Thomas Watson On Forgiving

Thomas Watson writes:

“The prophet Elisha feasted his enemies: he prepared a table for those who would have prepared his grave. 2 Kings vi 23. Cranmer was famous for forgiving injuries. When Luther had reviled Calvin, Calvin said, Etiamsi millies me diabolum vocet: ‘Though he call me a devil a thousand times, yet I will love and honour him as a precious servant of Christ’” (Thomas Watson, The Lords Prayer, p. 255; emphasis mine–CD).

The same Luther/Calvin anecdote from John Spencer’s Things New and Old, which is a compilation of similes, sentences, allegories, apophthegms, adages, apologues, etc:

464. Forgiveness of one another Commanded and Commended.

When Luther had woefully wronged and reviled Calvin — well said Calvin, Etiamsi Lutherus millies me diabolum vocet, &c, Let Luther hate me, and call me devil a thousand times, yet I will love him, and acknowledge him to be a precious servant of God. This was an excellent temper of Calvin, and truly such a frame of spirit, such a sweet composure of the soul, as to forgive and forget, to pass by offences, to leave all to God, not to answer wrath with wrath, not to study revenge, not to be mindful of injuries received, is all along the Scripture commanded, by God Himself commended, and by every good Christian to be carefully practised.”

Melch. Aiiamus, in Vita. P. Goodwin, ut antea. [Emphasis mine–CD]

That particular Calvin quote is found in Calvin’s Letters. Perhaps Luther was getting old and senile (he was about 20 years Calvin’s senior and Calvin was also up in age). In any event it is clear that Luther took issue with some of Calvin’s writings (e.g., Calvin’s writings on the Lord’s Supper). Calvin and Luther exhibit bizarre behavior and temperament that is out of accord with Scripture. Neither of them are judging righteous judgment. Neither are making their judgments according to gospel truth.

“The one claiming to be in the light, and hating his brother, is in the darkness until now. The one loving his brother rests in the light, and no offense is in him. But the one hating his brother is in the darkness, and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:9-11).

I am not clear on the precise history of Luther’s “issues” that compelled him to lash out at Calvin. I do not know if Luther was judging Calvin unregenerate or not. I also do not know whether or not Calvin was merely exhibiting a “charitable tolerance” toward Luther — a kind of charitable tolerance that sympathetically, gently, and adroitly dabs the crazed spittle off an elderly father’s unkempt beard.

Anyway, the “take-home-message” here is that although Luther and Calvin were not true Christians, their respective attitudes seen here are as bizarre as they are unbiblical. For evidence of Luther and Calvin’s unregenerate non-Christian state see the following links:

Luther on John 1:29

Calvin and Universal Atonement