Elijah Waterman.

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

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stowed upon you, may not be sullied by a single blemish,
which may afford a handle to the carpings of malevolence,
to injure your influence^ I have written these things by the
advice of Viret, and for this reason have used the plura!
number. Farewell, dearest and excellent brother.
Geneva, 16th Sept. 1541.


Calvin to Farel,

You have no reason to feel very solicitous about my expos-
tulation, for I had more of a disposition to rally you than to
complain. I know very well, that you will not have forgot-
ten me, although you should omit, a thousand times, to men-
tion me in your letters. On this subject make yourself easy,
— I should be pleased if a reconciliation with those who vex
and weary you and your Church was as easy.

Although, as you say, we must not dread a war with the
world and the flesh, but rather seek it, if we would
serve Christ; yet it is desirable, that all those who carry
on the war with him, should surrender themselves in wil-
ling obedience, lest being left to themselves they should be
destroyed by the strength and vengeance of his arm. Since
then the Lord will employ us in his warfare, and not permit
us to remain idle, let us fight with fortitude and persevering
courage, but with those arms alone, which he has provided
for our defence. Under his benign protection, victory will
always be in our power. That the Lord's Supper has been
celebrated with those special admonitions, which you men-
tion, will, I trust, present a favourable ground, for renova-



ting the Church. I understand that your present modera-
tion has assuaged the minds of some, and subdued others.
Under this favourable influence, omit nothing which may, iu
any degree, have a tendency to heal the wound. It will be
a glorious triumph, if Satan and his principal oJlicers, march-
ing in front of his standard, should be deserted by his whole

As to our own affairs, I find abundantly true, what you
write concerning the inequality of our yoke ; but I bear
what I cannot remove. If Viret should be taken from me, I
must wholly despair. Alone, I cannot preserve the safety of
this Church. It is therefore just, that you and others should
pardon me, if I remove those causes which threaten with im-
pending danger my ov/n security and success, by depriving
me of Viret. ^ His continuance is of more consequence to us
than you apprehend. The common people, however, treat
us very obsequiously, iij their steady attendance on divine
service. Their external deportment is regular, but many
yices still infest the heart and affect the head, which, if not
gradually rooted out, I fear will break forth in dangerous
sores, upon the body. You must be perfectly a^^are, that
we cannot apply a remedy to these intestine and hidden evils
without the greatest difficulty. You well know too the cha-
racter of my fellow soldiers in this warfare, if Viret is remov-
ed. If you disagree with me I will follow your advice,

nor will I shrink from any of those duties which you impose
upon me. While we can avail any thing, it is not for you to
complain that you Can do nothing, for you know that we are
wholly yours. Farewell, best and beloved brother. Affec-

* Viret, on the application of the Genevese Church, went, by the
consent of the Church at Lausanne, to supply the:n for six months,
while Calvin was at the Diet of Ratisbon. He tarried some time af-
ter Calvin returned to Geneva, but his own Church were now anxious
fop his return to them.

293 LIFE OF CALVIN. jlett£ks.

tionately salute all, especially Cordier, whose letter I will soon
answer. May the whole Church prosper.
Geneva, Nov. Xlth, 1541.


Calvin to Farel.

I w^as prepared to detail to you at large the state of our
affairs ; but when I was informed that our good father Capi-
to, of sacred memory, was taken from us, and that Bucer was
sick with the plague, my mind was so shocked that I can now
only weep. You know it was always reeolved, that if I re-
turned to Geneva, you should return with me ; that our
united ministry might be restored. Your troubles, at that
time, prevented you from leaving Neufchatel. It is now,
however, the interest of our common ministry, and of the
w hole Church, that you should come to this city. You must
do it, if for no other reason but to fulfil your promise to me*
Your .pretext for declining, that you was banished by the
people and could not be recalled by the Senate, displeases
me. You call that seditious faction of abandoned men the
people ; and is it not enough that the people themselves, by
their decree, pronounced your banishment unjust ? It is
certain, that most of those w^ho banished you have either suf-
fered an ignominious death, or have fled from the city ; and
the rest are either ashamed to say any thing, or openly con-
fess their fault. Was not that a decree of the people, by
which they unanimously confessed our innocence ? — It was
my intention on entering the city, to have asserted that we
were innocent ; and although I do not excel in oratory, to
have defended our cause. But when the people came to
meet me, condemqing themselves, and confessing their fault,
I perceived that it would be useless, ungenerous an(i inhu-


man, as I should only be insulting our prostrate enemies, con-
demned of God, of men, and of their own conscience. Will
you continue to urge your scruples about the people's recall,
when you are told, that when they decreed, that those who
were banished should be recalled, the question was put in
this form. Do you not confess that injustice was done to Furcl
and his associates? Will you require more than this, that
the people condemn themselves and acquit you ? It w as ad-
ded. Will ye, that Farel and his associates, &c. ? Shall I not
ascribe (forgive me my brother if I err) your scrupulous dif-
ficulties to morosenesE, rather than sound judgment ? I know
your sincerity— how little you regard yourself; but others,
less acquainted with you, may suspect your motives, and
make a handle of it for detraction. I do not pretend, that
the Church has made satisfaction, proportioned to its offence.
But if you saw how tender every thing is here, you would
yourself agree to press this matter no farther at present. I
entreat you, my Farel, to yield to the counsel of those who
are prudently solicitous for the honour of your ministry.
Give up, if not to our judgment, at least to the entreaties of
your friends. Farewell, best and beloved brotiicr.
Geneva Nov. 29, 1541.


The Epistle of the illustrious Protestant Feinc es and
States of the Empire, to Francis I. King of France.

We t^'ish you health and prosperity, most serene and mosl
Christian King. Your Royal IMajesty has always presented us
with those testimonies of good w ill, which forcibly convince
us, that you indulge the best and most friendly disposition
towards us. We have indeed experienced, that our petition?
were sometimes of no small consideration ^vith your Royal

294} LIFE OF CALVIN. letters,

Hjgliiiess. Therefoj'e we are now induced to addi'ess and inter-
cede with your Majesty for the safety of certain individuals,
some of whom are held captives in different parts of your king-
dom, particularly at Grenoble, and other cities of that pro^
vince ; others of them, with their little children, miserably
abandoning their houses, have been compelled to escape into
caverns, only because they believe the same things, concern-
ing the Christian doctrines, which our Churches profess. We
are afflicted with the severest grief, because it cannot be deni-
ed, but that many old abuses still exist in the Ch^jrches ; and
yet a bitterness of spirit so rages every where, that the most
salutary opinions are crushed, and not only private persons
but whole nations are exposed to danger. While these sup-
plications are presented to your Royal Highness, will you
please to consider, that not only we, but the Church of
Christ herself lies bewailing at the feet of the most power-
ful Kings, and entreats and implores assistance, that the
light of the rising Gospel may not be extinguished, but that
it may be spared to those humble persons who are the mem-
bers of Christ. We know that those who are hated for their
pious doctrines, are sometimes severely punished for other
crimes, and accused of sedition. But we have seen the con-
fession of faith, offered by these persecuted persons to the
court of Grenoble, and their defence, purging themselves of
those crinjes which have been laid to their charge. Where-
fore we thought it our duty to be more earnest in their be-
half, because their confession of doctrine is pious, and doubt-
less the pure opinion of the Catholick Church of Christ, which
we also profess. We pray, therefore, that your Royal High-
ness would spare the lives of these, and of all others who
may be imprisoned and endangered from the same cause, and
would dismiss them unpunished and in safety. We hear, in-
deed, that pardon has been offered to some, on condition
that they will abjure the confegsion of that doctrine which



tliey believe to be according to the word of God ; but since
tliis would be to them more painful than death itself, we
beseech your Royal Highness, for the honour of God, to mi-
tigate that condition of their deliverance. Your iMajesty is
by no means ignorant, that it is a heinous crime to approve
of that in religion which is against one's own conscience.
This clemency will be pleasing to God, and will have a di-
vine reward ; as the Psalmint says. Blessed is he that consi-
dereth the poor and needy ; the Lord nill deliver him in the
time of trouble. Wherefore we beseech your Royal iMajesty,
with renewed earnestness, to shew this clemency towards
those unfortunate persons, wherever they may be. It will be
to us, and to all who profess the same religion, a distinguished
favour ; and especially when it is understood, that they were
liberated through our intercession ; and your Royal Dignity
will obtain, among all good men, the distinguished praise of
clemency and moderation. If this our request should be
granted, of which we have some good hope, we will in our
turn endeavour to testify our remembrance and gratitude by
all the kind offices in our power. We wish that God may
long preserve your excellent Majesty in health and prospe-

Given at Ratisbon, this 23d of May, in the year of the

Christian Salvation 1541.

The Princes, Ambassadours, Staixs and On- ^
DERs, who have agreed to the Augsburg Con- >
ffssion, and now assembled at Ratisbon. )


Calvin to Farel.

The numerous deaths, which have occurred this year
among my pious friends, I hope will instruct me in the emp-

296 LIFE OF CALVIN. xettees-

tiness of this present life ; and impress me, in the midst of
my sorrow, with holy meditations concerning my own mor-
taFity. Poralis, the first S3mdick of this city, has departed
to be with the Lord. His death, as was to be expected, is
severely felt, and deeply lamented by us. His dying testi-
mony w as a source of consolation, while the very circum-
stance of his piety increased our grief ; as we felt his loss to
be, on that account, a more extensive deprivation. The
day after he fell sick, Viret and myself were with him, and
he informed us that he was in danger of losing his life ; for
the disease with which he was afilicted was fatal to his fa-
mily. We conversed on a variety of subjects, in which he
interested himself with as much familiarity as if in usual
health. The two following days, his complaint increased,
but in no period of his life, had he discovered more strength
of mind, or greater poAvers of eloquence, than at this time^
while he addressed those who visited him with some excel-
lent exhortations, adapted to the character and circumstances
of each individual. He now appeared to be much better^
and we entertedned hopes of his recovery. But after three
days, the disease renewed its severit}^, and he was evidently
in great danger ; but as his body was oppressed, his mind
grev/ more enlarged and animated. I pass the intermediate
time, to the day on -svhich he died. Viret and myself visit-
ed him about nine o'clock in the morning. I said a few
things concerning the cross, the grac?e of Christ and the hope
of eternal life, for we would not fatigue him with a long"
discourse. He answered, that he knew how to accept the
messenger of God in a proper manner, and of what impor-
tance the ministry of Christ was in confirming the conscienc-
es of believers. He then discoursed upon the ministry and
its use so powerfully, that ^^e were both struck with asto-
nishment, and as often as I reflect upon it, I am still con-
founded ; for he appeared to be delivering some of our dls-


courses improved by his own deep and long medi'tations.
He concluded by saying, that he believed the remission of
sins, of which we assured him, from the promise of Christ,
with as much confidence as though an Angel should appear
to him from Heaven. He then enlarged upon the harmony
of the members of the Church, which he commended witli
the highest eulogy ; testifying that his best consolations, in
the warfare of death, were drawn from his being establish-
ed so fully in that unity. He had, a little time before, call-
ed for some of our coHeagues, with whom he became recon-
ciled, lest by persisting in this disagreement, others might
make a bad use of his example. He observed to us, " As
the welfare of the Church obliges you to bear with them as
brethren, why should I not, for the same reason, acknow-
ledge them as Pastors ?" He admonished them with seri-
riousness, and called up to their remembrance the sins of
which they had been guilty. But I come to his last words.
Turning to those who were present, he exhorted them, that
they should hold in high estimation the communion of
the Church, and advised those who were still addicted to
superstitious ceremonies and festivals, to lay aside their ob-
stinacy, and unite with us in the worship of God ; for we
saw better, and judged more perfectly than they could in
these matters. He confessed, that he himself had been obsti-
nate in these things, but at last his eyes were opened to see
the baneful effects of contention. After this, he summed up
his faith in a short, solemn and clear confession. He then
exhorted Viret and myself to constancy in all the parts of
our - official duty, and, as in a prophetick vision, he spoke
of our future difficulties. Concerning the interests of tlic Pte-
publick, his counsel was judiciously directed to whatever re-
lated to its prosperity. He urged the most dUigent atten-
tion to be given, to effect a reconciliation with the allied ci-
ties; and that the clamours of some turbulent people should


298 ' LIFE OF CALVIN. i^etters,

not discourage us in our eiTorts. After addressing a few
words to liim, we prayed with liim and retired. About two
in the afternoon, my wife visited him, when he exhorted her
to be of good courage, whatever might happen, and to con-
sider that she was led to this city not rashly, but by the
wonderful wisdom of God, to assist in spreading the Gos-
pel. He soon after said, that his voice began to fail him ;
that however that might fail him, he should retain in his
mind, and die in the confession of faith that he had made.
He recited the song of Simeon, and applied it to himself,
saying, " I have seen and embraced thy salvation" ; and
then composed himself to rest. From this time he was de-
prived of his voice, but continued to indicate by signs, that
he had lost nothing of the vigour of his mind* About four
in the afternoon, I went with the Syndicks to visit him. As
he sometimes attempted to speak, and was unable, I request-
ed him not to fatigue himself, adding that we were abun-
dantly satisfied with his confession. I then began to speak
as well as I could. He heard with a composed and tran-
quil mind. We had scarcely left him, Avhen he rendered
up his pious soul to the Lord Jesus Christ. This narration
will be scarcely credible to you, when you consider the na-
ture of th€ man ; but remember that lie was endowed en-
tirely with a new spirit.

We are now deeply occupied in choosing new colleagues,
and our trouble is increased, as those whom we suppose fit
for the place, upon trial, disappoint our expectations. We
will inform you of our progress, as your advice may be use*
ful to us. Farewell.

June 16, 151^2.




Calvin to the Members of thr Church of jMontbeillard.

Your two brethren Iiaving- stated to me tlic points of
doubt or controversy which exist among you, I will simply
and briefly expose to you what I should do, were I in your
situation. That those persons, who wish to partake of the
Lord's Supper, sliould present themselves to the Minister for
a previous examination, is a matter so clear to me, that I
think every one should do it of choice, as a means of sup-
porting the purity and discipline of the Church. But to
avoid all difficulty, some limiis should be prescril^ed, and the
method of proceeding defined. 1. Let it be in a degree a
private examination, to teach the ignorant in a familiar way.
2. Let it be an opportunity for advising and reproving those
who are wanting in their duty. 3. Let the Minister en-
deavour to strengthen the weak in faith, and encourage those
who are of a tender conscience. Concerning the Supper, it
is my opinion, that we should adopt the custom of admi-
nistering it to the sick, when circumstances will admit it to
be done with propriety ; and also to criminals imder sen-
tence of death, when they request it, and are sufficiently
qualified ; but ])y this rule, that it be a true communion, —
that is, that the bread ])e broken in a meeting of believers.
It would be improper to celebrate the Supper in an ordina-
ry meeting, merely at the request of one person. Uo not in-
dulge a too frequent use of it in this v/ay, lest those
should pretend a necessity for it, wlio are abje to come into
the publick assem])ly. To permit midlives to baptize is an
impious and sacrilegious profanation of bajjtism. Therefore
I think, that this practice ought not only to be resi-ted, but

300 LIFE OF CALVIN. xexters.

if the Prince should urge the point to extremes, you ought
to resist even unto death, rather than consent to sanction

this intolerable superstition. In burials of

the dead, I would wish this to be observed, that the body,
instead of being carried to the place of worship, be convey-
ed du-ectly to the place of burial ; and that the exhortation
ishould there be given to all the attendants of the funeral.
As to the ringing of the bell,# I would not advise you to be
very tenacious in your opposition, if the Prince cannot be
persuaded to abolish it, as it is not worth contending about,
i would not have you oppose every festival, but insist on the
abolition of those which carry the most decided marks of su-
perstition, without any tendency to edification. In this
manner you will have a plausible reason for your objections.
I wish you not to shew yourself obstinate and morose ; for
when the Prince sees your moderation, he will be more in-
clined to yield in some measure, if he finds that you do not
oppoee them all nor without reason. I entirely agree with
you, as to the danger of varying from those forms which are
commonly used in our Churches ; but as we have not yet ar-
rived to that perfection, which we anticipate, and towards
which we hope we are advancing, you need not hesitate to
admit some ef those rites, which you can neither wholly ap-
probate, nor totally abolish.


Geneva, October 7, 1543,

* Mabillon says, it was an ancient custom to ring^ the bells for persons
about to expire, to advertise the people to pray for them ; whence was deriv-
ed the passing-bells, the use of which was connected with other supersti-
tions ; as was the bell at the festivals, masses, &c. See Rees' Cyclopsdi?,
Art. Bell and Funer?!.



Extracts from Sultzer's letter to Calvin.
-Adrian our pupil arrived here yesterday from

Strasburg, ^vith the good news that Herinan, Bishop of Co-
logne, has abjured the Popish impieties, and is about estab-
lishing the Reformation of religion throughout his domin-
ions, by the means of Bucer, whom he has sent for, to preach

the true Gospel. At Wittemburg, Luther has abor

lished the elevation of the host, which had hitherto been
customary at the administration of the Lord's Supper, and
also the ringing of the bells, because some Frenchmen, and
some members of the Church in upper Germany, were dis-
pleased with that ceremony. At Leipsick, by Lu-
ther's consent, they lately destroyed all the altars and ima-
ges, in order to prove to the reformed Churches, that he
was not so passionate and headstrong as he was reported to

be. 1 hope that this will have a strong tendency to

produce union in the Churches; for the abundance or di-
versity of rituals among the Saxons has hitherto offended
many. And this has been taken advantage of, by those \\ho
are wonderfully skilled in calumny, and who take pleasure in
interpreting every thing according to their own malice,

which may be injurious to the reformed Church. —

Paul Fagius of Isny is appointed to succeed our late excellent
and learned Capito, in the ministry and professorship of
theology, and is expected here every hour. The Lord pre-
serve you with your wife and fellow labourers. Farewell.

Bern, October 21, 154?,

302 LIFE OF CALVIN. letters.



They allege the example of Moses and David, as if those
Uvo men had no other office but that of governing the people,
in their civil capacity. These outrageous objectors should
then give us civil Magistrates similar to those, that is, excel-
ling by the singular spirit of prophecy, and sustaining
each character, not by their own counsel or disposition, but
by the command and vocation of God. That which they
demand we would freely grajit to such men. But then Mo-
ses himself, before the consecration of Aaron, discharg-
ed the office of the Priesthood. Afterwards by the com-
mand of God he pi-escribed what should be done. David
also did not entei^ upon regulating the Church without the
permission of the Lord, Other pious Kings, as w-as beco-
ming, guarded the established order of the Church by their
authority ; yet they relinquished their jurisdiction of the
Cliurch, and the duties assigned to the Priest by the Lord.


Melancthox to Calvix.

Your letter was transmitted to me from the Frankfort Fair ;
but the copies of your late work were not brought, as they
did not arrive seasonably in that city. Having afterwards
obtained one at Bonn with Bucer, I saw your address ry,v tt^ot-
ipavijTiv, to me, and directly turned over a good part of th#
disputation. As you honour me with your generous com-
mendations, and both piously and eloquently discuss the
w^hole subject, I should wish, when wc have an interview, ac-


cording to our castoni, to have a long conversation, both
concerning ray gratitude and the subject of the dispute. I
do not arrogate to myself so much as you attribute to me of
talents or learning. It becomes us to acknowledge our no-
thingness in the Church, yet I am highly delighted with your
benevolence; and give you thanks, that in your excellent
book you have been pleased to give so publick and illustrious
a testimony of your love towards me. I candidly confess
that 1 was much gratified with your declaration, that I loved
and sought sincerity and plain dealing. I can say, with a safe
conscience, that it was my concern, in the beginning of these
disputes, when many things were discussed with too much
bitterness and subtility, to cull out those things which were
useful ; and as much as I could, extricate them from obscu-
rity, and publish them in a plain and friendly manner. The
gaying of Euripides has often come into my mind : e^a«v
TO ir»<poi, Kcci ct(ro<pov to f^T, o-cc<p£g^Perspicuifij is good, and oh-
scurity is foolish. I incurred some danger, by cutting oil'
some tilings most difficult to be understood ; but I retained
and illustrated those things which were useful. I did it
however with moderation, lest by irritating those vehement
mihds, I should increase the discard. This was my object,

Online LibraryElijah WatermanMemoirs of the life and writings of John Calvin : together with a selection of letters → online text (page 24 of 34)