EthicsArticles on Morality and the Law of God
To the Protector Somerset by John Calvin
TO THE PROTECTOR SOMERSET
TRACTS AND LETTERS
EDITED BY HENRY BEVERIDGE AND JULES BONNET
LETTERS, PART 2 1545 – 1553
Edited by Jules Bonnet — Translated by David Constable
DUTIES IMPOSED ON THE PROTECTOR BY THE HIGH OFFICE WHICH HE HOLDS — PLAN OF A COMPLETE REFORMATION IN ENGLAND — PREACHING OF THE PURE WORD OF GOD — ROOTING OUT OF ABUSES — CORRECTION OF VICES AND SCANDALOUS OFFENSES.
GENEVA, 22nd October 1548.
Of Particular Interest:
Two Kinds of Rebels that “Deserve to be Repressed by the Sword”
Duty of Earthly Princes to Rule as Servants of Jesus Christ
I. The Sound Instruction of the People
Necessity of a Common Catechism
II. The Abolition and Entire Uprooting or Romanism
Human Inventions Pollute Worship
Abuses must be Removed Entirely, and Not by Halves
We May Not Yield in the Spiritual Governance of the Church
III. The Careful Repression and Correction of Vice
Rulers Must Punish Crimes Against Both Tables of the Law
Monseigneur, — Although God has endowed you with singular prudence, largeness of mind, and other virtues required in that station wherein he has set you, and for the affairs which he has put into your hand; nevertheless, inasmuch as you deem me to be a servant of his Son, whom you desire above all else to obey, I feel assured, that for the love of him you will receive with courtesy, that which I write in his name, as indeed I have no other end in view, save only, that in following out yet more and more what you have begun, you may advance his honor, until you have established his kingdom in as great perfection as is to be looked for in the world. And you will perceive likewise as you read, that without advancing anything of my own, the whole is drawn from his own pure doctrine. Were I to look merely at the dignity and grandeur of your position, there would seem no access whatever for a man of my quality. But since you do not refuse to be taught of the Master whom I serve, but rather prize above all else the grace which he has bestowed in numbering you among his disciples, methinks I have no need to make you any long excuse or preface, because I deem you well disposed to receive whatsoever proceeds from him.
We have all reason to be thankful to our God and Father, that he has been pleased to employ you in so excellent a work as that of setting up the purity and right order of his worship in England by your means, and establishing the doctrine of salvation, that it may there be faithfully proclaimed to all those who shall consent to hear it; that he has vouchsafed you such firmness and constancy to persevere hitherto, in spite of so many trials and difficulties; that he has helped you with his mighty arm, in blessing all your counsels and your labors, to make them prosper. These are grounds of thankfulness which stir up all true believers to magnify his name. Seeing however, that Satan never ceases to upheave new conflicts, and that it is a thing in itself so difficult, that nothing can be more so, to cause the truth of God to have peaceable dominion among men, who by nature are most prone to falsehood; while, on the other hand, there are so many circumstances which prevent its having free course; and most of all, that the superstitions of Antichrist, having taken root for so long time, cannot be easily uprooted from men’s hearts, — you have much need, methinks, to be confirmed by holy exhortations. I cannot doubt, indeed, that you have felt this from experience; and shall therefore deal all the more frankly with you, because, as I hope, my deliberate opinion will correspond with your own desire. Were my exhortations even uncalled for, you would bear with the zeal and earnestness which has led me to offer them. I believe, therefore, that the need of them which you feel, will make them all the more welcome. However this may be, Monseigneur, may it please you to grant me audience in some particular reformations which I propose to lay here briefly before you, in the hope, that when you shall have listened to them, you will at least find some savor of consolation therein, and feel the more encouraged to prosecute the holy and noble enterprise in which God has hitherto been pleased to employ you.
I have no doubt that the great troubles which have fallen out for some time past, must have been very severe and annoying to you, and especially as many may have found in them occasion of offense; forasmuch as they were partly excited under cover of the change of religion. Wherefore you must necessarily have felt them very keenly, as well on account of the apprehensions they may have raised in your mind, as of the murmurs of the ignorant or disaffected, and also of the alarm of the well-disposed. Certes, the mere rumor which I heard from afar, caused me heartfelt anxiety, until I was informed that God had begun to apply a remedy thereto. However, since perhaps they are not yet entirely allayed, or seeing that the devil may have kindled them anew, it will be well that you call to mind what the sacred history relates of good King Hezekiah, (2 Chronicles 32,) namely, that after he had abolished the superstitions throughout Judea, reformed the state of the church according to the law of God, he was even then so pressed by his enemies that it almost seemed as if he was a lost and ruined man. It is not without reason that the Holy Spirit pointedly declares, that such an affliction happened to him immediately after having re-established the true religion in his realm; for it may well have seemed reasonable to himself, that having striven with all his might to set up the reign of God, he should have peace within his own kingdom. Thus, all faithful princes and governors of countries are forewarned by that example, that however earnest they may be in banishing idolatry and in promoting the true worship of God, their faith may yet be tried by diverse temptations. So God permits, and wills it to be thus, to manifest the constancy of his people, and to lead them to look above the world. Meanwhile, the devil also does his work, endeavoring to ruin sound doctrine by indirect means, working as it were underground, forasmuch as he could not openly attain his end. But according to the admonition of St. James, (James 5:11,) who tells us, that in considering the patience of Job, we must look to the end of it, so ought we, Monseigneur, to look to the end which was vouchsafed to this good king. We see there that God was a present help in all his perplexities, and that at length he came off victorious. Wherefore, seeing that his arm is not shortened, and that, in the present day, he has the defense of the truth and the salvation of his own as much at heart as ever, never doubt that he will come to your aid, and that not once only, but in all the trials he may send you.
If the majority of the world oppose the Gospel, and even strive with rage and violence to hinder its progress, we ought not to think it strange. It proceeds from the ingratitude of men, which has always shewn itself, and ever will, in drawing back when God comes near, and even in kicking against him when he would put his yoke upon them. More than that, because by nature they are wholly given to hypocrisy, they cannot bear to be brought to the clear light of the word of God, which lays bare their baseness and shame, nor to be drawn forth out of their superstitions, which serve them as a hiding-hole and shady covert. It is nothing new, then, if we meet with contradiction when we attempt to lead men back to the pure worship of God And we have, besides, the clear announcement of our Lord Jesus, who tells us that he has brought a sword along with his Gospel. But let not this daunt us, nor make us shrink and be fearful, for at last, when men shall have rebelled most stoutly, and vomited forth all their rage, they shall be put to confusion in a moment, and shall destroy themselves by the fury of their own onset. That is a true saying, in the second Psalm, that God shall only laugh at their commotion; that is to say, that seeming to connive, he will let them bluster, as if the affair did not at all concern him. But it always happens, that at length they are driven back by his power, wherewith if we be armed, we have a sure and invincible munitions, whatsoever plots the devil may frame against us, and shall know by experience in the end, that even as the Gospel is the message of peace and of reconciliation between God and us, it will also avail us to pacify men; and in this way we shall understand, that it is not in vain that Isaiah has said, (Isaiah 2:4,) that when Jesus Christ shall rule in the midst of us by his doctrine, the swords shall be turned into plough shares, and the spears into pruning-hooks.
Albeit, however, the wickedness and opposition of men may be the cause of the sedition and rebellion which rises up against the Gospel, let us look to ourselves, and acknowledge that God chastises our faults by those who would otherwise serve Satan only. It is an old complaint, that the Gospel is the cause of all the ills and calamities that befall mankind. We see, in fact, from history, that shortly after Christianity had been everywhere spread abroad, there was not, so to speak, a corner of the earth which was not horribly afflicted. The uproar of war, like a universal fire, was kindled in all lands. Land-floods on the one hand, and famine and pestilence on the other, a chaotic confusion of order and civil polity to such a degree, that it seemed as if the world was presently about to be overturned. In like manner we have seen in our times, since the Gospel has begun to be set up, much misery; to such an extent, indeed, that every one complains we are come upon an unhappy period, and there are very few who do not groan under this burden. While, then, we feel the blow, we ought to look upward to the hand of Him who strikes, and ought also to consider why the blow is sent. The reason why he makes us thus to feel his rod is neither very obscure nor difficult to be understood. We know that the word, by which he would guide us to salvation, is an invaluable treasure; with what reverence do we receive it when he presents it to us? Seeing, then, that we make no great account of that which is so precious, God has good reason to avenge himself of our ingratitude. We hear also what Jesus Christ announces, (Luke 12:47,) that the servant knowing the will of his Master, and not doing it, deserves double chastisement. Since, therefore, we are so remiss in obeying the will of our God, who has declared it to us more than a hundred times already, let us not think it strange if his anger rage more severely against us, seeing that we are all the more inexcusable. When we do not cultivate the good seed, there is much reason that the thorns and thistles of Satan should spring up to trouble and annoy us. Since we do not render to our Creator the submission which is due to him, it is no wonder that men rise up against us.
Two Kinds of Rebels that
“Deserve to be Repressed by the Sword”
From what I am given to understand, Monseigneur, there are two kinds of rebels who have risen up against the King and the Estates of the Kingdom. (1) The one, a fantastical sort of persons, who, under color of the Gospel, would put all into confusion. (2) The others are persons who persist in the superstitions of the Roman Antichrist. Both alike deserve to be repressed by the sword which is committed to you, since they not only attack the King, but strive with God, who has placed him upon a royal throne, and has committed to you the protection as well of his person as of his majesty. But the chief point is, to endeavor, as much as possible, that those who have some savor of a liking for the doctrine of the Gospel, so as to hold fast, should receive it with such humility and godly fear, as to renounce self in order to serve God; for they ought seriously to consider that God would awaken them all, so that in good earnest they may profit far more from his word than they have ever yet done. These madmen, who would have the whole world turned back into a chaos of licentiousness, are hired by Satan to defame the Gospel, as if it bred nothing but revolt against princes, and all sorts of disorder in the world. Wherefore, all the faithful ought to be deeply grieved. The Papists, in endeavoring to maintain the corruptions and abominations of their Romish idol, shew themselves to be the open enemies of the grace of Jesus Christ, and of all his ordinances. That ought likewise to occasion great sickness at heart among all those who have a single drop of godly zeal. And therefore they ought every one of them earnestly to consider, that these are the rods of God for their correction. And wherefore? Just because they do not set a proper value on the doctrine of salvation, therein lies the chief remedy for the silencing of such calumnies, that those who make profession of the Gospel be indeed renewed after the image of God, so as to make manifest that our Christianity does not occasion any interruption of the humanities of social life, and to give good evidence, by their temperance and moderation, that being governed by the word of God, we are not unruly people subject to no restraint, and so by an upright holy life shut the mouth of all the evil speakers. For by this means God, being pacified, shall withdraw his hand, and instead of, as at this day, punishing the contempt with which they have treated his word, he will reward their obedience with all prosperity.
Duty of Earthly Princes to Rule as Servants of Jesus Christ
It would be well were all the nobility and those who administer justice, to submit themselves, in uprightness and all humility, to this great king, Jesus Christ, paying him sincere homage, and with faith unfeigned, in body, soul, and spirit, so that he may correct and beat down the arrogance and rashness of those who would rise up against them. Thus ought earthly princes to rule and govern, serving Jesus Christ, and taking order that he may have his own sovereign authority over all, both small and great. Therefore, Monseigneur, as you hold dear and in regard the estate of your royal nephew, as indeed you shew plainly that you do, I beseech you, in the name of God, to apply your chief care and watchfulness to this end, that the doctrine of God may be proclaimed with efficacy and power, so as to produce its fruit, and never to grow weary, whatsoever may happen, in following out fully, an open and complete reformation of the Church. The better to explain to you what I mean, I shall arrange the whole under three heads.
The first shall treat of the sound instruction of the people; the second shall regard the rooting out of abuses which have prevailed hitherto; the third, the careful repression and correction of vice, and to take strict heed that scandals and loose conversation may not grow into a fashion, so as to cause the flame of God to be blasphemed.
The Sound Instruction of the People
As concerning the first article, I do not mean to pronounce what doctrine ought to have place. Rather do I offer thanks to God for his goodness, that after having enlightened you in the pure knowledge of himself he has given you wisdom and discretion to take measures that his pure truth may be preached. Praise be to God, you have not to learn what is the true faith of Christians, and the doctrine which they ought to hold, seeing that by your means the true purity of the faith has been restored. That is, that we hold God alone to be the sole Governor of our souls, that we hold his law to be the only rule and spiritual directory of our consciences, not serving him according to the foolish inventions of men. Also, that according to his nature he would be worshipped in spirit and in purity of heart.
On the other hand, acknowledging that there is nothing but all wretchedness in ourselves, and that we are corrupt in all our feelings and affections, so that our souls are a very abyss of iniquity, utterly despairing of ourselves; and that, having exhausted every presumption of our own wisdom, worth, or power of well-doing, we must have recourse to the fountain of every blessing, which is in Christ Jesus, accepting that which he confers on us, that is to say, the merit of his death and passion, that by this means we may be reconciled to God; that being washed in his blood, we may have no fear lest our spots prevent us from finding grace at the heavenly throne; that being assured that our sins are pardoned freely in virtue of his sacrifice, we may lean, yea rest, upon that for assurance of our salvation; that we may be sanctified by his Spirit, and so consecrate ourselves to the obedience of the righteousness of God; that being strengthened by his grace, we may overcome Satan, the world, and the flesh; finally, that being members of his body, we may never doubt that God reckons us among the number of his children, and that we may confidently call upon him as our Father; that we may be careful to recognize and bear in mind this purpose in whatsoever is said or done ill the Church, namely, that being separated from the world, we should rise to heaven with our Head and Savior. Seeing then that God has given you grace to re-establish the knowledge of this doctrine, which had been so long buried out of sight by Antichrist, I forbear from entering further on the subject.
What I have thus suggested as to the manner of instruction, is only that the people be so taught as to be touched to the quick, and that they may feel that what the Apostle says is true, (Hebrews 4.) that “the word of God is a two-edged sword, piercing even through the thoughts and affections to the very marrow of the bones.” I speak thus, Monseigneur, because it appears to me that there is very little preaching of a lively kind in the kingdom, but that the greater part deliver it by way of reading from a written discourse. I see very well the necessity which constrains you to that; for in the first place you have not, as I believe, such well-approved and competent pastors as you desire. Wherefore, you need forthwith to supply this want.
Secondly, there may very likely be among them many flighty persons who would go beyond all bounds, sowing their own silly fancies, as often happens on occasion of a change. But all these considerations ought not to hinder the ordinance of Jesus Christ from having free course in the preaching of the Gospel. Now, this preaching ought not to be lifeless but lively, to teach, to exhort, to reprove, as Saint Paul says in speaking thereof to Timothy, (2 Timothy 3.) So indeed, that if an unbeliever enter, he may be so effectually arrested and convinced, as to give glory to God, as Paul says in another passage, (1 Corinthians 14.) You are also aware, Monseigneur, how he speaks of the lively power and energy with which they ought to speak, who would approve themselves as good and faithful ministers of God, who must not make a parade of rhetoric, only to gain esteem for themselves; but that the Spirit of God ought to sound forth by their voice, so as to work with mighty energy. Whatever may be the amount of danger to be feared, that ought not to hinder the Spirit of God from having liberty and free course in those to whom he has given grace for the edifying of the Church.
True it is, nevertheless, that it is both right and fitting to oppose the levity of some fantastic minds, who allow themselves in too great license, and also to shut the door against all eccentricities and new doctrines; but the method to be taken, which God hath pointed out to us, for dealing with such occurrences, is well fitted to dispose of them.
In the first place, there ought to be an explicit summary of the doctrine which all ought to preach, which all prelates and curates swear to follow, and no one should be received to any ecclesiastical charge who does not promise to preserve such agreement.
Necessity of a Common Catechism
Next, that they have a common formula of instruction for little children and for ignorant persons, serving to make them familiar with sound doctrine, so that they may be able to discern the difference between it and the falsehood and corruptions which may be brought forward in opposition to it. Believe me, Monseigneur, the Church of God will never preserve itself without a Catechism, for it is like the seed to keep the good grain from dying out, and causing it to multiply from age to age. And therefore, if you desire to build an edifice which shall be of long duration, and which shall not soon fall into decay, make provision for the children being instructed in a good Catechism, which may shew them briefly, and in language level to their tender age, wherein true Christianity consists. This Catechism will serve two purposes, to wit, as an introduction to the whole people, so that every one may profit from what shall be preached, and also to enable them to discern when any presumptuous person puts forward strange doctrine. Indeed, I do not say that it may not be well, and even necessary, to bind down the pastors and curates to a certain written form, as well for the sake of supplementing the ignorance and deficiencies of some, as the better to manifest the conformity and agreement between all the churches; thirdly, to take away all ground of pretense for bringing in any eccentricity or new-fangled doctrine on the part of those who only seek to indulge an idle fancy; as I have already said, the Catechism ought to serve as a cheek upon such people. There is, besides, the form and manner of administration of the sacraments; also the public prayers. But whatever, in the meantime, be the arrangement in regard to these matters, care must be taken not to quench the efficacy which ought to attend the preaching of the Gospel. And the utmost care should be taken, that so far as possible you have good trumpets, which shall sound into the very depths of the heart. For there is some danger that you may see no great profit from all the reformation which you shall have brought about, however sound and godly it may have been, unless this powerful instrument of preaching be developed more and more. It is not said without a meaning, that Jesus Christ shalt smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked, (Isaiah 11:4.)
The way by which he is pleased to subdue us is, by destroying whatsoever is contrary to himself. And herein you may also perceive why the Gospel is called the Kingdom of God. Even so, albeit the edicts and statutes of princes are good helps for advancing and upholding the state of Christianity, yet God is pleased to declare his sovereign power by this spiritual sword of his word, when it is made known by the pastors.
The Abolition and Entire Uprooting or Romanism
Not to tire you, Monseigneur, I shall now come to the second point which I propose to touch upon; that is, the abolition and entire uprooting of the abuses and corruptions which Satan had aforetime mixed up with the ordinances of God. We wot well that under the Pope there is a bastard sort of Christianity, and that God will, disavow it at the last day, seeing that he now condemns it by his word. If we desire to rescue the world from such an abyss, there is no better method than to follow the example of St. Paul, who, wishing to correct what the Corinthians had improperly added to the Supper of our Lord, tells them, (1 Corinthians 11,) “I have received of the Lord that which I have delivered to you.”
Human Inventions Pollute Worship
Thence we are bound to take a general instruction, to return to the strict and natural meaning of the commandment of God, if we would have a sound reformation and by him approved. For whatsoever mixtures men have brought in of their own devising, have been just so many pollutions which turn us aside from the sanctified use of what God has bestowed for our salvation.
Abuses must be Removed Entirely, and Not by Halves
Therefore, to lop off such abuses by halves will by no means restore things to a state of purity, for then we shall always have a dressed-up Christianity. I say this, because there are some who, under pretense of moderation, are in favor of sparing many abuses, without meddling with them at all, and to whom it appears enough to have rooted out the principal one. But on the contrary, we see how fertile is the seed of falsehood and that only a single grain is needed to fill the world with them in three days’ time, to such an extent are men inclined and addicted thereto. Our Lord teaches quite another method of procedure, for when David speaks of the idols, he says, (Psalm 16,) “Their names will I not take up into my lips,” to intimate in what degree of detestation we ought to hold them. Above all, if we consider how we have offended God in the days of our ignorance, we ought to feel doubly bound to flee from the inventions of Satan, which have led us into the commission of evil, as from baits which serve only to seduce souls. On the other hand, we see, even when we remonstrate with men about their faults and errors, though we warn them as earnestly as possible, they are nevertheless so hardened that we can produce no effect. If, therefore, we were to leave them any remnant of abuse, that would only serve to nourish their obstinacy the more, and become a veil to darken all the doctrine which we might set before them. I willingly acknowledge that we must observe moderation, and that overdoing is neither discreet nor useful; indeed, that forms of worship need to be accommodated to the condition and tastes of the people. But the corruptions of Satan and of Antichrist must not be admitted under that pretext. Therefore it is that Holy Scripture, when praising those kings who had cast down the idols and their worshippers, not having swept them entirely away, notes it as a blemish, that nevertheless they had not cast down the chapelries and places of silly devotion. Wherefore, Monseigneur, seeing that God has brought you so far, take order, I beseech you, that so without any exception he may approve you as a repairer of his temple, so that the times of the king your nephew may be compared to those of Josiah, and that you put things in such condition, that he may only need to maintain the goodly order which God shall have prepared for him by your means. I will mention to you an instance of such corruptions, as, if they were allowed to remain, would become a little leaven, to sour in the end the whole lump. In your country, some prayer is made for the departed on occasion of communicating in the Lord’s Supper. I am well aware that it is not done in admission of the purgatory of the Pope. I am also aware that ancient custom can be pleaded for making some mention of the departed, for the sake of uniting together all the members of the one body. But there is a peremptory ground of objection against it, that the Supper of Jesus Christ is an action so sacred, that it ought not to be soiled by any human inventions whatsoever. And besides, in prayer to God, we must not take an unbounded license in our devotions, but observe the rule which St. Paul gives us, (Romans 10,) which is, that we must be founded upon the word of God; therefore, such commemoration of the dead, as imports a commending of them to his grace, is contrary to the due form and manner of prayer, — it is a hurtful addition to the Supper of our Lord. There are other things which possibly may be less open to reproof, which however are not to be excused: such as the ceremony of chrism and unction. The chrism has been invented out of a frivolous humor by those who, not content with the institution of Jesus Christ, desired to counterfeit the Holy Spirit by a new sign, as if water were not sufficient for the purpose. What they call extreme unction, has been retained by the inconsiderate zeal of those, who have wished to follow the apostles without being gifted as they were. When the apostles used oil in the case of the sick, it was for the healing of them miraculously. Now, when the gift of miracles has ceased, the figure ought no longer to be employed. Wherefore, it would be much better that these things should be pruned away, so that you might have nothing which is not conform to the word of God, and serviceable for the edification of the Church. It is quite true we ought to bear with the weak; but in order to strengthen them, and to lead them to greater perfection. That does not mean, however, that we are to humor blockheads who wish for this or that, without knowing why.
We May Not Yield in the Spiritual Governance of the Church
I know the consideration which keeps back many is, that they are afraid too great a change could not be carried through. It is admitted, that when we have to do with neighbors with whom we desire to cherish friendly feeling, one is disposed to gratify them by giving way in many things. In worldly matters, that may be quite bearable, wherein it is allowable to yield one to another, and to forego one’s right for the sake of peace; but it is not altogether the same thing in regard to the spiritual governance of the Church, which ought to be according to the ordinance of the word of God. Herein, we are not at liberty to yield up anything to men, nor to turn aside on either hand in their favor. Indeed there is nought that is more displeasing to God, than when we would, in accordance with our own human wisdom, modify or curtail, advance or retreat, otherwise than he would have us. Wherefore, if we do not wish to displease him, we must shut our eyes to the opinion of men. As for the dangers which may arise, we ought to avoid them so far as we can, but never by going aside from the straight road. While we walk uprightly, we have his promise that he will help us. Therefore, what remains for us is to do our duty, humbly committing the event unto himself. And here we may perceive wherefore the wise men of this world are ofttimes disappointed in their expectation, because God is not with them, when, in distrust of him and his aid, they seek out crooked paths and such as he condemns. Do we then wish to feel that we have the power of God upon our side? Let us simply follow what he tells us. Above all, we must cling to this maxim, that the reformation of his Church is the work of his hand. Wherefore, in such matters, men must leave themselves to be guided by him. What is more, whether in restoring or in preserving the Church, he thinks fit, for the most part, to proceed after a method marvelous, and beyond human conception. And, therefore, it were unseemly to confine that restoration, which must be divine, to the measure of our understanding, and to bring that which is heavenly into subjection to what is earthly and of this world’s fashion. I do not thus exclude the prudence which is so much needed, to take all appropriate and right means, not falling into extremes either on the one side or upon the other, to gain over the whole world to God, if that were possible. But the wisdom of the Spirit, not that of the flesh, must overrule all; and having inquired at the mouth of the Lord, we must ask him to guide and lead us, rather than follow the bent of our own understanding. When we take this method, it will be easy to cut off much occasion of temptation, which might otherwise stop our progress midway.
Wherefore, Monseigneur, as you have begun to bring back Christianity to the place which belongs to it, throughout the realm of England, not at all in self-confidence, but upheld by the hand of God, as hitherto you have had sensible experience of that powerful arm, you must not doubt that it shall continue with you to the end. If God upholds the kingdoms and the principalities of the infidels who are his enemies, far more certainly will he have in safeguard those who range themselves on his side and seek him for their superior.
The Careful Repression and Correction of Vice
Rulers Must Punish Crimes Against Both Tables of the Law
I come now to the last point, which concerns the chastisement of vice and the repression of scandals. I have no doubt that there are laws and statutes of the kingdom both good and laudable, to keep the people within the bounds of decency. But the great and boundless licentiousness which I see everywhere throughout the world, constrains me to beseech you, that you would earnestly turn your attention to keeping men within the restraint of sound and wholesome discipline. That, above all, you would hold yourself charged, for the honor of God, to punish those crimes of which men have been in the habit of making no very great account. I speak of this, because some times larcenies, assault, and extortions are more severely punished, because thereby men are wronged; whereas they will tolerate whoredom and adultery, drunkenness, and blaspheming of the name of God, as if these were things quite allowable, or at least of very small importance. Let us hear, however, what God thinks of them. He proclaims aloud, how precious his name is unto him. Meanwhile, it is as if torn in pieces and trampled under foot. It can never be that he will allow such shameful reproach to remain unpunished. More than this, Scripture clearly points out to us, that by reason of blasphemies a whole country is defiled. As concerning adulteries, we who call ourselves Christians, ought to take great shame to ourselves that even the heathen have exercised greater rigor in their punishment of such than we do, seeing even that some among us only laugh at them. When holy matrimony, which ought to be a lively image of the sacred union which we have with the Son of God, is polluted, and the covenant, which ought to stand more firm and indissoluble than any in this world, is disloyally rent asunder, if we do not lay to heart that sin against God, it is a token that our zeal for God is very low indeed. As for whoredom, it ought to be quite enough for us that St. Paul compares it to sacrilege, inasmuch as by its means the temples of God, which our bodies are, are profaned. Be it remembered also, that whoremongers and drunkards are banished from the kingdom of God, on such terms that we are forbidden to converse with them, whence it clearly follows, that they ought not to be endured in the Church. We see herein the cause why so many rods of judgment are at this very day lifted up over the earth. For the more easily men pardon themselves in such enormities, the more certainly will God take vengeance on them. Therefore, to prevent his wrath, I entreat of you, Monseigneur, to hold a tight rein, and to take order, that those who hear the doctrine of the Gospel, approve their Christianity by a life of holiness. For as doctrine is the soul of the Church for quickening, so discipline and the correction of vices are like the nerves to sustain the body in a state of health and vigor. The duty of bishops and curates is to keep watch over that, to the end that the Supper of our Lord may not be polluted by people of scandalous lives. But in the authority where God has set you, the chief responsibility returns upon you, who have a special charge given you to set the others in motion, on purpose that every one discharge himself of duty, and diligently to look to it, that the order which shall have been established may be duly observed.
Now, Monseigneur, agreeably to the protestation which I made above, I shall make no further excuse, neither of the tiresomeness of my letter, nor on account of my having thus freely laid open to you what I had so much at heart. For I feel assured that my affection is well known to you, while in your wisdom, and as you are well versed in the Holy Scriptures, you perceive from what fountain I have drawn all that is herein contained. Wherefore, I do not fear to have been troublesome or importunate to you, in making manifest, according as I could, the hearty desire I have that the name of God may always be more and more glorified by you, which is my daily supplication; beseeching him that he would please to increase his grace in you, to confirm you by his Spirit in a true unconquerable constancy, upholding you against all enemies, having yourself with your whole household under his holy protection, enabling you successfully to administer the charge which is committed to you, that so the King may have whereof to praise this gracious God for having had such a governor in his childhood, both for his person and for his kingdom.
Whereupon I shall make an end, Monseigneur, very humbly commending me to your kind favor.
[Fr. Copy. — Library of Geneva. Volume 107.]