Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Five Prisoners of Lyons

On Sunday evening, I cited the correspondence from the five prisoners of Lyons and John Calvin. Here’s the context and some of the correspondence:

Five young graduates of a seminary in Switzerland, all of them in the early twenties, had returned home to Lyons, France after spending a little time in Geneva with John Calvin. On their return, they were arrested and imprisoned. It was April, 1552. There began a series of letters, correspondence between these five young men and Calvin. Calvin writes, urging them to be bold and keep the faith. Various appeals are made and the young men are shipped off to a dungeon in Paris, and eventually, in March 1553, they were sent back to Lyons again. During this time, they wrote several letters. In one of them, they say this:

We are bold to say and affirm that we shall derive more profit in this school for our salvation than has ever been the case in any place where we have studied . . . we testify that this persecution in prison is the true school of the children of God, in which they learn more than the disciples of the philosophers ever did in their universities. Indeed, it must not be imagined that one can have a true understanding of many of the passages of Scripture without having been instructed by the Teacher of all truth in this College, prison...

And they went on:

It is true that one can have some knowledge of Scripture and can talk about it and discuss it a great deal; but this is like playing at charades. We therefore praise God with all our heart and give Him undying thanks that He has been pleased to give us by His grace not only the theory of His Word, but also the practice of it, and that He has granted us this honour - which is no small thing for us who are vessels so poor and fragile and mere worms creeping on the earth…

And how had they been taught this?

By bringing us out to be His witnesses and giving us constancy to confess His Name and maintain the truth of His Holy Word before those who are unwilling to hear it - indeed, who persecute it with all their force - to us, to say, who previously were afraid to confess the truth even to a poor labourer who would have heard it eagerly.

On May 16, 1553 they were told to prepare for death. And these five young men were taken out and burned at the stake.

That is boldness! That is what shakes the world!

1 comment:

Ligon Duncan said...

Derek, thanks so much for this post. Very helpful and encouraging. Your message on prayer this past Sunday evening, in which you quoted from this correspondence, was special. Very special. Indeed, your quote from the correspondence of the Lyons Protestant martyrs summed up everything I’d tried to say about the meaning of Ephesians 5:10 on Sunday morning.