Elijah Waterman.

Memoirs of the life and writings of John Calvin : together with a selection of letters online

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in his greatest straits gave him, on that account, a far more



signal victory. Wherefore, since his hand is not shortened,
nor his support of the truth less near his lieart than in for-
mer ages, you must not despair of his aid, by whatever tem-
pests you may be tossed.

That the greater part of men resist the Gospel, and direct
all their exertions to prevent its progress, should be no mat-
ter of surprise. Such, indeed, has been the unceasing ingra-
titude of the world, that they turn their backs upon God
when he calls them, and kick against him when he pur^roses
to put his yoke upon them. Men, by nature, are enslaved to
hypocrisy, and cannot bear to be brought to the liglit of
the Gospel, which would reveal their pollution and guilt ;
nor to be rescued from the darkness of their superstitions, un-
der the shade of Avhich they sleep in quiet repose. It is not
a new thing for mankind to make opposition, when the at-
tempt is made to bring them back to the obedience and ^vor-
ship of God. We should njot, therefore, be negligent or timid
in the discharge of our duty. For when they have gone to the
extremes of disorder, and have exhausted their rage, they are
confounded at once, and necessarily fall by their own extra-
vagance. As it respects God, surely all these ragings and
foamings of men are held by him in derision, as it is express-
ed in the second Psalm. Therefore, winking at their out-
ragee, he will be silent, as if he treated the matter with in^
difference ; but at length they will be repressed 1)y his power.
Armed with the same power, we shall sustain, by his invincible
protection, all the efforts of Satan against us ; and we shall,
in the end, perceive, in every deed, that the Gospel, as a
messenger of peace, brings reconciliation with God, and tends
to establish peace among men, as the Lord testifies by Isaiah.
When the kingdom of Christ shall be established by his in-
struction, it shall come to pass^ that they shall beat their
swords into plough-shares^ and their spears into priming-hooks.
Ife. ii. 4?; In the mean time, although srditioH?? and tumults,


nSO LIFE OF CALVIN. xetterf,

excited against tlie Gospel, arise from the wickedness and
obstinacy of men, yet it becomes us to look to ourselves, and
conclude, that God is thus punishing us for our own sins, al-
though it is evident, that he uses as instruments those who
are the very servants of Satan. It is an old objection, that the
Gospel Avas the cause of all those evils which afflict the hu-
man race. And indeed it is evident from history, that from
the time in which the Christiam religion began to be spread
through the Avorld, there was scarcely a corner which was
not afflicted with extreme evils. The constant commotions
of wars arose like some conflagration, by which all things
were consumed ; floods prevailing on the one hand, and on
the other pestilence and famine ; here the end of all go-
vernment, and there the inversion of all order, as if the world,
absolutely conspiring against itself, was broken to pieces and
dissolved. The same has happened in this age, since the Gos-
pel began to come forth from the darkness with which it was
covered* The face of things exhibited a miserable appear-
ance ; complaints were every where circulated, that we Avere
born in a most unhappy period ; and there were few who did
not faint under so great a pressure of difficulties. But while
we feel these wounds, we ought to advert to the hand that
inflicts them, and to the cause of their infliction ; what this is,
is by no means obscure, nor difficult to be perceived. It is
certain, that the word of God, by which we are led in the
way of salvation, is an incomparable treasiu-e. Let us then
examine it ourselves, with as much reverence as it is oJffered
to us by its author, and it will be received by us. When
that is accounted vile with us, which with him is of great
moment, who will not acknowledge, that it is perfectly just
with him, to punish in return our ingi'atitude ? Let us hear
the declaration of Christ, Luke xii. 47. That servant which
knew his Lord's mill and did it not, shall be beaten with nmny
stripes. Since therefore we are so negligent in obeying the


will of God, the knowledge of which is an hundred fold more
abundant with us than in former ages, it should not appear
strange, that his indignation should be more vehemently en-
kindled against us, who of all men ^re the most inexcusable.
And since we do not labour to have the good seed grow and
be fruitful, it is just that briars and thorns should be cherish-
ed among us by the artifice of the adversary, by the prickings
of which we may be vexed. And lastly, as we do not render
to the Creator that which is justly due to him from us, it is
right that we should experience the obstinacy of men against

But to address myself to you more immediately. Most
noble Lord, there are, as I understand, two sorts of seditious
persons, ^vho have risen up against the King, and the go-
vernment of the kingdom. Some, who are passionate and
hasty, would introduce ura^iuv, confusion^ every where under
the name of the Gospel ; and others have become so harden-
ed in the superstitions of Antichrist, that they cannot endure
their removal. Both of these classes deserve to be restrained
by the civil power, which God has committed to your
hands ; since they rise up not only against the King, but
against God himself, who has placed the King on the tlirone,
and appointed you the protector of his person and Majesty.
Your first and main object must be to provide, a£ far as may
be, that those who have some relish for the gospel, and
have determined to devote themselves to it, may receive it
with humility and reverence of mind, renouncing their own
wills, and, as their duty requires, giving up themselves en-
tirely to God, For thus it becomes them to consider, that
the Lord, by these emergencies would awaken them, that
they may profit more seriously by his word than they have
hitherto done. Those fanaticks, who would MJsh to change
the world into a licentious freedom, are expre.ssly raised up
by Satan, that tlirough them the gospel juay be reproached ;

332 LIFE OF CALVIN. betters,

as if it were the cause of rebellion against rulers, and intro-
duced into the world unrestrained licentiousness. It is the
duty of the pioiis to mourn the pernicious labours of these
wicked men, and patiently implore of the Lord, that he
would send that light, which will sooner or later most
certainly dissipate this darkness. The Papists, while they
labour to defend the filthiness and abominations of their
Romish idols, betray more and more their open hatred of the
benefits of Christ and all his commandments, which extremely
afflicts those who have a particle of pure zeal remaining.
Wherefcwe, let the pious aclmowledge, tliat these things are ap-
pointed of God,as so many scourges to chastise them, because
they do not bring forth the legitimate fruits of the Gospel.
Let the principal and only expedient, applied to quiet these
commotions, be the true conformity to the image of Christ
in those who have professed his name ; and so let them testi-
fy, that pure Christianity abhors all confusion of every kind.
Let them prove, by their uniform modesty and temperance,
that they are governed by th€ word of God, so that they
may by no means be accounted lawless and unruly. Thus
-will their righteous and holy life shut the mouths of the
impious. The Lord, being appeased, will remove the rod
of correction, and instead of the punishment which he in-
flicts on the despisers of his word, he will follow the repent-
ance of his people with the most assured blessing. It be-
comes the Nobility and Magistrates especially to be first in
giving this example, and foremost in submitting, with fear
and reverence, to the yoke of Clu'ist, the Son of God and
supreme Lord of all. These, I say, must exhibit the sincere
faith and obedience of body and of soul, that he may in re-
turn repress the pride and rage of those, who unjustly mag-
nify themselves against their rulers. It is the highest con-
cern of the Princes of this age, to govern their subjects iji
such a manner, as to prove that they are themselves in sub-



jection to Christ, anxl to give all diligence, that his authority
may extend itself over all, from the highest to the lowest.
Wherefore, I ask of you, most noble Lord, through Christ
himself, and that singular aJiection with which you embrace
the kingdom of your nephew, which is exhibited in a lumi-
nous manner, in all your conduct, to exercise all your com-
bined influence and vigilance, that the truth of God may he
preached with the fullest authority and efficacy ; and
that fruits worthy of the celestial seed may be produced.
That this may be effected, w ithhold not your han<:i from pur-
suing the full and entire reformation of the Church, which
you have begun.

That you may more easily appreheiid my thoughts, I will
reduce the whole to three heads : — First, concerning the true
method of correctly teaching the people. Second, concern-
ing the extirpation of those abuses which have hitherto been
retained. Third, concerning the correction of vices most
perfectly, and endeavouring to prevent the gro^^ th of scan-
dals and luxury, on account of which the name of the Lord
is blasphemed. As it respects the first head, there is no oc-
casion, that I should dwell long upon the detail of doctrines.
Concerning these there is much reason that I sliould give
thanks to God, by whom you are so illuminated in the know-
ledge of the pure doctrines, that you take care that these
should be publickly taught. You are not, I say, to be taught
by me, the faith of Christians, and the doctrines w hicli are
maintained by them ; since the true faith has been restored
and published by you in a meetuig of the Church. But if
any one would have a summary of the worship of God, it
may be reduced to this — That we have one God, the Go-
vernour of our consciences: for the direction of these, we
must make use of his law alone for the rule of devotion, Icsi
we bring to his worship any of the vain traditions of men :
lie must moreover be worshipncd by all, according to his

334 LIFE OF CALVIN. letters,

own nature, with the whole mind and heart; But since
there is nothing in us except a miserable corruption, which
occupies both our senses and affections, we must acknowledge
that entire abyss of iniquity, and dread it when acknow-
ledged. In this manner, having obtained a true knowledge
of our state, as being in ourselves broken, wounded, lost, de-
prived of all dignity and wisdom, and finally of any power
to do good, we must at last flee to the Lord Jesus Christ,
the only fountain of all blessings, to partake of whatever he
offers, and principally that incomparable treasure of his death
and passion, by which method alone we may become entire-
ly reconciled to God the Father. Purified by the sprinkling
of his blood, we shall be assured that none of those stains
will remain in us, which would cover us with shame before
his celestial throne. We shall be persuaded of the eflacacy of
his perpetual sacrifice, by which we have sealed to us the
gratuitous remission of sins, and on which we must fasten as
the refuge and anchor of salvation. Being sanctified by his
Spirit, we shall be consecrated in obedience to the righteous-
ness of God ; and confirmed by his grace, we shall come off
more than conquerors over Satan, the world and the flesh.
Being members of his body, we shall npt doubt but that
God will number us in the family of his children ; and we
shall address him with entire confidence by the legitimate
and endearing name of Father. This is the design of the
true doctrine, which is ever to be preserved and heard by
all in the Church of God, that all may sincerely aim at this
mark ; and that each individual gradually withdrawing him-
self from the world may raise himself to Christ his head,
who is in heaven, by perseverance, prayer, morals and ha-

But as the Lord has been pleased to spread so abundantly
about you his most precious light, which had so long been buri-
ed under llx^ dJitrl ness of Antichrist, I will add but a few words


more. What I have said only pertains to the form ctf teach-
ing, in order that the proper method of instructing the peo-
ple may be followed. For example, they must be pricked to
the quick, that each one may be sensible of the words of the
Apostle, the word of God is quick and pojicrful, and sharper
than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asun-
der of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow ; and is
a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Heb. iv. 12.
This, I say, I inculcate more expressly, because I fear that
there are but few lively Preachers in the kingdom ; and that
the greater part have recourse, in vecitationis modum, to the
method of reading. I perceive also some cause of that scarci-
ty among you ; and as you have not in your power sound
and well qualified Pastors, that defect must be supplied in
its proper manner. You must also beware of unstable and
rash men, w ho, in a change of things, are carried far beyond
all bounds, and prate forth their own dreams for the word of
God. Nothing of this kind should hinder the establishment
of the institution of Christ for preaching the gospel. The in-
stituted preaching must not be dead, but animated, and ti-
itcXual for instruction, exhortation and reproof, as the Apos-
tle testifies to Timothy, 2d Tim. iii. so that if an unbeliever
enter the meeting of the faithful, it should affect him, in such
a manner that, pierced by the hearing of the word, he may
give glory to God, as the same Apostle elsewhere shews,
1. Cor. xiv.— You cannot be ignorant of what this Apostle
tfiaches concerning the power and energy, w hich those should
possess, who are desirous to approve themselves, as sound and
well qualified Ministers of the word. He would have them
free from those ornaments, and that species of eloquence, by
which men display themselves, for admiration, in the thea-
tre. In their discourses, the power of the Spirit should so lu-
cidly manifest itself, as to act powerfully on the minds of the
audience. No precaution should be used, to prevent that

336 LIFE OF CALVIN. xetters.

Spirit from maintaining its liberty and constant vigour in the
Ministry of those whom the Lord has endowed with his
gifts, for the edification of his Church. It is indeed necessary
to watch over those unstable and wandering minds,
who would take too much liberty to themselves. The
door must be shut against curious innovations. The only
means to be used for this purpose, is to have a sum-
mary of doctrine received by all, which they may follow in
preaching. To the observance of this, all Bishops and Cler-
gy should be bound by oath, that no one might be admitted
to the ecclesiastical office, unless he promises to keep inviolate
the unity of doctrine. Let there, besides, be published a
plain formula or Catechism, for the use of children, and those
who may be more ignorant among the people. Thus th&
truth will be rendered more familiar to them ; and at the
same time they will learn to distinguish it from impostures
and corruptions, which are so apt to creep in by little and lit-
tle upon the ignorant and careless. It becomes you to be
fully persuaded, that the Church of God cannot be without a
Catechism ; for therein the true seed of doctrine is to be con-
tained, from which at length the pure and seasonable harvest
will be matured, and from this the seed may be multiplied
abundantly. Wherefore, if you expect to build an edifice of
this kind, which shall stand long, and be safe from destruction,
^ive all care that each child should he instructed in the faith,
by the Catechism published for that purpose ; that they may
learn briefly, and as their capacities will admit, in what con-
sists true Christianity. The usefulness of the Catechism will
not be confined merely to the instruction of children. The
consequence will also be, that the people, being taught by it,
will be better prepared to profit by the ordinary preaching
of the word ; and also if any one puii'ed up, should introduce
any new opinions, he may be detected by an immediate ap-
peal to the rule of the Catechism. As to the formula of


prayers and ecclesiastical ceremonies, I very much approve,
that a proper one should exist, from which the Pastors should
not be permitted to vary, in the exercise of their office ; and
which might consult the simplicity and ignorance of some
persons, and also establish a more certain agreement of all the
Churches among themselves. This would, moreover, put a
check upon the instability and levity of those persons, who
might attempt innovations, and it ^vould hav^e the same ten-
dency as I have before shown the Catechism would have.
Thus ought to be established a Catechism, the administra-
tion of the sacraments, and the publick formula of prayers.
But the expediency of this polity in the Church must not
tend to prevent or diminish, in any manner, the origin-
al energy of preaching the Gospel. As to this, it is the
jftiore incumbent upon you, to provide proper and zealous
Preachers, who may penetrate the recesses of the heart by
the sound of the word of the Gospel. For there is danger,
that the fruit of the Reformation now begun will be greatly
diminished, unless attended with the most efficacious and
zealous preaching of the word. It is not in vain said of
Christ, He shall smite the earth mth the rod of his mouth, and
with the breath of his lips shall he slay the nicked. Is. xi. 4.
This is doubtless the true means, by which he conquers us,
when by the power of his word he destroys and casts out
whatever in us is repugnant to his glory. Hence the Gospel
is called the kingdom of God. Wherefore, though the edicts
and civil establishments of Christian Princes are of great
weight, in promoting and confirming the authority of Chris-
tianity, yet God has determined, in an appropriate manner,
to exert his special power, by the spiritual sword of his word,
which he has committed to the Pastors to be handled in the

I proceed to the second head, concerning the abolishing
and rooting out entirely of the abuses and corruptions, intro-


338 LifE OF CALVIN. letters,

duced by Satan, in former ages into tlte Church of God. It
is evident, that the Christianity of Papacy is spurious and
counterfeit ; and will be condemned in the judgment of God
at the last day, as it is so manifestly repugnant to his word.
If it is your intention to withdraw the people from this gulph,
you must follow the example of the Aposlle. In treating of
the restoration of the Lords's Supper to its proper use, he en-
joins them to be united in removing those additions which
had crept in among them : I have received, he says, of the
Lord that jvhlch, also, I delivered unto you, 1 Cor. xi. 23.
Hence we may deduce this general principle, that when we
enter upon a lawful reformation, which may be acceptable to
God, Ave must adhere to his pure and uncorrupted word ;
fcr all those mixtures, engendered in the human mind which
remain, will be so many manifest pollutions, tending to with-
draw men from the right use of those things, which God has
instituted for their salvation. Religion cannot be said to be
restored to its purity, while this sink of pollution is only
partially drawn off, and a frightful form of Christiajiity is
embraced for the pure and original faith. I speak thus defi-
nitely, as I understand that many think far otherwise ; that
abuses must be tolerated, and untouched, while they would
only direct the grossest corruptions to be removed. In op-
position to this, experience teaches, that the human mind is
a soil fertile in false inventions, and that when sowed even
with the smallest grain, as if all its powers combined, it yields
an immense increase. The method which the scripture
points out is far different. David, speaking of idols, said, /
mil not even take tip their names into my lips, Psal. xvi. 4,
that he might show how odious tliey were to him. When we
reflect how grievously we have sinned against God in this
manner, by remaining in ignorance, we ought to be the more
deeply impressed, with the necessity of removing our stand-
ing as far as possible from all thq fermentations of Sattiu.


What else were all those ceremonies, but so many allure-
ments to entice and ensnare the miserable souls of men in evil ;
as if they were established for this very purpose ? When we
speak concerning caution, men must certainly l^e admonislied,
lest they dash against those rocks which the sins of their past
life have, in this respect, disclosed to them. AVho does not
see, unless wholly hardened, that nothing can be obtained by
this unhappy caution ? Whatever of this nature is fcft un-
touched will operate like a strong leaven, to confirm thera
more resolutely in the evil, and serve as an interposing veil*,
to prevent the reception of the proposed doctrines, according
to their purity and importance. I confess readily, that there
should be moderation ; and that extremes in reforming cere-
monies would not be useful. Nor is too much simplicity to
be adopted, as the order of worship is to be accommodated
to the benefit and capacity of the people. But I am not
less decided in affirming, that strict attention is to be given,
lest, under this pretext of expediency, any of the inven-
tions of Satan or Antichrist should be tolerated. Tliose
expressions of scripture, in the history of many of the Kings
of Judah, are here in point. That when they took anay the
idols, they did not cut them off wholly by the roots. They were
condemned because they did not altogether destroy those
high places, which we should call Chapels, dedicated to then*
foolish devotions.

Since, therefore, most noble Lord, God has conducted you
thus far, endeavour, I beseech you, to deserve the name of
the Reformer of his true Church ; and to render this age,
under the King your nephew, correspondc^it to the age of
the most pious Josiah. Take heed to have every thing in re-
ligion established in its proper place, so that the King may
have no other solicitude but to preserve the well regulated
order. I will produce one example of thoFo corruptions
which, like leaven, will, in some measure, sour the whole scr-

340 LIFE OF CALVIN. letters.

vice of the Lord's Supper. I understand, that with you, in
the celebration of the Eucharist, prayers for the dead are re-
cited. I am not however sufficiently informed, that this is
designed as an approbation of the Popish purgatory. Nor
am I ignorant, that the ancient custom of making mention of
tlie dead, to declare the communion of ail believers in one
body, may be adduced as a vindication of it. But this in^
vincible argument remains, that the Supper of the Lord is
so wholly an ordinance that it is a crime to pollute it by any
additions of men. Besides, when we call upon God, we are
not to indulge our own passions, but to follow the rule of the
Apostle, that the word of God be our foundation. Rom. x-
But that commemoration of the dead, which embraces a
veneration or commendation of them, does not correctly answer
to the true and legitimate institution of prayer ; and is there-
fore an assunientum, addition, which should not be allowed at
the Lord's Supper. There are some other things perhaps
not eq^ually to be condemned, but of such a nature as can-
not be excused, as the Chrism,^ and the ceremony of Unction,'^
The Chrism is indeed the frivolous invention of those who,
through ignorance, were not contented with the institutions
of the Lord, and who persuaded themselves, that the holy
Spirit must be represented in baptism by the use of oil, as if
the sign of water w^as not sufficient for that purpose. Ex-

* Chrism— Oil consecrated by the Bishop and used in the Romish Church
in the administration of baptism, confirmation, ordination and extreme unc-
tion. This last is called, in that Church, a sacrament ; and the oil is applied
to the eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, hands, feet, &c. of persons supposed to be
near death. When the oil is applied to those parts, this prayer is used.
By this holy unction, and his OAvn most pious mercy, may the Almighty God
forgive thee whatever sins thou hast committed, by the eyes, by the hear-

Online LibraryElijah WatermanMemoirs of the life and writings of John Calvin : together with a selection of letters → online text (page 27 of 34)