Marriages of Reformers

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VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Recent threads on the subject of marriage and courtship have reminded me of previous studies I have done on specific examples of marriage involving Reformers (and others).

Some interesting historical highlights worthy of note are:

* The marriage of Martin Luther and Katherina von Bora was the quintessential Reformed marriage. Both renounced their Papist vows of celibacy and entered into God's holy institution of marriage for their mutual benefit and in so doing set the prime example of how one can serve God while being married.

* John Calvin married a widow, Idelette de Bure. She died before him, and they three children who died in infancy, although she had two children by her first husband.

Perhaps the most important providence during this three-year stay in Strasbourg was finding a wife. Several had tried to get Calvin a wife. He was 31 years old and numerous women had shown interest. Calvin had told his friend and matchmaker William Farel what he wanted in a wife: "The only beauty which allures me is this – that she be chaste, not too nice or fastidious, economical, patient, likely to take care of my health" (see note 23). Parker comments, "Romantic love . . . seems to have had no place in his character. Yet prosaic wooing led to a happy marriage" (see note 24). I think Parker was wrong about romantic love (see below on Idelette's death). But the prosaic wooing he referred to was toward an Anabaptist widow named Idelette Stordeur who had joined Calvin's congregation with her husband Jean. In the spring of 1540, Jean died of plague and that August 6, 1540, Calvin and Idelette were married. She brought a son and daughter with her into Calvin's home.

Idelette was never well again. They had two more children who also died at or soon after birth. Then on March 29, 1549, Idelette died of what was probably tuberculosis. Calvin wrote to Viret,

You know well how tender, or rather soft, my mind is. Had not a powerful self-control been given to me, I could not have borne up so long. And truly, mine is no common source of grief. I have been bereaved of the best companion of my life, of one who, had it been so ordained, would have willingly shared not only my poverty but even my death. During her life she was the faithful helper of my ministry. From her I never experienced the slightest hindrance. She was never troublesome to me throughout the whole course of her illness, but was more anxious about her children than about herself. As I feared these private worries might upset her to no purpose, I took occasion three days before she died, to mention that I would not fail in discharging my duty towards her children" (see note 27).

Calvin never remarried.

Source: http://www.desiringgod.org/library/biographies/97calvin.html

* John Calvin described a woman's marriageable years (ie., "flower of her age," re: I Cor. 7.36) as between 12 and 20.

* John Knox married twice: first, at age 38; then, after his wife passed away, again, at age 50, to a young woman age 17! As to the age discrepancy issue, all of Knox's godly progeny came from the second wife, and their marriage was a happy one. William Gouge addresses age disparity in his work on Of Domesticall Duties.

* C.S. Lewis (58), John Murray (60's) and William Farel (70's) all married for the first time late in life. Calvin did not approve of Farel's marriage due to his age.

* Puritans and Reformers who wrote on marriage include William Gouge, Henry Smith, Heinrich Bullinger, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Daniel Defoe and many others. All of their works are still relevant and edifying today.
 
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doulosChristou

Puritan Board Freshman
Does anyone know if Idelette ever renounced her Anabaptist heritage? It appears from the above that Calvin's congregation accepted Anabaptists into membership at the time that the Stordeurs joined the church.
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Originally posted by doulosChristou
Does anyone know if Idelette ever renounced her Anabaptist heritage? It appears from the above that Calvin's congregation accepted Anabaptists into membership at the time that the Stordeurs joined the church.

Yes, Calvin had counseled both Idelette and her husband Jean the year previously and they both converted from Anabaptistic beliefs to the Reformed Faith prior to Jean's death in 1540.
 

doulosChristou

Puritan Board Freshman
It seems strange, then, that she would still be referred to as "an Anabaptist widow." It would be sort of like referring to Luther after his marriage to Katherina as "a Papist monk." ;)
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Originally posted by doulosChristou
It seems strange, then, that she would still be referred to as "an Anabaptist widow." It would be sort of like referring to Luther after his marriage to Katherina as "a Papist monk." ;)

Yes, the wording in that article could have been more clear on this point. Undoubtedly, Idelette was a Presbyterian, not an Anabaptist, immediately prior to and during her marriage to John Calvin.
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
William Gouge, Of Domestical Duties:

9. Of equality in years betwixt husband and wife.

That matrimonial society may prove comfortable, it is requisite that there should be some equality betwixt the parties that are married in Age, Estate, Condition, Piety.

1. For Age, as the party that seeketh a mate must be of ripe years, fit to give consent, and able to perform marriage duties, so the mate which is taken must be somewhat answerable in age: if one young, both young: if one of middle age, both so: if one grown to years, the other also. It is noted of Zachary and Elizabeth, that both were well striken in years (Luke 1:7). If both were old together, then both also were young together. Equality in years maketh married persons more fit for procreation of children, for a mutual performance of marriage duties each to other, and for making their company and society every way more happy.

This equality is not over strictly to be taken, as if the married couple were to be just of the same age, but only for some answerableness in years: which may be though there be a disparity of five or ten, or somewhat more years: especially if the excess of years be on the husband's part: for besides that according to the ordinary course of nature a man's strength and vigour lasteth longer than a woman's, it is very meet that the husband should be somewhat elder than his wife, because he is an head, a governour, a protector of his wife. The Scripture noteth many husbands to be elder than their wives [as Abraham was ten years elder than Sarah (Gen 17:17); and if we narrowly mark the circumstances of the histories of Isaac and Jacob, and their wives, we shall find that the husbands were elder than their wives]. To my remembrance an approved example of an husband younger than his wife cannot be given out of Scripture.

Contrary to this equality in years, is the practice of many men and women, who being aged, to satisfy their lust, or for some other by-respect, marry such as are but in the flower of their age, wherein they do many times much fail of their expectation: for those young ones finding the society of aged folks to be burdensome, and irksome unto them, soon begin to loath the same, and thereby cause more grief and vexation, than ever they did give comfort and contentment.

On the other side, others there be who in the prime and strength of their age, for wealth, honour, or such like respects, marry those that with age begin to be decrepit, and unfit to be married, hoping that they will not long live, but that with a little trouble they shall purchase much dignity or riches, and after a while be free again. But God oft meeteth with such in their kind, by prolonging the life of those aged persons, and so making the burden to be much more grievous and tedious than was imagined, and by taking away those young ones sooner than they looked for, whereby it cometh to pass that all their hopes perish. The heathen observed inequality in years to be occasions of many mischiefs, and thereupon prescribed rules against it.
 
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