Monday, January 28, 2019
Calvin on Cyprian on Christian Unity
I preached Sunday on Christ’s prayer for future disciples as part of his High Priestly prayer (John 17:20-26). A good bit of focus was given to Christ’s prayer for unity: “That they all may be one….” (v. 21). I’ve also been re-reading Calvin’s book IV of the Institutes and had just been looking at Calvin’s defense of the Protestant movement against charges of it being schismatic in chapter 2. Ever since I ran into Dr. Anthony Lane at the Calvin Congress last August I’ve been intrigued by Calvin’s use of the Church Fathers. I had picked out Calvin’s quotation from Cyprian to share in the sermon on Sunday but did not get time to use it, so I thought I’d share it here (from Institutes 4.2.6):
Cyprian, also following Paul, derives the source of concord of the entire church from Christ’s episcopate alone. Afterward he adds:
The church is one, which is spread abroad far and wide into a multitude by an increase of fruitfulness. As there are many rays of the sun but one light, and many branches of a tree but one strong trunk grounded in its tenacious root, and since from one spring flow many streams, although a goodly number seem outpoured from their bounty and superabundance, still at the source unity abides. Take a ray from the body of the sun; its unity undergoes no division. Break a branch from a tree; the severed branch cannot sprout. Cut off a stream from its source; cut off, it dries up. So also the church, bathed in the light of the Lord, extends over the whole earth: yet there is one light diffused everywhere.
Nothing more fitting could be said to express this indivisible connection which all members of Christ have with one another.