CALVIN TO THE QUEEN OF NAVARRE.
I have received a letter from a certain person, which he says was written by him at your request. By this letter I perceive, that you do not approve of the book which I published against the Libertines. It would grieve me extremely to occasion you sorrow, unless it might tend to your salvation. That sorrow is not to be repented of, as says the apostle, the cause of which ought to lead any one to repentance. However, I can hardly conceive, why this book has excited so much dissatisfaction, he who wrote to me says the cause of the offense was, that the book was written against you and your household. As it respects you, I never even thought of attacking your name, or of diminishing that respect which all pious persons owe you; not to mention the royal dignity to which the Lord has raised you, the illustrious family from which you descended, and finally, the summit of supreme nobility, which renders you conspicuous in the world. All who know me are witnesses, how much I am a stranger to that incivility, that would despise earthly powers and principalities, and whatever else appertains to civil government. I am by no means ignorant of those qualifications with which God has endowed you; and how extensively he has used your labors in the defense of his kingdom. These things afford me a substantial reason for respecting you and defending your name. I wish you to persuade yourself, that from persons, who are endeavoring to excite your resentment against me, are neither influenced by a regard for you, nor any personal hatred to me; but are in this way taking the opportunity to withdraw you from the sincere love which you have manifested towards the Church of God; and thus to alienate your affections by degrees from the solicitude with which you have hitherto worshipped Christ our Lord, and protected his members. As to your household, I do not suppose you can imagine your house to be more dignified than that of the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose family there was one who deserved the name of a devil; a servant who sat at his own table, and was raised to the honor of being appointed one of the ambassadors of the Son of God. I was not, however, so inconsiderate as to designate your house, at the time when I expressed the truth on that subject, as in the presence of God, nor did I even hint that those whom I mentioned pertained, in any respect, to your family. It may now be inquired, whether from motives of mere self-gratification, I treated of those persons in my discourse; or whether I was influenced by weighty and just reasons, and as from mere necessity, to notice them as I did! When you possess the whole truth of this matter, I am persuaded, that you will judge me not only excusable, but that my candor deserves your commendation. Concerning this sect, I am decidedly of the opinion, that there is nothing among men more pernicious and abominable. It is a burning torch, by which all things will be immediately enkindled and consumed. It is a most powerful contagion, by which every thing will be infected, unless some remedy is at once applied to arrest its progress. Now as I am called of God to this office, my conscience impels me to resist this pressing evil with all my strength. Besides, I am called upon daily, by many pious persons, who have not ceased to implore my assistance, complaining that almost all the Netherlands were beset with that evil; and saying that I should at least exert myself to apply a remedy. Notwithstanding these excitements, I restrained myself a whole year, hoping that the evil would sicken, and silently die away of itself. — If any one objects, that it would have been sufficient for me to write against their opinions, and spare their persons, I have a reasonable excuse. When I understood how much hurt Anthony Poquet was doing in Artois, Hainault and the neighborhood, and from persons worthy of full credit; and when I was personally knowing that Quintin was wholly engaged in winning over the simple and the credulous to that irrational sect, and that these men were incessantly laboring to destroy the true doctrine, to plunge wretched souls into perdition, and to carry a contempt of God through the whole earth; I put the question to you for decision, whether I could honestly have concealed these men? A dog, 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 remain closed? I do not believe that you expect me, in order to please you, to prevaricate in the defense of the gospel, 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 honors.
Perhaps, if I had enough them, I should not have succeeded in obtaining them. I have reason to thank 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 family, and entrusted me with that office, which with him is of so much weight, however it may be accounted vile and despicable in the eyes of men. I should be the most ungrateful of all mortals, if I did not prefer this my condition to all the honors and riches of the world. As to the inconstancy of which you accuse me, I assure you, confidently, that you have been imposed upon. I have, indeed, never been brought to this trial, that any one should demand of me a confession of my faith. Should it be demanded of me, I have no such confidence 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 will reach out the hand of protection to me, whenever his name may be glorified by my confession. By divine favor, I have been so consistent with myself, that no one can accuse me of a direct or indirect denial or recantation of the truth, which I have supported. And what is still more than that, it was 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, when I was in France, as I am able to prove by appropriate witnesses. That it may appear more evident that those, who have endeavored to injure me in your estimation, have basely abused your generous disposition, I will name to you, as a witness, Cleracus, from whom you may most certainly ascertain the extreme falsehood of the calumny, which has been invented against me, and which is insufferable, as by it the 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 injurious would be the consequences of that reproach, if credited against me, and how it would prevail to the disgrace 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 infirmity; and never suffered me to be arraigned for the utmost trial of my faith, nor proved my integrity by chains. I would wish your pardon for the shortness of my letter, and a certain perturbation which affects me; for as soon as I received your letter I immediately began this answer, that I might, to your satisfaction, remove the offense; and induce you to continue your protection and benevolence towards the pious, according to your former munificence. May the Lord Jesus Christ protect you by his shield, and direct you by his Spirit, to pursue his vocation, even unto death, with a sincere zeal and prudence.
Your most humble and devoted servant,
April 20, 1545.