John Calvin urges then King of France, Francis, to read his Institutes, which had evidently already gained some noteriety, and more to the point of his letter, a storm of opposition from the hierarchy of the Church of Rome. He summarizes their opposition in 7 points and gives answer to each:
1. Calvin's Institutes teach new, untested doctrine. He simply responds that indeed it is new to his adversaries, but is as old as the Gospel itself.
2. The doctrine is doubtful and uncertain. Calvin responds that his adversaries would likely not seal their doctrine with their own blood, but he would be willing to die and face the judgement seat of Christ for what he is expounding.
3. The teachings have not been confirmed by miracles. Calvin responds that the doctrine has been confirmed by Christ's own miracles and those of the apostles. He then exposes the claim of his adversaries that the teachings of the church have through the ages been constantly confirmed by miracles. He makes a plea to first examine the doctrine in the light of scripture, a recurring theme in his defence to King Francis.
4. Calvin's doctrines are opposed to the early church Fathers. He responds by quoting father after father condemning many of the practices which were common in the church of Rome at the time of his writing, such as the love of the priesthood for golden chalises and other showy luxury in the church, the practice of monks living off the charity of others, the extensive use of painted images and sculputre to represent Christ and the saints, and the doctrine of transubstantiation, and others including the celebacy of the priesthood. He strikes an overriding chord when he quotes another Father: the Church ought not to prefer herself to Christ, who always judges truly, whereas ecclesiastical judges, who are but men, are generally deceived.
5. He is accused of going against custom. Calvin responds with a touchstone of the Reformation, that this is the root of the problem. The truth of the simple Gospel in the scriptures has been obscured by centuries of church custom. But be it so that public error must have a place in human society, still, in the kingdom of God, we must look and listen only to his eternal truth, against which no series of years, no custom, no conspiracy, can plead prescription.
6. His adversaries complain that these doctrines mean that the Church has been in error for centuries. Calvin responds by making a clear defence of what is commonly referred to today as the Church Invisible as opposed to the Church Visible. The visible church in his day bore little resemblance to the simple Body of Christ, and he spends several paragraphs in scathing denouncement of the vain pomp of the visible church of his time.
7. His doctrines are accused of causing civil disturbance. Calvin simply claims: "It is one of the characteristics of the divine word, that whenever it appears, Satan ceases to slumber and sleep."
Calvin ends his defence by beseaching the king to read the Institutes for himself, and test the doctrines. I don't know my history well, but it appears that this plea fell on deaf ears.
My edition contains Calvin's preface to the second edition where after expressing almost surpise at the widespread success of the work, made the bold statement that the Institutes could be used as a tool by which to study the scriptures, for the new student of the word, a guide by the learned for the unlearned. At first this sounds a bit pompous, but after reflection, was indeed most needed in Calvin's day.
There follows a preface to the French edition, translated by the author himself. He here gives God glory for the work: acknowledging it to be God's work rather than mine.
Finally, there is a preface to the final edition of 1559, where he commends the work for students preparing for the ministry. He is increasingly humbled at the increasingly favorable reception this work received. This reception pales indeed to the influence this monument to God's Holy Word has had in the ensuing 400 years!
Take Home Pearl: Let God be true and every man a liar. Search the scriptures to see if those things were so. God's word, not man's word is the yardstick by which we measure all claims to truth.