CALVIN TO THE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH OF MONTBELLIARD. (ABRIDGED.)
Your two brethren having stated to me the points of doubt or controversy which exist among you, I will simply and briefly expose to you what I should do, were I in your situation. That those persons, who wish to partake of the Lordís Supper, should present themselves to the minister for a previous examination, is a matter so clear to me, that I think every one should do it of choice, as a means of supporting the purity and discipline of the church. But to avoid all difficulty, some limits should be prescribed, and the method of proceeding defined.
1. Let it be in a degree a private examination, to teach the ignorant in a familiar way.
2. Let it be an opportunity for advising and reproving those who are wanting in their duty.
3. Let the minister endeavor to strengthen the weak in faith, and encourage those who are of a tender conscience.
Concerning the Supper, it is my opinion, that we should adopt the custom of administering it to the sick, when circumstances will admit it to be done with propriety; and also to criminals under sentence of death, when they request it, and are sufficiently qualified; but by this rule, that it be a true communion, ó that is, that the bread be broken in a meeting of believers.
It would be improper to celebrate the Supper in an ordinary meeting, merely at the request of one person. Do not indulge a too frequent use of it in this way, lest those should pretend a necessity for it, who are able to come into the public assembly. To permit midwives to baptize is an impious and sacrilegious profanation of baptism. Therefore, I think that this practice ought not only to be resisted, but if the prince should urge the point to extremes, you ought to resist even unto death, rather than consent to sanction this intolerable superstition. In burials of the dead, I would wish this to be observed, that the body, instead of being carried to the place of worship, be conveyed directly to the place of burial; and that the exhortation should there be given to all the attendants of the funeral. As to the ringing of the bell, I would not advise you to be very tenacious in your opposition, if the prince cannot be persuaded to abolish it, as it is not worth contending about. I would not have you oppose every festival, but insist on the abolition of those which carry the most decided marks of superstition, without any tendency to edification. In this manner you will have a plausible reason for your objections. I wish you not to show yourself obstinate and morose; for when the prince sees your moderation, he will be more inclined to yield in some measure, if he finds that you do not oppose them all nor without reason. I entirely agree with you, u to the danger of varying from those forms which are commonly used in our churches; but as we have not yet arrived to that perfection, which we anticipate, and towards which we hope we are advancing, you need not hesitate to admit some of those rites, which you can neither wholly approbate, nor totally abolish. Yours,
Geneva, October 7, 1543.