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Vermigli on Idolatry (again)

Further to my previous post on Hobbes and Vermigli, the latter wrote in 1555 following on from his denunciation of those who understand Naaman the Syrian’s example to allow for attendance at Mass and so on:

Neither did Eliseus [Elisha], as our men do think, grant Naaman licence or liberty to do so as he had said, but only he said unto him, go in peace: which manner of speaking was a kind of taking leave used in that age. And as for any other thing there can none be gathered out of those words, unless it be this that he promised to do that which Naaman required: go thy way yes (saithe he) I will do as thou desirest. I shall pray for thee. The prophet doth not reject him, if he should fall into this evil. As we do not utterly reject nor shut these men from grace which thus do fall. Yet must we sharply reprove their doings that they may acknowledge their fault and sin and unfeinedly lament and repent the same. And we ought also heartily to pray that they may be raised up again.1

There is a warmth and compassion from Vermigli toward those who would fall into the error of Naaman. This is often lacking in contemporary discourse about similar differences of practice and opinion. And even though Vermigli agrees that the error is one of idolatry, and is, therefore, severe, it is still the case that he encourages his readers to pray for those in error. And, importantly, he says to not reject them or shut them out. Maybe fewer of our brothers and sisters would fall into deep error if we ourselves had such a stance toward them.

  1. Pietro Martire Vermigli, A treatise of the cohabitacyon of the faithfull with the vnfaithfull Whereunto is added. A sermon made of the confessing of Christe and his gospell, and of the denyinge of the same. 1555, p. 33. Note that I have updated the spelling of the original text.

By Simon Kennedy

Simon is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Queensland. He resides in Geelong, Victoria with his wife and four children.