Viret’s Personal Quotes


'I was naturally given to religion,’ he said, ‘of which however I was then ignorant. . . . I was preparing myself for heaven, seeing that it was the way of salvation.’ 1


Some children you will have to keep bridled, some you will have to coax, some will need no discipline, some will be motivated by liberality, some by rewards and promises, and others by honor. Treat each child according to his temperament and needs. Some will have to be treated like spirited horses, some like gentle asses, some like stubborn mules.2


I cannot name the city of Geneva but with great honor and reverence and without always recalling the fruit of the joy and consolation that I for so long received from that church—both on the part of all the good and honorable lords whom God constituted there for the government of the republic and from my brothers and companions, pastors in the same ministry with me, and generally from all the people, who were always so affectionate toward me, as I was toward them from the beginning.3


I was so completely dispirited and prostrated by that arrow of affliction, that the whole world appeared to me nothing but a burden. There was nothing pleasant, nothing that could mitigate my grief of mind.4


Although the fathers of the family ought to be like prophets and ministers in their homes, as it is said of Abraham (Genesis 18) and Job (Job 1), how can this be done if the fathers themselves are not first instructed? Now, it is useless to hope that they may be taught at the ordinary sermons, for we have clearly seen the contrary through more than twenty-three years of experience. . . . In fact, how has it happened that so many young people who have never seen the Mass or papism are nevertheless better instructed in those than in the Gospel, unless their fathers taught them what they know? 5


Those who desire to fill some vase consider first of all the form and capacity of it, and with what substance he wishes to fill it. The one therefore who has to fill with some liquid a bottle or phial, or some other such container which has a narrow opening and neck, pours little by little into it, the liquid by which he wishes to fill it. For if pours too much into it at one time, not all of that which has been poured will enter into it. The container will spew out the liquid at the opening before it will be full. For this reason all that one would desire to pour into it will not enter into it, but to the contrary it will fall mostly upon the ground, and that which goes into it will only be a small quantity, in comparison with that which spills outside and is totally lost. “It is necessary for those who teach the uneducated and ignorant, to have such consideration. For as containers are not all of the same shape and capacity, so intellectual abilities are not all alike and of the same nature, nor are all as well disposed as others to receive and retain that which one would put into them. Some are more uneducated and untrained; while others are more discerning and penetrating. The ones have already been taught for some time, and have greatly profited; while the others have only just begun; or if they have already been instructed for a long time, they have not yet benefitted and advanced in this study as they should, and as it was necessary for them. As a result some wish to be treated and taught in one way, and the others in another, according to the requirements of each one’s nature and capacity. For these reasons it is more than necessary, for those who take part in teaching in some area of the arts and sciences whatever that might be, and chiefly in Christian doctrine, to have regard for all those differences and diversity of minds and intelligence, and to consider well the nature and capacity of these vases they have to fill, so that they do not waste their time, or even cause harm rather than help.6


Wherefore I esteem more highly the judgment of a simple laborer, being one of the elect of God and regenerate by His Holy Spirit, than that of all the Popes, bishops, priests, philosophers and doctors who are infidels and hypocrites.7


I appeal to you again in the name of God that you persevere more and more, with greater courage than ever; considering the promise that Jesus Christ has made to those who persevere until the end (Matt. 24:13). Little would be accomplished in starting well, if perseverance was not joined to it. In acting in this way, although the judgments of men are so corrupt, since they judge all things in general in a contrary manner, esteeming something worthy of praise that is worthy of condemnation; and something worthy of condemnation that is worthy of praise; nevertheless, you must strengthen and encourage yourselves by that of which you are certain, not only so that you might never waste your time nor your effort, in well doing; but also because a day will come among men, when he will make known who was righteous, and who has been more loyal and obedient, in his presence as well as before the King and magistrates whom he has constituted over us.8


It is necessary always to stand upon this, that we must hold the glory of God in greater esteem than our life, and we should always elect a thousand deaths rather than violate a single commandment of God.9


. . . by the will of our God and Father, I fell sick, in such a way that my entire body was weakened, being so low, that I could not wait for anything else, in my judgment, except to be placed in the ground. I have never had, in the past, a sickness which had led me so close to the grave, not even when I had been poisoned by the artifices and practices of the enemies of the Gospel, at which time, I was hardly more than twenty-four or twenty-five years old, when they sought my death.
However, God, who had already delivered me from death, which the fatal poison would have conveyed to me, and who withdrew me in a miraculous way from the sepulcher, in order that I might serve even longer in the holy ministry of the Gospel, to which it pleased Him to call me from my youth, delivered me again from death this other time, where I was even closer to death than anytime in the past.10


By this experience [Viret’s illness of 1561], the Lord has once again made me better understand, that it is not left to ministers to choose their locations, nor to go or run to any other place which might seem good to them, but rather to go where it pleases God to send them. For God is the Lord of the harvest. It is, therefore, His responsibility alone to send out the laborers (Matt. 9:38; Rom. 10:15), choosing those whom He pleases, and according to the time He so ordains.11


It was with such warm sentiment and excellent intention that you greeted me at my arrival, not simply as a momentary rest in passing, but contrarily, and since that time, has only continued and increased even more and more. Nevertheless, you have not acted in this way for anything, which you might have seen as being worthy in me. For in seeing me, it seemed that I was nothing more than a skeleton covered with skin, which carried my bones, for the purpose of being buried there; so that even those who were not of our religion but strongly opposed to it, showed pity at seeing me, to the point of saying: “What has this poor man come to do in this country? Has he not come except to die?” I heard even, when I rose to preach in the pulpit for the first time, that many having seen me, feared that I would fall from it, before I could finish the sermon. If you had found nothing in me according to the flesh, which might have moved you to offer me such a grand reception, I surely have not given you any other particular reason, since that time, by any service which I have performed on your behalf. I know very well, for that reason, that there is no other cause which might have moved you to receive me, as you have received me, except the warm affection that God has given you for the holy Gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ, of whom I am a minister, and whom you have seen in me, for the honor of the holy ministry, which He has entrusted to me, considering that which He has said to His disciples, to whom He made this charge: He who receives you receives Me; and he who receives Me, receives Him who sent Me; . . . and whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward (Matt. 10: 40, 42).12


[God] has delivered me from the two-edged sword of those who were for the moment my enemies, but who now, by the grace of God, have become friends and fellow-servants in the house of God.13

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1 As quoted in J. H. Merle D’Aubigne, D.D., History of the Reformation in Europe (Sprinkle Publications, Harrisonburg, VA, 2000), page 220

2 As quoted in Robert D. Linder, “Forgotten Reformer,” Christian History Magazine, Issue 71 (2001), p. 37

3 As quoted in Michael W. Bruening, “Pierre Viret and Geneva,” Archive for Reformation History, Volume 99 (2008), page 196

4 Letters of John Calvin (Banner of Truth Trust), page 83 footnote

5 As quoted in Michael W. Bruening, Calvinism’s First Battleground: Conflict and Reform in the Pays de Vaud, 1528-1559 (Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 2005), page 235

6 Pierre Viret, Instruction Chretienne (L’Age d’Homme, Lausanne, 2008), pages 175-176

7 Robert Linder, The Political Ideas of Pierre Viret (Geneva, 1964), page 72

8 Viret, Instruction Chretienne, page 88

9 Ibid., page 28

10 Ibid., page 83

11 Ibid., page 84

12 Ibid., page 86

13 Henri Vuilleumier, Notre Pierre Viret (Librairie Payot & Cie, Lausanne, 1911), page 31

Lausanne Cathedral
Lausanne, Switzerland

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