Elijah Waterman.

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

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the Mahometans, that three Persons in the Trinity, or, as he
says, three Gods, were,. unknown to the Fathers, and are the
Sons of Beelzebub. What could this man belch forth more
impious against God, or against the holy Christian iiiith ?
And we pray you, what Christian ears can patiently hear
these tilings ? The Church of God has, from the begin-
ning, believed and uniformly taught, that the Son of Go^
Subsisted from all eternity in liis ov.n Person, for the



186 LIFE OF CALVIN. 155S

Churcli liad been taught this by the ^^'ord of God. Christ
himself most openly in the Gospel declares, Before Abra-
ham Tvas, I AM. Certainly the substance, not of the flesh
indeed, but of the Godhead ; according to which the Apos-
tle calls him, the express image of the Father"* s Person — and
at the same time, he quotes this passage from the Old Tes-
tament, Thou art my Son, this dai/ have I begotten thee. This
iSon of glory. Son from eternity, true God, in time was made
the Son of man — true man, born not of the substance of God
the Father, Ijut from the su]:istance of Mary his virgin mo-
ther, whom God overshadowed by his Spirit. Hence this
Son is called the blessed seed of the woman, the offspring of
David, and the Son of man. But he remains in one undi-
vided Person, having at the same time two distinct and un-
confounded natures, divine and human. This is so evidently
proved, both formerly and now, from the perspicuous and
manifest testimonies of scripture, that whoever doubts it
plays the fool with his reason. We therefore in simplicity,
and with one mind, firmly believe, -what we have now de-
clared, and we preach these doctrines to the Church entrust-
ed to our care. Servetus is therefore again guilty of blas-
phemy against the Son of God, when he impudently rails
at the hypostasis of the Son, existing from eternity, coequal
and coesscntial with the Father, as a diabolical idea and fab-
ulous chimera. And over and above this, he dares assert,
that the Father of the l^ody of the Son was no other than
God the Father himself, from whose substance the flesh of
the Son was formed. Paul, the teacher of the Gentiles,
taught far otherwise, and said, Thai the Son of God was hc'
gotten of the seed of David aecording to the flesh ; and declar-
ed to be the Son of God with poner, according to the Spirit
of holiness. But why should we proceed to enumerate the
single blasphemies of this man ? The faithful and learned
Pnstors of your Church have diligently and honestly collect-



1553 LIFE OF CALVIN. 87

ctl some of his most enormous errours and avowed heresies,
in the work entitled, The opinions or propositions selected
from the book of Michel Scrvetus. We neither fmd them se-
lected nor designated by a spirit of calumny. Neither do
we in any manner receive or approve them, ])ut wholly exe-
crate them. For Servetus, in his answer immediately sub-
joined, does not explain but involves the subject in obscurity ;
and at the same time corrupts the opinions of many of the
ancients concerning the Unity and Trinity of God, and also
the mystery of the Son of God, which is plainly evinced in
the very apposite answer of the Ministers of your Church.
Tlie reply or gloss of Servetus contains little else than extreme
impudence, and detestable outrage. For he so often throws
out against Calvin his mentiris, you lie, and calls him so often
magician and Simon Magus, that the bare remembrance of it
grieves us, and makes us blush for him : Especially since his
work speaks out for itself, and what he has written when fair-
ly examined testifies that Calvin invented nothing, ]>ut that
Servetus rather denies and covers with a gloss those things
which he had said. We trust that the fidelity and diligence
of our brother Calvin, your Pastor, and his distinguished me-
rit with the exiles and pious, will be too illustrious to be ob-
scured, by the mean and detestable criminations of that man,
either with your Excellencies or any other good men. And
your Excellencies readily acknowledge, and declare in your
letter, which gives us great pleasure, that you do not ask our
opinion, because you distrust the Ministers of your Chui;ph,
but merely to obtain our sentiments on these subjects. But
in what manner you will restrain this man, who has rencAvcd
the heresies formerly confuted and condemned by the
Church, as repugnant to the scriptures, and has made Avar
upon the first and fundamental articles of our faith,
and in attacking these insults God and his saints, we
leave to your prudence to determine. If wo, are not dc-



S8 LIFE OF CALVIN. ^1553

oeived by the similarity of the names, this Servetus stirred
up this great evil twenty years ago, and Doctor John (Eco-
larapadius, of blessed memory, endeavoured to bring him
back to the right way ; and even at that time the doctrine
of Servetus was condemned by those who first preached the
Gospel in those parts. He however, tenacious of his own
opinions, in the year 1531, caused to be printed in Germa-
ny seven books concerning the en'ours of the Trinity, and
other treatises in the form of dialogues, which undoubtedly
drove many, who were little versed in the scriptures, and
■wavering in their faith, to plunge themselves into imminent
danger of soul and body. With this however, he w as not
satisfied ; but having selected the most pestilential errours
and insufferable blasphemies, he proceeds to outdo even him-
self in impiety and blasphemy, and to obtrude the most
corrupt doctrine under the form of The Restitution of the
Christian Church We therefore judge, that great fidelity
and diligence are requisite against this man, especially as
our Churches are evilly reported abroad, as being heretical,
and as favouring hereticks. The holy Providence of God
has, in the present case, presented you with the opportunity
of clearing yourselves and us from the perverse suspicion of
this evil ; and we doubt not but that your Excellencies will
be vigilant, and promptly take care, that the contagion of
this poisonous man spread no farther by his means. The
Lord Jesus Christ grant to your piety, w isdom and forti-
tude, the w^ay, m.anner and righteous means of doing his
will, for the glory of his name, and the faithful preservation
of the pure doctrines of the Church. At the same time, w^e
all offer your Excellencies our services, and commend our-
selves to you for that purpose. We have detained your mes-



155S LIFE OF CALVIN. 89

sengcr three days, because we were not able sooner to ex-
plain our sentiments.

*^Your Excellencies' most devoted servants,

*< The Pastors and Lectors, Ministers of )
THE Church of Zurich. y

« Zurich, October 2, 1553."

The Ministers of the otlier Swiss Churches, Schaffhausen,
Bern and Basil, returned answers very similar to that from
Zurich.

*' Calvin to Farel, wishes health.

" I shall now treat you in some measure as you do mc ;
and instead of a letter, give you a breviculum, a mere sketch,
which will not occupy much of your time. The messenger
has returned from the Helvetick Churches. All unite, with
one consent, in declaring that Servetus has at once revived
all the impious errours with which Satan formerly troubled
the Church, and that the monster is intolerable. The an-
swer of the Ministers of Basil is judicious. That of Zurich,
the most decisive of all. The atrocity of his impieties is
strongly described by them, and they exhort our Senate to
severity. To their opinion the Ministers cf Schalihausen
subscribe. To the pertinent letter of the Bernese Ministers,
their Senate has added a letter, by which our Senate is
greatly animated. Comical Ccesar, having feigned sickness
for three days, at length came into the Senate-room, that he
might discharge this wicked man from punishment. Nor
did he blush to ask that the trial should be removed to the
Council of two hundred. However, he was condcnmed, sine
controversia, without hesitancy. He will be led to punish-
ment to-morrow. IFe endeavoured to commute the kind of
death, but in vain. Why we could eiiect nothing in his fa-

12



90 LIFE OF CALVIN. 155.8

vour, I will inform you at our interview. Farewell, most
faithful brother and excellent Minister of Christ. May God
preserve and direct you always. Health to all friends.
Ours salute you again.

« Geneva, October 26, 1553."

" The judgment of the Syndicks and Senators, pro-
nounced UPON Michel Servetus.

" We, Syndicks, Judges of criminal causes in this city, hav-
ing- witnessed the process made and instituted against you, on
the part of our Lieutenant, in the aforesaid causes, instituted
against you, Michel, of Villeneuve, in the kingdom of Ar-
ragon, in Spain, in which your voluntary confessions in
our hands, made and often reiterated, and the books before
us produced, plainly shew, that you, Servetus, have publish-
ed false and heretical doctrines ; and also, despising all re-
monstrances and corrections, have, with a perverse inclina-
tion, sown and divulged them in a book published against God
the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit ; in sum against all the
true foundations of the Christian religion, and have thereby
tried to introduce trouble and schism into the Church of
God, by which many souls may have been ruined and lost —
things horrible, frightful, scandalous and infectious ; and have
not been ashamed to set yourself in array against the divine
Majesty and the holy Trinity ; but rather have obstinately em-
ployed yourself in infecting the world with your heresies and
offensive poison ; a case <md crime of heresy grievous and de-
testable, and deserving corporal punishment. For these and
other just reasons moving us, and being desirous to piurgc
the Church of God from such infection, and to cut off from
it so rotten a member, having had good counsel from oth-
ers, and having invoked the name of God, that ^vt may
make a right judgment; sitting upon the tribunal of our



1553 LIFE OF CALVIN. 01

predecessours, having God and the holy scriptures before our
eyes, saying, in the name of the Father, of t he Son and of
the Holy Spirit, by that definitive sentence which we here
give by this writing — you, Michel Servetus, are condemn-
ed to be bound and led to the Champel,# and there fasten-
ed to a stake, and burned alive w ith the book wTitten with
your hand and printed, until your body shall be reduced to
ashes, and your days thus finished as an example to others,
who might commit the same things ; and we command you,
our Lieutenant, to put this our sentence into execution.-*-
Read by the Chief Syndick, De Arlord."t

Extracts from the refutation of the errours of Michel Ser-
vetus, drawn up by Calvin, with the assistance of the
other Ministers of the Genevese Republick.

In this work the propositions in proof of the lieresy and
blasphemy of Servetus are stated, his answers and the reply
to them, &c. &c. &c. And the question discussed. Whether
it is lawful for Christian Magistrates to punish hereticks ?
The affirmative is maintained by Calvin, and subscribed by
^11 the Ministers,^ as follows :

John Calvin, JMichael Cope,

Abel Pouppinus, John Pyrery,

James Bernard, John de St. Andrew^

Nicholas Galasius, John Bald\^ in,

Francis Borgonius, John Faber,

Nicholas Little, John Macarius,

Raymond Calvet, Nicholas Colladoniuis.

Matthew Malesian,

• The Champel was a small eminence, about a quarter of a mile from
the walls of Geneva.

f Life of Servetus, London edit. 1774.

# See Tractatus Theologici Calvini, p. 511-»597.



02 LIFE OF CALYIN. 1553

Extract, No. 1.

" As Jong as there "vvas any hope of recalling him to a right
mind, I did not, says Calvin, cease to aiford all ray assistance
in private to eilect it. But not to detain the reader with
doubtful narrations, I will simply mention what he confessed
io be true, only two hours before his death, in the presence of
many witnesses. As he requested a conference with me, two
Senators were sent, who accompanied me to the prison. Be-
ing asked, ^^ hat he desired, he answered, that he begged my
pardon. I ingenuously observed, that I never had pursued
any private injuries ; — that as much as I was able I had ad-
monished him with mildness ; — that I had, sixteen years ago,
olfercd my assistance to cure him, even at the imminent dan-
ger of my life ; — that it was by no means my fault, that he
had not repented, and received the hand of fellowship from
all the pious ; — that I had without ever exposing him, patient-
ly dealt Avitli him by private letters ; — finally, that I had
omitted towards him no office of benevolence, until so much
enraged by my free remonstrances, he poured forth not the
spirit of passion, so much as the fury of madness. But ceas-
ing to speak of myself, I entreated him to think rather of
asking forgiveness of the eternal God, against whom he had
been so atrociously insolent, by endeavouring to blot out the
three Persons from his Essence, and calling him the three
headed Cerberus ; as if an essential distinction was establish-
ed between the Father, and his Son, and Spirit. — That he
should resohitely seek to be at peace with the Son of God,
whom he had deformed by his foul inventions, and by deny-
ing him to be like us in that flesh which he assumed, and
breaking the bond of fraternal union, he had denied at the
same time the only Redeemer. But as my entreaties and ad-
monitions availed nothing, I would not presume to be wise



1553 LIFE OF CALVIN. 93

above the rule of my master. For, according to the direc-
tion of Paul, I departed from tlie man who is an hcretick,

cuid sinneth, being ecuroKccrxK^trof, condemned of himself.-

1 wish the errours of Servetus were buried. But



while I hear that they are spreading, I cannot be silent with-
out incurring the guilt of perfidy. The object of this work,
however, is more immediately to give the reason for the
punishment of that man. For those things Avhich were done
by the Senate, are by many ascribed to me. Nor do I at
all dissemble, that by my influence and advice, he was by
the civil power, committed to prison. For having received
the freedom of this city, I was bound to impeach him if
guilty of any crime. I confess that I prosecuted the cause
thus far. From the time that the articles were proved
against him, I never uttered a word concerning his punish-
ment. To this fact all good men will bear me witness ; and
I challenge the wicked to produce whatever they know. But
how far I proceeded is not of so much consequence, as that I
ought to refute in this publick work, the calumny invented
to asperse me by turbulent, foolish or malicious men and
drunkards."

Tractatus Theologici Calvini, p. 511.

Extract, No. 2,

" As Servetus was sentenced to be burnt by the Papists
at Vienne, the enemies of Calvin took occasion to accuse him

of being the cause of his apprehension in that city.

Nothing was less becoming me, say they, than tlxat I should
expose Servetus to the professed enemies of Christ, as to huge
beasts. For they affirm, that it was by my means, that he
was taken at Vienne, in the Province of Lyonnois. But
"whence this my so sudden familiarity with the inquisitors of
the Pope ? Wlience this great influence with them ? Is it



94 LIFE OF CALVIN. 1553

credible, that letters should pass freely to and from those,
who are as much at variance as Christ and Belial ? It is
useless to spend words in refuting this calarany, which is

broken to pieces and falls by a simple denial.

If indeed ^vhat they falsely object to me, was a fact, I do not
see any reason why I should deny it ; since I do not dissem-
ble, that it was by my means, that he was seized in this city,
and required to defend his cause. Let malevolent and slan-
derous men object what they please, I offer myself beforehand,
and freely confess, (for according to the laws of this city the
man could not be justly treated otherwise,) that the accuser
proceeded at my request ; that the formula was dictated by
my advice ; by which some entrance was made upon the
cause. But what my design then was, is evident from the
progress of the action. TFhen my Colleagues and myself were
summoned, it was by no means our fault that he did not con-
fer peaceably and freely with us concerning his dogmatisms.
We in fact proceeded as in chains to give the reason of our
faith, and informed him that we were prepared to answer his
objections. It was then that, with swollen cheeks, he poured
forth upon me such reproaches, as made the judges themselves
ashamed and grieved for him. — I avoided ail railing at him.
And had he been in any manner curable^ he would have been in
no danger of any weightier punishment. But he was so en-
tirely destitute ©f moderation, that, filled with boasting and
ferocity, he petulantly rejected with scorn all wholesome and
useful advice. But the execrable and absurd blasphemies
which he uttered, during the conversation, may perhaps be
related elsewhere Avith more propriety. This only for the pre-
sent will I declare, that I was not so inveterate against him,
but that he might have redeemed his life, by mere moderation^
if he had not been destitute of reason. I know not what
I shall say, unless that he was so seized with this fatal mad-
ness, that he threw himself headlong into ruin. Eight



1553 LIFE OF CALVIN. 95

days after, I was again summoned ; and the opportunity
was again given him of a free conference with us. He form-
ed an excuse, that he was prevented by his grief and anx-
iety. But whatever books he requested I freely lent him,
partly from my own hbrary, and partly from others. It is
therefore a probable suspicion, that he -vvas encouraged from
some others, with a vain confidence, which destroyed him.
. 1 trust that my moderation will be evi-
dent to all good men, unless indeed it should seem to be
effeminacy. But, as if he had taken new draughts of a poi-
sonous humour, he proceeded to insert, in all the books he
could obtain of mine, his insulting reproaches, so that he
left no page free from his purulent vomiting. Concerning
this, at that time, I thought it best to be silent, and my in-
timate friends know that I was entirely unruffled by his un-
generous insults."

Tractatus Theologici Calvini, p. 517.

Extract, No. 3.

^> By mutilating the word of God in a foul manner, he
manifestly proved that all religion was equal to him, only
provided that he could indulge himself after his own petu-
lancy. Moreover, we entertain such a judgment of that
man, who held only one object professedly, that he took no
pleasure in reviling any traditions concerning religion, unless
he could, through their obscurity, erase from the memories
of men all belief of the Godhead. While his arrogance
called up all the most violent heresies, yet he added and
mixed up with them a certain rashness of intemperate zeal.
The life of Servetus was too dissolute, to lead any one to sup-
pose, that he was driven by mere errour to disturb the
Church. He had indeed never hesitated to subscribe to the
substance of tlie grossest superstition ; but with i\m great



96 LIFE OF CALVIN. 155S

liberality, he had never given much care to present himself
as a worshipper of God. When he was therefore asked in
prison, by the Judges, from what reason he was so £ealou5
concerning all innovations in religion ? he was speechless.
Nor had he any thing to say, unless that he took the liber-
ty to be bold in sacred things, as if to trifle with God. In
Jiis trial, he evinced his impiety in the most evident manner.
He declared all creatures were, of the personal substance of
God, and that all things were full of Gods ; for in tliig
manner he did not blush deliberately to speak and write.
We were wounded with indignation and asked him, misera-
ble man ! What ? If any one trampling on this pavement
should say, that he trampled on your God, would you not
be ashamed at so great an absurdity ? He said, I do not
doubt but that this bench, and whatever you see, is the
substance of God. When it was objected, then the devil
w ill be substantially God ; he burst into a deriding laugh,
and said. Do you doubt this ? This is my general princi-
ple — All things spring from the stock of God, and all na-
ture is the substantial Spirit of God. The volume of

Ptolomy's Geography was introduced; in the preface to
which, Servetus had admonished his readers, that the scrip-
ture account of the great fruitfulness of the land of Judea,
was mere boasting ; as the testimony of travellers proved it
to be uncultivated, barren, and destitute of every pleasant
thing. He first said that this was written by another. So
bold a cavil was promptly refuted, and by this means he
was demonstrated to be a publick impostor. Reduced to
tliis strait, he defended it as correctly written. He was
asked if he was vain enough to suppose any authority was
superior to JMoses ? He said others had written besides Mo-
ses. — It w as replied, certainly, and they all agree with Moses,
Avho was the most ancient. How great is the crime of the
man who would deceive posterity by falsehood ? Who was



1553 LIFE OF CALVIN.



or



it that said, It was a land that flowed with milk and honey ?
And it was added, That the land was now a testimony of
the righteous judgment of God, formerly threatened against
the Jews, as is described in Psalm cvii. 33, 34. Tlie
Senate and many other distinguished persons witnessed, that
when he was convicted of impiety against tlic scriptures,
he slily rubbed his face and said, there was no evil in all
this ; and though convicted he made no acknowledgment.
Entrusted by the printer of the Bible in Latin, at Lyons,
with revising the proof sheets, he cheated the printer out
of 500 francs, adding his polluted notes, &c. He pervert-
ed most wickedly the 5$d chapter of Isaiah, stating that the
sufl^erings described— w/er^ the mournings for Cyrus, who had

died to take awaij the sins of the people. 1 omit that

when Servetus pretended to have the sufl^rage of Nicholas
Lyranus,# (in favour of his false glosses upon Isaiah) the
book was brought ; and though convicted of falsehood, lie
did not blush. It was a common thing with him, boldly
to quote from books he had never seen. Of this he gave a
specimen laughable enough in Justin Martyr, He magnifi-
cently boasted, that Martyr, in his Golden Age, had"" not
mentioned the fables of the Trinity and Persons. I immedi-
ately ordered the volume to be brought, and pointed out
with my finger certain places, in which that holy man had
as openly asserted our faith, as if he had written at our re-
quest. But he could no more read the Greek language tlian
a boy learning his A, B, C. Finding himself basely caught,
he peevishly asked for the Latin translation, to be hand-
cd him. How happens this, said I, since there is no Latin
translation extant, and you cannot read Greek, that you
should yet pretend yourself to have read so familiarly the
works of Justin ? Whence then did you obtain those testi-

* One of the most celebrated commentators of the 14tli centuiv.
13



9« LIFE OF CALVIN; 1553

monies ivliich you indulge yourself in quoting so liberally ?
He, as he was accustomed, with a brazen front, passed quick-
ly to another subject, without the least sign of shame.



_ But that wicked and hardened men may not

boast of this frantick man as a martyr, on account of hie
ol^duracy, in his death there appeared such a brutal stupi-
dity, as justifies the opinion, that he never acted at all seri-
ously in religion. After the sentence of death was pronounced
upon him, at one time he stood like a person astonished, at
another he gave deep sighs, and at others he shrieked like
one affrighted hj apparitions ; and this increased upon him,
till he continually cried out, in the manner of the Spaniards,
Mercy ! Mercy ! When he was brought to the place of pu-
nishment, our brother and JMinister, Farel, with difficulty
extorted from him, by earnest exhortation, his consent that
the assembly sliould unite ^rith him in prayer. And truly,
I do not see by what principle he should consent to have
those do this, concerning whom he had written with his own
hand, that they were ruled by a diabolical faith ; that they
had no Church, no God, and that because they baptized in-
fants, they denied Christ himself. But Farel ex-

liorted the people to supplicate for him, and expressly, that
the Lord would have mercy on this man, and would lead
him back from his execrable errours, to a right mind, that
he might not perish. In the mean time, although he gave
no signs of repentance, he did not even attempt a word in