Where Was Our Church Before Luther And Zwingli? (6)

XIII. Third, as to place, the question can be understood in two ways. It may be understood definitely concerning the certain and constant seat of the church (such as Rome is) and in that continued series of bishops or pastors which the Romanists would wish. But this is false.(a) The church of the New Testament is bound to know fixed place as in the Old, but is ambulatory and migrates from place to place, as appears from the example of the Asiatic churches spoken of in Rev. 2 and 3 And many others which have perished. (b) It Is not bound to have that succession, since it either wholly fails with the churches themselves or is changed into a succession of walls who devour the flock (Acts 20:29) Or who impiously domineer over it (2 Thess. 2:3, 4). Or it may be understood indefinitely of a seat and domicile in general, which, according to the dispensation of God, it has obtained in various places, now here and then there.

XIV. In this sense, we say the true church before Luther and Zwingli was already in various assemblies separated from the Roman church, many of which, it is certain, existed both in the east and in the west. The arrogance (authadeia) and tyranny of the Roman bishop, in the corruption of doctrine as well as in the depravation of worship and innovations upon the order and government of the church, so displeased them that they not only never wished to subject themselves to him, but did not hesitate openly to oppose and turn away from him. It is well known that the Waldenses and Albigenses were particularly such. As long as they either relied upon the authority of princes or trusted to their own numbers, these could hold public assemblies and save us rendered the church visible and conspicuous, as in Bohemia, in certain parts of England and in the provinces of southern France—Aquitania, Occitania (Languedoc)—and in the Narbonne Region of France as far as the Alps. But afterword the princes, excited by the fury and arts of the Roman bishop and fascinated by a blind zeal, persecuted those pious believers with arms in order to gratify him, ejected them (wasted vicarious defeats and most cruelly treated) from their cities and natural habitations and endeavored to destroy them by fire and the sword. Then the external appearance of that part of the church was indeed so obscured that it seemed to have altogether failed. In the meantime, the monuments of history testify that a remnant of them still survived (although disbursed and scattered) in various places, especially in the pier in the end for us and the enclosed valleys at the basis of the Alps. Even this single fact would be sufficient to rebut the unjust crimination of our opponents—that we cannot show where our church was before Luther—since it is evident that those purer Christians who held the same faith with us in essentials existed in various places and have their segregated assemblies, although somewhat concealed. And since no mention is made by historians of their secession from the Roman church, it is reasonable to infer that they never had any communion with her, but always lived separated from her and had preserved pure and uncontaminated the truth handed down to them by the preaching of the gospel.

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 18.10.13–14.


Heidelberg Reformation Association
1637 E. Valley Parkway #391
Escondido CA 92027
The HRA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!