Elijah Waterman.

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

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form in avoiding publick celebrity, I know not by what
means I was induced to attend the imperial conventions,
where, willing or unwilling, I must of necessity appear pub-
lickly in the presence of multitudes. Afterwards, when the
Lord, by shewing mercy according to his word, had by
his marvellous strength dissipated those counsels, which were
as wicked, as the endeavours of the factious to execute them
were sanguinary, a necessity was laid upon me of being
brought back again to my original station, against the de-
sires of my heart. Although the prosperity of this Church
was of such high concern, that I would willingly have uHt
dergone death for its sake, yet my timidity suggested a
great variety of excuses, why I should not afresh subject my
shoulders to a burden so oppressive. At last, however, the
obligation and repsonsibility of my office determined me to
restore myself to the flock from which I had been violent-
ly separated ; yet with what deep sorrow, abundant tears,

and extreme anxiety, the best of Beings is my witness.

From that time, with what various conflicts he



has exercised me, and with what trials he has proved me, if

I would relate thera, the history would be long.

Geneva, July 23, 1557.


John Calvin to Francis Daniel.

As I have to relate to you a multitude of events, Avhicli
would afford me matter for a long letter, I shall limit my-
self accordingly, and give you rather an index than a narra-
tive, for should I indulge in details, they would grow to a
volume. On the first of October, it is customary for the
youths, who pass from their grammatical studies to the dia-
lecticks, to be exercised in the performance of plays. At
this anniversary, a play was performed in the College of Na-
varre, which was filled with bitterness and raillery, rather
than the severity of satire. Among the characters introduc-
ed, was a Queen, busied about nothing but handling her
needle, or holding her distaif. Megera enters, and with her
torch makes a signal to the Queen to throw aside her needle
and her distaff. The Queen at first refuses, but soon after
yields to the Fur?/, from whom she receives the Gospel,
which deprives her of all she before knew, and makes her
almost forget herself. She presently becomes a tyrant, and
persecutes the miserable and inoffensive, with every kind of
severity. To these were added many other similar fictions,
equally unjust in their application to the woman, whom the
author evidently designed to insult. The affair, for some
days, was kept secret. But, as truth is the daughter of time,
the whole story was soon related to the Queen. Believing
that if this insult was passed over unpunished, it might af-
ford a dangerous example to all those who were fond of no-
velty, she ordered the commander of the j^uards to repair

240 LIFE OF CALVIN, letters,

immediately to the College, Avitli an hundred men. At his
order, they surrounded the house so that no one should es-
cape, while with a few attendants he entered, but found
not the author of the play. The offender had not, they
saj^, anticipated this event, but being in the room of a
friend, and hearing the tumult, he was secreted, till an op-
portunity was afforded for his escape^ The officer of the
guards seized the actors, but the Principal of the College
made opposition, and during the altercation, stones were
thrown by some of the students. Notwithstanding, he ap-
prehended them, and obliged each of them to recite the part
he had acted in the play. Exceptions were taken against
the whole comedy. But as the author could not be found,
they proceeded to secure those who might have suppressed
the performance, and who yet sanctioned it with their per-
mission, and dissembled about it afterwards. The first in
authority, Lauret, requested to be lodged in the house of the
Commissary, as a more decent place than a prison. Mori-
nup, the next instructor in order, Avas commanded to remain
at home, until he should be examined. What has been dis-
covered since, I cannot say. Their trial is said to be defer-
red till three days hence. Thus much for comedies.

Some factious Divines have committed another outrage
equally malicious, though not so daring. Having found, in
examining the shops of the book-sellers, a work entitled The
Mirror of a sinful Soul,% they placed it in the number of
those books, the reading of which they prohibited. When

* Tills work was In French verse, and contained several things not com-
mon in the Church of Rome. lu It no mention was made of any men or wo-
men saints, nor merits, nor any otlier purgatory but the blood of Jesus
Christ. The prayer, commonly called the Salve ReginUy was by the Queen
in this work applied to Jesus Christ. This book excited the indignation at
NoelBcda, Principal of the College of Montaigu, and tlie rest of the Sor-
bonne of his temper ; and this led to the acting of the play, in which the
Queen of Navarre was insulted. Beza Eccles. Hist quoted by Baylc.


the Queen heard this, she complained to the King, and con-
fessed herself to be the author. The King ordered the di-
rectors of the Parisian University to inform him, whether
they had placed it among the books wliich inculcated the
reprobated religion. If they had, to give liim the reason of
their judgment. Nicolas Cop, a Physician, now Hector of
the University, brought this enquiry before the Colleges of the
arts, of medicine, philosophy, theology and the canon law.
With the Professors of the arts, among whom he had the
right of speaking first, he inveighed, in a long and l)itter
speech, against the rashness of those, who had usurped that
right over her IMajesty.

He advised them not to expose themselves to so great danger,
lest they should excite the anger of the King, l)y taking up
arms against the Queen^ the protectress of virtue and litera-
ture. And lastly he cautioned them against taking this fault
upon themselves, and thereby cherishing the wickedness of
those who are ready to attempt any tiling under this pretext,
The Academy has done it, even Allien the Academy has given
no such authority. They unanimously agreed, to abjure the
Condemnation of the work. The Professors of theology, ©f
canon law and medicine, passed the same decree. The
Rector announced the decree of his order, and the other
Professors followed his example ; and lastly, the Pastor of the
Parish of St. Andrews, on whom the blame now devolved,
after extolling in the most magnificent terms the integrity of
the King, Avho had thus far conducted himself as the zeal-
ous protector of the faith, added that there were some aban-
doned men, who endeavoured to pervert his royal mind, wjio
had conspired to eii'ect the fall of the sacred faculty ; but
he was confident, that they would efiect nothing against the
established constancy of the King. As to the business under
consideration, he had indeed been appointed, by the dpcree


^^2 LIFE OF CALVIN. ietters,

of the Academy, to the office of Book-censor,^^ but nothing had
ever been farther from his mind, than to attempt any thin§
to the injury of the Queen, whom be considered as a woman
distinguished for the sanctity of her morals, and the purity
of her reUgion ; in proof of ^vhich, he would only mention
the funeral obsequies with which she had honoured the me-
Biory of her departed mother. That he held as condemned
only such ol^scene books as the Pantagrucl,] and the Sylvam
amorum^ et ejus monetae ; and that he had placed this among
those which were suspected, it having been published with-
out the consent of the faculty ; the blame therefore rested on
the decree by which it was forbidden to publish any book
unapprobated, that respected matters of faith. In fine, said
he, this will be my protection, that I did by the order of the
faculty \s hat is now called in question. The fault, if there is
any, is common to all, although they deny it. He said also,
that he had spoken other things in French, that all might un-
derstand whether he spoke the truth. But they were filled
with indignation that he should endeavour to cover his igno-
rance with such a cloak. The Bishop of Senlis, Stella and
some of the Prefects of the royal palace were present at this
debate. When the Pastor had finished, Parui, the Bishop of
Senlis, said he had read the book, and found nothing worthy
of censure, unless he had forgotten his theology. He closed
by requesting, that a decree should be published, which
would satisfy the King. The Rector, Cop, declared, that
the Academy did not acknowledge, approve or take upon it-
self liie censure, whatever it was, by which the book was num-
bered among those which were condemned or suspected.
That it might appear by Avhat reasons they defended them-

*' The Censors of books were a body of Doctors, at Paris, who were es-
tablished by the Pope in the fifteenth century, with the privilege of suppres-
sing or correcting books after or before their publication.

t A Romance of Rabelais.



selves, the Ajcadeniy addressed letters to the King, in ^vhich
they made their apology, and gave him thanks for haviui;
called thcra together in a manner so kind and paternal. A
decree was obtained from the King, ordering that the Bishop
of Paris should appoint the Preachers in the diil'erent parish-
es, as those who had made the election ])eforc, acting accord-
ing to their own fantastical humour, had called to this service
the most clamourous, and those filled \v ith a species of fury
w hich they termed zeal, than which the sun was never more
burning, and yet, with such zeal, they were zealous over the
house of God. Farewell. 1533.


BucER TO Calvin.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you, my much esteemed
brother, and fellow-labourer in the Lord. We have entreat-
ed the illustrious and truly noble IMaurus Museus, personally
at Basil, and now by letters, to obtain your consent to assist U3
in our controversial disputes on religious subjects. We nuist
acknowledge, as it appears to us, that the Lord has destined
you to be eminently useful to his Churches, and will exten-
sively bless your ministry. We are anxious that both we
ourselves, our Churches, and those who are preparing for the
ministry with us or elsewhere, should be in harmony ^v ith
your sentiments on every point of theology. You must be
sensible, how extensively injurious it ^vill be to the cause of
the Churches, if a diiferenceof opinion is entertained, even on
minor points, among the principle Pastors. If we arc faith-
ful to ourselves, the Lord, I trust, will put it in oui- power to
promote unanimily of opinion among the ^Ministers and
Churches, especially if we can have your doctrines illustrated
and enforced by yourself.

2U LIFE OF CALVIN. letters.

We will cheerfully meet you, in any place you will ap-
point, for the purpose of a conference upon the whole admi-
nistration of evangelical doctrines, preserving the highest re-
spect for the truth of Christ, and a becoming regard for you
in the Lord. This age has so advanced in the practice of calum-
niating whatever is judiciously said, or correctly written, and of
judging with the most rigid severity whatever is of an opposite
character, that it becomes us to use every means to render
our ministry as influential, as its importance is dignified. We
are under the strongest obligations, to bring all our exertions
into unison, both to secure our writings and discourses from
any unmerited reproach ; and to exhibit the beauty of holi-
ness in that simplicity of language which is adapted to the
capacities of the very children in the Church of Christ. You.
are sensible, my respected brother, and fellow-labourer in the
Lord, how highly the Apostle Paul estimated the meetings
and conferences of holy men, as tending to promote know-
ledge and purity ; how cheerfully he travelled over land and
sea to animate those believers, whom he knew to be anxious
for the edification of the Church, to be frequent in their so-
ciety. Appoint, therefore, a place, either at Basil, Bern, or
even at Geneva, if the duties of your office confine you, that
we may religiously confer upon subjects, which, although
clearly apprehended by you, to our tardy understandings,
require a more extensive illustration. The wise are debtors
to the unwise, that they also may understand. It would af-
ford us much pleasure, did our ecclesiastical duties, which
we cannot neglect, allow us, even uninvited and transiently,
to visit the Swiss Churches, I cannot well express how
much it grieves me not to have known and conversed with
you, when you were here. Capito, however, communicates
every thing to me. I know not what evil spirit made him
io forgetful as not to introduce you to me, which omision


he now very much regrets. Farewell, most learned and ho-
ly man.
Strasburc, November 1, 1536.


Calvin to Peter Caroli.

Grace and peace to you from the Lord, who can inspire
both you and us with a good understanding and a right
heart. Since your situation is such, we should have prefer-
red to have you presented yourself in person, to treat in our
presence concerning a reconcihation, rather tlian tJiat you
sliould attempt this by a letter. You vehemently labour to
prove, that you did not excite disturbances in tlie Church
without just cause ; as if there could be some good reason for
exciting those disturbances. Grant that you were not treat-
ed in that manner, by the brethren, whicli you ouglit to
have been. Would this indeed furnish you with a right to
raise such a tumult? Will you say, that it was the Spirit
of God that influenced you to declare war upon us all ? I
do not say this to upbraid you ; I wish I was permitted to
be wholly silent. But while you connect all those a\ illi Sa-
tan, \\'ho did not, at least according to your opinion, treat
you with sufticient equity, you certainly suppose them to be
very stupid, if you imagine that this business can be passed

over in silence. You still glory in this, that

you have attempted nothing against the Gospel even at
Metz. But by what metliod \\ ill you prove this to us ? K
any one carries on a warfare with a i)rofound servant of
Christ, and instead of aiding, obstructs, in every possible
manner, the kingdom of Christ, would it not be strange if
you should declare such a man to stand on the side of thr
Gospel ? Look, I beseech you, again and again, to the end

246 LIFE OF CALVIN. letters.

of your course. We hold a ministry in no manner separat-
ed from Christ. If you doubt this, we still have the certain
and confident testimony of our conscience. You may flatter
yourself as you will ; you M^ill at last find, that it is hard
kicking against the pricks. In the mean time, how are you
able to injure us ? You will call us hereticks. Where ?
Among those, for instance, who hold you as a heretick,
and at this very moment expose your falsehoods. Among
the pious and the learned, I fear no injury from your
reproaches. They see all these thmgs in that light, in
which I would have you receive them, and call them
to mind before that God vvhose presence you begin to
acknowledge. And T beseech you do not meditate your de-
fence by the condemnation of that injustice in others, for
which you want not only a foundation, but even a pretext.
If you will still persevere in this way, I shall be satisfied.
I would not, by any means, have you cast away all hope and
courage. For if you Avill exhibit to us the true and sub-
stantial index of a right mind, we are sincerely prepared to
have you return immediately into our favour, and have afl
things buried, forgiven and erased wholly from the memo*
ry. I wish you were able, Caroli, to inspect my breast ;
for there is nothing I more desire, than that you should iu
the first place be reconciled to God, that a lasting union
might be formed lietween us. But, believe me, you will ne«
ver acceptably serve the Lord, unless you lay aside your
haughtiness and bitterness of tongue. If you have then a
mind to return into favour with us, we are prepared to em-
brace you, and to render you every office of kindness in our
power. But mq are not able to enter into that compact
which you demand ; for how shall we at this time promise
you a Church ? In the first place, you know, that Churches
are not at our disposal ; besides, with what conscience should
wc promise tliat to you, l^efore it is evident, that we agree



in doctrine. You do not dissemble but that as yet you dif-
fer from us ; and yet you would have us designate a place
for you as a teacher. Weigh, yourself, the extreme impro-
priety of this. Were we to be so obsequious to you, you
would correctly judge us to Ije something more than stupid.
But to conclude, I beseech you to examine thorouglily the
whole cause, by yourself, with a composed and sedate mind,
and weigh this letter in the scales of candid and impartial
judgment. You certainly know, that it is the highest wis-
dom to turn from the evil course into which you have en-
tered. If you will make the experiment, no office of friend-
sliip shall be wanting to you, when restored, from me, and
Farel seriously promises the same for himself. You will re-
member, that the charity which you so severely demand of
others, must be shewn, in some measure, towards others. If
I seem to be somewhat too severe, think what your letter
deserves. I mention this only to profit you ; what I have
written, is for the purpose of calling up your sins to your
remembrance. Farewell, my brother in the Lord, if you
suffer yourself to be esteemed and to hold the place of a bro-
ther. The Lord Jesus Christ guide you by the spirit of
counsel and prudence, that from tliose dangerous rocks,
against which you have broken, and that tempestuous sea on
which you are tossed, j^ou may be received safe into the
haven of rest.

Your sincere friend, JOHN C ALAIN.

Strasburg, August 10, 1540.

P. S. Farel bids you to Ije in health, and wishes that you
may be sincerely converted to the Lord, and so may you
be prepared to return to our friendship and fraternal union,
as we ourselves arc prepared to embrace you.

348 LIFE OF CALVIN. jdetters.


Calvin to Farel.

I am so overwlielmed, by the death of Coraud, that I can-
not put any limits to my sorrow. My daily occupations,
have no power to retain my mind from recurring to the event,
and revolving constantly the impressive thought. The dis-
tracting impulses of the day are followed by the more tortur-
ing anguish of the night. I am not only troubled with
dreams, to Avhich I am inured by habit, but I am greatly en-
feebled by those restless watchings, which are extremely in-
jurious to my health. But what wounds my mind so deeply,
is the heinousness of the circumstances, if the suspicions are
true, and I am forced, in opposition to my wishes, to give
them some credit. To what length, will posterity go, when
such monstrous things are perpetrated in the very commence-
ment of our labours. I fear, and not without reason, that
this wickedness will be shortly punished by some dreadful
calamity of the Church. It is in fact no small token of di-
vine displeasure, which w^e now experience, that amidst the
scarcity of good men, the Church should be deprived of Co-
raud, whose talents and piety placed him among the first of
that character. Shall we not then, my brother, mourn this
distressing calamity, and be in bitterness under the chastise-
ment of our Father ? But however oppressed with grief we
still have the light of consolation, springing up from those tes-
timonies of affection and respect, by which his acquaintance
amply prove their exalted opinion of his abihty and integrity.
And the I^ord will not permit the iniquity of our enemies to
remain concealed even from the eyes of men. They have
not gained a single hair by his death. He still bears testimo-
ny against their wickedness, at the tribunal of God ; and his


accusing voice will more clearly sound destruclioa in their
ears, than if the Almighty himself should shake the earth.

The Lord has spared us, to survive Coraud. Let us be
diligent to follow his example ; and watchful to tread in the
path of increasing light, till we shall have finished our course.
Let no difficulties dismay us, or any weight of earthly suffer-
ing impede our progress toAvards that rest into which, we trust,
he is received; Without the hope of this glory to cheer us
in our way, we shall be overcome with difficulties, and driven
to despau'. But as the truth of the Lord remains firm and
unshaken, so let us a]>idc in the hope of our caUing, until the
hidden kingdom of God be made manifest.

Our adversaries have sounded the alarm, by an open decla-
ration of war at JMinden, which being merely on a religious
account, we are all implicated. If the God of armies guards
us by his strength, we shall have a firm and invincible pro-
tection ; otherwise we can make but a feeble defence, and
shall be easily overpowered. To this asylum let us unitedly
have recourse ; for it will remain unmoved though the
earth should be shaken to its centre. We shall not cease to
solicit a Council until it is obtained.

Sonerius has presented another question for our discussion ;
whether it is law ful for him and others in like circumstances,
to receive the Lord's Supper, from the hands of such pollu-
ted men, or even to commimicate with them ? On this
question, there was no difference between Capito and myself.
We answered, that Christians ought to have an aversion to
schisms, and if possible avoid them. Such should be their
reverence for the ministry, and the sacrament?:, that wherev-
er these are perceived to exist, there the Church sliould be
acknowledged. Let the Ministers, therefore, by whom God
permits the Church to be governed, be what they may, if the
signs of the true Church are perceived, it will I)e better not
to separate from the cojumunion. Nor is it an objection,

250 LIFE OF CALVIN. xetter^,

that some impure doctrines are there delivered ; for there is
scarce any Church which retains none of the remains of igno-
rance. It is sufficient for us, that the doctrine, on which the
Church of Christ Is founded, should hold its place and influ-
ence. Nor should we object, that one who fraudulently ob-
tains, or even wickedly thrusts himself into the place of a true
Minister, should not be considered as a legitimate Fastor. It
is not the business of private persons to entangle themselves in
these scruples. They communicate, in tiie sacraments, with
the Church, who agree to have them dispensed by the hands
of those whom they consider as holding the standing of INIinis-
ters. And although it belongs to the members of the Church,
to know who or what their Pastors are, and whether they
hold their office justly or unjustly, yet they ought to suspend
any judgment until they are able to settle the question in a
lawful manner. Although they should employ such persons,
there will be no danger, that they should appear to aclmow-
ledge them with approbation, or settle them by stipulated
contract. In this manner they will give testimony of their
patience, by bearing with those Avhom they suppose worthy

of condemnation, in a regular and soleum judgment.

1 entreat you, my brother, in this age of iniquity,

to endeavour to retain all who are in any degree tolerable.
Concerning ceremonies, see that the brethren do not contend
with the same obstinacy as their neighbours. Let all things
be conducted so that we may be only the servants of peace

and concord. The Lord preserve and strengthen you,

my dear brother, by his Spirit, in all your trials. Your soli-
citude for me requires that I should, in return, recommend
to you to be careful of your health. You appear, it is said,
to be very much worn down. I entreat you, my brother, to
think so much of others as to remember, that you are still
necessary to them, and the Church of Christ. A thousand



salutations to all my brethren with you, to A^iret, &c, Capi-
to, Sturmius and Firmius salute you.
SrnASBURG, October 24, 1538.


Extracts fkobi Calvin's Letter to the Genevese Church.
In the first place, laying allele all respect of per-

sons, examine, I pray you, with what lionour the Lord
would have you treat those whom he has appointed Pastors
and IMinisters in his Church. He requires us to yield obe-
dience with reverence, ^\lule they preach his word ; and he