English 233:  Introduction to Western Humanities ­Baroque & Enlightenment

An exchange between
Calvin and Cardinal Sadoleto
on the proper end of human existence

You may wish to consult the Study Guide to this reading.

The narrative is taken from Roland H. Bainton, The Age of the Reformation (New York:  Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1956).

Sadoleto, the Catholic bishop of the district of Geneva, sought to recall his Calvinist parishioners to the Catholic faith, first by reminding them that the chief end of man is his own salvation.  "There is a better chance of security," said he, "in the Church tradition of fifteen hundred or at least thirteen hundred years than among innovators with only twenty-five years standing.  A Catholic who at the Judgment Day declares his fidelity to the ancient faith, even though he be wrong, which God forbid, will stand a better chance because of sincerity, humility, and obedience than will an arrogant innovator."

Calvin replied, "I cannot understand why you have addressed to us such a long exordium on the importance of the future life with which we are continually preoccupied, but I will say that it is unworthy of a theologian to permit man to be so concerned about himself and not rather to make zeal for God's glory the chief object of his life.  I confess that God, in order to make the glory of His name more congenial to men, has conjoined our salvation with zeal for its promotion and extension.  Nevertheless, the Christian man should aspire to a loftier goal than the salvation of his soul.  No one imbued with true piety will consider your appeal for concern with the future life because it directs a man wholly to himself and not with a single word lifts him up to hallow the name of God."

exordium:   an introductory part of a speech or treatise.  Return.

  Go to the Study Guide for this reading.

  Go to the full texts of Sadoleto's letter and of Calvin's reply. (These are not required reading for our course, but the unabridged documents may be of interest to some.)

  Go to the Home Page of the course.

  Suggestions, comments and questions are welcome.  Please send them to lyman@ksu.edu .

      Quotations from Bainton's book are reproduced under fair use for educational purposes only.  All rights are reserved to the publisher and Bainton's estate.

      This page last updated 20 August 2001.