“To our dear brothers in the
Grace and peace from our good God and Father through Jesus Christ our Savior be
multiplied to you Amen! church of Geneva
Very dear brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ, since you have been informed of our captivity and of the fury which drives our enemies to persecute and afflict us, we felt it would be good to let you know of the liberty of our spirit and of the wonderful assistance and consolation which our good Father and Savior gives us in these dark prison cells, so that you may participate not only in our affliction of which you have heard but also in our consolation, as members of the same body who all participate in common both in the good and in the evil which comes to pass. For this reason we want you to know that although our body is confined here between four walls, yet our spirit has never been so free and so comforted, and has never previously contemplated so fully and so vividly as now the great heavenly riches and treasures and the truth of the promises which God has made to His children; so much so that we seem not only to believe and hope in them but even to see them with our eyes and touch them with our hands, so great and remarkable is the assistance from God in our bonds and imprisonment. So far, indeed, are we from wishing to regard our affliction as a curse from God, as the world and the flesh wish to regard it, that we regard it rather as the greatest blessing that has ever come upon us, for in it we are made true children of God, brothers and companions of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and are conformed to His image; and by it the possession of our eternal inheritance is confirmed to us. Further, we are bold to say and affirm that we shall derive more profit in this school for our salvation than has ever been the case in any place where we have studied, and we testify that this is the true school of the children of God...we therefore praise God with all our heart and give Him undying thanks that He has been pleased to give us by His grace not only the theory of His Word but also the practice of it, and that He has granted us this honor – which is no small thing for vessels so poor and fragile and mere worms creeping on the earth – by bringing us out before men to be His witnesses and giving us constancy to confess His name and maintain the truth of His holy Word before those who are unwilling to hear it, indeed, who persecute it with all their force...we pray you most affectionately to thank our good God with us for granting to us so great a blessing, so that we may return thanks to Him, beseeching Him that, as He has commenced this work in us, so He will complete it, to the end that all glory may be given to Him, and that, whether we live or die, all may be to His honor and glory, to the edification of His poor Church, and to the advancement of our salvation. Amen.”
Sent by five young men imprisoned in
(July 1552), from Philip E. Hughes’ The Register of the Company of Pastors
of Geneva in the Time of Calvin (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1966), pgs. 191-192.
They would be burned at the stake.
“Having made profession of the glorious gospel of Christ a long time, and preached the same about five years, I was apprehended at a meeting of good people in the country...at the sessions after I was indicted for an upholder and maintainer of unlawful assemblies and conventicles, and for not conforming to the national worship of the church of England; and after some conference there with the justices, they taking my plain dealing with them for a confession, as they termed it, of the indictment, did sentence me to a perpetual banishment, because I refused to conform. So being again delivered up to the jailer’s hands, I was had home to prison, and there have lain now complete twelve years, waiting to see what God would suffer these men to do with me. In which condition I have continued with much content, through grace, but have met with many turnings and goings upon my heart, both from the Lord, Satan, and my own corruptions; by all which (glory be to Jesus Christ) I have also received among many things, much conviction, instruction, and understanding, of which at large I shall not here discourse; only give you a hint or two, a word that may stir up the godly to bless God, and to pray for me; and also to take encouragement, should the case be their own – not to fear what man can do to them. I never had in all my life so great an inlet into the word of God as now...”
Written by John Bunyan, in his Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666).