John Calvin – The Greatest Blessing is to Suffer

"Martyrdom of St. Paul", from an 188...
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We are apt to be weak, and think we shall be swallowed up by persecutions, as soon as our enemies assail us: but St. Paul observes, we shall not be destitute of the aid and succour of our God. He armeth us forthwith, and giveth us an invincible power, that we may remain sure and steadfast. For this reason St. Paul adds, “according to the power of God.” But as we have said, every man would be glad to have some cover or cloak, whereby he might withdraw himself from persecution. If God would give me grace I would gladly suffer for His name; I know it is the greatest blessing that I could receive. (A Call to Witness)

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8 Replies to “John Calvin – The Greatest Blessing is to Suffer”

  1. Calvin, who believed in the holy blessing of suffering for Christ also demanded that magistrates persecute heretics.

    Martyrdom proves nothing concerning the truth of anyone’s beliefs. In fact after Christians gained control of the Roman Empire, they began persecuting others just as pagan Rome had persecuted them and their beliefs, only worse. Christians persecuted fellow Christians (dubbed “heretics” because their beliefs were not orthodox enough), apostates (for daring to “leave the fold”), Jews, pagans, philosophers, infidels and witches, thus creating “martyrs” galore for a wide variety of beliefs.


    Man’s power to adore is responsible for all his crimes: a man who loves a
    god unduly forces other men to love his god, eager to exterminate them if
    they refuse.

    We only kill in the name of a god or of his counterfeits: the excesses
    provoked by the goddess Reason [during the French Revolution], or by the
    concepts of “nation,” “class,” or “race,” are akin to those of the
    Inquisition or of the Reformation.

    The ages of [religious] fervor abound in bloody exploits: a Saint Teresa
    could only be the contemporary of the auto-da-fe [burning heretics alive], a
    Luther of the repression of the Peasants’ Revolt [Luther wrote in favor of
    the princes hacking and slaying the peasants without mercy]. In every mystic
    outburst, the moans of victims parallel the moans of ecstasy.

    I feel safer with a [skeptic] like Pyrrho than with a Saint Paul, for a
    jesting wisdom is gentler than an unbridled sanctity. In the fervent mind
    you always find the camouflaged beast of prey.

    The fanatic is incorruptible: if he kills for an idea, he can just as well
    get himself killed for one; in either case, tyrant or martyr, he is a

    No human beings more dangerous than those who have suffered for a belief:
    the great persecutors are recruited among the martyrs not quite beheaded.
    Far from diminishing the appetite for power, suffering exasperates it.

    E. M. Cioran, “Genealogy of Fanaticism,” A Short History of Decay

    Human beings have “suffered” at each other’s hands for as long as human
    beings have had hands. “Suffering” for almost any conceivable reason,
    including “suffering for the Gospel,” is therefore not unique.

  2. I would rather to suffer for than to make others suffer, Edward. In Calvin’s quote, I for a friend tried to show that others have endured suffering and counted it a blessing. This ideal is not alone in Christianity, nor do I dismiss certain of your other statements.

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