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By J. W Allen

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It was not till l555 that Calvin had succeeded in crushing all internal opposition and completely established his system of government. There was nothing so great about the man as that constancy of inflexible and uncompromising will which bore his bodily weakness through all those years of toil and tension. The literary styles of Luther and Calvin contrast as violently as did the two men. Luther dissipated energy in exaggeration and squandered wealth passionately. As a controversialist he was coarsely and grossly abusive.

But his book contains little to any purpose. It was God's will from the beginning, he declares, that men should be subject only to Him. But men were rebellious and set up ' earthly power ' and human government ; and to save man from utter destruction God acquiesced in their foolish doings. The earthly governments, wicked from the first, grew worse with time. Now the world is suffering under the last and worst of the earthly kingdoms, but ' one may hear the cracking of it '. It is falling and ' with this kingdom shall fall all worldly power ; and all its riches, magnificence and.

In the definitive version of 1559 it is, indeed, expressed clearly enough. It is hardly more than vaguely suggested in that of 1539. § 2. THE DOCTRINE OF NON-RESISTANCE There were two elements in Calvin's political teaching and, though not logically quite incompatible, they were logically unconnected and practically discordant. He taught that it is the business of government to maintain true doctrine and right worship and to suppress heresy by force ; that the text of the Bible is law for all societies even though the strictly Mosaic law has been abrogated ; that the Church, through its consistories, has powoc to declare doctrine and authority to bind and to loose ; that it should control and regulate the moral life of the community, feed the sheep and slay the wolves ; and that all mere civil authority should be strictly subordinated to the Word of God as by it interpreted.

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A History of Political Thought in the Sixteenth Century by J. W Allen


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