Another argument levied against Calvin was that “custom” (tradition) indicted this “new” teaching of his. Calvin countered that if men’s judgment was actually any good, noble and pure, good men would seek it out. Quite to the contrary, the private vices of men, often lead to gross public error. Because men see these things repeated by frequently by many, these errors become the norm. Custom cannot be trusted because it often springs from the impure and evil motives of the wicked heart.

He wrote, But granting public error a place in the society of men, still in the Kingdom of God his eternal truth must alone be listened to and observed, a truth that cannot be dictated to by length of time, by long-standing custom, or by conspiracy of men (pg. 23). We must fear God — not man. We must not be hasty in toting the party line because of tradition or custom. (Isaiah 8:11-13)

In part 6 of the prefatory address to the King, Calvin attacks how his accusers define the only true church. They say that the visible church, the one that can be seen with their own eyes is the only real apparent church. It’s manifestation is the Roman church and its hierarchy. Calvin expresses that the church has invisible realities “and that its appearance is not contained within that outward magnificence which they foolishly admire” (pg. 24). He states the only marks necessary are the pure preaching of God’s Word and the right administration of the sacraments.

Calvin condemns the heresies, schisms and power-plays in the Roman church perpetrated by wicked men who are nothing more than pharisees. The “very doctrine itself whereby they claim to be the church, is a deadly butchery of souls, a firebrand, a ruin, and a destruction of the church” (pg 27).

Lord, teach me to fear You and You alone. Let me give full attention to Your truth and give me the courage to dismiss any and all customs and traditions of men which attempt to usury the authority of your Word.