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§ 86. The Church of the Strangers in Strassburg.

Calvin combined the offices of pastor and professor of theology in Strassburg, as he had done in Geneva. The former activity kept him in contact with his French countrymen; the latter extended his influence among the scholars in Germany.

He organized the first Protestant congregation of French refugees, which served as a model for the Reformed Churches of Geneva and France.

The number of refugees amounted at that time to about four hundred.507507    A census of Strassburg, taken Oct. 18, 1563, enumerates one hundred Frenchmen who were citizens, thirty-five who were not citizens, and sixteen soldiers (in all 161 men), without including wives, children, and servants. From this Stricker (p. 6) infers that the foreign population numbered four hundred souls. Doumergue (l.c. p. 3) counts from five hundred to six hundred. Specklin (1536-1589), the author of a chronicle of Strassburg (edited by Rud. Reuss, Strassb. 1890), gives a much larger number, namely, fifteen hundred; but he is not very accurate, and must be corrected by the official census. Most of them belonged to the "little French Church."508508    "Ecclesiola Gallicana," as Calvin calls it. His first sermon was delivered in the Church of St. Nicholas, and attracted a large crowd of Frenchmen and Germans.509509    Afterwards he preached in the Klosterkirche der Reuerinnen, now called the Magdalenen Kirche. He preached four times a week (twice on Sunday), and held Bible classes. He trained deacons to assist him, especially in the care of the poor, whom he had much at heart. The names of the first two were Nicholas Parent, who afterwards became pastor at Neuchâtel, and Claude de Fer or Féray (Claudius Feraeus), a French Hellenist, who had fled to Strassburg, taught Greek, and died of the pestilence in 1541, to the great grief of Calvin.

He introduced his favorite discipline, and as he was not interfered with by the magistracy he had better success than at Geneva during his first sojourn. "No house," he says, "no society, can exist without order and discipline, much less the Church." He laid as much stress upon it as Luther did upon doctrine, and he regarded it as the best safeguard of sound doctrine and Christian life. He excluded a student who had neglected public worship for a month and fallen into gross immorality, from the communion table, and would not admit him till he professed repentance.510510    Calvin to Farel, in Herminjard, V. 291.

Not a few of the younger members, however, objected to excommunication as a popish institution. But he distinguished between the yoke of Christ and the tyranny of the pope. He persevered and succeeded. "I have conflicts," he wrote to Farel, "severe conflicts, but they are a good school for me."

He converted many Anabaptists, who were wisely tolerated in the territory of Strassburg, and brought to him from the city and country their children for baptism. He was consulted by the magistrates on all important questions touching religion. He conscientiously attended to pastoral care, and took a kindly interest in every member of his flock. In this way he built up in a short time a prosperous church, which commanded the respect and admiration of the community of Strassburg.511511    Kampschulte, I. 324, thus sums up Calvin’s pastoral labors in Strassburg: Strassburg hatte in Kurzem eine blühende wohlgeordnete französische Flüchtlingsgemeinde mit Predigt und Bibelstunden, mit regelmässiger Abendmahlsfeier und Psalmengesang, insbesondere aber mit einer strenge gehandhabten Disciplin, und nicht ohne Staunen erzählten die deutschen Pastoren bald einander von den Einrichtungen und dem merkwürdigen Eifer der neuen Emigrantenkirche in Strassburg."

Unfortunately, this Church of the Strangers lasted only about twenty-five years, and was extinguished by the flames of sectarian bigotry, though not till after many copies had been made from it as a model. An exclusive Lutheranism, under the lead of Marbach, obtained the ascendency in Strassburg, and treated the Calvinistic Christians as dangerous heretics. When Calvin passed through the city on his way to Frankfort, in August, 1556, he was indeed honorably received by John Sturm and the students, who respectfully rose to their feet in his presence, but he was not allowed to preach to his own congregation, because he did not believe in the dogma of consubstantiation. A few years later the Reformed worship was altogether forbidden by order of the Council, Aug. 19, 1563.512512    Stricker, pp. 11, 12, 64; Erichson, p. 65; Doumergue, p. 4; Calvin’s letter to Bullinger, Sept. 12, 1563 (Opera, X. 151). Under the French rule the Reformed Church was reorganized in Strassburg.

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