"Calvin maintains that the human heart is also led into the error of idolatry through its love of ceremony and ritual (A good study of Calvin's view of ceremonies is T.W. Street's John Calvin on Adiaphora [Ph.D. dissertation, Union Theological Seminary, New York, 1954], pp. 208-16). Calvin attacks the excessive and improper use of ceremonies by the Catholic church as a denial of spiritual worship. First, because it is an abrogation of God's commands; secondly, because it often entails the improper use of material paraphernalia; and finally because it is often taken to be some sort of automatic communication between God and man.
"Humanly devised ceremonies are a bold affront to God's power, honor, and freedom. Through them men attempt to worship God as they please and to bind His power to specific situations. Consequently, Calvin deals with ceremonies as dangerous distractions that only serve to confuse man and rob God of His majesty." (Grau, Calvins Stellung, p. 12; Wencelius, L 'Esthetique, pp. 221-2).
"Calvin also carries his analysis of the psychology of idolatry to the social level. "We see," he says, "how by mutual persuasion, men urge one another to defend superstition and the worship of idols." Calvin asserts that the more the truth of God is manifested, the more obstinately man persists in following his own way against God, as if he intends to wage war against Him (Emphasis added.) Calvin is convinced that the perversion of man is such that, since the beginning of the Reformation, there has been an increase in idolatry, not a decrease (Commentary on Isaiah, CR 37.37 [CR refers to: Corpus Reformatorum: Joannis Calvini Opera quae supersunt omnia, edited by W. Baum, E. Cunitz, and E. Reuss, Brunswick, 1863-80]). Calvin attributes this rebellion against God to a form of mass hysteria in which idolaters take comfort from each other's encouragements and from the security that comes from belonging to a large group (Ibid. CR 37.254).
"Calvin also argues that people remain steeped in idolatry out of habit and a false sense of awe resulting from the antiquity of their beliefs. It is very difficult, he indicates, to believe that anything ancient can be wrong. The older the idolatry, therefore, the harder it is to displace from men's hearts (Sermons on Deuteronomy, CR 28.711). Zwingli has also made a similar reference to this phenomenon in De vera etfalsa religione (Latin Works, 3.337).
"Sounding a bit like the Luther of the Table Talk, though somewhat more restrained, Calvin expands upon this theme by comparing idolaters to latrine cleaners: "Just as a 'maistre Fifi' mocks those who hold their noses (in his presence), because he has handled filth for so long that he can no longer smell his own foulness; so likewise do idolaters make light of those who are offended by a stench they cannot themselves recognize. Hardened by habit, they sit in their own excrement, and yet believe they are surrounded by roses" (Excuse, CR 6.595. ['Maistre Fifi' is a 16th Century French slang term for a latrine or sewer cleaner.])" (Carlos Eire, War Against The Idols, pp. 219-200, cited in "A Warning Against the False and Dangerous Views of James Jordan Concerning Worship" by Reg Barrow. Mr. Eire's book is available at www.swrb.com Mr. Barrow's article is printed at www.swrb.com/newslett/actualNLs/blastjj.htm
"The principle that the church hath power to institute any thing or ceremony belonging to the worship of God, either as to matter or manner, beyond the observance of such circumstances as necessarily attend such ordinances as Christ Himself hath instituted, lies at the bottom of all the horrible superstition and idolatry, of all the confusion, blood, persecution, and wars, that have for so long a season spread themselves over the face of the Christian world." (John Owen, quoted in Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church byJohn Girardeau, available at http://www.swrb.ab.ca/catalog/g.htm)
"He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination." (Prov. 28:9)