Calvin’s Earliest Letter

Calvin lost his father at an early age, as we learn from one of his letters. According however to Beza’s account, it happened when Calvin was about twenty-three years old, and was studying at Bourges, that is, three years later than the date of the letter.

This letter, the earliest document in his hand, is dated May 6, 1528, when he was a youth of eighteen or nineteen. It was written to a friend, Nicolas du Chemin (Chemmins) from Noyon, whither he had returned from Paris or Orleans. A youthful spirit breathes in every line, and it is marked by the character which distinguishes his later correspondence—by friendship, conscientiousness, and truth:—

“The promise which I gave you, on setting out, soon to be with you again, kept me for a long time in a state of uncertainty; the sickness of my father, while I was preparing to return to you, creating a new cause of delay. But when the physician gave hopes of his recovery, I then saw nothing in this delay but that the desire to rejoin you, which originally moved me deeply, grew still greater by the intervention of a few days. In the mean time, one day after another has passed away, and at last, every hope of preserving my father’s life has vanished. The approach of death is certain. But, at all events, I shall see you again. Remember me to Francis Daniel; to Philip, and all the rest who are with you. Have you put yourself yet under the professors of literature? Take care that your discretion does not make you idle. Farewell, dear Chemin; my friend, dearer than life!”*

Calvin’s lifelong war on idleness started at a young age.  Good for him.

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*Paul Henry and Henry Stebbing, The Life and Times of John Calvin, the Great Reformer (vol. 1; New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1851), 25.