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Excerpt from Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 1
In the celebrated preface to this Work, Calvin declares, that when he engaged in it, nothing was farther from his thoughts than to write what should afterwards be presented to the King and, in confirmation of the statement that his only object was to provide a humble elementary treatise for the use of his countrymen, he appeals to the form and nature of the work itself. Looking at the work as it now exists, few would be disposed, on taking up Calvin's appeal, to give judgment in his favour: for certainly nothing can less resemble a simple elementary treatise than the Institutes as left by him at his final revisal. On the other hand, on looking at the work in its original form, and perusing the simple expo sition which it gives of the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, and the Creed, the separate articles of which are often disposed of in a few sentences, one is forcibly struck with the idea, that as these might have admirably served the purpose, so they may, in fact, be identical with some of the Brief Christian Admonitions. Be this as it may, there can be little doubt, that when Calvin quitted Saintonge in 1534, he had conceived the idea, and was bent on the execution of his immortal Work.
The good offices of the Queen of Navarre in favour of the Reformers had so far succeeded, that her brother Francis I. Seemed to have become favourably disposed towards them, and hopes began to be entertained that the cruel persecutions to which they had been subjected would be finally suppressed.
In these circumstances, Calvin ventured to' quit his retire ment but the hopes which had been entertained were soon miserably disappointed. Bigotry and persecution regained their ascendancy; and Calvin, finding it impossible to exert himself to any useful purpose, left the country in the begin ning of 1535, and took up his residence at Basle. Having remained here for some time, a retired and laborious student, he at length published the christian institutes. The publication forms a kind of era in the history of the Theological Literature of the Reformation; and as several questions of interest have been raised with regard to it, the present seems the appropriate place for entering into the consideration of them.
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