No Ivory Towers

This morning during the sermon I made some unplanned remarks about several figures from the reformation and puritan periods. My point was to show that they were well acquainted with suffering and were by no means ivory tower theologians. These were men living and ministering during difficult times! However, when I mentioned above that these were “unplanned” comments, that means I was citing from memory and misstated some facts. The main misstatement was the amount of children John Owen had. I was thinking between 15 and 17, but he in fact had 11. The following quotes from various authors summarize well what I was attempting to communicate.

Of Martin Luther and his wife, Stephen Nichols wrote:

They had six children of their own and adopted six more, orphaned by one of the many plagues that swept through Europe during those times. One of their children died in infancy; another, the apple of her father’s eye, passed away at the age of twelve. Grief nearly overwhelmed Luther on both occasions, God’s grace and the bonds of love with his family remaining bringing him back from the brink of utter depression. (pgs. 34-35) 

Michael Reeves wrote the following of John Calvin:

Two years later (after their marriage), Idelette bore Calvin a son, Jacques. However, he was born prematurely, and only survived two weeks. Calvin wrote to a friend, ‘The Lord has certainly inflicted a severe and bitter wound in the death of our baby son. But he is himself a Father and knows best what is good for his children.’ Idelette herself struggled to recover her health, and spent the last years of their marriage dying slowly. When at last she did die…(Calvin’s) pain was transparent: ‘I struggle as best I can to overcome my grief…I have lost the best companion of my life.’ (pg. 107)

The wife of John Knox died following a major victory in the Scottish reformation effort. John Murray recorded the following:

But Knox’s happiness in his new surroundings was all too brief. At the end of November or in early December 1560 he suffered a severe blow with the death of his wife Marjory, leaving him with two sons, aged two and three years. (Of her death) Calvin said, ‘Although I am not little grieved that our brother Knox has been deprived of the most delightful of wives, yet I rejoice that he has not been so afflicted by her death as to cease his active labours in the cause of Christ and the Church. (pgs. 79-80)

John Piper informs us of John Owen’s suffering:

He was married to her (Mary Rooke) for 31 years, from 1644 to 1675. We know that she bore him 11 children, and all but one died as a child, and that one daughter died as a young adult. In other words Owen experienced the death of eleven children and his wife! That’s one child born and lost on the average every three years of Owen’s adult life.

About Pastor Matt

Matt Baker is the Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship Church.
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