Calvin Reviews A Book by Servetus

GENEVA, August 27, 1553.

Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, more peculiarly set apart, and my worshipful brethren.

You have doubtless heard of the name of Servetus, a Spaniard, who twenty years ago corrupted your Germany with a virulent publication, filled with many pernicious errors. This worthless fellow, after being driven out of Germany, and having concealed himself in France under a fictitious name, lately patched up a larger volume, partly from his former book, and partly from new figments which he had invented. This book he printed secretly at Vienne, a town in the neighbourhood of Lyons. Many copies of it had been conveyed to Frankfort for the Easter fairs: the printer’s agent, however, a pious and worthy man, on being informed that it contained nothing but a farrago of errors, suppressed whatever he had of it.

It would take long to relate with how many errors—yea, prodigious blasphemies against God—the book abounds. Figure to yourselves a rhapsody patched up from the impious ravings of all ages. There is no sort of impiety which this monster has not raked up, as if from the infernal regions. I had rather you should pass sentence on it from reading the book itself. You will certainly find on almost every single page, what will inspire you with horror. The author himself is held in prison by our magistrates, and he will be punished ere long, I hope; but it is your duty to see to it that this pestiferous poison does not spread farther.

The messenger will inform you respecting the number and the repository of the books. The bookseller, if I mistake not, will permit them to be burnt. Should anything stand in the way, however, I trust that you will act so judiciously, as to purge the world of such noxious corruptions. Besides, your way will be clear,—because if the matter be submitted to your judgment, there will be no necessity for asking the magistrate to interfere. And while I am so persuaded of your integrity that I believe it would be sufficient to inform you of it; yet the magnitude of the affair demands that I should beseech you, by Christ, faithfully to strive to discharge your duty, lest the opportunity should slip from you.

Fare ye well, most honoured Sirs, and very dear brethren. May the Lord guide you by His Spirit, shield you by His protection, and bless your labours.


If a book is pernicious, burn it.