Today is the day when Protestants all over the world commemorate the Reformation. For my contribution, I’d like to share a brief part of a conversation between Guido (Guy) de Bres and Richardot, bishop of Arras. The dispute was held on May 22, 1567 at the prison in Valenciennes where de Bres was being held prior to his martyrdom on May 31. De Bres tells us what happened:
About eight o’clock in the morning of May 22, the bishop of Arras came to me for the second time, accompanied by a great number of priests, churchmen, and others. After every one greeted one another, the Bishop approached me at the table and I was seated face to face with him and all the others were seated around the room. They had much to say on the topic of the Mass and the Supper. Their strategy was to put all this before my eyes so that I would approve their doctrine and then after their triumph they would use that to destabilize the weak in the faith, to have them abandon the true and ancient doctrine which I preached to them. At least that’s what they hoped to do.
The Bishop: Well, Guy, since we last talked together, how have you been? Are you in the same situation and holding the same opinion? Have you thought about our last talk together?
Guy: Sir, I praise my God and Father that it pleases him to bestow his fatherly mercy on me, consoling me and fortifying me in a marvelous way in my bonds and afflictions. I see and feel the strength and faithfulness of his promises for which I thank him with all my heart, praying to him to continue until the end of my life. As for the rest, I still feel the same and my situation is the same.
The Bishop: What? I hoped to find you completely changed, according to the hope which I expressed last time. Don’t you want to draw near and embrace an encounter with the truth? O Guy, my brother and friend, I beg you not to be stubborn in your sentiments and not to prefer your judgment to the judgment of the whole church and of many learned persons who were before us.
Last time we dealt with the sacrifice of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Mass, which the fathers have said was in use in the time of the Apostles, saying often, “We offer,” speaking of the Eucharist. It is a wonder how you like better to believe a doctrine which began about forty years ago, produced and set forth by Oecolampadius and Karlstadt, who were its first authors. It seems better to me to believe the fathers who say the Eucharist is a sacrifice, than these others who say something to the contrary. I know well how you will respond to me. You’ll say that St. Paul said to the Hebrews that Christ offered himself only once. But my response is that in the Mass we do not make another sacrifice than the one he has already made. We do not make one today and tomorrow another. It is always the same one which we offer, not as he offered himself on the cross, for there he offered himself by presentation of merit, but we offer as ministers and executors of his Will by application of that merit. I am surprised how you find that so strange. We say that we offer Jesus Christ to God the Father for our sins. In your Supper, do you not present Jesus Christ to God for your sins? Do you pray that he will apply to you the merits of the death and suffering of his Son? Guy, my brother and friend, I beg you not to embrace your opinion. I am looking out for your salvation and your well-being. I desire everything good for you. I’m certainly not blood-thirsty, but one who wants to deal with you in all gentleness and moderation.
Guy: Sir, I do not know what hope you conceived for me last time. If you have hoped to win me over to your religion, I cannot help that. At any rate, I do not think that you have been given occasion for that hope. It’s not like you think. As I’ve said before and say it again, I have never been stubborn and close-minded against clear thinking and reason. But if anyone can show me from the Word of God that I have been in error, I am completely ready to give up. Up to the present there has been nothing of all that I have heard that would make me leave the certain for the uncertain. I still hold the same position that I did at the time when by quick testimony from the Word of God, you made me appear to be contrary. As I have said, I am not stubborn, and do not prefer my judgment to the judgment of the Church. But I do certainly prefer with clear thinking and just cause the ancient and early Church in which the Apostles set up all things according to the ordinance of Christ. I prefer that to the church of our time which is loaded with a vast number of human traditions, and which has degenerated itself in a remarkable way from the early Church. With good reason, I say, I hold to that which the Apostles first received. For Jesus Christ, in Revelation 2, says to those in Thyatira that they should beware of the profound trickeries of Satan, to beware of false doctrine. He says, “I will put on you no other burden, only that which you have already, hold fast to this until I come.” He would not have spoken thus if it would have been necessary to receive all the novelties which the Roman church has fabricated and daily put forth as a divine commission. Indeed, I honor greatly the learned and holy persons who have preceded us, but especially the Apostles and Prophets, and their testimony is certain and indubitable.
The conversation goes on for many more pages, mostly dealing with the mass. But here in this excerpt you can see de Bres taking his own stand on the Word of God, just as Martin Luther did many years earlier. Also noteworthy is de Bres’ appeal to the early church — it was always his contention that the Reformed were the ones who were truly in the line of the early church. He makes this case more fully in his book dealing with Romanism, Le baston de la foy Chrestienne. Today we may give thanks for what God did through de Bres and the other Reformers.