Institute of Christian Religion
in and out of gENEVA

Eventually he made his way to Basel, then a Protestant city who welcomed people who were still wavering.  In Basel Calvin plunged into the systematic study of theology.  There he voraciously read the writings of Protestant Reformers, most notably Luther, and the writings of the church fathers, like Augustine. During these time he collected materials for his famous publication.

In March 1536, Calvin published the first Latin edition of his Institutio Christianae Religionis or Institutes of the Christian Religion   



The word “institutes” derives from the latin “Institution” which means instruction.  The work, written in Latin, published in Basel in March 1536 was with a preface addressed to King Francis I of France, entreating him to give the Protestants a hearing rather than continue to persecute them. In the foreword to the French king François I, Epistle to the king, Calvin claimed that the Protestants were good Christians who did not mean to contest the King’s power.



Francis I (French: François Ier) (12 September 1494 – 31 March 1547) was the first King of France from the Angoulême branch of the House of Valois, reigning from 1515 until his death. He was the son of Charles, Count of Angoulême, and Louise of Savoy. He succeeded his cousin and father-in-law Louis XII, who died without a son.

A prodigious patron of the arts, he initiated the French Renaissance by attracting many Italian artists to work on the Château de Chambord, including Leonardo da Vinci, who brought the Mona Lisa with him, which Francis had acquired. Francis' reign saw important cultural changes with the rise of absolute monarchy in France, the spread of humanism and Protestantism, and the beginning of French exploration of the New World. Jacques Cartier and others claimed lands in the Americas for France and paved the way for the expansion of the first French colonial empire.

The first edition comprised six chapters in which Calvin reworked on Luther’s notion of free salvation, and explained the main characteristics of the christian faith, i.e.
the ten commandments(the decalogue ),  
the creeds (the credo),
the Lord's Prayer (Our Father)
the sacraments of which he accepted only two, as Luther did, namely baptism and the Eucharist, as well as a chapter on Christian Liberty and Political Theology.

In the more personal last chapter “Christian freedom” Calvin dealt with the city’s organization and also split the civilian government in three parts :
The magistrate or civil authority, defender and keeper of the laws,

    The law,

    The people governed by the laws and law abiding.

One exception to the obedience to the magistrate was allowed when his legislation was against God’s laws. Calvin advocated passive resistance.

Jean Calvin’s Institutes was essentially a textbook for Christian education.

This was simply a general summary of the Protestant theological position, in contrast to the Roman Catholic Theology, and an expansion of Luther’s catechisms. The work was an apologia or defense of his faith and a statement of the doctrinal position of the reformers. He also intended it to serve as an elementary instruction book for anyone interested in the reformation faith. . Calvin's  teachings emphasized the sovereignty of the scriptures and divine predestination—a doctrine holding that God chooses those who will enter Heaven based His omnipotence and grace.  The book was the first expression of his theology.

Calvin updated the work and published new editions throughout his life.

 Soon after publishing it, Calvin began his ministry in Geneva, Switzerland.In Basel in 1536 Calvin published Institutes of the Christian Religion, a six-chapter catechism and he continuously revised it and the book  grew to 80 chapters by its final edition in 1559. It is widely regarded as the clearest, most systematic treatise of the Reformation. Here is the description Given by the translator Henry Beveridge (who died in 1929) which was first published in 1845.  


Method and Arrangement,or Subject of the Whole Work

[From an Epitome of the Institutions, by Gaspar Olevian.]

The subject handled by the author of these Christian Institutes is twofold:
the former, the knowledge of God, which leads to a blessed immortality;
and the latter, (which is subordinate to the former,) the knowledge of ourselves.
With this view the author simply adopts the arrangement of the Apostles' Creed, as that with which all Christians are most familiar.
For as the Creed consists of four parts,
 the first relating to God the Father,
the second to the Son,
the third to the Holy Spirit,
and the fourth to the Church,
so the author, in fulfilment of his task, divides his Institutes into four parts, corresponding to those of the Creed. Each of these parts it will now be proper to explain separately.


Title page from the final edition of Calvin's magnum opus, Institutio Christiane Religionis, which summarises his theology.



The first statement in the Institutes acknowledges its central theme. It states that the sum of human wisdom consists of two parts:
the knowledge of God and of ourselves.

Calvin argues that the knowledge of God is not inherent in humanity nor can it be discovered by observing this world. The only way to obtain it is to study scripture. Calvin writes,
"For anyone to arrive at God the Creator he needs Scripture as his Guide and Teacher."
He does not try to prove the authority of scripture but rather describes it as autopiston or self-authenticating.

He defends the trinitarian view of God and, in a strong polemical stand against the Catholic Church, argues that images of God lead to idolatry.

At the end of the first book, he offers his views on providence, writing, "By his Power God cherishes and guards the World which he made and by his Providence rules its individual Parts." Humans are unable to fully comprehend why God performs any particular action, but whatever good or evil people may practise, their efforts always result in the execution of God's will and judgments

  Contents of Book 1.

1. The Knowledge of God and That of Ourselves Are Connected. How They are Interrelated.

2. What it is to Know God, and to What Purpose the Knowledge of Him Tends.

3. The Knowledge of God Has Been Naturally Implanted in the Minds of Men.

4. This Knowledge is Either Smothered of Corrupted, Partly by Ignorance, Partly by Malice.

5. The Knowledge of God Shines Forth in the Fashioning of the Universe and the Continuing Government of It.

6. Scripture is Needed as Guide and Teacher for Anyone Who Would Come to God the Creator.

7. Scripture Must Be Confirmed by the Witness of the Spirit. Thus May Its Authority Be Established as Certain; and It is a Wicked Falsehood that Its Credibility Depends on the Judgment of the Church.

8. So Far as Human Reason Goes, Sufficiently Firm Proofs Are At Hand to Establish the Credibility of Scripture.

9. Fanatics, Abandoning Scripture and Flying Over to Revelation, Cast Down All the Principles of Godliness.

10. Scripture, to Correct All Superstition, Has Set the True God Alone Over Against All the Gods of the Heathen.

11. It is Unlawful to Attribute a Visible Form to God, and Generally Whoever Sets Up Idols Revolts Against the True God.

12. How God Is to Be So Distinguished from Idols that Perfect Honor May Be Given to Him Alone.

13. In Scripture, from the Creation Onward, We Are Taught One Essence of God, Which Contains Three Persons.

14. Even in the Creation of the Universe and of All Things, Scripture by Unmistakable Marks Distinguishes the True God from False Gods.

15. Discussion of Human Nature as Created, of the Faculties of the Soul, of the Image of God, of Free Will, and of the Original Integrity of Man's Nature.

16. God by His Power Nourishes and Maintains the World Created by Him, and Rules Its Several Parts by His Providence.

17. How We May Apply This Doctrine to Our Greatest Benefit.

18. God So Uses the Works of the Ungodly, and So Bends Their Minds to Carry Out His Judgments, that He Remains Pure from Every Stain.


The second book includes several essays on original sin and the fall of man, which directly refer to Augustine, who developed these doctrines. He often cited the Church Fathers in order to defend the reformed cause against the charge that the reformers were creating new theology.

In Calvin's view, sin began with the fall of Adam and propagated to all of humanity. The domination of sin is complete to the point that people are driven to evil. Thus fallen humanity is in need of the redemption that can be found in Christ.

But before Calvin expounded on this doctrine, he described the special situation of the Jews who lived during the time of the Old Testament. God made a covenant with Abraham, promising the coming of Christ. Hence, the Old Covenant was not in opposition to Christ, but was rather a continuation of God's promise. Calvin then describes the New Covenant using the passage from the Apostles' Creed that describes Christ's suffering under Pontius Pilate and his return to judge the living and the dead. For Calvin, the whole course of Christ's obedience to the Father removed the discord between humanity and God.

 Contents of Book II

1. By the Fall and Revolt of Adam the Whole Human Race Was Delivered to the Curse, and Degenerated from Its Original Condition; the Doctrine of Original Sin.

2. Man Has Now Been Deprived of Freedom of Choice and Bound Over to Miserable Servitude.

3. Only Damnable Things Come Forth from Man's Corrupt Nature.

4. How God Works in Men's Hearts.

5. Refutation of the Objections Commonly Put Forward in Defense of Free Will.

6. Fallen Man Ought to Seek Redemption in Christ.

7. The Law Was Given, Not to Restrain the Folk of the Old Covenant Under Itself, but to Foster Hope of Salvation in Christ Until His Coming.

8. Explanation of the Moral Law (the Ten Commandments).

9. Christ, Although He Was Known to the Jews Under the Law, Was at Length Clearly Revealed Only in the Gospel.

10. The Similarity of the Old and New Testaments.

11. The Difference Between the Two Testaments.

12. Christ Had to Become Man in Order to Fulfill the Office of Mediator.

13. Christ Assumed the True Substance of Human Flesh.

14. How the Two Natures of the Mediator Make One Person.

15. To Know the Purpose for Which Christ Was Sent by the Father, and What He Conferred Upon Us, We Must Look Above All at Three Things in Him: the Prophetic Office, Kingship, and Priesthood.

16. How Christ Has Fulfilled the Function of Redeemer to Acquire Salvation for Us. Here, Also, His Death and Resurrection Are Discussed, as Well as His Ascent Into Heaven.

17. Christ Rightly and Properly Said to Have Merited God's Grace and Salvation for Us.



In the third book, Calvin describes how the spiritual union of Christ and humanity is achieved.

He first defines faith as the firm and certain knowledge of God in Christ. The immediate effects of faith are repentance and the remission of sin. This is followed by spiritual regeneration, which returns the believer to the state of holiness before Adam's transgression. Complete perfection is unattainable in this life, and the believer should expect a continual struggle against sin.

Several chapters are then devoted to the subject of justification by faith alone. He defined justification as "the acceptance by which God regards us as righteous whom he has received into grace." In this definition, it is clear that it is God who initiates and carries through the action and that people play no role; God is completely sovereign in salvation.

Near the end of the book, Calvin describes and defends the doctrine of predestination, a doctrine advanced by Augustine in opposition to the teachings of Pelagius. Fellow theologians who followed the Augustinian tradition on this point included Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther,  though Calvin's formulation of the doctrine went further than the tradition that went before him.  The principle, in Calvin's words, is that "All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death."

Contents of Book III

1. The Things Spoken Concerning Christ Profit Us by the Secret Working of the Spirit.

2. Faith: Its Definition Set Forth, and Its Properties Explained.

3. Our Regeneration by Faith: Repentance.

4. How Far from the Purity of the Gospel Is All That the Sophists in Their Schools Prate About Repentance; Discussion of Confession and Satisfaction.

5. The Supplements That They Add to Satisfactions, Namely, Indulgences and Purgatory.

6. The Life of the Christian Man; and First, by What Arguments Scripture Urges Us to It.

7. The Sum of the Christian Life: The Denial of Ourselves.

8. Bearing the Cross, a Part of Self-denial.

9. Meditation on the Future Life.

10. How We Must Use the Present Life and Its Helps.

11. Justification by Faith: First the Definition of the Word and of the Matter.

12. We Must Lift Up Our Minds to God's Judgment Seat that We May Be Firmly Convinced of His Free Justification.

13. Two Things to Be Noted in Free Justification.

14. The Beginning of Justification and Its Continual Progress.

15. Boasting About the Merits of Works Destroys Our Praise of God for Having Bestowed Righteousness, as Well as Our Assurance of Salvation.

16. Refutation of the False Accusations by Which the Papists Try to Cast Odium Upon This Doctrine.

17. The Agreement of the Promises of the Law and of the Gospel.

18. Works Righteousness Is Wrongly Inferred from Reward.

19. Christian Freedom.

20. Prayer, Which is the Chief Exercise of Faith, and by Which We Daily Receive God's Benefits.

21. Eternal Election, by Which God Has Predestined Some to Salvation, Others to Destruction.

22. Confirmation of This Doctrine from Scriptural Testimonies.

23. Refutation of the False Accusations with Which This Doctrine Has Always Been Unjustly Burdened.

24. Election Is Confirmed by God's Call; Moreover, the Wicked Bring Upon Themselves the Just Destruction to Which They Are Destined.

25. The Final Resurrection.



The final book describes what he considers to be the true Church and its ministry, authority, and sacraments.

He denied the papal claim to primacy and the accusation that the reformers were schismatic. For Calvin, the Church was defined as the body of believers who placed Christ at its head. By definition, there was only one "catholic" or "universal" Church. Hence, he argued that the reformers "had to leave them in order that we might come to Christ."

The ministers of the Church are described from a passage from Ephesians, and they consisted of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and doctors. Calvin regarded the first three offices as temporary, limited in their existence to the time of the New Testament. The latter two offices were established in the church in Geneva.

Although Calvin respected the work of the ecumenical councils, he considered them to be subject to God's Word found in scripture. He also believed that the civil and church authorities were separate and should not interfere with each other.

Contents of Book IV

1. Of the true Church. Duty of cultivating unity with her, as the mother of all the godly.

2. Comparison between the false church and the true.

3. Of the teachers and ministers of the Church. Their election and office.

4. Of the state of the primitive Church, and the mode of government in use before the papacy.

5. The ancient form of government utterly corrupted by the tyranny of the papacy.

6. Of the primacy of the Romish see.

7. Of the beginning and rise of the Romish papacy till it attained a height by which the liberty of the church was destroyed, and all true rule overthrown.

8. Of the power of the church in articles of faith. The unbridled license of the papal church in destroying purity of doctrine.

9. Of councils and their authority.

10. Of the power of making laws. The cruelty of the pope and his adherents, in this respect, in tyrannically oppressing and destroying souls.

11. Of the jurisdiction of the church and the abuses of it, as exemplified in the papacy.

12. Of the discipline of the Church, and its principal use in censures and excommunication.

13. Of vows. The miserable entanglements caused by vowing rashly.

14. Of the sacraments.

15. Of Baptism.

16. Paedobaptism. Its accordance with the institution of Christ, and the nature of the sign.

17. Of the Lord's Supper, and the benefits conferred by it.

18. Of the Popish mass. How it not only profanes, but annihilates the Lord's Supper.

19. Of the five sacraments, falsely so called. Their spuriousness proved, and their true character explained.

20. Of civil government.

    Such is the arrangement of the Institutes which may be thus summed up: Man being at first created upright, but afterwards being not partially but totally ruined, finds his entire salvation out of himself in Christ, to whom being united by the Holy Spirit freely given without any foresight of future works, he thereby obtains a double blessing, viz., full imputation of righteousness, which goes along with us even to the grave, and the commencement of sanctification, which daily advances till at length it is perfected in the day of regeneration or resurrection of the body, and this, in order that the great mercy of God may be celebrated in the heavenly mansions, throughout eternity.

You can read it in pdf form at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.pdf?url=      

Published first in 1536, the Institutes of the Christian Religion is Jonn Calvin's magnum opus. Extremely important for the Protestant Reformation, the Institutes has remained important for Protestant theology for almost five centuries. Written to "aid those who desire to be instructed in the doctrine of salvation," the Institutes, which follows the ordering ot the Apostle's Creed, has tour parts.The first part examines God the Father; the second part, the Son; the third part, the Holy Spirit; and  the fourth part, the Church. Through these tour parts, it explores both "knowledge ot God" and "knowledge of ourselves" with profound theological insight, challenging and informing all the while. Thus, tor either the recent convert or the long-time believer, for the inquisitive beginner or the serious scholar, John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion won is a rewarding book worthy of study.” 

Further editions


The 1539 edition comprised seventeen chapters in a quite different order. The first chapters dealt with God, and Man. Whereas Luther’s mind was focused on Jesus Christ, Calvin’s was on God. The Latin expression “soli deo gloria” (glory to God alone) summed up his opinion. The following chapters dealt respectively with faith, confession of faith, penitence, justification through faith, the relation between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and predestination-providence.

The predestination doctrine is definitely linked to Calvin. However he did not invent it, but found it in Saint Augustin’s texts. It cannot be separated from the notion of free salvation. For Calvin if God alone controls salvation, he must be the one who chooses the elect and the rejected. Calvin says that predestination is a logical consequence of free salvation. It exemplifies the priority of divine initiative.

The subsequent chapters dealt with the sacraments. The Eucharist was controversial not only with the Catholics, but among reformers. Luther and Zwingli had violent arguments even though they both refused the catholic dogma of transubstantiation.

Zwingli said that Christ was spiritually present in the bread and wine in the Eucharist, whereas Luther said Christ was actually present in the bread and wine. Calvin rejected the Real presence of Christ in the bread and wine. He said that Christ took part in this community meal through the faith of the believers.

The last chapters dealt respectively with Christian freedom, ecclesiastical power, civil government and Christian life.  Calvin differentiated ecclesiastical power and government. He refused the meddling of magistrates with religious debates. Contrary to a widespread opinion, Geneva was in no way a theocracy in the XVIth century. But, thanks to Calvin, the church gained some autonomy from the state, and this fact enabled him to continue despite the state’s occasional hostility.

In « The Epistle to the King » (l’Épître au roi), addressed to François Ier – to whom he had dedicated “The Institutes of the Christian Religion” – Jean Calvin wrote:

A 1576 edition of John Calvin's Institutio Christianae religionis (Institutes of the Christian Religion).

The Newberry Library, Gift of the McCormick Theological Seminary, 2008

"What is more proper to faith than that we should recognise ourselves naked of all virtue in order to be clothed by God? Empty of all good, in order to be filled by him? Enslaved to sin, in order to be freed by Him ? Blind, in order to be enlightened by Him? Lame, in order to stand upright by Him? Fools, in order to be upheld by Him? Deprived of all glory, so that He alone may be glorified and we in Him?"

For the next three years, Calvin lived in various places outside of France under various names. He studied on his own, preached, and began work on his first edition of the Institutes—an instant best seller.

A summary of the different editions of the Institutes:

   1536 – Latin (six chapters)

    1539 – Latin (three times as long)

    1541 – French

    1543 – Latin (expanded)

    1545 – French

    1550 – Latin

    1551 – French

    1559 – Latin (final edition, 4 "books")

    1560 – French


Secretary to Princess Renée of France


Shortly after its publication, he left Basel for Ferrara, Italy, where he briefly served as secretary to Princess Renée of France. Renée of France, was the Duchess of Ferrara due to her marriage to Ercole II d'Este, grandson of Pope Alexander VI. She was the younger surviving child of Louis XII of France


Reform work commences (1536–1538)

By June he was back in Paris with his brother Antoine, who was resolving their father's affairs.

Ending of Protestant Persecution :The Edict of Coucy of King Francis I of France

King Francis I of France issued the Edict of Coucy on July 16, 1535, ending the persecution of Protestants that followed Nicolas Cop's speech on November 1, 1533 calling for reform in the Catholic Church, and the provocative placards that were posted almost a year later in Paris and elsewhere, attacking the Mass as a blasphemy. Backed by the king, some dissenters were jailed, twenty-four were executed, and over seventy fled, including Cop and his friend John Calvin.

The Edict of Coucy freed all of the jailed, and offered amnesty to the exiles. The "Sacramentarians", who held to Zwingli's view of the Eucharist (which had appeared on the placards), were included only if they would repudiate their anti-Romanist views. Francis sought by the edict to assuage the anger of some German Protestant princes with whom he was attempting to form an alliance, which ultimately failed. Even so, he extended pardon to the Sacramentarians in 1536.

Following the Edict of Coucy, which gave a limited six-month period for heretics to reconcile with the Catholic faith, Calvin decided that there was no future for him in France.

In August he set off for Strasbourg, - a free city situated between France and Germany that had declared itself Protestant.- a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire and a refuge for reformers. Due to military manoeuvres of imperial and French forces, he was forced to make a detour to the south, bringing him to Geneva.

By 1536, Calvin had disengaged himself from the Roman Catholic Church and made plans to permanently leave France and go to Strasbourg. However, war had broken out between Francis I and Charles V, so Calvin decided to make a one-night detour to Geneva.









But Calvin’s fame in Geneva preceded him. Farel, a local reformer, invited him to stay in Geneva and threatened him with God’s anger if he did not.  .

Calvin, who reluctantly agreed to remain, later recounted:

“Then Farel, who was working with incredible zeal to promote the gospel, bent all his efforts to keep me in the city. And when he realized that I was determined to study in privacy in some obscure place, and saw that he gained nothing by entreaty, he descended to cursing, and said that God would surely curse my peace if I held back from giving help at a time of such great need. Terrified by his words, and conscious of my own timidity and cowardice, I gave up my journey and attempted to apply whatever gift I had in defense of my faith”

 By September 1536, all necessary business addressed, Calvin took up residence in Geneva as a ‘Reader in Holy Scripture’. He received no pay until the following February.

Nevertheless, Calvin quickly rose to prominence simply through his scholarship.

Soon after there was dispute between the Roman Catholic and the evolving Protestant groups in  Lausanne. The debate was convened  by the city to help the citizens determine in which direction the city would move. Peter Viret, a Protestan presented the subjet of debate and the debate went on for three whole days which brought in several scholars of the city from both side.  Calvin was on the audience and did not got himself involved.  On the fourth day one Roman Catholic priest presented the doctrine of the  bodily presence of Christ in the elements of the Mass, and how these common material elements of bread and wine are turned into the flesh and blood of Jesus himself during the sacrament.  This was one of the main arguments which was opposed by the reformers.  At the end of the  presentation, Calvin rose on his feet and gave a detailed argument against it, even though he was not prepared for it.  These arguments based on earlly fathers and the scripture was so immpressed those who heard him that a Franciscan friar stood, and on the spot denounced his own errors, renounced his monastic vows, and pronounced himself determined to follow Christ and his pure doctrine. Even the Catholic priest who presented and initiated the debate was converted.  The city voted for the reform stand.   

Calvin accepted his new role without any preconditions on his tasks or duties.  He was eventually given the title of "reader", which most likely meant that he could give expository lectures on the Bible. Sometime in 1537 he was selected to be a "pastor" although he never received any pastoral consecration. For the first time, the lawyer-theologian took up pastoral duties such as baptisms, weddings, and church services.

The reformers often reached the extent of enforcement to rediculous levels as in enforcing a confession of faith to be signed by all the citizens.

During late 1536, Farel drafted a confession of faith, and Calvin wrote separate articles on reorganizing the church in Geneva. On 16 January 1537, Farel and Calvin presented their Articles concernant l'organisation de l'église et du culte à Genève (Articles on the Organization of the Church and its Worship at Geneva) to the city council. The document described the manner and frequency of their celebrations of the Eucharist, the reason for, and the method of, excommunication, the requirement to subscribe to the confession of faith, the use of congregational singing in the liturgy, and the revision of marriage laws. The council accepted the document on the same day.

In May 1536 the city adopted religious reform:
monasteries were dissolved
Mass was abolished
Papal authority renounced

IN September, 1536, many of the principal citizens, accompanied by great numbers of the lower classes, had demanded an audience of the council; before whom they protested that they could not endure the reproofs of the ministers, and that they wished to live in freedom.

The confession already mentioned, as drawn up by Farel and Calvin, was printed and distributed in the spring of 1537: yet it did not seem to produce much impression, and was ill received on all sides.  Very few returned the confession signed individually as required.

The article respecting excommunication, which put a great deal of power into the hands of the ministers, by enabling them to exclude the refractory from the sacrament, was particularly obnoxious.

Far from giving way, however, the ministers pressed upon the government the necessity of establishing still more stringent rules for the maintenance of religion; and unless this were done, Calvin, who was bound to the city by no particular ties, threatened to leave Geneva.

The oath taken by the people towards the close of the previous year to observe the confession had been administered collectively; but now Calvin and his colleagues succeeded in persuading the government that it should he offered to them individually.

This ceremony accordingly took place in St. Peter's church, on Sunday the 29th of July, 1537, and following days. After a sermon by Farel, the town secretary mounted the pulpit, and read the confession. After that the people were brought up by tens, and sworn to the observance and made to sign the confession.  However the people soon rose against it.   Many, however, especially among the leading people, refused compliance with what cannot be designated otherwise than as an act of ecclesiastical tyranny. The council, however, were so devoted to the ministers, that at their instance they ordered the disaffected to leave the city. But they were too numerous to allow of this measure being carried into effect; and the show of such an inclination, without the power of enforcing it, only rendered the malcontents more violent.

The opposition to these forcing of reform within matters connected to religious faith increased continuously.  By degrees their number of supporters increased. Many of those who had sworn to the confession began to join them, and complained that they had been compelled to perjure themselves. They soon began to assume the shape of an organized party, calling themselves "Brothers in Christ," and wearing green flowers as a badge. By February, 1538, they had increased so much, that at the annual election of syndics they got four of their people elected to that office.

This resistance to religious and moral reform within Geneva, continued almost until Calvin’s death. The resistance was all the more serious because the town council in Geneva, as in other Protestant towns, exercised ultimate control over the church and the ministers,and even over all French refugees. The main issue was the right of excommunication, which the ministers regarded as essential to their authority but which the council refused to concede.

The council was reluctant to enforce the subscription requirement, as only a few citizens had subscribed to their confession of faith. On 26 November, the two ministers hotly debated the council over the issue. Furthermore, France was taking an interest in forming an alliance with Geneva and as the two ministers were Frenchmen, councillors had begun to question their loyalty. Finally, a major ecclesiastical-political quarrel developed when the city of Bern, Geneva's ally in the reformation of the Swiss churches, proposed to introduce uniformity in the church ceremonies. The major contention between Lutherans and the Calvinists were four, viz., to baptise at the font, to use unleavened bread in our Lord's Supper, and to observe the four festivals. .

The council ordered Calvin and Farel to use unleavened bread for the Easter Eucharist which was to fall immediately within a few days.  In protest, they refused to administer communion during the Easter service. This caused a riot during the service and the next day, the council told Farel and Calvin to leave Geneva. Thus the uncompromising attitudes of Calvin and Farel finally resulted in their expulsion from Geneva in May 1538. They were given three days to leave Geneva.

Farell and Calvin received the news with great composure. “Very well,” said Calvin, “it is better to serve God than man. If we had sought to please men, we should have been badly rewarded, but we serve a higher Master, who will not withhold from us his reward.” Calvin even rejoiced at the result more than seemed proper.

The people celebrated the downfall of the clerical régime with public rejoicings. The decrees of the synod of Lausanne were published by sound of trumpets. The baptismal fonts were re-erected, and the communion administered on the following Sunday with unleavened bread.

The synod of Zurich

The synod of Zurich, which had been fixed for the 29th of April, was now on the point of assembling, and thither Calvin and Farel bent their steps. The proper object of this meeting was to effect a union with Luther. It was attended by the deputies of the Reformed cantons of Switzerland.

Calvin had drawn up in Latin, in fourteen heads, as the basis on which he and Farel were willing to accommodate matters. In this paper the disputed points were conceded, but with some trifling modifications.

In this paper the disputed points were conceded, but with some trifling modifications, as will be seen from the following account of the substance of it:

1. Fonts are admitted, provided baptism be administered during church hours, and that the service be recited from the pulpit.

2. Also the use of unleavened bread, provided it be broken.

3. The four festivals observed at Berne are allowed, provided they be not too strictly enforced, and that they who wished might go to work after prayers.

4. The Bernese were to acknowledge that they did not find fault with the method hitherto used at Geneva as contrary to Scripture, but that their sole view was unity in ceremonies

5. If the Genevese ministers were restored, they were to be allowed to exculpate (show that they were not guilty) themselves.

6. Calvin's scheme of church discipline was to be established.

7. The city was to be divided into parishes.

8. Sufficient ministers were to be chosen to serve the different districts.

9. The German method of excommunication was to be adopted; viz., the council was to choose from each parish certain worthy and discreet men, who were to exercise that power in conjunction with the ministers.

10. That the ordination of priests, by imposition of hands, was to be left entirely to the clergy.

11. That the Bernese were to be requested to come to an accommodation with them on two other points, viz.,

12. First, that the Lord's Supper should be more frequently celebrated, and at least once a month. 13. Second, that psalm-singing should form part of divine service.

14. That the Bernese should prohibit obscene songs and dancing, as their example was always pleaded by the Genevese in excuse.

The synod admitted the importance of these articles, and considered them a proof that the Genevese ministers were not actuated solely by obstinacy; but at the same time recommended moderation to them, and christian mildness in their dealings with a rude and uneducated people.

Calvin and Farel now returned to Berne, bearing with them several letters of recommendation, both public and private.  






[FrontPage Include Component]