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  • JOHN CALVIN'S WRITINGS -
    LETTER 5.


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    CALVIN TO VIRET.

    When your letters were handed me, I was prepared for my journey, and in the course of my life I do not remember one more tumultuous. I now catch a moment at Ulm, to answer you in a brief and confused manner. A traveler in a tavern has not much time to meditate, and properly arrange what he writes. Your letter, if I correctly remember, is divided into two parts ó In the first, you would prove that the church at Geneva should not be abandoned. In the second, you contend that I ought to hasten my return, lest Satan should take advantage of my dilatoriness, and throw some impediment in the way. To this I answer, as I have always done, that there is no place on earth, I so much dread as Geneva; not because I bear any hatred to them, but because I see so many difficulties in my way, which I am very far from being able to surmount. When I call to mind the events of times past, I cannot help shuddering at the thought of being obliged to throw myself afresh into the midst of those former contentions.

    If my business was to be with the church only, my mind would be more easy; at least I should feel less dread. But you must understand much more than I can write. Take in a word, that I know, by various channels, that he, who can most injure me, bears still an implacable hatred against me. When I consider the numerous ways which lie open to him for doing evil, how many instruments are prepared for exciting the flames of contention, and how many occasions will present themselves to him, against which I can by no foresight provide, I am wholly disheartened. Many other things in that city give me no small anxiety. As I progress in experience, I am more sensible of the arduous office of governing a church. I am not, however, unwilling or unprepared, as far as I understand my ability, to afford any assistance to that unhappy church. These thoughts disturb and perplex my mind with delaying anxieties; but their influence will not prevent me from doing everything which I may judge to be for its welfare. Farel is my witness, that I have never uttered a word against their calling me to return; I only entreated him that he would not, by officiousness, lose a second time that church already in ruins. I have given sufficient proof, that nothing is more conformable to my wishes, than to give up my life in discharge of my duty. I do not dissemble when I say this. When the Genevese ambassadors came to Worms, I entreated our friends with tears, that, omitting all consideration of me, they should consult, in the presence of God, what would be most beneficial to the church which implored their assistance. When we came to the house, although no one urged this question, I did not cease to importune them with my prayers, to consider seriously upon this subject; and they were not wanting in their duty. As we suspected, they almost immediately decreed, that I should be united with Bucer. But I declare to you, as I did to Farel, that this was not fairly settled; for it was determined before we returned from the Convention of Worms, by the influence of those who least consulted the good of Geneva.

    If you consult me, I see no reason why I should be sent on this mission to Ratisbon; but being appointed, I could not refuse, unless I wished to hear myself everywhere abused. When I received your letters, I was not at liberty to deliberate. I have stated the fact as my excuse. You have now an answer to both your inquiries. I never have, I never can refuse to go to Geneva; and I promise you that my resolution shall not be changed, unless some more powerful obstacle closes up the way. I am charged with the care of that church; and I know not how it is, but I feel myself more inclined to take the government of it, if indeed the circumstances demand it as my duty. It is agreed, that after our return from Ratisbon, I should go to Geneva with Bucer. We will then consult what will be most expedient, under existing circumstances, for the re-establishment of a pastor, and the renovation of the whole church. The decision will have more influence, and the operation will be more effectual, as we shall have present those from whom we have most to fear afterwards. When the business is once settled, they will be bound by their own judgment, and prevented from exclaiming against its operation; and also from exciting others to disturb the established order. In the mean time, my brother, I entreat you for Christís sake, to be of good courage. The more uncertain our continuance is in this life, the less we should be troubled about the delay of those events which we earnestly desire. There are many things I know, which must cause you trouble and anxiety; but consider that these are trials appointed of the Lord, to support you till his coming. The day before I received your letters, I wrote to the senate of Geneva, excusing my delay in coming to them; and I doubt not but my excuse has been accepted. Farewell, my beloved brother. Salute, in my name, all who are devoted to the truth. May the Spirit of the Lord strengthen you for all good works.

    Ulm, March 1, 1541.

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