The following is an excerpt from Wylie’s The History of Protestantism first published in 1878. Herein is the example of John Calvin, Geneva’s great French Protestant Reformer, as he routed the “Libertines,” later called “Levelers” in Cromwell’s day, and now called “Communists.”
“On every side, up to the limits of the Genevan territory, the Reformation was pursued by the tyrant and the inquisitor. And even here, if the sword was still restrained, new and hideous foes had risen to assail the Gospel. The abyss of Atheistic Pantheism [Communism] had suddenly opened, and a monstrous birth had come up out of it, which sought to strangle the infant Reformation, where the Hydra sought to strangle the infant Hercules—in its cradle. Such were the portents that deformed the time.
The customary hour of public worship was now come. The great bell Clemence had tolled out its summons. The throng of worshippers on their way to the cathedral had rolled past, and now the streets, which had resounded with their tread, were empty and silent. Over the city, plain, and lake there brooded a deep stillness. It was around the pulpit of St. Peter’s, and the man with pale face, commanding eye, and kingly brow who occupied it, that the heart of Geneva palpitated. The church was filled with an uneasy crowd. On the benches of the Consistory sat, unmoved, the pastors and elders, resolved to bear the greatest violence rather than not do their duty. A confused noise was heard within the temple. The congregation opened with difficulty, and a numerous band of men, of all ranks, their hands upon their sword-hilts, forced their way in presence of the holy table. The elite of the Libertines [Communists] had decided to communicate. Berthelier did not appear as yet. He reserved himself till the last moment. Calvin, calm as ever, rose to begin the service. He could not but see the group of Libertines in the vast congregation before him, but he seemed as if he saw them not. He preached on the state of mind with which the Lord’s Supper ought to be received. At the close, raising his voice, he said,
‘As for me, so long as God shall leave me here, since he hath given me fortitude, and I have received it from Him, I will employ it, whatever betide; and I will guide myself by my Master’s rule, which is to me clear and well known. As we are now about to receive the Holy Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ, if any one who has been debarred by the Consistory shall approach this table, though it should cost my life, I will show myself such as I ought to be.’
When the liturgies were concluded, Calvin came down from the pulpit and took his stand before the table. Lifting up the white napkin he displayed the symbols of Christ’s body and blood, the food destined for believing souls. Having blessed the bread and wine, he was about to distribute them to the congregation. At that moment there was seen a movement among the Libertines as if they would seize the bread and the cup. The Reformer, covering the sacred symbols with his hands, exclaimed in a voice that rang through the edifice:
‘These hands you may crush; these arms you may lop off; my life, you may take; my blood is yours, you may shed it; but you shall never force me to give holy things to the profane, and dishonour the table of my God.’
These words broke like a thunder-peal over the Libertines. As if an invisible power had flung back the ungodly host, they slunk away abashed, the congregation opening a passage for their retreat. A deep calm succeeded; and ‘the sacred ordinance,’ says Beza, ‘was celebrated with a profound silence, and under a solemn awe in all present, as if the Deity himself had been visible among them.’
Than the transaction we have just narrated, we know nothing more truly sublime in the whole history of the Reformation, that epoch of heroic men and of grand events. The only thing we can compare with it is Luther’s appearance at the Diet of Worms. If we abstract the dramatic accompaniments of the latter scene—the gorgeous hall, the majesty of the emperor; the blaze of princely and knightly rank gathered round him, the glitter of stars and decorations; the men-at-arms; the lackeys and other attendants—and look only at the principle at stake, and the wide and lasting good achieved by the prompt vindication of the principle, the act of Calvin in the Cathedral of St. Peter’s, in 1553, stands side by side, its equal in spiritual sublimity and heroism, with the act of Luther in the Hall of Worms, in 1521. ‘I cannot,’ said Luther. ‘I will not,’ said Calvin. The one repelled the tyrant, the other flung back the mob; the one stemmed the haughtiness of power, the other bridled the raging fury of ungodliness; in both the danger was equal, in both the faith fortitude were equal, and each saved the Reformation at a great crisis.
These two acts, Luther’s at Worms and Calvin’s in St. Peter’s, were in fact two beacon-lights kindled by Providence for the instruction of Europe. They were hung out at the opening of a new epoch, to enable Christendom to pilot itself past two tremendous dangers that lay right in its course. The one of these dangers was only beginning to be visible. The conflict waged in St. Peter’s on Sunday, the 3rd of September, 1553, showed how that danger was to be avoided. A Protestant Church, scripturally constituted, and faithfully governed, was the only possible breakwater against that lawless pantheism which was even then lifting up its head and threatening society with ruin. Such was the lesson taught by the heroic act in St. Peter’s. Calvin was the first man against whom the foul and furious tide of COMMUNISM dashed itself; it broke against the pulpit of St. Peter’s before it precipitated itself upon the throne of France [the First and Second French Revolutions brought about by the Jesuits in 1789 and 1848]. It has since with swelling and triumphant crest overwhelmed parliaments and dynasties, laid prostrate thrones and devastated kingdoms; but in contemplating these dismal tragedies it becomes us to call to mind that the Reformer of Geneva confronted it single-handed, and CONQUERED IT.
Had the principles of Protestantism been rooted and grounded in every parish of France, yielding the same spiritual fruits as they did at Geneva, how different would have been the history of a people to whom nature has given a genius so manifold that it would have shone equally in the beauty of their arts and in the grace and brilliancy of their literature; in the valour of their arms, and the equity of their jurisprudence; in the purity of their homes, and in the freedom and stability of their public institutions; but who, continuing under the malign power of a corrupted and corrupting faith [Jesuitized Romanism], have had their great qualities transformed, and who, missing the right path [due to the Jesuit-directed Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and the subsequent banning of the French Reformation Bible for over 100 years], have covered themselves, their country, and their throne [held in Wylie’s day by the Jesuit-ruled Emperor Napoleon III (1852-1870] with the blackness of calamity and woe.”
The History of Protestantism, James A. Wylie, (New York: Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1878) Vol. II of III, pp. 327-328.