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§ 84. Expulsion of the Reformers. 1538.


Calvin’s correspondence from 1537 to 1538, in Op. vol. X., Pt. II. 137 sqq. Herminjard, vols. IV. and V.—Annal. Calv., Op. XXI., fol. 215–235.

Henry, I. ch. IX.—Dyer, 78sqq.—Stähelin, I. 151 sqq.—Kampschulte, I. 296–319. Merle D’Aubigné, bk. XI. chs. XI.–XIV. (vol. VI. 469 sqq.).

C. A. Cornelius: Die Verbannung Calvins aus Genf. i. J. 1538. München, 1886.


The submission of the people of Geneva to such a severe system of discipline was only temporary. Many had never sworn to the Confession, notwithstanding the threat of punishment, and among them were the most influential citizens of the republic;486486    According to the testimony of Claude Rozet, the secretary of state. He himself had not sworn the Confession, although he had read it publicly and taken the oath of the citizens in St. Peter’s, July 29, 1537. others declared that they had been compelled to perjure themselves. The impossibility of enforcing the law brought the Council into contempt. Ami Porral, the leader of the clerical party in the Council, was charged with arbitrary conduct and disregard of the rights of the people. The Patriots and Libertines who had hailed the Reformation in the interest of political independence from the yoke of Savoy and of the bishop, had no idea of becoming slaves of Farel, and were jealous of the influence of foreigners. An intrigue to annex Geneva to the kingdom of France increased the suspicion. The Patriots organized themselves as a political party and labored to overthrow the clerical régime. They were aided in part by Bern, which was opposed to the tenet of excommunication and to the radicalism of the Reformers.

There was another cause of dissatisfaction even among the more moderate, which brought on the crisis. Farel in his iconoclastic zeal had, before the arrival of Calvin, abolished all holidays except Sunday, the baptismal fonts, and the unleavened bread in the communion, all of which were retained by the Reformed Church in Bern.487487    Beza, in Calvin’s Opera, XXI. 128. A synod of Lausanne, under the influence of Bern, recommended the restoration of the old Bernese customs, as they were called. The Council enforced this decision. Calvin himself regarded such matters as in themselves indifferent, but would not forsake his colleagues.

Stormy scenes took place in the general assembly of citizens, Nov. 15, 1537. In the popular elections on Feb. 3, 1538, the anti-clerical party succeeded in the election of four syndics and a majority of the Council.488488    The new syndics, Claude Richardet, Jean Philippe, Jean Lullin, and Ami de Chapeaurouge, were pronounced enemies of Farel and Viret. Ami Porral was not re-elected. Grynaeus of Basel wrote several letters of comfort and encouragement to Farel and Calvin, Feb. 13, March 4, March 12, 1538. In Herminjard, IV. 361, 379, 401.

The new rulers proceeded with caution. They appointed new preachers for the country, which was much needed. They prohibited indecent songs and broils in the streets, and going out at night after nine. They took Bern for their model. They enforced the decision of the Council of Lausanne concerning the Church festivals and baptismal fonts.

But the preachers were determined to die rather than to yield an inch. They continued to thunder against the popular vices, and censured the Council for want of energy in suppressing them. The result was that they were warned not to meddle in politics (March 12).489489    Ann. 222, "de point se mesler du magistrat." Courauld, who surpassed even Farel in vehemence, was forbidden to preach, but ascended the pulpit again, April 7, denounced Geneva and its citizens in a rude and insulting manner,490490    He compared the state of Geneva with the kingdom of frogs, and the Genevese with rats. Merle d’Aubigné, VI. 455. was imprisoned, and six days afterwards banished in spite of the energetic protests of Calvin and Farel. The old man retired to Thonon, on the lake of Geneva, was elected minister at Orbe, and died there Oct. 4 in the same year.

Calvin and Farel were emboldened by this harsh treatment of their colleague. They attacked the Council from the pulpit. Even Calvin went so far as to denounce it as the Devil’s Council. Libels were circulated against the preachers. They often heard the cry late in the evening, "To the Rhone with the traitors," and in the night they were disturbed by violent knocks at the door of their dwelling.

They were ordered to celebrate the approaching Easter communion after the Bernese rite, but they refused to do so in the prevailing state of debauchery and insubordination. The Council could find no supplies. On Easter Sunday, April 21, Calvin, after all, ascended the pulpit of St. Peter’s; Farel, the pulpit of St. Gervais. They preached before large audiences, but declared that they could not administer the communion to the rebellious city, lest the sacrament be desecrated. And indeed, under existing circumstances, the celebration of the love-feast of the Saviour would have been a solemn mockery. Many hearers were armed, drew their swords, and drowned the voice of the preachers, who left the church and went home under the protection of their friends. Calvin preached also in the evening in the Church of St. Francis at Rive in the lower part of the city, and was threatened with violence.

The small Council met after the morning service in great commotion and summoned the general Council. On the next two days, April 22 and 23, the great Council of the Two Hundred assembled in the cloisters of St. Peter’s, deposed Farel and Calvin, without a trial, and ordered them to leave the city within three days.491491    The same Council deposed Claude Rozet, the secretary of state, who, in his official capacity, had recorded the oath of the people to the Confession of Faith, July 29, 1537. Registers of April 23, 1538. Rozet, Chron. MS. de Genève, Bk. IV. ch. 18 (quoted by Merle d’Aubigné, VI. 485).

They received the news with great composure. "Very well," said Calvin, "it is better to serve God than man. If we had sought to please men, we should have been badly rewarded, but we serve a higher Master, who will not withhold from us his reward."492492    Beza, Rozet, and the Registers all report this answer with slight variations. Farel’s answer to the messenger was: "Well and good; it is from God." Calvin even rejoiced at the result more than seemed proper.

The people celebrated the downfall of the clerical régime with public rejoicings. The decrees of the synod of Lausanne were published by sound of trumpets. The baptismal fonts were re-erected, and the communion administered on the following Sunday with unleavened bread.

The deposed ministers went to Bern, but found little sympathy. They proceeded to Zürich, where a general synod was held, and were kindly received. They admitted that they had been too rigid, and consented to the restoration of the baptismal fonts, the unleavened bread (provided the bread was broken), and the four Church festivals observed in Bern; but they insisted on the introduction of discipline, the division of the Church into parishes, the more frequent administration of the communion, the singing of Psalms in public worship, and the exercise of discipline by joint committees of laymen and ministers.493493    See the 14 Articles drawn up by Calvin and Farel, in Henry, I. Beilage, 8; in Op. X., Part II. 190-192, and in Herminjard, V. 3-6.

Bullinger undertook to advocate this compromise before Bern and Geneva. But the Genevese confirmed in general assembly the sentence of banishment, May 26.

With gloomy prospects for the future, yet trusting in God, who orders all things well, the exiled ministers travelled on horseback in stormy weather to Basel. In crossing a torrent swollen by the rains they were nearly swept away. In Basel they were warmly received by sympathizing friends, especially by Grynaeus. Here they determined to wait for the call of Providence. Farel, after a few weeks, in July, received and accepted a call to Neuchâtel, his former seat of labor, on condition that he should have freedom to introduce his system of discipline. Calvin was induced, two months later, to leave Basel for Strassburg.

It was during this crisis that Calvin’s friend and travelling companion, Louis du Tillet, who seems to have been of a mild and peaceable disposition, lost faith in the success of the Reformation. He left Geneva in August, 1537, for Strassburg and Paris, and returned to the Roman Church. He had relations in high standing who influenced him. His brother, Jean du Tillet, was the famous registrar of the Parliament of Paris; another brother became bishop of Sainte-Brieux, afterwards of Meaux.494494    Herminjard, V. 107 (note 11); and p. 163. He explained to Calvin his conscientious scruples and reasons for the change. Calvin regarded them as insufficient, and warned him earnestly, but kindly and courteously. The separation was very painful to both, but was relieved by mutual regard. Du Tillet even offered to aid Calvin in his distressed condition after his expulsion, but Calvin gratefully declined, writing from Strassburg, Oct. 20, 1538: "You have made me an offer for which I cannot sufficiently thank you; neither am I so rude and unmannerly as not to feel the unmerited kindness so deeply, that even in declining to accept it, I can never adequately express the obligation that I owe to you." As to their difference of opinion, he appeals to the judgment of God to decide who are the true schismatics, and concludes the letter with the prayer: "May our Lord uphold and keep you in his holy protection, so directing you that you decline not from his way."495495    See the correspondence in Herminjard, IV. 354-359 and 384-400; V. 103-109; 161, 162; 186-200. Du Tillet writes under his nom seigneurial De Haultmont to Charles d’Espeville (Calvin). His last letter is dated Paris, Dec. 1, 1538, and closes with the desire to remain, always his friend and brother in Christ." There is also an answer of Bucer to Du Tillet from Strassburg, Oct. 8, 1539 (in Herminjard, VI. 61-70), in which he refutes four objections which Du Tillet had made against the Protestants, viz.: 1) that they seceded from the Church of Christ; 2) that they rejected good customs and observances of the Church; 3) that they spoiled the goods of the Church; 4) that they denied many true dogmas and introduced false dogmas.




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