Concerning the doctrine of justification by faith alone Calvin writes: You, in the first place, touch upon justification by faith, the first and keenest subject of controversy between us. Is this a knotty and useless question? Wherever the knowledge of it is taken away, the glory of Christ is extinguished, religion abolished, the Church destroyed, and the hope of salvation utterly overthrown. That doctrine, then, though of the highest moment, we maintain that you have nefariously effaced from the memory of men. Our books are filled with convincing proofs of this fact, and the gross ignorance of this doctrine, which even still continues in all your churches, declares that our complaint is by no means ill founded.
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Are you enjoying this site? We have several books with great reviews from readers. Available wherever books are sold! Germany had by then been thoroughly reformed, but Geneva in Switzerland had banished Calvin and Peter Farel in for trying to enforce reformation too quickly and too strictly.
With the reformers banished, Rome saw opportunity to return the great city of Geneva to the fold. They set Cardinal James Sadolet, one of those rare Catholic prelates that was a man of untarnished character, on the task. Cardinal Sadolet was also an eloquent and cultured man, and he used those talents to write a letter of great force to the council in Geneva in The history given here comes from there, too.
For this little sidelight, I pulled only from Schaff. It suggested they had joined the Reformation out of greed and ambition. It seems to me that Cardinal Sadolet, a scholar, must have read it, for his letter uses very similar wording.
He writes: Truth is always one, while error is varied and multiform; that which is straight is simple, that which is crooked has many turns. Can anyone who professes Christ, fail to perceive that such teaching of the holy Church is the proper work of Satan, and not of God? What does God demand of us?
What does Christ enjoin? That we be all one in him. Listen to how similarly Tertullian put it around A. No casualty distributed among many men issues in one and the same result. Error of doctrine in the churches must necessarily have produced various issues. When, however, that which is deposited among many is found to be one and the same, it is not the result of error, but of tradition. Can any one, then, be reckless enough to say that they were in error who handed on the tradition?
No one church ruled over any other. The only way for 2nd century churches to hold the same doctrine was to have had it handed down to them. Even communication with one another would not have been effective enough—spread from Africa to the Middle East, and to even northern Europe—to bring them into unity, especially when no one church had the authority to mandate unity.
What apostle would have ordered someone to be put to death for translating the Scriptures into a language that people could read? Yet the Roman Catholic Church had done it repeatedly.
The RCC taught then that the bread and wine of communion became the flesh and blood of Christ so that not one molecule of the grain or grape remained The RCC taught then and still does! Even Augustine questioned this practice, though he approved it. Tertullian addresses all those things.
Cardinal Sadolet could not. His answer is creative and insightful, to say the least, and it silenced Sadolet, who left Geneva alone afterwards. For in all places where the tyranny of the Roman pontiff prevails, you scarcely see as many stray and tattered vestiges as will enable you to perceive that these Churches he half buried. Then he adds: Let your pontiff boast as he may of the succession of Peter: even if he should make good his title to it, he will establish nothing more than that obedience is due to him from the Christian people so long as he himself maintains his fidelity to Christ, and does not deviate from the purity of the gospel.
A prophet should be judged by the congregation 1 Cor. Whoever exempts himself from this must first expunge his name from the list of the prophets.
He then moves on to defend the way in which he did it. All of them simply wanted to reform it. Both Luther and Calvin were already teachers in the Catholic Church when they began trying to reform it. Both simply saw it as their obligation to try to teach the truth as they knew it to those they were called—by Rome—to teach.
He makes it even more clear in the part of the letter he writes as an address to God. I hope you will forgive me for the long quotes here.
I cannot presume to say any of the things which follow as well as John Calvin answered Cardinal Sadolet in Philip Schaff translated this around I have not changed the wording or punctuation. They charged me with two of the worst of crimes—heresy and schism. And the heresy was, that I dared to protest against dogmas which they received. But what could I have done? I heard from Thy mouth that there was no other light of truth which could direct our souls into the way of life, than that which was kindled by Thy Word.
I heard that whatever human minds of themselves conceive concerning Thy Majesty, the worship of Thy Deity, and the mysteries of Thy religion, was vanity. I heard that their introducing into the Church instead of Thy Word, doctrines sprung from the human brain, was sacrilegious presumption.
But when I turned my eyes towards men, I saw very different principles prevailing. Those who were regarded as the leaders of faith, neither understood Thy Word, nor greatly cared for it.
They only drove unhappy people to and fro with strange doctrines, and deluded them with I know not what follies. Among the people themselves, the highest veneration paid to Thy Word was to revere it at a distance, as a thing inaccessible, and abstain from all investigation of it. Owing to this supine state of the pastors, and this stupidity of the people, every place was filled with pernicious errors, falsehoods, and superstition.
They, indeed, called Thee the only God, but it was while transferring to others the glory which thou hast claimed for Thy Majesty.
They figured and had for themselves as many gods as they had saints, whom they chose to worship. Thy Christ was indeed worshipped as God, and retained the name of Saviour; but where He ought to have been honored, He was left almost without honor.
For, spoiled of His own virtue, He passed unnoticed among the crowd of saints, like one of the meanest of them. There was none who duly considered that one sacrifice which He offered on the cross, and by which He reconciled us to Thyself—none who ever dreamed of thinking of His eternal priesthood, and the intercession depending upon it; none who trusted in His righteousness only.
That confident hope of salvation which is both enjoined by Thy Word, and founded upon it, had almost vanished. For thus, O Lord, were all thy servants dispersed, so that they could not, by any possibility, hear the command, but had almost forgotten their leader, and their service, and their military oath. In order to bring them together, when thus scattered, I raised not a foreign standard, but that noble banner of Thine which we must follow, if we would be classed among Thy people.
Then I was assailed by those who, when they ought to have kept others in their ranks, had led them astray, and when I determined not to desist, opposed me with violence. Always, both by word and deed, have I protested how eager I was for unity.
Mine, however, was a unity of the Church, which should begin with Thee and end in Thee. For as oft as Thou didst recommend to us peace and concord, Thou, at the same time, didst show that Thou wert the only bond for preserving it. Christ had predicted not of strangers, but of men who should give themselves out for pastors, that they would be ravenous wolves and false prophets, and had, at the same time, cautioned me to beware of them.
Where Christ ordered me to beware, was I to lend my aid? And the apostles declared that there would be no enemies of Thy Church more pestilential than those from within who should conceal themselves under the title of pastors Matt. Why should I have hesitated to separate myself from persons whom they forewarned me to hold as enemies? I had before my eyes the examples of Thy prophets, who I saw had a similar contest with the priests and false prophets of their day, though these were undoubtedly the rulers of the Church among the Israelitish people.
But Thy prophets are not regarded as schismatics, because, when they wished to revive religion, which had fallen into decay, they desisted not, although opposed with the utmost violence. They still remained in the unity of the Church, though they were doomed to perdition by wicked priests, and deemed unworthy of a place among men, not to say saints. See synopsis and reviews on Amazon.
Cardinal Sadolet and John Calvin
Note: This is a draft copy of this essay. All of the citataions are at the end under the footnotes. Also, how did his time spent in Strasbourg from to effect his thoughts about God and his theology and to the Reformation as a whole? Protestantism was still practiced by a minority of its inhabitants when he went there for the first time and the seat held by Bishop Pierre de la Baume had just been forcibly vacated.
John Calvin's Letter to Cardinal Sadoleto
Mijinn On the other hand, he asserted the ultimate authority of the Word in various places. Paul is clearly speaking about justification in calvjn ultimate theological sense. No mandate from the Church. But the Church is not built on Peter it is built on Christ. Although the Reformers did not initially intend for the division of the Church, but the corruption of the Church was so severe that they thought a schism was a necessity.
Calvin's Reply to Sadoleto
Reply to Sadoleto