The Roman Church was slow to respond to the Protestant threat, but by the mid-sixteenth century had taken up the battle in earnest. The Council of Trent, one of the most important in Catholic history, essentially confirmed all the Catholic doctrines, particularly the authority of tradition, and rejected the Protestant beliefs.
One of the most effective weapons against the Protestants was the formation of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Ignatius Loyola conceived the idea of a military-style company, with strict discipline and obedience to the Papacy, to fight the battle of the church against infidels and heretics. The Jesuits molded the minds of future political leaders through their excellent schools. Through diligence and sacrifice they made themselves indispensable political advisers. In Catholic countries they brought about a new emphasis on the confessional, thus gaining influence over the people through the dark secrets they were aware of.
The Inquisition was reorganized where the Catholic Church could manipulate government policy, stamping out the fledgling Protestant movement in Italy and stopping its progress elsewhere. Spain became the military arm of the church, exterminating thousands of Protestants in the Netherlands, France and Germany. The savage St. Bartholomew’s day massacre in 1572 epitomized the ruthless crushing of Huguenot Protestantism in France. But Catholicism was looking beyond its traditional European domain; in an era when whole new continents were opening up to European influence, the Jesuits in co-operation with monastic orders were in the vanguard to establish the Catholic system in the Americas, Africa and Asia.
To summarize, the “dead” Sardis Church was Protestantism from the later period of the reformers (the 1520’s) through the mid eighteenth century. In England and Lutheran Germany the protesting underground church had become a state church, with a focus on political and territorial struggles. Lutheran theologians were absorbed with scholastic, technical creeds, while Calvinists produced a false doctrinal system based on the theory of unconditional election; none of this was comprehensible to the common man. The various Protestant factions fought with each other, even persecuting one another and resorting to military might rather than faith and sacrifice, and lost ground to the newly aggressive Catholic opposition.