To the Prisoners in Lyon, France

calvin letter

From a letter by John Calvin to prisoners in Lyon, France, imprisoned for their faith.

“Remember to lift up your eyes to that everlasting kingdom of Jesus Christ, and to think of whose cause it is in which you fight; for that glance will not only make you overcome all temptations which may spring from the infirmity of your flesh, but will also render you invincible by all the wiles of Satan, whatever he may devise to darken God’s truth,–for I am well assured, that it is by His grace you are so settled and grounded, that you do not walk at a venture, but that you can say with that valiant champion of Jesus Christ, I know in whom I have believed.”

– John Calvin, July 7th, 1553

 

Full Letter:

My Brethren, β€” I believe you have been informed that I was absent from town when the tidings from your prison arrived, and did not return for eight days after. I need not, therefore, to excuse myself for having so long delayed writing to you. Now, although these tidings have proved sorrowful to the flesh, even in consequence of the love we justly bear you in God, as we are bound to do, yet must we submit ourselves to the will of this kind Father and sovereign Lord, and not only consider his way of disposing of us just and reasonable, but also accept it with a gentle and loving heart as altogether right and profitable for our salvation, β€” patiently waiting until he palpably show it to be so. Besides, we have whereof to rejoice even in the midst of our sorrow, in that he has so powerfully aided you, for need was that you should be strengthened by his Spirit, so that the confession of his sacred truth should be more precious to you than your own lives. We all know too well how difiicult it is for men to forget self.

Therefore it must needs be that our gracious God put forth His strong arm; then, for the sake of glorifying Him we do not fear torments, nor shame, nor death itself. Now, since He has girded you with His power, so as to sustain the first assault, it remains to entreat Him to strengthen you more and more according to your further conflict. And seeing that He has promised us victory in the end, do not doubt, that as He has imparted a measure of His strength, so you will have more ample evidence in future, that He does not make a beginning only to leave His work imperfect, as it is said in the Psalm. Especially when He puts such honour upon His people, as to employ them in maintaining His truth, and leads them, as it were by the hand to martyrdom, He never leaves them unpro vided with the needful weapons. Yet, meanwhile, remember to lift up your eyes to that everlasting kingdom of Jesus Christ, and to think of whose cause it is in which you fight; for that glance will not only make you overcome all temptations which may spring from the infirmity of your flesh, but will also render you invincible by all the wiles of Satan, whatever he may devise to darken God’s truth, ” for I am well assured, that it is by His grace you are so settled and grounded, that you do not walk at a venture, but that you can say with that valiant champion of Jesus Christ, I know on whom I have believed.

This is why I have not sent you such a confession of faith as our good brother Pelocjuin asked me for, for God will render that which He will enable you to make, according to the measure of mind which He has allotted you, far more profitable than any that might be suggested to you by others. Indeed, having been requested by some of our brethren who have lately shed their blood for the glory of God, to revise and correct the confession they had prepared, I have felt very glad to have a sight of it for my own edification, but I would neither add, nor take away, a single word; believing that any change would but lessen the authority and efficacy which the wisdom and constancy we clearly see to have proceeded from the Spirit of God deserved. Be then assured, that God who manifests himself in time of need, and perfects His strength in our weakness, will not leave you unprovided with that which will powerfully magnify His name. Only proceed therein with soberness and reverence, knowing that God will no less accept the sacrifice which you offer Him, according to the measure of ability which you have received from Him, than if you comprehended all the revelations of angels, and that He will make effectual that which He puts into your mouth, as well to confirm His own, as to con found the adversaries. And as you know that we have steadfastly to withstand the abominations of the Papacy, unless we would renounce the Son of God, who has purchased us to Him self at so dear a rate, meditate, likewise, on that celestial glory and immortality to which we are invited, and are certain of reaching through the Cross ” through ignominy and death. It is strange, indeed, to human reason, that the children of God should be so surfeited with afflictions, while the wicked disport themselves in delights; but even more so, that the slaves of Satan should tread us under foot, as we say, and triumph over us. How ever, we have wherewith to comfort ourselves in all our miseries, looking for that happy issue which is promised to us, that He will not only deliver us by His angels, but will Himself wipe away the tears from our eyes. And thus we have good right to despise the pride of these poor blinded men, who to their own ruin lift up their rage against heaven; and although we are not at present in your condition, yet we do not on that account leave off fighting together with you by prayer, by anxiety and tender compassion, as fellow-members, seeing that it has pleased our heavenly Father, of his infinite goodness, to unite us into one body, under His Son, our Head. Whereupon I shall beseech Him, that He would vouchsafe you this grace, that being stayed upon Him, you may in nowise waver, but rather grow in strength; that He would keep you under His protection, and give you such assurance of it, that you may be able to despise all that is of the world. My brethren greet you very affectionately, and so do many others.

Your brother,

JOHN CALVIN

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