
him a minute portion of honour. Very different is the language of 
Scripture, with whose simplicity every pious man will be satisfied, 
without paying any regard to those importers. For when John says, 
"If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ 
the righteous," (1 John 2: 1,) does he mean merely that we once had 
an advocate; does he not rather ascribe to him a perpetual 
intercession? What does Paul mean when he declares that he "is even 
at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us"? 
(Rom. 8: 32.) But when in another passage he declares that he is the 
only Mediator between God and man, (1 Tim. 2: 5,) is he not 
referring to the supplications which he had mentioned a little 
before? Having previously said that prayers were to be offered up 
for all men, he immediately adds, in confirmation of that statement, 
that there is one God, and one Mediator between God and man. Nor 
does Augustine give a different interpretation when he says, 
"Christian men mutually recommend each other in their prayers. But 
he for whom none intercedes, while he himself intercedes for all, is 
the only true Mediator. Though the Apostle Paul was under the head a 
principal member, yet because he was a member of the body of Christ, 
and knew that the most true and High Priest of the Church had 
entered not by figure into the inner veil to the holy of holies, but 
by firm and express truth into the inner sanctuary of heaven to 
holiness, holiness not imaginary, but eternal (Heb 9: 11, 24), he 
also commends himself to the prayers of the faithful (Rom. 15: 30; 
Eph. 6:19; Col. 4: 3.) He does not make himself a mediator between 
God and the people, but asks that all the members of the body of 
Christ should pray mutually for each other, since the members are 
mutually sympathetic: if one member suffers, the others suffer with 
it (1 Cor. 12: 26.) And thus the mutual prayers of all the members 
still laboring on the earth ascend to the Head, who has gone before 
into heaven, and in whom there is propitiation for our sins. For if 
Paul were a mediator, so would also the other apostles, and thus 
there would be many mediators, and Paul's statement could not stand, 
'There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man 
Christ Jesus;' (1 Tim. 2: 5) in whom we also are one (Rom. 12: 5) if 
we keep the unity of the faith in the bond of peace (Eph. 4: 3)," 
(August. Contra Parmenian, Lib. 2: cap. 8.) Likewise in another 
passage Augustine says, "If thou requirest a priest, he is above the 
heavens, where he intercedes for those who on earth died for thee," 
(August. in Ps. 94:) We imagine not that he throws himself before 
his Father's knees, and suppliantly intercedes for us; but we 
understand with the Apostle, that he appears in the presence of God, 
and that the power of his death has the effect of a perpetual 
intercession for us; that having entered into the upper sanctuary, 
he alone continues to the end of the world to present the prayers of 
his people, who are standing far off in the outer court. 
    21. In regard to the saints who having died in the body live in 
Christ, if we attribute prayer to them, let us not imagine that they 
have any other way of supplicating God than through Christ who alone 
is the way, or that their prayers are accepted by God in any other 
name. Wherefore, since the Scripture calls us away from all others 
to Christ alone, since our heavenly Father is pleased to gather 
together all things in him, it were the extreme of stupidity, not to 
say madness, to attempt to obtain access by means of others, so as 
to be drawn away from him without whom access cannot be obtained. 
But who can deny that this was the practice for several ages, and is 
still the practice, wherever Popery prevails? To procure the favour 
of God, human merits are ever and anon obtruded, and very frequently 
while Christ is passed by, God is supplicated in their name. I ask 
if this is not to transfer to them that office of sole intercession 
which we have above claimed for Christ? Then what angel or devil 
ever announced one syllable to any human being concerning that 
fancied intercession of theirs? There is not a word on the subject 
in Scripture. What ground then was there for the fiction? Certainly, 
while the human mind thus seeks help for itself in which it is not 
sanctioned by the word of God, it plainly manifests its distrust, 
(see s. 27.) But if we appeal to the consciences of all who take 
pleasure in the intercession of saints, we shall find that their 
only reason for it is, that they are filled with anxiety, as if they 
supposed that Christ were insufficient or too rigorous. By this 
anxiety they dishonour Christ, and rob him of his title of sole 
Mediator, a title which being given him by the Father as his special 
privilege, ought not to be transferred to any other. By so doing 
they obscure the glory of his nativity and make void his cross; in 
short, divest and defraud of due praise everything which he did or 
suffered, since all which he did and suffered goes to show that he 
is and ought to be deemed sole Mediator. At the same time, they 
reject the kindness of God in manifesting himself to them as a 
Father, for he is not their Father if they do not recognize Christ 
as their brother. This they plainly refuse to do if they think not 
that he feels for them a brother's affection; affection than which 
none can be more gentle or tender. Wherefore Scripture offers him 
alone, sends us to him, and establishes us in him. "He," says 
Ambrose, "is our mouth by which we speak to the Father; our eye by 
which we see the Father; our right hand by which we offer ourselves 
to the Father. Save by his intercession neither we nor any saints 
have any intercourse with God," (Ambros. Lib. de Isaac et Anima.) If 
they object that the public prayers which are offered up in churches 
conclude with the words, _through Jesus Christ our Lord_, it is a 
frivolous evasion; because no less insult is offered to the 
intercession of Christ by confounding it with the prayers and merits 
of the dead, than by omitting it altogether, and making mention only 
of the dead. Then, in all their litanies, hymns, and proses where 
every kind of honour is paid to dead saints, there is no mention of 
    22. But here stupidity has proceeded to such a length as to 
give a manifestation of the genius of superstition, which, when once 
it has shaken off the rein, is wont to wanton without limit. After 
men began to look to the intercession of saints, a peculiar 
administration was gradually assigned to each, so that, according to 
diversity of business, now one, now another, intercessor was 
invoked. Then individuals adopted particular saints, and put their 
faith in them, just as if they had been tutelar deities. And thus 
not only were gods set up according to the number of the cities, 
(the charge which the prophet brought against Israel of old, Jer. 2: 
28; 11: 13,) but according to the number of individuals. But while 
the saints in all their desires refer to the will of God alone, look 
to it, and acquiesce in it, yet to assign to them any other prayer 
than that of longing for the arrival of the kingdom of God, is to 
think of them stupidly, carnally, and even insultingly. Nothing can 
be farther from such a view than to imagine that each, under the 
influence of private feeling, is disposed to be most favourable to 
his own worshippers. At length vast numbers have fallen into the 
horrid blasphemy of invoking them not merely as helping but 
presiding over their salvation. See the depth to which miserable men 
fall when they forsake their proper station, that is, the word of 
God. I say nothing of the more monstrous specimens of impiety in 
which, though detestable to God, angels, and men, they themselves 
feel no pain or shame. Prostrated at a statue or picture of Barbara 
or Catherine, and the like, they mutter a _Pater Noster_;[9] and so 
far are their pastors[10] from curing or curbing this frantic 
course, that, allured by the scent of gain, they approve and applaud 
it. But while seeking to relieve themselves of the odium of this 
vile and criminal procedure, with what pretext can they defend the 
practice of calling upon Eloy (Eligius) or Medard to look upon their 
servants, and send them help from heaven, or the Holy Virgin to 
order her Son to do what they ask?[11] The Council of Carthage 
forbade direct prayer to be made at the altar to saints. It is 
probable that these holy men, unable entirely to suppress the force 
of depraved custom, had recourse to this check, that public prayers 
might not be vitiated with such forms of expression as _Sancte 
Petre, ora pro nobis-- St Peter, pray for us_. But how much farther 
has this devilish extravagance proceeded when men hesitate not to 
transfer to the dead the peculiar attributes of Christ and God? 
    23. In endeavouring to prove that such intercession derives 
some support from Scripture they labour in vain. We frequently read 
(they say) of the prayers of angels, and not only so, but the 
prayers of believers are said to be carried into the presence of God 
by their hands. But if they would compare saints who have departed 
this life with angels, it will be necessary to prove that saints are 
ministering spirits, to whom has been delegated the office of 
superintending our salvation, to whom has been assigned the province 
of guiding us in all our ways, of encompassing, admonishing, and 
comforting us, of keeping watch over us. All these are assigned to 
angels, but none of them to saints. How preposterously they confound 
departed saints with angels is sufficiently apparent from the many 
different offices by which Scripture distinguishes the one from the 
other. No one unless admitted will presume to perform the office of 
pleader before an earthly judge; whence then have worms such license 
as to obtrude themselves on God as intercessors, while no such 
office has been assigned them? God has been pleased to give angels 
the charge of our safety. Hence they attend our sacred meetings, and 
the Church is to them a theatre in which they behold the manifold 
wisdom of God, (Eph. 3: 10.) Those who transfer to others this 
office which is peculiar to them, certainly pervert and confound the 
order which has been established by God and ought to be inviolable. 
With similar dexterity they proceed to quote other passages. God 
said to Jeremiah, "Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my 
mind could not be toward this people," (Jer. 15: 1.) How (they ask) 
could he have spoken thus of the dead but because he knew that they 
interceded for the living? My inference, on the contrary, is this: 
since it thus appears that neither Moses nor Samuel interceded for 
the people of Israel, there was then no intercession for the dead. 
For who of the saints can be supposed to labour for the salvation of 
the peoples while Moses who, when in life, far surpassed all others 
in this matter, does nothing? Therefore, if they persist in the 
paltry quibble, that the dead intercede for the living, because the 
Lord said, "_If they stood before me_," (_intercesserint_,) I will 
argue far more speciously in this way: Moses, of whom it is said, 
"_if he interceded_,," did not intercede for the people in their 
extreme necessity: it is probable, therefore, that no other saint 
intercedes, all being far behind Moses in humanity, goodness, and 
paternal solicitude. Thus all they gain by their caviling is to be 
wounded by the very arms with which they deem themselves admirably 
protected. But it is very ridiculous to wrest this simple sentence 
in this manner; for the Lord only declares that he would not spare 
the iniquities of the people, though some Moses or Samuel, to whose 
prayers he had shown himself so indulgent, should intercede for 
them. This meaning is most clearly elicited from a similar passage 
in Ezekiel: "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in 
it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, 
saith the Lord God," (Ezek. 14: 14.) Here there can be no doubt that 
we are to understand the words as if it had been said, If two of the 
persons named were again to come alive; for the third was still 
living, namely, Daniel, who it is well known had then in the bloom 
of youth given an incomparable display of piety. Let us therefore 
leave out those whom Scripture declares to have completed their 
course. Accordingly, when Paul speaks of David, he says not that by 
his prayers he assisted posterity, but only that he "served his own 
generation," (Acts 13: 36.) 
    24. They again object, Are those, then, to be deprived of every 
pious wish, who, during the whole course of their lives, breathed 
nothing but piety and mercy? I have no wish curiously to pry into 
what they do or meditate; but the probability is, that instead of 
being subject to the impulse of various and particular desires, 
they, with one fixed and immovable will, long for the kingdom of 
God, which consists not less in the destruction of the ungodly than 
in the salvation of believers. If this be so, there cannot be a 
doubt that their charity is confined to the communion of Christ's 
body, and extends no farther than is compatible with the nature of 
that communion. But though I grant that in this way they pray for 
us, they do not, however, lose their quiescence so as to be 
distracted with earthly cares: far less are they, therefore, to be 
invoked by us. Nor does it follow that such invocation is to be used 
because, while men are alive upon the earth, they can mutually 
commend themselves to each other's prayers. It serves to keep alive 
a feeling of charity when they, as it were, share each other's 
wants, and bear each other's burdens. This they do by the command of 
the Lord, and not without a promise, the two things of primary 
importance in prayer. But all such reasons are inapplicable to the 
dead, with whom the Lord, in withdrawing them from our society, has 
left us no means of intercourse, (Eccles. 9: 5, 6,) and to whom, so 
far as we can conjecture, he has left no means of intercourse with 
us. But if any one allege that they certainly must retain the same 
charity for us, as they are united with us in one faith, who has 
revealed to us that they have ears capable of listening to the 
sounds of our voice, or eyes clear enough to discern our 
necessities? Our opponents, indeed, talk in the shade of their 
schools of some kind of light which beams upon departed saints from 
the divine countenance, and in which, as in a mirror, they, from 
their lofty abode, behold the affairs of men; but to affirm this 
with the confidence which these men presume to use, is just to 
desire, by means of the extravagant dreams of our own brain, and 
without any authority, to pry and penetrate into the hidden 
judgments of God, and trample upon Scripture, which so often 
declares that the wisdom of our flesh is at enmity with the wisdom 
of God, utterly condemns the vanity of our mind, and humbling our 
reason, bids us look only to the will of God. 
    25. The other passages of Scripture which they employ to defend 
their error are miserably wrested. Jacob (they say) asks for the 
sons of Joseph, "Let my name be named on them, and the name of my 
fathers, Abraham and Isaac," (Gen. 48: 16.) First, let us see what 
the nature of this invocation was among the Israelites. They do not 
implore their fathers to bring succour to them, but they beseech God 
to remember his servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Their example, 
therefore, gives no countenance to those who use addresses to the 
saints themselves. But such being the dullness of these blocks, that 
they comprehend not what it is to invoke the name of Jacob, nor why 
it is to be invoked, it is not strange that they blunder thus 
childishly as to the mode of doing it. The expression repeatedly 
occurs in Scripture. Isaiah speaks of women being called by the name 
of men, when they have them for husbands and live under their 
protection, (Isa. 4: 1.) The calling of the name of Abraham over the 
Israelites consists in referring the origin of their race to him, 
and holding him in distinguished remembrance as their author and 
parent. Jacob does not do so from any anxiety to extend the 
celebrity of his name, but because he knows that all the happiness 
of his posterity consisted in the inheritance of the covenant which 
God had made with them. Seeing that this would give them the sum of 
all blessings, he prays that they may be regarded as of his race, 
this being nothing else than to transmit the succession of the 
covenant to them. They again, when they make mention of this subject 
in their prayers, do not betake themselves to the intercession of 
the dead, but call to remembrance that covenant in which their most 
merciful Father undertakes to be kind and propitious to them for the 
sake of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. How little, in other respects, 
the saints trusted to the merits of their fathers, the public voice 
of the Church declares in the prophets "Doubtless thou art our 
Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us 
not; thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer," (Isa. 63: 16.) And 
while the Church thus speaks, she at the same time adds, "Return for 
thy servants' sake," not thinking of any thing like intercession, 
but adverting only to the benefit of the covenant. Now, indeed, when 
we have the Lord Jesus, in whose hand the eternal covenant of mercy 
was not only made but confirmed, what better name can we bear before 
us in our prayers? And since those good Doctors would make out by 
these words that the Patriarchs are intercessors, I should like them 
to tell me why, in so great a multitude,[12] no place whatever is 
given to Abraham, the father of the Church? We know well from what a 
crew they select their intercessors.[13] Let them then tell me what 
consistency there is in neglecting and rejecting Abraham, whom God 
preferred to all others, and raised to the highest degree of honour. 
The only reason is, that as it was plain there was no such practice 
in the ancient Church, they thought proper to conceal the novelty of 
the practice by saying nothing of the Patriarchs: as if by a mere 
diversity of names they could excuse a practice at once novel and 
impure. They sometimes, also, object that God is entreated to have 
mercy on his people "for David's sake," (Ps. 132: 10; see Calv. 
Com.) This is so far from supporting their error, that it is the 
strongest refutation of it. We must consider the character which 
David bore. He is set apart from the whole body of the faithful to 
establish the covenant which God made in his hand. Thus regard is 
had to the covenant rather than to the individual. Under him as a 
type the sole intercession of Christ is asserted. But what was 
peculiar to David as a type of Christ is certainly inapplicable to 
    26. But some seem to be moved by the fact, that the prayers of 
saints are often said to have been heard. Why? Because they prayed. 
"They cried unto thee," (says the Psalmist,) "and were delivered: 
they trusted in thee, and were not confounded," (Ps. 22: 5.) Let us 
also pray after their example, that like them we too may be heard. 
Those men, on the contrary, absurdly argue that none will be heard 
but those who have been heard already. How much better does James 
argue, "Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he 
prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the 
earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed 
again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her 
fruit." (James 5: 17, 18.) What? Does he infer that Elias possessed 
some peculiar privilege, and that we must have recourse to him for 
the use of it? By no means. He shows the perpetual efficacy of a 
pure and pious prayer, that we may be induced in like manner to 
pray. For the kindness and readiness of God to hear others is 
malignantly interpreted, if their example does not inspire us with 
stronger confidence in his promise, since his declaration is not 
that he will incline his ear to one or two, or a few individuals, 
but to all who call upon his name. In this ignorance they are the 
less excusable, because they seem as it were avowedly to contemn the 
many admonitions of Scripture. David was repeatedly delivered by the 
power of God. Was this to give that power to him that we might be 
delivered on his application? Very different is his affirmation: 
"The righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal 
bountifully with me," (Ps. 142: 7.) Again, "The righteous also shall 
see, and fear, and shall laugh at him," (Ps. 52: 6.) "This poor man 
cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his 
troubles," (Ps. 34: 6.) In The Psalms are many similar prayers, in 
which David calls upon God to give him what he asks, for this 
reason, viz., that the righteous may not be put to shame, but by his 
example encouraged to hope. Here let one passage suffice, "For this 
shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou 
mayest be found," (Ps. 32: 6, Calv. Com.) This passage I have quoted 
the more readily, because those ravers who employ their hireling 
tongues in defense of the Papacy, are not ashamed to adduce it in 
proof of the intercession of the dead. As if David intended any 
thing more than to show the benefit which he shall obtain from the 
divine clemency and condescension when he shall have been heard. In 
general, we must hold that the experience of the grace of God, as 
well towards ourselves as towards others, tends in no slight degree 
to confirm our faith in his promises. I do not quote the many 
passages in which David sets forth the loving-kindness of God to him 
as a ground of confidence, as they will readily occur to every 
reader of The Psalms. Jacob had previously taught the same thing by 
his own example, "I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies, 
and of all the truth which thou hast showed unto thy servant: for 
with my staff l passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two 
bands," (Gen. 32: 10.) He indeed alleges the promise, but not the 
promise only; for he at the same time adds the effect, to animate 
him with greater confidence in the future kindness of God. God is 
not like men who grow weary of their liberality, or whose means of 
exercising it become exhausted; but he is to be estimated by his own 
nature, as David properly does when he says, "Thou hast redeemed me, 
O Lord God of truth," (Ps 31: 5.) After ascribing the praise of his 
salvation to God, he adds that he is true: for were he not ever like 
himself, his past favour would not be an infallible ground for 
confidence and prayer. But when we know that as often as he assists 
us, he gives us a specimen and proof of his goodness and 
faithfulness, there is no reason to fear that our hope will be 
ashamed or frustrated. 
    27. On the whole, since Scripture places the principal part of 
worship in the invocation of God, (this being the office of piety 
which he requires of us in preference to all sacrifices,) it is 
manifest sacrilege to offer prayer to others. Hence it is said in 
the psalm: "If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched 
out our hands to a strange god, shall not God search this out?" (Ps. 
44: 20, 21.) Again, since it is only in faith that God desires to be 
invoked, and he distinctly enjoins us to frame our prayers according 
to the rule of his word: in fine, since faith is founded on the 
word, and is the parent of right prayer, the moment we decline from 
the word, our prayers are impure. But we have already shown, that if 
we consult the whole volume of Scripture, we shall find that God 
claims this honour to himself alone. In regard to the office of 
intercession, we have also seen that it is peculiar to Christ, and 
that no prayer is agreeable to God which he as Mediator does not 
sanctify. And though believers mutually offer up prayers to God in 
behalf of their brethren, we have shown that this derogates in no 
respect from the sole intercession of Christ, because all trust to 
that intercession in commending themselves as well as others to God. 
Moreover, we have shown that this is ignorantly transferred to the 
dead, of whom we nowhere read that they were commanded to pray for 
us. The Scripture often exhorts us to offer up mutual prayers; but 
says not one syllable concerning the dead; nay, James tacitly 
excludes the dead when he combines the two things, to "confess our 
sins one to another, and to pray one for another," (James v. 16.) 
Hence it is sufficient to condemn this error, that the beginning of 
right prayer springs from faith, and that faith comes by the hearing 
of the word of God, in which there is no mention of fictitious 
intercession, superstition having rashly adopted intercessors who 
have not been divinely appointed. While the Scripture abounds in 
various forms of prayer, we find no example of this intercession, 
without which Papists think there is no prayer. Moreover, it is 
evident that this superstition is the result of distrust, because 
they are either not contented with Christ as an intercessor, or have 
altogether robbed him of this honour. This last is easily proved by 
their effrontery in maintaining, as the strongest of all their 
arguments for the intercession of the saints, that we are unworthy 
of familiar access to God. This, indeed, we acknowledge to be most 
true, but we thence infer that they leave nothing to Christ, because 
they consider his intercession as nothing, unless it is supplemented 
by that of George and Hypolyte, and similar phantoms. 
    28. But though prayer is properly confined to vows and 
supplications, yet so strong is the affinity between petition and 
thanksgiving, that both may be conveniently comprehended under one 
name. For the forms which Paul enumerates (1 Tim. 2: 1) fall under 
the first member of this division. By prayer and supplication we 
pour out our desires before God, asking as well those things which 
tend to promote his glory and display his name, as the benefits 
which contribute to our advantage. By thanksgiving we duly celebrate 
his kindnesses toward us, ascribing to his liberality every blessing 
which enters into our lot. David accordingly includes both in one 
sentence, "Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, 
and thou shalt glorify me," (Ps. 50: 15.) Scripture, not without 
reason, commands us to use both continually. We have already 
described the greatness of our want, while experience itself 
proclaims the straits which press us on every side to be so numerous 
and so great, that all have sufficient ground to send forth sighs 
and groans to God without intermission, and suppliantly implore him. 
For even should they be exempt from adversity, still the holiest 
ought to be stimulated first by their sins, and, secondly, by the 
innumerable assaults of temptation, to long for a remedy. The 
sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving can never be interrupted 
without guilt, since God never ceases to load us with favour upon 
favour, so as to force us to gratitude, however slow and sluggish we 
may be. In short, so great and widely diffused are the riches of his 
liberality towards us, so marvellous and wondrous the miracles which 
we behold on every side, that we never can want a subject and 
materials for praise and thanksgiving. To make this somewhat 
clearer: since all our hopes and resources are placed in God, (this 
has already been fully proved,) so that neither our persons nor our 
interests can prosper without his blessing, we must constantly 
submit ourselves and our all to him. Then whatever we deliberate, 
speak, or do, should be deliberated, spoken, and done under his hand 
and will; in fine, under the hope of his assistance. God has 
pronounced a curse upon all who, confiding in themselves or others, 
form plans and resolutions, who, without regarding his will, or 
invoking his aid, either plan or attempt to execute, (James 4: 14; 
Isaiah 30: 1; 31. 1.) And since, as has already been observed, he 
receives the honour which is due when he is acknowledged to be the 
author of all good, it follows that, in deriving all good from his 
hand, we ought continually to express our thankfulness, and that we 
have no right to use the benefits which proceed from his liberality, 
if we do not assiduously proclaim his praise, and give him thanks, 
these being the ends for which they are given. When Paul declares 
that every creature of God "is sanctified by the word of God and 
prayers" (1 Tim. 4: 5,) he intimates that without the word and 
prayers none of them are holy and pure, _word_ being used 
metonymically for _faith_. Hence David, on experiencing the loving- 
kindness of the Lord, elegantly declares, "He hath put a new song in 
my mouth," (Ps. 40: 3;) intimating, that our silence is malignant 
when we leave his blessings unpraised, seeing every blessing he 
bestows is a new ground of thanksgiving. Thus Isaiah, proclaiming 
the singular mercies of God, says, "Sing unto the Lord a new song 
(Is. 42: 10.)" In the same sense David says in another passage, "O 
Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth thy praise," 
(Ps. 51: 15.) In like manner, Hezekiah and Jonah declare that they 
will regard it as the end of their deliverance "to celebrate the 
goodness of God with songs in his temple," (Is. 38: 20; Jonah 2: 
10.) David lays down a general rule for all believers in these 
words, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits 
toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name 
of the Lord," (Ps. 116: 12, 13.) This rule the Church follows in 
another psalm, "Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among 
the heathen, to give thanks unto thy holy name, and to triumph in 
thy praise," (Ps. 106: 47.) Again, "He will regard the prayer of the 
destitute, and not despise their prayer. This shall be written for 
the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall 
praise the Lord." "To declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and his 
praise in Jerusalem," (Ps. 102: 18, 21.) Nay, whenever believers 
beseech the Lord to do anything _for his own name's sake_, as they 
declare themselves unworthy of obtaining it in their own name, so 
they oblige themselves to give thanks, and promise to make the right 
use of his lovingkindness by being the heralds of it. Thus Hosea, 
speaking of the future redemption of the Church, says, "Take away 
all iniquity, and receive us graciously; so will we render the 
calves of our lips," (Hos. 14: 2.) Not only do our tongues proclaim 
the kindness of God, but they naturally inspire us with love to him. 
"I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my 
supplications," (Ps. 116: 1.) In another passage, speaking of the 
help which he had experienced, he says, "I will love thee, O Lord, 
my strength," (Ps. 18: 1.) No praise will ever please God that does 
not flow from this feeling of love. Nay, we must attend to the 
declaration of Paul, that all wishes are vicious and perverse which 
are not accompanied with thanksgiving. His words are, "In everything 
by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be 
made known unto God," (Phil. 4: 6.) Because many, under the 
influence of moroseness, weariness, impatience, bitter grief and 
fear, use murmuring in their prayers, he enjoins us so to regulate 
our feelings as cheerfully to bless God even before obtaining what 
we ask. But if this connection ought always to subsist in full vigor 
between things that are almost contrary, the more sacred is the tie 
which binds us to celebrate the praises of God whenever he grants 
our requests. And as we have already shown that our prayers, which 
otherwise would be polluted) are sanctified by the intercession of 
Christ, so the Apostle, by enjoining us "to offer the sacrifice of 
praise to God continually" by Christ, (Heb. 13: 15,) reminds us, 
that without the intervention of his priesthood our lips are not 
pure enough to celebrate the name of God. Hence we infer that a 
monstrous delusion prevails among Papists, the great majority of 
whom wonder when Christ is called an intercessor. The reason why 
Paul enjoins, "Pray without ceasing; in every thing give thanks," (1 
Thess. 5: 17, 18,) is, because he would have us with the utmost 
assiduity, at all times, in every place, in all things, and under 
all circumstances, direct our prayers to God, to expect all the 
things which we desire from him, and when obtained ascribe them to 
him; thus furnishing perpetual grounds for prayer and praise. 
    29. This assiduity in prayer, though it specially refers to the 
peculiar private prayers of individuals, extends also in some 
measure to the public prayers of the Church. These, it may be said, 
cannot be continual, and ought not to be made, except in the manner 
which, for the sake of order, has been established by public 
consent. This I admit, and hence certain hours are fixed beforehand, 
hours which, though indifferent in regard to God, are necessary for 
the use of man, that the general convenience may be consulted, and 
all things be done in the Church, as Paul enjoins, "decently and in 
order," (1 Cor. 14: 40.) But there is nothing in this to prevent 
each church from being now and then stirred up to a more frequent 
use of prayer and being more zealously affected under the impulse of 
some greater necessity. Of perseverance in prayer, which is much 
akin to assiduity, we shall speak towards the close of the chapter, 
(sec. 51, 52.) This assiduity, moreover, is very different from the 
BATTOLOGIAN (Greek--English "yammering"), _vain speaking_, which our 
Saviour has prohibited, (Matth. 6: 7.) For he does not there forbid 
us to pray long or frequently, or with great fervor, but warns us 
against supposing that we can extort anything from God by 
importuning him with garrulous loquacity, as if he were to be 
persuaded after the manner of men. We know that hypocrites, because 
they consider not that they have to do with God, offer up their 
prayers as pompously as if it were part of a triumphal show. The 
Pharisee, who thanked God that he was not as other men, no doubt 
proclaimed his praises before men, as if he had wished to gain a 
reputation for sanctity by his prayers. Hence that vain speaking, 
which for a similar reason prevails so much in the Papacy in the 
present day, some vainly spinning out the time by a reiteration of 
the same frivolous prayers, and others employing a long series of 
verbiage for vulgar display.[14] This childish garrulity being a 
mockery of God, it is not strange that it is prohibited in the 
Church, in order that every feeling there expressed may be sincere, 
proceeding from the inmost heart. Akin to this abuse is another 
which our Saviour also condemns, namely, when hypocrites for the 
sake of ostentation court the presence of many witnesses, and would 
sooner pray in the market-place than pray without applause. The true 
object of prayer being, as we have already said, (sec. 4, 5,) to 
carry our thoughts directly to God, whether to celebrate his praise 
or implore his aid, we can easily see that its primary seat is in 
the mind and heart, or rather that prayer itself is properly an 
effusion and manifestation of internal feeling before Him who is the 
searcher of hearts. Hence, (as has been said,) when our divine 
Master was pleased to lay down the best rule for prayer, his 
injunction was, "Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy 
door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which 
seeth in secret shall reward thee openly," (Matth. 6: 6.) Dissuading 
us from the example of hypocrites, who sought the applause of men by 
an ambitious ostentation in prayer, he adds the better course--enter 
thy chamber, shut thy door, and there pray. By these words (as I 
understand them) he taught us to seek a place of retirement which 
might enable us to turn all our thoughts inwards and enter deeply 
into our hearts, promising that God would hold converse with the 
feelings of our mind, of which the body ought to be the temple. He 
meant not to deny that it may be expedient to pray in other places 
also, but he shows that prayer is somewhat of a secret nature, 
having its chief seat in the mind, and requiring a tranquillity far 
removed from the turmoil of ordinary cares. And hence it was not 
without cause that our Lord himself, when he would engage more 
earnestly in prayer, withdrew into a retired spot beyond the bustle 
of the world, thus reminding us by his example that we are not to 
neglect those helps which enable the mind, in itself too much 
disposed to wander, to become sincerely intent on prayer. Meanwhile, 
as he abstained not from prayer when the occasion required it, 
though he were in the midst of a crowd, so must we, whenever there 
is need, lift up "pure hands" (1 Tim. 2: 8) at all places. And hence 
we must hold that he who declines to pray in the public meeting of 
the saints, knows not what it is to pray apart, in retirement, or at 
home. On the other hand, he who neglects to pray alone and in 
private, however sedulously he frequents public meetings, there 
gives his prayers to the wind, because he defers more to the opinion 
of man than to the secret judgment of God. Still, lest the public 
prayers of the Church should be held in contempt, the Lord anciently 
bestowed upon them the most honourable appellation, especially when 
he called the temple the "_house of prayer_," (Isa. 56: 7.) For by 
this expression he both showed that the duty of prayer is a 
principal part of his worship, and that to enable believers to 
engage in it with one consent his temple is set up before them as a 
kind of banner. A noble promise was also added, "Praise waiteth for 
thee, O God, in Sion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed," 
(Ps. 65: 1.)[15] By these words the Psalmist reminds us that the 
prayers of the Church are never in vain; because God always 
furnishes his people with materials for a song of joy. But although 
the shadows of the law have ceased, yet because God was pleased by 
this ordinance to foster the unity of the faith among us also, there 
can be no doubt that the same promise belongs to us--a promise which 
Christ sanctioned with his own lips, and which Paul declares to be 
perpetually in force. 
    30. As God in his word enjoins common prayer, so public temples 
are the places destined for the performance of them, and hence those 
who refuse to join with the people of God in this observance have no 
ground for the pretext, that they enter their chamber in order that 
they may obey the command of the Lord. For he who promises to grant 
whatsoever two or three assembled in his name shall ask, (Matth. 18: 
20,) declares, that he by no means despises the prayers which are 
publicly offered up, provided there be no ostentation, or catching 
at human applause, and provided there be a true and sincere 
affection in the secret recesses of the heart.[16] If this is the 
legitimate use of churches, (and it certainly is,) we must, on the 
other hand, beware of imitating the practice which commenced some 
centuries ago, of imagining that churches are the proper dwellings 
of God, where he is more ready to listen to us, or of attaching to 
them some kind of secret sanctity, which makes prayer there more 
holy. For seeing we are the true temples of God, we must pray in 
ourselves if we would invoke God in his holy temple. Let us leave 
such gross ideas to the Jews or the heathen, knowing that we have a 
command to pray without distinction of place, "in spirit and in 
truth," (John 4: 23.) It is true that by the order of God the temple 
was anciently dedicated for the offering of prayers and sacrifices, 
but this was at a time when the truth (which being now fully 
manifested, we are not permitted to confine to any material temple) 
lay hid under the figure of shadows. Even the temple was not 
represented to the Jews as confining the presence of God within its 
walls, but was meant to train them to contemplate the image of the 
true temple. Accordingly, a severe rebuke is administered both by 
Isaiah and Stephen, to those who thought that God could in any way 
dwell in temples made with hands, (Isa. 66: 2; Acts 7: 48.) 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 3, Part 23

(continued in part 24...)

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