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  • JOHN CALVIN'S WRITINGS -
    LETTER 26.


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    CALVIN TO OLEVIANUS. F125

    As it may perhaps be of some assistance to you, I will give you a summary of our mode of government in this church.

    1. The ministers are chosen from our college. A passage of Scripture is given them by the interpretation of which they exhibit a specimen of their abilities; then an examination is held upon the principal heads of doctrine; after this they preach before us, as though they were in the presence of the people. Two senators are also present. If their qualifications are approved, we present them to the senate with the testimony. It is in the power of this body not to admit them, if they judge them to be unqualified. If they are received, (as they have been always hitherto,) their names are published coram populo, in presence of the people; and any one who knows any thing against them is at liberty to object to them within eight days. Those who are approved by the tacit suffrages of all, we recommend to God and to the church.

    2. We baptize infants only at public meetings; because it is absurd that this solemn reception of them, by the church, should have only a few witnesses. The parents, unless something prevents, are directed to be present, that they may answer in the covenant together with fidejussoribus, sureties. No one, however, is admitted as a surety , unless of the same religious profession with us. Excommunicated persons are also prohibited this honor.

    3. No one is admitted to the holy supper of Christ, before making a public profession of his faith. For this purpose, we have annually four examinations, at which the youth are interrogated, and the proficiency of each one is known. For although at the catechism on each Lordís day, they begin before to give some testimony, yet it is not lawful for them to come to the holy table, until it is known, by the opinion of the minister, that they have made some tolerable proficiency in the principal doctrines of religion. As it respects those who are older, we repeat annually the inspection of each family. We distribute among ourselves the different parts of the city, so that we can examine in order every ward. The minister is accompanied by one of the church elders. At this time the new inhabitants are examined. Those who have been once received, at the Supper, are omitted; except that we examine whether their families are in peace and good order; whether they have contentions with their neighbors; whether they are given to intemperance; and whether they are indifferent and slothful in attending public worship. f127

    4. For the discipline of morals, this method is observed: twelve church elders are annually chosen; two from the upper senate; the other ten from the council of two hundred, either natives or naturalized citizens. Those who honestly and faithfully perform their duty are not removed from office, unless when occupied by other concerns of the republic. After the election, before they take their seats, their names are published to the people, that if any one should know them to be unworthy, he may declare it in season.

    5. No one is summoned to the ecclesiastical tribunal, unless by the general opinion of all the board; therefore each one is asked, whether he has any thing to offer? No one is summoned, unless he has refused compliance with private admonitions, or brought scandal on the church by an evil example. For instance, blasphemers, drunkards, fornicators. strikers, quarrelers, dancers, who lead ill balls, and such like, are called before the Censura Morum. Those who commit lighter offenses are dismissed with the correction of mild reproof. Greater sins are reproved with sharper severity; for the minister excludes them, at least for a short time, from the Supper, until, upon their asking forgiveness, they are reconciled to the church. If any one obstinately despises the authority of the church, unless he desist from his stubbornness before a year is past, he is thrown into exile by the senate for a year. If any one proves more perverse, the senate takes up the cause and inflicts the punishment. Those who, for the sake of redeeming their lives from the papists, have abjured the doctrines of the gospel, or attended mass, are ordered to appear before the church. The minister from the pulpit sets forth the matter. Then the excommunicated person fills on his knees, and humbly implores forgiveness. ó Such is the procedure of the consistory, that it in no way interferes with the course of civil jurisdiction. And that the people may not complain of any unreasonable rigor, the ministers are not only subject to the same punishments, but if they commit any thing worthy of excommunication, they are also at the same time deposed.

    JOHN CALVIN.

    Geneva, November 5, 1560. f128

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