Institutes of The Christian Religion 
By John Calvin 
A New Translation, by Henry Beveridge, Esq 
Volume First 
Edinburgh: Printed for The Calvin Translation Society 
Table of Contents of this Electronic Version: 
The Printers to the Reders. 
The Original Translator's Preface. 
Prefatory Address 
The Epistle to the Reader 
Subject of the Present Work 
Epistle to the Reader 
Method and Arrangement, or Subject of the Whole Work 
General Index of Chapters 
 Book First 
 Book Second 
 Book Third 
 Book Fourth 
Book First: Of the Knowledge of God the Creator 
 1. The knowledge of God and of ourselves mutually connected. - 
 Nature of the connection. 
 2. What it is to know God,--Tendency of this knowledge. 
 3. The knowledge of God naturally implanted in the human mind. 
 4. The knowledge of god stifled or corrupted, ignorantly or 
 5. The knowledge of God conspicuous in the creation, and continual 
 government of the world. 
 6. The need of Scripture, as a guide and teacher, in coming to God 
 as a Creator. 
 7. The testimony of the Spirit necessary to give full authority to 
 Scripture. The impiety of pretending that the credibility of 
 scripture depends on the judgement of the church. 
 8. The credibility of Scripture sufficiently proved in so far as 
 natural reason admits. 
 9. All the principles of piety subverted by fanatics, who 
 substitute revelations for Scripture. 
 10. In Scripture, the true God opposed, exclusively, to all the 
 gods of the heathen. 
 11. Impiety of attributing a visible form to God. - The setting up 
 of idols a defection from the true God. 
 12. God distinguished from idols, that He may be the exclusive 
 object of worship. 
 13. The unity of the Divine Essence in three Persons taught, in 
 Scripture, from the foundation of the world. 
 14. In the creation of the world, and all things in it, the true 
 God distinguished by certain marks from fictitious gods. 
 15. State in which man was created. The faculties of the soul - The 
 image of God - Free will - Original righteousness. 
 16. The world, created by God, still cherished and protected by 
 Him. Each and all of its parts governed by His providence. 
 17, Use to be made of the doctrine of providence. 
 18. The instrumentality of the wicked employed by God, while He 
 continues free from every taint. 
The Institution of The Christian Religion, wrytten in Latine, by 
maister Ihon Calvin, and translated into English according to the 
authors last edition. 
Seen and allowed according to the order appointed in the 
Queries maiesties injunctions. 
Imprinted at London by Reinolde Wolfe & Richards Harison. Anno. 
1561. Cam privilegio ad imprimendum folum. 
The Printers to the Reders. 
Whereas some men have thought and reported it to be [very great 
negligence in us for that we have so long kept back from you [this,] 
being so profitable a work for you, namely fithe maister J[ohnne] 
Dawes had translated it and delivered it into our handes more than a 
tweluemoneth past: you shall understande for our excuse in that 
behalfe, that we could not wel imprinte it soner. For we have ben by 
diverse necessarie causes constrained with our earnest entreatance 
to procure an other frede or oures to translate it whole again. This 
translation, we trust, you shall well allow. For it hath not only 
ben faithfully done by the translator himself, but also hath ben 
wholly perused by such men, whoes ingement and credit al the godly 
learned in Englande well knowe I estheme. But since it is now come 
forth, we pray you accept it, and see it. If any faultes have passed 
us by oversight, we beseche you let us have your patience, as you 
have had our diligence. 
The Institution of Christian Religion, written in Latine by M. John 
Calvine, and translated into English according to the Authors last 
edition, with sundry Tables to finde the principall matters 
entreated of in this booke, and also the declaration of places of 
Scripture therein expounded, by Thomas Norton. 
Whereunto there are newly added in the margent of the booke, notes 
containing in briefs the substance of the matter handled in each 
Printed at London by Arnold Hatfield, for Bonham Norton. 1599 
The Original Translator's Preface. 
Prefixed to the fourth edition 1581, and reprinted verbatim in all 
the subsequent editions. 
T[homas] N[orton], the Translator to the Reader. 
Good reader, here is now offered you, the fourth time printed in 
English, M. Calvin's book of the Institution of Christian Religion; 
a book of great labour to the author, and of great profit to the 
Church of God. M. Calvin first wrote it when he was a young man, a 
book of small volume, and since that season he has at sundry times 
published it with new increases, still protesting at every edition 
himself to be one of those qui scribendo proficiunt, et proficiendo 
scribunt, which with their writing do grow in profiting, and with 
their profiting do proceed in writing. At length having, in many 
[of] his other works, travelled about exposition of sundry books of 
the Scriptures, and in the same finding occasion to discourse of 
sundry common-places and matters of doctrine, which being handled 
according to the occasions of the text that were offered him, and 
not in any other method, were not so ready for the reader's use, he 
therefore entered into this purpose to enlarge this book of 
Institutions, and therein to treat of all those titles and 
commonplaces largely, with this intent, that whensoever any occasion 
fell in his other books to treat of any such cause, he would not 
newly amplify his books of commentaries and expositions therewith, 
but refer his reader wholly to this storehouse and treasure of that 
sort of divine learning. As age and weakness grew upon him, so he 
hastened his labour; and, according to his petition to God, he in 
manner ended his life with his work, for he lived not long after. 
    So great a jewel was meet to be made most beneficial, that is 
to say, applied to most common use. Therefore, in the very beginning 
of the Queen's Majesty's most blessed reign, I translated it out of 
Latin into English for the commodity of the Church of Christ, at the 
special request of my dear friends of worthy memory, Reginald Wolfe 
and Edward Whitchurch, the one her Majesty's printer for the Hebrew, 
Greek, and Latin tongues, the other her Highness' printer of the 
books of Common Prayer. I performed my work in the house of my said 
friend, Edward Whitchurch, a man well known of upright heart and 
dealing, an ancient zealous gospeller, as plain and true a friend as 
ever I knew living, and as desirous to do anything to common good, 
especially by the advancement of true religion. 
    At my said first edition of this book, I considered how the 
author thereof had of long time purposely laboured to write the same 
most exactly, and to pack great plenty of matter in small room of 
words; yea, and those so circumspectly and precisely ordered, to 
avoid the cavillations of such as for enmity to the truth therein 
contained would gladly seek and abuse all advantages which might be 
found by any oversight in penning of it, that the sentences were 
thereby become so full as nothing might well be added without idle 
superfluity, and again so highly pared, that nothing could be 
minished without taking away some necessary substance of matter 
therein expressed. This manner of writing, beside the peculiar terms 
of arts and figures, and the difficulty of the matters themselves, 
being throughout interlaced with the school men's controversies, 
made a great hardness in the author's own book, in that tongue 
wherein otherwise he is both plentiful and easy, insomuch that it 
sufficeth not to read him once, unless you can be content to read in 
vain. This consideration encumbered me with great doubtfulness for 
the whole order and frame of my translation. If I should follow the 
words, I saw that of necessity the hardness in the translation must 
needs be greater than was in the tongue wherein it was originally 
written. If I should leave the course of words, and grant myself 
liberty after the natural manner of my own tongue, to say that in 
English which I conceived to be his meaning in Latin, I plainly 
perceived how hardly I might escape error, and on the other side, in 
this matter of faith and religion, how perilous it was to err. For I 
durst not presume to warrant myself to have his meaning without his 
words. And they that wet what it is to translate well and 
faithfully, especially in matters of religion, do know that not the 
only grammatical construction of words sufficeth, but the very 
building and order to observe all advantages of vehemence or grace, 
by placing or accent of words, maketh much to the true setting forth 
of a writer's mind. 
    In the end, I rested upon this determination, to follow the 
words so near as the phrase of the English tongue would suffer me. 
Which purpose I so performed, that if the English book were printed 
in such paper and letter as the Latin is, it should not exceed the 
Latin in quantity. Whereby, beside all other commodities that a 
faithful translation of so good a work may bring, this one benefit 
is moreover provided for such as are desirous to attain some 
knowledge of the Latin tongue, (which is, at this time, to be wished 
in many of those men for whose profession this book most fitly 
serveth,) that they shall not find any more English than shall 
suffice to construe the Latin withal, except in such few places 
where the great difference of the phrases of the languages enforced 
me: so that, comparing the one with the other, they shall both 
profit in good matter, and furnish themselves with understanding of 
that speech, wherein the greatest treasures of knowledge are 
    In the doing hereof, I did not only trust mine own wit or 
ability, but examined my whole doing from sentence to sentence 
throughout the whole book with conference and overlooking of such 
learned men, as my translation being allowed by their judgement, I 
did both satisfy mine own conscience that I had done truly, and 
their approving of it might be a good warrant to the reader that 
nothing should herein be delivered him but sound, unmingled, and 
uncorrupted doctrine, even in such sort as the author himself had 
first framed it. All that I wrote, the grave, learned, and virtuous 
man, M. David Whitehead, (whom I name with honourable remembrance,) 
did, among others, compare with the Latin, examining every sentence 
throughout the whole book. Beside all this, I privately required 
many, and generally all men with whom I ever had any talk of this 
matter, that if they found anything either not truly translated, or 
not plainly Englished, they would inform me thereof, promising 
either to satisfy them or to amend it. Since which time, I have not 
been advertised by any man of anything which they would require to 
be altered. Neither had I myself, by reason of my profession, being 
otherwise occupied, any leisure to peruse it. And that is the cause, 
why not only at the second and third time, but also at this 
impression, you have no change at all in the work, but altogether as 
it was before. 
    Indeed, I perceived many men well-minded and studious of this 
book, to require a table for their ease and furtherance. Their 
honest desire I have fulfilled in the second edition, and have added 
thereto a plentiful table, which is also here inserted, which I have 
translated out of the Latin, wherein the principal matters 
discoursed in this book are named by their due titles in order of 
alphabet, and under every title is set forth a brief sum of the 
whole doctrine taught in this book concerning the matter belonging 
to that title or common-place; and therewith is added the book, 
chapter, and section or division of the chapter, where the same 
doctrine is more largely expressed and proved. And for the readier 
finding thereof, I have caused the number of the chapters to be set 
upon every leaf in the book, and quoted the sections also by their 
due numbers with the usual figures of algorism. And now at this last 
publishing, my friends, by whose charge it is now newly imprinted in 
a Roman letter and smaller volume, with divers other Tables which, 
since my second edition, were gathered by M. Marlorate, to be 
translated and here added for your benefit. 
    Moreover, whereas in the first edition the evil manner of my 
scribbling hand, the interlining of my copy, and some other causes 
well known among workmen of that faculty, made very many faults to 
pass the printer, I have, in the second impression, caused the book 
to be composed by the printed copy, and corrected by the written; 
whereby it must needs be that it was much more truly done than the 
other was, as I myself do know above three hundred faults amended. 
And now at this last printing, the composing after a printed copy 
bringeth some ease, and the diligence used about the correction 
having been right faithfully looked unto, it cannot be but much more 
truly set forth. This also is performed, that the volume being 
smaller, with a letter fair and legible, it is of more easy price, 
that it may be of more common use, and so to more large 
communicating of so great a treasure to those that desire Christian 
knowledge for instruction of their faith, and guiding of their 
duties. Thus, on the printer's behalf and mine, your ease and 
commodity (good readers) provided for. Now resteth your own 
diligence, for your own profit, in studying it. 
    To spend many words in commending the work itself were 
needless; yet thus much I think, I may both not unruly and not 
vainly say, that though many great learned men have written books of 
common-places of our religion, as Melancthon, Sarcerius, and others, 
whose works are very good and profitable to the Church of God, yet 
by the consenting judgement of those that understand the same, there 
is none to be compared to this work of Calvin, both for his 
substantial sufficiency of doctrine, the sound declaration of truth 
in articles of our religion, the large and learned confirmation of 
the same, and the most deep and strong confutation of all old and 
new heresies; so that (the Holy Scriptures excepted) this is one of 
the most profitable books for all students of Christian divinity. 
Wherein, (good readers,) as I am glad for the glory of God, and for 
your benefit, that you may have this profit of my travel, so I 
beseech you let me have this use of your gentleness, that my doings 
may be construed to such good end as I have meant them; and that if 
any thing mislike you by reason of hardness, or any other cause that 
may seem to be my default, you will not forthwith condemn the work, 
but read it after; in which doing you will find (as many have 
confessed to me that they have found by experience) that those 
things which at the first reading shall displease you for hardness, 
shall be found so easy as so hard matter would suffer, and, for the 
most part, more easy than some other phrase which should with 
greater looseness and smoother sliding away deceive your 
understanding. I confess, indeed, it is not finely and pleasantly 
written, nor carrieth with it such delightful grace of speech as 
some great wise men have bestowed upon some foolisher things, yet it 
containeth sound truth set forth with faithful plainness, without 
wrong done to the author's meaning; and so, if you accept and use 
it, you shall not fail to have great profit thereby, and I shall 
think my labour very well employed. 
Thomas Norton.

Calvin, Institutes on the Christian Religion, Volume 1
(continued in part 2...)

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