§ 69. Calvin’s Youth and Training.


Calvini Opera, vol. XXI. (1879).—On Noyon and the family of Calvin, Jacques Le Vasseur (Dr. of theology, canon and dean of the cathedral of Noyon): Annales de l’église cathédrale de Noyon. Paris, 1633, 2 vols. 4°.—Jacques Desmay(Dr. of the Sorbonne and vicar-general of the diocese of Rouen): Remarques sur la vie de Jean Calvin tirées des Registres de Noyon, lieu de sa naissance. Rouen, 1621.

Thomas M’Crie (d. 1835): The Early Years of Calvin. A Fragment. 1509–1536. Ed. by William Ferguson. Edinburgh, 1880 (199 pp.). A posthumous work of the learned biographer of Knox and Melville.

Abel Lefranc: La Jeunesse de Calvin. Paris (33 rue de Seine), 228 pp.

Comp. the biographies of Calvin by Henry, large work, vol. I. chs. I.–VIII. (small ed. 1846, pp. 12–29); Dyer (1850), pp. 4–10; Stähelin (1862) I. 3–12; *Kampschulte (1869), I. 221–225.


"As David was taken from the sheepfold and elevated to the rank of supreme authority; so God having taken me from my originally obscure and humble condition, has reckoned me worthy of being invested with the honorable office of a preacher and minister of the gospel. When I was yet a very little boy, my father had destined me for the study of theology. But afterwards, when he considered that the legal profession commonly raised those who follow it, to wealth, this prospect induced him suddenly to change his purpose. Thus it came to pass, that I was withdrawn from the study of philosophy and was put to the study of law. To this pursuit I endeavored faithfully to apply myself, in obedience to the will of my father; but God, by the secret guidance of his providence, at length gave a different direction to my course. And first, since I was too obstinately devoted to the superstitions of popery to be easily extricated from so profound an abyss of mire, God by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame, which was more burdened in such matters than might have been expected from one at my early period of life. Having thus received some taste and knowledge of true godliness, I was immediately inflamed with so intense a desire to make progress therein, that though I did not altogether leave off other studies, I yet pursued them with less ardor."380

This is the meagre account which Calvin himself incidentally gives of his youth and conversion, in the Preface to his Commentary on the Psalms, when speaking of the life of David, in which he read his own spiritual experience. Only once more he alludes, very briefly, to his change of religion. In his Answer to Cardinal Sadoletus, he assures him that he did not consult his temporal interest when he left the papal party. "I might," he said, "have reached without difficulty the summit of my wishes, namely, the enjoyment of literary ease, with something of a free and honorable station."381

Luther indulged much more freely in reminiscences of his hard youth, his early monastic life, and his discovery of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, which gave peace and rest to his troubled conscience.

John Calvin382 was born July 10, 1509,—twenty-five years after Luther and Zwingli,—at Noyon, an ancient cathedral city, called Noyon-la-Sainte, on account of its many churches, convents, priests, and monks, in the northern province of Picardy, which has given birth to the crusading monk, Peter of Amiens, to the leaders of the French Reformation and Counter-Reformation (the Ligue), and to many revolutionary as well as reactionary characters.383

His father, Gérard Cauvin, a man of hard and severe character, occupied a prominent position as apostolic secretary to the bishop of Noyon, proctor in the Chapter of the diocese, and fiscal procurator of the county, and lived on intimate terms with the best families of the neighborhood.384  His mother, Jeanne Lefranc, of Cambrai, was noted for her beauty and piety, but died in his early youth, and is not mentioned in his letters. The father married a second time. He became involved in financial embarrassment, and was excommunicated, perhaps on suspicion of heresy. He died May 26 (or 25), 1531, after a long sickness, and would have been buried in unconsecrated soil but for the intercession of his son, Charles, who gave security for the discharge of his father’s obligations.385

Calvin had four brothers and two sisters.386  Two of his brothers died young, the other two received a clerical education, and were early provided with benefices through the influence of the father.

Charles, his elder brother, was made chaplain of the cathedral in 1518, and curé of Roupy, but became a heretic or infidel, was excommunicated in 1531, and died Oct. 1, 1537, having refused the sacrament on his death-bed. He was buried by night between the four pillars of a gibbet.387

His younger brother, Antoine, was chaplain at Tournerolle, near Traversy, but embraced the evangelical faith, and, with his sister, Marie, followed the Reformer to Geneva in 1536. Antoine kept there a bookstore, received the citizenship gratuitously, on account of the merits of his brother (1546), was elected a member of the Council of Two Hundred (1558), and of the Council of the Sixty (1570), also one of the directors of the hospital, and died in 1573. He was married three times, and divorced from his second wife, the daughter of a refugee, on account of her proved adultery (1557). Calvin had innocently to suffer for this scandal, but made him and his five children chief heirs of his little property.388

The other sister of Calvin was married at Noyon, and seems to have remained in the Roman Catholic Church.

A relative and townsman of Calvin, Pierre Robert, called Olivetan, embraced Protestantism some years before him, and studied Greek and Hebrew with Bucer at Strassburg in 1528.389  He joined Farel in Neuchatel, and published there his French translation of the Bible in 1535.

More than a hundred years after Calvin’s death, another member of the family, Eloi Cauvin, a Benedictine monk, removed from Noyon to Geneva, and embraced the Reformed religion (June 13, 1667).390

These and other facts show the extent of the anti-papal sentiment in the family of Cauvin. In 1561 a large number of prominent persons of Noyon were suspected of heresy, and in 1562 the Chapter of Noyon issued a profession of faith against the doctrines of Calvin.391

After the death of Calvin, Protestantism was completely crushed out in his native town.

Calvin received his first education with the children of the noble family de Mommor (not Montmor), to which he remained gratefully attached. He made rapid progress in learning, and acquired a refinement of manners and a certain aristocratic air, which distinguished him from Luther and Zwingli. A son of de Mommor accompanied him to Paris, and followed him afterwards to Geneva.

His ambitious father destined him first for the clerical profession. He secured for him even in his twelfth year (1521) a part of the revenue of a chaplaincy in the cathedral of Noyon.392  In his eighteenth year Calvin received, in addition, the charge of S. Martin de Marteville (Sept. 27, 1527), although he had not yet the canonical age, and had only received the tonsure.

Such shocking irregularities were not uncommon in those days. Pluralism and absenteeism, though often prohibited by Councils, were among the crying abuses of the Church. Charles de Hangest, bishop of Noyon, obtained at fifteen years of age a dispensation from the pope "to hold all kinds of offices, compatible and incompatible, secular and regular, etiam tria curata "; and his nephew and successor, Jean de Hangest, was elected bishop at nineteen years of age. Odet de Châtillon, brother of the famous Coligny, was created cardinal in his sixteenth year. Pope Leo X. received the tonsure as a boy of seven, was made archbishop in his eighth, and cardinal-deacon in his thirteenth year (with the reservation that he should not put on the insignia of his dignity nor discharge the duties of his office till he was sixteen), besides being canon in three cathedrals, rector in six parishes, prior in three convents, abbot in thirteen additional abbeys, and bishop of Amalfi, deriving revenues from them all!

Calvin resigned the chaplaincy in favor of his younger brother, April 30, 1529. He exchanged the charge of S. Martin for that of the village Pont-l’Evèque (the birthplace of his father), July 5, 1529, but he resigned it, May 4, 1534, before he left France. In the latter parish he preached sometimes, but never administered the sacraments, not being ordained to the priesthood.393

The income from the chaplaincy enabled him to prosecute his studies at Paris, together with his noble companions. He entered the College de la Marche in August, 1523, in his fourteenth year.394  He studied grammar and rhetoric with an experienced and famous teacher, Marthurin Cordier (Cordatus). He learned from him to think and to write Latin, and dedicated to him in grateful memory his Commentary on the First Epistle to the Thessalonians (1550). Cordier became afterwards a Protestant and director of the College of Geneva, where he died at the age of eighty-five in the same year with Calvin (1564).395

From the College de la Marche Calvin was transferred to the strictly ecclesiastical College de Montague, in which philosophy and theology were taught under the direction of a learned Spaniard. In February, 1528, Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the order of the Jesuits, entered the same college and studied under the same teacher. The leaders of the two opposite currents in the religious movement of the sixteenth century came very near living under the same roof and sitting at the same table.

Calvin showed during this early period already the prominent traits of his character: he was conscientious, studious, silent, retired, animated by a strict sense of duty, and exceedingly religious.396  An uncertain tradition says that his fellow-students called him "the Accusative," on account of his censoriousness.397




Thirteen years after Calvin’s death, Bolsec, his bitter enemy, once a Romanist, then a Protestant, then a Romanist again, wrote a calumnious history of his life (Histoire de la vie, moeurs, actes, doctrine, constance, et mort de Jean Calvin, Lyon, 1577, republished by Louis-François Chastel, Magistrat, Lyon, 1875, pp. 323, with an introduction of xxxi. pp.). He represents Calvin as "a man, above all others who lived in the world, ambitious, impudent, arrogant, cruel, malicious, vindictive, and ignorant"(!) (p. 12).

Among other incredible stories he reports that Calvin in his youth was stigmatized (fleur-de-lysé, branded with the national flower of France) at Noyon in punishment of a heinous crime, and then fled from France in disgrace. "Calvin," he says (p. 28 sq.), "pourveu d’une cure et d’une chapelle, fut surprins ou (et) convaincu Du peché de Sodomie, pour lequel il fut en danger de mort par feu, comment est la commune peine de tel peché: mais que l’Evesque de laditte ville [Noyon] par compassion feit moderer laditte peine en une marque de fleur de lys chaude sur l’espaule. Iceluy Calvin confuz de telle vergongne et vitupère, se defit de ses deux bénéfices es mains du curé de Noyon, duquel ayant receu quelque somme d’argent s’en alla vers Allemaigne et Itallie: cherchant son adventure, et passa par la ville de Ferrare, ou il receut quelque aumone de Madame la Duchesse." Bolsec gives as his authority a Mr. Bertelier, secretary of the Council of Geneva, who, he says, was sent to Noyon to make inquiries about the early life of Calvin, and saw the document of his disgrace. But nobody else has seen such a document, and if it had existed at all, it would have been used against him by his enemies. The story is contradicted by all that is authentically known of Calvin, and has been abundantly refuted by Drelincourt, and recently again by Lefranc (p. 48 sqq., 176–182). Kampschulte (I. 224, note 2) declares it unworthy of serious refutation. Nevertheless it has been often repeated by Roman controversialists down to Audin.

The story is either a malignant slander, or it arose from confounding the Reformer with a younger person of the same name (Jean Cauvin), and chaplain of the same church at Noyon, who it appears was punished for some immorality of a different kind ("pour avoir retenue en so maison une femme du mauvais gouvernement") in the year 1550, that is, about twenty years later, and who was no heretic, but died a "bon Catholic" (as Le Vasseur reports in Annales de Noyon, p. 1170, quoted by Lefranc, p. 182). b.c. Galiffe, who is unfriendly to Calvin, adopts the latter suggestion (Quelques pages d’histoire exacte, p. 118).

Several other myths were circulated about the Reformer; e.g., that he was the son of a concubine of a priest; that he was an intemperate eater; that he stole a silver goblet at Orleans, etc. See Lefranc, pp. 52 sqq.

Similar perversions and inventions attach to many a great name. The Sanhedrin who crucified the Lord circulated the story that the disciples stole his body and cheated the world. The heretical Ebionites derived the conversion of Paul from disappointed ambition and revenge for an alleged offence of the high-priest, who had refused to give him his daughter in marriage. The long-forgotten myth of Luther’s suicide has been seriously revived in our own age (1890) by Roman Catholic priests (Majunke and Honef) in the interest of revived Ultramontanism, and is believed by thousands in spite of repeated refutation.


 § 70. Calvin as a Student in the French Universities. a.d. 1528–1533.


The letters of Calvin from 1530 to 1532, chiefly addressed to his fellow-student, François Daniel of Orleans, edited by Jules Bonnet, in the Edinburgh ed. of Calvin’s Letters, I. 3 sqq.; Herminjard, II. 278 sqq.; Opera, X. Part II. 3 sqq. His first letter to Daniel is dated "Melliani, 8 Idus Septembr.," and is put by Herminjard and Reuss in the year 1530 (not 1529). Mellianum is Meillant, south of Bourges (and not to be confounded with Meaux, as is done in the Edinburgh edition).

Comp. Beza-Colladon, in Op. XXI. 54 sqq., 121 sqq. L. Bonnet: É tudes sur Calvin, in the "Revue Chrétienne "for 1855. —Kampschulte, I. 226–240;M’Crie, 12–28;Lefranc, 72–108.


Calvin received the best education—in the humanities, law, philosophy, and theology—which France at that time could give. He studied successively in the three leading universities of Orleans, Bourges, and Paris, from 1528 to 1533, first for the priesthood, then, at the wish of his father, for the legal profession, which promised a more prosperous career. After his father’s death, he turned again with double zeal to the study of the humanities, and at last to theology.

He made such progress in learning that he occasionally supplied the place of the professors. He was considered a doctor rather than an auditor.398  Years afterwards, the memory of his prolonged night studies survived in Orleans and Bourges. By his excessive industry he stored his memory with valuable information, but undermined his health, and became a victim to headache, dyspepsia, and insomnia, of which he suffered more or less during his subsequent life.399  While he avoided the noisy excitements and dissipations of student life, he devoted his leisure to the duties and enjoyments of friendship with like-minded fellow-students. Among them were three young lawyers, Duchemin, Connan, and François Daniel, who felt the need of a reformation and favored progress, but remained in the old Church. His letters from that period are brief and terse; they reveal a love of order and punctuality, and a conscientious regard for little as well as great things, but not a trace of opposition to the traditional faith.

His principal teacher in Greek and Hebrew was Melchior Volmar (Wolmar), a German humanist of Rottweil, a pupil of Lefèvre, and successively professor in the universities of Orleans and Bourges, and, at last, at Tübingen, where he died in 1561. He openly sympathized with the Lutheran Reformation, and may have exerted some influence upon his pupil in this direction, but we have no authentic information about it.400  Calvin was very intimate with him, and could hardly avoid discussing with him the religious question which was then shaking all Europe. In grateful remembrance of his services he dedicated to him his Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Aug. 1, 1546).401

His teachers in law were the two greatest jurists of the age, Pierre d’Estoile (Petrus Stella) at Orleans, who was conservative, and became President of the Parliament of Paris, and Andrea Alciati at Bourges, a native of Milan, who was progressive and continued his academic career in Bologna and Padua. Calvin took an interest in the controversy of these rivals, and wrote a little preface to the Antapologia of his friend, Nicholas Duchemin, in favor of d’Estoile.402  He acquired the degree of Licentiate or Bachelor of Laws at Orleans, Feb. 14, 1531 (1532).403  On leaving the university he was offered the degree of Doctor of Laws without the usual fees, by the unanimous consent of the professors.404  He was consulted about the divorce question of Henry VIII., when it was proposed to the universities and scholars of the Continent; and he gave his opinion against the lawfulness of marriage with a brother’s widow.405  The study of jurisprudence sharpened his judgment, enlarged his knowledge of human nature, and was of great practical benefit to him in the organization and administration of the Church in Geneva, but may have also increased his legalism and overestimate of logical demonstration.

In the summer of 1531, after a visit to Noyon, where he attended his father in his last sickness, Calvin removed a second time to Paris, accompanied by his younger brother, Antoine. He found there several of his fellow-students of Orleans and Bourges; one of them offered him the home of his parents, but he declined, and took up his abode in the College Fortet, where we find him again in 1533. A part of the year he spent in Orleans.

Left master of his fortune, he now turned his attention again chiefly to classical studies. He attended the lectures of Pierre Danès, a Hellenist and encyclopaedic scholar of great reputation.406

He showed as yet no trace of opposition to the Catholic Church. His correspondence refers to matters of friendship and business, but avoids religious questions. When Daniel asked him to introduce his sister to the superior of a nunnery in Paris which she wished to enter, he complied with the request, and made no effort to change her purpose. He only admonished her not to confide in her own strength, but to put her whole trust in God. This shows, at least, that he had lost faith in the meritoriousness of vows and good works, and was approaching the heart of the evangelical system.407

He associated much with a rich and worthy merchant, Estienne de la Forge, who afterwards was burned for the sake of the Gospel (1535).

He seems to have occasionally suffered in Paris of pecuniary embarrassment. The income from his benefices was irregular, and he had to pay for the printing of his first book. At the close of 1531 he borrowed two crowns from his friend, Duchemin. He expressed a hope soon to discharge his debt, but would none the less remain a debtor in gratitude for the services of friendship.

It is worthy of remark that even those of his friends who refused to follow him in his religious change, remained true to him. This is an effective refutation of the charge of coldness so often made against him. François Daniel of Orleans renewed the correspondence in 1559, and entrusted to him the education of his son Pierre, who afterwards became an advocate and bailiff of Saint-Benoit near Orleans.408


 § 71. Calvin as a Humanist. Commentary on Seneca.


"L. Annei Se | necae, Romani Senato | ris, ac philosophi clarissi | mi, libri duo de Clementia, ad Ne | ronem Caesarem: | Joannis Caluini Nouiodunaei commentariis illustrati ... | Parisiis ... 1532." 4°). Reprinted 1576, 1597, 1612, and, from the ed. princeps, in Opera, vol. V. (1866) pp. 5–162. The commentary is preceded by a dedicatory epistle, a sketch of the life of Seneca.

H. Lecoultre: Calvin d’après son commentaire sur le "De Clementia" de Sénèque (1532). Lausanne, 1891 (pp. 29).


In April, 1532, Calvin, in his twenty-third year, ventured before the public with his first work, which was printed at his own expense, and gave ample proof of his literary taste and culture. It is a commentary on Seneca’s book On Mercy. He announced its appearance to Daniel with the words, "Tandem jacta est alea."  He sent a copy to Erasmus, who had published the works of Seneca in 1515 and 1529. He calls him "the honor and delight of the world of letters."409  It is dedicated to Claude de Hangest, his former schoolmate of the Mommor family, at that time abbot of St. Eloy (Eligius) at Noyon.

This book moves in the circle of classical philology and moral philosophy, and reveals a characteristic love for the best type of Stoicism, great familiarity with Greek and Roman literature.410 masterly Latinity, rare exegetical skill, clear and sound judgment, and a keen insight into the evils of despotism and the defects of the courts of justice, but makes no allusion to Christianity. It is remarkable that his first book was a commentary on a moral philosopher who came nearer to the apostle Paul than any heathen writer.

It is purely the work of a humanist, not of an apologist or a reformer. There is no evidence that it was intended to be an indirect plea for toleration and clemency in behalf of the persecuted Protestants. It is not addressed to the king of France, and the implied comparison of Francis with Nero in the incidental reference to the Neronian persecution would have defeated such a purpose.411

Calvin, like Melanchthon and Zwingli, started as a humanist, and, like them, made the linguistic and literary culture of the Renaissance tributary to the Reformation. They all admired Erasmus until he opposed the Reformation, for which he had done so much to prepare the way. They went boldly forward, when he timidly retreated. They loved religion more than letters. They admired the heathen classics, but they followed the apostles and evangelists as guides to the higher wisdom of God.


 § 72. Calvin’s Conversion. 1532.


Preface to his Commentary on the Psalms (Opera, XXXI. 21, 22, Latin and French in parallel columns), and his Reply to Sadolet (Opera, V. 389). See above, p. 296.

Henry, I. ch. II. Stähelin, I. l6–28. Kampschulte, I. 230. Lefranc, 96 sqq.

A brilliant career—as a humanist, or a lawyer, or a churchman—opened before Calvin, when he suddenly embraced the cause of the Reformation, and cast in his lot with a poor persecuted sect.


Reformation was in the air. The educated classes could not escape its influence. The seed sown by Lefèvre had sprung up in France. The influence from Germany and Switzerland made itself felt more and more. The clergy opposed the new opinions, the men of letters favored them. Even the court was divided: King Francis I. persecuted the Protestants; his sister, Marguerite d’Angoulème, queen of Navarre, protected them. How could a young scholar of such precocious mind and intense studiousness as Calvin be indifferent to the religious question which agitated the universities of Orleans, Bourges, and Paris?  He must have searched the Scriptures long and carefully before he could acquire such familiarity as he shows already in his first theological writings.

He speaks of his conversion as a sudden one (subita conversio), but this does not exclude previous preparation any more than in the case of Paul.412  A city may be taken by a single assault, yet after a long siege. Calvin was not an unbeliever, nor an immoral youth; on the contrary, he was a devout Catholic of unblemished character. His conversion, therefore, was a change from Romanism to Protestantism, from papal superstition to evangelical faith, from scholastic traditionalism to biblical simplicity. He mentions no human agency, not even Volmar or Olivetan or Lefèvre. "God himself," he says, "produced the change. He instantly subdued my heart to obedience."  Absolute obedience of his intellect to the word of God, and obedience of his will to the will of God: this was the soul of his religion. He strove in vain to attain peace of conscience by the mechanical methods of Romanism, and was driven to a deeper sense of sin and guilt. "Only one haven of salvation," he says, "is left open for our souls, and that is the mercy of God in Christ. We are saved by grace—not by our merits, not by our works."  Reverence for the Church kept him back for some time till he learned to distinguish the true, invisible, divine essence of the Church from its outward, human form and organization. Then the knowledge of the truth, like a bright light from heaven, burst upon his mind with such force, that there was nothing left for him but to obey the voice from heaven. He consulted not with flesh and blood, and burned the bridge behind him.

The precise time and place and circumstances of this great change are not accurately known. He was very reticent about himself. It probably occurred at Orleans or Paris in the latter part of the year 1532.413  In a letter of October, 1533, to Francis Daniel, he first speaks of the Reformation in Paris, the rage of the Sorbonne, and the satirical comedy against the queen of Navarre.414  In November of the same year he publicly attacked the Sorbonne. In a familiar letter to Bucer in Strassburg, which is dated from Noyon, Sept. 4 (probably in 1534), he recommends a French refugee, falsely accused of holding the opinions of the Anabaptists, and says, "I entreat of you, master Bucer, if my prayers, if my tears are of any avail, that you would compassionate and help him in his wretchedness. The poor are left in a special manner to your care; you are the helper of the orphan.... Most learned Sir, farewell; thine from my heart."415

There never was a change of conviction purer in motive, more radical in character, more fruitful and permanent in result. It bears a striking resemblance to that still greater event near Damascus, which transformed a fanatical Pharisee into an apostle of Jesus Christ. And, indeed, Calvin was not unlike St. Paul in his intellectual and moral constitution; and the apostle of sovereign grace and evangelical freedom had not a more sympathetic expounder than Luther and Calvin.416

Without any intention or effort on his part, Calvin became the head of the evangelical party in less than a year after his conversion. Seekers of the truth came to him from all directions. He tried in vain to escape them. Every quiet retreat was turned into a school. He comforted and strengthened the timid brethren in their secret meetings of devotion. He avoided all show of learning, but, as the old Chronicle of the French Reformed Church reports, he showed such depth of knowledge and such earnestness of speech that no one could hear him without being forcibly impressed. He usually began and closed his exhortations with the word of Paul, "If God is for us, who can be against us?"  This is the keynote of his theology and piety.

He remained for the present in the Catholic Church. His aim was to reform it from within rather than from without, until circumstances compelled him to leave.


 § 73. Calvin’s Call.


As in the case of Paul, Calvin’s call to his life-work coincided with his conversion, and he proved it by his labors. "By their fruits ye shall know them."

We must distinguish between an ordinary and an extraordinary call, or the call to the ministry of the gospel, and the call to reform the Church. The ordinary ministry is necessary for the being, the extraordinary for the well-being, of the Church. The former corresponds to the priesthood in the Jewish dispensation, and continues in unbroken succession; the latter resembles the mission of the prophets, and appears sporadically in great emergencies. The office of a reformer comes nearest the office of an apostle. There are founders of the Church universal, as Peter and Paul; so there are founders of particular churches, as Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Knox, Zinzendorf, Wesley; but none of the Reformers was infallible.

1. All the Reformers were born, baptized, confirmed, and educated in the historic Catholic Church, which cast them out; as the Apostles were circumcised and trained in the Synagogue, which cast them out. They never doubted the validity of the Catholic ordinances, and rejected the idea of re-baptism. Distinguishing between the divine substance and the human addition, Calvin said of his baptism, "I renounce the chrism, but retain the baptism."417

The Reformers were also ordained priests in the Roman Church, except Melanchthon and Calvin,—the greatest theologians among them. A remarkable exception. Melanchthon remained a layman all his life; yet his authority to teach is undoubted. Calvin became a regular minister; but how?

He was, as we have seen, intended and educated for the Roman priesthood, and early received the clerical tonsure.418  He also held two benefices, and preached sometimes in Pont l’Evèque, and also in Lignières, a little town near Bourges, where he made the impression that, he preached better than the monks."419

But he never read mass, and never entered the higher orders, properly so called.

After he left the Roman Church, there was no Evangelical bishop in France to ordain him; the bishops, so far, all remained in the old Church, except two or three in East Prussia and Sweden. If the validity of the Christian ministry depended on an unbroken succession of diocesan bishops, which again depends on historical proof, it would be difficult to defend the Reformation and to resist the claims of Rome. But the Reformers planted themselves on the promise of Christ, the ever-present head of the Church, who is equally near to his people in any age. They rejected the Roman Catholic idea of ordination as a divinely instituted sacrament, which can only be performed by bishops, and which confers priestly powers of offering sacrifice and dispensing absolution. They taught the general priesthood of believers, and fell back upon the internal call of the Holy Spirit and the external call of the Christian people. Luther, in his earlier writings, lodged the power of the keys in the congregation, and identified ordination with vocation. "Whoever is called," he says, "is ordained, and must preach: this is our Lord’s consecration and true chrism."  He even consecrated, by a bold irregularity, his friend Amsdorf as superintendent of Naumburg, to show that he could make a bishop as well as the pope, and could do it without the use of consecrated oil.

Calvin was regularly elected pastor and teacher of theology at Geneva in 1536 by the presbyters and the council, with the consent of the whole people.420

This popular election was a revival of the primitive custom. The greatest bishops of the early Church—such as Cyprian, Ambrose, and Augustin—were elected by the voice of the people, which they obeyed as the voice of God.

We are not informed whether Calvin was solemnly introduced into his office by prayer and the laying on of the hands of presbyters (such as Farel and Viret), after the apostolic custom (1 Tim. 4:14), which is observed in the Reformed Churches. He did not regard ordination as absolutely indispensable, but as a venerable rite sanctioned by the practice of the Apostles which has the force of a precept.421  He even ascribed to it a semi-sacramental character. "The imposition of hands," he says, "which is used at the introduction of the true presbyters and ministers of the Church into their office, I have no objection to consider as a sacrament; for, in the first place, that sacrament is taken from the Scripture, and, in the next place, it is declared by Paul to be not unnecessary or useless, but a faithful symbol of spiritual grace (1 Tim. 4:14). I have not enumerated it as a third among the sacraments, because it is not ordinary or common to all the faithful, but a special rite for a particular office. The ascription of this honor to the Christian ministry, however, furnishes no reason of pride in Roman priests; for Christ has commanded the ordination of ministers to dispense his Gospel and his mysteries, not the inauguration of priests to offer sacrifices. He has commissioned them to preach the Gospel and to feed his flock, and not to immolate victims."422

The evangelical ministry in the non-episcopal Churches was of necessity presbyterial, that is, descended from the, Presbyterate, which was originally identical with the episcopate. Even the Church of England, during her formative period under the reigns of Edward VI. and Elizabeth, recognized the validity of presbyterial ordination, not only in the Lutheran and Reformed Churches of the Continent, but within her own jurisdiction, as in the cases of Peter Martyr, professor of theology at Oxford; Bucer, Fagius, and Cartwright, professors at Cambridge; John à Lasco, pastor in London; Dean Whittingham of Durham, and many others.423

2. But whence did Calvin and the other Reformers derive their authority to reform the old Catholic Church and to found new Churches?  Here we must resort to a special divine call and outfit. The Reformers belong not to the regular order of priests, but to the irregular order of prophets whom God calls directly by his Spirit from the plough or the shepherd’s staff or the workshop or the study. So he raises and endows men with rare genius for poetry or art or science or invention or discovery. All good gifts come from God; but the gift of genius is exceptional, and cannot be derived or propagated by ordinary descent. There are divine irregularities as well as divine regularities. God writes on a crooked as well as on a straight line. Even Paul was called out of due time, and did not seek ordination from Peter or any other apostle, but derived his authority directly from Christ, and proved his ministry by the abundance of his labors.

In the apostolic age there were apostles, prophets, and evangelists for the Church at large, and presbyter-bishops and deacons for particular congregations. The former are considered extraordinary officers. But their race is not yet extinct, any more than the race of men of genius in any other sphere of life. They arise whenever and wherever they are needed.

We are bound to the ordinary means of grace, but God is free, and his Spirit works when, where, and how he pleases. God calls ordinary men for ordinary work in the ordinary way; and he calls extraordinary men for extraordinary work in an extraordinary way. He has done so in times past, and will do so to the end of time.424

Hooker, the most "judicious" of Anglican divines, says: Though thousands were debtors to Calvin, as touching divine knowledge, yet he was to none, only to God."


 § 74. The Open Rupture. An Academic Oration. 1533.


Calv. Opera, X. P. I. 30; XXI. 123, 129, 192. A very graphic account by Merle D’Aubigné, bk. II. ch. xxx. (vol. II. 264–284).


For a little while matters seemed to take a favorable turn at the court for reform. The reactionary conduct of the Sorbonne and the insult offered to Queen Marguerite by the condemnation of her "Mirror of a Sinful Soul,"—a tender and monotonous mystic reverie,425 — offended her brother and the liberal members of the University. Several preachers who sympathized with a moderate reformation, Gérard Roussel, and the Augustinians, Bertault and Courault, were permitted to ascend the pulpit in Paris.426  The king himself, by his opposition to the German emperor, and his friendship with Henry VIII., incurred the suspicion of aiding the cause of heresy and schism. He tried, from political motives and regard for his sister, to conciliate between the conservative and progressive parties. He even authorized the invitation of Melanchthon to Paris as counsellor, but Melanchthon wisely declined.

Nicolas Cop, the son of a distinguished royal physician (William Cop of Basel), and a friend of Calvin, was elected Rector of the University, Oct. 10, 1533, and delivered the usual inaugural oration on All Saint’s Day, Nov. 1, before a large assembly in the Church of the Mathurins.427

This oration, at the request of the new Rector, had been prepared by Calvin. It was a plea for a reformation on the basis of the New Testament, and a bold attack on the scholastic theologians of the day, who were represented as a set of sophists, ignorant of the Gospel. "They teach nothing," says Calvin, "of faith, nothing of the love of God, nothing of the remission of sins, nothing of grace, nothing of justification; or if they do so, they pervert and undermine it all by their laws and sophistries. I beg you, who are here present, not to tolerate any longer these heresies and abuses."428

The Sorbonne and the Parliament regarded this academic oration as a manifesto of war upon the Catholic Church, and condemned it to the flames. Cop was warned and fled to his relatives in Basel.429  Calvin, the real author of the mischief, is said to have descended from a window by means of sheets, and escaped from Paris in the garb of a vine-dresser with a hoe upon his shoulder. His rooms were searched and his books and papers were seized by the police.430


 § 75. Persecution of the Protestants in Paris. 1534.


Beza in Vita Calv., vol. XXI. 124.—Jean Crespin: Livre des Martyrs, Genève, 1570.—The report of the Bourgeois de Paris.—Gerdesius, IV. Mon. 11. Henry, I. 74; II. 333.—Dyer, I. 29.—Polenz, I. 282.—Kampschulte, I. 243.—"Bulletin de la Soc. de l’hist. du Prot. franç.," X. 34; XI. 253.


This storm might have blown over without doing much harm. But in the following year the reaction was greatly strengthened by the famous placards, which gave it the name of "the year of placards."  An over-zealous, fanatical Protestant by the name of Feret, a servant of the king’s apothecary, placarded a tract "on the horrible, great, intolerable abuses of the popish mass," throughout Paris and even at the door of the royal chamber at Fontainebleau, where the king was then residing, in the night of Oct. 18, 1534. In this placard the mass is described as a blasphemous denial of the one and all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ; while the pope, with all his brood (toute sa vermine) of cardinals, bishops, priests, and monks, are denounced as hypocrites and servants of Antichrist.431

All moderate Protestants deplored this untimely outburst of radicalism. It retarded and almost ruined the prospects of the Reformation in France. The best cause may be undone by being overdone.

The king was highly and justly incensed, and ordered the imprisonment of all suspected persons. The prisons were soon filled. To purge the city from the defilement caused by this insult to the holy mass and the hierarchy, a most imposing procession was held from the Louvre to Notre Dame, on Jan. 29, 1535. The image of St. Geneviève, the patroness of Paris, was carried through the streets: the archbishop, with the host under a magnificent däis, and the king with his three sons, bare-headed, on foot, a burning taper in their hands, headed the procession, and were followed by the princes, cardinals, bishops, priests, ambassadors, and the great officers of the State and of the University, walking two and two abreast, in profound silence, with lighted torches. Solemn mass was performed in the cathedral. Then the king dined with the prelates and dignitaries, and declared that he would not hesitate to behead any one of his own children if found guilty of these new, accursed heresies, and to offer them as a sacrifice to divine justice.

The gorgeous solemnities of the day wound up with a horrible autodafé of six Protestants: they were suspended by a rope to a machine, let down into burning flames, again drawn up, and at last precipitated into the fire. They died like heroes. The more educated among them had their tongues slit. Twenty-four innocent Protestants were burned alive in public places of the city from Nov. 10, 1534, till May 5, 1535. Among them was Etienne de la Forge (Stephanus Forgeus), an intimate friend of Calvin. Many more were fined, imprisoned, and tortured, and a considerable number, among them Calvin and Du Tillet, fled to Strassburg.432

These cruelties were justified or excused by charges of heresy, immorality, and disloyalty, and by a reference to the excesses of a fanatical wing of the Anabaptists in Münster, which took place in the same year.433  But the Huguenots were then, as their descendants have always been, and are now, among the most intelligent, moral, and orderly citizens of France.434

The Sorbonne urged the king to put a stop to the printing-press (Jan. 13, 1535). He agreed to a temporary suspension (Feb. 26). Afterwards censors were appointed, first by Parliament, then by the clergy (1542). The press stimulated free thought and was stimulated by it in turn. Before 1500, four millions of volumes (mostly in folio) were printed; from 1500 to 1536, seventeen millions; after that time the number is beyond calculation.435  The printing-press is as necessary for liberty as respiration for health. Some air is good, some bad; but whether good or bad, it is the condition of life.

This persecution was the immediate occasion of Calvin’s Institutes, and the forerunner of a series of persecutions which culminated under the reign of Louis XIV., and have made the Reformed Church of France a Church of martyrs.


 § 76. Calvin as a Wandering Evangelist. 1533–1536.


For nearly three years Calvin wandered as a fugitive evangelist under assumed names436 from place to place in Southern France, Switzerland, Italy, till he reached Geneva as his final destination. It is impossible accurately to determine all the facts and dates in this period.

He resigned his ecclesiastical benefices at Noyon and Pont l’Evèque, May 4, 1534, and thus closed all connection with the Roman Church.437  That year was remarkable for the founding of the order of the Jesuits at Montmartre (Aug. 15), which took the lead in the Counter-Reformation; by the election of Pope Paul III. (Alexander Farnese, Oct. 13), who confirmed the order, excommunicated Henry VIII., and established the Inquisition in Italy; and by the bloody persecution of the Protestants in Paris, which has been described in the preceding section.438

The Roman Counter-Reformation now began in earnest, and called for a consolidation of the Protestant forces.

Calvin spent the greater part of the year 1533 to 1534, under the protection of Queen Marguerite of Navarre, in her native city of Angoulême. This highly gifted lady (1492–1549), the sister of King Francis I., grandmother of Henry IV., and a voluminous writer in verse and prose, was a strange mixture of piety and liberalism, of idealism and sensualism. She patronized both the Reformation and the Renaissance, Calvin and Rabelais; she wrote the Mirror of a Sinful Soul, and also the Heptameron in professed imitation of Boccaccio’s Decamerone; yet she was pure, and began and closed the day with religious meditation and devotion. After the death of her royal brother (1547), she retired to a convent as abbess, and declared on her death-bed that, after receiving extreme unction, she had protected the Reformers out of pure compassion, and not from any wish to depart from the faith of her ancestors.439

Calvin lived at Angoulême with a wealthy friend, Louis du Tillet, who was canon of the cathedral and curé of Claix, and had acquired on his journeys a rare library of three or four thousand volumes.440  He taught him Greek, and prosecuted his theological studies. He associated with honorable men of letters, and was highly esteemed by them.441  He began there the preparation of his Institutes.442  He also aided Olivetan in the revision and completion of the French translation of the Bible, which appeared at Neuchâtel in June, 1535, with a preface of Calvin.443

From Angoulême Calvin made excursions to Nérac, Poitiers, Orleans, and Paris. At Nérac in Béarn, the little capital of Queen Marguerite, he became personally acquainted with Le Fèvre d’Étaples (Faber Stapulensis), the octogenarian patriarch of French Humanism and Protestantism. Le Fèvre, with prophetic vision, recognized in the young scholar the future restorer of the Church of France.444  Perhaps he also suggested to him to take Melanchthon for his model.445  Roussel, the chaplain and confessor of Marguerite, advised him to purify the house of God, but not to destroy it.

At Poitiers, Calvin gained several eminent persons for the Reformation. According to an uncertain tradition he celebrated with a few friends, for the first time, the Lord’s Supper after the Reformed fashion, in a cave (grotte de Croutelles) near the town, which long afterwards was called "Calvin’s Cave."446

Towards the close of the year 1534, he ventured on a visit to Paris. There he met, for the first time, the Spanish physician, Michael Servetus, who had recently published his heretical book On the Errors of the Trinity, and challenged him to a disputation. Calvin accepted the challenge at the risk of his safety, and waited for him in a house in the Rue Saint Antoine; but Servetus did not appear. Twenty years afterwards he reminded Servetus of this interview: "You know that at that time I was ready to do everything for you, and did not even count my life too dear that I might convert you from your errors."  Would that he had succeeded at that time, or never seen the unfortunate heretic again.


 § 77. The Sleep of the Soul. 1534.


Psychopannychia. Aureliae, 1534; 2d and revised ed. Basel, 1536; 3d ed. Strassburg, 1542; French trans. Paris, 1558; republished in Opera, vol. V. 165–232.—Comp. the analysis of Stähelin, I. 36–40, and La France Prot. III. 549. English translation in Calvin’s Tracts, III. 413–490.


Before Calvin left France, he wrote, at Orleans, 1534, his first theological book, entitled Psychopannychia, or the Sleep of the Soul. He refutes in it the hypothesis entertained by some Anabaptists, of the sleep of the soul between death and resurrection, and proves the unbroken and conscious communion of believers with Christ, their living Head. He appeals no more to philosophy and the classics, as in his earlier book on Seneca, but solely to the Scriptures, as the only rule of faith. Reason can give us no light on the future world, which lies beyond our experience.

He wished to protect, by this book, the evangelical Protestants against the charge of heresy and vagary. They were often confounded with the Anabaptists who roused in the same year the wrath of all the German princes by the excesses of a radical and fanatical faction at Münster.


 § 78. Calvin at Basel. 1535 to 1536.


The outbreak of the bloody persecution, in October, 1534, induced Calvin to leave his native land and to seek safety in free Switzerland. He was accompanied by his friend and pupil, Louis du Tillet, who followed him as far as Geneva, and remained with him till the end of August, 1537, when he returned to France and to the Roman Church.447

The travellers passed through Lorraine. On the frontier of Germany, near Metz, they were robbed by an unfaithful servant. They arrived utterly destitute at Strassburg, then a city of refuge for French Protestants. They were kindly received and aided by Bucer.

After a few days’ rest they proceeded to Basel, their proper destination. There Farel had found a hospitable home in 1524, and Cop and Courault ten years later. Calvin wished a quiet place for study where he could promote the cause of the Gospel by his pen. He lodged with his friend in the house of Catharina Klein (Petita), who thirty years afterwards was the hostess of another famous refugee, the philosopher, Petrus Ramus, and spoke to him with enthusiasm of the young Calvin, "the light of France."448

He was kindly welcomed by Simon Grynaeus and Wolfgang Capito, the heads of the university. He prosecuted with Grynaeus his study of the Hebrew. He dedicated to him in gratitude his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (1539). He became acquainted also with Bullinger of Zürich, who attended the conference of Reformed Swiss divines for the preparation of the first Helvetic Confession (1536).449

According to a Roman Catholic report, Calvin, in company with Bucer, had a personal interview with Erasmus, to whom three years before he had sent a copy of his commentary on Seneca with a high compliment to his scholarship. The veteran scholar is reported to have said to Bucer on that occasion that "a great pestilence was arising in the Church against the Church."450  But Erasmus was too polite, thus to insult a stranger. Moreover, he was then living at Freiburg in Germany and had broken off all intercourse with Protestants. When he returned to Basel in July, 1536, on his way to the Netherlands, he took sick and died; and at that time Calvin was in Italy. The report therefore is an idle fiction.451

Calvin avoided publicity and lived in scholarly seclusion. He spent in Basel a year and a few months, from January, 1535, till about March, 1536.


 § 79. Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.


1. The full title of the first edition is "Christia | nae Religionis Insti | tutio totam fere pietatis summam et quic | quid est in doctrina salutis cognitu ne- | cessarium, complectens: omnibus pie | tatis studiosis lectu dignissi | mum opus, ac re- | cens edi- | tum. | Praefatio|  ad Chri | stianissimum Regem Francae, qua | hic ei liber pro confessione fidei | offertur. | Joanne Calvino | Nouiodunensi authore. | Basileae, | M. D. XXXVI."  The dedicatory Preface is dated ’X. Calendas Septembres’ (i.e. August 23), without the year; but at the close of the book the month of March, 1536, is given as the date of publication. The first two French editions (1541 and 1545) supplement the date of the Preface correctly: "De Basle le vingt-troysiesme d’Aoust mil cinq cent trente cinq."  The manuscript, then, was completed in August, 1535, but it took nearly a year to print it.

2. The last improved edition from the pen of the author (the fifth Latin) is a thorough reconstruction, and bears the title: "Institutio Chri | stianae Religionis, in libros qua | tuor nunc primum digesta, certisque distincta capitibus, ad aptissimam | methodum: aucta etiam tam magna accessione ut propemodum opus | novum haberi possit. | Joanne Calvino authore. | Oliva Roberti Stephani. | Genevae. | M. D. LIX."  The subsequent Latin editions are reprints of the ed. of 1559, with an index by Nic. Colladon, another by Marlorat. The Elzevir ed. Leyden, 1654, fol., was especially esteemed for its beauty and accuracy. A convenient modern ed. by Tholuck (Berlin, 1834, 2d ed. 1846).

3. The first French edition appeared without the name and place of the printer (probably Michel du Bois at Geneva), under the title: "Institution de la religion chrestienne en laquelle est comprinse une somme de piété.... composée en latin par J. Calvin et translatée par luy mesme. Avec la préface addressée au tres chrestien Roy de France, François premier de ce nom: par laquelle ce présent livre luy esi offert pour confession de Foy. M. D. XLI."  822 pp. 8°, 2d ed. Genève, Jean Girard, 1545; 3d ed. 1551; 4th ed. 1553; 5th ed. 1554; 6th ed. 1557; 7th ed. 1560, in fol.; 8th ed. 1561, in 8°; 9th ed. 1561, in 4°; 10th ed. 1562, etc.; 15th ed. Geneva, 1564. Elzevir ed. Leyden, 1654.

4. The Strassburg editors devote the first four volumes to the different editions of the Institutes in both languages. Vol, I. contains the editio princeps Latina of Basel, 1536 (pp. 10–247), and the variations of six editions intervening between the first and the last, viz., the Strassburg editions of 1539, 1543, 1545, and the Geneva editions of 1550, 1553, 1554 (pp. 253–1152); vol. II., the editio postrema of 1559 (pp. 1–1118); vols. III. and IV., the last edition of the French translation, or free reproduction rather (1560), with the variations of former editions.

5. The question of the priority of the Latin or French text is now settled in favor of the former. See Jules Bonnet, in the Bulletin de la Société de l’histoire du protestantisme français for 1858, vol. VI. p. 137 sqq., Stähelin, vol. I. p. 55, and the Strassburg editors of the Opera, in the ample Prolegomena to vols. I. and III. Calvin himself says expressly (in the Preface to his French ed. 1541), that he first wrote the Institutes in Latin ("premièrement l’ay mis en latin"), for readers of all nations, and that he translated or reproduced them afterwards for the special benefit of Frenchmen ("l’ay aussi translaté en notre langage"). In a letter to his friend, François Daniel, dated Lausanne, Oct. 13, 1536, he writes that he began the French translation soon after the publication of the Latin (Letters, ed. Bonnet, vol. I. p. 21), but it did not appear till 1541, under the title given above. The erroneous assertion of a French original, so often repeated (by Bayle, Maimbourg, Basnage, and more recently by Henry, vol. I. p. 104; III. p. 177; Dorner, Gesch. der protest. Theol. p. 375; also by Guizot, H. B. Smith, and Dyer), arose from confounding the date of the Preface as given in the French editions (23 Aug., 1535), with the later date of publication (March, 1536). It is quite possible, however, that the dedication to Francis I. was first written in French, and this would most naturally account for the earlier date in the French editions.

6. On the differences of the several editions, comp. J. Thomas: Histoire de l’instit. chrétienne de J. Calv. Strasbourg, 1859. Alex. Schweizer: Centraldogmen, I. 150 sqq. (Zürich, 1854). Köstlin: Calvin’s Institutio nach Form und Inhalt, in the "Studien und Kritiken" for 1868.

7. On the numerous translations, see above, pp. 225, 265; Henry, Vol. III. Beilagen, 178–189; and La France Prot. III. 553.


In the ancient and venerable city of Basel, on the borders of Switzerland, France, and Germany—the residence of Erasmus and Oecolampadius, the place where a reformatory council had met in 1430, and where the first Greek Testament was printed in 1516 from manuscripts of the university library John Calvin, then a mere youth of twenty-six years, and an exile from his native land, finished and published, twenty years after the first print of the Greek Testament, his Institutes of the Christian Religion, by which he astonished the world and took at once the front rank among the literary champions of the evangelical faith.

This book is the masterpiece of a precocious genius of commanding intellectual and spiritual depth and power. It is one of the few truly classical productions in the history of theology, and has given its author the double title of the Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas of the Reformed Church.452

The Roman Catholics at once perceived the significance of the Institutio, and called it the Koran and Talmud of heresy.453  It was burned by order of the Sorbonne at Paris and other places, and more fiercely and persistently persecuted than any book of the sixteenth century; but, we must add, it has found also great admirers among Catholics who, while totally dissenting from its theological system and antipopish temper, freely admit its great merits in the non-polemical parts.454

The Evangelicals greeted the Institutio at once with enthusiastic praise as the clearest, strongest, most logical, and most convincing defence of Christian doctrines since the days of the apostles. A few weeks after its publication Bucer wrote to the author: "It is evident that the Lord has elected you as his organ for the bestowment of the richest fulness of blessing to his Church."455

Nor is this admiration confined to orthodox Protestants. Dr. Baur, the founder of the Tübingen school of historical critics, declares this book of Calvin to be "in every respect a truly classical work, distinguished in a high degree by originality and acuteness of conception, systematic consistency, and clear, luminous method."456  And Dr. Hase pointedly calls it "the grandest scientific justification of Augustinianism, full of religious depth with inexorable consistency of thought."457

The Institutio is not a book for the people, and has not the rousing power which Luther’s Appeal to the German Nobility, and his tract on Christian Freedom exerted upon the Germans; but it is a book for scholars of all nations, and had a deeper and more lasting effect upon them than any work of the Reformers. Edition followed edition, and translations were made into nearly all the languages of Europe.458

Calvin gives a systematic exposition of the Christian religion in general, and a vindication of the evangelical faith in particular, with the apologetic and practical aim of defending the Protestant believers against calumny and persecution to which they were then exposed, especially in France. He writes under the inspiration of a heroic faith that is ready for the stake, and with a glowing enthusiasm for the pure Gospel of Christ, which had been obscured and deprived of its effect by human traditions, but had now risen from this rubbish to new life and power. He combines dogmatics and ethics in organic unity.

He plants himself firmly on the immovable rock of the Word of God, as the only safe guide in matters of faith and duty. He exhibits on every page a thorough, well-digested knowledge of Scripture which is truly astonishing. He does not simply quote from it as a body of proof texts, in a mechanical way, like the scholastic dogmaticians of the seventeenth century, but he views it as an organic whole, and weaves it into his system. He bases the authority of Scripture on its intrinsic excellency and the testimony of the Holy Spirit speaking through it to the believer. He makes also judicious and discriminating use of the fathers, especially St. Augustin, not as judges but as witnesses of the truth, and abstains from those depreciatory remarks in which Luther occasionally indulged when, instead of his favorite dogma of justification by faith, he found in them much ascetic monkery and exaltation of human merit. "They overwhelm us," says Calvin, in the dedicatory Preface, "with senseless clamors, as despisers and enemies of the fathers. But if it were consistent with my present design, I could easily support by their suffrages most of the sentiments that we now maintain. Yet while we make use of their writings, we always remember that ’all things are ours,’ to serve us, not to have dominion over us, and that ’we are Christ’s alone’ (1 Cor. 3:21–23), and owe him universal obedience. He who neglects this distinction will have nothing certain in religion; since those holy men were ignorant of many things, frequently at variance with each other, and sometimes even inconsistent with themselves."  He also fully recognizes the indispensable use of reason in the apprehension and defence of truth and the refutation of error, and excels in the power of severe logical argumentation; while he is free from scholastic dryness and pedantry. But he subordinates reason and tradition to the supreme authority of Scripture as he understands it.

The style is luminous and forcible. Calvin had full command of the majesty, dignity, and elegance of the Latin Ianguage. The discussion flows on continuously and melodiously like a river of fresh water through green meadows and sublime mountain scenery. The whole work is well proportioned. It is pervaded by intense earnestness and fearless consistency which commands respect even where his arguments fail to carry conviction, or where we feel offended by the contemptuous tone of his polemics, or feel a shudder at his decretum horribile.

Calvin’s system of doctrine agrees with the (ecumenical creeds in theology and Christology; with Augustinianism in anthropology and soteriology, but dissents from the mediaeval tradition in ecclesiology, sacramentology, and eschatology. We shall discuss the prominent features of this system in the chapter on Calvin’s Theology.

The Institutio was dedicated to King Francis I. of France (1494–1547), who at that time cruelly persecuted his Protestant subjects. As Justin Martyr and other early Apologists addressed the Roman emperors in behalf of the despised and persecuted sect of the Christians, vindicating them against the foul charges of atheism, immorality, and hostility to Caesar, and pleading for toleration, so Calvin appealed to the French monarch in defence of his Protestant countrymen, then a small sect, as much despised, calumniated, and persecuted, and as moral and innocent as the Christians in the old Roman empire, with a manly dignity, frankness, and pathos never surpassed before or since. He followed the example set by Zwingli who addressed his dying confession of faith to the same sovereign (1531). These appeals, like the apologies of the ante-Nicene age, failed to reach or to affect the throne, but they moulded public opinion which is mightier than thrones, and they are a living force to-day.

The preface to the Institutio is reckoned among the three immortal prefaces in literature. The other two are President De Thou’s preface to his History of France, and Casaubon’s preface to Polybius. Calvin’s preface is superior to them in importance and interest. Take the beginning and the close as specimens.459

"When I began this work, Sire, nothing was farther from my thoughts than writing a book which would afterwards be presented to your Majesty. My intention was only to lay down some elementary principles, by which inquirers on the subject of religion might be instructed in the nature of true piety. And this labor I undertook chiefly for my countrymen, the French, of whom I apprehend multitudes to be hungering and thirsting after Christ, but saw very few possessing any real knowledge of him. That this was my design the book itself proves by its simple method and unadorned composition. But when I perceived that the fury of certain wicked men in your kingdom had grown to such a height, as to have no room in the land for sound doctrine, I thought I should be usefully employed, if in the same work I delivered my instructions to them, and exhibited my confession to you, that you may know the nature of that doctrine, which is the object of such unbounded rage to those madmen who are now disturbing the country with fire and sword. For I shall not be afraid to acknowledge, that this treatise contains a summary of that very doctrine, which, according to their clamors, deserves to be punished with imprisonment, banishment, proscription, and flames, and to be exterminated from the face of the earth. I well know with what atrocious insinuations your ears have been filled by them, in order to render our cause most odious in your esteem; but your clemency should lead you to consider that if accusation be accounted a sufficient evidence of guilt, there will be an end of all innocence in words and actions."




"But I return to you, Sire. Let not your Majesty be at all moved by those groundless accusations with which our adversaries endeavor to terrify you; as that the sole tendency and design of this new gospel, for so they call it, is to furnish a pretext for seditions, and to gain impunity for all crimes. ’For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace;’ nor is ’the Son of God,’ who came to destroy ’the works of the devil, the minister of sin.’  And it is unjust to charge us with such motives and designs of which we have never given cause for the least suspicion. Is it probable that we are meditating the subversion of kingdoms?  We, who were never heard to utter a factious word, whose lives were ever known to be peaceable and honest while we lived under your government, and who, even now in our exile, cease not to pray for all prosperity to attend yourself and your kingdom!  Is it probable that we are seeking an unlimited license to commit crimes with impunity, in whose conduct, though many things may be blamed, yet there is nothing worthy of such severe reproach?  Nor have we, by divine grace, profited so little in the gospel, but that our life may be to our detractors an example of chastity, liberality, mercy, temperance, patience, modesty, and every other virtue. It is an undeniable fact, that we sincerely fear and worship God, whose name we desire to be sanctified both by our life and by our death; and envy itself is constrained to bear testimony to the innocence and civil integrity of some of us, who have suffered the punishment of death, for that very thing which ought to be accounted their highest praise. But if the gospel be made a pretext for tumults, which has not yet happened in your kingdom; if any persons make the liberty of divine grace an excuse for the licentiousness of their vices, of whom I have known many; there are laws and legal penalties, by which they may be punished according to their deserts: only let not the gospel of God be reproached for the crimes of wicked men. You have now, Sire, the virulent iniquity of our calumniators laid before you in a sufficient number of instances, that you may not receive their accusations with too credulous an ear.

"I fear I have gone too much into the detail, as this preface already approaches the size of a full apology; whereas, I intended it not to contain our defence, but only to prepare your mind to attend to the pleading of our cause; for though you are now averse and alienated from us, and even inflamed against us, we despair not of regaining your favor, if you will only once read with calmness and composure this our confession, which we intend as our defence before your Majesty. But, on the contrary, if your ears are so preoccupied with the whispers of the malevolent, as to leave no opportunity for the accused to speak for themselves, and if those outrageous furies, with your connivance, continue to persecute with imprisonments, scourges, tortures, confiscations, and flames, we shall indeed, like sheep destined to the slaughter, be reduced to the greatest extremities. Yet shall we in patience possess our souls, and wait for the mighty hand of the Lord, which undoubtedly will in time appear, and show itself armed for the deliverance of the poor from their affliction, and for the punishment of their despisers, who now exult in such perfect security.

"May the Lord, the King of kings, establish your throne in righteousness, and your kingdom with equity."

The first edition of the Institutes was a brief manual containing, in six chapters, an exposition 1) of the Decalogue; 2) of the Apostles’ Creed; 3) of the Lord’s Prayer; 4) of baptism and the Lord’s Supper; 5) of the other so-called Sacraments; 6) of Christian liberty, Church government, and discipline. The second edition has seventeen, the third, twenty-one chapters. In the author’s last edition of 1559, it grew to four or five times its original size, and was divided into four books, each book into a number of chapters (from seventeen to twenty-five), and each chapter into sections. It follows in the main, like every good catechism, the order of the Apostles’ Creed, which is the order of God’s revelation as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The first book discusses the knowledge of God the Creator (theology proper); the second, the knowledge of God the Redeemer (Christology); the third, of the Holy Spirit and the application of the saving work of Christ (soteriology); the fourth, the means of grace, namely, the Church and the sacraments.460

Although the work has been vastly improved under the revising hand of the author, in size and fulness of statement, the first edition contains all the essential features of his system. "Ex ungue leonem."  His doctrine of predestination, however, is stated in a more simple and less objectionable form. He dwells on the bright and comforting side of that doctrine, namely, the eternal election by the free grace of God in Christ, and leaves out the dark mystery of reprobation and preterition.461  He gives the light without the shade, the truth without the error. He avoids the paradoxes of Luther and Zwingli, and keeps within the limits of a wise moderation. The fuller logical development of his views on predestination and on the Church, dates from his sojourn in Strassburg, where he wrote the second edition of the Institutes, and his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.

The following sections on some of his leading doctrines from the last edition give a fair idea of the spirit and method of the work:


The Connection Between the Knowledge of God and the Knowledge of Ourselves.


(Book I. ch. 1, §§ 1,  2.)


1. "True and substantial wisdom principally consists of two parts, the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves. But while these two branches of knowledge are so intimately connected, which of them precedes and produces the other, is not easy to discover. For, in the first place, no man can take a survey of himself but he must immediately turn to the contemplation of God, in whom he ’lives and moves’ (Acts 17:28); since it is evident that the talents which we possess are not from ourselves, and that our very existence is nothing but a subsistence in God alone. These bounties, distilling to us by drops from heaven, form, as it were, so many streams conducting us to the fountain-head. Our poverty conduces to a clearer display of the infinite fulness of God. Especially the miserable ruin, into which we have been plunged by the defection of the first man, compels us to raise our eyes towards heaven not only as hungry and famished, to seek thence a supply for our wants, but, aroused with fear, to learn humility.

"For since man is subject to a world of miseries, and has been spoiled of his divine array, this melancholy exposure discovers an immense mass of deformity. Every one, therefore, must be so impressed with a consciousness of his own infelicity, as to arrive at some knowledge of God. Thus a sense of our ignorance, vanity, poverty, infirmity, depravity, and corruption, leads us to perceive and acknowledge that in the Lord alone are to be found true wisdom, solid strength, perfect goodness, and unspotted righteousness; and so, by our imperfections, we are excited to a consideration of the perfections of God. Nor can we really aspire toward him, till we have begun to be displeased with ourselves. For who would not gladly rest satisfied with himself?  Where is the man not actually absorbed in self-complacency, while he remains unacquainted with his true situation, or content with his own endowments, and ignorant or forgetful of his own misery?  The knowledge of ourselves, therefore, is not only an incitement to seek after God, but likewise a considerable assistance towards finding him.

2. "On the other hand, it is plain that no man can arrive at the true knowledge of himself, without having first contemplated the divine character, and then descended to the consideration of his own. For such is the native pride of us all, that we invariably esteem ourselves righteous, innocent, wise, and holy, till we are convinced by clear proofs of our unrighteousness, turpitude, folly, and impurity. But we are never thus convinced, while we confine our attention to ourselves and regard not the Lord, who is the only standard by which this judgment ought to be formed." ...


Rational Proofs to Establish the Belief in the Scripture.


(Book I. ch. 8, §§ 1, d 2.)


1. "Without this certainty [that is, the testimony of the Holy Spirit], better and stronger than any human judgment, in vain will the authority of the Scripture be either defended by arguments, or established by the consent of the Church, or confirmed by any other supports; since, unless the foundation be laid, it remains in perpetual suspense. Whilst, on the contrary, when regarding it in a different point of view from common things, we have once religiously received it in a manner worthy of its excellence, we shall then derive great assistance from things which before were not sufficient to establish the certainty of it in our minds. For it is admirable to observe how much it conduces to our confirmation, attentively to study the order and disposition of the divine wisdom dispensed in it, the heavenly nature of its doctrine, which never savors of anything terrestrial, the beautiful agreement of all the parts with each other, and other similar characters adapted to conciliate respect to any writings. But our hearts are more strongly confirmed, when we reflect that we are constrained to admire it more by the dignity of the subjects than by the beauties of the language. For even this did not happen without the particular providence of God, that the sublime mysteries of the kingdom of heaven should be communicated, for the most part, in an humble and contemptible style: lest if they had been illustrated with more of the splendor of eloquence, the impious might cavil that their triumph is only the triumph of eloquence. Now, since that uncultivated and almost rude simplicity procures itself more reverence than all the graces of rhetoric, what opinion can we form, but that the force of truth in the sacred Scripture is too powerful to need the assistance of verbal art?  Justly, therefore, does the apostle argue that the faith of the Corinthians was founded ’not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God,’ because his preaching among them was ’not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit of power’ (1 Cor. 2:4). For the truth is vindicated from every doubt, when, unassisted by foreign aid, it is sufficient for its own support. But that this is the peculiar property of the Scripture, appears from the insufficiency of any human compositions, however artificially polished, to make an equal impression on our minds. Read Demosthenes or Cicero; read Plato, Aristotle, or any others of that class; I grant that you will be attracted, delighted, moved, and enraptured by them in a surprising manner; but if, after reading them, you turn to the perusal of the sacred volume, whether you are willing or unwilling, it will affect you so powerfully, it will so penetrate your heart, and impress itself so strongly on your mind, that, compared with its energetic influence, the beauties of rhetoricians and philosophers will almost entirely disappear; so that it is easy to perceive something divine in the sacred Scriptures, which far surpass the highest attainments and ornaments of human industry.

2. "I grant, indeed, that the diction of some of the prophets is neat and elegant, and even splendid; so that they are not inferior in eloquence to the heathen writers. And by such examples the Holy Spirit hath been pleased to show that he was not deficient in eloquence, though elsewhere he hath used a rude and homely style. But whether we read David, Isaiah, and others that resemble them, who have a sweet and pleasant flow of words, or Amos, the herdsman, Jeremiah, and Zechariah, whose rougher language savors of rusticity; that majesty of the Spirit which I have mentioned is everywhere conspicuous .... With respect to the sacred Scripture, though presumptuous men try to cavil at various passages, yet it is evidently replete with sentences which are beyond the powers of human conception. Let all the prophets be examined, not one will be found who has not far surpassed the ability of men; so that those to whom their doctrine is insipid must be accounted utterly destitute of all true taste ....

11. "If we proceed to the New Testament, by what solid foundations is its truth supported ?  Three evangelists recite their history in a low and mean style. Many proud men are disgusted with that simplicity because they attend not to the principal points of doctrine; whence it were easy to infer, that they treat of heavenly mysteries which are above human capacity. They who have a spark of ingenuous modesty will certainly be ashamed, if they peruse the first chapter of Luke. Now the discourses of Christ, a concise summary of which is comprised in these three evangelists, easily exempt their writings from contempt. But John, thundering from his sublimity, more powerfully than any thunderbolt, levels to the dust the obstinacy of those whom he does not compel to the obedience of faith. Let all those censorious critics, whose supreme pleasure consists in banishing all reverence for the Scripture out of their own hearts and the hearts of others, come forth to public view. Let them read the Gospel of John: whether they wish it or not, they will there find numerous passages, which, at least, arouse their indolence and which will even imprint a horrible brand on their consciences to restrain their ridicule; similar is the method of Paul and of Peter, in whose writings, though the greater part be obscure, yet their heavenly majesty attracts universal attention. But this one circumstance raises their doctrine sufficiently above the world, that Matthew, who had before been confined to the profit of his table, and Peter and John, who had been employed in fishing-boats, all plain, unlettered men, had learned nothing in any human school which they could communicate to others. And Paul, from not only a professed but a cruel and sanguinary enemy, being converted to a new man, proves by his sudden and unhoped-for change, that he was constrained, by a command from heaven, to vindicate that doctrine which he had before opposed. Let these deny that the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles; or, at least, let them dispute the credibility of the history: yet the fact itself loudly proclaims that they were taught by the Spirit, who, though before despised as some of the meanest of the people, suddenly began to discourse in such a magnificent manner on the mysteries of heaven ....

13. "Wherefore, the Scripture will then only be effectual to produce the saving knowledge of God, when the certainty of it shall be founded on the internal persuasion of the Holy Spirit. Thus those human testimonies, which contribute to its confirmation, will not be useless, if they follow that first and principal proof, as secondary aids to our imbecility. But those persons betray great folly, who wish it to be demonstrated to infidels that the Scripture is the Word of God, which cannot be known without faith. Augustin, therefore, justly observes, that piety and peace of mind ought to precede in order that a man may understand somewhat of such great subjects."


Meditation on the Future Life.


(Book III. ch. 9, §§ 1,  3,  6.)


1. "With whatever kind of tribulation we may be afflicted, we should always keep the end in view; to habituate ourselves to a contempt of the present life, that we may thereby be excited to meditation on that which is to come. For the Lord, well knowing our strong natural inclination to a brutish love of the world, adopts a most excellent method to reclaim us and rouse us from one insensibility that we may not be too tenaciously attached to that foolish affection. There is not one of us who is not desirous of appearing through the whole course of his life, to aspire and strive after celestial immortality. For we are ashamed of excelling in no respect the brutal herds, whose condition would not be at all inferior to ours, unless there remained to us a hope of eternity after death. But if you examine the designs, pursuits, and actions of every individual, you will find nothing in them but what is terrestrial. Hence that stupidity, that the mental eyes, dazzled with the vain splendor of riches, powers, and honors, cannot see to any considerable distance. The heart also, occupied and oppressed with avarice, ambition, and other inordinate desires, cannot rise to any eminence. In a word, the whole soul, fascinated by carnal allurements, seeks its felicity on earth.

"To oppose this evil, the Lord, by continual lessons of miseries, teaches his children the vanity of the present life. That they may not promise themselves profound and secure peace in it, therefore he permits them to be frequently disquieted and infested with wars or tumults, with robberies or other injuries. That they may not aspire with too much avidity after transient and uncertain riches, or depend on those which they possess, sometimes by exile, sometimes by the sterility of the land, sometimes by a conflagration, sometimes by other means, he reduces them to indigence, or at least confines them within the limits of mediocrity. That they may not be too complacently delighted with conjugal blessings, he either causes them to be distressed with the wickedness of their wives, or humbles them with a wicked offspring, or afflicts them with want or loss of children. But if in all these things he is more indulgent to them, yet that they may not be inflated with vainglory, or improper confidence, he shows them by diseases and dangers the unstable and transitory nature of all mortal blessings. We therefore truly derive advantages from the discipline of the cross, only when we learn that this life, considered in itself, is unquiet, turbulent, miserable in numberless instances, and in no respect altogether happy; and that all its reputed blessings are uncertain, transient, vain, and adulterated with a mixture of many evils; and in consequence of this at once conclude that nothing can be sought or expected on earth but conflict, and that when we think of a crown we must raise our eyes toward heaven. For it must be admitted that the mind is never seriously excited to desire and meditate on the future life, without having previously imbibed a contempt of the present ....

3. "But the faithful should accustom themselves to such a contempt of the present life, as may not generate either hatred of life or ingratitude towards God himself. For this life, though it is replete with innumerable miseries, is yet deservedly reckoned among the divine blessings which must not be despised. Wherefore if we discover nothing of the divine beneficence in it, we are already guilty of no small ingratitude towards God himself. But to the faithful especially it should be a testimony of the divine benevolence, since the whole of it is destined to the advancement of their salvation. For before he openly discovers to us the inheritance of eternal glory, he intends to reveal himself as our Father in inferior instances; and those are the benefits which he daily confers on us. Since this life, then, is subservient to a knowledge of the divine goodness, shall we fastidiously scorn it as though it contained no particle of goodness in it?  We must, therefore, have this sense and affection, to class it among the bounties of the divine benignity which are not to be rejected. For if Scripture testimonies were wanting, which are very numerous and clear, even nature itself exhorts us to give thanks to the Lord for having introduced us to the light of life, for granting us the use of it, and giving us all the helps necessary to its preservation. And it is a far superior reason for gratitude, if we consider that here we are in some measure prepared for the glory of the heavenly kingdom. For the Lord has ordained that they who are to be hereafter crowned in heaven, must first engage in conflicts on earth, that they may not triumph without having surmounted the difficulties of warfare and obtained the victory. Another reason is, that here we begin in various blessings to taste the sweetness of the divine benignity, that our hope and desire may be excited after the full revelation of it. When we have come to this conclusion, that our life in this world is a gift of the divine clemency, which as we owe it to him, we ought to remember with gratitude, it will then be time for us to descend to a consideration of its most miserable condition, that we may be delivered from excessive cupidity, to which, as has been observed, we are naturally inclined ....

6." It is certainly true that the whole family of the faithful, as long as they dwell on earth, must be accounted as ’sheep for the slaughter’ (Rom. 8:36), that they may be conformed to Christ their Head. Their state, therefore, would be extremely deplorable, if they did not elevate their thoughts towards heaven, to rise above all sublunary things, and look beyond present appearances (1 Cor. 15:19). On the contrary, when they have once raised their heads above this world, although they see the impious flourishing in riches and honors, and enjoying the most profound tranquillity; though they see them boasting of their splendor and luxury, and behold them abounding in every delight; though they may also be harassed by their wickedness, insulted by their pride, defrauded by their avarice, and may receive from them any other lawless provocations; yet they will find no difficulty in supporting themselves even under such calamities as these. For they will keep in view that day when the Lord will receive his faithful servants into his peaceful kingdom; will wipe every tear from their eyes (Isa. 25:8; Rev. 7:17), invest them with robes of joy, adorn them with crowns of glory, entertain them with his ineffable delights, exalt them to fellowship with His Majesty, and, in a word, honor them with a participation of his happiness. But the impious, who have been great in this world, he will precipitate down to the lowest ignominy; he will change their delights into torments, and their laughter and mirth into weeping and gnashing of teeth; he will disturb their tranquillity with dreadful agonies of conscience, and will punish their delicacy with inextinguishable fire, and even put them in subjection to the pious, whose patience they have abused. For, according to Paul, it is a righteous thing with God, to recompense tribulation to those that trouble the saints, and rest to those who are troubled, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven (2 Thess. 1:6, 7). This is our only consolation, and deprived of this, we must of necessity either sink into despondency of mind, or solace ourselves to our own destruction with the vain pleasures of the world. For even the psalmist confesses that he staggered, when he was too much engaged in contemplating the present prosperity of the impious; and that he could no otherwise establish himself, till he entered the sanctuary of God, and directed his views to the last end of the godly and of the wicked (Ps. 73:2, etc.).

"To conclude in one word, the cross of Christ triumphs in the hearts of believers over the devil and the flesh, over sin and impious men, only when their eyes are directed to the power of the resurrection."


Christian Liberty.


(Book 3, ch. 19, § 9.)


1. "It must be carefully observed, that Christian liberty is in all its branches a spiritual thing; all the virtue of which consists in appeasing terrified consciences before God, whether they are disquieted and solicitous concerning the remission of their sins, or are anxious to know if their works, which are imperfect and contaminated by the defilements of the flesh, be acceptable to God, or are tormented concerning the use of things that are indifferent. Wherefore those are guilty of perverting its meaning, who either make it the pretext of their irregular appetites, that they may abuse the divine blessings to the purposes of sensuality, or who suppose that there is no liberty but what is used before men, and therefore in the exercise of it totally disregard their weak brethren.

2. "The former of these sins is the more common in the present age. There is scarcely any one whom his wealth permits to be sumptuous, who is not delighted with luxurious splendor in his entertainments, in his dress, and in his buildings; who does not desire a pre-eminence in every species of luxury; who does not strangely flatter himself on his elegance. And all these things are defended under the pretext of Christian liberty. They allege that they are things indifferent. This, I admit, provided they be indifferently used. But where they are too ardently coveted, proudly boasted, or luxuriously lavished, these things, of themselves otherwise indifferent, are completely polluted by such vices. This passage of Paul makes an excellent distinction respecting things which are indifferent: ’Unto the pure, all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving, is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled’ (Titus 1:15). For why are curses denounced on rich men, who ’receive their consolation,’ who are ’satiated,’ who ’now laugh,’ who ’lie on beds of ivory,’ who ’join field to field,’ who ’have the harp and lyre, and the tabret, and wine in their feasts?’ (Luke 6:24, 25; Amos 6:1; Isa. 5:8). Ivory and gold and riches of all kinds are certainly blessings of divine providence, not only permitted, but expressly designed for the use of men; nor are we anywhere prohibited to laugh, or to be satiated with food, or to annex new possessions to those already enjoyed by ourselves or by our ancestors, or to be delighted with musical harmony, or to drink wine. This, indeed, is true; but amidst an abundance of all things, to be immersed in sensual delights, to inebriate the heart and mind with present pleasures, and perpetually to grasp at new ones, these things are very remote from a legitimate use of the divine blessings. Let them banish, therefore, immoderate cupidity, excessive profusion, vanity, and arrogance; that with a pure conscience they may make a proper use of the gifts of God. When their hearts shall be formed to this sobriety, they will have a rule for the legitimate enjoyment of them. On the contrary, without this moderation, even the common pleasures of the vulgar are chargeable with excess. For it is truly observed, that a proud heart frequently dwells under coarse and ragged garments, and that simplicity and humility are sometimes concealed under purple and fine linen.

3. "Let all men in their respective stations, whether of poverty, of competence, or of splendor, live in the remembrance of this truth, that God confers his blessings on them for the support of life, not of luxury; and let them consider this as the law of Christian liberty, that they learn the lesson which Paul had learned, when he said: ’I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am intrusted, both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need’ (Phil. 4:11, 12)."


The Doctrine of Election.


(Book 3, ch. 21, § 1.)


1. "Nothing else [than election by free grace] will be sufficient to produce in us suitable humility, or to impress us with a due sense of our great obligations to God. Nor is there any other basis for solid confidence, even according to the authority of Christ, who, to deliver us from all fear and render us invincible amidst so many dangers, snares, and deadly conflicts, promises to preserve in safety all whom the Father has committed to his care .... The discussion of predestination, a subject of itself rather intricate, is made very perplexed and therefore dangerous by human curiosity, which no barriers can restrain from wandering into forbidden labyrinths, and soaring beyond its sphere, as if determined to leave none of the divine secrets unscrutinized or unexplored .... The secrets of God’s will which he determined to reveal to us, he discovers in his Word; and these are all that he foresaw would concern us, or conduce to our advantage ....

2."  Let us bear in mind, that to desire any other knowledge of predestination than what is unfolded in the Word of God, indicates as great folly, as a wish to walk through impassable roads, or to see in the dark. Nor let us be ashamed to be ignorant of some things relative to a subject in which there is a kind of learned ignorance (aliqua docta ignorantia) ....

3. "Others desirous of remedying this evil, will leave all mention of predestination to be as it were buried .... Though their moderation is to be commended in judging that mysteries ought to be handled with such great sobriety, yet as they descend too low, they leave little influence on the mind of man which refuses to submit to unreasonable restraints .... The Scripture is the school of the Holy Spirit, in which as nothing necessary and useful to be known is omitted, so nothing is taught which it is not beneficial to know .... Let us permit the Christian man to open his heart and his ears to all the discourses addressed to him by God, only with this moderation, that as soon as the Lord closes his sacred mouth, he shall also desist from further inquiry .... ’The secret things,’  says Moses (Deut. 29:29), ’belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us, and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of his law.’

5. "Predestination, by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death, no one, desirous of the credit of piety, dares absolutely to deny .... Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which he has determined in himself, what he would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is fore-ordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say, he is predestinated either to life or to death. This God has not only testified in particular persons, but has given as specimen of it in the whole posterity of Abraham, which should evidently show the future condition of every nation to depend upon his decision (Deut. 32:8, 9)."


 § 80. From Basel to Ferrara. The Duchess Renée.


Shortly after, if not before, the publication of his great work, in March, 1536, Calvin, in company with Louis du Tillet, crossed the Alps to Italy, the classical soil of the literary and artistic Renaissance. He hoped to aid the cause of the religious Renaissance. He went to Italy as an evangelist, not as a monk, like Luther, who learned at Rome a practical lesson of the working of the papacy.

He spent a few months in Ferrara at the brilliant court of the Duchess Renée or Renata (1511–1575), the second daughter of Louis XII., of France, and made a deep and permanent impression on her. She had probably heard of him through Queen Marguerite and invited him to a visit. She was a small and deformed, but noble, pious, and highly accomplished lady, like her friends, Queen Marguerite and Vittoria Colonna. She gathered around her the brightest wits of the Renaissance, from Italy and France, but she sympathized still more with the spirit of the Reformation, and was fairly captivated by Calvin. She chose him as the guide of her conscience, and consulted him hereafter as a spiritual father as long as he lived.462  He discharged this duty with the frankness and fidelity of a Christian pastor. Nothing can be more manly and honorable than his letters to her. Guizot affirms, from competent knowledge, that "the great Catholic bishops, who in the seventeenth century directed the consciences of the mightiest men in France, did not fulfil the difficult task with more Christian firmness, intelligent justice and knowledge of the world than Calvin displayed in his intercourse with the Duchess of Ferrara."463

Renan wonders that such a stern moralist should have exercised a lasting influence over such a lady, and attributes it to the force of conviction. But the bond of union was deeper. She recognized in Calvin the man who could satisfy her spiritual nature and give her strength and comfort to fight the battle of life, to face the danger of the Inquisition, to suffer imprisonment, and after the death of her husband and her return to France (1559) openly to confess and to maintain the evangelical faith under most trying circumstances when her own son-in-law, the Duke of Guise, carried on a war of extermination against the Reformation. She continued to correspond with Calvin very freely, and his last letter in French, twenty-three days before his death, was directed to her. She was in Paris during the dreadful massacre of St. Bartholomew, and succeeded in saving the lives of some prominent Huguenots.464

Threatened by the Inquisition which then began its work of crushing out both the Renaissance and the Reformation, as two kindred serpents, Calvin bent his way, probably through Aosta (the birthplace of Anselm of Canterbury) and over the Great St. Bernard, to Switzerland.

An uncertain tradition connects with this journey a persecution and flight of Calvin in the valley of Aosta, which was commemorated five years later (1541) by a memorial cross with the inscription "Calvini Fuga."465

At Basel he parted from Du Tillet and paid a last visit to his native town to make a final settlement of family affairs.466

Then he left France, with his younger brother Antoine and his sister Marie, forever, hoping to settle down in Basel or Strassburg and to lead there the quiet life of a scholar and author. Owing to the disturbances of war between Charles V. and Francis I., which closed the direct route through Lorraine, he had to take a circuitous journey through Geneva.



* Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997. This material has been carefully compared, corrected¸ and emended (according to the 1910 edition of Charles Scribner's Sons) by The Electronic Bible Society, Dallas, TX, 1998.

380  Opera, XXXI. 21 (Latin and French).

381  Opera, V. 388 sqq.

382  The Latinized form of Cauvin or Chauvin. Alcuin, one of his assumed names, is an anagram of Calvin. See La France Protest., III. 518, note. He assumed the name Calvinus in his book on Seneca, 1532.

383  Michelet (Histoire de France, XI. 88) calls Picardy "un pays fécond en révolutionnaires, en brouillants amis de l’humanité." Lefranc (p. 24): "Les deux mouvements contraires, la Réforme française et ce qui la combattit avec le plus d’acharnement, la Ligue, sont nés dans le même pays." Noyon lies 67 miles N.N.E. of Paris, is enclosed with gardens, has a large old cathedral, a bishop’s palace, a hospital, a seminary, several public fountains, manufactures of fine linens, tulle, oil, leather, and a brisk trade, with a population of about 6000. From Lippincott’s Gazetteer, p. 1620.

384  "De notaire apostolique, la première charge qu’il obtint, il devint successivement notaire du chapitre, greffier de l’officialité, procureur fiscal du comtéet promoteur du chapitre. C’estàNoyon, en quelque sorte, le fac-totum du clergé." Lefranc, p. 2.

385  Lefranc, pp. 17 and 199. Herminjard, II. 394. Bolsec, in his Histoire de Calvin, calls Gérard Cauvin "un très-exécrable blasphémateur de Dieu." Perhaps he confounded him with his eldest son, Charles.

386  See the genealogical table in Henry, vol. III.; Beilage, 16, p. 174.

387  Carolus ejus frater et presbyter Novioduni mortuus noctu et clam sepultus est inter quatuor columnas furcae publicae quia Eucharistiam sumere noluerat." Papire Masson, Vita Calv.; Lefranc, pp. 18-21 and 210.

388  Beza, at the close of his Latin Vita Calv. (in Calvin’s Opera, XXI. 171), and Lefranc, l.c., p. 184.

389  Letter of Bucer to Farel, May 1, 1528, in Herminjard, II. no. 232, and Opera, X. Pt. I. p. 1. The "juvenis Noviodunensis" there mentioned was not Calvin, as Kampschulte (I. 231) conjectures, but probably Olivetan. There is no trace of such an early visit of Calvin to Strassburg.

390  La France Prot. III. 639.

391  See the list and the profession in Lefranc, 216) sqq. He goes, however, too far when he says (p. x. sq.): "Ce qui ressort d’une étude attentive des faits, c’est que Calvin est sorti déja protestant de sa ville natale. C’est dans ce centre qu’il puisa ses idées. Il y trouva tout d’abord l’appui le plus ferme, ses amis les plus chauds et ses lieutenants les plus dévoués. A un moment donné, la moitiéde la population se déclara pour lui. Chose remarquable, un nombre considérable des ses compatriots, et parmi eux les personnages les plus en vue, le suivirent jusqu’àGenève. Durant toute sa vie, Calvin conserva d’actifs rapports avec sa villenatale et ceux de ses fidèles qui y étaient restés." Calvin was not converted before 1532. See § 72.

392  Desmay (quoting from the Registres of Noyon, see Op. XXI. 189): Jean Calvin obtient une portion du revenue de la chapelle de la Gésine de la Vierge fondée dans la cathédrale de Noyon." There were four chaplains at Noyon. The first two had to say mass alternately every morning. John Calvin, not being ordained, had to pay a priest to take his place. Lefranc, p. 10. Zwingli received a papal pension even after he had begun his work of reform. See above, § 8, p. 31 sq. This is all wrong, but was not so considered at that time.

393  Beza says: "Quo loco [Pons Episcopi] constat Calvinum, antequam Gallia excederet, nullis alioqui pontificiis ordinibus (unquam) initiatum, aliquot ad populum conciones habuisse." Op. XXI. 121. "Unquam" is omitted in the text, but added in the notes. The French biography of Colladon reads: "En laquelle cure il a depuis preschépar fois, avans qu’il se retirast de France." Ibid. 54.

394  This is the date given by Kampschulte (I. 223), Lefranc (p. 14), and others. According to Opera, XXI. 189, Calvin was "Corderii discipulus in Collegio de la Marche Lutetice," in the year 1529; but in that year he was a student of the university. There is some confusion in the dates referring to the period of his studies in Paris.

395  Cordier was called "linguae, morum vitaeque magister." He was the Rollin of the sixteenth century. He wrote Rudimenta grammaticae; le miroir de la jeunesse; commentarius puerorum, etc. See Lefranc, p. 62, and "Bulletin de la Soc. de l’hist. du Protest. français," XVII. 449.

396  Beza-Colladon (XXI. 54): "Quant àses moeurs, il estoit sur tout fort consciencieux, ennemi des vices, et fort adonnéau service de Dieu qu’on appeloit pour lors: tellement que son coeur tendoit entierement àla Theologie, et son père pretendoit de l’y faire employer." In the Latin Vita, Beza says that he was "tenera aetate mirum in modum religiosus." With this agrees the testimony of the Roman Catholic, Florimond de Raemond, previously quoted, p. 273.

397  Le Vasseur, p. 1158. Beza gives some probability to this report by the notice that Calvin was "severus omnium in suis sodalibus censor."

398  "Doctor potius quam auditor," says Beza, who studied in the same universities a few years later, and lodged at Orleans in the house or pension of Duchemin, a friend of Calvin.

399  Beza (XXI. 122): "Quibus continuatis vigiliis ille quidem solidam eruditionem et excellentissiman memoriam est consequutus, sed etiam vicissim, ut verisimile est, ventriculi imbecillitatem contraxit, quae varios ipsi morbos et tandem etiam intempestivam mortem attulit."

400  Florimond de Raemond (who shows a tendency to discredit the French Reformation by tracing it to a foreign, German source) asserts that Volmar first instilled the poison of heresy into the mind of Calvin, and advised him to exchange the Code of Justinian for the Gospel of Christ. But Calvin and Beza (Op. XXI. 122), while speaking highly of Volmar as a teacher and friend, say nothing about his religious influence.

401  Opera, XII. no. 814. He apologizes for his long silence. The correspondence with Volmar is lost, but may yet be found.

402  March 6, 1531. Herminjard, II. 314 sq. no. 328; Lefranc, 79 sq.

403  In Op. XXI. 190, the degree is dated from the year 1532."Dans un act de se jour [Febr. 14]est nommémaistre Jean Cauvinlicenciées lois." In a document relating to the settlement of the estate of the deceased Gérard Cauvin, which Lefranc (p. 202) quotes from Le Vasseur (Annal., p. 1169), and assigns to Feb. 14, 1631, Calvin is mentioned as "licentiéès loix."

404  "Absque ullo precio, summo docentium omnium consensu," says Beza (Op. XXI. 122). Colladon (f. 54) adds that Calvin refused the offer ("ce que toutesfois il refusa"); but it is not clear whether he meant the gratuity or the degree itself, probably the former.

405  Gerdes, IV. 201; M’Crie, 63; Dyer, Life of Calvin, p. 8. Burnet, in his Hist. of the Ref. of the Ch. of England (Part I. Bk. II.), refers to a letter of Calvin on the subject, which I cannot find in Herminjard.

406  Lefranc (p. 89) calls him "l’un des esprits les plus profonds et les plus puissants de cette Renaissance qui compta tant de génies universels," and quotes the distich:—

 Magnus Budaeus, major Danesius ille,

 Argivos norat, iste etiam reliquos."’

407  "Nolui eam deducere a sententia ... sed paucis admonui, ne suis se viribus efferret, ne quid sibi de se temere promitteret, sed omnia reponeret in Dei virtute, in quo sumus et vivimus." Herminjard, II. 347.

408  See the last three letters of Calvin to Daniel (1559 and 1560) in Opera, vol. XVII. 584, 680, and XVIII. 16. Lefranc says (p. 77): "Rien de touchant comme cette correspondance oùle grave réformateur montre une indulgence et une souriante bonhomie qui ne lui sont pas habituelles .... Cet échange de lettres révèle veritablement un Calvin affectueux et délicat qu’on a trop souvent méconnu, sur la foi des Bolsec et des Audin." There is a German monograph on Pierre Daniel d’Orleans by Hagen of Bern, translated into French by Paul de Felice, Orleans, 1876.

409  "Litterarum alterum decus ac primae deliciae." In his dedicatory letter to Claude de Hangest, April 4, 1532, which is also printed in Herminjard, II. p. 411.

410  He freely quotes Aristotle, Plutarch, Virgil, Livy, Ovid, Horace, Pliny, Quintilian, Curtius, Macrobius, Terence, Diogenes Laërtius, and especially his favorite Cicero, whom he was for some time in the habit of reading through once a year. Lecoultre gives in an appendix a list of the works quoted by Calvin. He thinks that he was already then at heart a Protestant.

411  "Quum Nero diris suppliciis impotenter saeviret in Christianos." Op. V. 10. Henry, Herzog, Dorner, and Guizot assume an apologetic aim; while Stähelin and Kampschulte deny it.

412  Quum superstitionibus papatus magis pertinaciter addictus essem, quam ut facile esset e tam profundo luto me extrahi, animum meum, qui pro aetate nimis obduruerat, subita conversione (par une conversion subite)ad docilitatem subegit." Opera, XXXI. 21. Lefranc (p. 40) weakens the sense of this decisive passage.

413  So Kampschulte (I. 242), Lefranc (p. 98 "dans la seconde moitiéde l’année 1532 "), and, apparently, also the Strassburg editors, vol. XXI. 191. Beza seems to date the conversion further back (to 1628 or 1627) and traces it to the influence of Olivetan, and so also Henry and Merle d’Aubigné (I. 635). Stähelin (I. 21) puts it forward to the beginning of 1533. Calvin spent the greater part of the year 1532 to 1533 at Orleans. Op. xxi. 191.

414  Ep. 19 in Op. X. Part II. 27. Bonnet, I. 12. Herminjard, III. 106. Lefranc, 109 sqq.

415  "Tuus ex animo." Op. X. Part II. 24. Bonnet, Letters, I. 9-11. Herminjard, III. 201, locates this letter in 1534, which is more likely than 1532. The letter presupposes a previous acquaintance with Bucer. This might be dated back with Kampschulte (I. 231) to the year 1528, if Calvin were that unnamed "Noviodunensis juvenis" whom Bucer, in a letter to Farel, dated May 1, 1528, mentions as having fled from persecution at Orleans to Strassburg to study Greek and Hebrew; but Bucer probably referred to Pierre Robert Olivetan, who was likewise from Noyon, and a relative and friend of Calvin, and perhaps brought Calvin into contact with Bucer. Herminjard, II. 132 (note 5), conjectures that the young man was Froment. But Froment was a native of Dauphiné, not of Noyon. Comp. Op. X. Part II. 1; xxi. 191.

416  Audin, following in the track of Bolsec, traces Calvin’s conversion to wounded ambition, and thereby exposes, as Kampschulte justly observes (I. 242), his utter ignorance and misconception of Calvin’s character, whose only, ambition was to serve God.

417  "Je renonce le cresme, et retient mon Baptesme." Colladon, in Op. XXI. 53.

418  The value of the tonsure was differently estimated, but it was generally excluded from the lower orders. Calvin says (Inst. IV. ch. 19, § 22): "Some represent the clerical tonsure to be the first order of all, and episcopacy the last; others exclude the tonsure, and place the archiepiscopal office among the orders." Peter the Lombard distinguishes seven orders, corresponding to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (Isa. 11:2, 3),—beadles, readers, exorcists, acolytes, subdeacons, deacons, priests. He regards the episcopate, not as a separate ordo, but only as a dignity with four grades,—patriarch, archbishop, metropolitan, bishop. Several schoolmen and canonists reckon eight or nine ordines, including bishops and archbishops. The Council of Trent defined the three ordines majores,—bishops, priests (presbyters), and deacons.

419  Colladon, Op. XXI. 56: "Il prescha (while he studied at Bourges) quelquefois en une petite ville du pays de Berry, nommée Lignières, et eut entrée en la maison du seigneur du lieu qui estoit pour lors: lequel ... disait ... qu’il lui semblait que, M. Jean Calvin preshoit mieux que les moines." His preaching at Pont l’Evèque is mentioned by Colladon, ibid. fol. 64, and by Beza, fol. 121. See above, p. 301.

420  Beza, Vita C. (XXI. 125 sq.) Suffragiis presbyterii et magistratus, accedente plebis consensu, delectus non concionator tantum (hoc autem primum recuserat), sed etiam sacrarumliterarum doctor, quod unum admittebat, est designatus anno Domini MDXXXVI mense Augusto." Comp. Colladon, ibid. fol. 58 sq.: "declaréPasteur et Docteur en caste Eglise [de Genève]avec légitime élection et approbation."

421  Inst. IV. ch. III. § 16.

422  Institutes, IV. ch. XIX. § 28. (In Tholuck’s ed. II. 470.)

423  Keble says in his Introduction to Hooker’s Ecclesiastical Polity:, Nearly up to the time when Hooker wrote (1594), numbers had been admitted to the ministry of the Church of England with no better than presbyterial ordination."

424  Our own age is witness to this fact. I may refer to Dwight Lyman Moody, who is a plain, unordained layman, but a genuine, God-taught evangelist. He has probably converted more people to a Christian life than any clergyman or learned professor of theology of this age, and has made his home at Northfield a Jerusalem for Bible students from all parts of the country, and even from across the sea.

425  Le miroirde l’âme pécheresse (1533). The book was condemned on purely negative evidence. The silence about purgatory and the intercession of saints was construed as a denial.

426  Elie Courault (Coraud, Couraud, Coraldus) afterwards fled to Basel in 1534, and became a colleague of Farel and Calvin at Geneva in 1536. See Herminjard, IV. 114, note 9.

427  Bulaeus, Historia Universitatis Parisiensis, VI. 238, and in the "Catalogus illustrium Academicorum Univ. Parisiensis" at the end of the same volume. A notice of Cop in Herminjard, III. 129 sq. note 3.

428  The incomplete draft of’ this address has been discovered by J. Bonnet among the MSS. of the Geneva Library, and the whole of it by Reuss and Cunitz in the library of St. Thomas in Strassburg. It is printed in Opera, X. Pars II. 30-36 (and the shorter draft, IX. 873-876). Comp. Herminjard, III. 117, note, and 418 sqq.

429  Three hundred crowns were offered for his capture dead or alive. So Bucer wrote to Blaurer, Jan. 13, 1534, in Herminjard, III. 130. Cop informed Bucer, April 5, 1534, that a German was burned in Paris, for denying transubstantiation. Ibid. III. 159.

430  According to Beza (XXI. 123), Queen Marguerite protected Calvin and honorably received him at the court; but he certainly left Paris very soon. Colladon says nothing of an interference of Marguerite. The story of the escape of Calvin is told by Papyrius Masson, and Desmay. See M’Crie, p. 100, note 59. It has been compared to Paul’s escape at Damascus, Acts 9:25.

431  They are indiscriminately called "faux prophètes, damnables trompeurs, apostats, loups, faux pasteurs, menteurs, blasphémateurs, meurtriers des âmes, renonceurs de Jésus Christ, ravisseurs de l’honneur de Dieu, et plus détestables queles diables." Farel, then in Switzerland, was suspected of having some share in this incendiary publication, but without any evidence. Courault, who was then in confinement, advised not to publish the paper, "as it would excite great commotion in the minds of the people, and bring odium on the whole body of the faithful." Hist. Martyr., fol. 64, quoted by M’Crie, p. 102.

432  Beza (XXI. 124) gives a brief account of the persecution:"Eousque inflammata fascinati Francisci Regis ira ob schedas quosdam adversus missam per urbem sparsas ipsiusque regii cubiculi foribus ad fixas, ut publica decreta supplicatione, cui una cum liberis suis tribus nudo capite ardentem facem quasi expiationis causa gestans interfuit, quatuor urbis celebrioribus locis octonos martyres vivos ustulari juberet, atque adeo solemni jure jurando testaretur, se ne liberis quidem suis parsurum, si forte teterrimis illis, ut vocabat, haeresibus essent infecti." The Protestant reports are verified by that of a Roman Catholic, "Bourgeois de Paris," who witnessed the burnings with satisfaction, as a spectacle well pleasing to God, and mentions the dates and places of execution (namely, Nov. 10, 1534, Nov. 18, Nov. 19, Dec. 4; Jan. 21,1535, Jan. 22, Feb. 16, 19, 26, March 3, May 5), as well as the occupations of the victims, most of whom were workingmen, one a rich merchant. This report was published in 1854 and is reprinted in Michelet’s Histoire de France (vol. X. 340 sq.).

433  Pour excuser envers les princes protestants les persécutions qu’on faisait contre l’Evangile." Colladon (XXI. 57).

434  Michelet (X. 339) says: "Rien de plus saint, de plus pur, que les origines du protestantisme français. Rien de plus éloignéde la sanglante orgie de Munster."

435  Michelet, l.c. 342 sq.

436  Such as Charles d’Espeville, Martianus Lucanius, Carolus Passelius, Alcuin, Deperçan, Calpurnius. There is a monograph on these assumed names, Diatribe de Pseudonymia Calvini, by Liebe, Amsterdam, 1723, which includes several letters of importance. So says Kampschulte, I. 245.

437  Le Vasseur, 1161. Herminjard, V. 104. Op. XXI. 193.

438  Beza calls the year 1534 "horrenda in multos pios saevitia insignia" (Calv. Op. XXI. 124).

439  Dyer (Life of Calvin, p. 18) says of her: "Plato’s divine and earthly love never met more conspicuously in a human being," and quotes the remark of M. Génin, the editor of her correspondence: "Le trait saillant du caractère de Marguerite c’est d’avoir alliétoute sa vie les idées religieuses et les idées d’amour mondain."

440  Ep. 20, Op. X. Pt. I. 37. Florimond de Raemond (p. 883) extends Calvin’s sojourn at Angoulême to three years, which is evidently an error.

441  Florimond de Raemond: "Il estoit en bonne estiméet réputation, aiméde tous ceux qui aimoient les lettres."

442  According to the same Roman Catholic historian.

443  Ep. 29 in Op. X. Pars I. 51: the preface in vol. IX. 787-790. Beza (followed by Stähelin, I. 88) makes him take part also in the first edition, which appeared in 1634, and contained only the New Testament. But this seems to be an error. See Reuss, "Révue de Theologie," 1866, No. III. 318, and Kampschulte, I. 247; also Herminjard, III. 349, note 8.

444  Beza (XXI, 123): "Excepit juvenem [Calvinum] bonus senex et libenter vidit, futurum augurans insigne coelestis in Gallia instaurandi regni instrumentum."

445  According to Florimond de Raemond.

446  Bayle, Art. Calvin and La Place. Crottet, Petite Chronique Protestante de France, 96 sqq. Stähelin, I. 32. Lefranc, 120. Herminjard, III. 202, note 4.

447  M. Crottet, Correspondance de Calvin avec L. du Tillet, 1850.

448  "Lumen Galliae." See the Reminiscences of Basel, by Petrus Ramus (1572), quoted in Op. XXI. 194. Ch. Waddington, Ramus, sa vie, ses écrits et ses opinions, Paris, 1855. Stähelin, I. 41 sqq. Kampschulte, I. 250.

449  See above, p. 219. Ep. 2634, referred to in Op. XXI. 196.

450  "Video magnam pestem oriri in Ecclesia contra Ecclesiam."

451  It rests on the sole authority of Florimond de Raemond, p. 890. He puts the visit in the year 1534, when Calvin was yet in France, and could not accompany Bucer. Beza and Colladon know nothing of such an interview. Bayle doubted it. Merle d’Aubigné, III. 203-204 (Engl. trans. III. 183-185), however, accepts and embellishes it as if he had been present and heard the colloquy of the three scholars.

452  Kampschulte, a Roman Catholic historian, and others, call him "the Aristotle;" Martin, a liberal French historian, and others, call him—more appropriately—"the Thomas Aquinas," of Protestantism.

453  Florimond de Raemond: "l’Alcoran ou plutôt le Talmud de l’hérésie."

454  See the testimonies of Bossuet, and especially of Kampschulte, quoted in 68, p. 285 sq.

455  "Videmur nobis agnoscere, dominum instituisse tui ustum ecclesiis suis uberrimum concedere, eisque tuo ministerio latissime commodare." Herminjard, IV. 118.

456  Dogmengeschichte, vol. III. 27.

457  Kirchengeschichte, p. 405 (11th edition).

458  Many editors print, as a motto, the distich of the Hungarian, Paul Thurius:

 Praeter apostolicas post Christi temporachartas,

 Huic peperere libro saecula nulla parem."

459  I have made use of the faithful translation of John Allen, compared with the Latin original.

460  He himself gives in the preface to the last edition the following account of the successive improvements of the work: "In the first edition of this work, not expecting that success which the Lord in his infinite goodness hath given, I handled the subject for the most part in a superficial manner, as is usual in small treatises. But when I understood that it had obtained from almost all pious persons such a favorable acceptance as I never could have presumed to wish, much less to hope, while I was conscious of receiving far more attention than I had deserved, I thought it would evince great ingratitude, if I did not endeavor at least, according to my humble ability, to make some suitable return for the attentions paid to me;—attentions of themselves calculated to stimulate my industry. Nor did I attempt this only in the second edition, but in every succeeding one the work has been improved by some farther enlargements. But though I repented not the labor then devoted to it, yet I never satisfied myself till it was arranged in the order in which it is now published. And I trust I have here presented to my readers what their judgments will unite in approving. Of my diligent application to the accomplishment of this service for the Church of God, I can produce abundant proof. For, last winter, when I thought that a quartan ague would speedily terminate in my death, the more my disorder increased, the less I spared myself till I had finished this book, to leave it behind me as some grateful return to such kind solicitations of the religious public. Indeed, I would rather it had been done sooner, but it is soon enough, if well enough. I shall think it has appeared at the proper time, when I shall find it to have been more beneficial than before to the Church of God. This is my only wish."

461  See the quotations of the several passages bearing upon this doctrine in Schweizer’s Centraldogmen, I. 150-152, and in Stähelin, I. 66-68.

462  Beza (xxi. 123): "Illam [Ferrariensem Ducissam]in vero pietatis studio confirmavit, ut eum postea vivum semper dilexerit, ac nunc quoque superstes gratae in defunctum memoriae specimen edat luculentum." Colladon (53) speaks likewise of the high esteem in which the Duchess, then still living, held Calvin before and after his death. Bolsec in his libel (Ch. v. 30), mentions the visit to Ferrara, but suggests a mercenary, motive. "Calvin," he says, "s’en alla vers Allemaigne et Itallie: cherchant son adventure, et passa par la ville de Ferrare, ou il receut quelque aumone de Madame la Duchesse."

463  St. Louis and Calvin, p. 207. He adds: "And the duchess was not the only, person towards whom he fulfilled this duty of a Christian pastor. His correspondence shows that he exercised a similar influence, in a spirit equally lofty and judicious, over the consciences of many Protestants."

464  See the correspondence in the Letters by Bonnet, and in the Strassburg-Braunschweig edition. On Renée and her relation to Calvin see Henry, I. 159, 450-454; III. Beilage 142-153; in his smaller work, 62-69; 478-483; Stähelin, I. 94-108; Sophia W. Weitzel, Renée of France, Duchess of Ferrara, New York, 1883; and Theod. Schott, in Herzog2, XII. 693-701.

465  In the city of Aosta, near the Croix-de-Ville, stands a column eight feet high, surmounted by a cross of stone, with the following inscription:


 Calvini Fuga



 Religionis Constantia



The inscription was renewed again in 1841, with the following addition (according to Merle d’Aubigné, who saw it himself, vol. V. 531):

 Civium Munificentia

 Renovavit Et Adornavit.


"Religionis constantia" must refer to the Roman faith which drove Calvin and his heresy away. Dr. Merle d’Aubigné accepts Calvin’s flight on the ground of this monumental testimony as a historical fact, but the silence of Calvin, Beza, and Colladon throws doubt on it. See J. Bonnet, Calvin au Val d’Aosta, 1861; A. Rilliet, Lettre àMr. Merle d’Aubignésur deux points obscure de la vie de Calvin, 1864; Stähelin, I. 110; Kampschulte, I. 280 (note); La France Prof., III. 520; Thomas M’Crie, The Early Years of Calvin pp. 95 and 104.

Fontana: Documenti del archivio vaticano e dell’ Estenso circa soggiorno di Calvino a Ferrara, 1885. Comba in "Rivista christiana," 1885; Sandovini in Rivista stor. italiana," 1887.

466  This visit to Noyon is mentioned by Beza in the Latin Vita, who adds that he then brought his only surviving brother Antoine, with him to Geneva (XXI. 125). Colladon (58) agrees, and informs us that Calvin left Du Tillet at Basel, who from there went to Neuchâtel. In his French Life of C., Beza omits the journey to France: "A son retour d’Italie ... il passa àla bonne heure par ceste ville de Genève."