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History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation.
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§ 132. The Eucharistic Controversies. Calvin and Westphal.


I. The Sources are given in § 117. See especially Calvin’s Opera, vol. IX. 1–252, and the Prolegomena, pp. i-xxiv. The correspondence between Bullinger, à Lasco, Farel, Viret, and Calvin, on the controversy, in his Opera, vols. XV. and XVI. The letters of Melanchthon from this period in the Corpus Reform. vols. VII.–IX. The works of Westphal are quoted below.

II. Planck (neutral): Geschichte des Protest. Lehrbegriff’s (Leipzig, 1799), vol. V. Part II. 1–137.—Ebrard (Reformed): Das Dogma vom heil. Abendmahl, II. 525–744.—Nevin (Reformed), in the "Mercersburg Review" for 1850, pp. 486–510.—Mönckeberg (Lutheran): Joachim Westphal und Joh. Calvin, 1865.—Wagenmann in Herzog2, XVII. 1–6.

Henry, III. 298–357.—Dyer, 401–412.—Stähelin, II. 112 sqq., 189 sqq.—Gieseler, III. Part II. 280 sqq.—Dorner: Geschichte der protest. Theol., 400 sqq.—Schaff, Creeds, I. 279 sqq.


The sacramental controversy between Luther and Zwingli was apparently solved by the middle theory of Calvin, Bullinger, and Melanchthon, and had found a symbolical expression in the Zürich Consensus of 1549, for Switzerland, and even before that, in the Wittenberg Concordia of 1536 and in Melanchthon’s irenical restatement of the 10th article of the Altered Augsburg Confession of 1540, for Germany. Luther’s renewed attack upon the Swiss in 1544 was isolated, and not supported by any of his followers; while Calvin, from respect for Luther, kept silent.

But in 1552 a second sacramental war was opened by Westphal in the interest of the high Lutheran theory, and gradually spread over all Germany and Switzerland.

We may well "lament," with Calvin in his letter to Schalling (March, 1557), that those who professed the same gospel of Christ were distracted on the subject of his Last Supper, which should have been the chief bond of union among them.957957    "Dolendum est quum nos pauci numero idem profiteamur evangelium, sacrae coenae occasione, quam praecipuum inter nos unitatis vinculum esse decebat, in varios sententias distrahi. Sed hoc longe atrocius, non minus hostiliter confligere quam si nihil esset nobis eum Christo commune." Opera, XVI, 429. Planck, the impartial Lutheran historian, calls the sacramental controversy "die aergerlichste aller Streitigkeiten" (l.c., V. I. p. 1).

The Westphal-Calvin controversy did not concern the fact of the real presence, which was conceded by Calvin in all his previous writings on the subject, but the subordinate questions of the mode of the presence, of the ubiquity of Christ’s body, and the effect of the sacrament on unworthy communicants, whether they received the very body and blood of Christ, or only bread and wine, to their condemnation. Calvin clearly states the points of difference in the preface to his, Second Defence" : —


"That I have written reverently of the legitimate use, dignity, and efficacy, of the sacraments, even he himself [Westphal] does not deny. How skilfully or learnedly in his judgment, I care not, since it is enough to be commended for piety by an enemy. The contest remaining with him embraces three articles:

"First, he insists that the bread of the Supper is substantially (substantialiter) the body of Christ. Secondly, in order that Christ may exhibit himself present to believers, he insists that his body is immense (immensum), and exists everywhere, though without place (ubique esse, extra locum). Thirdly, he insists that no figure is to be admitted in the words of Christ, whatever agreement there may be as to the thing. Of such importance does he deem it to stick doggedly to the words, that he would sooner see the whole globe convulsed than admit any exposition.

"We maintain that the body and blood of Christ are truly offered (vere offerri) to us in the Supper in order to give life to our souls; and we explain, without ambiguity, that our souls are invigorated by this spiritual aliment (spirituali alimento), which is offered to us in the Supper, just as our bodies are nourished by daily bread. Therefore we hold, that in the Supper there is a true partaking (vera participatio) of the flesh and blood of Christ. Should any one raise a dispute as to the word ’substance,’ we assert that Christ, from the substance of his flesh, breathes life into our souls; nay, infuses his own life into us (propriam in nos vitam diffundere), provided always that no transfusion of substance be imagined."958958    Opera, IX. 47.


The Swiss had in this controversy the best of the argument and showed a more Christian spirit. The result was disastrous to Lutheranism. The Palatinate, in part also Hesse, Bremen, Anhalt, and, at a later period, the reigning dynasty of Prussia, passed over into the Reformed Church. Hereafter there were two distinct and separate Confessions in Protestant Germany, the Lutheran and the Reformed, which in the Westphalia Treaty were formally recog-nized on a basis of legal equality. The Lutheran Church might have sustained still greater loss if Melanchthon had openly professed his essential agreement with Calvin. But the magnetic power of Luther’s name and personality, and of his great work saved his doctrine of the Eucharist and the ubiquity of Christ’s body, which was finally formulated and fixed in the Formula of Concord (1577).

Joachim Westphal (1510–1574), a rigid Lutheran minister and afterwards superintendent at Hamburg, who inherited the intolerance and violent temper, but none of the genius and generosity of Luther, wrote, without provocation, a tract against the "Zürich Consensus," and against Calvin and Peter Martyr, in 1552. He aimed indirectly at the Philippists (Melanchthonians), who agreed with the Calvinistic theory of the Eucharist without openly confessing it, and who for this reason were afterwards called Crypto-Calvinists. He had previously attacked Melanchthon, his teacher and benefactor, and compared his conduct in the Interim controversy with Aaron’s worship of the golden calf.959959    Historia vituli aurei Aaronis Exod. 32 ad nostra tempora et controversias accommodata, Magdeburg, 1549. He taught that the very body of Christ was in the bread substantially, that it was ubiquitous, though illocal (extra locum), and that it was partaken by Judas no less than by Peter. He made no distinction between Calvin and Zwingli. He treats as "sacramentarians" and heretics all those who denied the corporal presence, the oral manducation, and the literal eating of Christ’s body with the teeth, even by unbelievers. He charges them with holding no less than twenty-eight conflicting opinions on the words of institution, quoting extracts from Carlstadt, Zwingli, Oecolampadius, Bucer, à Lasco, Bullinger, Peter Martyr, Schwenkfeld, and chiefly from Calvin. But nearly all these opinions are essentially the same, and that of Carlstadt was never adopted by any Church or any Reformed theologian.960960    See the remarks of the Strassburg editors in vol. IX. Proleg. p. x. There are really only two Reformed theories on the Eucharist—the Zwinglian and the Calvinistic, and the latter was embodied in all the Reformed Confessions. A Lutheran polemic of the seventeenth century conclusively proved to his own satisfaction that "the cursed Calvinistic heretics hold six hundred and sixty-six theses in common with the Turks!" He speaks of their godless perversion of the Scriptures, and even their "satanic blasphemies." He declared that they ought to be refuted by the rod of the magistrates rather than by the pen.961961    Farrago confusanearum et inter se dissidentium opinionum de Coena Domini ex Sacramentariorum libris congesta. Magdeburg, 1552 (a small pamphlet, with a preface).

As his first attack was ignored by the Swiss, he wrote another and larger tract in 1553, in which he proved the Lutheran view chiefly from 1 Cor. 11:29, 30, and urged the Lutherans to resist the progress of the Zwinglian or, as it was now called, Calvinistic heresy.962962    Recta fides de Coena Domini, Magdeburg, 1553. This was followed by Collectanea sententiarum Aurelii Augustini de Coena Domini, Ratisbon, 1555 (the preface is dated September, 1554), and Fides Cyrilli de praesentia corporis et sanguinis Christi, Frankfort, 1555.

The style and taste of his polemic may be inferred from his calling Bullinger "the bull of Zürich," Calvin "the calf of Geneva," and à Lasco "the Polish bear."

About the same time, in the autumn and winter of 1553, John à Lasco, a Polish nobleman, a friend of Calvin, and minister of a foreign Reformed congregation in London, fled with one hundred and seventy-five Protestants from persecution under the bloody Mary, and sought shelter on Danish and German shores; but was refused even a temporary refuge in cold winter at Helsingör, Copenhagen, Rostock, Lübeck, and Hamburg (though they found it at last in East Friesland). Westphal denounced these noble men as martyrs of the devil, enraged the people against them, and gloried in the inhuman cruelty as an act of faith.963963    A full account in Joh. Utenhoven (who accompanied à Lasco), Simplex et fidelis narratio, etc. Basil., 1560. The spirit of this rare book may be judged from the concluding sentence (quoted by Dalton who examined a copy in Cracow): "In conclusion let us pray all the pious for Christ’s sake not to harbor any hatred against those who have thus persecuted us in our affliction, and not to call fire from heaven as James and John did for the refusal of hospitality, but rather to pray for them that they may repent and be saved." See extracts in Planck, l.c., 36 sqq., and H. Dalton, Johannes àLasco (Gotha, 1881), 427 sqq. Mönckeberg attempts to apologize for Westphal, but without effect. Dorner says (l.c., 401, note): "Westphal wird zum Selbstankläger in der Vorrede zu der Collectanea aus Augustin, rühmt die That der Unbarmherzigkeit als eine gute That, und stellt Nebuchadnezzar als Vorbild für solche Fälle auf."

This conduct roused the Swiss to self-defence. Bullinger vindicated the orthodoxy of the Zürich ministry with his usual moderation. Calvin heard of the treatment of the refugees through a letter of Peter Martyr, then at Strassburg, in May, 1554, and took up his sharp and racy pen in three successive pamphlets. He at first wished to issue a joint remonstrance of the Swiss Churches, and sent a hasty draft to Bullinger. But Zürich, Basel, and Bern found it too severe, and refused to sign it. He corrected the draft, and published it in his own name under the title "Defence of the Sound and Orthodox Doctrine on the Sacraments," as laid down in the Consensus Tigurinus (Geneva, 1555). He treated Westphal with sovereign contempt, without naming him. Westphal replied in a tract thrice as large, complaining of the unworthy treatment, denying the intention of disturbing the peace of the Church, but repeating his charges against the Sacramentarians.964964    Adversus cujusdam Sacramentarii falsam criminationem justa defensio, Frankfort, 1555. Calvin, after some hesitation, prepared a "Second Defence," now openly directed "contra Westphali calumnias," and published it, with a preface to the Churches of Germany, in January, 1556. Westphal replied in two writings, one against Calvin and one against à Lasco, and sent letters to the leading cities of North Germany, urging them to unite in an orthodox Lutheran Confession against the Zürich Consensus. He received twenty-five responses, and issued them at Magdeburg, 1557. He also reprinted Melanchthon’s former opinions on the real presence (Hamburg, 1557). To meet these different assaults Calvin issued his "Last Admonition to Westphal" (1557). Westphal continued the controversy, but Calvin kept silent and handed him over to Beza.

Besides these main contestants several others took part in the fight: on the Lutheran side, Timan, Schnepf, Alberus, Gallus, Judex, Brenz, Andreae, etc.; on the Reformed side, à Lasco, Ochino, Polanus, Bibliander, and Beza.

Calvin indignantly rebuked the "rude and barbarous insults" to persecuted members of Christ, and characterized the ultra-Lutherans as men who would rather have peace with the Turks and Papists than with Swiss Christians. He called them "apes of Luther." He triumphantly vindicated against misrepresentations and objections his doctrine of the spiritual real presence of Christ, and the sealing communication of the life-giving virtue of his body in heaven to the believer through the power of the Holy Spirit.

He might have defended his doctrine even more effectually if he had restrained his wrath and followed the brotherly advice of Bullinger, and even Farel, who exhorted him not to imitate the violence of his opponent, to confine himself to the thing, and to spare the person. But he wrote to Farel (August, 1557): "With regard to Westphal and the rest it was difficult for me to control my temper and to follow your advice. You call those ’brethren’ who, if that name be offered to them by us, do not only reject, but execrate it. And how ridiculous should we appear in bandying the name of brother with those who look upon us as the worst of heretics."965965    Opera, XVI. 552.



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