1902 Encyclopedia > John Calvin (Jean Cauvin)

John Calvin
(Jean Cauvin)
French religious reformer
(1509-64)




JOHN CALVIN, (1509-1564), was born at Noyon, in Picardy, July 10,1509. Hisfather, Gerard Calvin orCauvin, was a notary-apostolic and procurator-fiscal for the lordship of Noyon, besides holding certain ecclesiastical offices in connection with that diocese. The name of his mother was Jeanne Lefranc; she was the daughter of an innkeeper at Cambray, who afterwards came to reside at Noyon. Gerard Calvin is described as a man of considerable sagacity and prudence, and on this account held in esteem by the leading men of the district. His wife added to considerable personal attractions the graces of a vivid and earnest piety. Their family consisted of four sons, of whom John was the second, and two daughters.

Cauvin, Chauve, Chauvin, Calvus, Calvimis. In the contemporary notices of Gerard and his family, in the capitular registers of the cathedral at Noyon, the name is always spelt Cauuin. The anagram of Calvin is Alcuin, and this in its Latinized form Alcuinns appears in two editions of his Institutio as that of the author (Audin, Vie de Calvin, i. 520). The syndics of Geneva address him in a letter written in 1540, and still preserved, as " Docteur Caulvin." In his letters written in French he usually signs himself "Jean Calvin." He affected the title of " Maitre," for what reason is not known.

Of Calvin's early years only a few notices remain. His father destined him from the first for theological studies, being moved to this by the evidences afforded in his boy-hood of a religious tendency, and perhaps also by a shrewd apprehension of the kind of pursuits in which he was most fitted to excel. The esteem in which the father was held opened for the boy a place in the household of the no"ble family of De Montmor, where he received his elementary education along with the children of the house, though at his father's expense. In his thirteenth year his father, whose circumstances were not affluent, procured for him from the bishop the office of chaplain in the Ohapelle de N6tre Dame de la Gesine. A few days after his appoint-ment he received the tonsure, and on the 29th of May 1521 he was installed in his office. The plague having visited Noyon, the young De Montmors were sent to Paris to pursue their studies there, and thither Calvin accompanied them, being enabled by the income received from his benefice to meet the expense of a residence in the metropolis. His first school was the College de la Marche, at that time under the regency of Maturin Cordier, a man of excellent character, of sound learning, and of high repute as a teacher. To him Calvin ever acknowledged himself indebted for the benefits received under his tuition. In dedicating to him his Commentary on the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, as " eximise pietatis et doetrinas viro," he declares that so had he been aided by his instruction that whatever subse-quent progress he had made he only regarded as received from him, and " this," he adds," I wish to testify to posterity that if any utility accrue to any from my writings they may acknowledge it as having in part flowed from thee." From this institution he removed to the College Montaigu, where he had for instructor a Spaniard, who is described as a man of learning, and to whom Calvin was indebted for the culture of his already acute intellect, by the study of dialectics and the scholastic philosophy. Whilst at school the future reformer distinguished himself by his superior abiliti.es, and his indefatigable assiduity. He speedily outstripped all his competitors in grammatical studies, and by his skill and acumen as a student of philosophy, gave fruitful promise of that consummate excellence as a reasoner, in the department ef speculative truth, which he afterwards displayed. Intensely devoted to study he cared little for the pastimes in which his fellow scholars indulged; he shunned society, and was more disposed to censure the frivolities of those around him than to seek the solace of their companionship; severe to others he was still more so to himself, and his pale face and attenuated frame bore witness at once to the rigour of his abstinence and the ardour with which he prosecuted his studies. In his nineteenth year he, through the influence of his father, obtained the living of Marteville, to which he was presented on the 27th of September 1527. After holding this preferment for nearly two years, he exchanged it in July 1529 for the cure of Pont l'Eveque, a village near to Noyon, and the place to which his father originally belonged. He appears to have been not a little elated by his early promotion, and although not ordained, he preached several sermons to the people. But though the career of ecclesiastical preferment was thus early opened to him, Calvin was destined not to become a priest of the Church of Rome. A change came over the mind both of his father and himself respecting his future career. Gerard Calvin, looking at things only from a worldly point of view, began to suspect that he had not chosen the most lucrative profession for his son, and that the law offered to a youth of his talents and industry a more promising sphere. His son, on the other hand, had come under an influence of a very different kind, but which, with still more decisive impulse, inclined him to relinquish the ecclesiastical life, Through the counsels of his relation, Pierre Robert Olivetan, the first translator of the Bible into French, he had been led for the first time to study the sacred volume, and to test his religious opinions and practices by its dictates. The result was that, though not yet detached from the faith of the Bomish church, he was very willing to relinquish all thoughts of becoming a priest in that communion. He accordingly readily complied with his father's suggestion; and having resigned his cure, he removed from Baris to Orleans, in order to study law under Pierre de l'Etoile, a distinguished jurisconsult,-and at that time professor there. On this new pursuit Calvin entered with characteristic ardour, and such was his progress in legal knowledge, that he frequently occupied the chair of the professor, while his general reputation for ability and scholar-ship stood so high that, on leaving Orleans, he received the grade of doctor without payment of the usual fees, as a compliment to his merits, Other studies, however, besides those of law had occupied him whilst in this city, God, who had destined him for a very different career, was in His providence preparing him for the work he had to do. His mind, at first hardened by the influence of early superstition, was, he himself tells us, brought by sudden conversion into a state of docility. An ardent desire to attain proficiency in sacred knowledge took possession of him, and though this did not lead him to renounce other studies, it rendered him frigid in the pursuit of them. At all times, indeed, a diligent student, he seems at this time to have been impelled by his zeal beyond those bounds which a wise regard to health would impose. It was his wont, after a frugal supper, to labour till midnight, and in the morning when he awoke, he would, before he arose, recall and digest what he had read the previous day, so as to make it thoroughly his own. " By these protracted vigils," says Beza, "he secured indeed a solid erudition, and an ex-cellent memory; but it is probable he at the same time sowed the seeds of that disease which occasioned him various illnesses in after life, and at last brought upon him premature death."

From Orleans Calvin went to Bourges to prosecute his studies under a learned Italian of the name of Alciati, whom Francis I. had invited into France, and settled as a professor of law in that university. Here he became acquainted with Melchior Volmar, a German, then pro-fessor of Greek at Bourges, and a man of sound erudition as well as exemplary character, By him Calvin was taught Greek, and introduced to the study of the New Testament in its original language, a service which he gratefully acknowledges in one of his printed works. The conversa-tion of Volmar also seems to have been of use to him in deepening his religious convictions, and confirming him in his attachment to the doctrines of the Beformation. These were now beginning to be widely diffused through France. Twelve years had elapsed since Luther had published his theses against indulgences,—twelve years of intense excite-ment and anxious discussion, not in Germany only, but in almost all the adjacent kingdoms In France there had not been as yet any overt revolt against the Church of Bome, but multitudes were lending a friendly ear to the Reformed doctrines, and a few were in secret rejoicing in having heartily embraced them To such Calvin united himself whilst at Orleans, and after his removal to Bourges he became a teacher, both in private conference with inquirers and by discourses in more public assemblies. " Before a year had elapsed," says he, speaking of his con-version, " all who were desirous of a purer doctrine were in the habit of coming to me, though a novice and a tyro, for the purpose of learning." And Beza tells us that he not only fortified the few believers who were in the town, but preached often in some of the neighbouring mansions and hamlets, whereby he wonderfully advanced the kingdom of God in many families, among which he specifies that of the lord of Lignie>es, who with his lady heard with approval the new doctrines. In engaging in such efforts, Calvin appears to have yielded to a constraining sense of duty rather than to have followed the bias of his own inclina-tions. " By nature," says he, " somewhat clownish (sub-rusticus), I always preferred the shade and ease, and would have sought some hiding-place;. but this was not permitted, for all my retreats became like public schools." Nor did he infuse any of the enthusiasm which usually marks the young reformer into his addresses. " He taught the truth," says Beza, " not with affected eloquence, but with such depth of knowledge and so much solid gravity of style, that there was not a man who could hear him without being ravished with admiration." 5

His residence at Bourges was cut short by the sudden death of his father, which occasioned his return to his native place. Immediately after his father's decease, he seems to have paid a hasty visit to Paris, and then to have returned to Noyon, where he resided for a couple of years or so. At the close of this period he appears to have returned to Paris, where he apparently resided from 1529 to 1532, as letters written by him are dated from Paris in these years. While there he lodged with a tradesman, Etienne de la Forge, who early fell a victim to his zeal for the Reformation, and " whose memory," Calvin says, " should be blessed among believers as a holy martyr for Christ."6 In his house the friends of evangelical truth were wont to meet, and Calvin not only associated with them, but frequently preached in their assemblies. To the great joy of all such, he at length entirely relinquished his legal pursuits and devoted himself afresh to theology, —giving himself up wholly to the work, preaching with great energy, and using all the means in his power to win converts to the truth, as well as to confirm those by whom it had been ahead}' embraced. By this time the Reformation had attracted so many adherents in France, that the upholders of the established system became infuriated, and attempted to stay its further progress by the most cruel persecutions. It was whilst these were raging that Calvin issued his first publication, an edition of Seneca's tract De dementia, with an elaborate commentary. This book he published at his own cost, and dedicated to Claude Hangest, abbot of St Eloi, a member of the De Montmor family, with whom Calvin had been brought up. The commentary, which is written in that pure and terse Latinity which characterizes all Calvin's works composed in the languageof ancient Rome, displays extensive acquaint-ance with ancient literature, though the author has fallen into the extraordinary mistake of running the two Senecas, father and son, into one, and making the philosopher die 115 years old. It has been suggested that Calvin published this work with a view to influence the king to put a stop to the persecution of the Protestants, but there is nothing in the treatise itself or in the commentary to favour this opinion.

This work was published in April 1532, and seems to have brought Calvin more of honour than of profit. It appears, indeed, that he had some difficulty in paying the cost of its publication; and it is probable that it was partly in order to meet this that he sold at this time the slender patrimony which his father had left him. He at this time also relinquished the ecclesiastical preferments which he had hitherto continued to hold, an act which, though demanded by the change that had taken place in his religious views, was entirely voluntary on his part, and, when viewed in connection with his then straitened circum-stances, must be put to the credit of his integrity and disinterestedness. He was now in his twenty-fourth year, and was already recognized as at the head of the Reformation movement in France. An occasion soon occurred which brought him into open collision with the dominant party. Nicholas Cop, the newly-elected regent of the Sorbonne, had to deliver an oration according to custom in the Church of the Maturins, on the feast of All Saints. Being intimate with Calvin, he pronounced an oration which the latter had prepared for him, " of a totally different sort," says Beza, " from what was customary."7 It was, in fact, a defence of the Beformed opinions, especially of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. This was more than the Sorbonnists could bear, and Cop, being summoned to appear before the parliament, found it necessary to make his escape from Paris to Basel. An attempt was at the same time made to seize Calvin, but being forewarned of the design by his friends, he also made his escape. His lodgings, however, were searched, and his books and papers seized, to the imminent peril of some of his friends, whose letters were found in his repositories. He himself retired first to the castle of Lord de Hazeville near Mantes, and after that to Saintonge, where he was the guest of Louis du Tillet, a canon of Angouleme, and where at the request of his host he prepared some short discourses, which were circulated in the surrounding parishes, and read in public to the people. He subsequently removed to Nerac, the residence of the queen of Navarre, the only sister of Francis I., who then favoured the Beformers, and through whose intercession the storm that had broken out against them was for the time abated. Here he became acquainted with the venerable Jacques Lefevre d' Estaples, a scholar and man of science, whom the queen had rescued from the fury of the Sorbonnists, and engaged as tutor to her children. By him Calvin was warmly received, and his future eminence as a reformer of the church predicted.

It has been asserted that it was whilst resident at Saintonge that Calvin prepared the first sketch of his Institutio Christians Religionis; but this has not been proved. His residence in that retirement continued only for a very few months; for, in 1534, we find him first at Noyon, his native place, and soon after again in Paris. Here he was compelled to remain concealed, in consequence of the measures which the enemies of the Reformation were still pursuing against its adherents. At the risk of his life, however, he came forth to meet one whom he was after-wards to encounter under very different circumstances, the Spanish physician, Servede or Servetus, who was even then engaged in propagating his heretical notions concerning the Trinity. Servetus having expressed a desire to have a con-ference with Calvin, it was arranged that they should meet and discuss their conflicting opinions; but though Calvin waited for him long at the time and place appointed, Servetus failed to make his appearance, " being," says Beza, " unable to endure the sight of Calvin," but more probably deterred by the danger to which both were exposed from the hostility of the ruling powers. Calvin's design in acceding to this colloquy seems to have been a kindly one towards Servetus. " Not without danger to my life,'' he himself says, " I offered to deliver him from his errors." Nor was Servetus the only errorist whom Calvin endeavoured at this time to confute. The Anabaptists of Germany had spread into Prance, and were disseminating many wild and fanatical opinions among those who had seceded from the Church of Bome. Among other notions which they had imbibed, was that of a sleep of the soul after death. To Calvin this notion appeared so pernicious, that he composed and published a treatise in refutation of it, under the title of Psychopannychia. In this work he dhiefly dwells upon the evidence from Scripture in favour of the belief that the soul retains its intelligent consciousness after its separation from the body,—passing by questions of philosophical speculation, as tending on such a subject only to minister to an idle curiosity.

The Psychopannychia was published in 1534 at Orleans, whither Calvin had been constrained, in consequence of the violence of the persecution at Paris, to retreat. On his way thither he stopped for some time at Poitiers. Here many gathered round him desirous of instruction from him ; and in a grotto near the town he celebrated for the first time the communion in the Evangelical Church of Prance, using a piece of the rock as a table. From this time forward his influence became supreme, and all who had imbibed or become tinged with the Beformed doc-trines in France turned to him for counsel and instruction, attracted not only by his power as a teacher, but still more, perhaps, because they saw in him so full a development of the Christian life according to the evangelical model. M. Renan, no prejudiced judge, pronounces him "the most Christian man of his time," and attributes to this his success as a reformer. Certain it is that already he had drawn upon him the notice of those who were seeking to extinguish in blood the light which had been kindled, and which he was so prompt to hold up to view; so that he was obliged to seek safety in flight. In company with his friend Louis du Tillet, whom he had again gone to Angou-léme to visit, he set out for Basel. On their way they were robbed by one of their servants, who so entirely stripped them of their property, that it was only by borrow-ing ten crowns from their other servant that they were enabled to get to Strasburg, and thence to Basel. Here Calvin was welcomed by the band of scholars and theologians who had conspired to make that city the Athens of Switzer-land, and especially by the learned Simon Grynasus, and by Wolfgang Capito, the leader of the Reformation at Basel. Under the auspices and guidance of the latter, Calvin applied himself to the study of Hebrew.





Francis I., desirous to continue the o persecution of the Protestants, but anxious at the same time not to break with the Protestant princes of Germany, resorted to the unwort J expedient of instructing his ambassador to assure the latter that it was only against the Anabaptists, and other parties who called in question all civil magistracy, that his severities were exercised. Calvin, indignant at the calumny which was thus cast upon the Beformed party in France, hastily prepared for the press his Institutes of the Christian Religion, which he published as a confession of the Reformed faith, and dedicated to the king. This work Calvin says he wrote in Latin that it might find access to the learned in all lands. Soon after it appeared he set about translating it into French, as he himself attests in a letter dated October 1536. This sets at rest a question, at one time much agitated, whether the book appeared first in French or in Latin. The earliest French edition known is that of 1540, and this was after the work had been much enlarged,, and several Latin editions had appeared. In its first form the work consisted of only six chapters, andjwas intended merely as a brief manual of Christian doctrine. It appeared anonymously, the author having, as he himself says, nothing in view beyond furnishing a statement of the faith of the persecuted Frotestants, whom he saw cruelly cut to-pieces by impious and perfidious court parasites. In this work, though produced when the author was only twenty-five years of age, we find a complete outline of that theo-logical system which has since borne his name. In none of the later editions, nor in any of his later works, do we find reason to believe that he ever changed his views on any essential point from what they were at the period of its first publication. Such an instance of maturity of mind and of opinion at so early an age, would be remarkable under any circumstances; but in Calvin's case it is rendered peculiarly so, by the shortness of the time which had elapsed since he gave himself to theological studies. It may be doubted also if the history of literature presents us with another instance of a book written at so early an age, which has exercised such a prodigious influence upon the opinions and practices both of contemporaries and of posterity.

After a short visit to the court of the duchess of Ferrara,, which at that time afforded an asylum to several learned and pious fugitives from persecution, Calvin returned to France to arrange his affairs before finally taking farewell of his native country. His intention was to settle at Basel,, and to devote himself to study. But being unable, in con-sequence of the disturbed state of the country, to reach Basel by the ordinary route, he had to take the route through Geneva. Whilst in this city his further progress was arrested, and his resolution to pursue the quiet path of studious research was dispelled, by what he calls the-" formidable obtestation " of Farel.4 After many struggles and no small suffering, this energetic spirit had succeeded in planting the evangelical standard at Geneva; and anxious to secure the aid of such a man as Calvin, he entreated him on his arrival to relinquish his design of going farther, and to devote himself to the work in that city, Calvin at first declined, alleging as an excuse his. need of securing more time for personal improvement, which could not be obtained were he engaged in ministerial work. To the ardent Farel this seemed a mere pretext for indolence. " I tell you," he continued, " in answer to this pretence of your studies, in the name of Almighty God, that if you will not devote yourself with us to this work of the Lord, the Lord will curse you as one seeking not Christ so much as himself." Startled by this denun-ciation, and feeling as if God had laid his hand on him to-detain him, Calvin consented to remain at Geneva, where he was immediately appointed teacher of theology. He was also elected preacher by the magistrates with the consent of the people, but this office he would not accept until it had been repeatedly pressed upon him. His services seem to have been rendered for some time gratui-tously, for in February 1537, there is an entry in the city registers to the effect that six crowns had been voted to him, " since he has as yet hardly received anything."

Calvin was in his twenty-eighth year when he was thus constrained to settle at Geneva; and in this city the rest of his life, with the exception of a brief interval, was spent. The post to which he was thus called was not an oeasy one. Though the people of Geneva had cast off the yoke of Rome, they were still " but very imperfectly en-lightened in divine knowledge; they had as yet hardly emerged from the filth of the papacy." This laid them oopen to the incursions of those fanatical teachers, whom the excitement attendant upon the Reformation had called forth, and who hung mischievously upon the rear of the reforming body. To obviate the evils thence resulting, Calvin, in union with Farel, drew up a condensed state-ment of Christian doctrine consisting of twenty-one articles. This the citizens were summoned, in parties of ten each, to profess and swear to as the confession of their faith—a .process which, though not in accordance with modern notions of the best way of establishing men in the faith, was gone through, Calvin tells us, " with much satisfaction." As the people took this oath in the capacity of citizens, we may see here the basis laid for that theocratic system which _subsequently became peculiarly characteristic of the Genevan ,polity. Deeply convinced of the importance of education for the young, Calvin and his coadjutors were solicitous to _establish schools throughout the canton, and to enforce on parents the sending of their children to them; and as he had no faith in education apart from religious training, he drew up an elementary catechism of Christian doctrine which the children had to learn whilst they were receiving secular instruction. Of the troubles which arose from fanatical teachers, the chief proceeded from the efforts of the Anabaptists; but these Calvin and his colleagues so effectually silenced by means of a public disputation held on the 18th of March 1537, that they never afterwards appeared at Geneva. In the course of this year also, the peace of Calvin and his friends was much disturbed, and their work interrupted, by a turbulent and unprincipled preacher named Peter Caroli, who, after many changes of religious profession (with none of which, however, had he associated anything of true religion, or even much of _ordinary morality), had assumed the character of a stickler for orthodoxy. In this character he accused the Geneva divines of Sabellianism and Arianism, because they would not enforce the Athanasian creed, and had not used the words "Trinity" aud "Person" in the confession they had drawn up. In a synod held at Bern the matter was fully _discussed, when a verdict was given in favour of the Geneva divines, and Caroli deposed from his office and banished. Thus ended an affair which seems to have occasioned Calvin much more uneasiness than the char-acter of his assailant, and the manifest falsehood of the ocharge brought against him, would seem to justify. Two brief tracts, intended to expose the evils and warn against the seductions of Popery, one entitled Be Fugienda Idolatria, the other Be Papisticis Sacerdotiis, must be added to the labours of Calvin this year.

Hardly was the affair of Caroli settled, when new and severer trials came upon the Genevan Beformers. The ^severe simplicity of the ritual which Farel had introduced, _and to which Calvin had conformed; the strictness with which the ministers sought to enforce not only the laws of morality, but certain sumptuary regulations respecting the dress and mode of living of the citizens; and their deter-mination in spiritual matters not to submit to the least dictation from the civil power, led to such violent dis-sensions that Calvin and his colleagues refused to administer the sacrament to the people. For this they were banished from the city. They went first to Bern, and soon after to Zurich, where a synod of the Swiss pastors had been convened. Before this assembly they pleaded their cause, and stated what were the points on which they were prepared to insist as needful for the proper discipline of the church. They declared that they would yield in the matter of ceremonies so far as to employ unleavened bread in the eucharist, to use fonts in baptism, and to allow festival days, provided the people might pursue their ordinary avocations after public service. These Calvin regarded as matters of indifference, provided the magistrates did not make them of importance, by seeking to enforce them; and he was the more willing to concede them, because he hoped thereby to meet the wishes of the Bernese brethren, whose ritual was less simple than that established by Farel at Geneva. But he and his colleagues insisted, on the other hand, that for the proper maintenance of dis-cipline, there should be a division of parishes —that excommunications should be permitted, and should be ^ under the power of elders chosen by the council, in conjunc-tion with the clergy—that order should be observed in the admission of preachers—and that only the clergy should officiate in ordination by the laying on of hands, It was proposed also, as conducive to the welfare of the church, that the sacrament of the Lord's Supper should be ad-ministered more frequently, at least once every month, and that congregational singing of psalms should be practised in the churches. On these terms the synod interceded with the Genevese to restore their pastors; but through the opposition of the Bernese this was frustrated, and a second edict of banishment was the only response.

Calvin and. Farel betook themselves, under these circumstances, to Basel, where they soon after separated, Farel to go to Neufchatel, and Calvin to Strasburg. At the latter place Calvin, resided till the autumn of 1541, occupying himself partly in literary exertions, partly as a preacher in the French church, and partly as a lecturer on theology. In 1539 he attended the convention at Frankfort as the companion of Bucer, and in the following year he appeared at that at Hagenau and Worms, as the delegate from the city of Strasburg. He was present also at the diet at Batisbon, where he became personally acquainted with Melanchthon, and formed with him a friendship which lasted through life. It is to this period of his life that we owe the completed form of his Institutio, his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, and his Tract on the Lord's Supper. Notwithstanding his manifold engagements, he found time to attend to the tenderer affections; for it was during his residence at Strasburg that he married Idelette ' de Bures or van Buren, the widow of a person named Storder, whom he had converted from Anabaptism. In her Calvin found, to use his own words, "the excellent companion of his life," a "precious help" to him amid his manifold labours and frequent infirmities. She died, in 1549, to the great grief of her husband, who never ceased to mourn her loss.

During his absence, disorder and irreligion had prevailed in Geneva. An attempt was made by Sadolet, bishop of. Carpentras, to take advantage of this so as to restore the papal supremacy in that district; but this design Calvin, watchful over the interests of his ungrateful flock, though exiled from them, completely frustrated by writing such a reply to the letter which the bishop had addressed to the Genevese, as constrained him to desist from all further efforts. He seems also to have kept up his connection with Geneva by addressing letters of counsel and comfort to the faithful there who continued to regard him with affection. It was whilst he was still at Strasburg that there appeared at Geneva a translation of the Bible into French, bearing Calvin's name, but in reality only revised and corrected by him from the version of Olivetan. Meanwhile the way had been opened for his return to the post whence he had been driven in that city. In the summer of 1541, the decree of his banishment was revoked, and in the following September he yielded to the earnest entreaties of his now penitent flock, and returned to Geneva, where he was received with the utmost enthusiasm. He entered upon his work with a firm determination to carry out those reforms which he had originally purposed, and to set up in all its integrity that form of church policy which he had carefully matured during his residence at Strasburg. He now became the sole directive spirit in the church at Geneva. Farel was retained by the Neufchatelois, and Viret, soon after Calvin's return, removed to Lausanne. His duties were thus rendered exceedingly onerous, and his labour became excessive. Besides preaching every day in each alternate week, he taught theology three days in the week, attended weekly meetings of his consistory, read the Scriptures once a week in the congregation, carried on an extensive correspondence on a multiplicity of subjects, prepared commentaries on the books of Scripture, and was engaged repeatedly in controversy with the opponents of his opinions. " I have not time," he writes to a friend, " to look out of my house at the blessed sun, and if things continue thus, I shall forget what sort of appearance it has. When I have settled my usual business, I have so many letters to write, so many questions to answer, that many a night is spent without any offering of sleep being brought to naturt." We cannot in this sketch follow him through all the details of his brief but busy life after he returned to Geneva; we can only afford to notice slightly the leading events.





Of the controversies in which Calvin embarked, one of the most important was that in which he defended his doctrine concerning predestination and election. His first antagonist on this head was. Bighius, a Romanist, who, resuming the controversy between Erasmus and Luther on the freedom of the will, violently attacked Calvin for the views he had expressed on that subject. Calvin replied to him in a work published in 1543, in which he defends his own opinions at length, as well by general reasonings as by an appeal to both Scripture and the Fathers, especially Augustine. So potsnt were his reasonings in the esteem of his opponent, that the latter, though owing nothing to the gentleness or courtesy of Calvin, was led to embrace his views. A still more vexatious and protracted con-troversy on the same subject arose in 1551, in which Calvin was called to defend his views against Bolsec, originally a Carmelite friar, but who having renounced Romanism had fled from France and come to Geneva, where he appeared as a physician. In becoming a physician, however, he had not relinquished theological studies, and being a zealous opponent of predestinarian views, he was tempted on one occasion, after a sermon on the subject by Calvin to attack aim in the public assembly. Calvin replied with equal vehemence; and an officer of police, scandalized that such a scene should occur in church, took Bolsec into custody. The pastors resolved to have a conference with him before the council; and for two days the discussion was con-ducted by him and Calvin with much ability on both sides. The council were at a loss what course to take; not that they doubted which of the disputants was right, for they ail held by the views of Calvin, but they were unable to determine to what extent and in which way Bolsec should be punished for his heresy. The question was submitted to the Swiss churches, but they also were divided in their judgment, some counselling severity, others gentle measures. The result was that Bolsec was banished from Geneva. The enemies of Calvin insinuated that he counselled the infliction of a heavier penalty; but this he himself in a letter to Bullinger indignantly denies. In this controversy ultimately several others, including Castellio,. Fabri, and even Bullinger and Melanchthon took part against Calvin, and only Beza appeared as a zealous coadjutor. But the most memorable of all the contro-versies in which Calvin was engaged, was that into which he was brought in 1553 with his old antagonist Servetus. After many wanderings, and after having been condemned to death for heresy at Vienne, from which he was fortunate enough to make his escape, Servetus arrived in July 1553 at Geneva. He appears to have remained in quiet here for some time, and was about to leave for Zurich when, at the instigation of Calvin, he was arrested and conveyed to prison on the charge of blasphemy. This charge was founded on certain statements in a book published by him in 1553, entitled Ghristianismi Restitutio, in which he animadverted in terms needlessly offensive on the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity, and advanced sentiments strongly savouring of Pantheism. At the trial which followed Calvin appeared as his accuser, and the conflict was con-ducted between the two with much ability on both sides, and at the same time with no small keenness and bitterness. After a protracted trial, the accused was condemned to be burnt to death, and was accordingly burned at Champel near Geneva, on the 27th of October 1553. Farel attended him in his last hours, and accompanied him to the place of execution. He had an interview also with Calvin on the morning of the fatal day, when he asked his forgiveness, but refused to retract any of his expressions. Calvin has been much censured, not to say vituperated, for his share in this unhappy transaction. In order to aggra-vate the charge against him it has been alleged that it was by his invitation that Servetus came to Geneva, that it was by his urgency that the magistrates, over whom his influence was unbounded, condemned Servetus to death, and that it was to gratify a personal pique and through hatred of Servetus that he thus cruelly and relentlessly pursued him. Of these allegations not one can be proved,, and some are undoubtedly false. It is not true that Calvin induced Servetus to come to Geneva; on the contrary, when Servetus intimated a wish to visit that city if it pleased Calvin that he should do so, Calvin intimated very plainly that it did not please him, and refused to pledge himself for his safety should he come, as he was resolved,, should he come, to prosecute him to the death. That Calvin influenced the magistrates to condemn Servetus is true only in the same sense in which any public prosecutor who pleads before the judge for the condemnation of one against whom he brings a criminal charge, may be said to influence the judge to condemn him. As for the assertion that Calvin's influence with the magistrates was unbounded, this falls to the ground before the fact that at this time he was in a state of antagonism with the dominant party. That Calvin hated the doctrines which he found in Servetus's book there can be no doubt, and that he thought the author of such views as were there advanced deserving of death, if he refused when reasoned with to recant, is unhappily true; but that he was actuated by personal spite and animosity against Servetus himself there is no evidence; on the contrary we have his own express declaration that, after Servetus was convicted, he used no urgency that he should be put to death, and at their last interview he told Servetus that he never had avenged private injuries, and assured him that if he would repent it would not be his fault if all the pious did not give him their hands. There is the fact also that Calvin used his endeavour to have the sentence which had been pronounced against Servetus mitigated, death by burning being regarded by him as an "atrocity," for which he sought to substitute death by the sword. All that can be justly charged against Calvin in this matter is that he took the initiative in bringing on the trial of Servetus, that as his accuser he prosecuted the suit against him with undue severity, and that he approved the sentence which condemned Servetus to death. When, however, it is remembered that the unanimous decision of the Swiss churches and of the Swiss state Governments was that Servetus deserved to die; that the general voice of Christendom was in favour of this; that even such a man as Melanchthon affirmed the justice of the sentence; that an eminent English divine of the next age should declare the process against him "just and honourable," and that only a few voices here and there were at the time raised against it, candid and impartial men will be ready to accept the judgment of Coleridge, that the death of Servetus was not "Calvin's guilt especially, but the common opprobrium of all European Christendom."

The heresy of Servetus was not extirpated by his death, but none of his followers were visited with severer penalties than that of banishment from Geneva. The trials of several of these, with the conferences and controversies connected with them, occupied much of Calvin's time for several years. He was also involved in a protracted and somewhat vexing dispute with the Lutherans respecting the Lord's Supper, which ended in the separation of the evangelical party into the two great sections of Lutherans and Reformed,—the former of whom hold that in the eucharist the body and blood of Christ are objectively and consubstantially present, and so are actually partaken of by the communicants, whilst the latter maintain that there is only a virtual presence of the body and blood of Christ, and consequently only a spiritual participation thereof through faith. In connection with these controversies on points of faith, Calvin was for many years greatly disquieted, and sometimes even endangered, by the opposition offered by the libertine party in Geneva to the ecclesiastical discipline which he had established there. His system of church polity was essentially theocratic; it assumed that every member of the state was also under the discipline of the church; and he asserted that the right of exercising this discipline was vested exclusively in the consistory or body of preachers and elders. His attempts to carry out these views brought him into collision both with the authorities and with the populace,—the latter being enraged at the restraints imposed upon the disorderly by the exercise of church discipline, and the former being inclined to retain in their own hands a portion of that power in things spiritual which Calvin was bent on placing exclusively in the hands of the church rulers. His daunt-less courage, his perseverance, and his earnestness at length prevailed, and he had the satisfaction, before he died, of seeing his favourite system of church polity firmly established, not only at Geneva, but in other parts of Switzerland, and of knowing that it had been adopted substantially by the Reformers in France and Scotland. Nor was it only in religious matters that Calvin busied himself; nothing was indifferent to him that concerned the welfare and good order of the state or the advantage of its citizens. His work, as has been justly said, " embraced' everything;" he was consulted on every affair, great and small, that came before the council,—on questions of law, police, economy, trade, and manufactures, no less than on questions of doctrine and church polity. To him Geneva owed her trade in cloths and velvets, from which so much wealth accrued to her citizens; sanitary regulations were introduced by him which made Geneva the admiration of all visitors ; and in him she reverences the founder of her college, which still flourishes, and from which so many learned men have gone forth.

Amidst these multitudinous cares and occupations, Calvin found time to commit to writing a number of works besides those provoked by the various controversies in which he was engaged. The most numerous of these were of an exegetical character. Including discourses taken down from his lips by faithful auditors, we have from him expository comments or homilies on nearly all the books of Scripture, written partly in Latin and partly in French. In the estimation of many, these constitute the most valuable of his works. His candour and sincerity as an inquirer into the meaning of Scripture—his judiciousness, penetration, and tact in eliciting his author's meaning—his precision, condensation, and concinnity as an expositor—the accuracy of his learning, the closeness of his reasoning, and the elegance of his style, all conspire to confer a high value on his exegetical works, and to make them at once rich sources of biblical knowledge and admirable models of biblical exposition.

But it is chiefly as a theologian and the head of a theological school that Calvin is now known. This renders it fitting that some account should be here given of his theological system. This is developed in his Institutio, which, though produced originally at an early period of his life, was so frequently and carefully revised by him, that in the form in which it has come down to us it presents his most matured views and thoughts. In some of his tracts and polemical writings certain of his doctrines are more fully expounded, illustrated, and defended; but nowhere has he advocated any tenet which is not in sub-stance to be found in the Institutio.

Much of Calvin's theology is common to him with all evangelical divines, and in the parts which are more peculiar to him and his school he follows closely in the steps of Augustine. The following may be regarded as his characteristic tenets, though all are not peculiar to him.

Man as a sinner is guilty and corrupt. The first man was made in the image and likeness of God, which not only implies man's superiority to all other creatures, but indicates his original purity, integrity, and sanctity. From this state Adam fell, and in his fall involved the whole human race descended from him. Hence depravity and corruption, dif-fused through all parts of the soul, attach to all men, and this first makes them obnoxious to the anger of God, and then comes forth in works which the Scripture calls works of the flesh (Gal. v. 19). Thus all are held vitiated and per-verted in all parts of their nature, and on account of such corruption deservedly condemned before God, by whom nothing is accepted save righteousness, innocence, and purity. Nor is that a being bound for another's offence; for when it is said that we through Adam's sin have become obnoxious to the divine judgment, it is not to be taken as if we, being ourselves innocent and blameless, bear the fault of his offence, but that, we having been brought under a curse through his transgression, he is said to have bound us. From him, however, not only has punishment overtaken us, but a pestilence instilled from him resides in us, to which punishment is justly due. Thus even infants, whilst they bring their own condemnation with them from their mother's womb, are bound not by another's but by their own fault. For though they have not yet brought forth the fruits of their iniquity, they have the seed shut up in them ; nay, their whole nature is a sort of seed of sin, there-fore it cannot but be hateful and abominable to God (Instit. bk. ii. ch. i. sect. 8).

To redeem man from this state of guilt, and to recover him from corruption, the Son of God became incarnate, assum-ing man's nature into union with His own, so that in Him were two natures in one person. Thus incarnate He took on Him the offices of Prophet, Priest, and King, and by His humiliation, obedience, and suffering unto death, followed by His resurrection and ascension to heaven, He has perfected His work and fulfilled all that was required in aSRedeemer of men, so that it is truly affirmed that He has merited for man the grace of salvation (bk. ii. ch. 13-17). But until a man is in some way really united to Christ so as to partake of Him, the benefits of Christ's work cannot be attained by him. Now it is by the secret and special operation of the Holy Spirit that men are united to Christ and made members of His body. Through faith, which is a firm and certain cognition of the divine benevolence towards us founded on the truth of the gracious promise in Christ, men are by the operation of the Spirit united to Christ and are made partakers of His death and resurrection, so that the old man is crucified with Him and they are raised to a new life, a life of righteousness and holiness. Thus joined to Christ the believer has life in Him and knows that he is saved, having the witness of the Spirit that he is a child of God, and having the promises, the certitude of which the Spirit had before impressed on the mind, sealed by the same Spirit on the heart (bk. iii. ch. 33-3G). From faith pro-ceeds repentance, which is the turning of our life to God, proceeding from a sincere and earnest fear of God, and consisting in the mortification of the flesh and the old man within us and a vivification of the Spirit. Through faith also the believer receives justification, his sins are forgiven, he is accepted of God, and is held by Him as righteous, the righteousness of Christ being imputed to him, and faith being the instrument by which the man lays hold on Christ, so that with His righteousness the man appears in God's sight as righteous. This imputed righteousness, however, is not disjoined from real personal righteousness, for regeneration and sanctification come to the believer from Christ no less than justification ; the two blessings are not to be confounded, but neither are they to be disjoined. The assurance which the believer has of salvation he receives from the operation and witness of the Holy Spirit; but this again rests on the divine choice of the man to salvation ; and this falls back on God's eternal sove-reign purpose, whereby He has predestinated some to eternal life while the rest of mankind are predestin-ated to condemnation and eternal death. Those whom God has chosen to life He effectually calls to salva-tion, and they are kept by Him in progressive faith and holiness unto the end (bk. iii. passim). The external means or aids by which God unites men into the fellowship of Christ, and sustains and advances those who believe, are the church and its ordinances, especially the sacraments. The church universal is the multitude gathered from diverse nations, which though divided by distance of time and place, agree in one common faith, and it is bound by the tie of the same religion; and wherever the word of God is sincerely preached, and the sacraments are duly administered, according to Christ's institute, there beyond doubt is a church of the living God (bk. iv. ch. 1, sect. 7-11). The permanent officers in the church are pastors and teachers, to the former of whom it belongs to preside over the discipline of the church, to administer the sacra-ments, and to admonish and exhort the members; while the latter occupy themselves with the exposition of Scrip-ture, so that pure and wholesome doctrine may be retained. With them are to be joined for the government of the church certain pious, grave, and holy men as a senate in each church; and to others, as deacons, is to be entrusted the care of the poor. The election of the officers in a church is to be with the people, and those duly chosen and called are to be ordained by the laying on of the hands of the pastors (ch. 3, sect. 4-16). The sacraments are two— Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Baptism is the sign of initiation whereby men are admitted into the society of the church and, being grafted into Christ, are reckoned among the sons of God ; it serves both for the confirmation of faith and as a confession before men. The Lord's Supper is a spiritual feast where Christ attests that He is the life-giving bread, by which our souls are fed unto true and blessed immortality. That sacred communication of His flesh and blood whereby Christ transfuses into us His life, even as if it penetrated into our bones and marrow, He in the Supper attests and seals; and that not by a vain or empty sign set before us, but there He puts forth the efficacy of His Spirit whereby He fulfils what He promises. In the mystery of the Supper Christ is truly exhibited to us by the symbols of bread and wine; and so his body and blood, in which He fulfilled all obedience for the obtaining of righteousness for us, are presented. There is no such presence of Christ in the Supper as that He is affixed to the bread or included in it or in any way circumscribed; but whatever can express the true and substantialcommunication of the body and blood of the Lord, which is exhibited to believers under the said symbols of the Supper, is to be received, and that not as perceived by the imagination only or mental intelligence, but as enjoyed for the aliment of the eternal life (bk. iv. ch. 15, 17).

The incessantand exhausting labours to which Calvin gave himself, could not but tell on the strongest constitution: how much more on one so fragile as his ! Amid many suffer-ings, however, and frequent attacks of sickness, he manfully pursued his course for twenty-eight years; nor was it till his frail body, torn by many and painful diseases—fever, asthma, stone, ahd gout, the fruits for the most part of his sedentary habits and unpausing activity-—had, as it were, fallen to pieces around him, that his indomitable spirit relinquished the conflict. In the early part of the year 1564 his sufferings became so severe that it was manifest his earthly career was rapidly drawing to a close. On the 6 th of February of that year he preached his last sermon, having with great difficulty found breath enough to carry him through it. He was several times after this carried to church, but never again was able to take any part in the service. With a noble disinterestedness he refused to receive his stipend, now that he was no longer able to discharge the duties of his office. In the midst of his sufferings, however, his zeal and energy kept him in continual occupation; when expostulated with for such unseasonable toil, he replied, " Would you that the Lord should find me idle when He comes t " After he had retired from public labours he lingered for some months, enduring the severest agony without a murmur, and cheerfully attending to all the duties of a private kind which his diseases left him strength to discharge. A deep impression seems to have been made on all who visited him on his deathbed; they saw in him the noble spectacle of a great spirit that had done its life-work, calmly and trustfully passing through the gate of suffering into the long-desired and firmly-expected repose of heaven. He quietly expired in the arms of his faithful friend Beza, on the evening of the 27th of May, in the fifty-fifth year of his age.

Calvin was of middle stature; his complexion was somewhat pallid and dark; his eyes, to the latest clear and lustrous, bespoke the acumen of his genius. He was sparing in his food and simple in his dress; he took but little sleep, and was capable of extraordinary efforts of intellectual toil. His memory was prodigious, but he used it only as the servant of his higher faculties. As a reasoner he has seldom been equalled, and the soundness and penetration of his judgment were such as to give to his conclusions in practical questions almost the appearance of predictions, and inspire in all his friends the utmost confidence in the wisdom of his counsels. As a theologian he stands on an eminence which only Augustine has surpassed; whilst in his skill as an expositor of Scripture, and his terse and elegant style, he possessed advantages to which Augustine was a stranger. His private character was in harmony with his public reputation and position. If somewhat severe and irritable, he was at the same time scrupulously just, truthful, and steadfast; he never deserted a friend or took an unfair advantage of an antagonist; and on befitting occasions he could be cheerful and even facetious among his intimates. "I have been a witness of him for sixteen years," says Beza, "and I think I am fully entitled to say that in this man there was exhibited to all an example of the life and death of the Christian, such as it will not be easy to depreciate, such as it will be difficult to emulate." (W. L. A.)


Footnotes

The family name of Calvin seems to have been written indifferently
s Calv., Prcef. ad Comment, in Psalmos.
Prmf. ad Psalmos.
Jo. Calvini Vita, sub init.

Epist. Ded., Comment, m Ep. II. ad Corinlhios prosfix.
8 Prœf. ad Psalmos.
Hist. Ecoles., t. i. pp. 6, 7 ; Lille, 1841. 4 Prœf. ad Psalmos.
* Hist. Eccles. ubi. sup. 6 Calv., Contr. Lihertinos, c. 4.

1 Hist. Eccles., vol. i. p. 9.

Calvini Refut. Errorum Serveti, Opp., t. viii. p.511.; Ed. Amstel.
This edition forms a small ovo of 514 pages, and 6 pages of indez. It appeared at Basel from the press of Thomas Platter and Balthasa?. Lasius in March 1536.
Prarf. ad Psalmos. 4 Hid.
Calvini Refut. Errorum Serveti, Opp., t. viii. p.511.; Ed. Amstel.

Beia, Vit. Calv. an. 1536.

A digest of Servetus's views is given by Dorner, Entwickelungs-geschichte der Lehre von d. Person Christi, ii. pp. 649-656, Eng. trans., div. ii., vol. ii. pp. 161-168.
Si mihi plaeeat line se venturum recipit. Sed nolo fidem meam interponere. Nam si modo valeat mea autoritas vivum exire nunquam-patiar.—Calvin to Farel, 12th Feb. 1546.
See art. "Servet" Treehsel in Herzog s Real-Eneyelopcedie, voL. xiv. n. 297.

Fidelis Expositio Erroruro Serveti, sub init. Calvini Opp. t. ix.
Calvin to Farei, 20th Aug. 1553.
Tuo judicio prorsus assentior. Affirmo etiam vestros magistratus juste fecisse quod hominem blasplienium, re ordine judicata, interfece-runt.—Melanchthon to Calvin, 14th Oct. 1554.
* Field On the Church, bk. iii. c. 27, vol. i. p. 288, ed. Camb. 1847.
Notes on English Divines, vol. i. p. 49. See also Table Talk, vol. it. p. 282, ed. 1835.

Vt. Calv. svh fm. This is the principal source for the facts of 'Calvin's life. Beza's narrative has been expanded and illustrated from other sources by Dr Henry in his Leben Calvins, of which an English otranslation has appeared in 2 vols. 8vo, by the Rev. H. Stebbing. Audin has written a life of Calvin in French, full of misrepresentations and blunders. A highly respectable work has appeared on the same osubject from the pen of M. Dyer, in 1 vol. 8vo. M. Bungener has also Teoently sent forth a Life of Calvin, which has been translated into English, Edin., 1863. Of Calvin's works, two editions appeared at Geneva, one in 12 vols. fol. in 1578, the other in 7 vols. fol. in 161.7. An edition, hitherto reputed the best, was published at Amsterdam in 9 vols. fol. in 1671. A new edition in 4to is at present in course of publication, carefully edited by G. Baum, E. Cunitz, and E. Reuss, .at Brunswick. An English translation has been issued at Edin-burgh in 53 vols. 8vo.




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