Vol 8, Chapter XI (Cont’d) – Calvin and Sadolet. The Vindication of the Reformation

91. Sadoleti: Epistola ad Genevenses (Cal. Apr., i.e. March 18, 1539). — Calvini: Responsio ad Sadoletum (Sept. 1, 1539), Argentorati ap. Wendelinum Richelium excusa. In Calv. Opera, vol. V. 385-416. Calvin translated it into French, 1540 (republished at Geneva, 1860). English translation of both by Henry Beveridge in John Calvin’s Tracts relate to the Reformation, Edinburgh (Calvin Translation Society), 1844, pp. 3-68. — Beza, Vita C., Opera, XXI. 129.

Henry, Vol. I. ch. XI. — Dyer, 102 sq. — Staehelin, I. 291-304. — Kampschulte, I. 354 sq. (only a brief but important notice). — Merle D’Aubigné, bk. XI. ch. XVI., and vol. VI. 570-594.

“Another evil, of a more dangerous kind, arose in the year 1539, and was at once extinguished by the diligence of Calvin. The bishop of Carpentras, at that time, was James Sadolet, a man of great eloquence, but he perverted it chiefly in suppressing the light of truth. He had been appointed a cardinal for no other reason than in order that his moral respectability might serve to put a kind of gloss on false religion. Observing his opportunity in the circumstances which had occurred, and thinking that he would easily ensnare the flock when deprived of its distinguished pastors, he sent, under the pretext of neighborhood (for the city of Carpentras is in Dauphiny, which again bounds on Savoy), a letter to his so-styled ‘most Beloved Senate, Council, and People of Geneva,’ omitting nothing which might tend to bring them both into the lap of the Romish Harlot, There was nobody at that time in Geneva capable of writing an answer, and it is, therefore, not unlikely, that, had the letter not been written in a foreign tongue (Latin), it would, in the existing state of affairs, have done great mischief to the city. But Calvin, having read it at Strasbourg, forgot all his injuries, and forthwith answered it with so much truth and eloquence, that Sadolet immediately gave up the whole affair as desperate.”

This is Beza’s account of that important and interesting controversy which occurred in the German period of Calvin’s life, and left a permanent impression on history.

The interregnum in Geneva furnished an excellent opportunity for Pierre de la Baume, who had been made a cardinal, to recover his lost bishopric. In this respect he only followed the example of dispossessed princes. He brought about, with the help of the pope, a consultation of the bishops of the neighboring dioceses of Lyons, Vienne, Lausanne, Besançon, Turin, Langres, and Carpentras. The meeting was held at Lyons under the presidency of the cardinal of Tournon, then archbishop of Lyons, and known as a bigoted persecutor of the Waldenses. Jean Philippe, the chief author of the banishment of Calvin, aided in the scheme. The bishop of Carpentras, a town on the borders of Savoy, was selected for the execution. A better choice could not have been made.

Jacopo Sadoleto (born at Modena, 1477, died at Rome, 1547) was one of the secretaries of Pope Leo X., bishop of Carpentras in Dauphiny since 1517, secretary of Clement VII. in 1523, a cardinal since 1536. He was frequently employed in diplomatic peace negotiations between the pope, the king of France, and the emperor of Germany. He had a high reputation as a scholar, a poet, and a gentleman of irreproachable character and devout piety. He best represents the Italian Renaissance in its leaning towards a moderate semi-evangelical reform within the Catholic Church. He was an admirer of Erasmus and Melanchthon, and one of the founders of the Oratory at Rome for purposes of mutual edification. He acted, like Contarini, as a mediator between the Roman and Protestant parties, but did not please either. In his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, he expressed opinions on divine grace and free-will which gave offence in Rome and in Spain. His colleague, Cardinal Bembo, warned him against the study of St. Paul, lest it might spoil his classical style. Sadolet prevented the spread of Calvinism in his diocese, but was opposed to violent persecution. He kindly received the fugitive Waldenses after the terrible massacre of Mérindol and Cabrières, in 1545, and besought the clemency of Francis I. in their behalf. He was grieved and disgusted with the nepotism of Pope Paul III., and declined the appointment to preside over the Council of Trent as papal delegate, on the score of extreme poverty.

This highly respectable dignitary of the papal hierarchy made a very able and earnest effort to win back the orphan Church of Geneva to the sheepfold of Rome. He thereby came involuntarily into a literary conflict with Calvin, in which he was utterly defeated. Fresh from a visit to the pope, he addressed a letter of some twenty or more octavo pages “to his dearly beloved Brethren, the Magistrates, Senate, and Citizens of Geneva.” It is written in elegant Latin, and with persuasive eloquence, of which he was a consummate master.

He assumes the air of authority as a cardinal and papal legate, and begins with an apostolic greeting: “Very dear Brethren in Christ, — Peace to you and with us, that is, with the Catholic Church, the mother of all, both of us and you, love and concord from God, the Father Almighty, and from his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, together with the Holy Spirit, perfect Unity in Trinity; to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever.” He flatters the Genevese by praising their noble city, the order and form of their republic, the worth of their citizens, and especially their “hospitality to strangers and foreigners,” but he casts suspicion on the character and motives of the Reformers. This uncharitable and ungentlemanly reflection mars the beauty and dignity of his address, and weakened its effect upon the citizens of Geneva who, whatever were their religious views, had no doubt about the honesty and earnestness of Farel, Viret, and Calvin.

After this introduction Sadolet gives a very plausible exposition of the principle of the Catholic doctrines, but ignores the Bible. He admits that man is saved by faith alone, but adds the necessity of good works. He then asks the Genevese to decide, “Whether it be more expedient for their salvation to believe and follow what the Catholic Church has approved with general consent for more than fifteen hundred years, or innovations introduced within these twenty-five years by crafty men.” He then adduces the stock arguments of antiquity, universality, unity, and inerrancy, while the Protestants were already broken up into warring sects a manifest indication of falsehood. For “truth,” he says, “is always one, while error is varied and multiform; that which is straight is simple, that which is crooked has many turns. Can any one who confesses Christ, fail to perceive that such teaching of the holy Church is the proper work of Satan, and not of God? What does God demand of us? What does Christ enjoin? That we be all one in him.”

He closes with an earnest exhortation, and assures the Genevese: “Whatever I possibly can do, although it is very little, still if I have in me any talent, skill, authority, industry, I offer them all to you and your interests, and will regard it as a great favor to myself should you be able to reap any fruit and advantage from my labor and assistance in things human and divine.”

The Council of Geneva politely acknowledged the receipt of the cardinal’s letter with thanks for the compliments paid to the Genevese, and promised a full reply in due time. This was March 27. On the next day a number of citizens, under the lead of François Chamois, entered a protest against the ordinance by which the Confession of Faith had been adopted, July 29, 1537, and asked to be released from the oath. The Romanists took courage. No one could be found in Geneva who was able to answer the cardinal’s letter, and silence might be construed into consent.

Calvin received a copy of the appeal through Sulzer, a minister of Bern, wrote an answer of more than twice its length in six days, and despatched it to Geneva in time to neutralize the mischief (Sept. 1). Though not mentioned by name, he was indirectly assailed by the cardinal as the chief among those who had been denounced as misleaders and disturbers of the peace of Geneva. He therefore felt it his duty to take up the pen in defence of the Reformation.

He begins by paying a just tribute to the cardinal for his excellent learning and admirable eloquence, “which raised him to a place among the first scholars of the age. Nor did he impeach his motives. “I will give you credit,” he says, “for having written to the Genevese with the purest intention as becomes one of your learning, prudence, and gravity, and for having in good faith advised them to the course which you believed to be to their interest and safety.” He was, therefore, reluctant to oppose him, and he did so only under an imperative sense of duty. We let him speak for himself.

“I profess to be one of those whom, with so much enmity, you assail and stigmatize. For though religion was already established, and the form of the Church corrected, before I was invited to Geneva, yet having not only approved by my suffrage, but studied as much as in me lay to preserve and confirm what had been done by Viret and Farel, I cannot separate my case from theirs. Still, if you had attacked me in my private character, I could easily have forgiven the attack in consideration of your learning, and in honor of letters. But when I see that my ministry, which I feel assured is supported and sanctioned by a call from God, is wounded through my side, it would be perfidy, not patience, were I here to be silent and connive.

“In that Church I have held the office, first of Doctor, and then of Pastor. In my own right I maintain that, in undertaking these offices, I had a legitimate vocation. How faithfully and religiously I have performed them, there is no occasion for now showing at length. Perspicuity, erudition, prudence, ability, or even industry, I will not claim for myself, but that I certainly labored with the sincerity which became me in the work of the Lord, I can in conscience appeal to Christ, my Judge, and all his angels, while all good men bear clear testimony in my favor. This ministry, therefore, when it shall appear to have been of God (as it certainly shall appear after the cause has been heard), were I in silence to allow you to tear and defame, who would not condemn such silence as treachery? Every person, therefore, now sees that the strongest obligations of duty — obligations which I cannot evade — constrain me to meet your accusations, if I would not with manifest perfidy desert and betray a cause with which the Lord has intrusted me. For though I am for the present relieved of the charge of the Church of Geneva, that circumstance ought not to prevent me from embracing it with paternal affection — God, when he gave it to me in charge, having bound me to be faithful forever.”

He repels with modest dignity the frivolous charge of having embraced the cause of the Reformation from disappointed ambition.

“I am unwilling to speak of myself, but since you do not permit me to be altogether silent, I will say what I can consistently with modesty. Had I wished to consult my own interest, I would never have left your party. I will not, indeed, boast that there the road to preferment had been easy to me. I never desired it, and I could never bring my mind to catch at it; although I certainly know not a few of my own age who have crept up to some eminence — among them some whom I might have equalled, and others outstripped. This only I will be contented to say, it would not have been difficult for me to reach the summit of my wishes, viz., the enjoyment of literary ease with something of a free and honorable station. Therefore, I have no fear that any one not possessed of shameless effrontery will object to me, that out of the kingdom of the pope I sought for any personal advantage which was not there ready to my hand.”

The Reformer follows the cardinal’s letter step by step, and defeats him at every point. He answers his assertions with facts and arguments. He destroys, like a cobweb, his beautiful picture of an ideal Catholicism by a description of the actual papacy of those days, with its abuses and corruptions, which were the real cause of the Reformation. He gives a very dark account, indeed, but it is fully confirmed by what is authentically known of the lives of such popes as Alexander VI. and Leo X., by the invectives of Savonarola, by the observations of Erasmus and Luther on their experience in Rome, by such impartial witnesses as Machiavelli, who says that religion was almost destroyed in Italy owing to the bad example set by the popes, and even by the testimony of an exceptionally good and pious pope, Adrian VI., who, with all his abhorrence of the Lutheran heresy, officially confessed the absolute necessity of a moral reform in the head and members of the hierarchy.

“We deny not,” says Calvin, “that those over whom you preside are churches of Christ, but we maintain that the Roman pontiff, with his whole herd of pseudo-bishops, who have seized upon the pastor’s office, are ravening wolves, whose only study has hitherto been to scatter and trample upon the kingdom of Christ, filling it with ruin and devastation. Nor are we the first to make the complaint. With what vehemence does Bernard thunder against Eugenius and all the bishops of his own age? Yet how much more tolerable was its condition than now?

“For iniquity has reached its height, and now those shadowy prelates, by whom you think the Church stands or perishes, and by whom we say that she has been cruelly torn and mutilated, and brought to the very brink of destruction, can bear neither their vices nor the cure of them. Destroyed the Church would have been, had not God, with singular goodness, prevented. For in all places where the tyranny of the Roman pontiff prevails, you scarcely see as many stray and tattered vestiges as will enable you to perceive that these Churches he half buried. Nor should you think this absurd, since Paul tells you that Antichrist would have his seat in no other place than in the midst of God’s sanctuary (2Th_2:4) ….

“But whatever the character of the men, still, you say, it is written, ‘What they tell you, do.’ No doubt, if they sit in the chair of Moses. But when, from the chair of verity, they intoxicate the people with folly, it is written, ‘Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees’ (Mat_12:6) ….

“Let your pontiff boast as he may of the succession of Peter: even if he should make good his title to it, he will establish nothing more than that obedience is due to him from the Christian people so long as he himself maintains his fidelity to Christ, and does not deviate from the purity of the gospel …. A prophet should be judged by the congregation (1Co_14:29). Whoever exempts himself from this must first expunge his name from the list of the prophets ….

“As to your assertion, that our only aim in shaking off this tyrannical yoke was to set ourselves free for unbridled licentiousness after (so help us!) casting away all thoughts of future life, let judgment be given after comparing our conduct with yours. We abound, indeed, in numerous faults; too often do we sin and fall. Still, though truth would, modesty will not, permit me to boast how far we excel you in every respect, unless, perchance, you except Rome, that famous abode of sanctity, which having burst asunder the cords of pure discipline, and trodden all honor under foot, has so overflowed with all kinds of iniquity, that scarcely anything so abominable has ever been before.”

At the close of his letter, Sadolet had cited the Reformers as criminals before the judgment-seat of God, in an imaginary confession to the effect that they had been actuated by base motives of pride and disappointed ambition in their assaults upon the holy Church and the vicegerent of Christ, and become guilty of “great seditions and schisms.”

Calvin takes up the challenge by a counter-confession, which introduces us into the very heart of the great religious struggle of the sixteenth century, and is perhaps the ablest vindication of the Reformation to be found in the controversial literature of that time. He puts that movement on the ground of the Word of God against the commandments of men, and justifies it by the protests of the Hebrew prophets against the corruptions of the Levitical priesthood, and Christ’s fearful denunciations of the Pharisees and Sadducees, who nailed the Saviour to the cross. The same confession contains also an incidental account of the spiritual experience and conversion of the author, who speaks for himself as well as his colleagues. We give it in full.

“Consider now what serious answer you are to make for yourself and your party. Our cause, as it is supported by the truth of God, will be at no loss for a complete defence. I am not speaking of our persons; their safety will be found not in defence, but in humble confession and suppliant deprecation. But in so far as our ministry is concerned, there is none of us who will not be able thus to speak: — 

“‘O Lord, I have, indeed, experienced how difficult and grievous it was to bear the invidious accusations with which I was harassed on the earth; but with the same confidence with which I then appealed to Thy tribunal, I now appear before Thee, because I know that in Thy judgment truth always reigns — that truth by whose assurance supported I first ventured to attempt — with whose assistance provided I was able to accomplish whatever I have achieved in Thy Church.

“‘They charged me with two of the worst of crimes — heresy and schism. And the heresy was, that I dared to protest against dogmas which they received. But what could I have done? I heard from Thy mouth that there was no other light of truth which could direct our souls into the way of life, than that which was kindled by Thy Word. I heard that whatever human minds of themselves conceive concerning Thy Majesty, the worship of Thy Deity, and the mysteries of Thy religion, was vanity. I heard that their introducing into the Church instead of Thy Word, doctrines sprung from the human brain, was sacrilegious presumption.

“‘But when I turned my eyes towards men, I saw very different principles prevailing. Those who were regarded as the leaders of faith, neither understood Thy Word, nor greatly cared for it. They only drove unhappy people to and fro with strange doctrines, and deluded them with I know not what follies. Among the people themselves, the highest veneration paid to Thy Word was to revere it at a distance, as a thing inaccessible, and abstain from all investigation of it.

Owing to this supine state of the pastors, and this stupidity of the people, every place was filled with pernicious errors, falsehoods, and superstition. They, indeed, called Thee the only God, but it was while transferring to others the glory which thou hast claimed for Thy Majesty. They figured and had for themselves as many gods as they had saints, whom they chose to worship. Thy Christ was indeed worshipped as God, and retained the name of Saviour; but where He ought to have been honored, He was left almost without honor. For, spoiled of His own virtue, He passed unnoticed among the crowd of saints, like one of the meanest of them. There was none who duly considered that one sacrifice which He offered on the cross, and by which He reconciled us to Thyself — none who ever dreamed of thinking of His eternal priesthood, and the intercession depending upon it — none who trusted in His righteousness only. That confident hope of salvation which is both enjoined by Thy Word, and founded upon it, had almost vanished. Nay, it was received as a kind of oracle, that it was foolish arrogance, and, as they termed it, presumption for any one trusting to Thy goodness, and the righteousness of Thy Son, to entertain a sure and unfaltering hope of salvation.

“‘Not a few profane opinions plucked up by the roots the first principles of that doctrine which Thou hast delivered to us in Thy Word. The true meaning of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, also, was corrupted by numerous falsehoods. And then, when all, with no small insult to Thy mercy, put confidence in good works, when by good works they strove to merit Thy favor, to procure justification, to expiate their sins, and make satisfaction to Thee (each of these things obliterating and making void the virtue of Christ’s cross), they were yet altogether ignorant wherein good works consisted. For, just as if they were not at all instructed in righteousness by Thy law, they had fabricated for themselves many useless frivolities, as a means of procuring Thy favor, and on these they so plumed themselves, that, in comparison of them, they almost contemned the standard of true righteousness which Thy law recommended, — to such a degree had human desires, after usurping the ascendancy, derogated, if not from the belief, at least from the authority, of Thy precepts therein contained.

“‘That I might perceive these things, Thou, O Lord, didst shine upon me with the brightness of Thy Spirit; that I might comprehend how impious and noxious they were, Thou didst bear before me the torch of Thy Word; that I might abominate them as they deserved, Thou didst stimulate my soul.

“‘But in rendering an account of my doctrine, Thou seest (what my own conscience declares) that it was not my intention to stray beyond those limits which I saw had been fixed by all Thy servants. Whatever I felt assured that I had learned from Thy mouth, I desired to dispense faithfully to the Church. Assuredly, the thing at which I chiefly aimed, and for which I most diligently labored, was, that the glory of Thy goodness and justice, after dispersing the mists by which it was formerly obscured, might shine forth conspicuous, that the virtue and blessings of Thy Christ (all glosses being wiped away) might be fully displayed. For I thought it impious to leave in obscurity things which we were born to ponder and meditate. Nor did I think that truths, whose magnitude no language can express, were to be maliciously or falsely declared.

“‘I hesitated not to dwell at greater length on topics on which the salvation of my hearers depended. For the oracle could never deceive which declares (Joh_17:3): “This is eternal life to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.”

“‘As to the charge of forsaking the Church, which they were wont to bring against me, there is nothing of which my conscience accuses me, unless, indeed, he is to be considered a deserter, who, seeing the soldiers routed and scattered, and abandoning the ranks, raises the leader’s standard, and recalls them to their posts. For thus, O Lord, were all thy servants dispersed, so that they could not, by any possibility, hear the command, but had almost forgotten their leader, and their service, and their military oath. In order to bring them together, when thus scattered, I raised not a foreign standard, but that noble banner of Thine which we must follow, if we would be classed among Thy people. Then I was assailed by those who, when they ought to have kept others in their ranks, had led them astray, and when I determined not to desist, opposed me with violence. On this grievous tumults arose, and the contest blazed and issued in disruption.

“‘With whom the blame rests it is for Thee, O Lord, to decide. Always, both by word and deed, have I protested how eager I was for unity. Mine, however, was a unity of the Church, which should begin with Thee and end in Thee. For as oft as Thou didst recommend to us peace and concord, Thou, at the same time, didst show that Thou wert the only bond for preserving it.

“‘But if I desired to be at peace with those who boasted of being the heads of the Church and pillars of faith, I believed to purchase it with the denial of Thy truth. I thought that anything was to be endured sooner than stoop to such nefarious compact. For Thy Anointed Himself hath declared, that though heaven and earth should be confounded, yet Thy Word must endure forever (Mat_24:35).

“‘Nor did I think that I dissented from Thy Church because I was at war with those leaders; for Thou hast forewarned me, both by Thy Son, and by the apostles, that that place would be occupied by persons to whom I ought by no means to consent. Christ had predicted not of strangers, but of men who should give themselves out for pastors, that they would be ravenous wolves and false prophets, and had, at the same time, cautioned me to beware of them. Where Christ ordered me to beware, was I to lend my aid? And the apostles declared that there would be no enemies of Thy Church more pestilential than those from within who should conceal themselves under the title of pastors (Mat_7:15; Act_20:29; 2Pe_2:1; 1Jo_2:18).

“‘Why should I have hesitated to separate myself from persons whom they forewarned me to hold as enemies? I had before my eyes the examples of Thy prophets, who I saw had a similar contest with the priests and false prophets of their day, though these were undoubtedly the rulers of the Church among the Israelitish people. But Thy prophets are not regarded as schismatics, because, when they wished to revive religion, which had fallen into decay, they desisted not, although opposed with the utmost violence. They still remained in the unity of the Church, though they were doomed to perdition by wicked priests, and deemed unworthy of a place among men, not to say saints.

“‘Confirmed by their example, I, too, persisted. Though denounced as a deserter of the Church, and threatened, I was in no respect deterred or induced to proceed less firmly and boldly in opposing those, who, in the character of pastors, wasted Thy Church with a more than impious tyranny. My conscience told me how strong the zeal was with which I burned for the unity of Thy Church, provided Thy truth were made the bond of concord. As the commotions which followed were not excited by me, so there is no ground for imputing them to me. Thou, O Lord, knowest, and the fact itself has testified to men, that the only thing I asked was, that all controversies should be decided by Thy Word, that thus both parties might unite with one mind to establish Thy kingdom; and I declined not to restore peace to the Church at the expense of my head, if I were found to have been unnecessarily the cause of tumult.

“‘But what did our opponents? Did they not instantly, and like madmen fly to fires, swords, and gibbets? Did they not decide that their only security, was in arms and cruelty? Did they not instigate all ranks to the same fury? Did they not spurn at all methods of pacification? To this it is owing that a matter, which might at one time have been settled amicably, has blazed into such a contest. But although, amidst the great confusion, the judgments of men were various, I am freed from all fear, now that we stand at Thy tribunal, where equity, combined with truth, cannot but decide in favor of innocence.’

“Such, Sadolet, is our pleading, not the fictitious one which you, in order to aggravate our case, were pleased to devise, but that the perfect truth of which is known to the good even now, and will be made manifest to all creatures on that day. Nor will those who, instructed by our preaching, have adhered to our cause, be at loss what to say for themselves, since each will be ready with this defence: — 

“‘I, O Lord, as I had been educated from a boy, always professed the Christian faith. But at first I had no other reason for my faith than that which then everywhere prevailed. Thy Word, which ought to have shone on all Thy people like a lamp, was taken away, or at least suppressed as to us. And lest any one should long for greater light, an idea had been instilled into the minds of all, that the investigation of that hidden celestial philosophy was better delegated to a few, whom the others might consult as oracles — that the highest knowledge befitting plebeian minds was to subdue themselves into obedience to the Church. Then, the rudiments in which I had been instructed were of a kind which could neither properly train me to the legitimate worship of Thy Deity, nor pave the way for me to a sure hope of salvation, nor train me aright for the duties of the Christian life. I had learned, indeed, to worship Thee only as my God, but as the true method of worshipping was altogether unknown to me, I stumbled at the very threshold. I believed, as I had been taught, that I was redeemed by the death of Thy Son from the liability to eternal death, but the redemption I thought of was one whose virtue could never reach me. I anticipated a future resurrection, but hated to think of it, as being an event most dreadful. And this feeling not only had dominion over me in private, but was derived from the doctrine which was then uniformly delivered to the people by their Christian teachers.

“‘They, indeed, preached of Thy clemency towards men, but confined it to those who should show themselves deserving of it. They, moreover, placed this desert in the righteousness of works, so that he only was received into Thy favor who reconciled himself to Thee by works. Nor, meanwhile, did they disguise the fact that we are miserable sinners, that we often fall through infirmity of the flesh, and that to all, therefore, Thy mercy behoved to be the common haven of salvation; but the method of obtaining it, which they pointed out, was by making satisfaction to Thee for offences. Then the satisfaction enjoined was, first, after confessing all our sins to a priest, suppliantly to ask pardon and absolution; and, secondly, by good to efface from Thy remembrance our bad actions. Lastly, in order to supply what was still wanting, we were to add sacrifices and solemn expiations. Then, because Thou wert a stern judge and strict avenger of iniquity, they showed how dreadful Thy presence must be. Hence they bade us flee first to the saints, that by their intercession Thou mightest be rendered exorable and propitious to us.

“‘When, however, I had performed all these things, though I had some intervals of quiet, I was still far off from true peace of conscience; for, whenever I descended into myself, or raised my mind to Thee, extreme terror seized me — terror which no expiations or satisfactions could cure. And the more closely I examined myself, the sharper the stings with which my conscience was pricked, so that the only solace which remained to me was to delude myself by obliviousness. Still, as nothing better offered, I continued the course which I had begun, when, lo! a very different form of doctrine started up, not one which led us away from the Christian profession, but one which brought it back to its fountain-head, and, as it were, clearing away the dross, restored it to its original purity.

“‘Offended by the novelty, I lent an unwilling ear, and at first, I confess, strenuously and passionately resisted; for (such is the firmness or effrontery with which it is natural to men to persist in the course which they have once undertaken) it was with the greatest difficulty I was induced to confess that I had all my life long been in ignorance and error. One thing, in particular, made me averse to those new teachers, viz. reverence for the Church.

“‘But when once I opened my ears, and allowed myself to be taught, I perceived that this fear of derogating from the majesty of the Church was groundless. For they reminded me how great the difference is between schism from the Church, and studying to correct the faults by which the Church herself was contaminated. They spoke nobly of the Church, and showed the greatest desire to cultivate unity. And lest it should seem they quibbled on the term Church, they showed it was no new thing for Antichrists to preside there in place of pastors. Of this they produced not a few examples, from which it appeared they aimed at nothing but the edification of the Church, and in that respect were similarly circumstanced with many of Christ’s servants whom we ourselves included in the catalogue of saints.

“‘For inveighing more freely against the Roman Pontiff, who was reverenced as the Vicegerent of Christ, the Successor of Peter, and the Head of the Church, they excused themselves thus: Such titles as those are empty bugbears, by which the eyes of the pious ought not to be so blinded as not to venture to look at them and sift the reality. It was when the world was plunged in ignorance and sloth, as in a deep sleep, that the pope had risen to such an eminence; certainly neither appointed head of the Church by the Word of God, nor ordained by a legitimate act of the Church, but of his own accord, self-elected. Moreover, the tyranny which he let loose against the people of God was not to be endured, if we wished to have the kingdom of Christ amongst us in safety.

“‘And they wanted not most powerful arguments to confirm all their positions. First, they clearly disposed of everything that was then commonly adduced to establish the primacy of the pope. When they had taken away all these props, they also, by the Word of God, tumbled him from his lofty height. On the whole, they make it clear and palpable, to learned and unlearned, that the true order of the Church had then perished, — that the keys under which the discipline of the Church is comprehended had been altered very much for the worse; that Christian liberty had fallen, — in short, that the kingdom of Christ was prostrated when this primacy was reared up. They told me, moreover, as a means of pricking my conscience, that I could not safely connive at these things as if they concerned me not; that so far art Thou from patronizing any voluntary error, that even he who is led astray by mere ignorance does not err with impunity. This they proved by the testimony of Thy Son (Mat_15:14): “If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”

“‘My mind being now prepared for serious attention, I at length perceived, as if light had broken in upon me, in what a stye of error I had wallowed, and how much pollution and impurity I had thereby contracted. Being exceedingly alarmed at the misery into which I had fallen, and much more at that which threatened me in the view of eternal death, I, as in duty bound, made it my first business to betake myself to Thy way, condemning my past life, not without groans and tears.

“‘And now, O Lord, what remains to a wretch like me, but, instead of defence, earnestly to supplicate Thee not to judge according to its deserts that fearful abandonment of Thy Word, from which, in Thy wondrous goodness, Thou hast at last delivered me.’

“Now, Sadolet, if you please, compare this pleading with that which you have put into the mouth of your plebeian. It will be strange if you hesitate which of the two you ought to prefer. For the safety of that man hangs by a thread whose defence turns wholly on this — that he has constantly adhered to the religion handed down to him from his forefathers. At this rate, Jews and Turks and Saracens would escape the judgment of God.

“Away, then, with this vain quibbling at a tribunal which will be erected, not to approve the authority of man, but to condemn all flesh of vanity and falsehood, and vindicate the truth of God only.”

Calvin descends to repel with just indignation the groundless charge of avarice and greed which Sadolet was not ashamed to cast upon the Reformers, who might have easily reached the dignity and wealth of bishops and cardinals, but who preferred to live and die in poverty for the sake of their sacred convictions.

“Would not,” he asked, “the shortest road to riches and honors have been to accept the terms which were offered at the very first? How much would your pontiff then have paid to many for their silence? How much would he pay for it even at the present day? If they were actuated in the least degree by avarice, why do they cut off all hope of improving their fortune, and prefer to be thus perpetually wretched, rather than enrich themselves without difficulty and in a moment?

“But ambition, forsooth, withholds them! What ground you had for this other insinuation I see not, since those who first engaged in this cause could expect nothing else than to be spurned by the whole world, and those who afterwards adhered to it, exposed themselves knowingly and willingly to endless insults and revilings from every quarter.”

He then answers to “the most serious charge of all:” that the Reformers had “dismembered the Spouse of Christ,” while in fact they attempted, to present her as “a chaste virgin of Christ,” and, “seeing her polluted by base seducers, to recall her to conjugal fidelity,” after having been defiled by the idolatry of image-worship and numberless superstitions. Peace and unity can only be found in Christ and his truth. He concludes with the wish: — 

“May the Lord grant, Sadolet, that you and all your party may at length perceive that the only true bond of Church unity is Christ the Lord, who has reconciled us to God the Father, and will gather us out of our present dispersion into the fellowship of His body, that so, through His one Word and Spirit, we may grow together into one heart and one soul.”

Such is a summary of that remarkable Answer — a masterpiece of dignified and gentlemanly theological controversy. There is scarcely a parallel to it in the literature of that age, which teems with uncharitable abuse and coarse invective. Melanchthon might have equalled it in courtesy and good taste, but not in adroitness and force. No wonder that the old lion of Wittenberg was delighted with this triumphant vindication of the evangelical Reformation by a young Frenchman, who was to carry on the conflict which he himself had begun twenty years before by his Theses and his heroic stand at the Diet of Worms. “This answer,” said Luther to Cruciger, who had met Calvin at the Colloquies in Worms and Regensburg, “has hand and foot, and I rejoice that God raises up men who will give the last blow to popery, and finish the war against Antichrist which I began.”

The Answer made a deep and lasting impression. It was widely circulated, with Sadolet’s Letter, in manuscript, printed in Latin, first at Strassburg, translated into French, and published in both languages by the Council of Geneva at the expense of the city (1540). The prelates who had met at Lyons lost courage; the papal party in Geneva gave up all hope of restoring the mass. Three years afterwards Cardinal Pierre de la Baume died — the last bishop of Geneva.


92. Calvin’s Marriage and Home Life

Calvin’s Letters to Farel and Viret quoted below.

Jules Bonnet: Idelette de Bure, femme de Calvin. In the “Bulletin de la Société de l’histoire du protestantisme français.” Quatrième année. Paris, 1856. pp. 636-646. — D. Lenoir, ibid. 1860. p. 26. (A brief note.)

Henry, I. 407 sqq. — Dyer, 99 sqq. — Staehelin, I. 272 sqq. — Merle d’Aubigné, bk. XI. ch. XVII, (vol. VI. 601-608). — Stricker, l.c. 42-50. (Kampschulte is silent on this topic.)

The most important event in Calvin’s private life during his sojourn in Germany was his marriage, which took place early in August, 1540. He expresses his views on marriage in his comments on Eph_5:28-33. “It is a thing against nature,” he remarks, “that any one should not love his wife, for God has ordained marriage in order that two may be made one person — a result which, certainly, no other alliance can bring about. When Moses says that a man shall leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife, he shows that a man ought to prefer marriage to every other union, as being the holiest of all. It reflects our union with Christ, who infuses his very life unto us; for we are flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone. This is a great mystery, the dignity of which cannot be expressed in words.”

He himself was in no hurry to get married, and put it off till he was over thirty. He rather boasted that people could not charge him with having assailed Rome, as the Greeks besieged Troy, for the sake of a woman. What led him first to think of it, was the sense of loneliness and the need of proper care, that he might be able the better to serve the Church. He had a housekeeper, with her son, a woman of violent temper who sorely tried his patience. At one time she abused his brother so violently that he left the house, and then she ran away, leaving her son behind. The disturbance made him sick.

He was often urged by his friend Farel (who himself found no time to think of marrying till his old age), and by Bucer, to take a wife, that he might enjoy the comforts of a well-ordered home. He first mentions the subject in a letter to Farel, from Strassburg, May 19, 1539, in which he says: “I am none of those insane lovers who, when once smitten with the fine figure of a woman, embrace also her faults. This only is the beauty which allures me, if she be chaste, obliging, not fastidious, economical, patient, and careful for my health. Therefore, if you think well of it, set out immediately, lest some one else [Bucer?] gets the start of you. But if you think otherwise we will let it pass.” It seems Farel could not find a person that combined all these qualities, and the matter was dropped for several months.

In Feb. 6, 1540, Calvin, in a letter to the same friend, touched again upon the subject of matrimony, but only incidentally, as if it were a subordinate matter. After informing him about his trouble with Caroli, his discussion with Hermann, an Anabaptist, the good understanding of Charles V. and Francis I., and the alarm of the Protestant princes of Germany, he goes on to say: “Nevertheless, in the midst of such commotions as these, I am so much at my ease as to have the audacity to think of taking a wife. A certain damsel of noble rank has been proposed to me, and with a fortune above my condition. Two considerations deterred me from that connection — because she did not understand our language, and because I feared she might be too mindful of her family and education.”

He sent his brother for another lady, who was highly recommended to him. He expected to get married March 10, and invited Farel to celebrate the wedding. But this project also failed, and he thought of abandoning all further attempts.

At last he married a member of his congregation, Idelette de Bure, the widow of Jean Stordeur (or Storder) of Liège, a prominent Anabaptist whom he had converted to the orthodox faith, and who had died of the pestilence in the previous February. She was probably the daughter of Lambert de Bure who, with six of his fellow-citizens, had been deprived of his property and banished forever, after having been legally convicted of heresy in 1533. She was the mother of several children, poor, and in feeble health. She lived in retirement, devoted to the education of her children, and enjoyed the esteem of her friends for her good qualities of head and heart. Calvin visited her frequently as pastor, and was attracted by her quiet, modest, gentle character. He found in her what he desired — firm faith, devoted love, and domestic helpfulness. He calls her “the excellent companion of my life,” “the ever-faithful assistant of my ministry,” and a “rare woman.” Beza speaks of her as “a grave and honorable lady.”

Calvin lived in happy wedlock, but only for nine years. His wife was taken from him at Geneva, after a protracted illness, early in April, 1549. He felt the loss very deeply, and found comfort only in his work. He turned from the coffin to his study table, and resumed the duties of his office with quiet resignation and conscientious fidelity as if nothing had happened. He remained a widower the remaining fifteen years of his life. “My wife, a woman of rare qualities,” he wrote, “died a year and a half ago, and I have now willingly chosen to lead a solitary life.”

We know much less of Calvin’s domestic life than of Luther’s. He was always reticent concerning himself and his private affairs, while Luther was very frank and demonstrative. In selecting their wives neither of the Reformers had any regard to the charms of beauty and wealth which attract most lovers, nor even to intellectual endowment; they looked only to moral worth and domestic virtue. Luther married at the age of forty-one, Calvin at the age of thirty-one. Luther married a Catholic ex-nun, after having vainly recommended her to his friend Amsdorf, whom she proudly refused, looking to higher distinction. He married her under a sudden impulse, to the consternation of his friends, in the midst of the disturbances of the Peasants’ War, that he might please his father, tease the pope, and vex the devil. Calvin married, like Zwingli, a Protestant widow with several children; he married from esteem rather than affection, after due reflection and the solicitation of friends.

Katherine Luther cut a prominent figure in her husband’s personal history and correspondence, and survived him several years, which she spent in poverty and affliction. Idelette de Bure lived in modest retirement, and died in peace fifteen years before Calvin. Luther submitted as “a willing servant” to the rule of his “Lord Kathe,” but he loved her dearly, played with his children in childlike simplicity, addressed to her his last letters, and expressed his estimate of domestic happiness in the beautiful sentence: “The greatest gift of God to man is a pious, kindly, God-fearing, domestic wife.”

Luther’s home life was enlivened and cheered by humor, poetry, and song; Calvin’s was sober, quiet, controlled by the fear of God, and regulated by a sense of duty, but none the less happy. Nothing can be more unjust than the charge that Calvin was cold and unsympathetic.

His whole correspondence proves the reverse. His letters on the death of his wife to his dearest friends reveal a deep fountain of tenderness and affection. To Farel he wrote, April 2, 1549: — 

“Intelligence of my wife’s death has perhaps reached you before now. I do what I can to keep myself from being overwhelmed with grief. My friends also leave nothing undone that may administer relief to my mental suffering. When your brother left, her life was all but despaired of. When the brethren were assembled on Tuesday, they thought it best that we should join together in prayer. This was done. When Abel, in the name of the rest, exhorted her to faith and patience, she briefly (for she was now greatly worn) stated her frame of mind. I afterwards added an exhortation, which seemed to me appropriate to the occasion. And then, as she had made no allusion to her children, I, fearing that, restrained by modesty, she might be feeling an anxiety concerning them, which would cause her greater suffering than the disease itself, declared in the presence of the brethren, that I should henceforth care for them as if they were my own. She replied, ‘I have already committed them to the Lord.’ When I replied, that that was not to hinder me from doing my duty, she immediately answered, ‘If the Lord shall care for them, I know they will be commended to you.’ Her magnanimity was so great, that she seemed to have already left the world. About the sixth hour of the day, on which she yielded up her soul to the Lord, our brother Bourgouin addressed some pious words to her, and while he wag doing so, she spoke aloud, so that all saw that her heart was raised far above the world. For these were her words: ‘O glorious resurrection! O God of Abraham, and of all our fathers, in thee have the faithful trusted during so many past ages, and none of them have trusted in vain. I also will hope.’ These short sentences were rather ejaculated than distinctly spoken. This did not come from the suggestion of others, but from her own reflections, so that she made it obvious in few words what were her own meditations. I had to go out at six o’clock. Having been removed to another apartment after seven, she immediately began to decline. When she felt her voice suddenly failing her she said: ‘Let us pray; let us pray. All pray for me.’ I had now returned. She was unable to speak, and her mind seemed to be troubled. I, having spoken a few words about the love of Christ, the hope of eternal life, concerning our married life, and her departure, engaged in prayer. In full possession of her mind, she both heard the prayer, and attended to it. Before eight she expired, so calmly, that those present could scarcely distinguish between her life and her death. I at present control my sorrow so that my duties may not be interfered with. But in the meanwhile the Lord has sent other trials upon me, Adieu, brother, and very excellent friend. May the Lord Jesus strengthen you by His Spirit; and may He support me also under this heavy affliction, which would certainly have overcome me, had not He, who raises up the prostrate, strengthens the weak, and refreshes the weary, stretched forth His hand from heaven to me. Salute all the brethren and your whole family.

To Viret he wrote a few days later, April 7, 1549, as follows: — 

“Although the death of my wife has been exceedingly painful to me, yet I subdue my grief as well as I can. Friends, also, are earnest in their duty to me. It might be wished, indeed, that they could profit me and themselves more; yet one can scarcely say how much I am supported by their attentions. But you know well enough how tender, or rather soft, my mind is. Had not a powerful self-control, therefore, been vouchsafed to me, I could not have borne up so long. And truly mine is no common source of grief. I have been bereaved of the best companion of my life, of one who, had it been so ordered, would not only have been the willing sharer of my exile and poverty, but even of my death. During her life she was the faithful helper of my ministry.

“From her I never experienced the slightest hindrance. She was never troublesome to me throughout the entire course of her illness; she was more anxious about her children than about herself. As I feared these private cares might annoy her to no purpose, I took occasion, on the third day before her death to mention that I would not fail in discharging my duty to her children. Taking up the matter immediately, she said, ‘I have already committed them to God.’ When I said that that was not to prevent me from caring for them, she replied, ‘I know you will not neglect what you know has been committed to God.’ Lately, also, when a certain woman insisted that she should talk with me regarding these matters, I, for the first time, heard her give the following brief answer: ‘Assuredly the principal thing is that they live a pious and holy life. My husband is not to be urged to instruct them in religious knowledge and in the fear of God. If they be pious, I am sure he will gladly be a father to them; but if not, they do not deserve that I should ask for aught in their behalf.’ This nobleness of mind will weigh more with me than a hundred recommendations. Many thanks for your friendly consolation.

“Adieu, most excellent and honest brother. May the Lord Jesus watch over and direct yourself and your wife. Present my best wishes to her and to the brethren.”

In reply to this letter, Viret wrote to Calvin, April 10, 1549: — 

“Wonderfully and incredibly have I been refreshed, not by empty rumors alone, but especially by numerous messengers who have informed me how you, with a heart so broken and lacerated, have attended to all your duties even better than hitherto, … and that, above all, at a time when grief was so fresh, and on that account all the more severe, might have prostrated your mind. Go on then as you have begun, … and I pray God most earnestly, that you may be enabled to do so, and that you may receive daily greater comfort and be strengthened more and more.”

Calvin’s character shines in the same favorable light at the loss of his only son who died in infancy (1542). He thanked Viret and his wife (he always sends greetings to Viret’s wife and daughter) for their tender sympathy with him in this bereavement, stating that Idelette would write herself also but for her grief. “The Lord,” he says, “has dealt us a severe blow in taking from us our infant son; but it is our Father who knows what is best for his children.” He found compensation for his want of offspring in the multitude of his spiritual children. “God has given me a little son, and taken him away; but I have myriads of children in the whole Christian world.”

Of Calvin’s deep sympathy with his friends in domestic affliction we have a most striking testimony in a private letter which was never intended for publication. It is the best proof of his extraordinary fidelity as a pastor. While he was in attendance at Ratisbon, the pestilence carried away, among other friends, Louis de Richebourg, who together with his older brother, Charles, lived in his house at Strassburg as a student and pensionnaire, under the tutorship of Claude Féray, Calvin’s dearly beloved assistant. On hearing the sad intelligence, early in April, 1541, he wrote to his father — a gentleman from Normandy, probably the lord of the village de Richebourg between Rouen and Beauvais, but otherwise unknown to us — a long letter of condolence and comfort, from which we give the following extracts: — 

Ratisbon (Month of April), 1541.

“When I first received the intelligence of the death of Claude and of your son Louis, I was so utterly overpowered (tout esperdu et confus en mon esprit) that for many days I was fit for nothing but to weep; and although I was somehow upheld before the Lord by those aids wherewith He sustains our souls in affliction, yet among men I was almost a nonentity; so far at least as regards my discharge of duty, I appeared to myself quite as unfit for it as if I had been half dead (un homme demi-mort). On the one hand, I was sadly grieved that a most excellent and faithful friend [Claude Féray] had been snatched away from me — a friend with whom I was so familiar, that none could be more closely united than we were; on the other hand, there arose another cause of grief, when I saw the young man, your son, taken away in the very flower of his age, a youth of most excellent promise, whom I loved as a son, because, on his part, he showed that respectful affection toward me as he would to another father.

“To this grievous sorrow was still added the heavy and distressing anxiety we experienced about those whom the Lord had spared to us. I heard that the whole household were scattered here and there. The danger of Malherbe caused me very great misery, as well as the cause of it, and warned me also as to the rest. I considered that it could not be otherwise but that my wife must be very much dismayed. Your Charles, I assure you, was continually recurring to my thoughts; for in proportion as he was endowed with that goodness of disposition which had always appeared in him towards his brother as well as his preceptor, it never occurred to me to doubt but that he would be steeped in sorrow and soaked in tears. One single consideration somewhat relieved me, that he had my brother along with him, who, I hoped, would prove no small comfort in this calamity; even that, however, I could not reckon upon, when at the same time I recollected that both were in jeopardy, and neither of them were yet beyond the reach of danger. Thus, until the letter arrived which informed me that Malherbe was out of danger, and that Charles and my brother, together with my wife and the others, were safe, I would have been all but utterly cast down, unless, as I have already mentioned, my heart was refreshed in prayer and private meditations, which are suggested by His Word ….

“The son whom the Lord had lent you for a season, He has taken away. There is no ground, therefore, for those silly and wicked complaints of foolish men: O blind death! O hard fate! O implacable daughters of Destiny! O cruel fortune! The Lord who had lodged him here for a season, at this stage of his career has called him away. What the Lord has done, we must, at the same time, consider has not been done rashly, nor by chance, neither from having been impelled from without, but by that determinate counsel, whereby He not only foresees, decrees, and executes nothing but what is just and upright in itself, but also nothing but what is good and wholesome for us. Where justice and good judgment reign paramount, there it is impious to remonstrate. When, however, our advantage is bound up with that goodness, how great would be the degree of ingratitude not to acquiesce, with a calm and well-ordered temper of mind, in whatever is the wish of our Father ….

“It is God who has sought back from you your son, whom He had committed to you to be educated, on the condition that he might always be His own. And, therefore, He took him away, because it was both of advantage to him to leave this world, and by this bereavement to humble you, or to make trial of your patience. If you do not understand the advantage of this, without delay, first of all, setting aside every other object of consideration, ask of God that He may show you. Should it be His will to exercise you still farther, by concealing it from you, submit to that will, that you may become wiser than the weakness of thine own understanding can ever attain to.

“In what regards your son, if you bethink yourself how difficult it is, in this most deplorable age to maintain an upright course through life, you will judge him to be blessed, who, before encountering so many coming dangers which already were hovering over him, and to be encountered in his day and generation, was so early delivered from them all. He is like one who has set sail upon a stormy and tempestuous sea, and before he has been carried out into the deeps, gets in safety to the secure haven. Nor, indeed, is long life to be reckoned so great a benefit of God, that we can lose anything, when separated only for the space of a few years, we are introduced to a life which is far better. Now, certainly, because the Lord Himself, who is the Father of us all, had willed that Louis should be put among the children as a son of His adoption, He bestowed this benefit upon you, out of the multitude of His mercies, that you might reap the excellent fruit of your careful education before his death; whence also you might know your interest in the blessings that belonged to you, ‘I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed.’

“From his earliest boyhood, so far as his years allowed, Louis was grounded in the best studies, and had already made such a competent proficiency and progress, that we entertained great hope of him for the future. His manners and behavior had met with the approval of all good men. If at any time he fell into error, he not only patiently suffered the word of admonition, but also that of reproof, and proved himself teachable and obedient, and willing to hearken to advice … That, however, which we rate most highly in him was, that he had imbibed so largely the principles of piety, that he had not merely a correct and true understanding of religion, but had also been faithfully imbued with the unfeigned fear and reverence of God.

“This exceeding kindness of God toward your offspring ought with good reason to prevail more effectually with you in soothing the bitterness of death, than death itself have power to inflict grief upon you.

“With reference to my own feelings, if your sons had never come hither at all, I should never have been grieved on account of the death of Claude and Louis. Never, however, shall this most crushing sorrow, which I suffer on account of both, so overcome me, as to reflect with grief upon that day on which they were driven hither by the hand of God to us, rather than led by any settled purpose of their own, when that friendship commenced which has not only continued undiminished to the last, but which, from day to day, was rather increased and confirmed. Whatever, therefore, may have been the kind or model of education they were in search of, I rejoice that they lived under the same roof with me. And since it was appointed them to die, I rejoice also that they died under my roof, where they rendered back their souls to God more composedly, and in greater circumstances of quiet, than if they had happened to die in those places where they would have experienced greater annoyance from the importunity of those by whom they ought to have been assisted, than from death itself. On the contrary, it was in the midst of pious exhortations, and while calling upon the name of the Lord, that these sainted spirits fled from the communion of their brethren here to the bosom of Christ. Nor would I desire now to be free from all sorrow at the cost of never having known them. Their memory will ever be sacred to me to the end of my days, and I am persuaded that it will also be sweet and comforting.

“But what advantage, you will say, is it to me to have had a son of so much promise, since he has been torn away from me in the first flower of his youth? As if, forsooth, Christ had not merited, by His death, the supreme dominion over the living and the dead! And if we belong to Him (as we ought), why may He not exercise over us the power of life and of death? However brief, therefore, either in your opinion or in mine, the life of your son may have been, it ought to satisfy us that he has finished the course which the Lord had marked out for him.

“Moreover, we may not reckon him to have perished in the flower of his age, who had grown ripe in the sight of the Lord. For I consider all to have arrived at maturity who are summoned away by death; unless, perhaps, one would contend with Him, as if He can snatch away any one before his time. This, indeed, holds true of every one; but in regard to Louis, it is yet more certain on another and more peculiar ground. For he had arrived at that age, when, by true evidences, he could prove himself a member of the body of Christ: having put forth this fruit, he was taken from us and transplanted. Yes, instead of this transient and vanishing shadow of life, he has regained the real immortality of being.

“Nor can you consider yourself to have lost him, whom you will recover in the blessed resurrection in the kingdom of God. For they had both so lived and so died, that I cannot doubt but they are now with the Lord. Let us, therefore, press forward toward this goal which they have reached. There can be no doubt but that Christ will bind together both them and us in the same inseparable society, in that incomparable participation of His own glory. Beware, therefore, that you do not lament your son as lost, whom you acknowledge to be preserved by the Lord, that he may remain yours forever, who, at the pleasure of His own will, lent him to you only for a season ….

“Neither do I insist upon your laying aside all grief. Nor, in the school of Christ, do we learn any such philosophy as requires us to put off that common humanity with which God has endowed us, that, being men, we should be tamed into stones. These considerations reach only so far as this, that you do set bounds, and, as it were, temper even your most reasonable sadness, that, having shed those tears which were due to nature and to fatherly affection, you by no means give way to senseless wailing. Nor do I by any means interfere because I am distrustful of your prudence, firmness, or high-mindedness; but only lest I might here be wanting, and come short in my duty to you.

“Moreover, I have requested Melanchthon and Bucer that they would also add their letters to mine, because I entertained the hope that it would not be unacceptable that they too should afford some evidence of their good-will toward you.

“Adieu, most distinguished sir, and my much-respected in the Lord. May Christ the Lord keep you and your family, and direct you all with His own Spirit, until you may arrive where Louis and Claude have gone before.”