Worth Quoting – Peter Martyr Vermigli on Communion With Christ

December 31, 2007 § Leave a comment

But while I write to you like this about N. N., something else occurs to me about which there is reason enough urging me to write you, both by way of inquiry and also to state my own opinion. As I do this with all freedom, so will it be up to you whenever you have leisure to indicate your own opinion. I do not press for an answer, being well aware that you are overwhelmed by important matters.

Men do not all agree concerning the communion which we have with the body of Christ and the substance of his nature; for what reason, I suppose you will hear. It is so important that he that is Christ’s should understand the mode (ratio) of his union with him.

First, it seems to me that he was pleased (as is said in the Epistle to the Hebrews [2.14] to communicate with us, in flesh and blood, by the benefit of his incarnation. ‘Since the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same’.

But unless some other kind of communion were offered us, this would be very general and feeble; for the whole human race already has communion with Christ in this manner. They are in fact men, as he was man.

So besides that communion this is added, that in due season faith is breathed into the elect whereby they may believe in Christ. Thus are they not only forgiven their sins and reconciled to God (in which the true and solid method of justification consists) but further there is added a renewing power of the spirit, by which our bodies also–flesh, blood and nature–are made capable of immortality, and become daily more and more in Christ’s form (Christiformia) as I may say. Not that they cast aside the substance of their own nature and pass into the very body and flesh of Christ, but that they no less approach him in spiritual gifts and properties than at birth they naturally communicated with him in body, flesh and blood.

Here, then, we have two communions with Christ (duas communiones cum Christo), the one natural, which we draw from our parents at birth, while the other comes to us by the Spirit of Christ. At the very time of regeneration we are by him made new according to the image of his glory.

I believe that between these two communions there is an intermediate one which is fount and origin of all the heavenly and spiritual likeness which we have with Christ. It is that by which, as soon as we believe, we obtain Christ himself our true Head, and are made his members. Whence, from the Head himself as Paul says [Eph. 4.16] his Spirit flows and is derived through the joints and ligaments into ourselves as his true and legitimate members. Wherefore this communion with our Head is prior, in nature at least though perhaps not in time, to that later communion which is introduced through regeneration. And here, it seems to me, natural reason helps us. We are taught that in things engendered the heart itself is formed first in infants. From it by a certain vein a spirit flows from the heart and in some way pierces the prepared matter of the living creature and there shapes the head. Thus by that vein through which spirit proceeds from heart, the head is joined to the heart. Again, by another vein spirit flows from the head and afterwards forms the liver, an organ that communicates with head and heart, by the arteries or veins which knit together. From the liver, moreover, and the other principal members there are other arteries or veins reaching to the other parts of the whole, by which the same engendering spirit passing through, fashions the other members. Thus it happens that they all communicate together, and are joined especially to the heart, that is to the fountain of life-not indeed in place or immediate contact (as they call it) but because from thence they draw the quickening spirit and life, by the wondrous workmanship of the highest artificer.

Peter Martyr Vermigli (A.D. 1499-1562)

Peter Martyr, “Calvin, Strasbourg 8 March 1555,” in The Life, Early Letters & Eucharistic Writings of Peter Martyr, ed., by J.C. McLelland and G.E. Duffield (Sutton Courtney Press, 1989), pp., 345-347.


Worth Quoting – Peter Martyr Vermigli on the Church “Visible/Invisible”

June 9, 2007 § Leave a comment

The following quotation is taken from “The Fourth Part of the Common Places of Peter Martyr”, chapter 1, section 1. I found Vermigli’s comments on the membership of the Church as being certainly relevant to the present FV (Federal Vision) controversy that is taking place in the Church. What I found interesting from Vermigli, is what I think could be characterized as a “historical/eschatological” description of what we confessionally know as the “visible/invisible” Church distinction. You, dear reader, will have to decide for yourself whether or not this is true of the following quote from Vermigli. I am going to emphasis the portions I believe are relevant and briefly comment where I think appropriate.

Peter Martyr Vermilgi:

1. The name of the church is derived of the Greek verb, καλέω, that is, to call. For none can be partakers thereof, which come not thereunto by the calling of God. And to define it, we say, it is a company of believers, and regenerate person, whom God gathers together in Christ, by the word and the Holy Ghost, and by his ministers governing the same, with pureness of doctrine, lawful use of the sacraments, and with discipline. And it is everywhere called the body of Christ, because all the members thereof have him for their head, of whom by the joints and sinews they take their growing, and attain unto life by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. And these members are so thoroughly joined unto the head, that they are called flesh of his flesh and bone of his bones. It is the soul of Christ and we confess the same in the Creed, when we say: I believe in the holy Church. And we add straight way by exposition: the Communion of Saints. For they alone are truly and before God are the Church: the which otherwise has mingled very many which be strangers from Christ: and these in show only, not in deed do belong only to the Church. Wherefore of them John said: they went out from us, but they were not of us.

My comments: I think we see above that Vermigli is certainly defining the “true” Church as, before God, made up of all truly believing and regenerate persons. What the WCF calls the “invisible” Church. Now the phrase “before God” used by Vermigli is going to be important to note, for it will appear again after he defines how we know the Church outwardly and our limitation in such knowledge.

And it is in the Gospel that when the Goodman of the house and his servants were asleep, the Devil sowed tares upon the good seed. And Paul in the first to the Corinthians the first chapter, after he had saluted the Church of God, added by exposition: unto them that are sanctified by Christ Jesus, being called Saints, that we may understand that the wicked appertain not in deed unto the Church, though they be always conversant therein: and that (as we said a little before) we may confess that to be the Church which we call the Communion of Saints. But and if you will conclude here by that the Church shall be unknown, we will deny it to be a firm conclusion; because there be proper marks assigned, by which the same may be very well known, and be discerned from profane conventicles. For wheresoever the pureness of doctrine flourishes, the sacraments are purely ministered, and discipline exercised, you have a congregation whereunto you may safely join yourself, although the honesty of every particular man is unknown to you. Neither is it of necessity required, that the godly should be discerned of men what manner of persons they be while they live here. Christ while he lived among mortal men was not known. And we ( as the Apostle has declared unto the Colossians, the third chapter) have our life hidden in God: and when Christ which is our life shall appear, then we also shall be made manifest in him in glory. And again we read in the first of Samuel: it is God that looketh into the heart: but men only know those things which are apparent.

My comments: Now above in the first bold section I emphasized, Vermigli reaffirms that only the regenerate are true members of the Church, but even though the wicked are “conversant” in the Church we are still able to refer to the “visible” (my word inserted) as the “Communion of Saints”. So as we see, in the second, third and forth sections I emphasized by bold print, it is important for Vermigli that we be able to speak of the outward Church, where the gospel and sacraments are truly administered, as the Church of God, without the necessity of knowing who, “before God”, is and is not truly regenerate. Only God can see into the heart, we only know and operate with what we know of those things which are apparent. That the “invisible” church is hid in God, and will not be made “visible” till the appearing of Christ.

I know there is a fable spread abroad that the wicked be members of Christ, howbeit dead members, which nevertheless may be quickened. But this is even as true as if you shall say that a dead man is a man. We will confess in deed, that by Christ and by the Holy Ghost, they may be restored unto life, but in the meantime, while this is not done, we will not grant them to be members of Christ, unless we shall judge according to the form and outward show. Neither do we for this cause say, that evil men at every mans judgment should be separated or excluded from the Church, when they have secretly sinned and have not as yet been cut off by excommunication form the body of Christ. Nay rather while they be permitted, if so be they administer the word of God or sacraments unto the people, divine things are not polluted by their wickedness: but this only we affirm now, that such manner of men in very deed and before God are not members of the Church.

My comment: Notice in the above emphasized sections, Vermigli makes a distinction between “form and outward show” (what we see as apparent) and “before God” (What God sees by seeing into the heart). So, as I said in my previous comment, the phrase “before God” is important to notice. Vermigli is using this phrase as a reference to God’s “secret” knowledge (i.e. God sees the heart), in contrast to our knowledge which is limited to what is “apparent” to us. I think he is using what is theologically called the distinction between God’s will of decree or secret will and His revealed will, that which is reveal in history. Now he also uses the phrase “in very deed” in reference to the wicked, which would, I think, be understood as in the context of Church discipline (deeds which are “apparent” or “visible” to us), but until these wicked are “excommunicated”, they are yet to be “cut off” from the body of Christ “visibly” (my word inserted again). I think this becomes clear in the following illustration used by Vermigli of the Corinthian Church.

You may perhaps doubt how Paul might truly call the Church of the Corinthians, the Church of God, the which was infected with so many vices. But it must be understood, that they which were there, were not utterly corrupted, many good men remained. Further they were as yet instructed with pure doctrine, and retained the sacraments whole and perfect, neither were they altogether without discipline, and those things that were wanting, were not laid aside without regard: nay rather, they godly labored much about the correcting of them. For we know, that Paul was admonished by them which were at Cloas, that he would prevent the evils that were breaking forth. Besides this, Paul had a respect to the testimony of God, who had said unto him, that in the same city he had much people. Over this you must understand, that the Church of God does not so fall away for every blemish, as that it should no more be called the Church of God. It is not presently without spot or wrinkle, but in the day of Jesus Christ it shall be.

My concluding comments: These last two emphasized sections I think give us a clear picture of how Vermigli sees the Church. He sees the Church, “historical/visible”, where the word of God and the sacraments are administered, along with the exercise of discipline, as the Church or “Communion of Saints” properly so called. But with the true regenerate persons, “eschatological/invisible”, as hidden, known only “before God” as true member of Christ, only to be revealed in the day of Christ upon his return in glory.

Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West

Let Us Pray With Peter Martyr Vermigli

May 9, 2007 § Leave a comment

I am the person whom when befouled by the filth and mud of crimes you cleansed with the blood of Jesus Christ, you enlightened by the Spirit, you restored to a holy life, and made the heir, fellow, and partaker of eternal happiness. What more could I have ever asked of you since you have given me all things with Christ?… Since you took pity on the falls of your weak and foolish creature, through your prophet you indicated that you did not wish the death of the sinner but that he be converted and live. You wish to receive back the wretched sinner not just once but seven times seventy should that be needed, if he repents and returns to your flock. See, here I am, condemning, hating, revoking, renouncing whatever I did against your dignity and your holy will. I protest that I will order my whole life in a better way. So I ask you, good Father, seeing that you have so encouraged me through Jesus Christ our Lord, that you will to bestow on me such strength as may suffice. I am your work, both as regards my natural constitution and as regards this new spiritual regeneration. Therefore I beg you not to despise me–may that which cannot be done through my merits (I can find no good in them), be done through the merits of Jesus Christ and through your holy name, to which be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Peter Martyr Vermigli (A.D. 1499-1562)

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