Private Correspondence between Calvin and other Reformers

Fascinating remarks by the Reformer to Cranmer, Knox and Luther himself.

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, England
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, England

Like many other influential servants of God, John Calvin was a true man of letters. He was constantly preaching, teaching, writing pamphlets, treatises and debating.

But he also spent time writing to other influential Christian leaders and heads of state during the 16th Century.

He was a keen encourager of those who were seeking to restore the church to a more Biblical pattern.

A selection of these letters have been published and include some absolutely fascinating private correspondence between Calvin and some of the great Reformers.

On the procrastination that softened the impact of the Reformation in England: a piercing critique written in season – To Thomas Cranmer, 1552
‘I, for my part, acknowledge that our cause has made no little progress during the short period the Gospel has flourished in England.

But if you reflect on what yet remains to be done, and how very remiss you have been in many matters, you will discover that you have no reason to advance towards the goal with less rapidity…lest after you have escaped danger, you should become self-indulgent.

But to speak freely, I greatly fear, and this fear is abiding, that so many autumns will be spent in procrastinating, that by and by the cold of a perpetual winter will set in…for external religious abuses have been corrected in such a way as to leave remaining innumerable young shoots, which are constantly sprouting forth.

In fact, I am informed that such a mass of Papal corruptions remain, as not only to hide, but almost to extinguish the pure worship of God.’ (Letters p.141)

A criticism of the use of crucifixes in Church services – to John Knox, 1555
‘Certainly no one, I think, who is possessed of a sound judgement, will deny that lighted tapers, and crucifixes, and other trumpery of the same description, flow from superstition.

Whence, I lay it down for certain, that those who from free choice retain these things, are but too eager to drink from polluted dregs.

Nor do I see what reason a church should be burdened with these frivolous and useless, not to call them by their real name, pernicious ceremonies, when a pure and simple order of worship is in our power. But I check myself, lest I should seem to stir up a new strife…’ (Letters p. 174)

To Martin Luther
Writing to Luther in January of 1545, he says:
‘Would that I could fly to you, that I might even for a few hours enjoy the happiness of your society; for I would prefer, and it would be far better, not only upon this question, but also about others, to converse personally with yourself; but seeing that it is not granted to us on earth, I hope that shortly it will come to pass in the kingdom of God.

Adieu, most renowned sir, most distinguished minister of Christ, and my ever honoured father. The Lord Himself rule and direct you by his own Spirit, that you may persevere even unto the end, for the common benefit and good of his own church.’ (Letters p.73)

On the need identify ourselves as followers of Christ – to Martin Luther, 1545
‘How, indeed, can this faith, which lies buried in the heart within, do otherwise than break forth in the confession of the faith?’ (Letters p.71)

Read John Calvin’s Deathbed Confession

All quotes from ‘Letters of John Calvin’, Banner of Truth (1980 edition)

© 2009 Lex Loizides


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