Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | DOC | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: John Calvin's Writings - Letter 14 Calvin to Melancthon.
Author: John Calvin
Language: English

It was a saying of the ancient satirists, Si natura negat, facit indignatio versum, If nature refuses,
sorrow will make verses. It turns out far otherwise with me. My present grief is so far from
giving me animation, that it almost makes me speechless. Not only the power of utterance fails
me, in expressing the feelings of my mind, but I am oppressed, and almost silenced by the
consideration of the subject concerning which I am about to write. You must then imagine me
rather to sigh than to speak. How greatly the adversaries of Christ rejoice at your controversy
with the Magdeburgenses, is too evident from their mockery and sneers.

Those writers certainly afford a foul and detestable spectacle to God, and his angels, and to the
whole church. In this business, my Philip, even if you were without fault, it would be the duty of
your prudence and equity, to devise some remedy to heal the evil, or at least to afford some relief
for mitigating its severity. But pardon me, if I do not wholly exculpate you from blame. From
this you may be able to conjecture, how severe judgments others pass upon you, and what
unfavorable and scandalous observations they make about you. Permit me, therefore, my Philip,
to perform the duty of a true friend, in freely admonishing you; and if I deal with you somewhat
more sharply, do not impute it to a diminution of my former respect and affection for you.
Although that will not be strange or unusual to you, I am, however, more apt to offend by a rustic
simplicity, than to use adulation in favor of any man. I have experienced that nothing is more
acceptable to you than ingenuousness, and therefore I labor under less anxiety, lest you should
take it ill, even if any thing should justly displease you, in my reproof. I wish, indeed, that all
your conduct, without exception, could be approved of by me and others. But I accuse you now
to your face, that I may not lie obliged to assent to the declarations of those who condemn you in
your absence. This is the sum of your defense, Modo retineatur doctrinae puritas, de rebus
externis non esse pertinaciter dimicandum. Only let the purity of doctrine be preserved, and we
will not perniciously contend about external forms. Now, if what is every where asserted for fact
is true, you extend neutral and indifferent things much too far. You know that the worship of God
is corrupted a thousand ways among the papists. We have removed the most intolerable
corruptions. Now, the impious, that they may finish their triumph over the subjected gospel,
command them to be restored. If any one refuses to admit them, will you ascribe it to obstinacy?
It is well known how far this would be from your moderation. If you have yielded too much for
accommodation, you cannot be surprised if many impute it to you for a fault. Besides, some of
those things, which you account indifferent, are manifestly opposed to the word of God. Perhaps
others urge some things with too much precision; and, as is usual in controversies, represent
others as odious, in which there is not so much evil. But, if I understand any thing of divine truth,
you have yielded too much to the papists; both because you have loosened those things which the
Lord has bound by his word, and because you have given them all opportunity perversely to
insult the gospel. When circumcision was still allowable, do you see Paul, because some
malicious and cunning men had laid snares for the liberty of the pious, obstinately denying that
that ceremony was given to them of God? Does he not, therefore, boast that he had not yielded to
them, even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might remain entire with the Gentiles?
Galatians 2:4,5. Our adversaries do not, at this day, trouble us about circumcision; but, lest they
should leave us any thing sound, they endeavor to infect, with their polluted leaven, all the
doctrines and exercises of religion. You say that the Magdeburgenses contend only concerning
the linen robe. To what this might tend, I do not know, for the use of the linen robe, with many
foolish ceremonies, has been, I conceive, retained hitherto, both among yourselves and among
them. But it is true that all honest and religious persons complain, that you have countenanced
those gross corruptions, which evidently tend to vitiate the purity of the doctrines, and to weaken
the stability of the church. As, perhaps, you have forgotten what I formerly said to you, I will
now recall it to your mind, That ink is too dear to us, if we hesitate to testify those things by our
hand-writing, which so many martyrs , from the common flock, daily seal with their blood . I
said, indeed, the same, when we appeared to be much farther out from these assaults. Since, then,
the Lord has drawn us out on the field of battle, it becomes us to contend the more courageously.
Your station, you know, is different from that of most others. The trepidation of a general, or the
leader of an army, is more ignominious than even the flight of common soldiers. All will
condemn the wavering of so great a mall as you are, as insufferable. Give, therefore, in future, a
steady example of invincible constancy. By yielding a little, you have excited more complaints
and lamentations than the open desertion of all hundred, in an inferior station, would have
produced. Although I am firmly persuaded, that you would never be compelled, by the fear of
death, to turn aside in the least from an upright course; yet I suspect that possibly another kind of
fear might exercise your mind. For I know how much you dread the impeachment of barbarous
harshness. But you should remember, that the servants of Christ should never regard their
reputation more than their lives. We are not better than Paul, who proceeded quietly through
reproach and dishonor. It is, indeed, severe and painful to be judged as obstinate and tempestuous
men, who would wreck the whole world, rather than condescend to some moderation, Your ears
should long since have become seasoned to these reproaches. You are not so unknown to me, nor
am I so unjust to you, as to suppose that you are eager, like ambitious men, for popular applause.
I doubt not, however, but that you are sometimes discouraged by reflections like these; — What!
— Is it the part of a prudent and considerate man, to divide the church on account of some
minute and almost frivolous things? May not peace be redeemed by some indifferent
inconvenience? What madness it is, so to defend everything to the utmost, as to neglect the
substance of the whole gospel! When these and such like arguments were formerly made use of
by artful men, I thought with myself, that you were more influenced by them than was right; and I
now ingenuously open my mind to you, lest that truly divine magnanimity, with which,
otherwise, you are richly endowed, should be impeded in its operation. The reason of this my
earnestness is well known to you; that I would sooner die a hundred times with you, than see you
survive the doctrine which you preach. I do not say this, apprehending any danger, lest the truth
of God, made known by your ministry, should ever perish, or because I distrust, in any manner,
your perseverance; but because you will never be solicitous enough in your watchfulness, lest the
impious artfully take that opportunity of caviling at the gospel, which they will seize from your
flexible disposition. Pardon me for unloading into your bosom these miserable although
unavailing sighs. Farewell, most distinguished man, always sincerely respected by me. May the
Lord continue to guide you by his Spirit, to support you by his grace, and defend you by his
shield. Salute my friends, if there should be any with you. You have many here, who respectfully
salute you; for many, for the sake of avoiding idolatry, have fled from France into voluntary exile
in this city.

John Calvin.



Home