—his theological correspondence with John Calvin. It seems to have been entered upon at the suggestion of John Frelon, one of the Lyons publishers.
Servetus has been accused of having provoked the Genevese Reformer by addressing him in a style calculated to wound, if not to insult, him; and the character of the man gives likelihood to the charge. But, had Calvin's letters been preserved, we doubt whether the accusation would hold good; we know for a certainty that the great Reformer applied very freely the lowest epithets to his opponents—"rascal, dog, ass, and swine, being found of constant occurrence among them—had there been any stronger than scoundrel and blasphemer, they would have been hurled at Servetus." Calvin's own letter to Frelon, their go-between, throws a great light on the subject. Among other things, he writes: "I have been led to write to him more sharply than is my wont, being minded to take him down a little in his presumption; and, I assure you, there is no lesson he needs so much to learn as humility." At any rate, Villeneuve approached the Reformer, at first, as one seeking aid and information from another presumed most capable of giving both. Calvin replied in a concise, dogmatic way which, indeed, could not satisfy a mind as thoroughly made up as that of Servetus. Moreover, the Reformer soon grew weary of the correspondence, so that Frelon had to interpose in behalf of the Spaniard in order to make the former answer his letters. Nor is this all: thinking he might escape further molestation, Calvin referred Servetus to his book, "Institutions of the Christian Religion," as though he had been a schoolboy who had entered upon a discussion with the Reformer, with no knowledge of his doctrines. Villeneuve now became his critic. The copy of the "Institutions" was sent back, copiously annotated in the margin. There was hardly a proposition in the text that was not taken to pieces by him and found untenable on the ground of Scriptures and patristic authority, and this he did with the freedom of expression in which Villeneuve indulged. Calvin, in writing to a friend, indignantly says, "There is hardly a page that is not defiled by his vomit." "The liberties taken with the 'Institutions,' "Dr. Willis says, "were looked on as a crowning personal insult by Calvin; and reading, as we do, the nature of the man, it is not difficult to conclude that it was this offense, superadded to the letters, which put such rancor into his soul as made him think of the life of his critic as no more than a fair forfeit for the offense done." As a matter of course, the correspondence was soon dropped by Calvin, but not so by Servetus, who seemingly could not bear his opponent's neglect; over thirty letters of his, embracing a period of more than two years, are still extant.
Servetus meanwhile had prepared another book, "Christianismi Restitutio" (The Restoration of Christianity) with which he intended
- The "Christianismi Restitutio" of Servetus is one of the rarest books in the world.