Gospel Friendship


For the last few hours, I have been reading a variety of letters written by Peter Martyr Vermigli… to John Calvin, to Queen Elizabeth I, to Theodore Beza, et al. They are all fascinating for different reasons. Perhaps the most touching, though, is his letter to the wife of Martin Bucer following Bucer’s death.

Martin Bucer died on February 28 1551 at Cambridge. During this time, Peter Martyr was at Oxford. Having been close friends since their days together in Strasbourg (from which they fled as exiles), the loss hit Martyr extremely hard. Here are a couple of excerpts from Martyr’s letter to Bucer’s widow, Wibrandis Rosenblat. What a marvelous example of the Holy Spirit-inspired affection of gospel friendships:

[Bucer’s] last letter was truly his swan song to me. He said that he was optimistic about his sickness, so that wretch that I am, I conceived a groundless hope that it would take a short spell for him to get well and for me to find him safe and sound at Cambridge. O, my uncertainty of mind about the future and my very mistaken belief! My Bucer has hurried off to heaven without greeting or waiting for his Martyr. What then shall I do? Unless I am called to heaven, I cannot leave here. I do not have the strength to live alone and cut off from him. I pray to you, O Christ, that in your goodness you take pity on my sorrow and do not long allow me in my misery to be separated from him for a long time.[1]

Your husband’s breast was a vast library of the Scripture, so I am sure that you learned Scripture so well from him that you do not need my suggestions…. Lest I not go beyond the boundaries and limit, I make this last request: that you do not look on yourself as deserted and desolate since you have Christ dwelling in your heart through faith. According to the flesh you have lost the man who espoused you, but you have been married to Christ by godliness and sincere religion. Him you will never lose by any violence of death. May God, who is author and father of all consolation, console you.[2]

[1] Josias Simler, Life, Letters, and Sermons. Translated and Edited by John Patrick Donnelly. The Peter Martyr Library 5. (Kirksville, MO: Thomas Jefferson University Press, 1999), 118.

[2] Ibid., 120.

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