Calvin’s Preface Geneva Bible of 1550
July 19, 2009
"The following new translation is based upon the first and only known English translation of Calvin’s Preface to the Geneva Bible of 1550 by Thomas Weedon, Esq., published in 1848 by Henry George Collins (London). This present translation corrects, emends, and supplements Weedon’s work, and provides a literal reflection of Calvin’s French, with periodic reference to the Latin for clarification of textual variants. Because of certain appreciable gaps in Weedon’s translation, several sections of this preface are now provided in English for the very first time," Dr. David B. Garner
CHRIST THE END OF THE LAW By John Calvin
A Translation by Flavien Pardigon and David B. Garner
and Flavien Pardigon, editors; see Westminster's new CALVIN 500 site for more
God the Creator, very perfect and excellent Maker of all things, made man – in whom one can contemplate a special excellence – as a masterpiece, even more than his other creatures, in which he had already shown Himself more than admirable. For He formed him in His own likeness and image, so much so that the light of His glory shone brightly in him. Now, that which would have enabled man to remain in that condition in which he had been established was that he would always lower himself in humility before the majesty of God, magnifying it with thanksgiving, and that he should not seek his glory in himself; but, seeing that all things come from above, he would also always look above, to thank for them the one and only God, to whom belongs the praise for them.
But the wretched being, wishing to be something in himself, soon began to forget and fail to recognize the source of his good, and by outrageous ingratitude undertook to elevate himself, and to puff himself up against his Maker and Author of all his graces. For this cause he stumbled into ruin; he lost all the dignity and excellence of his first creation; he was despoiled and stripped of all his glory; he was alienated of the gifts which had been placed in him – in order to confound him in his pride, and make him learn by force that which he did not want to understand of his good will; namely, that he was only vanity, and that he never was anything else, except as much as the Lord of power assisted him.
Hence God also began to hate him, and, as he well merited, to disavow him as His work; seeing that His image and likeness was effaced from him, and that the gifts of His goodness were no longer in it. And, as He had set and ordained him in order to please and delight Himself in him, like a father in his well-beloved child; so, on the contrary, He held him in disdain and abomination, so much that all which had pleased Him before, now displeased Him; that which used to delight Him, angered Him; that which He used to contemplate with benign and parental regards, He now took to detest and to behold with regret. In short, the whole man with all his belongings, his deeds, his thoughts, his words, and his life, totally displeased God, as if he was His special and adversarial enemy, even to the point of saying that He repented that He had made him. After having been cast down into such confusion, he has been fruitful in his cursed seed to beget a race similar to him, that is to say vicious, perverse, corrupt, void and deprived of any good, rich and abounding in evil.
Nevertheless, the Lord of mercy (who not only loves, but Himself is love and charity), wishing still, of His infinite goodness, to love that which is no longer worthy of His love, did not at all waste, doom and sink men into the abyss as their iniquity required; but has sustained and supported them in tenderness and in patience, giving them time and leisure to return to Him, and to come back to the obedience from which they had diverted. And though He hid and kept silent (as if He wanted to hide Himself from them), letting them follow the desires and wishes of their concupiscence, without law, without government, without any correction of His Word, nevertheless, He sent them enough warnings which were meant to incite them to seek, to grope for, and to find Him in order to know Him and to honor Him as is fitting.
For He has raised everywhere, in every place, and in every thing, His ensigns and armorial standards, even under blazons of such clear intelligence, that there is none who can claim ignorance of not knowing such a sovereign Lord, who has so widely exalted His magnificence, when He has written and almost engraved in all parts of the world, in the heavens and in the earth, the glory of His power, goodness, wisdom, and eternity. Therefore, St. Paul has truly said that the Lord did not leave Himself without witnesses, even towards those to whom He has not sent any knowledge of His Word. Seeing that all creatures from the firmament down to the center of the earth, could be witnesses and messengers of His glory to all men, in order to draw them to seek Him and, after finding Him, to do Him service and homage, according to the dignity of a Lord so good, so powerful, so wise and eternal, and they even help, each in its place, in that pursuit. For the singing young birds sing for God, the beasts clamor for Him, the elements of nature dread His might; the mountains echo Him; the rivers and fountains make eyes at Him; the herbs and flowers laugh before Him. However, it is truly not necessary to seek Him afar, seeing that everyone can find Him in himself, inasmuch as we are all upheld and preserved by His sustaining power dwelling in us.
Nevertheless, to manifest even more largely His goodness and infinite clemency among men, He did not rest satisfied with instructing them all by such teachings as those we have already set forth, but He made His voice heard in a special manner to a certain people, which, of His good will and free grace, He had elected and chosen from among all the nations of the earth. It was the children of Israel, to whom He clearly showed by His Word who He is, and by His marvelous works declared what He can do. For He brought them out from subjection to Pharaoh King of Egypt (under which they were detained and oppressed) to emancipate them and set them at liberty. He accompanied them night and day in their flight, being, as it were, a fugitive in the midst of them. He fed them in the desert; He made them possessors of the promised territory; He gave victories and triumphs into their hands. And, as if He were nothing to the other nations, He expressly wanted to be called “God of Israel,” and this one nation to be called His people, under the agreement that they would never recognize any other lord nor receive any other god. And this covenant was confirmed and ratified by the testament and witness which He gave them as a surety.
Nevertheless, men, exhibiting all their cursed origin, and showing themselves true heirs of the iniquity of their father Adam, were not at all aroused by such remonstrances, and would not listen to the doctrine by which God warned them. The creatures on which is written the glory and magnificence of God were of no avail to the Gentiles to have them glorify Him of whom they testified. The law and the prophecies had no authority over the Jews to conduct them into the right way. All were blind to the light, deaf to the admonitions, and hardened against the commandments.
It is very true that the Gentiles, astonished and convinced by so many benefits which they beheld around them, were constrained to know the secret Benefactor, from whom so much goodness proceeded. But, instead of giving to the true God the glory which is due Him, they forged for themselves a god after their own desire, and according to that which their mad fancy, in its vanity and lie, imagined. And not one god only, but as many as their rash presumptuousness could pretend and found, so that there was neither people nor region which did not make to itself new gods, as seemed good to it. From there did idolatry – the treacherous madam – take its dominion, who has caused men to turn away from God, and to distract themselves with a host of travesties, to which they themselves gave form, name and being.
Touching the Jews, although they had received and accepted the messages and summons which the Lord was sending them by His servants, yet, they immediately broke faith with Him, lightly turned away from Him, violated and despised His law, which they hated. They walked in the law with regret; they alienated themselves from His house, and dissolutely ran after the other gods, committing idolatry after the manner of the Gentiles against His will.
Wherefore, in order to bring men to God, as well Jews as Gentiles, it was necessary that a new covenant would be made: certain, assured, and inviolable. And to establish and confirm it, there was need of a mediator, who would interpose and intercede with the two parties in order to reconcile them, without whom, man remains always under the wrath and indignation of God, and has no means of relieving himself from the curse, misery, and confusion into which he has stumbled. It was our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, true and only eternal Son of God, who was to be sent and given to men on the part of the Father, to be the Restorer of the world, otherwise dispersed, destroyed, and laid waste, in whom from the beginning of the world was always the hope of recovering the loss made in Adam. For even to Adam, immediately after his ruin, to console and comfort him, was given the promise that by the seed of the woman the head of the serpent would be crushed, which meant that by Jesus Christ born of a virgin, the power of Satan would be beaten down and destroyed.
Since then, this same promise was more amply renewed to Abraham, when God told him that by his seed, all the nations of the earth will be blessed, as from his seed would come forth, according to the flesh, Jesus Christ, by whose blessing all men (of whatever region they might be), will be sanctified. And again, it was continued to Isaac, in the same form and in the same words. And afterwards, many times proclaimed, repeated, and confirmed by the testimony of divers prophets, even to showing fully, for greater confidence, of whom He would be born, at what time, in what place, what afflictions and death He should suffer, the glory in which He should resurrect, what would His reign be, and to what salvation He would conduct His people.
It was first predicted to us in Isaiah how He would be born of a virgin, saying, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Is 7:14 NIV). In Moses the time is set forth to us when the good Jacob said, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Gen 49:10 NASB), which was verified at the time when Jesus Christ came into the world. For the Romans, after having divested the Jews of all government and control, had about thirty-seven years before appointed Herod as king over them, a king who was a stranger, his father Antipater being an Idumaean and his mother from Arabia. It had at times happened that the Jews had been without kings, but they had never been seen like then – without counselors, governors, or magistrates. And another description of it is given in Daniel, by the computation of the seventy weeks. The place of His birth was clearly pointed out to us by Micah, saying, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Mi 5:2 NIV). As to the afflictions which He had to bear for our deliverance, and the death which He had to suffer for our redemption, Isaiah and Zechariah have spoken of them amply and with certainty. The glory of His resurrection, the quality of His reign, and the grace of salvation which He should bring to His people have been richly treated by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah.
In such promises, announced and testified by these holy persons filled with the Spirit of God, the children and elect of God have rested in peace and comforted themselves, and in them have nourished, sustained, and strengthened their hope, waiting for the Lord to will to exhibit what He had promised them, among whom many kings and prophets strongly desired to see their accomplishment. Yet, nevertheless, they did not fail to apprehend in their hearts and minds by faith that which they could not see with their eyes. And in order to strengthen them even more in all ways in the long wait for this great Messiah, God gave them as a pledge His written law, in which were comprised many ceremonies, purifications and sacrifices, which things were only figures and shadows of the great good things to come by Christ, who alone is the body and truth of them. For the Law could not bring anyone to perfection; in that way it only pointed out and, like a schoolmaster, directed and conducted to Christ, who was (as St. Paul says) its end and fulfillment.
In like manner, at many times and in different seasons He has sent them some kings, princes and captains to deliver them from the power of their enemies, to govern them in good peace, to recover them their losses, to make their kingdom flourish, and by great feats to make them renowned among all the other people, in order to give them some taste of the great marvels which they will receive from that great Messiah, to whom will be deployed all the might and power of the kingdom of God.
But when the fullness of time had come and the period preordained by God had expired, this much promised and much awaited great Messiah came, perfecting and accomplishing all that was necessary for our redemption and salvation. He was given not only to the Israelites, but also to all men, from all peoples, and regions, in order that by Him human nature would be reconciled to God. This reconciliation is fully contained and plainly demonstrated in the following book, which we have translated as faithfully as possible according to the truth and properties of the Greek language. The production of this translation is intended to enable all French-speaking Christians to hear and acknowledge the law they must keep and the faith they must follow. And this book is called the New Testament in regard to the Old, which, inasmuch as it was to be reduced and reported to the other, being in itself weak and imperfect, and thereupon has been abolished and abrogated. But this Testament is the new and eternal one which will never grow old or fail, because Jesus Christ has been its Mediator, who ratified and confirmed it by His death, in which He accomplished full and complete remission of all transgressions which remained under the first Testament.
The Scripture also calls it Gospel, that is to say, good news and joyful, inasmuch as in it is declared that Christ, the only natural and eternal Son of the living God, was made man to make us children of God His Father by adoption. And thus he is our only Savior, in whom lays entirely our redemption, peace, justice, sanctification, salvation, and life; who died for our sins, resurrected for our justification, who ascended into heaven to make for us an entry there, to take possession for us and in our name, and to remain forever before His Father as our perpetual Advocate and Priest; who sits at His right hand as King, constituted Lord and Master over all, in order to restore all things in heaven and in the earth; that which all the angels, patriarchs, prophets, apostles would never have been able nor have known how to do, for unto that they were not ordained by God.
And, as the Messiah had been so often promised in the Old Testament by many witnesses of the Prophets, so Jesus Christ has by certain and indubitable witnesses been declared to be Him without equal, who was to come and who was awaited. For the Lord God by His voice and His Spirit, by His angels, prophets, and apostles, even by all His creatures, has rendered us so sufficiently certain of it, that no one can contradict it without resisting and rebelling against His power. First, God Eternal by His voice itself (which is without any doubt irrevocable truth), has testified of it to us saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Mt 17:5 NIV). The Holy Spirit is a great witness of it to us in our hearts, as St. John says. The Angel Gabriel sent to the virgin Mary told her, “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end” (Lk 1:31-33 NIV). The same message in substance was delivered to Joseph, and also afterwards to the shepherds, to whom it was said that the Savior was born, who is Christ the Lord. And this message was not only brought by an angel, but it was approved by a great multitude of angels, who all together rendered glory to the Lord, and announced peace on earth. Simeon the Just, in prophetic spirit, confessed Him aloud, and taking the little child between his arms, he said: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people” (Lk 2:29-31 NIV). John the Baptist also spoke of Him as was suitable, when, seeing Him coming at the river Jordan, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NIV). Peter and all the apostles confessed, bore witness, and preached, all things that concerned salvation and were predicted by the prophets, to be done in Christ the true Son of God. And those, whom the Lord had ordained to be witnesses up to our age, have amply demonstrated it by their writings, as the readers can sufficiently perceive.
All these testimonies unite so well in one, and agree together in such a manner, that by such an agreement it is easy to understand that it is very certain truth. For there could not be in lies such an agreement. Nevertheless, not only the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, the angels, the prophets and the apostles bear witness of Jesus Christ, but even His marvelous works demonstrate His very excellent power. The sick, lame, blind, deaf, mute, paralytic, leprous, lunatics, demoniacs, nay, even the dead by Him resurrected, bore the ensigns of it. In His power He resurrected Himself, and in His name He remitted sins. And therefore, it was not without cause that He said that the works which His Father had given Him to do were sufficiently good witnesses to Him. Moreover, even the wicked and the enemies of His glory were constrained by the force of truth, to confess and to acknowledge something of it, like Caiaphas, Pilate and his wife. I do not want to bring forward the testimonies of the devils and foul spirits, seeing that Jesus Christ rejected them.
In sum, all the elements and all the created things have given glory to Jesus Christ. At His command the winds ceased, the troubled sea became calm, the fish brought the didrachma in his belly, the rocks (to bear witness to Him) were crushed, the veil of the temple rent itself down the middle, the sun darkened, the tombs opened themselves, and many bodies resurrected. There was nothing, either in heaven or in earth, which did not testify that Jesus Christ is its God, Lord, and Master, and the great Ambassador of the Father sent here below to effect the salvation of humankind. All these things are announced, demonstrated, written and signed to us in that Testament, by which Jesus Christ makes us His heirs to the kingdom of God His Father, and declares to us His will (as a testator does to his heirs) for it to be executed.
Now we are all called to this heritage without exception of persons: male or female, small or great, servant or lord, master or disciple, clergy or laity, Hebrew or Greek, French or Latin. No one is rejected from it, whoever by sure faith will receive that which is sent to him, will embrace that which is presented to him, in short, who will acknowledge Jesus Christ as He is given of the Father.
And yet shall we, who bear the name of Christians, let that Testament be robbed from us, hidden and corrupted? That which so justly belongs to us, without which we cannot pretend any right to the kingdom of God, without which we are ignorant of the great goods and promises which Jesus Christ has given us, the glory and beatitude which He has prepared for us? We know not what God has commanded or forbidden, we cannot discern good from evil, light from darkness, the commandments of God from the constitutions of men. Without the Gospel we are useless and vain; without the Gospel we are not Christians; without the Gospel, all wealth is poverty, wisdom is folly before God, strength is weakness, all human justice is damned of God. But by the knowledge of the Gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellows with the saints, citizens of the kingdom of heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the feeble powerful, the fools wise, the sinners justified, the afflicted consoled, the doubters certain, the slaves free.
The Gospel is word of life and of truth. It is the power of God unto the salvation of all believers, and the key of the knowledge of God which opens the door of the kingdom of heaven to the faithful, unbinding them from their sins, and shuts it against the unbelieving, binding them in their sins. Blessed are all those who hear it and keep it, for thereby they show that they are children of God. Wretched are those who will not hear nor follow it, for they are children of the devil.
O Christians, hear and learn this, for indeed the ignorant will perish with his ignorance, and the blind following the other blind will fall with him into the pit. The one and only way unto life and salvation is the faith and certainty in the promises of God, which cannot be had without the Gospel, by the hearing and understanding of which living faith is given, with certain hope and perfect charity in God, and ardent love toward one’s neighbor. Where then is your hope if you despise and disdain to hear, to see, to read, and to hold fast this holy Gospel? Those who have their affections stuck in this world pursue by every means what they think belongs to their felicity, without sparing their labor, or body, or life, or renown. And all these things are done to serve this wretched body, of which life is so vain, miserable, and uncertain. When it is a question of the life immortal and incorruptible, of the beatitude eternal and inestimable, of all the treasures of paradise, shall we not constrain ourselves to pursue them? Those who apply themselves to the mechanical arts (however base and vile those may be) undergo much trouble and labor to learn and know them, and those who wish to be reputed the most virtuous torment their spirits night and day to understand something of the human sciences, which are but wind and smoke. How much more ought we to employ ourselves, and to strive in the study of that heavenly wisdom which passes the whole world and penetrates even to the mysteries of God, which He has been pleased to reveal by His holy Word.
What then will be able to estrange and alienate us from this holy Gospel? Will it be insults, curses, opprobriums, privations of worldly honor? But we know well that Jesus Christ passed through such a road, which we must follow if we want to be His disciples, and which is not in refusing to suffer contempt, be mocked, abased and rejected before men, in order to be honored, prized, glorified and exalted at the judgment of God. Will it be banishment, proscriptions, deprivations of goods and wealth? But we know well when we will be banished from one country, that the earth is the Lord’s. And when we will be cast out from all the earth, that we will nevertheless not be out of His kingdom; that when we will be plundered and made poor, we have a Father sufficiently rich to nourish us, and even that Jesus Christ made Himself poor, so that we would follow Him in poverty. Will it be afflictions, prisons, tortures, torments? But we know by the example of Jesus Christ that it is the way to reach glory. Finally, shall it be death? But she does not take away from us the life to be desired.
In short, if we have Christ with us, we will find nothing so cursed that it will not be made blessed by Him; nothing so execrable that will not be sanctified; nothing so bad that will not turn into good for us. Let us not be discouraged when we will see all the worldly mights and powers against us. For the promise cannot fail us, that the Lord, from on high, will laugh at all the assemblings and efforts of men who would want to gather themselves together against Him. Let us not be disconsolate (as if all hope was lost) when we see the true servants of God dying and perishing before our eyes. For it was truly said by Tertullian, and has always been proven and will be until the consummation of the age, that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.
And we even have a better and firmer consolation: it is to turn our eyes away from this world, and to forsake all that we can see before us, awaiting in patience the great judgment of God, by which, in a moment, all that men have ever plotted against Him will be beaten down, annihilated, and overturned. That will be when the reign of God, which we now see in hope, will be manifested, and when Jesus Christ will appear in His majesty with the angels. Then, both the good and the bad must be present before the judgment seat of that great King. Those who will have remained firm in that Testament, and will have followed and kept the will of that good Father, will be on the right hand, as true children, and will receive the blessing, which is the end of their faith, the eternal salvation. And inasmuch as they were not ashamed to avow and confess Jesus Christ, at the time when he was despised and suffered contempt before men, so they will be partakers of His glory, crowned with Him eternally. But the perverse, rebellious, and reprobate, who will have suffered contempt and rejected that holy Gospel, and likewise those who, to entertain their honors, riches and high estates, were unwilling to humble and lower themselves with Jesus Christ, and for fear of men will have forsaken the fear of God, as they were bastards and disobedient to this Father, will be on the left hand. They will be cast into cursing, and as wages for their faithlessness will receive eternal death.
Now, since you have heard that the Gospel presents to you Jesus Christ, in whom all the promises and graces of God are accomplished, and declares to you that He was sent from the Father, came down on earth, conversed with men, perfected all that was of our salvation, as it had been predicted in the law and the prophets, it ought to be very certain and manifest to you that the treasures of paradise are open, the riches of God deployed, and the eternal life revealed to you in it. For this is eternal life, to know the one and only true God, and Him whom He sent, Jesus Christ, whom He has constituted the beginning, the middle, and the end of our salvation. This One is Isaac the well-beloved Son of the Father, who was offered in sacrifice, and yet did not succumb to the power of death. This is the vigilant Shepherd Jacob, taking such great care of the sheep He has charge over. This is the good and pitiable Brother Joseph, who in His glory was not ashamed to recognize His brothers, however contemptible and abject as they were. This is the great Priest and Bishop Melchizedek, having made eternal sacrifice once for all. This is the sovereign Lawgiver Moses, writing His law on the tables of our hearts by His Spirit. This is the faithful Captain and Guide Joshua to conduct us to the promised land. This is the noble and victorious King David, subduing under His hand every rebellious power. This is the magnificent and triumphant King Solomon, governing His kingdom in peace and prosperity. This is the strong and mighty Samson, who, by His death, overwhelmed all His enemies.
And even any good that could be thought or desired is found in this Jesus Christ alone. For He humbled Himself to exalt us; He made Himself a slave to set us free; He became poor to enrich us; He was sold to redeem us, captive to deliver us, condemned to absolve us; He was made malediction for our benediction, oblation of sins for our justice; He was disfigured to re-figure us; He died for our life, in such manner that by Him harshness is softened, wrath appeased, darkness enlightened, iniquity justified, weakness is made strength, affliction is consoled, sin is impeached, despite is despised, dread is emboldened, debt is acquitted, labor is lightened, sorrow turned into joy, misfortune into fortune, difficulty is made easy, disorder made ordered, division united, ignominy is ennobled, rebellion subjected, threat is threatened, ambushes are driven out, assaults assailed, striving is overpowered, combat is combated, war is warred, vengeance is avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, abyss is thrown into the abyss, hell is helled, death is dead, mortality immortality. In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all wretchedness. For all those things which use to be the arms of the devil to combat us and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into an exercise of which we can profit, so that we can boast with the apostle, saying, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55 NASB). From there it comes, that by such a Spirit of Christ promised to His elect, we no longer live, but Christ in us, and we are in spirit seated among the heavenlies, as the world is no longer world to us, though we have our conversation in it, but being content in all, either in countries, places, conditions, clothes, meats, and other like things. And we are comforted in tribulation, joyful in sorrow, glorious in vituperation, abounding in poverty, warmed in nakedness, patient in evil, living in death.
This is in sum what we should seek in the whole Scripture: it is to know well Jesus Christ and the infinite riches which are comprised in Him, and are, by Him, offered to us from God His Father. For when the law and the prophets are carefully searched, there is not to be found in them one word which does not reduce and lead us to Him. And in fact, since all the treasures of wisdom and intelligence are hid in Him, there is no question of having any other end or object, if we wish not, as of deliberate intention, to turn ourselves away from the light of truth, in order to lose our way into the darkness of lies. For this reason does St. Paul rightly say in another passage that he resolved to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. For though the flesh has the opinion that that knowledge is something vulgar and contemptible, the acquiring of it is sufficient to occupy our whole life. And we will not have wasted our time, when we will have employed all our study and applied all our understanding, to profit of it. What more could we ask, for the spiritual doctrine of our souls, than to know God, in order to be transformed into Him, and to have His glorious image imprinted in us, in order to be partakers of His justice, heirs of His kingdom, and to possess it fully to the end? Now it is thus, that from the beginning He gave Himself, and now even more clearly gives Himself to be contemplated in the face of His Christ. It is therefore not lawful that we turn ourselves away and wander here and there, however little it may be. But our understanding must be altogether stopped at this point, to learn in the Scripture to know only Jesus Christ, in order to be conducted by Him straight to the Father, who contains in Himself all perfection.
Behold, I say again, here is contained all the wisdom that men can understand, and must learn in this life, to which neither angel, nor man, nor dead, nor alive, can add or take anything. For this reason it is the goal where we must stop and limit our understanding, without mixing anything of our own, not receiving any doctrine which is added thereto. For whoever dares undertake to teach one syllable beyond, or above that which is there taught to us, must be cursed before God and His Church.
And you Christian kings, princes and lords, who are ordained by God to punish the wicked, and entertain the good in peace according to the Word of God, it is your responsibility to have that holy doctrine so useful and necessary published, taught, and heard by all your countries, regions, and lordships, in order that God be magnified by you, and His Gospel will be exalted. Do so as legitimately it falls to all kings and kingdoms in all humility to obey and to serve His glory. Remember that the sovereign Empire, above all kingdoms, principalities and lordships, has been given by the Father to the Lord Jesus, in order that He be feared, dreaded, honored and obeyed everywhere by both great and small. Remember all that was predicted by the prophets – that all kings of the earth will pay Him homage as their Superior and will adore Him as their Savior and their God – must be verified in you. Do not think of it as an infringement to be subjects of such a great Lord, because it is the greatest honor for you to desire to be acknowledged and held as officers and lieutenants of God. By His lordship your majesty and highness is in no way lessened; your honor can exist only as Jesus Christ, in whom God wants to be exalted and glorified, dominates over you. And in fact, it is only reasonable for you to give Him such preeminence, since your power is founded on no one but Him alone.
Otherwise, what kind of ungratefulness would it be to want to deny the rights to the one who constituted, maintains, and preserves you in the position of power you occupy? Furthermore, it is imperative for you to know that no better nor firmer foundation exists to maintain your lordships in prosperity, than to have Him for Head and Master, and to govern your peoples under His hand. And also that without Him, not only can your lordships not be permanent or of long duration, but they are cursed of God and will thereby fall into confusion and ruin. Whereas, God has put the sword in your hand to govern your subject in His Name and in His authority; whereas, He granted you the honor to give you His Name and His title; and whereas, He has sanctified your estate above others, in order for His glory and majesty to shine in it, let each one with regard to Him employ himself to magnify and exalt the One who is His true glorious Image, in which He fully presents Himself. Now, to do so, it is not enough solely to confess Jesus Christ and to profess to be His. Rather to bear this title truly and actually, one must yield to His holy Gospel and receive it in perfect obedience and humility – which is indeed everyone’s office. But it is especially your responsibility that the Gospel would have an audience, and for it to be published in your countries, so that it would be heard by all who are committed in your charge, that they would recognize you as servants and ministers of this great King, in order to serve and honor Him, obeying you under His hand and leadership.
That is what the Lord requires of you when, by His prophet, He calls you tutors of His Church. For this tutelage or protection does not lay in increasing riches, privileges and honors to the clergy – of which it thereby prides and elevates itself, lives pompously and a fully dissolute life, against the order of its estate. Even less does it lay in maintaining the clergy in its pride and its disorderly pomps. On the contrary, this tutelage lays in providing for the doctrine of truth and purity of the Gospel to remain complete, the holy Scriptures to be faithfully preached and read, God to be honored according to the rule of Scripture, the Church to be well ordered, and all that contravenes either to God’s honor or to the orderliness of the Church, to be corrected and thrown down, so that the reign of Jesus Christ would flourish in the power of His Word.
O, all of you who are called bishops and pastors of the poor people, see that the sheep of Jesus Christ are not deprived of their proper pasture. Ensure that it not be prohibited nor forbidden that every Christian might read, consider, and hear this holy Gospel freely in his own language, since God wants it, Jesus Christ commands it, and to accomplish this has sent his apostles and servants in the whole world, giving them the grace to speak all tongues, so that they would preach in all languages to all creatures. He has made them debtors to the Greeks and the barbarians, to the wise and to the simple, so that none would be excluded from their teaching. Certainly, if you are truly vicars, successors, and imitators of them, your office is to emulate them, watching the flock, and seeking all possible means for everyone to be instructed in the faith of Jesus Christ by the pure Word of God. Otherwise, the sentence is already pronounced and registered: God will demand their souls from your hands.
May the Lord of lights will to teach the ignorant, strengthen the weak, illumine the blind with His holy and salutary Gospel by His Holy Spirit, and cause His truth to reign over all peoples and nations, so that the whole world would know only one God and only one Savior, Jesus Christ, one faith, and one Gospel. Amen.