Tag Archive - marriage

Calvin and Idelette Suffered Much Loss

It was far more common in John Calvin’s day than in our own for children to die at birth or in the early years of life. This, however, does not lessen the grief of loss. Three times in their short marriage, Calvin and Idelette experienced the pain of losing a child.

Bitter domestic afflictions came upon Calvin and his wife. The second year of their marriage, in the month of July, 1542, Idelette had a son. But, alas! this child, for whom they had devoutly returned thanks to God, and offered so many fervent prayers, was soon taken from them by death. The churches of Geneva and of Lausanne showed the parents marks of sympathy. Feeble mitigation of so heavy a trial! It is easier to imagine than to express the grief of a mother’s heart. Calvin lets us see his sorrow and that of his companion, in a letter addressed, the 10th of August, 1542, to Peter Viret: ‘Salute all our brethren,’ says he, ‘salute also your wife, to whom mine presents her thanks for her tender and pious consolations. . . . She would like to answer them with her own hand, but she has not even the strength to dictate a few words. The Lord has dealt us a grievous blow, in taking from us our son; but He is our Father, and knows what is meet for his children.’ Paternal affection and Christian resignation are both displayed in Calvin’s letters at this time. In 1544, a new trial of this kind afflicted the hearts of these parents. A daughter was born to them; she lived only a few days, as we see in a letter addressed in 1544 to the pastor Viret. Again a third child was taken from them. Idelette wept bitterly; and Calvin, so often tried, sought his strength from the Lord; and the thought occurred to him that he was destined only to have children according to the faith. So he said to one of his adversaries, who had been base enough to reproach him with his domestic losses: ‘Yes,’ replied Calvin, ‘the Lord has given me a son; he has taken him from me. Let my enemies, if they see proper, reproach me for this trial. Have not I thousands of children in the Christian world?’

Thomas Smyth, Calvin and His Enemies: A Memoir of the Life, Character, and Principles of Calvin (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 176–77.

The Love of Calvin for His Wife

Some have considered Calvin to be a completely cool, collected, and compassionate individual, but from his letters one sees that his care and love for people often ran deep. For instance, when he heard that the plague had broken out in Strasburg where his wife Idelette was staying while he was away at the diet convened at Worms, Calvin wrote, “I try…to resist my grief—I resort to prayer and to holy meditations, that I may not lose all courage.”(1) Clearly, Calvin shows his great concern for his wife and her welfare, such that he fears losing all courage. Truly the words of a passionate man with deep love for his bride.

(1)Thomas Smyth, Calvin and His Enemies: A Memoir of the Life, Character, and Principles of Calvin. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 172.

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A Wife Worthy of the Challange

One can only imagine the challenges of being married to someone with such a gift and call as John Calvin. On top of the enormous burden he carried for Geneva, the church, the reformation, and the Gospel, he was often ill from the labors he put himself through. Amidst it all, his loving wife was by his side.

Idelette de Bure devoted herself particularly to the care of her husband. Exhausted by his constant labours, Calvin was frequently ill; and treating his body roughly, after the example of Paul, he persisted amidst bodily sufferings to perform the multiplied duties of his office. Then his wife would come and tenderly recommend him to take a little repose, and watch at his pillow when his illness had assumed an alarming character. Besides, (and this will surprise the reader,) Calvin had at times, like ordinary men, desponding feelings; he was inclined to low spirits. “Sometimes,” he himself says, “although I am well in body, I am depressed with grief, which prevents me from doing anything, and I am ashamed to live so uselessly.” In these moments of dejection, when the heroic Reformer seemed, in spite of his energy and incomparable activity, to sink under the weight of our common infirmities, Idelette de Bure was at hand, with tender and encouraging words, which the heart of woman can alone find; and her hand, so feeble, yet so welcome and so affectionate, restored the giant of the Reformation, who made the Pope and kings tremble on their thrones! Oh, the precious support and the magic power of a religious, attentive and loving wife!

Thomas Smyth, Calvin and His Enemies: A Memoir of the Life, Character, and Principles of Calvin. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 174-75.

The Woman Who Won John Calvin – Idelette de Bure

Very little is known or recorded about John Calvin’s wife, Idelette de Bure. Yet, Thomas Smith records this of her in Calvin and His Enemies: A Memoir of the Life.

Externally, there was in this woman nothing very attractive. She was encumbered with several children of a first marriage; she had no fortune; she was dressed in mourning; her person was not particularly handsome. But for Calvin, she possessed the best of treasures, a living and tried faith, an upright conscience, and lovely as well as strong virtues. As he afterwards said of her, she would have had the courage to bear with him exile, poverty, death itself, in attestation of the truth. Such were the noble qualities which won the Reformer.

Thomas Smyth, Calvin and His Enemies: A Memoir of the Life, Character, and Principles of Calvin. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 171.

What do you look for in a wife?

I’m currently 32 years old and have been married for 10 of those years. At age 30 John Calvin was still not married. While trying to find a suitable woman to marry, Calvin penned a letter to his good friend Farel who was trying to help him find a wife. In the letter Calvin describes the type of wife he desired.

In a letter addressed to Farel in May, 1539, (he was then thirty years old), Calvin sketches his ideal of a wife. “Remember,” he says to his friend, “what I especially desire to meet with in a wife. I am not, you know, of the number of those inconsiderate lovers who adore even the faults of the woman who charms them. I could only be pleased with a lady who is sweet, chaste, modest, economical, patient, and careful of her husband’s health. Has she of whom you have spoken to me these qualities? Come with her …, if not let us say no more.”

Thomas Smyth, Calvin and His Enemies: A Memoir of the Life, Character, and Principles of Calvin. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 168-69.

What are you looking for in a spouse?

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