(THAT IS, CALUMNY XIII.)
WE SIN OF NECESSITY (WITH RESPECT TO GOD), WHETHER
WE SIN OF OUR OWN PURPOSE OR ACCIDENTALLY.
(THAT IS, CALUMNY XIV.)
WHAT WICKEDNESSES SOEVER MEN COMMIT OF THEIR OWN WILL, THOSE WICKEDNESSES PROCEED ALSO FROM THE WILL OF GOD.
OBSERVATIONS AND STATEMENTS ON
ARTICLES XIII. AND XIV.
Against these two articles your opponents urge the following arguments: If we sin of necessity all admonitions are evidently vain, and the prophet Jeremiah therefore speaks these words to the people in vain, "Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death. He that abideth in the city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey" (Jer. xxi. 8, 9). All this warning and admonition is utterly vain, I repeat, if, from the state and necessity of things, to flee unto the Chaldeans was as great an impossibility as to swallow a mountain.
If Calvin here reply that the commandments of God are set before men to render them inexcusable, we rejoin that this also is positively vain. For if any father should command his son to eat up a mountain, and the son did it not, that son would be no more inexcusable after such commandment of his father than he was before. Just in the same manner, if God should command me not to steal, and yet I must steal of necessity imposed on me by Him; and if I can no more abstain from stealing, on account of that necessity, than I can eat up a mountain; I am no more inexcusable after such a commandment than I was before, nor am I more excusable before such commandment than I was after. In a word, the opponents of Calvin argue that, if this his doctrine be really true, a man is inexcusable even before the commandment of God is set before him. From which it will follow that all commandment, given with the intent to produce this inexcusableness in man, is altogether needless and vain.
Moreover, if the wicked is reprobated of God before he becomes wicked?that is, before he is born even from all eternity?and if, therefore, he sins of necessity, he is already inexcusable and condemned, even before any precept is given to him. And he is so condemned before he has done any evil act at all; whereas all laws, human and divine, condemn a man after the act and for the act.
OF JOHN CALVIN TO
(THAT IS, CALUMNY XIII.)
AND TO CALUMNIATOR'S OBSERVATIONS, ETC., THEREON.
What you really mean or propose to yourself in this THIRTEENTH ARTICLE (that is, calumny), I cannot possibly catch or comprehend. You seem to me like one endeavouring to spell-bind the senses of men by a buzz of magic whispers. For what are accidental sins? Who, beside yourself, ever fabricated such unheard of creatures as these in the workshop of the human brain? I have elsewhere in my writings and ever taught that all those things which seem to happen accidentally are ruled and overruled by the secret Providence of God. Who was it that gave you the license to gather from thence the idea of an accidental sin? And was this doctrine which I have taught my own and of my own creation? No! It has God Himself for its author. If, when a man is cutting the boughs of a tree, the axe slips from his hand and falls upon the head of one passing by, is this, think you, an accident? Not so thought the servant of God, Moses. The Holy Spirit declares by him that the man thus stricken was killed of God. And will you dare to say that God hurls His weapons and deals His blows on this side and on that as a man would do who was intoxicated or insane? Indeed, if, as you imagine, men sin without the purpose, understanding, or mind of God, how shall God be Judge of the world? And if the things which are done in the world, are done without God's purpose, understanding, mind, and will, in what does God exceed mortal man? In what is the adorable God higher and greater than man?
Hence, when I affirm that God knows, and has His mind concerned in, every sin of man, are you driven thereby into such madness and hatred of the doctrine as to denounce me the maker of a false God? Now suppose I were to concede to you that men sinned without God's knowledge, and without His mind being at all concerned therein, what God would be left in heaven or in earth at all by such a concession? And yet you imagine and boast yourself to be a great popular teacher; whereas, by thus depriving God of a concerned mind in all things which men do, whether sins or not, and merely dignifying Him with the title of God, as Lucretius did his dreams, you make the adorable God nothing more than a lifeless, unconcerned idol.
As to your arguments, that if men sin of necessity all doctrine is superfluous, all precepts useless, all admonitions vain, and all rebukes and threats absurd; if Augustine's book to Valentinus "concerning compulsion and grace" suffices not to wash these frivolous objections out of your brain (to the discussion of which subject Augustine was especially appointed of God), you are not worth the hearing of one word farther from me on the sacred matter. Moreover, I have so beaten off Pighius and your favourite master, Servetus, from their hold of this calumny, that teachable and candid readers require not another word of defence from me on this point of my testimony. I will only offer this one brief word to your boasting calumnies directed against me on the momentous doctrine of truth now in question. If you will not permit God to command anything which is beyond the natural comprehension of men, when God shall bring you to stand before His tribunal, He will make you to see with awful plainness that which He hath declared, and not in vain, by the mouth of His apostle; that He hath accomplished by His grace that which was impossible by the Law (Rom. viii. 3). It is plain and certain that in the Law is set forth that perfect righteousness which God required, in order that it might be ready at hand and plainly presented before the eyes of all men, if men had but strength to do what God commands. But the apostle openly declares that to attain unto the righteousness commanded in the Law is, on our part, impossible. What ground have you, then, for contending with and reviling Calvin respecting his doctrine on this Divine point?
If you steal of necessity (according to your own argument), think you not that you are less excusable after the Law has been given than you were before it was given? How widely different is the apostle Paul's opinion of himself, where he confesses that he was "sold under sin," but where, at the same time, he freely and loudly testifies that the Law "worketh wrath"? showing thereby that it is in vain to stretch forth in our defence the shield of necessity, when every man's own conscience condemns him of voluntary and wilful wickedness.
Now I would just ask you this question: When, a year ago, you had your own hook in your hand, by which you might have pulled down firewood to warm your own house, was it not your own will that drove you to steal wood from your neighbour? If, then, this one act suffices for your own righteous condemnation, that you willingly made a base and wicked gain to your neighbour's loss, what noise soever you may make about necessity, necessity did not acquit you on that occasion. And as to your farther noisy argument: that no one can be justly condemned, excepting on account of his crime and after his crime; concerning the former there exists no strife nor cause of strife (or ought not to exist) between me and you, because I everywhere teach that no one perishes but by the just judgment of God. But I cannot withhold my testimony that there lies concealed under your words a great depth of poison. For if your statement of the Divine matter and your figure of speech are to be received, God will appear unjust who righteously includes the whole race of Abraham under the guilt of original sin.
You deny that it is lawful and right in God to condemn any one of mortals, unless it be on account of sin committed. Now numberless mortals are taken out of life while yet perfect infants. You had better then commence your virulent war with God Himself, Who casts innocent babes, just taken from the wombs of their mothers, under the guilt of original sin, and subjects them to His wrath and the desert of eternal death. Who, I pray you, must not detest the blasphemy of thus contending against God, when it is exposed to view, either by the voice or by pen of truth? Curse me as long as you will, but blaspheme not the adorable God. For, as to myself, I can never expect to be free or exempt from the reproaches of those who spare not the ever blessed God Himself.
With respect to the second member of your argument, that no one can justly be condemned until after his crime, just weigh in your own balance the lightness and emptiness of your loquacity herein. Why, your own masters, Pighius, Servetus, and all like barking unclean dogs, will at least confess that all those whom God foreknew to be worthy of eternal destruction were condemned by Him before the foundation of the world; whereas you will not grant unto God the right to condemn any to eternal death, but those who have first been brought before earthly judges for their actually perpetrated crimes. From such arguments as these, readers may at once gather the marvellous extent of your insanity, who hesitate not to root out, in absolute sport or jest, all the solemn order of the Divine justice!
DESCRIPTION OF THE FALSE GOD.
The false God is slow to mercy and swift to anger; Who has created the greatest part of the world to perdition, and has predestinated them not only to damnation, but also to the cause of their damnation; and has, therefore, decreed, from all eternity, and wills and causes their sins, which sins are consequently of necessity so that neither thefts, nor adulteries, nor murders are committed, but by His will and instigation. For He suggests in men depraved and evil affections, not only permissively, but effectively, and hardens men's hearts. Wherefore, while men are living wickedly, they are rather doing the work of God than their own work, and cannot do otherwise. This God makes Satan a liar; so that Satan is not the cause of his own lies, but Calvin's God is.
DESCRIPTION OF THE TRUE GOD.
But that God which nature, reason, and the Holy Scriptures teach, is plainly the contrary to this God of Calvin, for He is inclined to mercy and slow to anger. And He created the first man from whom all men arose in His own image, that He might place him in Paradise and bestow upon him eternal life. This God wills that all men should be saved, and that no one man should perish. And for this very end He sent His Son into the world, that His righteousness might abound wherever the sin of man had abounded. The light of this righteousness "lightens every man that cometh into the world," and this Son of God, the Saviour of the world, calls aloud to all, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." This God suggests good affections and honourable, and delivers men from the necessity of sinning (into which they precipitate themselves by their disobedience); and He heals all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. Nay, so merciful is He, that He never denies His mercy and help unto anyone that prays to Him for them. In fact, this true God comes for the very end that He might destroy the works of that God of Calvin, and thrust Him out of doors.
Now these two Gods, as they are by nature contrary to each other, so do they beget children the direct contraries to each other. The children of that false merciless God are ever proud, unmerciful, envious, bloodthirsty, calumnious, feigned, carrying one thing in their countenance and another in their heart, impatient, rash, malicious, seditious, contentious, ambitious, avaricious, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; in a word, filled with depraved and evil affections with which their God Himself had inspired them. But the other God begets men merciful, modest, gentle, benevolent, beneficent, abhorring the shedding of blood, open, candid, speaking the truth out of the abundance of the heart, benignant, quiet, peaceful, detesting broils and strifes, despisers of honours, liberal, lovers of God more than lovers of pleasure; in a word, full of all pure and honest affections, with which they are inspired of their Father.
These are the views and arguments which your adversaries entertain concerning your doctrine, Calvin. And they advise all men to judge of your doctrine by its fruits. They, moreover, affirm that both you and your disciples bear abundant fruits of your God; that they are, for the most part, contentious, thirsty after revenge, ever tenacious and mindful of an injury received and filled with numberless other vices, which your God begets in them.
If anyone reply to these assertions of your adversaries, and allege that these are not faults caused by your doctrine, your opponents rejoin that your doctrine does evidently beget such men, and that such is the case is manifest from the fact that many, after they have embraced and followed your doctrine, become such characters, who were before far from being persons of that evil description; while, on the other hand, those who have believed the doctrine of Christ have always been rendered better men, but they affirm that men ever become manifestly worse by your doctrine. They also assert that when you and your followers profess that you hold a sound doctrine, you are not to be believed.
The truth is, that I myself once favoured your doctrine, and even defended it, though I really did not clearly understand it. For I thought so much of the weight of your authority, that I considered the mere entertaining one thought contrary to it was quite a crime. But now, having heard the arguments of your opponents, I have nothing to say in reply to their conclusions and proofs. Your disciples indeed do attempt a reply in your defence, and among those whom they can find to be favourers of your doctrine they boldly boast of having the truth on their side. But when they come to deal with your opponents, they vacillate and run to your books for protection; but that which they there find is too weak to support them. For your reasonings are so weak and, for the most part, so unsound, that as soon as your book drops from their hands, your reasonings drop from their memories, and therefore they fail to convince your adversaries. On the other hand, the arguments of your opponents are manifest, powerful and easily committed to memory, and are therefore at once understood by the illiterate (of which description were most of those who followed Christ); whence it results that the generality of your disciples depend more upon your authority than upon sound reason; and finding that they cannot vanquish their adversaries by argument, they hold them as heretics and bigots, shun their society, and warn all on every side to do the same. On the contrary, I, who am always of opinion that what is said, not the person who speaks, ought to be the subject of consideration, judge that all men ought to be heard, and all things that, are said duly proved, and that what is good ought to be received and retained.
Wherefore, Calvin, if you have any arguments to produce which are true, plain and sound, and by which your adversaries can be refuted, bring them forth, I pray you, before us all, and thus prove yourself, in reality, a defender of the truth. You know what is written, "I will give you a mouth and wisdom which none of your adversaries shall be able to gainsay or resist" (Luke xxi. 15). As to myself, wheresoever I can find the truth, I am prepared to follow it, and to exhort others to adopt the same course. If you have, perchance, erred (for we are all men), I entreat you, Calvin, give glory to God by a full confession. Your so doing will be more noble, and will bring you more fame than the persevering in error. But be not, I pray you, angry with me on account of this my letter. If you are just and true, you have nothing to fear from it. First, because it is to your own advantage to be admonished by its arguments; and secondly, as you believe, as you say, that all things are done of necessity, you must believe that this letter also was written by me of necessity. Farewell!
OF JOHN CALVIN TO
ARTICLES XIII. AND XIV.
(THAT IS, CALUMNIES XIII. AND XIV.)
AND TO CALUMNIATOR'S OBSERVATIONS, ETC., THEREON.
It now only remains that I vindicate the glory of the true and eternal God from your profane maledictions and blasphemies.
You boastingly assert that I place before men the devil in the place of the true God. My defence needs only to be brief and comprehensive, because all my writings openly testify that I never had before me any other end, or purpose or prayer, than that the whole world should dedicate itself to God with all fear, reverence and holiness; and that all men should cultivate equity with a good conscience among and towards each other; and also, that my own life might not be inconsistent with my doctrine. I will not so disregard and dishonour the grace of God as to compare myself with you or your fellows, whose professed blamelessness of life consists in a mere fawning external appearance. I will only observe that if any unprejudiced and upright arbitrator should sit to judge between us, he would at once acknowledge that holy reverence of God was conspicuous both in my speech and in the actions of my life; and he would, with equal readiness, confess that whatsoever proceeded from you breathed fear and dread, which all the godly despise and laugh at.
But that I may examine as briefly as possible your base calumnies?who or what can be more profane than yourself, when you contend that God proves Himself to be slow to mercy and quick to anger in predestinating the greater part of the world to eternal death??one thing is certain, that what kind of God soever you might fabricate or imagine for yourself, that One adorable God is to be worshipped and is worshipped by all the godly, who for more than 2,000 years left the whole human race, except the one family of Abraham, to wander in total darkness, to the destruction of their souls. Now, if you are prepared to charge God with cruelty, because He condescended to bless one family of the earth only with the light of life, while He willed that numberless nations should still lie for the same 2,000 years sunk in the darkness of their soul's death, one question will furnish a solemn reply to every inquiry into the deep mystery: How was it that whole nations were not utterly destroyed daily, until no more peoples existed? How was it that the whole world was not destroyed, if such a thing were possible, a hundred times a year? How was it that during those same 2,000 years so many glorious proofs of God's patience and mercy towards men were manifested? Even Paul the apostle himself, after having asserted that the "vessels of wrath" were "fitted to destruction" by God's secret and eternal decree, forgets not, nor hesitates to praise His patience and longsuffering therein. If, then, the testimony of the apostle does not content you, I think that such an humble one as I may unconcernedly despise all your growlings at my doctrine.
God, however, needs not my feeble defence. He is now, and in the last day will be, a mighty Avenger of His own righteousness, even though all the foul tongues of the whole world should combine their efforts to becloud that righteousness with obscurity and confusion. Wherefore, go you on, with your band of like spirits, to hurl your blasphemies up to the very heavens. They shall all assuredly fall back on your own heads. As to your base revilings, I can bear them with patience and without trouble, provided they touch not the ever-blessed God, Whose servant I am. I challenge you to stand (where you must one day stand) before His tribunal, that He may show Himself, as He one day will show Himself, the righteous Avenger of His own doctrine, which doctrine you thus furiously assail in my feeble person.
As to your description of the nature of the true God, how appropriately you argue concerning the Divine Being, let readers judge from the absurd fact that you make the beginning of all true knowledge of Him to proceed from common sense: That there is a God is a truth received by the one consent of all nations and all ages, because the seed and principle of this knowledge is imparted by nature in every human mind. But what God is, how shall reason define? which, by its own power of sight, can do nothing but turn the truth into a lie, and adulterate whatever of light and understanding true religion and faith possess. The Holy Spirit commands us to become fools, if we would be the true learners of heavenly doctrine, because the animal man himself can neither receive nor taste anything of wisdom divine. On the direct contrary, you would have human reason and common sense to form a judgment of the great and adorable God. And you would not only set up reason, which, by its blindness, ever extinguishes God's glory as a leader and guide, but would exalt that blind reason above the Scripture itself. What marvel, then, if you should unconcernedly permit all religions of all kinds to be confounded together? And that you should consider the Turk, who is enveloped in the deliriums of Mahomet, and who adores as his deity no one knows what, as much a worshipper of God as he who calls upon the Father of Christ our Redeemer, instructed by the sure word and faith of the everlasting Gospel? Though that you do not patronise infidels seriously is a fact proclaimed aloud by those sarcastic grins of yours, which show your teeth gnashing at every plainest and holiest article of our faith, while the excuses which you make for the superstitions of all nations prove your malicious purpose to be to root out of the earth every doctrine of that holy religion which the Sacred Oracles of God reveal and teach.
On the other hand, out of that very human reason, which is the mother of all errors, you form that God of yours, who wills, without any election or predestination of His own, that all men should be saved. Has, then, the word election, which occurs so frequently in the Scriptures, no meaning whatever? Is it altogether a vain and empty term? Have the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel, no meaning whatever, when they everywhere proclaim aloud that all those who were chosen by the eternal counsel of God before the foundation of the world are called and illuminated unto salvation? Is, we repeat, the united and harmonious testimony of the Law, the prophets and the Gospel, an utter vanity, when they pronounce, free from all ambiguity, that the source and cause of eternal life is the free love of God, by which He has loved and embraced not all mankind, but those out of mankind whom He pleased!
And what will you gain after all, I pray you, by thus roaring against this truth a hundred times over? You dazzle the sight of the ignorant and the inexperienced by setting before their eyes, as a shining cloud, your doctrine that God will have all men to be saved. But if these words of the apostle are not in perfect harmony with that election whereby God predestinated His own children unto eternal life, let me ask you this question: How is it, that if God willed all men to be saved, He did not show unto all nations and all men the way of salvation? Universally and well known is that remarkable word of God in the law, "Behold, I set before thee this day the way of life, and of death" (Jer. xxi. 8). If, therefore, God willed to gather together unto salvation all men without distinction, why did He not set before all men in common the way of life and of salvation? Whereas, the fact was, that He deemed one family or nation only worthy of this high privilege. Nor did He confer this great blessing upon that one family for any other reason than because He loved them (if the testimony of Moses is to be believed), and because He would "choose them for a peculiar people."
You affirm that Christ was sent down from heaven in order that His righteousness might over-abound wherever sin had abounded; whereas, this one sentence of yours evidences that you have come forth, furnished by the devil out of the very bowels of hell itself, with this spirit and doctrine, that it might conceal every possible religious lie under the show of godliness and truth, in order that you might hold up Christ Himself and His true religion to derision. For if, wherever sin abounded, the righteousness of Christ was designed of God to super-abound, the condition of Pilate was just as good and as safe as that of Peter or of Paul. But to say nothing of Pilate, Paul declares that the righteousness of Christ and the faith of the Gospel can never be separated. And what Gospel, I pray you, was there in France, and in other distant heathen nations, at the time when Christ was upon earth? What! Was not God the same before the coming of His Son, as He was when His Son did come, and as He now is, and ever will be? Why, then, was it that He withheld the treasure of salvation from the nations of the earth, except from the family "of Abraham," until the "fulness of the time was come"? (Gal. iv. 4.)
Wherefore, swell yourself with rage to the utmost, and burst into derision, if you will and must, at the apostle Paul himself, for he declares that "that mystery was made known by the preaching of the Gospel, which was before hidden in God." (Eph. iii. 9). And now that the voice of the Gospel hath sounded forth, the righteousness of Christ cometh unto none, save those who receive it by faith. And whence cometh this faith? If you reply, "By hearing," your answer is true. But remember, that it cometh not by hearing without the especial revelation of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah himself expresses aloud his wonder at the small number of those "to whom the arm of the Lord is revealed" (Isa. liii. 1). And Paul uses the very words of the prophet Isaiah when he confines the gift of faith to the elect alone. And will you permit and admit no distinction to be made of God in the salvation of men? Christ does indeed say aloud, "Come unto Me, all ye that are heavy laden." But the same Redeemer of men elsewhere also exclaims, "No one can come unto Me except My Father which hath sent Me draw him." Nor is there any want of harmony, or oneness of truth, when the same Saviour, who invites all men unto Him without exception by His external voice, yet declares that "A man can receive nothing, except it were given him from above," and "that no one can come unto Him, but those to whom it is given of the Father" (John xix. 11; vi. 65).
There is also another scripture which you bedaub and defile by your swine-like pollution, when you say "that the light of the righteousness of Christ lighteneth every man that cometh into the world'' (John i. 9). But had not John, I pray you, just before said "that the light shineth in darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not"? (ver. 5). By these words John signifieth that whatsoever of human reason or understanding was given to men at the beginning, was all stifled and extinguished by sin, and that no other remedy now remains than the enlightening of the blind eyes by the Spirit of Christ. It is indeed quite true that Christ never refused His grace to anyone that asked for it. But you forget all the while that all true prayers and entreaties are dictated and directed by the Spirit of God; and you are equally ignorant that faith, which is the fruit and consequence of free election, is the key that opens the ears of God and unlocks the door of the kingdom of heaven. Now, as you are thus evidently ignorant of these first principles of the doctrines of Christ (which, if you take away, you bring down the Gospel of Christ at once to a level with the dark heathen mysteries of Proserpine or of Bacchus), it is really a marvel that persons, ensnared by such enormous errors and delusions, should ever find their way at all into the company of Christian men.
As to your foul assertion that my disciples are made of my God like unto myself?cruel, envious, proud, slanderers, carrying one thing on their tongue and another in their heart?I will come forward and refute this, your impudent reviling; prepared to do so, not so much by words, as by facts. For as I have no inclination to revile in return, let all your base calumnies, as far as I am concerned, remain dead and buried by my hands, except that I assume the permission (as in sacred duty bound) to make one solemn declaration, calling God to witness, that during the time I fed you at my house, I never saw a man more proud, more perfidious, or more devoid of human kindness. And sure I am, that those who do not confess that you are an impostor, a fellow of impudent audacity, a religious buffoon, professedly set to brawl down all godliness; those, I say, who do not confess these to be your real principles, have no right judgment of your character. For what particular act of mine you accuse me of cruelty I am anxious to know. I myself know not that act, unless it be with reference to the death of your great master, Servetus. But that I myself earnestly entreated that he might not be put to death his judges themselves are witnesses, in the number of whom at that time two were his staunch favourers and defenders. But I have said quite enough about myself.
What are the real fruits produced by my doctrine, both in this city and far and wide throughout many nations, I leave to the consideration and reflection of all men. Out of this very school, which you so atrociously attack, and unceasingly rend in pieces, God daily chooses to Himself men of the highest principles, and of the sweetest odour of His truth, to illustrate the doctrine of His Gospel, and to be the victims of malice and cruelty. All those who really grow and make any advancement in the doctrine of the Gospel (of the number of whom neither the world nor the Church needs repent nor be ashamed), live a life supported by the slenderest means, with difficulty indeed, but with the greatest patience and with the greatest kindness towards all men; or else, bidding a spontaneous farewell to luxury of every kind, they give themselves up to frugality peacefully and freely; they all, as one man, resigning the world and self-enjoyment, aspire to the hope of a blessed immortality. Being averse to glorying in myself, or boasting of myself, I have called to witness these bright examples of His grace, which God thus sets before the world to prove the truth of, and to defend, that doctrine which you vainly endeavour to rend in sunder by your foul revilings.
But do pray tell me what you were at the time that you favoured this my doctrine. What was your state of mind at that time? You affirm that you could never clearly understand it because the weight of my authority stood in you way, inducing you to consider it a perfect crime to entertain any judgment whatever in the least contrary to mine. Why, this is a marvellous matter. You must have been a brainless fellow indeed, if you could not comprehend, after so many years' trial, that which I had taught you in the most familiar manner, in my own house, and had so often expounded in your hearing in the public congregation. There are, however, many credible witnesses, that although I laboured long, but in vain, to correct and heal by every possible means the depravity of your nature, yet that during the time you did profess to be one of my followers, you were restrained by a somewhat effectual bridle from your evil ways. So that the real cause of your alienation from me evidently appears to he a longing desire to throw off the rein, that you might break forth with unbridled license into this your present impious course, which is your true delight and boast.
You affirm that it is a principle with you to regard not who it is that speaks, but what is spoken. I wish this had been a real principle with you long ago, so that you might have profited by the labours of others, and thus accustomed yourself to a teachable spirit. Whereas now, since audacity and loquacity are your only powers, all the favour you can procure to yourself from the evil-minded is gotten from your base despising of others. I would arrogate nothing to myself. But I really seem to myself to have so far deserved well of the Church, that if a place among the faithful servants of God be given to me by her, no man has a right to labour to bring my authority into contempt. Had you asserted that a few unlearned men looked to my nod, or hung upon my judgment, or were influenced by my fame and authority, you might have had some colour of covering for your calumny. But now, since you magnify it into a notorious disgrace to me, that my doctrine does not satisfy or please illiterate men, who, think you, will believe you, if you assert that learned and talented men alone have a taste for my books, and that they derive their wisdom from them? Nay, that they are so overawed by my authority, as not to attempt any judgment of their own? If things be so, we shall prove, upon your own authority, that nothing can be judged to be true or right but that which seems to the ignorant multitude to be plausible.
Yes! you would drive away all men from the liberal and useful arts and sciences, and would boast among your fellows that all study and learning are useless and all the time spent in vain which is devoted to philosophy, to grammar, to logic, and even to divinity itself. You would thus cry down, I say, all useful learning for this very reason, that you might procure to yourself ignorant disciples, and make yourself great among them. And you say they that followed Christ were such. Just as if the Christian faith were a matter standing contrary to, and inconsistent with, learning! But let Christian readers here mark the difference which exists between you and me. I ever affirm that the wisest among men, until they become fools, and, bidding farewell to all their own wisdom, give them selves up humbly and meekly to the obedience of Christ, are blinded by their own pride, and remain utterly unable to taste one drop of heavenly doctrine. For all human reason is tasteless in the mysteries of God, and all human perspicacity blind. I maintain, therefore, that the beginning and essence of all divine wisdom is humility. This strips us of all the wisdom of the flesh, and prepares us to enter upon the mysteries of God with reverence and faith. You, on the contrary, bid ignorant and untaught men to come forth into public; men who, despising all learning and inflated with pride alone, rashly attempt to pass their judgment on divine things. Nor will you acknowledge any to be legitimate judges in divine matters but those who, content with the opinion of reason and commonsense, unceremoniously reject all which does not just suit their own mind and taste.
Respecting the other reproach with which you load my humble followers, that of being heretics, the testimony of the apostle Paul quite satisfies them on that point, upon whose authority they would rather turn away from such real heretics as yourself and your followers, than knowingly pollute their ears by listening to their blasphemies. You maintain, however, that such is not your principle of action. You hold that all men ought to be heard. Think you, then, that the apostle saith in vain, "A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject" (Titus iii. 10)? Now if anyone had denied to you the right of being heard, you would have had some cause for complaint. But when there was always granted you the liberty of prating as you liked in the public assembly of the people; nay, when after having been called and almost dragged there, you have often sat down vanquished and with nothing to say; what farther liberty of speech would you have if the ears of the godly are ever open to you, until they are satiated and nauseated unto disgust at your blasphemies against the adorable God? As to yourself, you can find gratification and delight in holding up all the first great principles of godliness to derision. But would you therefore have all the children of God to be such fools as to laugh at your audacious impudence, or to endure your profane reproaches without a word or an emotion?
With regard to the sacred cause in question, I feel confident that I have hereby given you a sufficient answer. So that all readers of a sound mind may easily perceive that I am not altogether destitute of that blessed Spirit, who giveth a mouth and wisdom, which mouth and wisdom, if you are still determined to resist, you can do nothing more thereby than sustain a disgrace and a confusion corresponding with your obstinacy. Nevertheless, I will not cease to wish and to pray that you may yet bow to the manifest truth of God, though such a thing I scarcely dare to hope.
One final word upon your remaining profane jeer: that I have no ground for being angry at your reproaches, because, according to my own doctrine, they were written of necessity. But I am here furnished by the Scriptures with a solemn and effectual exhortation to forbearance; and nothing can be more instructive and appropriate, in this my case, nor better adapted to appease my indignation, than this admonition of David, "Let him curse, for God hath bidden him" (2 Sam. xvi. 11). David knew that Shimei on that occasion was driven on by the same rage of cursing as that with which you boil now. But those curses which Shimei thought he was hurling at David, under the (to him) fortuitous occurrence of the then present circumstances, David knew, by reflection, to be directed by the overruling and secret Providence of God, and therefore he restrains himself by the utterance of these memorable words. And, indeed, no man will ever bear the assaults of the devil and of wicked men with a composure and moderation, but the man who can turn away his mind and thoughts from those assaults to God alone, Who ordained them; and who can say, using the words of God Himself, "The Lord rebuke thee, Satan" (Zech. iii. 2). Amen.
Geneva, January 5th, 1558.