CALVIN TO MELANCTHON.
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 gospel, 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 something of this precise severity. But what just occasion I had for this you will be able to judge, when you have weighed and well considered the subject. Perceiving that many complained of my severity, especially those who appeared to grow wise in their own opinion, in proportion as they took more diligent care to preserve their lives; I composed an Apology, which wounded their sensibility more painfully than the former treatise. Many, who esteem religion 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 appear 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, that from your singular prudence and sincerity, you will faithfully 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 books into the Latin tongue. And although I may appear to have done this improperly, yet I ask you, by our mutual friendship, not to refuse the trouble of reading them. Your judgment, 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 yourself.
We must, however, inquire, 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 approbation. You see how familiarly I address you, nor am I at all anxious lest it should exceed the limits of friendship; for I well understand how much freedom is permitted me, from your singular good will towards me. I apprehend there 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 fretted by the most trifling cause. On this account, the letter which 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 without due consideration, that may have an unfavorable termination; which I am confident you will faithfully accomplish, by your uncommon address.
I have not been able as yet fully to ascertain what controversies are agitated among you in Germany, nor what 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 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 Osiander, which greatly mortified me for his sake. For what purpose could it answer, to abuse the Zuinglians, with foul language, at every third line; to treat with so much inhumanity Zuinglius himself; and not, indeed, even to spare that holy servant of God, Oecolampadius, whose meekness I wish he would half imitate? Osiander would, 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 reproaching those men, whose memory ought to be honored by every pious person. While I am displeased with the petulance of the writer, by whose mournful duties he complains that he has been defamed; I lament his want of moderation, discernment, and discretion. How great is the pleasure which we are affording to the papists, as if we were devoting our labors to their cause! But I shall unreasonably increase your sorrow, by the recital of evils which you cannot remedy. Let us mourn then, since it becomes us to be afflicted with the troubles of the church; but let us still sustain ourselves with this hope, that although we are oppressed and tossed by these mighty waters, we shall not be overwhelmed.
All the brethren in France have their minds much elevated in the strong expectation of a council. There is no doubt 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 emperor, persuaded Francis that Charles had the same intention. At the same time, he advised the king, in the name of the emperor, to send for two or three of you to meet him; hoping that by flattery, or by some other means, he might extort from you separately, what he could not obtain from you in a council. The emperor 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 vindicate the cause, when you should come to serious disputation in the assembly. Having despaired of conquering us, by an open and correct management of the cause, they see no 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, Castellanus refused to allow the French divines to dispute with you, unless they should be first well instructed and prepared. 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 whole kingdom to ridicule. The ambition of the king gave the preference to this advice. Twelve were elected to dispute at Meum, on the various centroverted points, and were ordered to refer their decisions to the king.
They promised, under oath, to keep the transactions in silence. But I certainly knows 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 agitating 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 providentially 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 Belial. But if we turn unto the Lord, all their assaults and machinations will be vain.
Farewell, most excellent man and respected friend. May the Lord be always present with you, and long preserve you in health for his church.
Yours, JOHN CALVIN.
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.]