The city council of Geneva, Switzerland had recently voted to abolish the Roman Catholic Mass in their town and implement worship according to the Word of God. For this they would need a new church administration, liturgy, catechism, confession sermons, and biblical expositions.
The new Confession was drawn up in 1536 either by John Calvin (1509–1564), William Farel (1489-1565), or both, based upon Calvin’s French Catechism (1536). In 1537 both Calvin and Farel presented the Confession to the Small Council of Geneva who adopted it. The Confession was also endorsed by the reformed city council of Bern, Switzerland, as agreeable to the Word of God.
Calvin pushed for the confession to be sworn to by all the citizens of Geneva, though popular feeling otherwise prevented this. In 1538, in an attempt to purify the church and protect the Lord’s Supper from being profaned by profane church members, Calvin, Farel and Elie Courauld/Courand/Coraud (†1538) asserted, by the Biblical principle of the independent jurisdiction of church power, that those not subscribing to the confession would not be admitted to the Lord’s Supper. The populace and town council were not pleased, and drove Calvin from Geneva.
The excerpts below were translated by James Dennison, Jr., from the French text in G. Baum, et al, eds., Ioannis Calvini Opera quae supersunt Omnia (1870), 9:693-700 (Corpus Reformatorum, v. 37). The full English translation appears in Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, Vol. 1, 1523-1552, compiled with introductions by James T. Dennison, Jr. (Reformation Heritage Books, 2008) and the excerpt below appears on pp. 397-8.
A Confession of Faith, which all the Citizens and Inhabitants of Geneva and Subjects of the Country are to Swear to Keep and Hold
We confess that the entrance which we have to such great treasures and to such great riches of the goodness of God, which is lavished upon us, is by faith; as with certain trust and certainty of heart, we believe the promises of the gospel and receive Jesus Christ as He is offered to us by the Father and described to us by the Word of God.
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