Elijah Waterman.

Memoirs of the life and writings of John Calvin : together with a selection of letters online

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elaborate Commentary upon Genesis.

The two following are selected from the many letter^s
which the Genevese Reformer ^\Tote about this time :—

i* Calvin to Martyk, wishes health.

^' Although our friend John Sturmius, when he gave me
his advice concerning the dedication of my Commentaries,

* Joha Slcidan, the German historian, was born 1506, and died at Stras.
burg 1555. He wrote the history of the state of religion and publirk af-
fairs, in 25 books, from 1517 to 1555. This history is esteemed, by the
karned, to be well and faithfully written, and his authority is resijected.
James Siurmius, a magistrate of Strasburg, whose influence was great in
the Reformation in that city, agisted Skldan in his Imioiy. James Stur,
•mm dkd October, 1553.

17^ LIFE OF CALVIN. 1554

added that you were of the same mind, yet it was far more
pleasing to be informed of the same by your own letter.
One thing I fear, that my work, for which you manifest so
much regard, Avill not be worthy of so high estimation. But
how happens it, that you are silent about your own Commen-
taries on the same book, (Genesis) ? From your answer to
Robert Stephens, when you were in England, I expected
that they would be shortly pubHshed. I am sorry, that the
Church of God should be so long deprived of those advan-
tages, which I believe will be extensive. In the present
confused mass of books, it is of the first importance, that the
^\ eighty, learned and solid studies of pious and well-thinking
men, w ho are endowed with equal authority and judgment,
should be published ; both to defend the purity of doctrine,
tliat it may descend unsullied and entire to posterity, and
to repress the absurd Jevily of those, who throw all things
into confusion. Concerning JMcIancthon, I feel very much
grifvcd. It is not sufficient for him to waver, and turn
^viiich way soever the favour of men will carry him, or be-
tray the truth by silence ; but he must endeavour to bring
over to his effeminacy the firm servants of God, whose ex-
ample it v.'ould rather become him to imitate. You have
done excellently well, in professing yourself a free defender
of the true doctrine. For thus, by your example, a rule is
prescribed to him, how far peace is to be cherished, that he
may at length learn to aspire to some portion of a deter-
mined mind. I liave written to your colleague, at the re-
quest of Stiirmius, who would too submissively gratify him.

However this may succeed in pacifying that N , I shall

never repent of having attempted something. If some have
fallen off, it is your duty to bear with more fortitude the
burden vdiich is imposed upon you. Since I am fully con-
vinced tliat you do this, I am more and more confirmed in the
opjuion, that you were detained at Strasburg by the wonderful

1554 LIFE OF CALVIN. 175

f*rovidence of God, that you might give assistajice to that trou-
bled Church. Please to salute Zaiichius in my name. Our
friend the Marquis salutes you. Farewell, most excellent
man, and respected brother. IMay the Lord be with you
always, govern you and bless your labours. If your letters
had arrived sooner, your advice would have rendered the
exhortation to the Princes more copious. But I did not re-
ceive them till after the middle of August. My colleagues
salute you.


" Geneva, August 26, 1554.'*

" Calvin to Melancthon, S. D,

« I am grieved, and very much wonder, that my last let-
ter has not been answered by you. I cannot however suspect
that this arises from pride or contempt ; as nothing could be
more inconsistent with your disposition and habits. Having
found, therefore, a messenger who offers to take the trouble
of carrying my letter to you, I thought I would again ^t-
tempt to draw something from you. I do not say this, be-
cause I question your love for me, which was always beyond
measure ; but because I judge your silence to be prejudicial
to the Church of God. It is on this account that it ought to
be afflicting and troublesome to me.

" I "WTote lately on that ^wint of doctrine, about w hich
you more dissemble your own opinion than differ from us*
For what else can I think of a man of most penetrating judg-
ment, and so eminently skilled in the divine doctrines ? Since
no one, who is moderately conversant in the sacred writings,
conceals that w hich you yourself cover as unknown. And
yet the knowledge of the gratuitous mercy of God is destroy-
ed from the foundation, unless we hold this, that it is by the
mere good pleasure of God, that the fuithlul, whom he ha'^


chosen to salvation, are separated from the wicked ; and un-
less this is allowed also, that faith emanates from the secret
election of God ; because he illuminates, by his Spirit, those
A\ horn it seemed good to him to choose before they were born,
and plants them by the grace of adoption, in his family.
Consider, ^\'ith your usual prudence^ how absurd it is, that
ihis doctrine should be unsettled by so eminent a Divine.
You must see, that it will afford a very pernicious example,
ff ill our writings such a manifest difference should be ob-
served. Nor will I prescribe this rule for removing differ-
ences, that you should assent to my opinion; bat let us by
no means be ashamed to subscribe to the holy oracles of God.
I will readily embrace whatever method of conciliation shall
be pointed out as agreeable to you. Behold ignorant and
turbulent men on your side, renewing the sacramentarian
war ; while all the good sigh and complain that such men
encourage themselves by your silence. For although igno-
i-unce is bold, yet no one doubts, but that if you profess pub-
lickly what you think, you would subdue, or at least, in a
grfeat measure, you would easily appease their intemperance.
I am not so ignorant of human nature, that I cannot consider
with myself, and point out toothers also, the kind of men
^\ith whom you have to deal ; how the confusion of affairs
keeps you anxious and perplexed ; hew many tilings must
])e circumspectly observed by you, which impede and delay
your progress. But nothing is so injurious as j'Our dissimu-
lation. This loosens the curb upon these furious men, to dis-
turb and excite divisions in the Churches. I will not men-
tion how dear an ingenuous profession of the true doctrine
ought to be to us. You know that, for more than thirty
years, the eyes of an innumerable multitude hav^ been fixed
on you, desiring nothing more than to submit themselves to
your instruction. What ? Are you ignorant, that many
Bang in suspence, from that ambiguous form of testching, to

1554 LIFE OF CALVIN* 177

which you adhere with too much timidity. But if you are
not free to ]je honest to yourself j and teach substantially
what is useful to be known, you are at least bound to exert
yourself to bridle the intemperate violence of those, ^vho are
officiously raising tumults about nothing. For what, I be-
seech you, would these men have? Luther exclaimed,
through his whole life, that he contended for nothing, but
to assert that efficacy which he attributed to the sacraments.
It is agreed, that they are not empty forms, but that they
give truly what they represent : that in Baptism the efficacy
of the Spirit is present, to wash and regenerate us : that tlie
holy Supper is a spiritual feast, in which we are truly fed by
the flesh and blood of Christ. In quelling the tumults,
therefore, which these preposterous men have again excited,
the cause is of too great interest to suffer us to yield it up
through the fear of hatred. You cannot indeed escape these
various agitations, in the course you are pursuing. All our
exertions are to be directed to this single point, that the
brazen wall of a good conscience may firmly support us
not only in these, but in all the violent attacks with which
the Avhole world may assault us. Already I hear you call-
ed, by the patrons oWsiander, too flexible, and charged mth
being more devoted to profane philosophy than to the doc-*
trines of revelation. This reproach wounds me more severe-
ly, than if those malicious and perverse men should object
against you that Avhich it Avould be not only honoural^le for
you to confess, but magnificently glorious for you to pro-
claim as your opinion. Farewell, dearest man and brotlicr,
respected by me above others. IMay the Lord be your de-
fence, and continue to guide you by his Spirit even unto the


. " Gbnev.s August S6, 1554."


178 LIFE OF CALVIN. 1555

The union of sentihient among the Swiss Churches, about
the Lord's Supper, had, for several years, been a source oi
strong consolation to the Pastors and pious brethren. This
agreement, however, had been equally an object of hatred to
the factious spirits of errour. At this time, Joachim West-
phal, a man of much intemperate violence, rekindled the
fire of controversy. He was strongly bigoted in favour of
Consu])stantiation, and severe in his opposition to the doctrine
of Zuinglius and Calvin about the Eucharist. Heshusius,
Minister at Heidleburg,# followed up the attack of West-
plial, and severely abused the mild and perhaps too tempo-
rizing 3Ielancthon. He also opposed the articles of union be-
tween the Helvetick Churches, relative to the Lord's Supper.
Calvin published an explanation of the articles of agreement,
which greatly established the friends of peace, while it in-
creased the violence of Westphal and Heshusius against the
opinions of those Churches on that subject. Those who
^visli to travel over the ground of the controversy, concern-
ing the spiritual nature of the Lord's Supper, on the one
hand, and the real presence of the body and blood of Christ
in the consecrated elements, on the other, will find in the
tracts of Calvin, in answer to Westphal, Heshusius and the
•Magdeburgenses, &c. an ample and elaborate discussion of
that much controverted question. These diiferent tracts
were published in 1554, 1556, 155r, and 1561-1

The following letter exhibits the state of Calvin's mind,
concerning the controversy which Westphal had excited :—

" Calvin to Farel, Salatem dicit.

" My dear Farel — Although I might justly glory in the
reproaches, which virulent and petulant tongues heap upon

* See Bayle. f See Opuscula Calviiu, p. 648—744


me, since they rail at me for nothing, but what I believe
God and his Angels approve, yet notwithstanding, I earnest-
ly desire to be secreted in some retirement ; if in that way
their fury, which appears to be enkindled by my presence,
might be abated. I do not speak of the worthless, whom 1
have long since learned to estimate as they deserve. But it
is to me a source of substantial grief, to see Heaven con-
stantly assaulted by giants, out of hatred to me. Let us,
however, bear it patiently, since we know that it is by the
direction of divine Providence, that we are tossed about by
so great tempests. Westphal has published an illiberal book
against me, to which I know not whether it is expedient to
give an answer. Some of my friends request me to do it.
When I have read it, the Lord ^vill direct to what is best.
You seem to suppose, that I can produce a volume in a
moment, and would have me publish more Commentaries
than could be written in the course of a long life, by one
who was freed from all other cares. How much leisure
time, do you suppose I have, after discharging myofiicial
duties ? I wish others would undertake to refute tliose ag-
gressive works. I will most earnestly advise Melancthon to
this task ; but you know how dilatory he is. FareA\ ell, best
and most beloved brother. May the Lord be always a\ ith
you, protect and support you. IMy brethren and friends sa-
lute you much, and among others our friend Beza, who b
now with me.

« Geneva, October 10, 1555."

The labours, the trials and successive contest?, \vhich Cal-
vin had to pass through, in preserving the order, and promo-
ting the purity of the Church of Geneva, were extrcimly ar-
duous. Love to the cause of Christ was his ruling passion.
In seeking first the kingdom of God, he seems to have lost
sight of every other object. His confidence in the special

lao LIFE OF CALVIN. 1555

Providence of his Master, was unremitting. He was firm in
his hope, that the sunshine of peace would ultimately be en-
joyed in that Church. In a person, whose feelings were so
acute, and affections so strong as his were, for the purity of
doctrine and discipline, the immoralities and crimes of the
members of that Church must have caused the most painful
sensations. The day however of better things, to the Church
and Republick of Geneva, was now at hand. In the begin-
ning of the year 1555, the authors of sedition against ecclesi-
astical restraints prepared the way for their own destruction.
They fell victims to the storm, which was raised by their
desperate wickedness. Some of the leaders were capitally
punished ; others fled from their country ; and all of them
came to a shameful end, furnishing an example of the slow
but just judgment of God, against the enemies of his Church.

Calvin, in a letter to Bullinger, gives a concise statement
relative to the downfal of Perrin and his faction. #

The Republick of Geneva was now freed from those fac-
tious leaders, who had opposed the order of the Church, and
disturbed the administration of justice. The crafty, ambi-
tious and inunoral Perrin, who had so long continued his
baneful labours, was now completely disgraced, and had lied
to escape punishment. The former edicts concerning the ec-
clesiastical polity were reenacted, by the unanimous suffrages
of the citizens. A new tone was given to the morals of the
people ; and the affairs of the Church were conducted in
comparative peace.

The King of Poland, having read Calvin's Tract concern-
ing The Reformation of the Church, became interested to intro-
duce the principles of reform more extensively into the
Churches of his country. He requested a correspondence
with the Divine of Geneva ; whose letters to the King, and

* See Letters, No. 52.

1555 LIFE OF CALVIN. 181

other distinguished persons in Poland, are a proof of his as-
siduity in promoting the cause of Christ iii its purity.

This year, Mary, Queen of England, pursued the work
of persecution with great violence. Eight hundred persons
were put to death, at different times, by various kinds of
punishment. Among the great number of IMinisters, who
were burnt, Nicholas Ridley^ IJugh Latimer^ John Hooper,
Robert Ferrar, and Thomas Cranmer, were distinguished
* Martyrs. The remains of of Martin Bucer and Paul Fagius
were dug up, and committed to the flames, after having been
bm'ied about four years. # Calvin ^vas deeply afflicted at
the death of those eminent Elnglish Reformers. With Cran-
mer he had, for several years, a correspondence, which had a
salutary iniiuence in reforming the Liturgy of the English
Church. In France also, persecutions at this time prevailed.
Calvin addressed a consolatory letter to his brethren, who
were in chains. And he gave the most animating instruc-
tions, to encrease the fortitude, and strengthen the patience,
of the five Martyrs, Avho were burnt at Cambray.

Matthew Gribauld, a Lawyer, who maintained some hereti-
cal notions concerning the being of God and the Person of
Christ, had, for several years, occasionally visited Geneva.f
Some Italians, who had been under his instruction at Padua,
introduced him to Calvin, with whom he requested to have
a private dispute, upon some of his own theological dogmas.
^ Calvin agreed, on condition that there should be proper w it-
ncsscs prcFent at the discussion. This he refused. "When he
came again to that city, Calvin informed him, by a fiiend,
that he was free to confer with him, in the presence of his
brother Ministers, and three Ecclesiastibvs Scnioribus-Church
Elders ; assuring him, that he need fear no danger from any
disclosure of his sentiments. Gril)auld agreed to the propo-

* See Ruclioltzer's Chronolog-y, Anno 1555.

t Epist. Culvuii, Georgio Comiti Wirtebcrgensi, &c. May 2, 1557.


sal, and came to the appointed place, where Calvin and the
others were assembled. Calvin declined giving him his hand,
and excused himself from using any deceitful ceremonies
with one, who differed so materially on the essential points of
religion. He declared, that it was improper to put on appear-
ances, where there was no real cordiality, but on the contrary
an entire hostility of sentiment ; and that if they could agree on
the essential principles of faith, he should feel and would treat
him with all due respect. Upon this Gribauld left the room
in a turbulent manner. Tlie seeds of heretical opinions were
sown by this man, among some of the members of the Italian
Church, which was under the pastoral care of the amiable
and learned Count Martinengcs.^ He was the intimate
friend of Calvin, and while he lived he governed his little
flock at Geneva with peculiar care. At his death, he commit-
ted them to the fatherly protection of Calvin, expressing
great anxiety, lest those pernicious principles of Gribauld
should prevail to their ruin. The progress of heresy is from
moderate suggestions to bold impieties. So it was with Gri-
bauld. He escaped punishment by fleeing from Tubingen,
where he had been introduced as Professor of Law, by the
favour of Vergerius. By the Senate of Geneva he was ex-
cluded from that city. He was afterwards apprehended at
Bern, and upon his recantation, was released. But soon af-
ter, he avowed the same opinions, and was apprehended. Be-
ing seized by the plague, he died in prison, and thus escaped
a capital punishment.f Jerome Bolseck, after he was exclu-

* Epist. Calvini ad Martyrem, May 22, 1558.

f Matthew Gribauld, it is stated by Bayle, wrote and published a
history of Francis Spira. In the title, Gribauld says he was a familiar ae-
quaintance of Spira, in 1548, and that he wrote what he saw and heard
himself. It was printed at Basil, 1550. Sleidan, in his history, de-
clares that Gribauld was a spectator of the sad condition of Spira, and
that he wrote and published an account of it ; also, that many others, men
of distinction, saw Spira in tlut situation, which tlie history describes.

1556 LIFE OF CALVIN. 183

ded from the territory of Geneva, resided in the Canton of
Bern. By his influence, some Ministers in that quarter, who
were unprincipled and licentious, were induced to allege
against Calvin, That he made God the author of all evil, be-
cause he excluded nothing from his eternal Providence and or-
dination. Being disposed, by misrepresentations, to injure
the reputation of Calvin, they disregarded the statements
which he had formerly made in replying to the same objec-
tions. Calvin had abundantly proved, that the ordination of
God, concerning man, was consistent with the laws of moral
agency ; and without attempting to explain the mystery, as-
serted, and from the Scriptures proved the fact, that the di-
vine sovereignty was aI:)solute. Though personally regard-
less of these often repeated calumnies, he however, from con-
cern for the cause of truth, petitioned the Senate for permis-
sion to repau' to Bei'n, accompanied by delegates from that
body, in order to defend the true doctrines of religion be-
fore the people of that city. The points of doctrine were
amply discussed. Bolseck was ordered to depart from the
territory of that Canton. Castalio, who was more artful and
secret in his enmity against Calvin and those doctrines, was,
from learning, talents and morals, far more influential than
Bolseck in spreading the errours of Pelagius. He was censur-
ed, and also exiled from the territory of Bern.

Another of these accusers, and not the least violent, Mas
Andrew Zebedeus. He was a JMinister of Newburg, four
miles from Geneva. Some time after the decease of Calvin,
being himself on his death bed, he assembled the principal
citizens, and confessed his belief of the doctrines of the eter-
nal Providence and absolute sovereignty of God. He de-
clared his abhorrence of his treatment of Calvin, and order-
ed his writings on those subjects to be burnt in his presence.

In 155G, Calvin was seized with a quartan ague during
divine service. His constitulion was much debilitated, by

184 LIFE OF CALVIN. 1557

the discharge of his numerous official duties, and by his un-
remitting studies. The reformed Church at Frankfort ap-
plied to him for his advice, concerning the differences which
prevailed among them, upon the subject of Baptism and the
Lord's Supper. Among the letters, which he wrote this year,
is one addressed to the Church at Franld'ort, and others to
diiferent persons in that city. Having recovered his health
in some measure, at their request, he made a visit, in the
month of August, to that Church, to assist them in set-
tling the agitated questions. After his return, he resumed
his labours in preparing his Commentary on the Psalms.

During the reign of Henry II., the Reformers in France
suffered many severe persecutions. They had, however,
in their interest many noble and influential persons, at the
head of whom was Lewis, first Duke of Conde, and Gaspard
de Coligni, Admiral of France. The opposition to them
was powerful, and they were obliged, for their security, to
celebrate the Supper, and hold their meetings in private
houses, and with secrecy. A large number, having assem-
bled, on the 4th of September, in St. James street at Paris,#
for the celebration of the Supper, were discovered by the
Papists. Many of them made their escape, by the darkness
of the night. Eighty were apprehended, imprisoned, and
treated with the most abusive indignity. Among those
Avere many noble women of the first rank. Henry was petu-
lant and cruel ; and at this time his furious bigotry was es-
pecially enraged at the loss of the battle of St. Quintin.
Demochares, a Doctor of the Sorbonne, accused them of
those crimes, which the Pagans charged against the first
Christians. Their enemies reproached them with being the
cause of all the calamities of the kingdom ; and suborned
A^ ilnesses to testify, that in their nocturnal meetings they ia-

' Buclioltzer's Chronology, 155r.

1558 LIFE OF CALVIN. 186

dulged in the most filtliy lewdness. The King ordered
twenty-one of these unhappy persons to be burnt alive. Seven
of these were to be committed to the flames at three success
sive times. One of the first seven was a woman of a noble
family, who exhibited an example of fortitude becoming a
believer in the promises of Christ. Two others were youths
distinguished for their constancy in the faith, under such
trying circumstances- The Minister, who performed the
service on the evening when they were apprehended, pub-
lished the most ample testimony, to prove the falsehood of the
calumnies with which their accusers had reproached them.

The interest taken by Calvin, in the distresses of his breth-
ren, is manifested by the letter which he wrote to the
Landgrave of Hesse, to secure his interference ^\ itli the King
of France, to remove the imputation that the Reformers
were in any mamier the cause of the slaughter at the battle
of St. Quintin, and also for their deliverance from persecu-

" Galviw to the most illustrious Prince, liOED Philip,

Landgkave or Hesse, &c.

« Most illustrious Prince and Lord, though conscious of
my inferiority yet I am persuaded, that your Highness con-
siders me as a faithful servant of Christ ; and that your
former benevolence towards me still remains the same. I
will not make a long apology for my request, in a case
where sloth or omission would on my part be cruelty. I
abstained from writing to you, when the two brethren
went to you some time since, because I would not be trou-
blesome, nor press your Excellency to perform a duty to
which I believed you were already sufficiently inclined.
But as they are now going to you the third time, a new
reason excites me to unite my entreaties with theirs, that



you may not think their importunities with your Excel-
lency are repeated so often without cause. It is proba-
ble, that the rumours which are spread have reached your
ears, that there was no need of any expostulation with the
King, who had, of his own accord, ordered all those to be
liberated, who had been thrown into prison on account of
the gospel, it is true, that of a great number only seven
as yet have been burnt. But they are very much deceived,
who thmk that bounds are now set to this cruelty, as if the

Online LibraryElijah WatermanMemoirs of the life and writings of John Calvin : together with a selection of letters → online text (page 15 of 34)