John Calvin on the Duty of Magistrates Regarding Heretics

“Whoever shall now contend that it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death will knowingly and willingly incur their very guilt. This is not laid down on human authority; it is God who speaks and prescribes a perpetual rule for his Church. It is not in vain that he banishes all those human affections which soften our hearts; that he commands paternal love and all the benevolent feelings between brothers, relations, and friends to cease; in a word, that he almost deprives men of their nature in order that nothing may hinder their holy zeal. Why is so implacable a severity exacted but that we may know that God is defrauded of his honour, unless the piety that is due to him be preferred to all human duties, and that when his glory is to be asserted, humanity must be almost obliterated from our memories? Many people have accused me of such ferocious cruelty that I would like to kill again the man I have destroyed. Not only am I indifferent to their comments, but I rejoice in the fact that they spit in my face.”

-John Calvin
Defense of Orthodox Faith against the Prodigious Errors of the Spaniard Michael Servetus, published in early 1554

In his commentary on Deuteronomy 13,

“God makes plain that the false prophet is to be stoned without mercy. We are to crush beneath our heel all affections of nature when his honor is involved”

-John Calvin
Bainton 1951:70

“Moreover, God Himself has explicitly instructed us to kill heretics, to smite with the sword any city that abandons the worship of the true faith revealed by Him.”

-John Calvin
Comments on Ex. 22:20, Lev. 24:16, Deut. 13:5-15, 17:2-5.

“But when I perceived that the fury of certain bad men had risen to such a height in your realm, that there was no place in it for sound doctrine, I thought it might be of service if I were in the same work both to give instruction to my countrymen, and also lay before your Majesty a Confession, from which you may learn what the doctrine is that so inflames the rage of those madmen who are this day, with fire and sword, troubling your kingdom. For I fear not to declare, that what I have here given may be regarded as a summary of the very doctrine which, they vociferate, ought to be punished with confiscation, exile, imprisonment, and flames, as well as exterminated by land and sea. This, I allow, is a fearful punishment which God sends on the earth; but if the wickedness of men so deserves, why do we strive to oppose the just vengeance of God?”

-John Calvin
Prefatory Address in his Institutes to Francis, King of the French, 1536.

“[They] well deserve to be repressed by the sword which is committed to you, seeing that they attack not the King only, but God who has seated him upon the throne, and has entrusted to you the protection as well of His person as of His majesty.”

-John Calvin
Letter to the Lord Protector of Somerset, adviser to King Edward VI, October 22, 1548

“Let us also learn that nothing is less consistent than to punish heavily the crimes whereby mortals are injured, whilst we connive at the impious errors or sacrilegious modes of worship whereby the majesty of God is violated.”

-John Calvin
Comment on Exodus 32:29

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