Elijah Waterman.

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

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316 LIFE OF CALVIN. xexters.

ther I could honestly have concealed these men ? A do^,
if any one attacks his master, will at least attempt to frighten
him by barking. Who would excuse me, if, when I hear
the truth of God assailed, I should suffer my mouth to re-
main closed ? I do not believe that you expect me, in or-
der to please you, to prevaricate in the defence of the Gos-
pel, which is committed to me. Do not then, I beseech
you, take it amiss, if in the discharge of my duty, being
compelled by the fear of God, I have not spared one of
your household, since I have offered nothing which might
in the least affect your reputation. What the author of the
letter says in your name, that such servants as I am will not
be very acceptable to you, I judge the same of myself, and
acknowledge that I cannot be of any great service to you ;
for neither have I the ability, nor you the occasion of my
personal assistance. But yet a partiality of mind towards
you is not wanting, nor will I, while I live, by the grace of
God, be otherwise affected towards you. Should you even
be averse to my respect, that will not change my disposition
or affection towards you. As to other things, every one
who knows me can testify how far my disposition is from
seeking access to Princes, and from being excited by a love
of such honours. Perhaps if I had sought them, I should
not have succeeded in obtaining theni. I have reason to
tltank God, that my mind is wholly free from that desire.
I am abundantly satisfied, that I am in the service of that
Divine Master, who has admitted and retained me in his fa-
mily, and entrusted me with that office, which with him is
of so much w eight, however it may be accounted vile and
despicable in the eyes of men. I should be the most un-
grateful of all mortals, if I did not prefer this my condition
to all the honours and riches of the world. As to the incon-
stancy of which you accuse me, I assure you, confidently,
that you have been imposed upon. I have, indeed, never


been brought to this trial, tliat any one should demand of nie
n confession of my faith. iShould it be demanded of me, I
have no such conhdence in myself that I dare boast ; but I
am confident, that as God formerly supported me, so that I
did not fear to defend his word, in the name of another,-.-: even
at the hazard of my life, so in like manner he m ill reach out
the hand of protection to me, whenever his name may be
glorified by my confession. By divine favour, I have been
so consistent with myself, that no one can accuse me of a di-
rect or indirect denial or recantation of the truth, which I
have supported. And Avhat is still more than that, it w as
always in my view an awful madness, which could induce
any one to deny Christ, to preserve his life or estate ; and
such were my feelings on that occasion, w hen I was in France,
as I am able to prove by appropriate a\ itnesses. That it
may appear more evident, that those, w ho have endeavoured
to injure me in your estimation, have basely abused your
generous disposition, I will name to you, as a witness, Clera-
cus, from whom you may most certainly ascertain the ex-
treme falsehood of the calumny, which has been invented
against me, and which is insufferable, as by it tlic name of
God may be blasphemed. In myself, I am indeed nothing ;
but since God has been pleased to use me as an instrument
in building up his Church, I see, as well as others, how in-
jurious would be the consequences of that reproach, if cre-
dited against me, and how it would prevail to the di'^gracc
of the Gospel. Blessed be the Lord, who has not permitted
Satan to contend against me to that degree, but that he has
supported me in my infinnity ; and never suffered me to be
arraigned for the utmost trial of my faith, nor proved my

• This undoubicvlly refers to the sermon wliich Cop, tlic Rector of the
University of 1'ari.s, prcaclicd on All Saints du\ , which it is said Calvin com-
posed in part at least. It was the tlajij^er to which Calvin \sas then cxpoB-
fid, Uiat brought liim, first ac(j[uaintcd with the Queen.

318 LIFE OF CALVIN. jletters.

integiily by chains. I would wish your pardon for the
shortness of my letter, and a certain perturbation which af-
fects me ; for as soon as I received your letter I immediate-
ly began this answer, that I might, to your satisfaction, re-
move the offence ; and induce you to continue your protec-
tion and benevolence towards the pious, according to your
former munificence. May the Lord Jesus Christ protect you
by his sliield, and direct you by his Spirit, to pursue his vo-
cation, even unto death, with a sincere zeal and prudence.
Your most humble and devoted servant,

April 20, 1545.


Calvin to Melancthon, wishes health.

I will briefly mention for what reason this noble and pious
youth has undertaken, at my request, this visit to you. I
published a small book in the vulgar tongue, in which I
reproved the hypocrisy of those who, although enlightened
by the true G£)spel, still continued to attend the service of
the Papists, which they know to be full of sacrilege and
anathema. You would wish me, perhaps, to moderate
sometliing of this precise severity. But what just occasion
I had for this you will be able to judge, when you have
iveighed and well considered the subject. Perceiving that
many complained of my severity, especially those who ap-
peared to grow wise in their own opinion, in proportion as
they took more diligent care to preserve their lives ; I com-
posed an Apology, which wounded their sensibility more
painfully than the former treatise. Many, who esteem re-
ligion only as they do philosophy, affect severely to despise
my reproof. All those, however, who seriously fear God,


have at least advanced so far in knowledge, as to begin to
be dissatisfied with themselves. But as the question ap-
pears to them perplexed, they still hang in doubt until they
shall be confirmed by your authority, and that of Luther.
I apprehend that they consult you, because they hope that
your opinion will be more agreeable to their wishes. But
•whatever may be their intentions, as I am persuaded, tJiat
from your singular prudence and sincerity, you will faithful-
ly give them salutary counsel, I readily, according to their
request, engaged to send a man to you on this business. But
as I considered it to be a matter of consequence, that you
should know my opinion, and the reasons which induced me
to embrace it, I immediately translated the two hooks into
the Latin tongue. And although I may appear to have
done this improperly, yet I ask you, by our mutual friend-
ship, not to refuse the trouble of reading them. Your judg-
ment, as it ought to be, is of such weight with me, that it
would give me great unhappiness to undertake to defend
that on this subject which you could by no means approve.
I know, indeed, that from your great moderation, you allow
many things to others, which you would not permit to your-
self. We must, however, enquire, what is lawful for us ?
lest we loosen where the Lord binds. I do not ask you to
agree with me ; that would be too great effrontery ; or to
depart, on my account, from the free and plain exposition of
your opinion. All I ask is, that you would not neglect the
perusal of the books. Indeed, I wish that we so entirely
agreed^ that there should not be even the appearance of a
disagreement in a single word. It is your duty to precede
me, rather than have any regard to what might meet my ap-
-probation. You see how familiarly I address you, nor am I
at all anxious lest it should exceed the limits of iriondship ;
for I well understand how much freedom is perm it led me,
from your sing^ilar good will towards nic, I apprehend there

LIFE OF CALVIN. metiers,

will be somewhat more difficulty in treating with Luther. As
far as I learn from reports, and the letters of some of my
friends, the mind of that man, being as yet scarcely pacified,
will be frette<l by the most trifling cause. On this account,
the letter v, hich I have written to him the messenger will
show to you ; so that, after perusing it, you can regulate the
whole business according to your own prudence. You will
provide, therefore, that nothing is attempted rashly, and with-
out due consideration, that may have an unfavourable ter-
mination ; which I am confident you will faithfully accom-
plish, by your uncommon address,

I have not been able as yet fully to ascertain what con-
troversies are agitated among you in Germany, nor Avhat
has been their issue ; excepting that an atrocious libel has
been published, which, like a fire-brand, will enkindle fresh
flames, unless the Lord, on the other hand, restrain their
minds, already, as you know, beyond measure heated. But
for what, and why are these controversies excited ? When
I consider how ill-timed these intestine controversies are, I
am almost lifeless with grief. A merchant of Nuremberg,
passing through this city, lately showed me an apology of
Osiandevy which greatly mortified me for his sake. For
what purpose could it answer, to abuse the ZuinglianSy with
foul language, at every third line ; to treat with so much in-
humanity Zuinglius himself ; and not, indeed, even to spare
that holy servant of God, (Ecolampadius, whose meekness I
wish he would half imitate ? Osiander wouldj in that case,
be far higher in my estimation. I do not, by any means,
ask him to suffer in silence his reputation to be traduced
with impunity. I only wish he would abstain from re-
proaching those men, whose memory ought to be honoured
by every pious person. While I am displeased with the
petulance of the writer, by whose mournful ditties he com-
plains that he has been defamed ; I lament his want of mo-


deration, discernment and discretion. How great is the plea*
sure which we are affording the Papists, as if we were devot.
ing our labours to their cause ! But I shall unreasonably in-
crease your sorrow, by the recital of evils which you cannot
remedy. Let us mourn thciiy since it becomes us to be afflict-
ed with the troubles of the Church ; but let us still sustain our'-
selves with this hope, that although we are oppressed and toss-
ed by these mighty waters, we shall not be overwhelmed.

All the brethren in France have their minds much elevat-
ed in the strong expectation of a Council. There is no douljt
but that the King himself, at least in the beginning, had a
desire and determination to convoke one. For Cardinal
Tournon, on his return from the Emperour, persuaded Fran-
cis, that Charles had the same intention. At the same time,
he advised the King, in tlie name of the Emperour, to send
for two or three of you to meet him ; hoping that by flat-
tery, or by some other means, he might extort from you se-
parately, what he could not obtain from you in a Council.
The Emperour promised that he would pursue the same
course. This was their object, that you being bound by
previous declarations to them, would be less able to vindi-
cate the cause, when you should come to serious disputa-
tion in the Assembly. Having despaired of conquering \is,
by an open and correct management of the cause, they sec
BO shorter and surer method of succeeding, than by keeping
the Princes in fear of punishment ; that they may hold
their liberty, as if conquered and bound, in subserviency to
their purposes. As this advice pleased the King, Castella^
nus refused to allow the French Divines to dispute with
you, unless tliey should be first well instructed and prepar-
ed. You were men accustomed to this kind of battle, and
could not be so easily overcome. They must take care lest
the King be betrayed through the ignorance of his Divines,
and expose his wliole kingdom to ridicule. Th^ nmbition orf


3^2 LIFE OF CALVIN. letters.

the King gave the preference to this advice. Twelve were
elected to dispute at Melun, on the various controverted
points, and were ordered to refer their decisions to the King.
They promised, under oath, to keep the transactions in si-
lence. But I certainly know, though they be silent, that
they aim entirely at suppressing the truth ; and however
they dissemble, as though they were seeking some kind of
reformation, it is unquestionably a fact, that they are agitat-
ing this one point alone : How the light of the true doctrine
may be buried, and their own tyranny established. I am
persuaded that the advice of Cardinal Tournon was provi-
dentially frustrated ; lest some of our brethren, unguarded
and unsuspecting, should be ensnared. You remember that
the same artifices were made use of against you by Bellai.
But if we turn unto the Lord, all their assaults and machi-
nations will be vain. Farewell, most excellent man and re-
spected friend. May the Lord be always present with you,
and long preserve you in health for his Church.


January 18, 1545.

[The following letter is on the same general subject with
a part of the preceding ; and is therefore here inserted in
•connection with that.]

Calvin to Melancthon.

I wish that my sympathy in your grief, while it dis-
tresses me, might in some measure relieve you. If the fact
is as the brethren of Zurich say, they certainly had a
just cause for writing. With what rashness your Pericles
(Osiander) continues to thunder ? Especially as his cause is
only the worse for it. We all owe much to him, I confess ;
and I should be \\ illing to have him possess the chief Ma-


gistracy, if he only knew how to govern himself. We must,
however, always take heed, in the Church, how much defe-
rence we pay to men. The work is done, when any one has
more power than all the rest; especially, if this one has no-
thing to check him in making all possible experiments. In
the present deranged state of things, we perceive how diffi-
cult it is to quiet the disturbances. If we all, however, ex-
ercised that disposition which ought to guide us, some re-
medy perhaps might be found. We are certainly transmit-
ting to posterity a pernicious example, by consenting to aban-
don our liberty, rather than to disquiet the mind of one
man with some trifling mortification. His passions are vehe-
ment, and he is subject to violent paroxysms. He also
boasts of this vehemency, in proportion as we all indulge
him, and suffer every thing from him. If this example of
insolent domination manifests itself, at the very opening of
the Reformation of the Church, what will shortly take place,
when things shall have fallen into a still worse condition ?
Let us weep, therefore, for the calamity of the Church ;
let us not suppress our grief in our own breasts ; but ven-
ture at length to give our lamentations a free circulation.
WTiat if you were, by the permission of God, reduced to the
extreme necessity of having extorted from you a fuller con-
fession concerning this subject ? I acknowledge, indeed, that
what you teach is perfectly true ; and that, by your mild
manner of teaching, you leave endeavoured hitherto to recal
others from contention ; and I commend your prudence and
moderation. But while you avoid this subject, (Consul)stan.
tiation,) as some dangerous rock, lest you incur the displea-
sure of some, you leave many in suspense and perplexity, who
require of you something more decisive, in which they may
acquiesce. It is, however, a dishonour to us, as I remember
to have said to you before, that we do not consignare, rati-
fy, at least with'wA-, that doctrine, whidi so jnaiiy piou^ per-

324 LIFE OF CALVIN. eettbrs.

sons have delivered to us, testatam, sealed with their own
blood. Perhaps God will now open to you the way for a
full and firm explanation of your mind, on this subject;
that those who depend on your authority, whom you know
to be very many, may no longer remain in doubt. I do not
say this so much to awaken as to console you. For unless
I hoped that something of this kind would arise from this
turbulent and overbearing insurrection, I should be affected
with a grief much more severe. However, we must quietly
wait for such a termination as the Lord will please to grant.
In the mean time, let us preserve our course with unyield-
ing resolution.

I give you many thanks for your answer, and also for the
singular kindness, with which you have treated Claudius, as he
informs me. From your kind and generous reception of my
friends, I am enabled to form an opinion of yoiu" disposition
towards me. I give sincere thanks to God, that on the
chief heads of thai question, (as stated in the preceding let-
ter,) concerning which we were consulted, our opinions have
so entirely agreed. For although there is a very small dif-
ference about some particulars, yet as to the substance of the
matter, we perfectly coincide.

June 28, 1445.


BucER TO Calvi2s^, wishcs health.

Beseech the Lord fervently for the health of this Church ;
that she may learn to lose her life, that she may save it.
The Lord preserve you, and strengthen you against all evils.
iMay your wife and household be preserved j and may tlje
.>ame gracious Being preserve mine also.

March 30, 1547,


BucEn TO Calvin, S. D.

O my Calvin ! is not God tlms wanting to his promieef ,
because we have despised them ? How suddenly all our
loftiness is fallen into baseness and misery ? Thus a just
God punishes us, and will still punish that contempt of his
name, which he has so long suffered from our abusive hy-
pocrisy. He will vindicate his name also from Antichrist,
by whose endless and most insolent reproaches it is daily
abused. But when we shall at length perceive by whom we
are cast down, and how justly we have merited that fall,
we may return to our Father who is chastising us. Pray
instantly the Lord Jesus, who gives repentance and faith,
that he would pierce the hardness of our hearts, and pene-
trate them with a true feeling andgi'ief for our impiety ; and
that he would give us wholly to trust in and consecrate our-
selves to him, that, in prayer, we may seek the Fathei' through
him, for the pardon of our sins ; which, unless they are re-
moved from us, threaten us with sudden destruction. I do
not, however, fear the destruction of the kingdom of Christ^;
I am confident, that it will be gloriously extended ; and
that Antichrist will be daily worn down ; but my fear is,
that the Lord will use us Germans for this purpose. Other
things this brother will communicate. The Lord be with
you. Salute most affectionately all yours for me.

Yours, BUCER.

July 19, 154r,

326 LIFE OF CALVIN. letters.


J. Calvin to the Protector of England.

Although God has endowed you, most noble Lord, for your
station, with the fortitude, prudence and other virtues, which
the magnitude of the office demands ; yet as you acknowledge
me to be a servant of his Son, whom you account yourself to
prefer before all things else, I have persuaded myself that
you would receive it kindly, that I should write to you in his
name. I propose to myself nothing more, than that you
should continue to advance his glory, by pursuing the work
you have begun, until you have brought his kingdom to the
most desirable state, of which it is capable on earth. In pe-
rusing this letter you will perceive, that I have produced
nothing of my own, but have transcribed from the scriptures
whatever you have here for your benefit. When I consider
the singular greatness to which you are raised, I am fully
sensible, with how much difficulty, my littleness will find ac-
cess to you. But as you do not despise the doctrine of that
master to whom I am devoted, and as you consider it a dis-
tinguished privilege to be in the number of his disciples, I
need not apologize in many words, believing that you are suf-
ficiently prepared to receive whatever manifestly comes from
him. We certainly have reason to thank God our Father,
that he has been pleased to use your labours, in so great a
w^ork, as that of restoring his pure and sincere worship in the
kingdom of England ; in causing that the doctrine of salva-
tion, chiefly by your means, should be publickly and faithful-
ly announced to all, who will deign to open their ears ; in
strengthening you, with so great resolution and constancy, to
persevere undismayed, through so many difficulties and in-
sults ; and that he has hitherto assisted you with his powerful


hand, followed with his blessing and prospered your counsels
and labours. These are so many arguments with the pious
for glorifying his holy name. But seeing that the adversary
is perpetually exciting fresh opposition, and that the matter
itself is of the most peculiar and difficult undertaking, to al-
lure men, who are by nature addicted to falsehood, to a peace-
able submission to the truth of God ; and also that there are
other causes which delay this progress, especially those deep
rooted superstitions of Antichrist, which are with extreme
labour overcome in the minds of many ; it appeared to me,
that you personally needed to be confirmed by pious exhor-
tations in this so arduous undertaking ; and I doubt not but
you have found yourself the benefit of this from experience.
I shall on this account be more free and full in my observa-
tions. As I hope that my advice will answer your wishes, so
I conclude that you will take, in good part, my exhortation ;
and although it should be unnecessary, yet that the zeal and
solicitude which prompted me in this business will meet with
your approbation. Moreover, the present perilous situation
of affairs, which you yourself acknowledge, furnis}i£s a still
stronger reason, why my endeavours should be more accepta-
ble to you. Wherefore, I entreat you, most noble Lord, to
attend patiently to the few remarks which I have determined
to submit to your consideration. I hope that, in return for
your attention to them, they will afford you that assistance,
which will enable you more vigom'ously to pursue the holy
work, for the completion of which God is pleased to use you
as an instrument. I doubt not but that those great tumults,
which have occurred for some time past, have given you much
trouble and cinxiety, especially since many took offence, who
were provoked in a great measure by the reformation of reli-
ligion. It cannot be, I say, but that the observation of these
things must excite in you various emotions, whether you re-
flect on your own apprehensions about them, or turn your at-

328 LIFE OF CALVIN. betters.

tention to the clamours of the wicked, or the consternation of
the good. This rumour spread to so great a distance deeply
aii'ected me, until I understood that assistance from the Lord
began to be manifested. But since that fire is not yet extin-
guished, and it is an easy matter for the adversary again to
rekindle it, place before your eyes the memorable example of
the pious King Hezekiah, which we have so expressly related
to us in the scriptures. Having abolished the superstitions
from Judea, and established the pure worship of God ac-
cording to his law, he was suddenly overtaken with so op-
pressive a war, that he was considered by many as lost and
ruined beyond recovery. Thus the scriptures appositely
bring those things together, that while he was wholly enga-
ged in restoring the true worship of God to its place, the is-
sue of his labour was in appearance most unfavourable to him.
He evidently had every reason to hope, that while he was so
heartily engaged in building up God's kingdom, he should se-
cure the most perfect tranquility of his own. All pious Prin-
ces, apd Governours of Provinces, should apply this example
to themselves, that they may proceed more courageously in
abolishing all idolatry, and in procuring lawfully the true
worship of God, as their duty demands ; and moreover that
they may understand that their faith is to be subjected to
similar trials through many temptations. Thus the Lord
permits, indeed thus he wills, both to manifest their constan-
cy, and prepare them to raise their eyes above this world. In
the mean time, the adversary will thrust himself in the way ;
and though unable openly to destroy the true doctrine, he
will not cease to plot its ruin by sophistry and cunning. To
this purpose is the admonition of James, That while we
observe the endurance of Job, we should consider the end of
the Lord. In the same maimer, terminated the trial of the
pious King Hezekiah, with whom the Lord was present, and

Online LibraryElijah WatermanMemoirs of the life and writings of John Calvin : together with a selection of letters → online text (page 26 of 34)