(Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 4, part 7)
Chapter 6. Of the primacy of the Romish see. 
    The divisions of this chapter are, - I. Question stated, and an 
argument for the primacy of the Roman Pontiff drawn from the Old 
Testament refuted, sec. 1, 2. II. Reply to various arguments in 
support of the Papacy founded on the words, "Thou art Peter," &c., 
sec. 3-17. 
1. Brief recapitulation. Why the subject of primacy not yet 
    mentioned. Represented by Papists as the bond at ecclesiastical 
    unity. Setting out with this axiom, they begin to debate about 
    their hierarchy. 
2. Question stated. An attempted proof from the office of High 
    Priest among the Jews. Two answers. 
3. Arguments for primacy from the New Testament. Two answers. 
4. Another answer. The keys given to the other Apostles as well as 
    to Peter. Other two arguments answered by passages of Cyprian 
    and Augustine. 
5. Another argument answered. 
6. Answer to the argument that the Church is founded on Peter, from 
    its being said, "Upon this rock I will build my Church." 
7. Answer confirmed by passages of Scripture. 
8. Even allowing Peter's superiority in some respect, this is no 
    proof of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. Other arguments 
9. Distinction between civil and ecclesiastical government. Christ 
    alone the Head of the Church. Argument that there is still a 
    ministerial head answered. 
10. Paul, in giving a representation of the Church, makes no mention 
    of this ministerial head. 
11. Even though Peter were ministerial head, it does not follow that 
    the Pope is so also. Argument founded on Paul's having lived 
    and died at Rome. 
12. On the hypothesis of the Papists, the primacy belongs to the 
    Church of Antioch. 
13. Absurdity of the Popish hypothesis. 
14. Peter was not the Bishop of Rome. 
15. Same subject continued. 
16. Argument that the unity of the Church cannot be maintained 
    without a supreme head on earth. Answer, stating three reasons 
    why great respect was paid in early times to the See of Rome. 
17. Opinion of early times on the subject of the unity of the 
    Church. No primacy attributed to the Church of Rome. Christ 
    alone regarded as the Head of the Universal Church. 
    1. Hitherto we have reviewed those ecclesiastical orders which 
existed in the government of the primitive Church; but afterwards 
corrupted by time, and thereafter more and more vitiated, now only 
retain the name in the Papal Church, and are, in fact, nothing but 
mere masks, so that the contrast will enable the pious reader to 
judge what kind of Church that is, for revolting from which we are 
charged with schism. But, on the head and crown of the whole matter, 
I mean the primacy of the Roman See, from which they undertake to 
prove that the Catholic Church is to be found only with them, we 
have not yet touched, because it did not take its origin either in 
the institution of Christ, or the practice of the early Church, as 
did those other parts, in regard to which we have shown, that though 
they were ancient in their origin, they in process of time 
altogether degenerated, nay, assumed an entirely new form. And yet 
they endeavour to persuade the world that the chief and only bond of 
ecclesiastical unity is to adhere to the Roman See, and continue in 
subjection to it. I say, the prop on which they chiefly lean, when 
they would deprive us of the Church, and arrogate it to themselves, 
is, that they retain the head on which the unity of the Church 
depends, and without which it must necessarily be rent and go to 
pieces. For they regard the Church as a kind of mutilated trunk if 
it be not subject to the Romish See as its head. Accordingly, when 
they debate about their hierarchy they always set out with the 
axiom: The Roman Pontiff (as the vicar of Christ, who is the Head of 
the Church) presides in his stead over the universal Church, and the 
Church is not rightly constituted unless that See hold the primacy 
over all others. The nature of this claim must, therefore, be 
considered, that we may not omit any thing which pertains to the 
proper government of the Church. 
    2. The question, then, may be thus stated, Is it necessary for 
the true order of the hierarchy, (as they term it,) or of 
ecclesiastical order, that one See should surpass the others in 
dignity and power, so as to be the head of the whole body? We 
subject the Church to unjust laws if we lay this necessity upon her 
without sanction from the word of God. Therefore, if our opponents 
would prove what they maintain, it behaves them first of all to show 
that this economy was instituted by Christ. For this purpose, they 
refer to the office of high priest under the law, and the supreme 
jurisdiction which God appointed at Jerusalem. But the solution is 
easy, and it is manifold if one does not satisfy them. First, no 
reason obliges us to extend what was useful in one nation to the 
whole world; nay, the cases of one nation and of the whole world are 
widely different. Because the Jews were hemmed in on every side by 
idolaters, God fixed the seat of his worship in the central region 
of the earth, that they might not be distracted by a variety of 
religions; there he appointed one priest to whom they might all look 
up, that they might be the better kept in unity. But now when the 
true religion has been diffused over the whole globe, who sees not 
that it is altogether absurd to give the government of East and West 
to one individual? It is just as if one were to contend that the 
whole world ought to be governed by one prefect, because one 
district has not several prefects. But there is still another reason 
why that institution ought not to be drawn into a precedent. Every 
one knows that the high priest was a type of Christ; now, the 
priesthood being transferred, that right must also be transferred. 
To whom, then, was it transferred? certainly not to the Pope, as he 
dares impudently to boast when he arrogates this title to himself, 
but to Christ, who, as he alone holds the office without vicar or 
successor, does not resign the honour to any other. For this 
priesthood consists not in doctrine only, but in the propitiation 
which Christ made by his death, and the intercession which he now 
males with the Father, (Heb. 7: 11.) 
    3. That example, therefore, which is seen to have been 
temporary, they have no right to bind upon us as by a perpetual law. 
In the New Testament there is nothing which they can produce in 
confirmation of their opinion, but its having been said to one, 
"Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church," (Matth. 
16: 18.) Again, "Simon son of Jonas lovest thou me?" "Feed my lambs" 
(John 21: 15.) But to give strength to these proofs, they must, in 
the first place, show, that to him who is ordered to feed the flock 
of Christ power is given over all churches, and that to bind and 
loose is nothing else than to preside over the whole world. But as 
Peter had received a command from the Lord, so he exhorts all other 
presbyters to feed the Church, (1 Pet. 5: 2.) Hence we are entitled 
to infer, that, by that expression of Christ, nothing more was given 
to Peter than to the others, or that the right which Peter had 
received he communicated equally to others. But not to argue to no 
purpose, we elsewhere have, from the lips of Christ himself, a clear 
exposition of what it is to bind and loose. It is just to retain and 
remit sins, (John 20: 23.) The mode of loosing and binding is 
explained throughout Scripture; but especially in that passage in 
which Paul declares that the ministers of the Gospel are 
commissioned to reconcile men to God, and at the same time to 
exercise discipline over those who reject the benefit, (2 Cor. 5: 
18; 10: 16.) 
    4. How unbecomingly they wrest the passages of binding and 
loosing I have elsewhere glanced at, and will in a short time more 
fully explain. It may now be worth while merely to see what they can 
extract from our Saviour's celebrated answer to Peter. He promised 
him the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and said, that whatever 
things he bound on earth should be bound in heaven, (Matth. 16: 19.) 
The moment we are agreed as to the meaning of the keys, and the mode 
of binding, all dispute will cease. For the Pope will willingly omit 
that office assigned to the apostles, which, full of labour and 
toil, would interfere with his luxuries without giving any gain. 
Since heaven is opened to us by the doctrine of the Gospel, it is by 
an elegant metaphor distinguished by the name of keys. Again, the 
only mode in which men are bound and loosed is, in the latter case, 
when they are reconciled to God by faith, and in the former, more 
strictly bound by unbelief. Were this all that the Pope arrogated to 
himself, I believe there would be none to envy him or stir the 
question. But because this laborious and very far from lucrative 
succession is by no means pleasing to the Pope, the dispute 
immediately arises as to what it was that Christ promised to Peter. 
From the very nature of the case, I infer that nothing more is 
denoted than the dignity which cannot be separated from the burden 
of the apostolic office. For, admitting the definition which I have 
given, (and it cannot without effrontery be rejected,) nothing is 
here given to Peter that was not common to him with his colleagues. 
- On any other view, not only would injustice be done to their 
persons, but the very majesty of the doctrine would be impaired. 
They object; but what, pray, is gained by striking against this 
stone? The utmost they can make out is, that as the preaching of the 
same gospel was enjoined on all the apostles, so the power of 
binding and loosing was bestowed upon them in common. Christ (they 
say) constituted Peter prince of the whole Church when he promised 
to give him the keys. But what he then promised to one he elsewhere 
delivers, and as it were hands over, to all the rest. If the same 
right, which was promised to one, is bestowed upon all, in what 
respect is that one superior to his colleagues? He excels (they say) 
in this, that he receives both in common, and by himself, what is 
given to the others in common only. What if I should answer with 
Cyprian, and Augustine, that Christ did not do this to prefer one to 
the other, but in order to commend the unity of his Church? For 
Cyprian thus speaks: "In the person of one man he gave the keys to 
all, that he might denote the unity of all; the rest, therefore, 
were the same that Peter was, being admitted to an equal 
participation of honour and power, but a beginning is made from 
unity that the Church of Christ may be shown to be one," (Cyprian, 
de Simplic. Praelat.) Augustine's words are, "Had not the mystery of 
the Church been in Peter, our Lord would not have said to him, I 
will give thee the keys. For if this was said to Peter, the Church 
has them not; but if the Church has them, then when Peter received 
the keys he represented the whole Church," (August. Hom. in Joann. 
50.) Again, "All were asked, but Peter alone answers, Thou art the 
Christ; and it is said to him, I will give thee the keys; as if he 
alone had received the power of loosing and binding; whereas he both 
spoke for all, and received in common with and being, as it were the 
representative of unity. One received for and because there is unity 
in all," (Hom. 124.) 
    5. But we no where read of its being said to any other, "Thou 
art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church!" (Matth. 16: 
10;) as if Christ then affirmed any thing else of Peter, than Paul 
and Peter himself affirm of all Christians (Eph. 2: 20; 1 Peter 2: 
5.) The former describes Christ as the chief corner-stone, on whom 
are built all who grow up into a holy temple in the Lord; the latter 
describes us as living stones who are founded on that elect and 
precious stone, and being so joined and compacted, are united to our 
God, and to each other. Peter (they say) is above others, because 
the name was specially given to him. I willingly concede to Peter 
the honour of being placed among the first in the building of the 
Church, or (if they prefer it) of being the first among the 
faithful; but I will not allow them to infer from this that he has a 
primacy over others. For what kind of inference is this? Peter 
surpasses others in fervid zeal in doctrine, and magnanimity, 
therefore, he has power over them: as if we might not with greater 
plausibility infer, that Andrew is prior to Peter in order, because 
he preceded him in time, and brought him to Christ, (John 1: 40, 
42;) but this I omit. Let Peter have the pre-eminence, still there 
is a great difference between the honour of rank and the possession 
of power. We see that the Apostles usually left it to Peter to 
address the meeting, and in some measure take precedence in 
relating, exhorting, admonishing, but we no where read any thing at 
all of power. 
    6. Though we are not yet come to that part of the discussion, I 
would merely observe at present, how futilely those argue who, out 
of the mere name of Peter, would rear up a governing power over the 
whole Church. For the ancient quibble which they at first used to 
give a colour, viz., The Church is founded upon Peter, because it is 
said, "On this rock," &c., is undeserving of notice, not to say of 
refutation. Some of the Fathers so expounded! But when the whole of 
Scripture is repugnant to the exposition, why is their authority 
brought forward in opposition to God? nay, why do we contend about 
the meaning of these words, as if it were obscure or ambiguous when 
nothing can be more clear and certain? Peter had confessed in his 
own name, and that of his brethren, that Christ was the Son of God, 
(Matth. 16: 16.) On this rock Christ builds his Church, because it 
is the only foundation; as Paul says, "Other foundation than this 
can no man lay," (1 Cor. 3: 11.) Therefore I do not here repudiate 
the authority of the Fathers, because I am destitute of passages 
from them to prove what I say, were I disposed to quote them; but as 
I have observed, I am unwilling to annoy my readers by debating so 
clear a matter, especially since the subject has long ago been fully 
handled and expounded by our writers. 
    7. And yet, in truth, none can solve this question better than 
scripture, if we compare all the passages in which it shows what 
office and power Peter held among the apostles how he acted among 
them, how he was received by them, (Acts 15: 7.) Run over all these 
passages, and the utmost you will find is, that Peter was one of 
twelve, their equal and colleague, not their master. He indeed 
brings the matter before the council when anything is to be done, 
and advises as to what is necessary, but he, at the same time, 
listens to the others, not only conceding to them an opportunity of 
expressing their sentiments but allowing them to decide; and when 
they have decided he follows and obeys. When he writes to pastors, 
he does not command authoritatively as a superior, but makes them 
his colleagues, and courteously advises as equals are wont to do, (1 
Pet. 5: 1.) When he is accused of having gone in to the Gentiles, 
though the accusation is unfounded, he replies to it, and clears 
himself, (Acts 11: 3.) Being ordered by his colleagues to go with 
John into Samaria, he declines not, (Acts 8: 14.) The apostles, by 
sending him, declare that they by no means regard him as a superior, 
while he, by obeying and undertaking the embassy committed to him, 
confesses that he is associated with them, and has no authority over 
them. But if none of these facts existed, the one Epistle to the 
Galatians would easily remove all doubt, there being almost two 
chapters in which the whole for which Paul contends is, that in 
regard to the honour of the apostleship, he is the equal of Peter; 
(Gal. 1: 18; 2: 8.) Hence he states, that he went to Peter, not to 
acknowledge subjection, but only to make their agreement in doctrine 
manifest to all; that Peter himself asked no acknowledgement of the 
kind, but gave him the right hand of fellowship, that they might be 
common labourers in the vineyard; that not less grace was bestowed 
on him among the Gentiles than on Peter among the Jews: in fine, 
that Peter, when he was not acting with strict fidelity, was rebuked 
by him, and submitted to the rebuke, (Gal. 2: 11.) All these things 
make it manifest, either that there was an equality between Paul and 
Peter, or, at least, that Peter had no more authority over the rest 
than they had over him. This point, as I have said Paul handles 
professedly, in order that no one might give a preference over him, 
in respect of apostleship, to Peter or John, who were colleagues not 
    8. But were I to concede to them what they ask with regard to 
Peter, viz., that he was the chief of the apostles, and surpassed 
the others in dignity, there is no ground for making an universal 
rule out of a special example, or wresting a single fact into a 
perpetual enactment, seeing that the two things are widely 
different. One was chief among the apostles, just because they were 
few in number. If one man presided over twelve, will it follow that 
one ought to preside over a hundred thousand? That twelve had one 
among them to direct all is nothing strange. Nature admits, the 
human mind requires, that in every meeting, though all are equal in 
power, there should be one as a kind of moderator to whom the others 
should look up. There is no senate without a consul, no bench of 
judges without a president or chancellor, no college without a 
provost, no company without a master. Thus there would be no 
absurdity, were we to confess that the apostles had conferred such a 
primacy on Peter. But an arrangement, which is effectual among a few 
must not be forthwith transferred to the whole world, which no one 
man is able to govern. But (say they) it is observed that not less 
in nature as a whole, than in each of its parts, there is one 
supreme head. Proof of this it pleases them to derive from cranes 
and bees, which always place themselves under the guidance of one, 
not of several. I admit the examples which they produce; but do bees 
flock together from all parts of the world to choose one queen? Each 
queen is contented with her own hive. So among cranes, each flock 
has its own king. What can they prove from this, except that each 
church ought to have its bishop? They refer us to the examples of 
states, quoting from Homer, "ouk agaton polukoiranie", "a many- 
headed rule is not good;" and other passages to the same effect from 
heathen writers in commendation of monarchy. The answer is easy. 
Monarchy is not lauded by Homer's Ulysses, or by others, as if one 
individual ought to govern the whole world; but they mean to 
intimate that one kingdom does not admit of two kings, and that 
empire, as one expresses it, (Lucan. Lib. 1,) cannot bear a partner. 
    9. Be it, however, as they will have it, (though the thing is 
most absurd; be it,) that it were good and useful for the whole 
world to be under one monarchy, I will not, therefore, admit that 
the same thing should take effect in the government of the Church. 
Her only Head is Christ, under whose government we are all united to 
each other, according to that order and form of policy which he 
himself has prescribed. Wherefore they offer an egregious insult to 
Christ, when under this pretext they would have one man to preside 
over the whole Church, seeing the Church can never be without a 
head, "even Christ, from whom the whole body fitly joined together, 
and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the 
effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of 
the body," (Eph. 4: 15,16.) See how all men, without exception, are 
placed in the body while the honour and name of Head is left to 
Christ alone. See how to each member is assigned a certain measure, 
a finite and limited function, while both the perfection of grace 
and the supreme power of government reside only in Christ. I am not 
unaware of the cavilling objection which they are wont to urge, 
viz., that Christ is properly called the only Head, because he alone 
reigns by his own authority and in his own name; but that there is 
nothing in this to prevent what they call another ministerial head 
from being under him, and acting as his substitute. But this cavil 
cannot avail them, until they previously show that this office was 
ordained by Christ. For the apostle teaches, that the whole 
subministration is diffused through the members while the power 
flows from one celestial Head; or, if they will have it more 
plainly, since Scripture testifies that Christ is Head, and claims 
this honour for himself alone, it ought not to be transferred to any 
other than him whom Christ himself has made his vicegerent. But not 
only is there no passage to this effect, but it can be amply refuted 
by many passages. 
    10. Paul sometimes depicts a living image of the Church, but 
makes no mention of a single head. On the contrary we may infer from 
his description, that it is foreign to the institution of Christ. 
Christ, by his ascension, took away his visible presence from us, 
and yet he ascended that he might fill all things: now, therefore, 
he is present in the Church and always will be. When Paul would show 
the mode in which he exhibits himself, he calls our attention to the 
ministerial offices which he employs: "Unto every one of us is given 
grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ;" "And he gave 
some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, 
pastors and teachers." Why does he not say, that one presided over 
all to act as his substitute? The passage particularly required this 
and it ought not on any account to have been omitted if it had been 
true. Christ, he says, is present with us. How? By the ministry of 
men whom he appointed over the government of the Church. Why not 
rather by a ministerial head whom he appointed his substitute? He 
speaks of unity, but it is in God and in the faith of Christ. He 
attributes nothing to men but a common ministry, and a special mode 
to each. Why, when thus commending unity, does he not, after saying, 
"one body, one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your 
callings one Lord, one faith, one baptisms" (Eph. 4: 4,) immediately 
add, one Supreme Pontiff to keep the Church in unity? Nothing could 
have been said more aptly if the case had really been so. Let that 
passage be diligently pondered, and there will be no doubt that Paul 
there meant to give a complete representation of that sacred and 
ecclesiastical government to which posterity have given the name of 
hierarchy. Not only does he not place a monarchy among ministers, 
but even intimates that there is none. There can also be no doubt, 
that he meant to express the mode of connection by which believers 
unite with Christ the Head. There he not only makes no mention of a 
ministerial head, but attributes a particular operation to each of 
the members, according to the measure of grace distributed to each. 
Nor is there any ground for subtle philosophical comparisons between 
the celestial and the earthly hierarchy. For it is not safe to be 
wise above measure with regard to the former, and in constituting 
the latter the only type which it behaves us to follow is that which 
our Lord himself has delineated in his own word. 
    11. I will now make them another concession, which they will 
never obtain from men of sound mind, viz., that the primacy of the 
Church was fixed in Peter, with the view of remaining for ever by 
perpetual succession. Still how will they prove that his See was so 
fixed at Rome, that whosoever becomes bishop of that city is to 
preside over the whole world? By what authority do they annex: this 
dignity to a particular place, when it was given without any mention 
of place? Peter, they say, lived and died at Rome. What did Christ 
himself do? Did he not discharge his episcopates while he lived, and 
complete the office of the priesthood by dying at Jerusalem? The 
Prince of pastors, the chief Shepherd, the Head of the Church, could 
not procure honour for a place, and Peter, so far his inferior, 
could! Is not this worse than childish trifling? Christ conferred 
the honour of primacy on Peter. Peter had his See at Rome, 
therefore, he fixed the seat of the primacy there. In this way the 
Israelites of old must have placed the seat of the primacy in the 
wilderness, where Moses, the chief teacher and prince of prophets, 
discharged his ministry and died. 
    12. Let us see, however, how admirably they reason. Peter, they 
say, had the first place among the apostles; therefore, the church 
in which he sat ought to have the privilege. But where did he first 
sit? At Antioch, they say. Therefore, the church of Antioch justly 
claims the primacy. They acknowledge that she was once the first, 
but that Peter, by removing from it, transferred the honour which he 
had brought with him to Rome. For there is extant, under the name of 
Pope Marcellus, a letter to the presbyters of Antioch, in which he 
says, "The See of Peter, at the outset, was with you, and was 
afterwards, by the order of the Lord, translated hither." Thus the 
church of Antioch, which was once the first, yielded to the See of 
Rome. But by what oracle did that good man learn that the Lord had 
so ordered? For if the question is to be determined in regular forms 
they must say whether they hold the privilege to be personal, or 
real, or mixed. One of the three it must be. If they say personal, 
then it has nothing to do with place; if real, then when once given 
to a place it is not lost by the death or departure of the person. 
It remains that they must hold it to be mixed; then the mere 
consideration of place is not sufficient unless the person also 
correspond. Let them choose which they will, I will forthwith infer, 
and easily prove, that Rome has no ground to arrogate the primacy. 
    13. However, be it so. Let the primacy have been (as they 
vainly allege) transferred from Antioch to Rome. Why did not Antioch 
retain the second place? For if Rome has the first, simply because 
Peter had his See there at the end of his life, to which place 
should the second be given sooner than to that where he first had 
his See? How comes it, then, that Alexandria takes precedence of 
Antioch? How can the church of a disciple be superior to the See of 
Peter? If honour is due to a church according to the dignity of its 
founder, what shall we say of other churches? Paul names three 
individuals who seemed to be pillars, viz., James, Peter, and John, 
(Gal. 2: 9.) If, in honour of Peter, the first place is given to the 
Roman See, do not the churches of Ephesus and Jerusalem where John 
and James were fixed, deserve the second and third places? But in 
ancient times Jerusalem held the last place among the Patriarchates, 
and Ephesus was not able to secure even the lowest corner. Other 
churches too have passed away, churches which Paul founded, and over 
which the apostles presided. The See of Mark, who was only one of 
the disciples, has obtained honour. Let them either confess that 
that arrangement was preposterous, or let them concede that it is 
not always true that each church is entitled to the degree of honour 
which its founder possessed. 
    14. But I do not see that any credit is due to their allegation 
of Peter's occupation of the Roman See. Certain it is that the 
statement of Eusebius, that he presided over it for twenty-five 
years, is easily refuted. For it appears from the first and second 
chapters of Galatians, that he was at Jerusalem about twenty years 
after the death of Christ, and afterwards came to Antioch. How long 
he remained here is uncertain; Gregory counts seven, and Eusebius 
twenty-five years. But from our Saviour's death to the end of Nero's 
reign, (under which they state that he was put to death,) will be 
found only thirty-seven years. For our Lord suffered in the 
eighteenth year of the reign of Tiberius. If you cut off the twenty 
years, during which, as Paul testifies, Peter dwelt at Jerusalem, 
there will remain at most seventeen years; and these must be divided 
between his two episcopates. If he dwelt long at Antioch, his See at 
Rome must have been of short duration. This we may demonstrate still 
more clearly. Paul wrote to the Romans while he was on his journey 
to Jerusalem, where he was apprehended and conveyed to Rome, (Rom. 
15: 15, 16.) It is therefore probable that this letter was written 
four years before his arrival at Rome. Still there is no mention of 
Peter, as there certainly would have been if he had been ruling that 
church. Nay, in the end of the Epistles where he enumerates a long 
list of individuals whom he orders to be saluted, and in which it 
may be supposed he includes all who were known to him, he says 
nothing at all of Peter. To men of sound judgement, there is no need 
here of a long and subtle demonstration: the nature of the case 
itself, and the whole subject of the Epistle, proclaim that he ought 
not to have passed over Peter if he had been at Rome. 
    15. Paul is afterwards conveyed as a prisoner to Rome. Luke 
relates that he was received by the brethren but says nothing of 
Peter. From Rome he writes to many churches. He even sends 
salutations from certain individuals, but does not by a single word 
intimate that Peter was then there. Who, pray, will believe that he 
would have said nothing of him if he had been present? Nay, in the 
Epistle to the Philippians, after saying that he had no one who 
cared for the work of the Lord so faithfully as Timothy he complains 
that "all seek their owns" (Phil. 2: 20.) And to Timothy he makes 
the more grievous complaint, that no man was present at his first 
defence, that all men forsook him, (2 Tim. 4: 16.) Where then was 
Peter? If they say that he was at Rome, how disgraceful the charge 
which Paul brings against him of being a deserter of the Gospel! For 
he is speaking of believers, since he adds, "The Lord lay it not to 
their charge." At what time, therefore, and how long, did Peter hold 
that See? The uniform opinion of authors is, that he governed that 
church until his death. But these authors are not agreed as to who 
was his successor. Some say Linus, others Clement. And they relate 
many absurd fables concerning a discussion between him and Simon 
Magus. Nor does Augustine, when treating of superstition, disguise 
the fact, that owing to an opinion rashly entertained, it had become 
customary at Rome to fast on the day on which Peter carried away the 
palm from Simon Magus, (August. ad Januar. Ep. 2.) In short, the 
affairs of that period are so involved from the variety of opinions, 
that credit is not to be given rashly to any thing we read 
concerning it. And yet, from this agreement of authors, I do not 
dispute that he died there, but that he was bishop, particularly for 
a long period, I cannot believe. I do not, however, attach much 
importance to the point, since Paul testifies, that the apostleship 
of Peter pertained especially to the Jews, but his own specially to 
us. Therefore, in order that that compact which they made between 
themselves, nay, that the arrangement of the Holy Spirit may be 
firmly established among us, we ought to pay more regard to the 
apostleship of Paul than to that of Peter, since the Holy Spirit, in 
allotting them different provinces, destined Peter for the Jews and 
Paul for us. Let the Romanists, therefore, seek their primacy 
somewhere else than in the word of God, which gives not the least 
foundation for it. 
    16. Let us now come to the Primitive Church that it may also 
appear that our opponents plume themselves on its support, not less 
falsely and unadvisedly than on the testimony of the word of God. 
When they lay it down as an axiom, that the unity of the Church 
cannot be maintained unless there be one supreme head on earth whom 
all the members should obey; and that, accordingly, our Lord gave 
the primacy to Peter, and thereafter, by right of succession, to the 
See of Rome, there to remain even to the end, they assert that this 
has always been observed from the beginning. But since they 
improperly wrest many passages, I would first premise, that I deny 
not that the early Christians uniformly give high honour to the 
Roman Church, and speak of it with reverence. This, I think, is 
owing chiefly to three causes. The opinion which had prevailed, (I 
know not how,) that that Church was founded and constituted by the 
ministry of Peter, had great effect in procuring influence and 
authority. Hence, in the East, it was, as a mark of honour, 
designated the apostolic See. Secondly as the seat of empire was 
there, and it was for this reason to be presumed, that the most 
distinguished for learning, prudence, skill, and experience, were 
there more than elsewhere, account was justly taken of the 
circumstances lest the celebrity of the city, and the much more 
excellent gifts of God also, might seem to be despised. To these was 
added a third cause, that when the churches of the East, of Greece 
and of African were kept in a constant turmoil by differences of 
opinion, the Church of Rome was calmer and less troubled. To this it 
was owing, that pious and holy bishops, when driven from their sees, 
often retook themselves to Rome as an asylum or haven. For as the 
people of the West are of a less acute and versatile turn of mind 
than those of Asia or Africa, so they are less desirous of 
innovations. It therefore added very great authority to the Roman 
Church, that in those dubious times it was not so much unsettled as 
others, and adhered more firmly to the doctrine once delivered, as 
shall immediately be better explained. For these three causes, I 
say, she was held in no ordinary estimation, and received many 
distinguished testimonies from ancient writers. 
    17. But since on this our opponents would rear up a primacy and 
supreme authority over other churches, they, as I have said, greatly 
err. That this may better appear, I will first briefly show what the 
views of early writers are as to this unity which they so strongly 
urge. Jerome, in writing to Nepotian, after enumerating many 
examples of unity, descends at length to the ecclesiastical 
hierarchy. He says, "Every bishop of a church, every archpresbyter, 
every archdeacon, and the whole ecclesiastical order, depends on its 
own rulers." Here a Roman presbyter speaks and commends unity in 
ecclesiastical order. Why does he not mention that all the churches 
are bound together by one Head as a common bond? There was nothing 
more appropriate to the point in hand, and it cannot be said that he 
omitted it through forgetfulness; there was nothing he would more 
willingly have mentioned had the fact permitted. He therefore 
undoubtedly owns, that the true method of unity is that which 
Cyprian admirably describes in these words: "The episcopate is one, 
part of which is held entire by each bishop, and the Church is one, 
which by the increase of fecundity, extends more widely in numbers. 
As there are many rays of the sun and one light, many branches of a 
tree and one trunk, upheld by its tenacious roots and as very many 
streams flow from one fountain, and though numbers seem diffused by 
the largeness of the overflowing supply, yet unity is preserved 
entire in the source, so the Church, pervaded with the light of the 
Lord, sends her rays over the whole globe, and yet is one light, 
which is everywhere diffused without separating the unity of the 
body, extends her branches over the whole globe, and sends forth 
flowing streams; still the head is one, and the source one," 
(Cyprian, de Simplic. Praelat.) Afterwards he says, "The spouse of 
Christ cannot be an adulteress: she knows one house, and with chaste 
modesty keeps the sanctity of one bed." See how he makes the 
bishopric of Christ alone universal, as comprehending under it the 
whole Church: See how he says that part of it is held entire by all 
who discharge the episcopal office under this head. Where is the 
primacy of the Roman See, if the entire bishopric resides in Christ 
alone, and a part of it is held entire by each? My object in these 
remarks is, to show the reader, in passing, that that axiom of the 
unity of an earthly kind in the hierarchy, which the Romanists 
assume as confessed and indubitable, was altogether unknown to the 
ancient Church. 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volume 4
(continued in part 8...)

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