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History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation.
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§ 91. Calvin and Sadolet. The Vindication of the Reformation.


Sadoleti: Epistola ad Genevenses (Cal. Apr., i.e. March 18, 1539).—Calvini: Responsio ad Sadoletum (Sept. 1, 1539), Argentorati ap. Wendelinum Richelium excusa. In Calv. Opera, vol. V. 385–416. Calvin translated it into French, 1540 (republished at Geneva, 1860). English translation of both by Henry Beveridge in John Calvin’s Tracts relate to the Reformation, Edinburgh (Calvin Translation Society), 1844, pp. 3–68.—Beza, Vita C., Opera, XXI. 129.

Henry, Vol. I. ch. XI.—Dyer, 102 sq.—Stähelin, I. 291–304.—Kampschulte, I. 354 sq. (only a brief but important notice).—Merle D’Aubigné, bk. XI. ch. XVI., and vol. VI. 570–594.


"Another evil, of a more dangerous kind, arose in the year 1539, and was at once extinguished by the diligence of Calvin. The bishop of Carpentras, at that time, was James Sadolet, a man of great eloquence, but he perverted it chiefly in suppressing the light of truth. He had been appointed a cardinal for no other reason than in order that his moral respectability might serve to put a kind of gloss on false religion. Observing his opportunity in the circumstances which had occurred, and thinking that he would easily ensnare the flock when deprived of its distinguished pastors, he sent, under the pretext of neighborhood (for the city of Carpentras is in Dauphiny, which again bounds on Savoy), a letter to his so-styled ’most Beloved Senate, Council, and People of Geneva,’ omitting nothing which might tend to bring them both into the lap of the Romish Harlot,581581    "In Romanae illius meretricis gremium," a frequent polemical designation of the Roman Church, derived from a misinterpretation of the apocalyptic harlot which means heathen Rome (Rev. 17:5). There was nobody at that time in Geneva capable of writing an answer, and it is, therefore, not unlikely, that, had the letter not been written in a foreign tongue (Latin), it would, in the existing state of affairs, have done great mischief to the city. But Calvin, having read it at Strasbourg, forgot all his injuries, and forthwith answered it with so much truth and eloquence, that Sadolet immediately gave up the whole affair as desperate."

This is Beza’s account of that important and interesting controversy which occurred in the German period of Calvin’s life, and left a permanent impression on history.

The interregnum in Geneva furnished an excellent opportunity for Pierre de la Baume, who had been made a cardinal, to recover his lost bishopric. In this respect he only followed the example of dispossessed princes. He brought about, with the help of the pope, a consultation of the bishops of the neighboring dioceses of Lyons, Vienne, Lausanne, Besançon, Turin, Langres, and Carpentras. The meeting was held at Lyons under the presidency of the cardinal of Tournon, then archbishop of Lyons, and known as a bigoted persecutor of the Waldenses. Jean Philippe, the chief author of the banishment of Calvin, aided in the scheme. The bishop of Carpentras, a town on the borders of Savoy, was selected for the execution. A better choice could not have been made.

Jacopo Sadoleto (born at Modena, 1477, died at Rome, 1547) was one of the secretaries of Pope Leo X., bishop of Carpentras in Dauphiny since 1517, secretary of Clement VII. in 1523, a cardinal since 1536. He was frequently employed in diplomatic peace negotiations between the pope, the king of France, and the emperor of Germany. He had a high reputation as a scholar, a poet, and a gentleman of irreproachable character and devout piety. He best represents the Italian Renaissance in its leaning towards a moderate semi-evangelical reform within the Catholic Church. He was an admirer of Erasmus and Melanchthon, and one of the founders of the Oratory at Rome for purposes of mutual edification. He acted, like Contarini, as a mediator between the Roman and Protestant parties, but did not please either. In his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, he expressed opinions on divine grace and free-will which gave offence in Rome and in Spain. His colleague, Cardinal Bembo, warned him against the study of St. Paul, lest it might spoil his classical style. Sadolet prevented the spread of Calvinism in his diocese, but was opposed to violent persecution. He kindly received the fugitive Waldenses after the terrible massacre of Mérindol and Cabrières, in 1545, and besought the clemency of Francis I. in their behalf. He was grieved and disgusted with the nepotism of Pope Paul III., and declined the appointment to preside over the Council of Trent as papal delegate, on the score of extreme poverty.

This highly respectable dignitary of the papal hierarchy made a very able and earnest effort to win back the orphan Church of Geneva to the sheepfold of Rome. He thereby came involuntarily into a literary conflict with Calvin, in which he was utterly defeated. Fresh from a visit to the pope, he addressed a letter of some twenty or more octavo pages "to his dearly beloved Brethren, the Magistrates, Senate, and Citizens of Geneva." It is written in elegant Latin, and with persuasive eloquence, of which he was a consummate master.

He assumes the air of authority as a cardinal and papal legate, and begins with an apostolic greeting: "Very dear Brethren in Christ,—Peace to you and with us, that is, with the Catholic Church, the mother of all, both of us and you, love and concord from God, the Father Almighty, and from his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, together with the Holy Spirit, perfect Unity in Trinity; to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever." He flatters the Genevese by praising their noble city, the order and form of their republic, the worth of their citizens, and especially their "hospitality to strangers and foreigners," but he casts suspicion on the character and motives of the Reformers. This uncharitable and ungentlemanly reflection mars the beauty and dignity of his address, and weakened its effect upon the citizens of Geneva who, whatever were their religious views, had no doubt about the honesty and earnestness of Farel, Viret, and Calvin.

After this introduction Sadolet gives a very plausible exposition of the principle of the Catholic doctrines, but ignores the Bible. He admits that man is saved by faith alone, but adds the necessity of good works. He then asks the Genevese to decide, "Whether it be more expedient for their salvation to believe and follow what the Catholic Church has approved with general consent for more than fifteen hundred years, or innovations introduced within these twenty-five years by crafty men." He then adduces the stock arguments of antiquity, universality, unity, and inerrancy, while the Protestants were already broken up into warring sects a manifest indication of falsehood. For "truth," he says, "is always one, while error is varied and multiform; that which is straight is simple, that which is crooked has many turns. Can any one who confesses Christ, fail to perceive that such teaching of the holy Church is the proper work of Satan, and not of God? What does God demand of us? What does Christ enjoin? That we be all one in him."

He closes with an earnest exhortation, and assures the Genevese: "Whatever I possibly can do, although it is very little, still if I have in me any talent, skill, authority, industry, I offer them all to you and your interests, and will regard it as a great favor to myself should you be able to reap any fruit and advantage from my labor and assistance in things human and divine."

The Council of Geneva politely acknowledged the receipt of the cardinal’s letter with thanks for the compliments paid to the Genevese, and promised a full reply in due time. This was March 27. On the next day a number of citizens, under the lead of François Chamois, entered a protest against the ordinance by which the Confession of Faith had been adopted, July 29, 1537, and asked to be released from the oath. The Romanists took courage. No one could be found in Geneva who was able to answer the cardinal’s letter, and silence might be construed into consent.

Calvin received a copy of the appeal through Sulzer, a minister of Bern, wrote an answer of more than twice its length in six days, and despatched it to Geneva in time to neutralize the mischief (Sept. 1). Though not mentioned by name, he was indirectly assailed by the cardinal as the chief among those who had been denounced as misleaders and disturbers of the peace of Geneva. He therefore felt it his duty to take up the pen in defence of the Reformation.

He begins by paying a just tribute to the cardinal for his excellent learning and admirable eloquence, which raised him to a place among the first scholars of the age. Nor did he impeach his motives. "I will give you credit," he says, "for having written to the Genevese with the purest intention as becomes one of your learning, prudence, and gravity, and for having in good faith advised them to the course which you believed to be to their interest and safety." He was, therefore, reluctant to oppose him, and he did so only under an imperative sense of duty. We let him speak for himself.582582    In the following extracts I make use of the translation of Henry Beveridge, with a few slight changes.


"I profess to be one of those whom, with so much enmity, you assail and stigmatize. For though religion was already established, and the form of the Church corrected, before I was invited to Geneva, yet having not only approved by my suffrage, but studied as much as in me lay to preserve and confirm what had been done by Viret and Farel, I cannot separate my case from theirs. Still, if you had attacked me in my private character, I could easily have forgiven the attack in consideration of your learning, and in honor of letters. But when I see that my ministry, which I feel assured is supported and sanctioned by a call from God, is wounded through my side, it would be perfidy, not patience, were I here to be silent and connive.

"In that Church I have held the office, first of Doctor, and then of Pastor. In my own right I maintain that, in undertaking these offices, I had a legitimate vocation. How faithfully and religiously I have performed them, there is no occasion for now showing at length. Perspicuity, erudition, prudence, ability, or even industry, I will not claim for myself, but that I certainly labored with the sincerity which became me in the work of the Lord, I can in conscience appeal to Christ, my Judge, and all his angels, while all good men bear clear testimony in my favor. This ministry, therefore, when it shall appear to have been of God (as it certainly shall appear after the cause has been heard), were I in silence to allow you to tear and defame, who would not condemn such silence as treachery ? Every person, therefore, now sees that the strongest obligations of duty—obligations which I cannot evade—constrain me to meet your accusations, if I would not with manifest perfidy desert and betray a cause with which the Lord has intrusted me. For though I am for the present relieved of the charge of the Church of Geneva, that circumstance ought not to prevent me from embracing it with paternal affection—God, when he gave it to me in charge, having bound me to be faithful forever."


He repels with modest dignity the frivolous charge of having embraced the cause of the Reformation from disappointed ambition.


"I am unwilling to speak of myself, but since you do not permit me to be altogether silent, I will say what I can consistently with modesty. Had I wished to consult my own interest, I would never have left your party. I will not, indeed, boast that there the road to preferment had been easy to me. I never desired it, and I could never bring my mind to catch at it; although I certainly know not a few of my own age who have crept up to some eminence—among them some whom I might have equalled, and others outstripped. This only I will be contented to say, it would not have been difficult for me to reach the summit of my wishes, viz., the enjoyment of literary ease with something of a free and honorable station. Therefore, I have no fear that any one not possessed of shameless effrontery will object to me, that out of the kingdom of the pope I sought for any personal advantage which was not there ready to my hand."


The Reformer follows the cardinal’s letter step by step, and defeats him at every point. He answers his assertions with facts and arguments. He destroys, like a cobweb, his beautiful picture of an ideal Catholicism by a description of the actual papacy of those days, with its abuses and corruptions, which were the real cause of the Reformation. He gives a very dark account, indeed, but it is fully confirmed by what is authentically known of the lives of such popes as Alexander VI. and Leo X., by the invectives of Savonarola, by the observations of Erasmus and Luther on their experience in Rome, by such impartial witnesses as Machiavelli, who says that religion was almost destroyed in Italy owing to the bad example set by the popes, and even by the testimony of an exceptionally good and pious pope, Adrian VI., who, with all his abhorrence of the Lutheran heresy, officially confessed the absolute necessity of a moral reform in the head and members of the hierarchy.


"We deny not," says Calvin, "that those over whom you preside are churches of Christ, but we maintain that the Roman pontiff, with his whole herd of pseudo-bishops, who have seized upon the pastor’s office, are ravening wolves, whose only study has hitherto been to scatter and trample upon the kingdom of Christ, filling it with ruin and devastation. Nor are we the first to make the complaint. With what vehemence does Bernard thunder against Eugenius and all the bishops of his own age? Yet how much more tolerable was its condition than now?

"For iniquity has reached its height, and now those shadowy prelates, by whom you think the Church stands or perishes, and by whom we say that she has been cruelly torn and mutilated, and brought to the very brink of destruction, can bear neither their vices nor the cure of them. Destroyed the Church would have been, had not God, with singular goodness, prevented. For in all places where the tyranny of the Roman pontiff prevails, you scarcely see as many stray and tattered vestiges as will enable you to perceive that these Churches he half buried. Nor should you think this absurd, since Paul tells you that Antichrist would have his seat in no other place than in the midst of God’s sanctuary (2 Thess. 2:4) ....

"But whatever the character of the men, still, you say, it is written, ’What they tell you, do.’ No doubt, if they sit in the chair of Moses. But when, from the chair of verity, they intoxicate the people with folly, it is written, ’Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees’ (Matt. 12:6) ....

"Let your pontiff boast as he may of the succession of Peter: even if he should make good his title to it, he will establish nothing more than that obedience is due to him from the Christian people so long as he himself maintains his fidelity to Christ, and does not deviate from the purity of the gospel … . A prophet should be judged by the congregation (1 Cor. 14:29). Whoever exempts himself from this must first expunge his name from the list of the prophets ....

"As to your assertion, that our only aim in shaking off this tyrannical yoke was to set ourselves free for unbridled licentiousness after (so help us!) casting away all thoughts of future life, let judgment be given after comparing our conduct with yours. We abound, indeed, in numerous faults; too often do we sin and fall. Still, though truth would, modesty will not, permit me to boast how far we excel you in every respect, unless, perchance, you except Rome, that famous abode of sanctity, which having burst asunder the cords of pure discipline, and trodden all honor under foot, has so overflowed with all kinds of iniquity, that scarcely anything so abominable has ever been before."


At the close of his letter, Sadolet had cited the Reformers as criminals before the judgment-seat of God, in an imaginary confession to the effect that they had been actuated by base motives of pride and disappointed ambition in their assaults upon the holy Church and the vicegerent of Christ, and become guilty of "great seditions and schisms."

Calvin takes up the challenge by a counter-confession, which introduces us into the very heart of the great religious struggle of the sixteenth century, and is perhaps the ablest vindication of the Reformation to be found in the controversial literature of that time. He puts that movement on the ground of the Word of God against the commandments of men, and justifies it by the protests of the Hebrew prophets against the corruptions of the Levitical priesthood, and Christ’s fearful denunciations of the Pharisees and Sadducees, who nailed the Saviour to the cross. The same confession contains also an incidental account of the spiritual experience and conversion of the author, who speaks for himself as well as his colleagues. We give it in full.

"Consider now what serious answer you are to make for yourself and your party. Our cause, as it is supported by the truth of God, will be at no loss for a complete defence. I am not speaking of our persons; their safety will be found not in defence, but in humble confession and suppliant deprecation. But in so far as our ministry is concerned, there is none of us who will not be able thus to speak: —


" ’O Lord, I have, indeed, experienced how difficult and grievous it was to bear the invidious accusations with which I was harassed on the earth; but with the same confidence with which I then appealed to Thy tribunal, I now appear before Thee, because I know that in Thy judgment truth always reigns—that truth by whose assurance supported I first ventured to attempt—with whose assistance provided I was able to accomplish whatever I have achieved in Thy Church.

" ’They charged me with two of the worst of crimes—heresy and schism. And the heresy was, that I dared to protest against dogmas which they received. But what could I have done? I heard from Thy mouth that there was no other light of truth which could direct our souls into the way of life, than that which was kindled by Thy Word. I heard that whatever human minds of themselves conceive concerning Thy Majesty, the worship of Thy Deity, and the mysteries of Thy religion, was vanity. I heard that their introducing into the Church instead of Thy Word, doctrines sprung from the human brain, was sacrilegious presumption.

" ’But when I turned my eyes towards men, I saw very different principles prevailing. Those who were regarded as the leaders of faith, neither understood Thy Word, nor greatly cared for it. They only drove unhappy people to and fro with strange doctrines, and deluded them with I know not what follies. Among the people themselves, the highest veneration paid to Thy Word was to revere it at a distance, as a thing inaccessible, and abstain from all investigation of it.

" 'Owing to this supine state of the pastors, and this stupidity of the people, every place was filled with pernicious errors, falsehoods, and superstition. They, indeed, called Thee the only God, but it was while transferring to others the glory which thou hast claimed for Thy Majesty. They figured and had for themselves as many gods as they had saints, whom they chose to worship. Thy Christ was indeed worshipped as God, and retained the name of Saviour; but where He ought to have been honored, He was left almost without honor. For, spoiled of His own virtue, He passed unnoticed among the crowd of saints, like one of the meanest of them. There was none who duly considered that one sacrifice which He offered on the cross, and by which He reconciled us to Thyself—none who ever dreamed of thinking of His eternal priesthood, and the intercession depending upon it—none who trusted in His righteousness only. That confident hope of salvation which is both enjoined by Thy Word, and founded upon it, had almost vanished. Nay, it was received as a kind of oracle, that it was foolish arrogance, and, as they termed it, presumption for any one trusting to Thy goodness, and the righteousness of Thy Son, to entertain a sure and unfaltering hope of salvation.

" ’Not a few profane opinions plucked up by the roots the first principles of that doctrine which Thou hast delivered to us in Thy Word. The true meaning of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, also, was corrupted by numerous falsehoods. And then, when all, with no small insult to Thy mercy, put confidence in good works, when by good works they strove to merit Thy favor, to procure justification, to expiate their sins, and make satisfaction to Thee (each of these things obliterating and making void the virtue of Christ’s cross), they were yet altogether ignorant wherein good works consisted. For, just as if they were not at all instructed in righteousness by Thy law, they had fabricated for themselves many useless frivolities, as a means of procuring Thy favor, and on these they so plumed themselves, that, in comparison of them, they almost contemned the standard of true righteousness which Thy law recommended,—to such a degree had human desires, after usurping the ascendancy, derogated, if not from the belief, at least from the authority, of Thy precepts therein contained.

" ’That I might perceive these things, Thou, O Lord, didst shine upon me with the brightness of Thy Spirit; that I might comprehend how impious and noxious they were, Thou didst bear before me the torch of Thy Word; that I might abominate them as they deserved, Thou didst stimulate my soul.

" ’But in rendering an account of my doctrine, Thou seest (what my own conscience declares) that it was not my intention to stray beyond those limits which I saw had been fixed by all Thy servants. Whatever I felt assured that I had learned from Thy mouth, I desired to dispense faithfully to the Church. Assuredly, the thing at which I chiefly aimed, and for which I most diligently labored, was, that the glory of Thy goodness and justice, after dispersing the mists by which it was formerly obscured, might shine forth conspicuous, that the virtue and blessings of Thy Christ (all glosses being wiped away) might be fully displayed. For I thought it impious to leave in obscurity things which we were born to ponder and meditate. Nor did I think that truths, whose magnitude no language can express, were to be maliciously or falsely declared.

" ’I hesitated not to dwell at greater length on topics on which the salvation of my hearers depended. For the oracle could never deceive which declares (John 17:3): "This is eternal life to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent."

" ’As to the charge of forsaking the Church, which they were wont to bring against me, there is nothing of which my conscience accuses me, unless, indeed, he is to be considered a deserter, who, seeing the soldiers routed and scattered, and abandoning the ranks, raises the leader’s standard, and recalls them to their posts. For thus, O Lord, were all thy servants dispersed, so that they could not, by any possibility, hear the command, but had almost forgotten their leader, and their service, and their military oath. In order to bring them together, when thus scattered, I raised not a foreign standard, but that noble banner of Thine which we must follow, if we would be classed among Thy people. Then I was assailed by those who, when they ought to have kept others in their ranks, had led them astray, and when I determined not to desist, opposed me with violence. On this grievous tumults arose, and the contest blazed and issued in disruption.

" ’With whom the blame rests it is for Thee, O Lord, to decide. Always, both by word and deed, have I protested how eager I was for unity. Mine, however, was a unity of the Church, which should begin with Thee and end in Thee. For as oft as Thou didst recommend to us peace and concord, Thou, at the same time, didst show that Thou wert the only bond for preserving it.

" ’But if I desired to be at peace with those who boasted of being the heads of the Church and pillars of faith, I believed to purchase it with the denial of Thy truth. I thought that anything was to be endured sooner than stoop to such nefarious compact. For Thy Anointed Himself hath declared, that though heaven and earth should be confounded, yet Thy Word must endure forever (Matt. 24:35).

" ’Nor did I think that I dissented from Thy Church because I was at war with those leaders; for Thou hast forewarned me, both by Thy Son, and by the apostles, that that place would be occupied by persons to whom I ought by no means to consent. Christ had predicted not of strangers, but of men who should give themselves out for pastors, that they would be ravenous wolves and false prophets, and had, at the same time, cautioned me to beware of them. Where Christ ordered me to beware, was I to lend my aid? And the apostles declared that there would be no enemies of Thy Church more pestilential than those from within who should conceal themselves under the title of pastors (Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29; 2 Pet. 2:1; 1 John 2:18).

" ’Why should I have hesitated to separate myself from persons whom they forewarned me to hold as enemies? I had before my eyes the examples of Thy prophets, who I saw had a similar contest with the priests and false prophets of their day, though these were undoubtedly the rulers of the Church among the Israelitish people. But Thy prophets are not regarded as schismatics, because, when they wished to revive religion, which had fallen into decay, they desisted not, although opposed with the utmost violence. They still remained in the unity of the Church, though they were doomed to perdition by wicked priests, and deemed unworthy of a place among men, not to say saints.

" ’Confirmed by their example, I, too, persisted. Though denounced as a deserter of the Church, and threatened, I was in no respect deterred or induced to proceed less firmly and boldly in opposing those, who, in the character of pastors, wasted Thy Church with a more than impious tyranny. My conscience told me how strong the zeal was with which I burned for the unity of Thy Church, provided Thy truth were made the bond of concord. As the commotions which followed were not excited by me, so there is no ground for imputing them to me. Thou, O Lord, knowest, and the fact itself has testified to men, that the only thing I asked was, that all controversies should be decided by Thy Word, that thus both parties might unite with one mind to establish Thy kingdom; and I declined not to restore peace to the Church at the expense of my head, if I were found to have been unnecessarily the cause of tumult.

" ’But what did our opponents? Did they not instantly, and like madmen fly to fires, swords, and gibbets? Did they not decide that their only security, was in arms and cruelty? Did they not instigate all ranks to the same fury? Did they not spurn at all methods of pacification? To this it is owing that a matter, which might at one time have been settled amicably, has blazed into such a contest. But although, amidst the great confusion, the judgments of men were various, I am freed from all fear, now that we stand at Thy tribunal, where equity, combined with truth, cannot but decide in favor of innocence.’

"Such, Sadolet, is our pleading, not the fictitious one which you, in order to aggravate our case, were pleased to devise, but that the perfect truth of which is known to the good even now, and will be made manifest to all creatures on that day. Nor will those who, instructed by our preaching, have adhered to our cause, be at loss what to say for themselves, since each will be ready with this defence: —

" ’I, O Lord, as I had been educated from a boy, always professed the Christian faith. But at first I had no other reason for my faith than that which then everywhere prevailed. Thy Word, which ought to have shone on all Thy people like a lamp, was taken away, or at least suppressed as to us. And lest any one should long for greater light, an idea had been instilled into the minds of all, that the investigation of that hidden celestial philosophy was better delegated to a few, whom the others might consult as oracles—that the highest knowledge befitting plebeian minds was to subdue themselves into obedience to the Church. Then, the rudiments in which I had been instructed were of a kind which could neither properly train me to the legitimate worship of Thy Deity, nor pave the way for me to a sure hope of salvation, nor train me aright for the duties of the Christian life. I had learned, indeed, to worship Thee only as my God, but as the true method of worshipping was altogether unknown to me, I stumbled at the very threshold. I believed, as I had been taught, that I was redeemed by the death of Thy Son from the liability to eternal death, but the redemption I thought of was one whose virtue could never reach me. I anticipated a future resurrection, but hated to think of it, as being an event most dreadful. And this feeling not only had dominion over me in private, but was derived from the doctrine which was then uniformly delivered to the people by their Christian teachers.

" ’They, indeed, preached of Thy clemency towards men, but confined it to those who should show themselves deserving of it. They, moreover, placed this desert in the righteousness of works, so that he only was received into Thy favor who reconciled himself to Thee by works. Nor, meanwhile, did they disguise the fact that we are miserable sinners, that we often fall through infirmity of the flesh, and that to all, therefore, Thy mercy behoved to be the common haven of salvation; but the method of obtaining it, which they pointed out, was by making satisfaction to Thee for offences. Then the satisfaction enjoined was, first, after confessing all our sins to a priest, suppliantly to ask pardon and absolution; and, secondly, by good to efface from Thy remembrance our bad actions. Lastly, in order to supply what was still wanting, we were to add sacrifices and solemn expiations. Then, because Thou wert a stern judge and strict avenger of iniquity, they showed how dreadful Thy presence must be. Hence they bade us flee first to the saints, that by their intercession Thou mightest be rendered exorable and propitious to us.

" ’When, however, I had performed all these things, though I had some intervals of quiet, I was still far off from true peace of conscience; for, whenever I descended into myself, or raised my mind to Thee, extreme terror seized me—terror which no expiations or satisfactions could cure. And the more closely I examined myself, the sharper the stings with which my conscience was pricked, so that the only solace which remained to me was to delude myself by obliviousness. Still, as nothing better offered, I continued the course which I had begun, when, lo! a very different form of doctrine started up, not one which led us away from the Christian profession, but one which brought it back to its fountain-head, and, as it were, clearing away the dross, restored it to its original purity.

" ’Offended by the novelty, I lent an unwilling ear, and at first, I confess, strenuously and passionately resisted; for (such is the firmness or effrontery with which it is natural to men to persist in the course which they have once undertaken) it was with the greatest difficulty I was induced to confess that I had all my life long been in ignorance and error. One thing, in particular, made me averse to those new teachers, viz. reverence for the Church.

" ’But when once I opened my ears, and allowed myself to be taught, I perceived that this fear of derogating from the majesty of the Church was groundless. For they reminded me how great the difference is between schism from the Church, and studying to correct the faults by which the Church herself was contaminated. They spoke nobly of the Church, and showed the greatest desire to cultivate unity. And lest it should seem they quibbled on the term Church, they showed it was no new thing for Antichrists to preside there in place of pastors. Of this they produced not a few examples, from which it appeared they aimed at nothing but the edification of the Church, and in that respect were similarly circumstanced with many of Christ’s servants whom we ourselves included in the catalogue of saints.

" ’For inveighing more freely against the Roman Pontiff, who was reverenced as the Vicegerent of Christ, the Successor of Peter, and the Head of the Church, they excused themselves thus: Such titles as those are empty bugbears, by which the eyes of the pious ought not to be so blinded as not to venture to look at them and sift the reality. It was when the world was plunged in ignorance and sloth, as in a deep sleep, that the pope had risen to such an eminence; certainly neither appointed head of the Church by the Word of God, nor ordained by a legitimate act of the Church, but of his own accord, self-elected. Moreover, the tyranny which he let loose against the people of God was not to be endured, if we wished to have the kingdom of Christ amongst us in safety.

" ’And they wanted not most powerful arguments to confirm all their positions. First, they clearly disposed of everything that was then commonly adduced to establish the primacy of the pope. When they had taken away all these props, they also, by the Word of God, tumbled him from his lofty height. On the whole, they make it clear and palpable, to learned and unlearned, that the true order of the Church had then perished,—that the keys under which the discipline of the Church is comprehended had been altered very much for the worse; that Christian liberty had fallen,—in short, that the kingdom of Christ was prostrated when this primacy was reared up. They told me, moreover, as a means of pricking my conscience, that I could not safely connive at these things as if they concerned me not; that so far art Thou from patronizing any voluntary error, that even he who is led astray by mere ignorance does not err with impunity. This they proved by the testimony of Thy Son (Matt. 15:14): "If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch."

" ’My mind being now prepared for serious attention, I at length perceived, as if light had broken in upon me, in what a stye of error I had wallowed, and how much pollution and impurity I had thereby contracted. Being exceedingly alarmed at the misery into which I had fallen, and much more at that which threatened me in the view of eternal death, I, as in duty bound, made it my first business to betake myself to Thy way, condemning my past life, not without groans and tears.

" ’And now, O Lord, what remains to a wretch like me, but, instead of defence, earnestly to supplicate Thee not to judge according to its deserts that fearful abandonment of Thy Word, from which, in Thy wondrous goodness, Thou hast at last delivered me.’

"Now, Sadolet, if you please, compare this pleading with that which you have put into the mouth of your plebeian. It will be strange if you hesitate which of the two you ought to prefer. For the safety of that man hangs by a thread whose defence turns wholly on this—that he has constantly adhered to the religion handed down to him from his forefathers. At this rate, Jews and Turks and Saracens would escape the judgment of God.

"Away, then, with this vain quibbling at a tribunal which will be erected, not to approve the authority of man, but to condemn all flesh of vanity and falsehood, and vindicate the truth of God only."


Calvin descends to repel with just indignation the groundless charge of avarice and greed which Sadolet was not ashamed to cast upon the Reformers, who might have easily reached the dignity and wealth of bishops and cardinals, but who preferred to live and die in poverty for the sake of their sacred convictions.


"Would not," he asked, "the shortest road to riches and honors have been to accept the terms which were offered at the very first? How much would your pontiff then have paid to many for their silence? How much would he pay for it even at the present day? If they were actuated in the least degree by avarice, why do they cut off all hope of improving their fortune, and prefer to be thus perpetually wretched, rather than enrich themselves without difficulty and in a moment?

"But ambition, forsooth, withholds them! What ground you had for this other insinuation I see not, since those who first engaged in this cause could expect nothing else than to be spurned by the whole world, and those who afterwards adhered to it, exposed themselves knowingly and willingly to endless insults and revilings from every quarter."


He then answers to "the most serious charge of all:" that the Reformers had "dismembered the Spouse of Christ," while in fact they attempted, to present her as a chaste virgin of Christ," and, "seeing her polluted by base seducers, to recall her to conjugal fidelity," after having been defiled by the idolatry of image-worship and numberless superstitions. Peace and unity can only be found in Christ and his truth. He concludes with the wish: —


"May the Lord grant, Sadolet, that you and all your party may at length perceive that the only true bond of Church unity is Christ the Lord, who has reconciled us to God the Father, and will gather us out of our present dispersion into the fellowship of His body, that so, through His one Word and Spirit, we may grow together into one heart and one soul."


Such is a summary of that remarkable Answer—a masterpiece of dignified and gentlemanly theological controversy. There is scarcely a parallel to it in the literature of that age, which teems with uncharitable abuse and coarse invective. Melanchthon might have equalled it in courtesy and good taste, but not in adroitness and force. No wonder that the old lion of Wittenberg was delighted with this triumphant vindication of the evangelical Reformation by a young Frenchman, who was to carry on the conflict which he himself had begun twenty years before by his Theses and his heroic stand at the Diet of Worms. "This answer," said Luther to Cruciger, who had met Calvin at the Colloquies in Worms and Regensburg, "has hand and foot, and I rejoice that God raises up men who will give the last blow to popery, and finish the war against Antichrist which I began."583583    See vol. VI, 659. Kampschulte’s impartial judgment on the Answer to Sadolet is worth quoting (I. 354): "Es ist in Wahrheit eine der glänzendsten Streitschriften, die je aus seiner Feder geflossen, und auch wer seine Anschauungen nicht theilt, wird ihm in diesem Streite die Palme zuerkennen müssen …. Er entwickelt in der Vortheidigung des neuen Glaubenssystems eine Kraft der Rede, eine Gewandtheit der Beweisführung und eine Fülle der Gedanken, welche die rhetorischen, sentimentalen, oft auch inhaltsarmen Phrasen des Gegners um so mehr in ihrer Schwäche zeigen. Den Glanzpunkt der Schrift Calvin’s bildet aber vielleicht seine eigene Vertheidigung. Mit Recht durfte er den versteckten Angriffen des Cardinals gegenüber auf sein vergangenes Leben hinweisen, um den Beweis zu liefern, dass nicht die Aussicht auf irdischen Gewinn oder äussere Ehren, sondern seine ernste Ueberzeugung seine Schritte geleitet, dass er erst nach schweren Kämpfen von der katholischen Kirche sich losgesagt. Diese Schrift war es, welche auch Luther’s Herz für den wälschen Rivalen erwärmte. Damals konnte Melanchthon nach Strassburg melden, dass Calvin in Wittenberg ’hoch in Gnaden stehe.’ "

The Answer made a deep and lasting impression. It was widely circulated, with Sadolet’s Letter, in manuscript, printed in Latin, first at Strassburg, translated into French, and published in both languages by the Council of Geneva at the expense of the city (1540). The prelates who had met at Lyons lost courage; the papal party in Geneva gave up all hope of restoring the mass. Three years afterwards Cardinal Pierre de la Baume died—the last bishop of Geneva.



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