CALVIN TO FAREL.
To preclude your further anxiety for my long expected letter, I shall forward it fresh from my pen, without waiting for the arrival of Michael. I will pass at present my conference with Melancthon; and state the progress of affairs since my last. The unjust conditions, boldly advanced by the ambassador of the emperor, had well nigh terminated in the assumption of arms to settle the controversy. He proposed that our brethren should separate from the Sacramentarians. You will be aware, that this is the artifice of Satan, who cherishes on this occasion the former animosities which he sowed; while at the same time new offenses, like flaming torches, are kindled up to excite still greater contention. Our German brethren, however, while they refuse to acknowledge the Sacramentarians, are desirous of a union with the Helvetic churches. The emperor eventually relinquished this point, which he had labored to establish as the means of effecting a truce. I earnestly wish, that these things may be useful to the churches; but ill looking them over in their effects, they promise, in my opinion, nothing beneficial. The elector of Saxony clearly apprehends this, and though supposed to be habitually of a dilatory temperament, he is now fixed in the opinion, that we are under the necessity of hazarding the consequences of war. The landgrave, beyond all expectation, dissuades from warlike measures; and although he consents to yield to his allies, if they shall judge it expedient, yet his influence has operated extensively in abating the ardor of those who reposed a confidence in his constitutional promptitude. The prospect now looks favorable for an approaching truce, in which every attention will be given to those objects that may be conducive to unanimity of opinion. The adversaries, intent to frustrate our purpose in uniting the churches, meditate only measures which may bring about the war. The elector of Saxony will go from the assembly to visit the duke of Cleves, whose sister he married. If the elector can draw the duke over to the cause of religion, it will be a great benefit to the church of Christ. He is the most powerful among the princes of Lower Germany; and is not exceeded in extent of dominion, nor surpassed in superiority of jurisdiction, by any but Ferdinand himself.
When Bucer last wrote me, nothing had been determined concerning the embassy to the king of France, for the safety of the brethren, and the support of the cause of religion. The subject will be discussed and arranged, when other matters shall have been determined, as they will then be enabled to state their request to the king with more fullness and force of argument.
My conference with Melancthon embraced a great variety of subjects.
Having previously written him concerning the agreement, I urged the necessity of obtaining the opinion of the best men, upon a matter of so much importance. I forwarded to him a few articles, in which I had concisely summed up the doctrines of truth. To these he consented without controversy, but stated that some in that quarter demanded something more full and explicit, and with such obstinacy and overbearingness that he was, for some time, in danger of being considered as having wholly departed from their opinions. Although he did not suppose that an established agreement would continue long, he still wished that this union, whatever it might be, should be cherished, until the Lord should draw us on both sides into the unity of his truth. Doubt not but that Melancthon is wholly in opinion with us.
It would be tedious to detail our conversations on a diversity of subjects; but they will afford us an agreeable topic at some future interview. When we entered on the subject of discipline, he mourned, as we all of us do, about that unhappy state of the church, which we are all allowed to deplore, rather than correct. You must not suppose that you alone labor under the painful burden of ineffectual discipline. Every day new examples are occurring, which should excite us all to the most vigorous exertions, to obtain the desired remedy for these evils. A minister of integrity and learning was lately ejected from Ulm, with the severest reproach, because he would not indulge them in their vices. He was dismissed with a very honorable recommendation from all his colleagues, and especially from Frechthus. When this was reported at Augsburg, it excited the most unpleasant sensations. These things have a tendency to encourage the licentious to consider it as a matter of sport, to interrupt the pastors in their ministerial duties, and to drive them into exile. Nor can this evil be remedied, is neither the people nor the princes distinguish between the brotherly discipline of Christ, and the tyranny of the pope.
It is the opinion of Melancthon, that we must yield, in a due degree, to the adverse winds of this tempestuous season; and without despairing of eventual success, cast our eyes forward to some favorable moment, when our enemies may be less powerful, and we more able to introduce the remedy for these internal evils. Capito is strongly impressed with the belief that the church is ruined, unless God shall supply some speedy succors, and good men become united in her defense. Despairing of doing any good, he has a desire for death as a release from his unprofitable labors. But if our vocation is of the Lord, of which we are confident, he will bless and succeed us through all the difficulties that may be thrown in our way. Let us attempt all remedies, and if they fail, still let us persist in our calling to the last breath.
The Waldensian brethren are indebted to me for a crown, one part of which I lent them, and the other I paid to their messenger, who came with my brother to bring the letter from Sonerius. I requested them to pay it to you, as it will partly pay you my debt, the rest I will pay when I can.
Such is my condition now, that I have not a penny. It is singular, although my expenses are so great, that I must still live upon my own money unless I would burden my brethren. It is not easy for me to take that care of my health which you recommend so affectionately. Farewell, beloved brother.
The Lord give you strength and support in all your troubles.
Frankfort, March, 1539.