(Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 4, part 12)
Chapter 11. Of the jurisdiction of the church and the abuses of it, 
as exemplified in the papacy. 
    This chapter may be conveniently comprehended under two heads, 
- I. Ecclesiastical jurisdiction, its necessity, origin, 
description, and essential parts, viz., the sacred ministry of the 
word, and discipline of excommunication, of which the aim, use, and 
abuse, are explained, sec. 1-8. II. Refutation of the arguments 
advanced by Papists in defence of the tyranny of Pontiffs, the right 
of both swords, imperial pomp and dignity, foreign jurisdiction, and 
immunity from civil jurisdiction, sec. 9-16. 
1. The power of the Church in regard to jurisdiction. The necessity, 
    origin, and nature of this jurisdiction. The power of the keys 
    to be considered in two points of view. The first view 
2. Second view expounded. How the Church binds and looses in the way 
    of discipline. Abuse of the keys in the Papacy. 
3. The discipline of excommunication of perpetual endurance. 
    Distinction between civil and ecclesiastical power. 
4. The perpetual endurance of the discipline of excommunication 
    confirmed. Duly ordered under the Emperors and Christian 
5. The aim and use of ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the primitive 
    Church. Spiritual power was kept entirely distinct from the 
    power of the sword. 
6. Spiritual power was not administered by one individual, but by a 
    lawful consistory. Gradual change. First, the clergy alone 
    interfered in the judicial proceedings of the Church. The 
    bishop afterwards appropriated them to himself. 
7. The bishops afterwards transferred the rights thus appropriated 
    to their officials, and converted spiritual jurisdiction into a 
    profane tribunal. 
8. Recapitulation. The Papal power confuted. Christ wished to debar 
    the ministers of the word from civil rule and worldly power. 
9. Objections of the Papists. 1. By this external splendour the 
    glory of Christ is displayed. 2. It does not interfere with the 
    duties of their calling. Both objections answered. 
10. The commencement and gradual progress Of the Papistical tyranny. 
    Causes 1. Curiosity; 2. Ambition; 3. Violence; 4. Hypocrisy; 5. 
11. Last cause, the mystery of iniquity and the Satanic fury of 
    Antichrist usurping worldly dominion. The Pope claims both 
12. The pretended donation of Constantine. Its futility exposed. 
13. When, and by what means, the Roman Pontiffs attained to imperial 
    dignity. Hildebrand its founder. 
14. By what acts they seized on Rome and other territories. 
    Disgraceful rapacity. 
15. Claim of immunity from civil jurisdiction. Contrast between this 
    pretended immunity and the moderation of the early bishops. 
16. What end the early bishops aimed at in steadfastly resisting 
    civil encroachment. 
    1. It remains to consider the third, and, indeed, when matters 
are well arranged, the principal part of ecclesiastical power, 
which, as we have said consists in jurisdiction. Now, the whole 
jurisdiction of the Church relates to discipline, of which we are 
shortly to treat. For as no city or village can exist without a 
magistrate and government, so the Church of Gods as I have already 
taught, but am again obliged to repeat, needs a kind of spiritual 
government. This is altogether distinct from civil government, and 
is so far from impeding or impairing it, that it rather does much to 
aid and promote it. Therefore, this power of jurisdiction is, in one 
word, nothing but the order provided for the preservation of 
spiritual polity. To this end, there were established in the Church 
from the firsts tribunals which might take cognisance of morals, 
animadvert on vices, and exercise the office of the keys. This order 
is mentioned by Paul in the First Epistle to the Corinthians under 
the name of governments, (1 Cor. 12: 28;) in like manner, in the 
Epistle to the Romans, when he says, "He that ruleth, with 
diligence," (Rom. 12: 8.) For he is not addressing magistrates, none 
of whom were then Christians, but those who were joined with pastors 
in the spiritual government of the Church. In the Epistle to 
Timothy, also, he mentions two kinds of presbyters, some who labour 
in the word, and others who do not perform the office of preaching, 
but rule well, (1 Tim. 5: 17.) By this latter class there is no 
doubt he means those who were appointed to the inspection of 
manners, and the whole use of the keys. For the power of which we 
speak wholly depends on the keys which Christ bestowed on the Church 
in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew, where he orders that those who 
despise private admonition should be sharply rebuked in public, and 
if they persist in their contumacy, be expelled from the society of 
believers. Moreover, those admonitions and corrections cannot be 
made without investigation, and hence the necessity of some judicial 
procedure and order. Wherefore, if we would not make void the 
promise of the keys, and abolish altogether excommunication, solemn 
admonitions, and everything of that description, we must, of 
necessity, give some jurisdiction to the Church. Let the reader 
observe that we are not here treating of the general authority of 
doctrine, as in Matth. 21 and John 20, but maintaining that the 
right of the Sanhedrin is transferred to the fold of Christ. Till 
that time, the power of government had belonged to the Jews. This 
Christ establishes in his Church, in as far as it was a pure 
institution, and with a heavy sanction. Thus it behaved to be, since 
the judgement of a poor and despised Church might otherwise be 
spurned by rash and haughty men. And lest it occasion any difficulty 
to the reader, that Christ in the same words makes a considerable 
difference between the two things, it will here be proper to 
explain. There are two passages which speak of binding and loosing. 
The one is Matth. 16, where Christ, after promising that he will 
give the keys of the kingdom of heaven to Peter, immediately adds, 
"Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and 
whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven," 
(Matth. 16: 19.) These words have the very same meaning as those in 
the Gospel of John, where, being about to send forth the disciples 
to preach, after breathing on them, he says, "Whose soever sins ye 
remit they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain 
they are retained," (John 20: 23.) I will give an interpretation, 
not subtle, not forced, not wrested, but genuine, natural, and 
obvious. This command concerning remitting and retaining sins, and 
that promise made to Peter concerning binding and loosing, ought to 
be referred to nothing but the ministry of the word. When the Lord 
committed it to the apostles, he, at the same time, provided them 
with this power of binding and loosing. For what is the sum of the 
gospel, but just that all being the slaves of sin and death, are 
loosed and set free by the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, 
while those who do not receive and acknowledge Christ as a deliverer 
and redeemer are condemned and doomed to eternal chains? When the 
Lord delivered this message to his apostles, to be carried by them 
into all nations in order to prove that it was his own message, and 
proceeded from him, he honoured it with this distinguished 
testimony, and that as an admirable confirmation both to the 
apostles themselves, and to all those to whom it was to come. It was 
of importance that the apostles should have a constant and complete 
assurance of their preaching, which they were not only to exercise 
with infinite labour, anxiety, molestation, and peril, but 
ultimately to seal with their blood. That they might know that it 
was not vain or void, but full of power and efficacy it was at 
importance, I say, that amidst all their anxieties, dangers, and 
difficulties, they might feel persuaded that they were doing the 
work of God; that though the whole world withstood and opposed them, 
they might know that God was for them; that not having Christ the 
author of their doctrine bodily present on the earth, they might 
understand that he was in heaven to confirm the truth of the 
doctrine which he had delivered to them. On the other hand, it was 
necessary that their hearers should be most certainly assured that 
the doctrine of the gospel was not the word of the apostles, but of 
God himself; not a voice rising from the earth, but descending from 
heaven. For such things as the forgiveness of sins, the promise of 
eternal life, and message of salvation, cannot be in the power of 
man. Christ therefore testified, that in the preaching of the gospel 
the apostles only acted ministerially; that it was he who, by their 
mouths as organs, spoke and promised all; that, therefore, the 
forgiveness of sins which they announced was the true promise of 
God; the condemnation which they pronounced, the certain judgement 
of God. This attestation was given to all ages, and remains firm, 
rendering all certain and secure, that the word of the gospel, by 
whomsoever it may be preached, is the very word of God, promulgated 
at the supreme tribunals written in the book of life, ratified firm 
and fixed in heaven. We now understand that the power of the keys is 
simply the preaching of the gospel in those places and in so far as 
men are concerned, it is not so much power as ministry. Properly 
speaking, Christ did not give this power to men but to his word, of 
which he made men the ministers. 
    2. The other passage, in which binding and loosing are 
mentioned, is in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew, where Christ 
says, "If he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church: 
but if he neglect to hear the Church let him be unto thee as an 
heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye 
shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye 
shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven," (Matth. 18: 17, 
18.) This passage is not altogether similar to the former, but is to 
be understood somewhat differently. But in saying that they are 
different, I do not mean that there is not much affinity between 
them. First, they are similar in this, that they are both general 
statements, that there is always the same power of binding and 
loosing, (namely, by the word of God,) the same command, the same 
promise. They differ in this, that the former passage relates 
specially to the preaching which the ministers of the word perform, 
the latter relates to the discipline of excommunication which has 
been committed to the Church. Now, the Church binds him whom she 
excommunicates, not by plunging him into eternal ruin and despair, 
but condemning his life and manners, and admonishing him, that, 
unless he repent, he is condemned. She looses him whom she receives 
into communion, because she makes him, as it were, a partaker of the 
unity which she has in Christ Jesus. Let no one, therefore, 
contumaciously despise the judgement of the Church, or account it a 
small matter that he is condemned by the suffrages of the faithful. 
The Lord testifies that such judgement of the faithful is nothing 
else than the promulgation of his own sentence, and that what they 
do on earth is ratified in heaven. For they have the word of God by 
which they condemn the perverse: they have the word by which they 
take back the penitent into favour. Now, they cannot err nor 
disagree with the judgement of God, because they judge only 
according to the law of God, which is not an uncertain or worldly 
opinion, but the holy will of God, an oracle of heaven. On these two 
passages, which I think I have briefly, as well as familiarly and 
truly expounded, these madmen, without any discrimination, as they 
are borne along by their spirit of giddiness, attempt to found at 
one time confession, at another excommunication, at another 
jurisdiction, at another the right of making laws, at another 
indulgences. The former passage they adduce for the purpose of 
rearing up the primacy of the Roman See. So well known are the keys 
to those who have thought proper to fit them with locks and doors, 
that you would say their whole life had been spent in the mechanic 
    3. Some, in imagining that all these things were temporary, as 
magistrates were still strangers to our profession of religion, are 
led astray, by not observing the distinction and dissimilarity 
between ecclesiastical and civil power. For the Church has not the 
right of the sword to punish or restrain, has no power to coerce, no 
prison nor other punishments which the magistrate is wont to 
inflict. Then the object in view is not to punish the sinner against 
his will, but to obtain a profession of penitence by voluntary 
chastisement. The two things, therefore, are widely different, 
because neither does the Church assume anything to herself which is 
proper to the magistrate, nor is the magistrate competent to what is 
done by the Church. This will be made clearer by an example. Does 
any one get intoxicated? In a well ordered city his punishment will 
be imprisonment. Has he committed whoredom? The punishment will be 
similar, or rather more severe. Thus satisfaction will be given to 
the laws, the magistrates, and the external tribunals. But the 
consequence will be, that the offender will give no signs of 
repentance, but will rather fret and murmur. Will the Church not 
here interfere? Such persons cannot be admitted to the Lord's Supper 
without doing injury to Christ and his sacred institution. Reason 
demands that he who, by a bad example, gives offence to the Church, 
shall remove the offence which he has caused by a formal declaration 
of repentance. The reason adduced by those who take a contrary view 
is frigid. Christ, they say, gave this office to the Church when 
there were no magistrates to execute it. But it often happens that 
the magistrate is negligent, nay, sometimes himself requires to be 
chastised: as was the case with the Emperor Theodosius. Moreover, 
the same thing may be said regarding the whole ministry of the word. 
Now, therefore, according to that view, let pastors cease to censure 
manifest iniquities, let them cease to chide, accuse, and rebuke. 
For there are Christian magistrates who ought to correct these 
things by the laws and the sword. But as the magistrate ought to 
purge the Church of offences by corporal punishment and coercion, so 
the minister ought, in his turn, to assist the magistrate in 
diminishing the number of offenders. Thus they ought to combine 
their efforts, the one being not an impediment but a help to the 
    4. And, indeed, on attending more closely to the words of 
Christ, it will readily appear that the state and order of the 
Church there described is perpetual, not temporary. For it were 
incongruous that those who refuse to obey our admonitions should be 
transferred to the magistrate - a course, however, which would be 
necessary if he were to succeed to the place of the Church. Why 
should the promise, "Verily I say unto you, What thing soever ye 
shall bind on earth," be limited to one, or to a few years? 
Moreover, Christ has here made no new enactment, but followed the 
custom always observed in the Church of his ancient people, thereby 
intimating, that the Church cannot dispense with the spiritual 
jurisdiction which existed from the beginning. This has been 
confirmed by the consent of all times. For when emperors and 
magistrates began to assume the Christian name, spiritual 
jurisdiction was not forthwith abolished, but was only so arranged 
as not in any respect to impair civil jurisdiction, or be confounded 
with it. And justly. For the magistrate, if he is pious, will have 
no wish to exempt himself from the common subjection of the children 
of God, not the least part of which is to subject himself to the 
Church, judging according to the word of God; so far is it from 
being his duty to abolish that judgement. For, as Ambrose says, 
"that more honourable title can an emperor have than to be called a 
son of the Church? A good emperor is within the Church, not above 
the Church," (Ambrose. ad Valent. Ep. 32.) Those, therefore, who to 
adorn the magistrate strip the Church of this power, not only 
corrupt the sentiment of Christ by a false interpretation, but pass 
no light condemnation on the many holy bishops who have existed 
since the days of the apostles, for having on a false pretext 
usurped the honour and office of the civil magistrate. 
    5. But, on the other hand, it will be proper to see what was 
anciently the true use of ecclesiastical discipline, and how great 
the abuses which crept in, that we may know what of ancient practice 
is to be abolished, and what restored, if we would, after 
overthrowing the kingdom of Antichrist, again set up the true 
kingdom of Christ. First, the object in view is to prevent the 
occurrence of scandals, and when they arise, to remove them. In the 
use two things are to be considered: first, that this spiritual 
power be altogether distinct from the power of the sword; secondly, 
that it be not administered at the will of one individual, but by a 
lawful consistory, (1 Cor. 5: 4.) Both were observed in the purer 
times of the Church. For holy bishops did not exercise their power 
by fine, imprisonment, or other civil penalties but as became them, 
employed the word of God only. For the severest punishment of the 
Church, and, as it were, her last thunderbolt, is excommunication, 
which is not used unless in necessity. This, moreover, requires 
neither violence nor physical force, but is contented with the might 
of the word of God. In short, the jurisdiction of the ancient Church 
was nothing else than (if I may so speak) a practical declaration of 
what Paul teaches concerning the spiritual power of pastors. "The 
weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the 
pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every 
high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and 
bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 
and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience," (2 Cor. 10: 
4-6.) As this is done by the preaching of doctrine, so in order that 
doctrine may not be held in derision, those who profess to be of the 
household of faith ought to be judged according to the doctrine 
which is taught. Now this cannot be done without connecting with the 
office of the ministry a right of summoning those who are to be 
privately admonished or sharply rebuked, a right, moreover, of 
keeping back from the communion of the Lord's Supper, those who 
cannot be admitted without profaning this high ordinance. Hence, 
when Paul elsewhere asks "What have I to do to judge them also that 
are without?" (1 Cor. 5: 12,) he makes the members of the Church 
subject to censures for the correction of their vices, and intimates 
the existence of tribunals from which no believer is exempted. 
    6. This power, as we have already stated, did not belong to an 
individual who could exercise it as he pleased, but belonged to the 
consistory of elders, which was in the Church what a council is in a 
city. Cyprian, when mentioning those by whom it was exercised in his 
time, usually associates the whole clergy with the bishop, (Cyprian, 
Lib. 3 Ep. 14, l9.) In another place, he shows that though the 
clergy presided, the people, at the same time, were not excluded 
from cognisance: for he thus writes: - "From the commencement of my 
bishopric, I determined to do nothing without the advice of the 
clergy, nothing without the consent of the people." But the common 
and usual method of exercising this jurisdiction was by the council 
of presbyters, of whom, as I have said, there were two classes. Some 
were for teaching, others were only censors of manners. This 
institution gradually degenerated from its primitive form, so that, 
in the time of Ambrose, the clergy alone had cognisance of 
ecclesiastical causes. Of this he complains in the following terms: 
- "The ancient synagogue, and afterwards the Church, had elders, 
without whose advice nothing was done: this has grown obsolete, by 
whose fault I know not, unless it be by the sloth, or rather the 
pride, of teachers, who would have it seem that they only are 
somewhat," (Ambrose. in 1 Tim. 5) We see how indignant this holy man 
was because the better state was in some degree impaired, and yet 
the order which then existed was at least tolerable. What, then, had 
he seen those shapeless ruins which exhibit no trace of the ancient 
edifice? How would he have lamented? First, contrary to what was 
right and lawful, the bishop appropriated to himself what was given 
to the whole Church. For this is just as if the consul had expelled 
the senate, and usurped the whole empire. For as he is superior in 
rank to the others, so the authority of the consistory is greater 
than that of one individual. It was, therefore, a gross iniquity, 
when one man, transferring the common power to himself, paved the 
way for tyrannical license, robbed the Church of what was its own, 
suppressed and discarded the consistory ordained by the Spirit of 
    7. But as evil always produces evil, the bishops, disdaining 
this jurisdiction as a thing unworthy of their care, devolved it on 
others. Hence the appointment of officials to supply their place. I 
am not now speaking of the character of this class of persons; all I 
say is, that they differ in no respect from civil judges. And yet 
they call it spiritual jurisdiction, though all the litigation 
relates to worldly affairs. Were there no other evil in this, how 
can they presume to call a litigious forum a church court? But there 
are admonitions; there is excommunication. This is the way in which 
God is mocked. Does some poor man owe a sum of money? He is 
summoned: if he appears, he is found liable; when found liable if he 
pays not, he is admonished. After the second admonition, the next 
step is excommunication. If he appears not, he is admonished to 
appear; if he delays, he is admonished, and by and by 
excommunicated. I ask, is there any resemblance whatever between 
this and the institution of Christ, or ancient custom or 
ecclesiastical procedure? But there, too, vices are censured. 
Whoredom, lasciviousness, drunkenness, and similar iniquities, they 
not only tolerate, but by a kind of tacit approbation encourage and 
confirm, and that not among the people only, but also among the 
clergy. Out of many they summon a few either that they may not seem 
to wink too strongly or that they may mulct them in money. I say 
nothing of the plunder, rapine, peculation, and sacrilege, which are 
there committed. I say nothing of the kind of persons who are for 
the most part appointed to the office. It is enough, and more than 
enough that when the Romanists boast of their spiritual 
jurisdiction, we are ready to show that nothing is more contrary to 
the procedure instituted by Christ, that it has no more resemblance 
to ancient practice than darkness has to light. 
    8. Although we have not said all that might here be adduced, 
and even what has been said is only briefly glanced at, enough, I 
trust, has been said to leave no man in doubt that the spiritual 
power on which the Pope plumes himself, with all his adherents, is 
impious contradiction of the word of God, and unjust tyranny against 
his people. Under the name of spiritual power, I include both their 
audacity in framing new doctrines, by which they led the miserable 
people away from the genuine purity of the word of God, the 
iniquitous traditions by which they ensnared them, and the pseudo 
ecclesiastical jurisdiction which they exercise by suffragans and 
officials. For if we allow Christ to reign amongst us, the whole of 
that domination cannot but immediately tumble and fall. The right of 
the sword which they also claim for themselves, not being exercised 
against consciences, does not fall to be considered in this place. 
Here, however, it is worth while to observe, that they are always 
like themselves, there being nothing which they less resemble than 
that which they would be thought to be, viz., pastors of the Church. 
I speak not of the vices of particular men, but of the common 
wickedness, and, consequently, the pestiferous nature of the whole 
order, which is thought to be mutilated, if not distinguished by 
wealth and haughty titles. If in this matter we seek the authority 
of Christ, there can be no doubt that he intended to debar the 
ministers of his word from civil domination and worldly power when 
he said, "The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, 
and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall 
not be so among you," (Matth. 20: 25, 26.) For he intimates not only 
that the office of pastor is distinct from the office of prince, but 
that the things differ so widely that they cannot be united in the 
same individual. Moses indeed held both, (Exod. 18: 16;) but, first, 
this was the effect of a rare miracle; and, secondly, it was 
temporary, until matters should be better arranged. For when a 
certain form is prescribed by the Lord, the civil government is left 
to Moses, and he is ordered to resign the priesthood to his brother. 
And justly; for it is more than nature can do, for one man to bear 
both burdens. This has in all ages been carefully observed in the 
Church. Never did any bishop, so long as any true appearance of a 
church remained, think of usurping the right of the sword: so that, 
in the age of Ambrose it was a common proverb, that emperors longed 
more for the priesthood than priests for imperial power. For the 
expression which he afterwards adds was fixed in all minds, Palaces 
belong to the emperor, churches to the priest. 
    9. But after a method was devised by which bishops might hold 
the title, honour, and wealth of their office without burden and 
solicitude, that they might be left altogether idle, the right of 
the sword was given them, or rather, they themselves usurped it. 
With what pretext will they defend this effrontery? Was it the part 
of bishops to entangle themselves with the cognisance of causes, and 
the administration of states and provinces, and embrace occupations 
so very alien to them - of bishops, who require so much time and 
labour in their own office, that though they devote themselves to it 
diligently and entirely, without distraction from other avocations, 
they are scarcely sufficient? But such is their perverseness, that 
they hesitate not to boast that in this way the dignity of Christ's 
kingdom is duly maintained, and they, at the same time, are not 
withdrawn from their own vocation. In regard to the former 
allegation, if it is a comely ornament of the sacred office, that 
those holding it be so elevated as to become formidable to the 
greatest monarchs, they have ground to expostulate with Christ, who 
in this respect has grievously curtailed their honour. For what, 
according to their view, can be more insulting than these words, 
"The kings of the Gentiles exercise authority over them?" "But ye 
shall not be so," (Luke 22: 25, 26.) And yet he imposes no harder 
law on his servants than he had previously laid on himself. "Who," 
says he, "made me a judge or divider over you?" (Luke 12: 14.) We 
see that he unreservedly refuses the office of judging; and this he 
would not have done if the thing had been in accordance with his 
office. To the subordination to which the Lord thus reduced himself 
will his servants not submit? The other point I wish they would 
prove by experience as easily as they allege it. But as it seemed to 
the apostles not good to leave the word of God and serve tables, so 
these men are thereby forced to admit, though they are unwilling to 
be taught that it is not possible for the same person to be a good 
bishop and a good prince. For if those who, in respect of the 
largeness of the gifts with which they were endued, were able for 
much more numerous and weighty cares than any who have come after 
them, confessed that they could not serve the ministry of the word 
and of tables, without giving way under the burden, how are these, 
who are no men at all when compared with the apostles possibly to 
surpass them a hundred times in diligence? The very attempt is most 
impudent and audacious presumption. Still we see the thing done; 
with what success is plain. The result could not but be that they 
have deserted their own functions, and removed to another camp. 
    10. There can be no doubt that this great progress has been 
made from slender beginnings. They could not reach so far at one 
step, but at one time by craft and wily art, secretly raised 
themselves before any one foresaw what was to happen; at another 
time, when occasion offered by means of threats and terror, extorted 
some increase of power from princes; at another time, when they saw 
princes disposed to give liberally, they abused their foolish and 
inconsiderate facility. The godly in ancient times, when any dispute 
arose, in order to escape the necessity of a lawsuit, left the 
decision to the bishop, because they had no doubt of his integrity. 
The ancient bishops were often greatly dissatisfied at being 
entangled in such matters, as Augustine somewhere declares; but lest 
the parties should rush to some contentious tribunal, unwillingly 
submitted to the annoyance. These voluntary decisions, which 
altogether differed from forensic strife, these men have converted 
into ordinary jurisdiction. As cities and districts, when for some 
time pressed with various difficulties, retook themselves to the 
patronage of the bishops, and threw themselves on their protection, 
these men have, by a strange artifice, out of patrons made 
themselves masters. That they have seized a good part by the 
violence of faction cannot be denied. The princes, again, who 
spontaneously conferred jurisdiction on bishops, were induced to it 
by various causes. Though their indulgence had some appearance of 
piety they did not by this preposterous liberality consult in the 
best manner for the interests of the Church, whose ancient and true 
discipline they thus corrupted, nay, to tell the truth, completely 
abolished. Those bishops who abused the goodness of princes to their 
own advantage, gave more than sufficient proof by this one specimen 
of their conduct, that they were not at all true bishops. Had they 
had one spark of the apostolic spirit, they would doubtless have 
answered in the words of Paul, "The weapons of our warfare are not 
carnal," but spiritual, (2 Cor. 10: 4.) But hurried away by blind 
cupidity, they lost themselves and posterity, and the Church. 
    11. At length the Roman Pontiff, not content with moderate 
districts, laid hands first on kingdoms, and thereafter on empire. 
And that he may on some pretext or other retain possession, secured 
by mere robbery, he boasts at one time that he holds it by divine 
right, at another, he pretends a donation from Constantine, at 
another, some different title. First, I answer with Bernard, "Be it 
that on some ground or other he can claim it, it is not by apostolic 
right. For Peter could not give what he had not, but what he had he 
gave to his successors, viz., care of the churches. But when our 
Lord and Master says that he was not appointed a judge between two, 
the servant and disciple ought not to think it unbecoming not to be 
judge of all," (Bernard. de Considerat. Lib. 2.) Bernard is speaking 
of civil judgements for he adds, "Your power then is in sins, not in 
rights of property, since for the former and not the latter you 
received the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Which of the two seems 
to you the higher dignity, the forgiving of sins or the dividing of 
lands? There is no comparison. These low earthly things have for 
their judges the kings and princes of the earth. Why do you invade 
the territories of others?" &c. Again, "You are made superior," (he 
is addressing Pope Eugenius,) "for what? not to domineer, I presume. 
Let us therefore remember, however highly we think of ourselves, 
that a ministry is laid upon us, not a dominion given to us. Learn 
that you have need of a slender rod, not of a sceptre, to do the 
work of a prophet." Again, "It is plain that the apostles are 
prohibited to exercise dominion. Go you, therefore, and dare to 
usurp for yourself, either apostleship with dominion, or dominion 
with apostleship." Immediately after he says, "The apostolic form is 
this; dominion is interdicted, ministry is enjoined." Though Bernard 
speaks thus, and so speaks as to make it manifest to all that he 
speaks truth, nay, though without a word the thing itself is 
manifest, the Roman Pontiff was not ashamed at the Council of Arles 
to decree that the supreme right of both swords belonged to him of 
divine right. 
    12. As far as pertains to the donation of Constantine, those 
who are moderately verdant in the history of the time have no need 
of being told, that the claim is not only fabulous but also absurd. 
But to say nothing of history, Gregory alone is a fit and most 
complete witness to this effect. For wherever he speaks of the 
emperor he calls him His Most Serene Lord, and himself his unworthy 
servant. Again, in another passage he says, "Let not our Lord in 
respect of worldly power be too soon offended with priests, but with 
excellent consideration, on account of him whose servants they are, 
let him while ruling them also pay them due reverence." We see how 
in a common subjection he desires to be accounted one of the people. 
For he there pleads not another's but his own cause. Again, "I trust 
in Almighty God that he will give long life to pious rulers, and 
place us under your hand according to his mercy." I have not adduced 
these things here from any intention thoroughly to discuss the 
question of Constantine's donation, but only to show my readers by 
the way, how childishly the Romanists tell lies when they attempt to 
claim an earthly empire for their Pontiff. The more vile the 
impudence of Augustine Steuchus, who, in so desperate a cause, 
presumed to lend his labour and his tongue to the Roman Pontiff. 
Valla, as was easy for a man of learning and acuteness to do, had 
completely refuted this fable. And yet as he was little verdant in 
ecclesiastical affairs he had not said all that was relevant to the 
subject. Steuchus breaks in, and scatters his worthless quibbles, 
trying to bury the clear light. And certainly he pleads the cause of 
his master not less frigidly than some wit might, under pretence of 
defending the same view, support that of Valla. But the cause is a 
worthy one which the Pope may well hire such patrons to defend; 
equally worthy are the hired ravers whom the hope of gain may 
deceive, as was the case with Eugubinus. 
    13. Should any one ask at what period this fictitious empire 
began to emerge, five hundred years have not yet elapsed since the 
Roman Pontiffs were under subjection to the emperors, and no pontiff 
was elected without the emperor's authority. An occasion of 
innovating on this order was given to Gregory VII by Henry IV, a 
giddy and rash man, of no prudence, great audacity, and a dissolute 
life. When he had the whole bishoprics of Germany in his court 
partly for sale, and partly exposed to plunder, Hildebrand, who had 
been provoked by him, seized the plausible pretext for asserting his 
claim. As his cause seemed good and pious, it was viewed with great 
favour, while Henry, on account of the insolence of his government, 
was generally hated by the princes. At length Hildebrand, who took 
the name of Gregory VII, an impure and wicked man, betrayed his 
sinister intentions. On this he was deserted by many who had joined 
him in his conspiracy. He gained this much, however, that his 
successors were not only able to shake off the yoke with impunity, 
but also to bring the emperors into subjection to them. Moreover, 
many of the subsequent emperors were liker Henry than Julius Caesar. 
These it was not difficult to overcome while they sat at home 
sluggish and secure, instead of vigorously exerting themselves, as 
was most necessary, by all legitimate means to repress the cupidity 
of the pontiffs. We see what colour there is for the grand donation 
of Constantine, by which the Pope pretends that the western empire 
was given to him. 
    14. Meanwhile the pontiff ceased note either by frauds or by 
perfidy, or by arms to invade the dominions of others. Rome itself, 
which was then free, they, about an hundred and thirty years ago, 
reduced under their power. At length, they obtained the dominion 
which they now possess, and to retain or increase which, now for two 
hundred years (they had begun before they usurped the dominion of 
the city,) they have so troubled the Christian world, that they have 
almost destroyed it. Formerly, when in the time of Gregory, the 
guardians of ecclesiastical property seized upon lands which they 
considered to belong to the Church, and, after the manner of the 
exchequer, affixed their seals, in attestation of their claim, 
Gregory having assembled a council of bishops, and bitterly 
inveighed against that profane custom, asked whether they would not 
anathematise the churchman who, of his own accord, attempted to 
seize some possession by the inscription of a title, and in like 
manner, the bishop who should order it to be done, or not punish it 
when done without his order. All pronounced the anathema. If it is a 
crime deserving of anathema for a churchman to claim a property by 
the inscription of a title - then, now that for two hundred years, 
the pontiffs meditate nothing but war and bloodshed, the destruction 
of armies, the plunder of cities, the destruction or overthrow of 
nations, and the devastation of kingdoms, only that they may obtain 
possession of the property of others - what anathemas can 
sufficiently punish such conduct? Surely it is perfectly obvious 
that the very last thing they aim at is the glory of Christ. For 
were they spontaneously to resign every portion of secular power 
which they possess, no peril to the glory of God, no peril to sound 
doctrine, no peril to the safety of the Church ensues; but they are 
borne blind and headlong by a lust for power, thinking that nothing 
can be safe unless they rule, as the prophet says, "with force and 
with cruelty," (Ezek. 34: 4.) 
    15. To jurisdiction is annexed the immunity claimed by the 
Romish clergy. They deem it unworthy of them to answer before a 
civil judge in personal causes; and consider both the liberty and 
dignity of the Church to consist in exemption from ordinary 
tribunals and laws. But the ancient bishops, who otherwise were most 
resolute in asserting the rights of the Church, did not think it any 
injury to themselves and their order to act as subjects. Pious 
emperors also, as often as there was occasion, summoned clergy to 
their tribunals, and met with no opposition. For Constantine, in a 
letter to the Nicomedians, thus speaks: - "Should any of the bishops 
unadvisedly excite tumult, his audacity shall be restrained by the 
minister of God, that is, by my executive," (Theodore. Lib. 1 c. 
20.) Valentinian says, "Good bishops throw no obloquy on the power 
of the emperor, but sincerely keep the commandments of God, the 
great King, and obey our laws," (Theodore. Lib. 4 c. 8.) This was 
unquestionably the view then entertained by all. Ecclesiastical 
causes, indeed, were brought before the episcopal court; as when a 
clergyman had offended, but not against the laws, he was only 
charged by the Canons; and instead of being cited before the civil 
court, had the bishop for his judge in that particular case. In like 
manners when a question of faith was agitated, or one which properly 
pertained to the Church, cognisance was left to the Church. In this 
sense the words of Ambrose are to be understood: "Your father, of 
august memory, not only replied verbally, but enacted by law, that, 
in a question of faith, the judge should be one who was neither 
unequal from office, nor incompetent from the nature of his 
jurisdiction," (Ambrose. Ep. 32.) Again, "If we attend to the 
Scriptures, or to ancient examples, who can deny that in a question 
of faith, a question of faith, I say, bishops are wont to judge 
Christian emperors not emperors to judge bishops?" Again, "I would 
have come before your consistory, O emperor, would either the 
bishops or the people have allowed me to come: they say that a 
question of faith should be discussed in the Church before the 
people." He maintains, indeed, that a spiritual cause, that is, one 
pertaining to religion, is not to be brought before the civil court, 
where worldly disputes are agitated. His firmness in this respect is 
justly praised by all. And yet, though he has a good cause, he goes 
so far as to say, that if it comes to force and violence, he will 
yield. "I will not desert the post committed to me, but, if forced, 
I will not resist: prayers and tears are our weapons," (Ambrose. 
Hom. de Basilic. Traden.) Let us observe the singular moderation of 
this holy man, his combination of prudence, magnanimity, and 
boldness. Justina, the mother of the emperor, unable to bring him 
over to the Arian party, sought to drive him from the government of 
the Church. And this would have been the result had he, when 
summoned, gone to the palace to plead his cause. He maintains 
therefore, that the emperor is not fit to decide such a controversy. 
This both the necessity of the times and the very nature of the 
thing, demanded. He thought it were better for him to die than 
consent to transmit such an example to posterity; and yet if 
violence is offered, he thinks not of resisting. For he says, it is 
not the part of a bishop to defend the faith and rights of the 
Church by arms. But in all other causes he declares himself ready to 
do whatever the emperor commands. "If he asks tribute, we deny it 
not: the lands of the Church pay tribute. If he asks lands, he has 
the power of evicting them; none of us interposes." Gregory speaks 
in the same manner. "I am not ignorant of the mind of my most serene 
lord: he is not wont to interfere in sacerdotal causes, lest he may 
in some degree burden himself with our sins." He does not exclude 
the emperor generally from judging priests, but says that there are 
certain causes which he ought to leave to the ecclesiastical 
    16. And hence all that these holy men sought by this exception 
was, to prevent irreligious princes from impeding the Church in the 
discharge of her duty, by their tyrannical caprice and violence. 
They did not disapprove when princes interposed their authority in 
ecclesiastical affairs, provided this was done to preserve, not to 
disturb, the order of the Church, to establish, not to destroy 
discipline. For, seeing the Church has not, and ought not to wish to 
have, the power of compulsion, (I speak of civil coercion,) it is 
the part of pious kings and princes to maintain religion by laws, 
edicts, and sentences. In this way, when the Emperor Maurice had 
commanded certain bishops to receive their neighbouring colleagues, 
who had been expelled by the Barbarians, Gregory confirms the order, 
and exhorts them to obey. He himself, when admonished by the same 
emperor to return to a good understanding with John, Bishop of 
Constantinople, endeavours to show that he is not to be blamed; but 
so far from boasting of immunity from the secular forum, rather 
promises to comply as far as conscience would permit: he at the same 
time says that Maurice had acted as became a religious prince, in 
giving these commands to priests.

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volume 4
(continued in part 13...)

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