Sadoleto: Letter to Geneva (English)

Sadoleto: Letter to Geneva

Translation by Henry Beveridge in John Calvin, Tracts Relating to the Reformation, Volume 1, pp. 3–22 (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1844).

Original capitals and emphases have been retained; page numbers are given in brackets.

Posted 26 April 2007.
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Very dear Brethren in Christ,—Peace to you and with us, that is, with the Catholic Church, the mother of all, both us and you, love and concord from God, the Father Almighty, and from his only Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, together with the Holy Spirit, perfect Unity in Trinity; to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

I presume, very dear brethren, it is known to some of you that I am now residing at Carpentras, having come from Nice, to which I had attended the Supreme Pontiff, on his journey from Rome, to mediate between the Kings. For I love this Church and city, which it has pleased God to make my spiritual spouse and country; this my people here I embrace with truly parental affection, and am most reluctant to he separated from them. But should the honour of the Cardinalship, which was bestowed upon me unexpectedly, and without my knowledge, oblige me to return to Rome, (as it certainly will,) that I may there serve in the vocation with [4] which God hath called me, it will not withdraw my thoughts and my love from a people who will always remain seated in my inmost heart. Being then at Carpentras, and daily hearing many things of you which excited partly my grief, and partly, too, some hope, leading me not to despond, that you and I, who were formerly in true religion of one mind towards God, might, by the same God looking more benignly upon us, return to the same cordial agreement, it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to me, (for so Scripture speaketh, and assuredly whatsoever things are done with an upright and pious mind toward God, are all of the Holy Spirit;) it seemed good to me, I say, to write somewhat to you, and declare to you by letter the care and solicitude of mind which I feel for you. For, dearest brethren, this my affection and good-will towards you is not new, but ever since the time when, by the will of God, I became Bishop of Carpentras, almost twenty-three years ago, and in consequence of the frequent intercourse between you and my people, had, though absent, learned much of you and your manners, even then began I to love your noble city, the order and form of your republic, the worth of its citizens, and, in particular, that quality lauded and experienced by all, your hospitality to strangers and foreigners; and since vicinity often tends in no small degree to beget love, so, in a city, contiguous houses, as well as in the world, adjacent provinces lead to regard among neighbours. Before this time, indeed, you happen not to have derived any benefit from this my affection for you, or to have had any sign and indication of it. You never needed my aid, which assuredly would have been most readily given, but hitherto no occasion presented itself to us.

Now, however, of a truth, not only has an opportunity occurred, but necessity is laid upon me to demonstrate in what way I feel affected towards you, if I would maintain my fidelity towards Almighty God, and Christian charity towards my neighbour. For, after it was brought to my ears that certain crafty men, enemies of Christian unity and peace, had in like manner, as they had previously done in some towns and villages of the brave Helvetii, cast among you, and in your [5] city, the wicked seeds of discord, had turned the faithful people of Christ aside from the way of their fathers and ancestors, and from the perpetual sentiments of the Catholic Church, and filled all places with strife and sedition, (such is always the appropriate course of those who seek new power and new honours for themselves, by assailing the authority of the Church,) I declare before Almighty God, who is always present beholding my inmost thoughts, that I was exceedingly grieved and affected with a kind of double pity, when, on the one hand, methought I heard the groans of the Church our mother, weeping and lamenting at being deprived at once of so many and so dear children; and, on the other, dearest brethren, I was concerned at your losses and dangers. For well knew I, that such innovators on things ancient and well established, such disturbances, such dissensions, were not only pestiferous to the souls of men, (which, however, is the greatest of all evils,) but pernicious also to private and public affairs. This you have had the means of learning for yourselves, being instructed by the event. What then? Since my love towards you, and my piety to God, compel me, as a brother to brethren, and friend to friends, freely to lay before you the inmost feelings of my mind, I would earnestly entreat you, that that goodness which you are always wont to evince, you would show to me, on the present occasion, by receiving and reading my letter not grudgingly. For I hope, that if you will only be pleased to attend impartially to what I write, you will in no small measure approve, if not of my advice, at least of an intention, certainly pure and simple, and above all things desirous of your salvation, and perceive, that I am seeking not my own, but your good and advantage.

I will not, however, begin with subtle and puzzling disputations, which St Paul styles philosophy, warning believers in Christ to guard against being deceived by it, and by which those men have misled you, when, among the unwary, they boasted of certain hidden interpretations of Scripture, dignifying their fraud and malice with the noble, indeed, but false and inappropriate, name of learning and [6] wisdom. I will set forth things which are bright and clear, and which have in them no hiding-place of error, no winding of fraud and fallacy; such, indeed, truth always is. For it both shines in darkness, and is perspicuous to every man, and is most easily perceived alike by learned and unlearned, and especially in matters of Christian doctrines, rests not on syllogisms, or quibbles on words, but on humility, reverence, and obedience toward God. For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the joinings of soul and spirit, to the inmost parts of the joints and marrow, not ensnaring souls by perplexing argument, but by the interposition of a certain heavenly affection of the heart, making itself plain and patent to our minds, so that to understand it, it is not so much human reason, as God, who calls us to Himself, and worketh in us. To Him, the Father of all true intelligence, I humbly pray that He would, of His goodness, give such assistance to me in speaking, and to you in perceiving, as may again unite us to Himself in one heart and one mind.

And that we may begin with what we deem most seasonable, I presume, dearest brethren, that both you and I, and all else besides who have put their faith and hope in Christ, do, and have done so, for this one reason, viz., that they may obtain salvation for themselves and their souls—not a salvation which is mortal, and will quickly perish, but one which is ever during and immortal, which is truly attainable only in heaven, and by no means on earth. Our task, accordingly, is thus divided—having first laid the foundation of faith, we must thereafter labour here in order that we may rest yonder; we must cast seed into the earth, that we may afterwards be able to reap in heaven, and in whatever works, or whatever studies we have exercised ourselves here, may ultimately obtain similar and fit fruits of our works and labours in another life. And since the way of Christ is arduous, and the method of leading a life conformable to His laws and precepts very difficult, (because we are enjoined to withdraw our mind from the contamination of earthly pleasures, and fix them on this one object—to [7] despise the present good which we have in our hands, and aspire to the future, which we see not,) still of such value to each one of us is the salvation of himself and of his soul that we must bring our minds to decline nothing, however harsh, and endure everything, however laborious, that, setting before ourselves the one hope of our salvation, we may at length, through many toils and anxieties, (the clemency and mercy of God always taking precedence of our doings,) attain to that stable and ever-during salvation.

For this hope, Christ, the herald of the true God, was once received by the world with such universal consent and eagerness; for this reason he is adored and worshipped by us, and truly acknowledged to be God, and the Son of the true God; because, when the minds of men were dead to Almighty God, in whom alone is life, and after living for a little time to the deceitful and fading pleasures of the world, were forthwith doomed utterly, and in every part of their nature, to destruction, He alone, ever since the world began, awoke them from the dead, that is, from this most fatal kind of death, and first himself, choosing to be himself our salvation and deliverance and truth, by submitting to death in the flesh, and shortly after resuming a life no longer mortal, taught and instructed us, by his own example, how, by a way very different from that to which we had been previously accustomed, we should die to this world and the flesh, and live thereafter to God, placing in him our hopes of living well and happily for ever. This is our proper resurrection from the dead,—a resurrection truly worthy of the glory and majesty of God Almighty, and by which not one man or two, but the whole human race, are brought back from a dismal and fatal death of the soul to the same soul’s true and heavenly life. Paul, setting this kind of resurrection before himself, and beholding in it the greatest sign and proof of the divinity of Christ, says, “I was separated unto the gospel of God, which he had promised by the Prophets in the Holy Scriptures concerning his Son, begotten, indeed, of the seed of David according to the flesh, but determined and declared to be the Son of God in power by the Spirit of holiness;” that is, by [8] spiritual power, which is the proper power of God, because God does his miracles not by body, but by spirit. For his commanding the winds, and by a word restoring sight to the blind, and raising the dead, were done by a power not corporeal but spiritual, which is also divine. Therefore, Christ was declared the Son of God by this spiritual power, which alone is divine, and also, as Paul subjoins, by the resurrection from the dead—not so much that resurrection by which he raised Lazarus, or the widow’s son, or the ruler of the synagogue’s daughter, (although these, too, were works of God,) as that by which he delivered Mary Magdalene from seven devils, called Matthew from the receipt of custom, and raised many from an earthly and perishing life; in short, raised the whole human race from sin, and the death of sin, and the power of the darkness of this world, to aspire to, and hope for, light and a celestial relationship—raised up the mind of men when immersed in the mire of earth, and elevated them to heaven. And this greatest benefit of Jesus Christ towards us, and principal proof therein of his divinity, was both instituted by God in the mission of the Son, and undertaken by the Son himself, and by him given in its own time, and bestowed upon us, that we, being aided in Christ alone, with all divine and human counsels, helps, and virtues, might present our souls to God in safety. So high is the excellence, so remarkable the price, so great the worth of this thing, viz., the soul of man, that, in order to its not being lost, but gained both to God himself and to us, the laws of universal nature having been utterly disturbed, and the order of things changed, God descended to the earth, that he might become man, and man was raised to heaven, that he might be a God.

We all, therefore, (as I said,) believe in Christ in order that we may find salvation for our souls, i.e., life for ourselves: than this there can be nothing more earnestly to be desired, no blessing more internal, more close and familiar to us. For, in proportion to the love which each man bears to himself, is his salvation dear to him; if it be neglected and cast away, what prize, pray, of equal value can possibly be acquired? What will a man give in exchange for [9] his soul? saith the Lord; or what will it profit a man should he gain the whole world, and lose hie own soul? This possession, therefore, so large, so dear, so precious to every man as is his soul, we must use every effort to retain; since all the other blessings which we desire are external, and alien to us, this one good of a preserved soul is not only ours, but truly we ourselves are that very good. He who has neglected and lost it will not be able to have any other good which he can enjoy, the very being who ought to enjoy it having already lost himself.

Moreover, we obtain this blessing of complete and perpetual salvation by faith alone in God and in Jesus Christ. When I my by faith alone, I do not mean, as these inventors of novelties do, a mere credulity and confidence in God, by which, to the seclusion of charity and the other duties of a Christian mind, I am persuaded that in the cross and blood of Christ all my faults are unknown; this, indeed, is necessary, and forms the first access which we have to God, but it is not enough. For we must also bring a mind full of piety towards Almighty God, and desirous of performing whatever is agreeable to him; in this, especially, the power of the Holy Spirit resides. This mind, though sometimes it proceeds not to external acts, is, however, inwardly prepared of itself for well-doing, and shows a prompt desire to obey God in all things, and this in us is the true habit of divine justice. For what else does this name of justice signify, or what other meaning and idea does it present to us, if regard is not had in it to good works? For Scripture says, that “God sent his Son to prepare a people acceptable to himself, zealous of good works;” and in another place it says, that we may be built up in Christ unto good works. If, then, Christ was sent that we, by well-doing, may, through him, be accepted of God, and that we may be built up in him unto good works; surely the faith which we have in God through Jesus Christ not only enjoins and commands us to confide in Christ, but to confide, working or resolved to work well in him. For faith is a term of full and ample signification, and not only includes in it credulity and confidence, but [10] also the hope and desire of obeying God, together with love, the head and mistress of all the virtues, as has been most clearly manifested to us in Christ, in which love the Holy Spirit properly and peculiarly resides, or rather himself is love, since God is love. Wherefore, as without the Holy Spirit, so also without love, nought of ours is pleasing and acceptable to God. When we say, then, that we can be saved by faith alone in God and Jesus Christ, we hold that in this very faith love is essentially comprehended as the chief and primary cause of our salvation.

But to leave off disputation, and return to where we left; we have shown you, dearest brethren, or, rather, attempted to show, (for our discourse is not equal to the magnitude of the subject,) how important it is, how deeply it concerns us to secure our soul and its salvation, because our soul is our whole selves, is properly our good and only good, while all other goods are foreign to us, and disjoined from us, and cannot in any degree be enjoyed, if we fail of obtaining this, which is first and truly ours. In order to defend and preserve the interest of their souls, so many most glorious martyrs of Christ in former times have cheerfully laid down this mortal life; so many most holy doctors have made it their business to toil and watch, day and night, that they might lead us into the right way, and establish us in it; the whole Church once endured so many and so grievous injuries and calamities from impious tyrants and governors. All these things, accordingly, were permitted by Almighty God, and were undertaken, endured, and warred by those brave men, true worshippers of Christ, that the Church being, by means of every kind of experiment and trial, beaten, as it were, with numbers of hammers, purified with much fire, heated, melted, consolidated, and worked into shape by so many toils and labours of saints, might for her fidelity obtain the highest favour with God, and the greatest authority among men. This Church hath regenerated us to God in Christ, hath nourished and confirmed us, instructed us what to think, what to believe, wherein to place our hope, and also taught us by what way we must tend towards [11] heaven. We walk in this common faith of the Church, we retain her laws and precepts. And if, at any time, overcome by frailty and inconstancy, we lapse into sin, (would that this happened to us rarely at least, and not too often,) we, however, rise again in the same faith of the Church; and by whatever expiations, penances, and satisfactions, she tells us that our sin is washed away, and we (always by the grace and mercy of God) restored to our former integrity, these methods of expiation and satisfaction we have recourse to and employ—trusting, when we do so, to find a place of mercy and pardon with God. For we do not arrogate to ourselves anything beyond the opinion and authority of the Church; we do not persuade ourselves that we are wise above what we ought to be; we do not show our pride in contemning the decrees of the Church; we do not make a display among the people of towering intellect or ingenuity, or some new wisdom; but (I speak of true and honest Christians) we proceed in humility and in obedience, and the things delivered to us, and fixed by the authority of our ancestors, (men of the greatest wisdom and holiness,) we receive with all faith, as truly dictated and enjoined by the Holy Spirit.

For we know and are assured how great power, how great importance, how great weight, humility has with God—humility, a virtue peculiarly Christian, which Christ our Lord always brought particularly forward in his admonitions and precepts, and acts and miracles, declaring, that for little ones only, that is, the humble, the kingdom of heaven is prepared. For it makes no difference whether we be small or great in stature, but it makes the greatest difference whether we be of a humble or of a haughty mind. The same pride which cast down the angels from heaven impedes men in their journey towards heaven. To that place, whence the angel, a heavenly creature, was expelled because of pride, man, a creature of the earth, is exalted, became of humility, making it plainly appear that humility constitutes both the chief help to our eternal salvation, and the chief support of that sweet and blessed hope with which we tend heavenwards.

[12] Since these things are so, dearest brethren, since our salvation, since true life, since eternal felicity, since ourselves, in short, ought to be, in the first place, and above all things, dear to us, since, if we lose ourselves, we shall never more find anything that is truly ours, that is, to delight or belong to us, since no heavier loss, no more fatal evil, no more dreadful calamity, can befall us, than the loss and perdition of our souls, with how great zeal, I ask, with what care and anxiety of mind, ought we to guard against exposing our life and salvation to this great danger? You will surely grant and concede to me, that nothing more pernicious and fearful can happen to any one than the loss of his soul. I presume you will therefore grant also that there is no event, against the occurrence of which we ought to guard with greater zeal and diligence. For, when an evil, if it begalls us, is the worst of all evils, the danger of that evil ought to be dreaded by us as the most fearful of all dangers. The greater the extent of the evil, the greater must be our fear when exposed to it. And as those who few and shudder at being precipitated into the sea, do not even venture to approach any steep rock hanging over the sea, so those who tremble at the dreadful condemnatory sentence of God, flee above all things from the danger which comes nearest and closest to that eternal misery. Nor do I here at this time maintain that all do not sin, and that as long as we are in this life, we are not all of us in danger, (plainly we are so; we all go astray, and stumble, and fall, sometimes oftener, sometimes more seldom, as each possesses in himself, and from God, the virtue of self-restraint;) nevertheless, other sins, those especially which are done and committed not of fixed purpose, but through frailty, have an easy return to the mercy of Almighty God; but that horrid and dreadful sin, by which depraved worship is offered to God, who ought to be most purely worshipped, and by which false things are thought of Him, the Supreme and only Truth, this, this, I say, is a sin which not only places us in the most immediate peril of eternal death, but also leaves us almost without hope and endeavour to turn aside and shun the peril. For, in our other sins, which are like [13] the billows of life, the anchor of our ship is still safe to keep us from rocks and shipwreck, because we turn our thoughts from time to time towards God, and, stung with compunction for sin, we, with silent groans, and with confession of our iniquity, implore his mercy. And He, as He is full of goodness and clemency, is instantly inclined to pardon, and, after the manner of an affectionate parent, listens appeased to the prayer of his children. But, in this deep and dreadful sin of preposterous and false religion, we no longer leave to ourselves either God or anchor. Wherefore, dearest brethren, if we would be safe, this danger, in particular, we must most carefully and studiously shun.

It may here he said, that since, in regard to what constitutes corrupt or genuine religion, judgments vary; and the opinions of men, especially at this time, are different, one interpreting in this way, and another in that, it would seem to be enough if any one, with sincere mind, adopts the belief which is first presented to him, and submits his own judgment to the judgment of those better skilled and learned than himself. I admit, dearest brethren, that these are the words of simple men, and of men who are by nature of duller intellect; (those who twist and turn them aside from the right path have the greater sin;) for this language is not suited to the wise and wary. But let me now, for the time, admit that these things are uncertain to all, both learned and unlearned, (though it is far otherwise, for the Catholic Church has a certain rule by which to discriminate between truth and falsehood;) however, let us grant that they are doubtful; since the point in question is jeopardy to our salvation; since we set the highest value upon our souls, i.e.,, ourselves; and since it is not our fortune or our health, or even our body and this mortal life, which are at stake, (the loss of all which, brave men have often suffered with constancy for Christ and their soul,) but the point to be decided is, whether we are to live eternally most miserable, or most blessed—it behoves us to look round, consider and diligently weigh how we may establish ourselves, (I speak of the thing as doubtful, though, however, it is not;) how, I say, we may stand, where [14] the least fear and danger, and the greatest hope and security appear.

No man, I believe, will deny me this much, that in a matter dubious and uncertain, (one, especially, where the whole of life and salvation is concerned,) we ought rather to adopt and follow the counsel which reason gives, than that which fortuitous rashness casts in our way. Let us see then in which party, and in which sect, there is the greatest danger of removing farther from God, and moving nearer to endless destruction. This point I will treat and expound, as if I saw you still deliberating and not yet certain, whose wishes you ought in preference to follow, or in whose counsels confide.

The point in dispute is, Whether is it more expedient for your salvation, and whether you think you will do what is more pleasing to God, by believing and following what the Catholic Church throughout the whole world, now for more than fifteen hundred years, or (if we require clear and certain recorded notice of the facts) for more than thirteen hundred years, approves with general consent; or innovations introduced within these twenty-five years, by crafty, or, as they think themselves, acute men; but men certainly who are not themselves the Catholic Church? For, to define it briefly, the Catholic Church is that which in all parts, as well as at the present time, in every region of the world, united and consenting in Christ, has been always and everywhere directed by the one Spirit of Christ; in which Church no dimension can exist; for all its parts are connected with each other, and breathe together: But should any dissension and strife arise, the great body of the Church indeed remains the same, but an abscess is formed, by which some corrupted flesh being torn off, is separated from the spirit which animates the body, and no longer belongs in substance to the body Ecclesiastic. I will not here descend to the discussion of single points, or load your ears with a multitude of words and arguments. I will say nothing of the Eucharist, in which we worship the most true body of Christ. Those men, little aware how, in each kind of [15] learning, it is necessary to employ reasons and arguments, endeavour, by means of reasons, which are inapplicable, and drawn from dialectics and vain philosophy, to enclose the very Lord of the universe, and his divine and spiritual power therein, (which is altogether free and infinite,) within the corners of a corporeal nature, circumscribed by its own boundaries. Nor will I speak of confession of sins to a priest, in which confession, that which forms the strongest foundation of our safety, viz., true Christian humility, has both been demonstrated by Scripture and established and enjoined by the Church; this humility these men have studied calumniously to evade, and presumptuously to cut away. Nor will I say anything either of the prayers of the saints to God for us, or of ours for the dead, though I would fain know what these same men would be at when they despise and deride them. Can they possibly imagine that the soul perishes along with its body? This they certainly seem to insinuate, and they do it still more openly when they strive to procure for themselves a liberty of conduct act loose from all ecclesiastical laws, and a licence for their lusts. For, if the soul is mortal, Let us eat and drink says the Apostle, for to-morrow we die; but if it is immortal, as it certainly is, how, I ask, has the death of the body made so great and so sudden a disruption, that the souls of the dead have no congruity, in any respect, no communion with those of the living, and have forgotten a their relationship to us and common human society? and this, especially, while charity, which is the principal gift of the Holy Spirit to a Christian soul, which is ever kind, ever fruitful, and which, in him who has it, never exists to no purpose, must always remain safe and operative in both lives.

But to leave off controversies, and reserve them for their own time, let us discuss what was first propsed—let us inquire and see which of the two is more conducive to our advantage, which is better in itself, and better fitted to obtain the favour of Almighty God, whether to accord with the whole Church, and faithfully observe her decrees, and laws, and sacraments, or to assent to men seeking dissension [16] and novelty. This is the place, dearest brethren, this the highway where the road breaks off in two directions, the one of which leads us to life, and the other to everlasting death. On this discrimination and choice, the salvation of every man’s soul, the pledges of future life, are at stake—whether is our lot to be one of eternal felicity, or of infinite misery? What, then, shall we say? Let us here suppose two persons, one of each class, that is, from each road, let them be placed before the dread tribunal of the Sovereign Judge, and there let their case be examined and weighed, in order to ascertain whether a condemnatory or a saving sentence can justly be pronounced. They will be interrogated whether they were Christians. Both will say that they were. Whether they properly believed in Christ? Both will, in like manner, answer yes. But when they will he examined as to what they believed, and how they believed, (for this investigation, respecting right faith, precedes that concerning life and character,) when a confession of right faith will he exacted of them; he who was educated in the lap and discipline of the Catholic Church will say:—

“Having been instructed by my parents, who had learned it from their fathers and forefathers, that I should, in all things, be obedient to the Catholic Church, and revere and observe its laws, admonitions, and decrees, as if Thou, Thyself, O Lord, hadst made them, and perceiving that almost all who bore the Christian name and title in our days, and before it, and followed thy standards far and wide over the world, were and had been of the same opinion, all of them acknowledging and venerating this very Church, as the mother of their faith, and regarding it as a kind of sacrilege to depart from her precepts and constitution, I studied to approve myself to Thee by the same faith which the Catholic Church keeps and inculcates. And though new men had come with the Scripture much in their mouths and hands, who attempted to stir some novelties, to pull down what was ancient, to argue against the Church, to snatch away and wrest from us the obedience which we all yielded to it, I was still desirous to adhere firmly to that which had been de[17]livered to me by my parents, and observed from antiquity, with the consent of meet holy and most learned Fathers; and although the actual manners of many prelates and ecclesiastics were such as might move my indignation, I did not, therefore, abandon my sentiments. For I concluded, that it was my duty to, obey their precepts, which were certainly holy, as Thou, God, hadst commanded in Thy Gospel, while Thou behovedst to be the only Judge of their life and actions, and, especially, since I was myself stained by the many sins which were manifest to Thee on my forehead, I could not be a fit judge of others. For these sins, I now stand before Thy tribunal, imploring not strict justice, O Lord, but rather Thy mercy and readiness to forgive.”

Thus will this one plead his cause.

The other will be summoned, and will appear. He will be commanded to speak. Supposing him to be one of those who are, or have been, the authors of dissension, he will thus begin his oration:-

“Almighty God, when I beheld the manners of ecclesiastics almost every where corrupt, and saw the priests, nevertheless, from a regard to religion, universally honoured, offended at their wealth, a just indignation, as I consider it, inflamed my mind, and made me their opponent; and when I beheld myself, after having devoted so many years to literature and theology, without that place in the Church which my labours had merited, while I saw many unworthy persons exalted to honours and priestly offices, I betook myself to the assailing of those who I thought were by no means pleasing and acceptable to Thee. And because I could not destroy their power without first trampling on the laws enacted by the Church, I induced a great part of the people to contemn those rights of the Church which had long before been ratified and inviolate. ]If these had been decreed in General Councils, I said we were not to yield to the authority of Councils; if they had been instituted by ancient Fathers and Doctors, I accused the old Fathers as unskilful and devoid of sound understanding; if by Roman Pontiffs, I [18] affirmed that they had raised up a tyranny for themselves, and falsely assumed the name of Vicegerents of Christ: by all means, in short, I contended that all of us, thy worshippers, should shake off the tyrannical yoke of the Church, which sometimes forbids meats, which observes days, which will have us to confess our sins to priests, which orders vows to be performed, and which binds with so many chains of bondage men made free, O Christ, in Thee; and that we should trust to faith alone, and not also to good works, (which are particularly extolled and proclaimed in the Church,) to procure us righteousness and salvation—seeing, especially, that thou hadst paid the penalty for us, and by thy sacred blood wiped away all faults and crimes, in order that we, trusting to this our faith in thee, might thereafter be able to do, with greater freedom, whatsoever we listed. For I searched the Scriptures more ingeniously than those ancients did, and that more especially when I sought for something which I might wrest against them: Having thus by repute for learning and genius acquired fame and estimation among the people, though, indeed, I was not able to overturn the whole authority of the Church, I was, however, the author of great seditions and schisms in it.”

After he has thus spoken, and spoken truly, (for there is no room to lie before that heavenly Judge, though he has kept back much concerning his ambition, avarice, love of popular applause, inward fraud and malice, of which he is perfectly conscious, and which will appear inscribed on his very forehead,) I ask you, my Genevese brethren, whom I long to have of one mind with me in Christ, and in the church of Christ, What judgment, think you, will be passed on these two men and their associates and followers? Is it not certain, that he who followed the Catholic Church will not be judged guilty of any error in this respect? First, Because the Church errs not, and even cannot err, since the Holy Spirit constantly guides her public and universal decrees and Councils. Secondly, Even if she did err, or could have erred, (this, however, it is impious to say [19] or believe,) no ouch error would he condemned in him who should, with a mind sincere and humble towards God, have followed the faith and authority of his ancestors. But the other, trusting to his own head, having none among the ancient Fathers, and not even general assemblies of the whole Bishops, whom he deems worthy of honour, and to whom he can bring his mind to yield and submit, arrogating all things to himself, more prepared to slander than to speak or teach, after revolting from the common Church, to what does he look as the haven of his fortunes? in what bulwark does he confide? to whom does he trust as his advocates with God, so as not to have great cause of dread that he will he cut into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth; that is, where he will for ever lament his miseries, and gnash with his teeth against himself, because, when it was in his power, if he had chosen, to avoid that most dreadful calamity, he had neglected to do so? Every person can understand for himself, what wretched and dismal companions grief and fury are to pass one’s life with; especially when there will never be any end or any limit of the fatal loss—when weeping and wrath shall never cease.

But if all other things might in same way be tolerated and overlooked, how will this be borne, (for this, methinks, there cannot be with God any place for mercy and pardon,) that they attempted to tear the spouse of Christ in pieces, that that garment of the Lord, which heathen soldiers were unwilling to divide, they attempted not only to divide, but to rend? For already, since these men began, how many sects have torn the Church? Sects not agreeing with them, and yet disagreeing with each other—a manifest indication of falsehood, as all doctrine declares. Truth is always one, while falsehood is varied and multiform; that which is straight is simple, that which is crooked has many turns. Can any one who acknowledges and confesses Christ, and into whose heart and mind the Holy Spirit hath shone, fail to perceive that such rending, such tearing of the holy Church, [20] 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. Why was given us from heaven that singular and pre-eminent gift of love, a gift divinely implanted in the Christian race only, and not in other nations? Was it not that we might all confess the Lord with one head and mouth? Do those men suppose that the Christian religion is any thing at all but peace with God, and concord with our neighbour? Let us see what the Lord himself says in John, when interceding with his Father for the disciples: “Holy Father, keep in thy name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one as we are: I ask not for them only, but for those also who are to believe in me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they too may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gaveest me I have given them; that they may be one, as we also are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may he perfected into one.” You see, dearest brethren, and in the clear light of the gospel discern what it really is to be a Christian, since our faith towards God, and all the glory of God, both his with us, and ours with him, consists solely in this unity; since this is the only thing which Christ requires and asks of the Father concerning us—considering that his labours, his toils, his frail human body assumed for us, his cross and his death will produce fruit, both to the glory of God, (his first desire,) and to our salvation, (for which he was about to die,) if we shall be one among ourselves, and one in him. For this the Catholic Church always labours, for this she strives, viz., our concord and unity in the same Spirit, that all men, however divided by space or time, and so incapable of coming together as one body, may yet be both cherished and ruled by one Spirit, who is always and everywhere the same. To this Catholic Church and Holy Spirit those, on the contrary, are professed adversaries who attempt to break unity, to introduce various [21] spirits, to dissolve consent, and banish concord from the Christian religion, attempting this, with an eagerness and a zeal, by machinations and arts, which no language can sufficiently express. I will not, indeed, pray against them that the Lord would destroy all deceitful lips and high-sounding tongues; nor, likewise, that he would add iniquity to their iniquity, but that he would convert them, and bring them to a right mind, I will earnestly entreat of the Lord, my God, as I now do.

And I beg and exhort you, my Genevese brethren, after the mists of error have at length cleared away from the eyes of your mind, and the light been displayed, that you would raise your eyes to that heaven which God has set before you as your everlasting country, that you would be pleased to return to concord with us, yield faithful homage to the Church, our mother, and worship God with us in one spirit. Nor if our manners perhaps displease you, if, by the fault of some, that splendour of the Church, which ought to be perpetual and untarnished, is somewhat obscured, let that move your minds, or draw you to a different or opposite party. You may, perhaps, hate our persons, (if the gospel allows it,) but you certainly ought not to have a hatred for our faith and doctrine; for it is written, “What they say do.” Now, we my nothing more than express our eager desire for your salvation. If this, my dearest Genevese, shall be taken by you in good part, if you will listen favourably to one most desirous of your welfare, assuredly you will not repent of having recovered your former favour with God and praise with men. I, as is my part, and as my good-will towards you dictates, will be a constant suppliant to God for you—an unworthy one, indeed, through my own defects, but, perhaps, love will make me worthy. And then, whatever I possibly can do, although it is very small, still if I have in me any talent, skill, authority, industry, I make a tender of all to you and your interests, and will regard it as a great favour to myself, should you be able to reap any fruit and advantage from my labour, and assistance in things human and divine.

[22] It only remains to beg of you to receive the messenger, who bears this letter to you, with the civility and kindness which your own humanity and the law of nations, and, above all, Christian meekness, require and demand. While this will be honourable to you, it will also be extremely agreeable to me. God guide and mercifully defend you, my dearest brethren.

Carpentras, XV. Cal. Apr. (18th March) 1539.