Calvin’s Complaint Of Luther (To Melanchthon)

CXXXVI.—TO MELANCHTHON

He complains of Luther’s tyranny, and affectionately exhorts Melanchthon to manifest greater decision and firmness.

28th June 1545.

Would that the fellow-feeling which enables me to condole with you, and to sympathize in your heaviness, might also impart the power in some degree, at least, to lighten your sorrow. If the matter stands as the Zurichers say it does, then they have just occasion for their writing. Your Pericles allows himself to be carried beyond all due bounds with his love of thunder, especially seeing that his own case is by no means the better of the two. We all of us do acknowledge that we are much indebted to him. Neither shall I submit myself unwillingly, but be quite content, that be may bear the chief sway, provided that he can manage to conduct himself with moderation. Howbeit, in the Church we must always be upon our guard, lest we pay too great a deference to men. For it is all over with her, when a single individual, be he whosoever you please, has more authority than all the rest, especially where this very person does not scruple to try how far he may go. Where there exists so much division and separation as we now see, it is indeed no easy matter to still the troubled waters and bring about composure. But were we all of that mind we ought to be, some remedy might, perhaps, be discovered; most certainly we convey a mean example to posterity, while we rather prefer, of our own accord, entirely to throw away our liberty, than to irritate a single individual by the slightest offence. But, you will say, his disposition is vehement, and his impetuosity is ungovernable;—as if that very vehemence did not break forth with all the greater violence when all shew themselves alike indulgent to him, and allow him to have his way, unquestioned. If this specimen of overbearing tyranny has sprung forth already as the early blossom in the springtide of a reviving Church, what must we expect in a short time, when affairs have fallen into a far worse condition? Let us therefore bewail the calamity of the Church, and not devour our grief in silence, but venture boldly to groan for freedom. Consider, besides, whether the Lord may not have permitted you to be reduced to these straits in order that you may be brought to a yet fuller confession upon this very article. It is indeed most true, as I acknowledge it to be, that which you teach, and also that hitherto, by a kindly method of instruction, you have studiously endeavoured to recall the minds of men from strife and contention. I applaud your prudence and moderation. While, however, you dread, as you would some hidden rock, to meddle with this question from the fear of giving offence, you are leaving in perplexity and suspense very many persons who require from you somewhat of a more certain sound, on which they can repose; and besides, as I remember I have sometimes said to you, it is not over-creditable to us, that we refuse to sign, even with ink, that very doctrine which many saints have not hesitated to leave witnessed with their blood. Perhaps, therefore, it is now the will of God thus to open up the way for a full and satisfactory declaration of your own mind, that those who look up to your authority may not be brought to a stand, and kept in a state of perpetual doubt and hesitation. These, as you are aware, amount to a very great number of persons. Nor do I mention this so much for the purpose of arousing you to freedom of action, as for the sake of comforting you; for indeed, unless I could entertain the hope, that out of this vexatious collision some benefit shall have arisen, I would be utterly worn out by far deeper distress. Howbeit, let us wait patiently for a peaceable conclusion, such as it shall please the Lord to vouchsafe. In the meanwhile, let us run the race set before us with deliberate courage. I return you very many thanks for your reply, and at the same time, for the extraordinary kindness which Claude assures me had been shewn to him by you. I can form a conjecture what you would have been to myself, from your having given so kind and courteous a reception to my friend. I do not cease, however, to offer my chief thanks to God, who hath vouchsafed us that agreement in opinion upon the whole of that question about which we had both been examined; for although there is a slight difference in certain particulars, we are, notwithstanding, very well agreed upon the general question itself.

[Calvin’s Lat. Corresp.—Opera, tom. ix. p. 33.]*

*Bonnet, J. (2009). Vol. 1: Letters of John Calvin, Vol. I-IV (466–468). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

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About lalvin1517

I'm married with two children and pastor McCall Baptist Church in McCall, Idaho.
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