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Some among them, therefore, wrote to Calvin; and in the printed correspondence of this reformer we find the letter which he sent in reply to the English refugees at Frankfort. The nature of their representation to him may be inferred from his answer to them. The best history of this question, so fruitful in its results, is furnished by the letter of Calvin, which we here subjoin:
"To the godly and learned men, Mr. John Knox and Mr. William Whittingham, his faithful brethren at Frankfort, etc.
This thing truly grieveth me very much, and it is a great shame that contention should arise among brethren, banished and driven out of their country for one faith, and for that cause which only ought to have holden you bound together, as it were, with an holy band, in this your dispersion. For what might you do better in this dolorous and miserable plague, than (being pulled violently from your country) to procure yourselves a church which should receive and nourish you (being joined together in minds and language) in her motherly lap? But now for some men to strive as touching the form of prayer and for ceremonies, as though ye were at rest and prosperity, and to suffer that to be an impediment that ye cannot there join into one body of the church (as I think), it is too much out of season.
Yet notwithstanding, I allow their constancy which strive for a just cause, being forced against their wills unto contention; I do worthily condemn frowardness, which doth hinder and stay the holy carefulness of reforming the church.
And as I behave myself gentle and tractable in mean things (as external ceremonys), so do I not always judge it profitable to give place to the foolish stoutness, which will forsake nothing of their own wonted custom. In the liturgy of England I see that there were many tolerable foolish things (ineptiae tolerabiles); by these words I mean, that there was not the purity which was to be desired. These vices, though they could not at the first day be amended, yet, seeing there was manifest impiety, they were for a season to be tolerated. Therefore it was lawful to begin of such rudiments or abcedarys, but so, that it behooved the learned, grave, and godly ministers of Christ to enterprise farther, and to set forth something more fil'd from rust, and purer. If godly religion had flourished till this day in England, there ought to have been a thing better corrected, and many things clean taken away. Now when these principles be overthrown, a church must be set up in another place, where ye may freely make an order again, which shall be apparent to be most commodious to the use and edification of the church. I cannot tell what they mean which so greatly delight in the leavings of Popish dregs. They love the things whereunto they are accustomed. First of all, this is a thing both trifling and childish; furthermore, this new order far differeth from a change.
Therefore, as I would not have you fierce over them whose infirmity will not suffer to ascend an higher step; so would I advertise others, that they please not themselves too much in their foolishness; also, that by their fro wardness, they do not let the course of the holy building: last of all, lest that foolish vain glory steal them away. For what cause have they to contend, except it be for that they are ashamed to give place to better things? But I speak in vain to them which perchance esteem me not so well, as they will vouchsafe to admit the counsel that cometh from such an author. If they fear the evil rumor in England, as though they had fallen from that religion which was the cause of their banishment, they are far deceived; for this true and sincere religion will rather compel them that there remain, faithfully to consider into what deep gulf they have fallen; for their downfall shall more grievously wound them, when they perceive you going forward beyond midcourse, from the which they are turn'd. Farewel, dearly beloved brethren, and faithful servants of Christ, the Lord defend and govern you. From Geneva, this 22d of January, Anno, 1555. Yours, JOHN CALVIN.
This letter is dated the twenty-eighth of January,1 1555. We recognize in it the tone of a man who is accustomed to be heard, and who, while he gives wise counsels for the maintenance of peace, evinces clearly his desire that these English should advance still further in the work of the reformation. It is to these various suggestions, probably, that one of the parties replies on the fifth of April, in a letter preserved in our Public Library. A few sentences from it will show its character.
"Greeting: After that our very dear brother Thomas Sampson had communicated to us, sometime since, the letter that you wrote to him touching our common controversy with certain brethren, we considered it a mark of our duty and regard to you to inform you, as early as possible, of all that has been done, and with what design. But though it may, perhaps, seem to you somewhat late to write to you, when the matter is altogether brought to a termination yet we implore you by Jesus Christ, not to suppose that the delay has arisen from any desire unduly to undervalue your authority. For it both is, and ought to be, most highly esteemed and regarded, not only by ourselves, but by the world at large. But since your reverence was many days' journey distant from us, and because there was great hope that all that controversy could be settled with less inconvenience between the brethren themselves, we were unwilling to disturb your most important occupations by our trifling and domestic concerns.
1 The date in the Phoenix edition is January 22.
Bibliothèque publique de Genève : Lettres diverses a Calvin, Vol. CXIII.
But though we are very loth to suspect our brethren of anything that savors of insincerity, we are, nevertheless, somewhat afraid that the whole affair and case has not been set before you with sufficient explicitness. For neither are we so entirely wedded to our country, as not to be able to endure any customs differing from our own; nor is the authority of those fathers and martrys of Christ so much regarded by us, as that we have any scruple in thinking or acting in opposition to it. And we have not only very frequently borne witness to this by our assertions, but have at length proved it by our actions. For when the magistrates lately gave permission to adopt the rites of our native country, we freely relinquished all those ceremonies which were regarded by our brethren as offensive and inconvenient. For we gave up private baptisms, confirmation of children, saints' days, kneeling at the holy communion, the linen surplices of the ministers, crosses, and other things of the like character. And we gave them up; not as being impure and papistical, which certain of our brethren often charged them with being; but whereas they were in their own nature different, and either ordained or allowed by godly fathers for the edification of our people, we, notwithstanding, chose rather to lay them aside than to offend the minds, and alienate the affections of the brethren. We retain, however, the remainder of the form of prayer and of the administration of the sacraments, which is prescribed in our book, and this with the consent of almost the whole church, the judgment of which in matters of this sort we did not think should be disregarded."
Among those who subscribed this letter, and who represented the moderate party in the church at Frankfort on this question of the needed ecclesiastical reforms, were men who had once occupied eminent stations in the church at home, or rose to them after the accession of Elizabeth. Such were Richard Cox, who had been tutor and almoner to Edward VI., and was afterwards bishop of Ely; Richard Alvey, who became prebendary of Westminster in 1552; Thomas Bacon, chaplain to Cranmer, and afterwards prebendary of Canterbury; Edwin Sandys, who was successively bishop of Worcester and London, and finally archbishop of York; Edmund Grindal, appointed to the sees of London, York, and Canterbury; Robert Horn, dean of Durham, and then bishop of Winchester; Thomas Lever, master of St. John's, Canterbury, and prebendary of Durham ; and Thomas Sampson, who was afterwards dean of Christ's Church.1
1 See Notes in the Zurich Letters (2d series), Vol. II. p. 755. One of the
The other party, at the head of which was Knox, regarding itself as oppressed, did not remain inactive, but soon dispatched one of their number, William Whittingham, to Basil and to Geneva, at both which places he was equally well received. Calvin, as would appear from the sequel, promised to him an asylum for his friends; he showed to Whittingham the letter from which some extracts will be cited, and to which, on the last of May, he made a reply, which is translated in the Discourse of the Troubles at Frankfort. He there deplores anew these dissensions; but apprised as he was that the strife had grown out of the instigations of those whom he had seen, or who had often written to him, he spared not his reproofs, which he directed especially against the use of tapers, signs of the cross, and the like, which he rejected as superstitious.'
Upon this, some of those who had written to him the letter of the fifth of April, that is Cox, Bale, and others, sent to him a long letter, dated the twentieth of September. Though under forms of expression always respectful, they defend with warmth the party opposed to Knox and Whittingham, and expatiate, with evident satisfaction, on the misdeeds of these two friends of Calvin. They shrink not from attributing to Calvin himself a part in the rupture which they deplore. "Your letter," say they, "was to them like the club of Hercules, by which they believed that they could easily beat down all their opponents. And, indeed, your name ought deservedly to have influence, both with us and all godly persons. But if you had been well acquainted with their devices, and if you had been sufficiently aware of
signers of the letter, David Whitehead, at a later period, embraced more thorough views, and was sequestered for non-conformity, in 1564.
Our author has misunderstood Calvin's meaning here. Calvin, in his letter, alludes to these rites, not as prescribed in the English book of worship (which was not true), or as actually practised at Frankfort, but as admitted by his opponents to be wrong. He argues thence (a majore ad minus), that if they discarded the older ceremonies, they ought, with so much the more reason, to discard the later ones, for which no such plea of antiquity could be urged. It appears from their reply, that the defenders of Edward's liturgy also misunderstood Calvin's reasoning on this point.
their boldness and wicked designs, we have no doubt that you would never have suffered them to come near you, much less to impose on you in so barefaced a manner." They declare that they do not use lights or tapers in their worship; they justify their ceremonies as being not only unobjectionable in their character, but few in number. But as they say, it is by no means astonishing that these few and simple rites should appear too many, to people who regard the public reading of the word of God as an irksome and useless ceremony. They recount at length the conduct of Knox, whom they charge with treason, for having published a book in which he was alleged to have uttered sentiments injurious to the German emperor, to Philip his son, the king of England, and Mary the queen.2
On the other side, Whittingham the next day after his return to Frankfort, wrote again to Calvin, that his friends there had already sent forward their effects, that they themselves would follow by as rapid journies as possible, and that they hoped to bring with them some of their countrymen at Basil.
ARRIVAL OF THE FUGITIVES AT GENEVA.
The chief of the church at Geneva had taken the necessary steps with the government to secure an asylum for his new friends. Already, on the tenth of June, the City Council was occupied with this subject. "Rev. Jean Calvin has represented that certain Englishmen are desirous to repair hither for the sake of the word of God, and asked that
1 It is well known that the public reading of the scriptures was regarded with disfavor in the early churches of New England. Prayers at funerals were unknown for a long time, and were introduced at length after much opposition. See Bib. Sacra, Vol. X. p. 61.
* This charge was aimed, in fact, at the life of Knox; for if a whisper of it had reached the ears of the Emperor, the reformer would have been seized and put to death. Nothing but the caution of one of the magistrates of the city saved Knox from such a fate. He was compelled, notwithstanding that protection, to leave Frankfort, and take up his abode at Geneva. The charge was founded chiefly on a sermon afterwards printed, which Knox had preached in Buckinghamshire, in which he had inveighed severely against the complicity of the sovereigns named above in the corruptions of the papal church.