Summary: The counter-reformation, the Renaissance, John Calvin, and more...
THIRTY-EIGHT: TRENT AND BEYOND
In the midst of all this reforming, the Roman church decides on a counter-attack. It will bring all its people together in Trent, Italy, and discuss the reforms, perhaps suggest a few of its own, but at any event, make a very specific statement to all present and would-be revolutionaries.
When the politics for it can finally be worked out, and this process alone takes 25 years, the council convenes at the Cathedral of Trent, December 13, 1545. (Here I am using facts supplied by The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1967. )
The first point to be attacked was the one which virtually every Reformer held to: Scriptura sola, the Scriptures alone are sufficient as a source of revelation. Here Trent defines that the apostolic traditions on faith and custom that have been transmitted in some sense from generation to generation down to our times are to be accepted with as much reverence as Sacred Scripture. Don't have to understand it. Don't need to argue with it. Don't make us define what we mean specifically. Just obey. We have now spoken.
Luther and others have begun to teach that original sin is not entirely done away at baptism . He notices that he still has evil desire. Rome says this is not sin in the strict sense, so whether you feel sinful or not, by baptism those sins are gone.
Reformers are preaching grace, through faith, as the means to salvation (Ephesians 2:8). Rome says they agree, in part. It all starts with grace, and faith, but must include our works, too. But Paul says that if works is involved at all in our initial salvation, it is no more grace!(Romans 11:6)
But Trent has decided. Our living tradition is more important than your Scriptural argument.
Though Reformers are split as to what happens at the Communion Table, they all agree that the Mass is not an ongoing sacrifice. To this heresy Trent addresses its most voluminous responses, stating the commonly held Roman view in no uncertain terms.
The Catholic notion of Sacrament is defined at Trent. It is said that grace comes to the believer ex opere operato , that is, by means of the physical rite itself, and not by means of the faith of the one receiving the rite. What horrendous evils this teaching admits is beyond description here. Think of it. Whether one believes or doesn't believe, whether the heart is right or not, if he is willing to submit to a Roman rite, such as Roman-style baptism (which by Greek and Biblical definition is no baptism at all), he is at that moment infused with the grace of God! Is there any wonder now as to how so many pagans could have been admitted to the "church" in their sins, bringing their pagan ways with them?
Does Rome bend at all in the Council of Trent? Well, Bishops are to be chosen with more care. They also are to cut back in their pageantry when appointed. They are to become models of humility. But no doctrines change, of course. The Church cannot be seen to have been in any error for all these years.
We return now to the Reformation battlefield, at a bonfire in England, halfway through the Council of Trent:
It is Bishop J.C. Ryle(1816-1900), priest of the Anglican Church but staunch Evangelical, who writes about the English church of his day in an article to that body which asks, "Why were our reformers burned?"
"A very popular history of our English Queens hardly mentions the martyrdoms of Queen Mary's days! Yet Mary was not called 'Bloody Mary' without reason, and scores of Protestants were burned in her reign.
"(Mary's victims) were either to give up Protestantism and receive Popery, or else they had to be burned alive. Refusing to recant, they were one by one handed over to the secular power, publicly brought out and chained to stakes, publicly surrounded with faggots, and publicly sent out of the world by that most cruel and painful of deaths...
"The 6th and 7th leading Reformers who suffered in Mary's reign were two whose names are familiar to every Englishman - Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, and Hugh Latimer, once Bishop of Worcester. They were both burned at Oxford, back to back, at one stake, on the 16th of October, 1555.
"Ridley's last words before the fire was lighted were these, 'Heavenly Father, I give Thee most hearty thanks that Thou hast called me to a profession of Thee even unto death. I beseech Thee, Lord God, have mercy on this realm of England, and deliver the same from all her enemies.' Latimer's last words were like the blast of a trumpet, which rings even to this day, - 'Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day, by God's grace, light such a candle in England as I trust shall never be put out.'