HIS MOST CHRISTIAN MAJESTY,
THE MOST MIGHTY AND ILLUSTRIOUS MONARCH,
FRANCIS, KING OF THE FRENCH,
HIS SOVEREIGN; 
JOHN CALVIN PRAYS PEACE AND SALVATION IN CHRIST. 
Sire,--When I first engaged in this work, nothing was farther from my
thoughts than to write what should afterwards be presented to your
Majesty. My intention was only to furnish a kind of rudiments, by which
those who feel some interest in religion might be trained to true
godliness. And I toiled at the task chiefly for the sake of my
countrymen the French, multitudes of whom I perceived to be hungering
and thirsting after Christ, while very few seemed to have been duly
imbued with even a slender knowledge of him. That this was the object
which I had in view is apparent from the work itself, which is written
in a simple and elementary form adapted for instruction.
But when I perceived that the fury of certain bad men had risen to such
a height in your realm, that there was no place in it for sound
doctrine, I thought it might be of service if I were in the same work
both to give instruction to my countrymen, and also lay before your
Majesty a Confession, from which you may learn what the doctrine is
that so inflames the rage of those madmen who are this day, with fire
and sword, troubling your kingdom. For I fear not to declare, that what
I have here given may be regarded as a summary of the very doctrine
which, they vociferate, ought to be punished with confiscation, exile,
imprisonment, and flames, as well as exterminated by land and sea.
I am aware, indeed, how, in order to render our cause as hateful to
your Majesty as possible, they have filled your ears and mind with
atrocious insinuations; but you will be pleased, of your clemency, to
reflect, that neither in word nor deed could there be any innocence,
were it sufficient merely to accuse. When any one, with the view of
exciting prejudice, observes that this doctrine, of which I am
endeavouring to give your Majesty an account, has been condemned by the
suffrages of all the estates, and was long ago stabbed again and again
by partial sentences of courts of law, he undoubtedly says nothing more
than that it has sometimes been violently oppressed by the power and
faction of adversaries, and sometimes fraudulently and insidiously
overwhelmed by lies, cavils, and calumny. While a cause is unheard, it
is violence to pass sanguinary sentences against it; it is fraud to
charge it, contrary to its deserts, with sedition and mischief.
That no one may suppose we are unjust in thus complaining, you
yourself, most illustrious Sovereign, can bear us witness with what
lying calumnies it is daily traduced in your presence, as aiming at
nothing else than to wrest the sceptres of kings out of their hands, to
overturn all tribunals and seats of justice, to subvert all order and
government, to disturb the peace and quiet of society, to abolish all
laws, destroy the distinctions of rank and property, and, in short,
turn all things upside down. And yet, that which you hear is but the
smallest portion of what is said; for among the common people are
disseminated certain horrible insinuations--insinuations which, if well
founded, would justify the whole world in condemning the doctrine with
its authors to a thousand fires and gibbets. Who can wonder that the
popular hatred is inflamed against it, when credit is given to those
most iniquitous accusations? See, why all ranks unite with one accord
in condemning our persons and our doctrine!
Carried away by this feeling, those who sit in judgment merely give
utterance to the prejudices which they have imbibed at home, and think
they have duly performed their part if they do not order punishment to
be inflicted on any one until convicted, either on his own confession,
or on legal evidence. But of what crime convicted? "Of that condemned
doctrine," is the answer. But with what justice condemned? The very
essence of the defence was, not to abjure the doctrine itself, but to
maintain its truth. On this subject, however, not a whisper is allowed!
Justice, then, most invincible Sovereign, entitles me to demand that
you will undertake a thorough investigation of this cause, which has
hitherto been tossed about in any kind of way, and handled in the most
irregular manner, without any order of law, and with passionate heat
rather than judicial gravity.
Let it not be imagined that I am here framing my own private defence,
with the view of obtaining a safe return to my native land. Though I
cherish towards it the feelings which become me as a man, still, as
matters now are, I can be absent from it without regret. The cause
which I plead is the common cause of all the godly, and therefore the
very cause of Christ--a cause which, throughout your realm, now lies,
as it were, in despair, torn and trampled upon in all kinds of ways,
and that more through the tyranny of certain Pharisees than any
sanction from yourself. But it matters not to inquire how the thing is
done; the fact that it is done cannot be denied. For so far have the
wicked prevailed, that the truth of Christ, if not utterly routed and
dispersed, lurks as if it were ignobly buried; while the poor Church,
either wasted by cruel slaughter or driven into exile, or intimidated
and terror--struck, scarcely ventures to breathe. Still her enemies
press on with their wonted rage and fury over the ruins which they have
made, strenuously assaulting the wall, which is already giving way.
Meanwhile, no man comes forth to offer his protection against such
furies. Any who would be thought most favourable to the truth, merely
talk of pardoning the error and imprudence of ignorant men For so those
modest personages  speak; giving the name of error and imprudence to
that which they know to be  the infallible truth of God, and of
ignorant men to those whose intellect they see that Christ has not
despised, seeing he has deigned to intrust them with the mysteries of
his heavenly wisdom.  Thus all are ashamed of the Gospel.
Your duty, most serene Prince, is, not to shut either your ears or mind
against a cause involving such mighty interests as these: how the glory
of God is to be maintained on the earth inviolate, how the truth of God
is to preserve its dignity, how the kingdom of Christ is to continue
amongst us compact and secure. The cause is worthy of your ear, worthy
of your investigation, worthy of your throne.
The characteristic of a true sovereign is, to acknowledge that, in the
administration of his kingdom, he is a minister of God. He who does not
make his reign subservient to the divine glory, acts the part not of a
king, but a robber. He, moreover, deceives himself who anticipates long
prosperity to any kingdom which is not ruled by the sceptre of God,
that is, by his divine word. For the heavenly oracle is infallible
which has declared, that "where there is no vision the people perish"
Let not a contemptuous idea of our insignificance dissuade you from the
investigation of this cause. We, indeed, are perfectly conscious how
poor and abject we are: in the presence of God we are miserable
sinners, and in the sight of men most despised--we are (if you will)
the mere dregs and off--scourings of the world, or worse, if worse can
be named: so that before God there remains nothing of which we can
glory save only his mercy, by which, without any merit of our own, we
are admitted to the hope of eternal salvation:  and before men not
even this much remains,  since we can glory only in our infirmity, a
thing which, in the estimation of men, it is the greatest ignominy even
tacitly  to confess. But our doctrine must stand sublime above all
the glory of the world, and invincible by all its power, because it is
not ours, but that of the living God and his Anointed, whom the Father
has appointed King, that he may rule from sea to sea, and from the
rivers even to the ends of the earth; and so rule as to smite the whole
earth and its strength of iron and brass, its splendour of gold and
silver, with the mere rod of his mouth, and break them in pieces like a
potter's vessel; according to the magnificent predictions of the
prophets respecting his kingdom (Dan. 2:34; Isaiah 11:4; Psalm 2:9).
Our adversaries, indeed, clamorously maintain that our appeal to the
word of God is a mere pretext,--that we are, in fact, its worst
corrupters. How far this is not only malicious calumny, but also
shameless effrontery, you will be able to decide, of your own
knowledge, by reading our Confession. Here, however, it may be
necessary to make some observations which may dispose, or at least
assist, you to read and study it with attention.
When Paul declared that all prophecy ought to be according to the
analogy of faith (Rom. 12:6), he laid down the surest rule for
determining the meaning of Scripture. Let our doctrine be tested by
this rule and our victory is secure. For what accords better and more
aptly with faith than to acknowledge ourselves divested of all virtue
that we may be clothed by God, devoid of all goodness that we may be
filled by Him, the slaves of sin that he may give us freedom, blind
that he may enlighten, lame that he may cure, and feeble that he may
sustain us; to strip ourselves of all ground of glorying that he alone
may shine forth glorious, and we be glorified in him? When these
things, and others to the same effect, are said by us, they interpose,
and querulously complain, that in this way we overturn some blind light
of nature, fancied preparatives, free will, and works meritorious of
eternal salvation, with their own supererogations also;  because
they cannot bear that the entire praise and glory of all goodness,
virtue, justice, and wisdom, should remain with God. But we read not of
any having been blamed for drinking too much of the fountain of living
water; on the contrary, those are severely reprimanded who "have hewed
them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water" (Jer.
2:13). Again, what more agreeable to faith than to feel assured that
God is a propitious Father when Christ is acknowledged as a brother and
propitiator, than confidently to expect all prosperity and gladness
from Him, whose ineffable love towards us was such that He "spared not
his own Son, but delivered him up for us all" (Rom. 8:32), than to rest
in the sure hope of salvation and eternal life whenever Christ, in whom
such treasures are hid, is conceived to have been given by the Father?
Here they attack us, and loudly maintain that this sure confidence is
not free from arrogance and presumption. But as nothing is to be
presumed of ourselves, so all things are to be presumed of God; nor are
we stript of vainglory for any other reason than that we may learn to
glory in the Lord. Why go farther? Take but a cursory view, most
valiant King, of all the parts of our cause, and count us of all wicked
men the most iniquitous, if you do not discover plainly, that
"therefore we both labour and suffer reproach because we trust in the
living God" (1 Tim. 4:10); because we believe it to be "life eternal"
to know "the only true God, and Jesus Christ," whom he has sent (John
17:3). For this hope some of us are in bonds, some beaten with rods,
some made a gazing--stock, some proscribed, some most cruelly tortured,
some obliged to flee; we are all pressed with straits, loaded with dire
execrations, lacerated by slanders, and treated with the greatest
Look now to our adversaries (I mean the priesthood, at whose beck and
pleasure others ply their enmity against us), and consider with me for
a little by what zeal they are actuated. The true religion which is
delivered in the Scriptures, and which all ought to hold, they readily
permit both themselves and others to be ignorant of, to neglect and
despise; and they deem it of little moment what each man believes
concerning God and Christ, or disbelieves, provided he submits to the
judgment of the Church with what they call  implicit faith; nor are
they greatly concerned though they should see the glow of God
dishonoured by open blasphemies, provided not a finger is raised
against the primacy of the Apostolic See and the authority of holy
mother Church.  Why, then, do they war for the mass, purgatory,
pilgrimage, and similar follies, with such fierceness and acerbity,
that though they cannot prove one of them from the word of God, they
deny godliness can be safe without faith in these things--faith drawn
out, if I may so express it, to its utmost stretch? Why? just because
their belly is their God, and their kitchen their religion; and they
believe, that if these were away they would not only not be Christians,
but not even men. For although some wallow in luxury, and others feed
on slender crusts, still they all live by the same pot, which without
that fuel might not only cool, but altogether freeze. He, accordingly,
who is most anxious about his stomach, proves the fiercest champion of
his faith. In short, the object on which all to a man are bent, is to
keep their kingdom safe or their belly filled; not one gives even the
smallest sign of sincere zeal.
Nevertheless, they cease not to assail our doctrine, and to accuse and
defame it in what terms they may, in order to render it either hated or
suspected. They call it new, and of recent birth; they carp at it as
doubtful and uncertain; they bid us tell by what miracles it has been
confirmed; they ask if it be fair to receive it against the consent of
so many holy Fathers and the most ancient custom; they urge us to
confess either that it is schismatical in giving battle to the Church,
or that the Church must have been without life during the many
centuries in which nothing of the kind was heard. Lastly, they say
there is little need of argument, for its quality may be known by its
fruits, namely, the large number of sects, the many seditious
disturbances, and the great licentiousness which it has produced. No
doubt, it is a very easy matter for them, in presence of an ignorant
and credulous multitude, to insult over an undefended cause; but were
an opportunity of mutual discussion afforded, that acrimony which they
now pour out upon us in frothy torrents, with as much license as
impunity,  would assuredly boil dry.
1. First, in calling it new, they are exceedingly injurious to God,
whose sacred word deserved not to be charged with novelty. To them,
indeed, I very little doubt it is new, as Christ is new, and the Gospel
new; but those who are acquainted with the old saying of Paul, that
Christ Jesus "died for our sins, and rose again for our justification"
(Rom. 4:25), will not detect any novelty in us. That it long lay buried
and unknown is the guilty consequence of man's impiety; but now when,
by the kindness of God, it is restored to us, it ought to resume its
antiquity just as the returning citizen resumes his rights.
2. It is owing to the same ignorance that they hold it to be doubtful
and uncertain; for this is the very thing of which the Lord complains
by his prophet, "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's
crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider" (Isaiah
1:3). But however they may sport with its uncertainty, had they to seal
their own doctrine with their blood, and at the expense of life, it
would be seen what value they put upon it. Very different is our
confidence--a confidence which is not appalled by the terrors of death,
and therefore not even by the judgment--seat of God.
3. In demanding miracles from us, they act dishonestly; for we have not
coined some new gospel, but retain the very one the truth of which is
confirmed by all the miracles which Christ and the apostles ever
wrought. But they have a peculiarity which we have not--they can
confirm their faith by constant miracles down to the present day! Way
rather, they allege miracles which might produce wavering in minds
otherwise well disposed; they are so frivolous and ridiculous, so vain
and false. But were they even exceedingly wonderful, they could have no
effect against the truth of God, whose name ought to be hallowed
always, and everywhere, whether by miracles, or by the natural course
of events. The deception would perhaps be more specious if Scripture
did not admonish us of the legitimate end and use of miracles. Mark
tells us (Mark 16:20) that the signs which followed the preaching of
the apostles were wrought in confirmation of it; so Luke also relates
that the Lord "gave testimony to the word of his grace, and granted
signs and wonders to be done" by the hands of the apostles (Acts 14:3).
Very much to the same effect are those words of the apostle, that
salvation by a preached gospel was confirmed, "The Lord bearing witness
with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles" (Heb. 2:4). Those
things which we are told are seals of the gospel, shall we pervert to
the subversion of the gospel? What was destined only to confirm the
truth, shall we misapply to the confirmation of lies? The proper
course, therefore, is, in the first instance, to ascertain and examine
the doctrine which is said by the Evangelist to precede; then after it
has been proved, but not till then, it may receive confirmation from
miracles. But the mark of sound doctrine given by our Saviour himself
is its tendency to promote the glory not of men, but of God (John 7:18;
8:50). Our Saviour having declared this to be test of doctrine, we are
in error if we regard as miraculous, works which are used for any other
purpose than to magnify the name of God.  And it becomes us to
remember that Satan has his miracles, which, although they are tricks
rather than true wonders, are still such as to delude the ignorant and
unwary. Magicians and enchanters have always been famous for miracles,
and miracles of an astonishing description have given support to
idolatry: these, however, do not make us converts to the superstitions
either of magicians or idolaters. In old times, too, the Donatists used
their power of working miracles as a battering-ram, with which they
shook the simplicity of the common people. We now give to our opponents
the answer which Augustine then gave to the Donatists (in Joan. Tract.
23), "The Lord put us on our guard against those wonder--workers, when
he foretold that false prophets would arise, who, by lying signs and
divers wonders, would, if it were possible, deceive the very elect"
(Mt. 24:24). Paul, too, gave warning that the reign of antichrist would
be "withall power, and signs, and lying wonders" (2 Thess. 2:9).
But our opponents tell us that their miracles are wrought not by idols,
not by sorcerers, not by false prophets, but by saints: as if we did
not know it to be one of Satan's wiles to transform himself "into an
angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14). The Egyptians, in whose neighbourhood
Jeremiah was buried, anciently sacrificed and paid other divine honours
to him (Hieron. in Praef. Jerem). Did they not make an idolatrous abuse
of the holy prophet of God? and yet, in recompense for so venerating
his tomb, they thought  that they were cured of the bite of
serpents. What, then, shall we say but that it has been, and always
will be, a most just punishment of God, to send on those who do not
receive the truth in the love of it, "strong delusion, that they should
believe a lie"? (2 Thess. 2:11). We, then, have no lack of miracles,
sure miracles, that cannot be gainsaid; but those to which our
opponents lay claim are mere delusions of Satan, inasmuch as they draw
off the people from the true worship of God to vanity.
4. It is a calumny to represent us as opposed to the Fathers (I mean
the ancient writers of a purer age), as if the Fathers were supporters
of their impiety. Were the contest to be decided by such authority (to
speak in the most moderate terms), the better part of the victory would
be ours.  While there is much that is admirable and wise in the
writings of those Fathers, and while in some things it has fared with
them as with ordinary men; these pious sons, forsooth, with the
peculiar acuteness of intellect, and judgment, and soul, which belongs
to them, adore only their slips and errors, while those things which
are well said they either overlook, or disguise, or corrupt; so that it
may be truly said their only care has been to gather dross among gold.
Then, with dishonest clamour, they assail us as enemies and despisers
of the Fathers. So far are we from despising them, that if this were
the proper place, it would give us no trouble to support the greater
part of the doctrines which we now hold by their suffrages. Still, in
studying their writings, we have endeavoured to remember (1 Cor.
3:21-23; see also Augustin. Ep. 28), that all things are ours, to
serve, not lord it over us, but that we axe Christ's only, and must
obey him in all things without exception. He who does not draw this
distinction will not have any fixed principles in religion; for those
holy men were ignorant of many things, are often opposed to each other,
and are sometimes at variance with themselves.
It is not without cause (remark our opponents) we are thus warned by
Solomon, "Remove not the ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set"
(Prov. 22:28). But the same rule applies not to the measuring of fields
and the obedience of faith. The rule applicable to the latter is,
"Forget also thine own people, and thy father's house" (Ps. 45:10). But
if they are so fond of allegory, why do they not understand the
apostles, rather than any other class of Fathers, to be meant by those
whose landmarks it is unlawful to remove? This is the interpretation of
Jerome, whose words they have quoted in their canons. But as regards
those to whom they apply the passage, if they wish the landmarks to be
fixed, why do they, whenever it suits their purpose, so freely overleap
Among the Fathers there were two, the one of whom said,  "Our God
neither eats nor drinks, and therefore has no need of chalices and
salvers;" and the other  "Sacred rites do not require gold, and
things which are not bought with gold, please not by gold." They step
beyond the boundary, therefore, when in sacred matters they are so much
delighted with gold, driver, ivory, marble, gems, and silks, that
unless everything is overlaid with costly show, or rather insane luxury
 , they think God is not duly worshipped.
It was a Father who said,  "He ate flesh freely on the day on which
others abstained from it, because he was a Christian." They overleap
the boundaries, therefore, when they doom to perdition every soul that,
during Lent, shall have tasted flesh.
There were two Fathers, the one of whom said,  "A monk not
labouring with his own hands is no better than a violent man and a
robber;" and the other,  "Monks, however assiduous they may be in
study, meditation, and prayer, must not live by others." This boundary,
too, they transgressed, when they placed lazy gormandising monks in
dens and stews, to gorge themselves on other men's substance.
It was a Father who said,  "It is a horrid abomination to see in
Christian temples a painted image either of Christ or of any saint."
Nor was this pronounced by the voice era single individual; but an
Ecclesiastical Council also decreed,  "Let nought that is
worshipped be depicted on walls."  Very far are they from keeping
within these boundaries when they leave not a corner without images.
Another Father counselled,  "That after performing the office of
humanity to the dead in their burial, we should leave them at rest."
These limits they burst through when they keep up a perpetual anxiety
about the dead.
It is a Father who testifies,  "That the substance of bread and
wine in the Eucharist does not cease but remains, just as the nature
and substance of man remains united to the Godhead in the Lord Jesus
Christ." This boundary they pass in pretending that, as soon as the
words of our Lord are pronounced, the substance of bread and wine
ceases, and is transubstantiated into body and blood.
They were Fathers, who, as they exhibited only one Eucharist to the
whole Church,  and kept back from it the profane and flagitious; so
they, in the severest terms, censured all those  who, being
present, did not communicate How far have they removed these landmarks,
in filling not churches only, but also private houses, with their
masses, admitting all and sundry to be present, each the more willingly
the more largely he pays, however wicked and impure he may be,--not
inviting any one to faith in Christ and faithful communion in the
sacraments, but rather vending their own work for the grace and merits
of Christ! 
There were two Fathers, the one of whom decided that those were to be
excluded altogether from partaking of Christ's sacred supper,  who,
contented with communion in one kind, abstained from the other; while
the other Father strongly contends  that the blood of the Lord
ought not to be denied to the Christian people, who, in confessing him,
are enjoined to shed their own blood. These landmarks, also, they
removed, when, by an unalterable law, they ordered the very thing which
the former Father punished with excommunication, and the latter
condemned for a valid reason.
It was a Father who pronounced it rashness,  in an obscure
question, to decide in either way without clear and evident authority
from Scripture. They forgot this landmark when they enacted so many
constitutions, so many canons, and so many dogmatical decisions,
without sanction from the word of God.
It was a Father who reproved Montanus, among other heresies,  for
being the first who imposed laws of fasting. They have gone far beyond
this landmark also in enjoining fasting under the strictest laws.
It was a Father who denied  that the ministers of the Church should
be interdicted from marrying, and pronounced married life to be a state
of chastity; and there were other Fathers who assented to his decision.
These boundaries they overstepped in rigidly binding their priests to
It was a Father who thought  that Christ only should be listened
to, from its being said, "hear him;" and that regard is due not to what
others before us have said or done, but only to what Christ, the head
of all, has commanded. This landmark they neither observe themselves
nor allow to be observed by others, while they subject themselves and
others to any master whatever, rather than Christ.
There is a Father who contends  that the Church ought not to prefer
herself to Christ, who always judges truly, whereas ecclesiastical
judges, who are but men, are generally deceived. Having burst through
this barrier also, they hesitate not to suspend the whole authority of
Scripture on the judgment of the Church. 
All the Fathers with one heart execrated, and with one mouth protested
 against, contaminating the word of God with the subtleties
sophists, and involving it in the brawls of dialecticians. Do they keep
within these limits when the sole occupation of their lives is to
entwine and entangle the simplicity of Scripture with endless disputes,
and worse than sophistical jargon? So much so, that were the Fathers to
rise from their graves, and listen to the brawling art which bears the
name of speculative theology, there is nothing they would suppose it
less to be than a discussion of a religious nature.
But my discourse would far exceed its just limits were I to show, in
detail, how petulantly those men shake off the yoke of the Fathers,
while they wish to be thought their most obedient sons. Months, nay,
years would fail me; and yet so deplorable and desperate is their
effrontery, that they presume to chastise us for overstepping the
5. Then, again, it is to no purpose they call us to the bar of custom.
To make everything yield to custom would be to do the greatest
injustice. Were the judgments of mankind correct, custom would be
regulated by the good. But it is often far otherwise in point of fact;
for, whatever the many are seen to do, forthwith obtains the force of
custom. But human affairs have scarcely ever been so happily
constituted as that the better course pleased the greater number. Hence
the private vices of the multitude have generally resulted in public
error, or rather that common consent in vice which these worthy men
would have to be law. Any one with eyes may perceive that it is not one
flood of evils which has deluged us; that many fatal plagues have
invaded the globe; that all things rush headlong; so that either the
affairs of men must be altogether despaired of, or we must not only
resist, but boldly attack prevailing evils. The cure is prevented by no
other cause than the length of time during which we have been
accustomed to the disease. But be it so that public error must have a
place in human society, still, in the kingdom of God, we must look and
listen only to his eternal truth, against which no series of years, no
custom, no conspiracy, can plead prescription. Thus Isaiah formerly
taught the people of God, "Say ye not, A confederacy, to all to whom
this people shall say, A confederacy;" i.e. do not unite with the
people in an impious consent; "neither fear ye their fear, nor be
afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear,
and let him be your dread" (Is. 8:12). Now, therefore, let them, if
they will, object to us both past ages and present examples; if we
sanctify the Lord of hosts, we shall not be greatly afraid. Though many
ages should have consented to like ungodliness, He is strong who taketh
vengeance to the third and fourth generation; or the whole world should
league together in the same iniquity. He taught experimentally what the
end is of those who sin with the multitude, when He destroyed the whole
human race with a flood, saving Noah with his little family, who, by
putting his faith in Him alone, "condemned the world" (Heb. 11:7). In
short, depraved custom is just a kind of general pestilence in which
men perish not the less that they fall in a crowd. It were well,
moreover, to ponder the observation of Cyprian,  that those who sin
in ignorance, though they cannot be entirely exculpated, seem, however,
to be, in some sense, excusable; whereas those who obstinately reject
the truth, when presented to them by the kindness of God, have no
defence to offer. 
6. Their dilemma does not push us so violently as to oblige us to
confess, either that the Church was a considerable time without life,
or that we have now a quarrel with the Church. The Church of Christ
assuredly has lived, and will live, as long as Christ shall reign at
the right hand of the Father. By his hand it is sustained, by his
protection defended, by his mighty power preserved in safety. For what
he once undertook he will undoubtedly perform, he will be with his
people always, "even to the end of the world" (Mt. 28:20). With the
Church we wage no war, since, with one consent, in common with the
whole body of the faithful, we worship and adore one God, and Christ
Jesus the Lord, as all the pious have always adored him. But they
themselves err not a little from the truth in not recognising any
church but that which they behold with the bodily eye, and in
endeavouring to circumscribe it by limits, within which it cannot be
The hinges on which the controversy turns are these: first, in their
contending that the form of the Church is always visible and apparent;
and, secondly, in their placing this form in the see of the Church of
Rome and its hierarchy. We, on the contrary, maintain, both that the
Church may exist without any apparent form, and, moreover, that the
form is not ascertained by that external splendour which they foolishly
admire, but by a very different mark, namely, by the pure preaching of
the word of God, and the due administration of the sacraments. They
make an outcry whenever the Church cannot be pointed to with the
finger. But how oft was it the fate of the Church among the Jews to be
so defaced that no comeliness appeared? What do we suppose to have been
the splendid form when Elijah complained that he was left alone? (1
Kings 19:14). How long after the advent of Christ did it lie hid
without form? How often since has it been so oppressed by wars,
seditions, and heresies, that it was nowhere seen in splendour? Had
they lived at that time, would they have believed there was any Church?
But Elijah learned that there remained seven thousand men who had not
bowed the knee to Baal; nor ought we to doubt that Christ has always
reigned on earth ever since he ascended to heaven. Had the faithful at
that time required some discernible form, must they not have forthwith
given way to despondency? And, indeed, Hilary accounted it a very great
fault in his day, that men were so possessed with a foolish admiration
of Episcopal dignity as not to perceive the deadly hydra lurking under
that mask. His words are (Cont. Auxentium), "One advice I give: Beware
of Antichrist; for, unhappily, a love of walls has seized you;
unhappily, the Church of God which you venerate exists in houses and
buildings; unhappily, under these you find the name of peace. Is it
doubtful that in these Antichrist will have his seat? Safer to me are
mountains, and woods, and lakes, and dungeons, and whirlpools; since in
these prophets, dwelling or immersed, did prophesy."
And what is it at the present day that the world venerates in its
horned bishops, unless that it imagines those who are seen presiding
over celebrated cities to be holy prelates of religion? Away, then,
with this absurd mode of judging!  Let us rather reverently admit,
that as God alone knows who are his, so he may sometimes withdraw the
external manifestation of his Church from the view of men. This, I
allow, is a fearful punishment which God sends on the earth; but if the
wickedness of men so deserves, why do we strive to oppose the just
vengeance of God?  It was thus that God, in past ages, punished the
ingratitude of men; for after they had refused to obey his truth, and
had extinguished his light, he allowed them, when blinded by sense,
both to be deluded by lying vanities and plunged in thick darkness, so
that no face of a true Church appeared. Meanwhile, however, though his
own people were dispersed and concealed amidst errors and darkness, he
saved them from destruction. No wonder; for he knew how to preserve
them even in the confusion of Babylon and the flame of the fiery
But as to the wish that the form of the Church should be ascertained by
some kind of vain pomp, how perilous it is I will briefly indicate,
rather than explain, that I may not exceed all bounds. What they say
is, that the Pontiff,  who holds the apostolic see, and the priests
who are anointed and consecrated by him,  provided they have the
insignia of fillets and mitres, represent the Church, and ought to be
considered as in the place of the Church, and therefore cannot err. Why
so? because they are pastors of the Church, and consecrated to the
Lord. And were not Aaron and other prefects of Israel pastors? But
Aaron and his sons, though already set apart to the priesthood, erred
notwithstanding when they made the calf (Exod. 32:4). Why, according to
this view, should not the four hundred prophets who lied to Ahab
represent the Church? (1 Kings 22:11, &c.). The Church, however, stood
on the side of Micaiah. He was alone, indeed, and despised, but from
his mouth the truth proceeded. Did not the prophets also exhibit both
the name and face of the Church, when, with one accord, they rose up
against Jeremiah, and with menaces boasted of it as a thing impossible
that the law should perish from the priest, or counsel from the wise,
or the word from the prophet? (Jer. 18:18). In opposition to the whole
body of the prophets, Jeremiah is sent alone to declare from the Lord
(Jer. 4:9), that a time would come when the law would perish from the
priest, counsel from the wise, and the word from the prophet. Was not
like splendour displayed in that council when the chief priests,
scribes, and Pharisees assembled to consult how they might put Jesus to
death? Let them go, then, and cling to the external mask, while they
make Christ and all the prophets of God schismatics, and, on the other
hand, make Satan's ministers the organs of the Holy Spirit!
But if they are sincere, let them answer me in good faith,--in what
place, and among whom, do they think the Church resided, after the
Council of Basle degraded and deposed Eugenius from the popedom, and
substituted Amadeus in his place? Do their utmost, they cannot deny
that that Council was legitimate as far as regards external forms, and
was summoned not only by one Pontiff, but by two. Eugenius, with the
whole herd of cardinals and bishops who had joined him in plotting the
dissolution of the Council, was there condemned of contumacy,
rebellion, and schism. Afterwards, however, aided by the favour of
princes, he got back his popedom safe. The election of Amadeus, duly
made by the authority of a general holy synod, went to smoke; only he
himself was appeased with a cardinal's cap, like a piece of offal
thrown to a barking dog. Out of the lap of these rebellious and
contumacious schismatics proceeded all future popes, cardinals,
bishops, abbots, and presbyters. Here they are caught, and cannot
escape. For, on which party will they bestow the name of Church? Will
they deny it to have been a general Council, though it lacked nothing
as regards external majesty, having been solemnly called by two bulls,
consecrated by the legate of the Roman See as its president,
constituted regularly in all respects, and continuing in possession of
all its honours to the last? Will they admit that Eugenius, and his
whole train, through whom they have all been consecrated, were
schismatical? Let them, then, either define the form of the Church
differently, or, however numerous they are, we will hold them all to be
schismatics in having knowingly and willingly received ordination from
heretics. But had it never been discovered before that the Church is
not tied to external pomp, we are furnished with a lengthened proof in
their own conduct, in proudly vending themselves to the world under the
specious title of Church, notwithstanding that they are the deadly
pests of the Church. I speak not of their manners and of those tragical
atrocities with which their whole life teems, since it is said that
they are Pharisees who should be heard, not imitated. By devoting some
portion of your leisure to our writings, you will see, not obscurely,
that their doctrine--the very doctrine to which they say it is owing
that they are the Church--is a deadly murderer of souls, the firebrand,
ruin, and destruction of the Church.
7. Lastly, they are far from candid when they invidiously number up the
disturbances, tumults, and disputes, which the preaching of our
doctrine has brought in its train, and the fruits which, in many
instances, it now produces; for the doctrine itself is undeservedly
charged with evils which ought to be ascribed to the malice of Satan.
It is one of the characteristics of the divine word, that whenever it
appears, Satan ceases to slumber and sleep. This is the surest and most
unerring test for distinguishing it from false doctrines which readily
betray themselves, while they are received by all with willing ears,
and welcomed by an applauding world. Accordingly, for several ages,
during which all things were immersed in profound darkness, almost all
mankind  were mere jest and sport to the god of this world, who,
like any Sardanapalus, idled and luxuriated undisturbed. For what else
could he do but laugh and sport while in tranquil and undisputed
possession of his kingdom? But when light beaming from above somewhat
dissipated the darkness--when the strong man arose and aimed a blow at
his kingdom--then, indeed, he began to shake off his wonted torpor, and
rush to arms. And first he stirred up the hands of men, that by them he
might violently suppress the dawning truth; but when this availed him
not, he turned to snares, exciting dissensions and disputes about
doctrine by means of his Catabaptists, and other portentous miscreants,
that he might thus obscure, and, at length, extinguish the truth. And
now he persists in assailing it with both engines, endeavouring to
pluck up the true seed by the violent hand of man, and striving, as
much as in him lies, to choke it with his tares, that it may not grow
and bear knit. But it will be in vain, if we listen to the admonition
of the Lord, who long ago disclosed his wiles, that we might not be
taken unawares, and armed us with full protection against all his
machinations. But how malignant to throw upon the word of God itself
the blame either of the seditions which wicked men and rebels, or of
the sects which impostors stir up against it! The example, however, is
not new. Elijah was interrogated whether it were not he that troubled
Israel. Christ was seditious, according to the Jews; and the apostles
were charged with the crime of popular commotion. What else do those
who, in the present day, impute to us all the disturbances, tumults,
and contentions which break out against us? Elijah, however, has taught
us our answer (1 Kings 18:17, 18). It is not we who disseminate errors
or stir up tumults, but they who resist the mighty power of God.
But while this single answer is sufficient to rebut the rash charges of
these men, it is necessary, on the other hand, to consult for the
weakness of those who take the alarm at such scandals, and not
unfrequently waver in perplexity. But that they may not fall away in
this perplexity, and forfeit their good degree, let them know that the
apostles in their day experienced the very things which now befall us.
There were then unlearned and unstable men who, as Peter tells us (2
Pet. 3:16), wrested the inspired writings of Paul to their own
destruction. There were despisers of God, who, when they heard that sin
abounded in order that grace might more abound, immediately inferred,
"We will continue in sin that grace may abound" (Rom. 6:1); when they
heard that believers were not under the law, but under grace, forthwith
sung out, "We will sin because we are not under the law, but under
grace" (Rom. 6:15). There were some who charged the apostle with being
the minister of sin. Many false prophets entered in privily to pull
down the churches which he had reared. Some preached the gospel through
envy and strife, not sincerely (Phil. 1:15)--maliciously even--thinking
to add affliction to his bonds. Elsewhere the gospel made little
progress. All sought their own, not the things which were Jesus
Christ's. Others went back like the dog to his vomit, or the sow that
was washed to her wallowing in the mire. Great numbers perverted their
spiritual freedom to carnal licentiousness. False brethren crept in to
the imminent danger of the faithful. Among the brethren themselves
various quarrels arose. What, then, were the apostles to do? Were they
either to dissemble for the time, or rather lay aside and abandon that
gospel which they saw to be the seed--bed of so many strifes, the
source of so many perils, the occasion of so many scandals? In straits
of this kind, they remembered that "Christ was a stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offence," "set up for the fall and rising again of many,"
and "for a sign to be spoken against" (Luke 2:34); and, armed with this
assurance, they proceeded boldly through all perils from tumults and
scandals. It becomes us to be supported by the same consideration,
since Paul declares that it is a neverfailing characteristic of the
gospel to be a "savour of death unto death in them that perish" (2 Cor.
2:16), although rather destined to us for the purpose of being a savour
of life unto life, and the power of God for the salvation of believers.
This we should certainly experience it to be, did we not by our
ingratitude corrupt this unspeakable gift of God, and turn to our
destruction what ought to be our only saving defence. 
But to return, Sire.  Be not moved by the absurd insinuations with
which our adversaries are striving to frighten you into the belief that
nothing else is wished and aimed at by this new gospel (for so they
term it), than opportunity for sedition and impunity for all kinds of
vice. Our God  is not the author of division, but of peace; and the
Son of God, who came to destroy the works of the devil, is not the
minister of sin. We, too, are undeservedly charged with desires of a
kind for which we have never given even the smallest suspicion. We,
forsooth, meditate the subversion of kingdoms; we, whose voice was
never heard in faction, and whose life, while passed under you, is
known to have been always quiet and simple; even now, when exiled from
our home, we nevertheless cease not to pray for all prosperity to your
person and your kingdom. We, forsooth, are aiming after an unchecked
indulgence in vice, in whose manners, though there is much to be
blamed, there is nothing which deserves such an imputation; nor (thank
God) have we profited so little in the gospel that our life may not be
to these slanderers an example of chastity, kindness, pity, temperance,
patience, moderation, or any other virtue. It is plain, indeed, that we
fear God sincerely, and worship him in truth, since, whether by life or
by death, we desire his name to be hallowed; and hatred herself has
been forced to bear testimony to the innocence and civil integrity of
some of our people on whom death was inflicted for the very thing which
deserved the highest praise. But if any, under pretext of the gospel,
excite tumults (none such have as yet been detected in your realm), if
any use the liberty of the grace of God as a cloak for licentiousness
(I know of numbers who do), there are laws and legal punishments by
which they may be punished up to the measure of their deserts--only, in
the mean time, let not the gospel of God be evil spoken of because of
the iniquities of evil men.
Sire,  That you may not lend too credulous an ear to the
accusations of our enemies, their virulent injustice has been set
before you at sufficient length; I fear even more than sufficient,
since this preface has grown almost to the bulk of a full apology. My
object, however, was not to frame a defence, but only with a view to
the hearing of our cause, to mollify your mind, now indeed turned away
and estranged from us--I add, even inflamed against us--but whose good
will, we are confident, we should regain, would you but once, with
calmness and composure, read this our Confession, which we desire your
Majesty to accept instead of a defence. But if the whispers of the
malevolent so possess your ear, that the accused are to have no
opportunity of pleading their cause; if those vindictive furies, with
your connivance, are always to rage with bonds, scourgings, tortures,
maimings, and burnings, we, indeed, like sheep doomed to slaughter,
shall be reduced to every extremity; yet so that, in our patience, we
will possess our souls, and wait for the strong hand of the Lord,
which, doubtless, will appear in its own time, and show itself armed,
both to rescue the poor from affliction, and also take vengeance on the
despisers, who are now exulting so securely. 
Most illustrious King, may the Lord, the King of kings, establish your
throne in righteousness, and your sceptre in equity.
Basle, 1st August 1536.
 In the last edition by Calvin, the words are, as here translated,
simply, "Principi suo." In the edition published at Basle in 1536, the
words are, "Principi ac Domino suo sibiobservando."
 Ed. 1536. "In Domino."
 "Modesti homines," not in Ed. 1536.
 "Quam norunt," not in Ed. 1536.
 The words, "Quorum ingenium non adeo despicabile Christi fuisse
vident," not in Ed. 1536.
 The words stand thus in the Ed. 1536: "Qua salvi nullo nostro
merito facti sumus."
 "Non ita multum," not in Ed. 1536.
 "Cum nutu," not in Ed. 1536.
 The only word in the Ed. 1536 after "free will," is "merita."
 "Ut aiunt," not in Ed. 1536.
 No part of this sentence from "provided" is in the Ed. 1536.
 "Tam licenter quam impune," not in Ed. 1536.
 No part of the passage, beginning above, "The deception," &c., is
in Ed. 1536.
 Instead of "thought they were cured," the Ed. 1536 says simply,
"they were cured" (curarentur).
 "Ut modestissime etiam loquar," not in the Ed. 1536.
 i. Acatius in lib. 11 cap 16, F. Triport. Hist.
 ii. Ambr. lib. 2. De Officiis, cap. 28.
 Instead of the words here translated--viz. "exquisito splendore
vel potius insanc luxu," the Ed. 1536 has only the word "luxu."
 iii. Spiridion. Trip. Hist. lib. 1 cap. 10.
 iv. Trip. Hist. lib. 8 cap 1
 August. De Opere Monach cap 7
 vi. Epiph. Epist. ab Hieron. versa
 vii. Conc. Elibert. can. 36.
 No part of this sentence is in Ed. 1536.
 viii. Ambr de Abraha. lib. i c. 7
 ix. Gelasius Papa in Conc. Rom.
 x. Chrys. in 1. cap. Ephes.
 xi. Calixt. Papa, De Consecrat. dist. 2
 Instead of the whole passage, beginning at bottom of p. 11, "It is
a Father who testifies," &c., the Ed. 1536 has the following sentence:
"Ex patribus erat qui negavit in sacramento coenae esse verum corpus
sed mysterium duntaxat corporis; sic enim ad verbum loquitur." On the
margin, reference is made to the author of an unfinished Tract on
Matthew, forming the 11th Homil. among the works of Chrysostom.
 xii. Gelas. can. Comperimus, De Consec. dist. 2.
 xiii. Cypr. Epist. 2, lib. 1. De Lapsis.
 xiv. August. lib. 2 De Peccat. Mer. cap. uit.
 xv. Apollon. De quo Eccles. Hist. lib 5 cap. 12.
 xvi. Paphnut. Tripart. Hist. lib. 2 cap. 14.
 xvii. Cypr. Epist. 2, lib. 2
 xviii. Aug. cap. 2, Cont. Cresconium Grammat.
 No part of this passage is in Ed. 1536.
 xix. Calv. De Scholast. Doctor. Judicium. Vid. Book II. cap. 2
sec. 6; Book III. cap. 4 sec. 1, 2, 7, 13, 14, 26-29; Book III. cap. 11
sec. 14, 15; Book IV. cap. 18 sec. 1; and cap. 19 sec. 10, 11, 22, 23.
 Epist. 3, lib. 2; et in Epist ad Julian. De Haeret. Baptiz.
 No part of this sentence is in ed. 1536.
 No part of the passage beginning above is in the Ed. 1536.
 In the last Ed., "justae Dei ultionis:" in Ed. 1536, "divinae
 "Papa Romanus," in the Ed. 1536.
 Instead of the words, "qui ab eo instites inuncti et consecrati,
infulis modo et lituis insigniti sunt," the Ed. 1536 has only "episcopi
 For "cuncti fere mortales" the Ed. 1536 has only "homines."
 Instead of the concluding part of the sentence beginning "though
rather," &c., and stopping at the reference, the Ed. 1536 simply
continues the quotation "odor vitae in vitam iis qui salvi sunt."
 Instead of "Rex" simply, the E. 1536 has "magnanime Rex."
 Instead of "Deus noster," the Ed. 1536 has only "Deus."
 In Ed. 1536, "Rex magnificentissime"
 The words, "qui tanta securitate nunc exsultant," not in Ed. 1536.