Amendment I (Religion)

[Volume 5, Page 44]

Document 1

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion

1536Stokes 1:110

III. The opinion entertained by some persons, that . . . all civil magistrates were strangers to the profession of Christianity, is a mistake, for want of considering the great distinction, and the nature of the difference, between the ecclesiastical and civil power. For the Church has no power of the sword to punish or to coerce, no authority to compel, no prisons, fines, or other punishments, like those inflicted by the civil magistrate. Besides, the object of this power is, not that he who has transgressed may be punished against his will, but that he may profess his repentance by a voluntary submission to chastisement. The difference therefore is very great; because the Church does not assume to itself what belongs to the magistrate, nor can the magistrate execute that which is executed by the Church. . . .

Nor let any one think it strange that I now refer to human polity the charge of the due maintenance of religion, which I may appear to have placed beyond the jurisdiction of men. For I do not allow men to make laws respecting religion and the worship of God now, any more than I did before: though I approve of civil government, which provides that the true religion which is contained in the law of God, be not violated, and polluted by public blasphemies, with impunity.

. . . . .

XXII. The first duty of subjects towards their magistrates is to entertain the most honourable sentiments of their function, which they know to be a jurisdiction delegated to them from God, and on that account to esteem and reverence them as God's ministers and vicegerents. . . .

XXIII. Hence follows another duty, that, with minds disposed to honour and reverence magistrates, subjects approve their obedience to them, in submitting to their [Volume 5, Page 45] edicts, in paying taxes, in discharging public duties and bearing burdens which relate to the common defence, and in fulfilling all their other commands.

. . . . .

XXXII. But in the obedience which we have shewn to be due to the authority of governors, it is always necessary to make one exception, and that is entitled to our first attention, that it do not seduce us from obedience to him, to whose will the desires of all kings ought to be subject, to whose decrees all their commands ought to yield, to whose majesty all their sceptres ought to submit.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 5, Amendment I (Religion), Document 1
The University of Chicago Press

Stokes, Anton Phelps, ed. Church and State in the United States. 3 vols. New York: Harper & Bros., 1950.

© 1987 by The University of Chicago
All rights reserved. Published 2000