Monday, May 19, 2008

Rigorists in Time of Controversy

From the CPH translation of Melanchthon's Loci Communes, p. 239.

A noble couple, Attalus and Blandina, had been imprisoned in Lyons because of their profession of the Gospel, and they were being repeatedly led to the places of punishment so that they might be moved to give up calling upon Christ.

There was also with them in the prison another godly Christian who disciplined himself with remarkable exercises, and used no wine or meat.

At this point Attalus was commanded by divine revelation to speak to this very rigorous man and say to him that he should eat with the rest of the people and not give an example to the others of being something special. And the reason for this command was also given, namely, that those who were less educated might think that this distinction of food was a higher form of worship of God, an error which had to be opposed rather than approved.

Attalus told this revelation to the rigorist and to the others in the prison, and the man obeyed him. The others were instructed by this word and made stronger. This story gives us a very important reason why the stubbornness of those who actually understand the distinction in worship forms must not be given approval, lest the errors and doubts in the ignorant and the weak be made worse.

Now, although this hardness sometimes is a kind of image of earnestness, yet often the man who in other instances has good reasons is not rendering a service to God, but is actually seeking the blessing of powers which are opposed to the Gospel.

Much greater sinners are those people who connive with the enemies of the Gospel and oppress those who are teachers of the truth, using their knowledge to hinder the free course of the Gospel and demonstrating that they desire and await a different status for the church. People like this in times of controversy want to appear as impartial judges, attached to neither party—men of integrity and above corruption. But they need to remember the word of Christ [Luke 11:23], “He who does not gather with Me scatters.”

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