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Written by Dr Rowland S. Ward   
Monday, 26 October 2009 20:12

 

JOHN CALVIN - THE MAN

An address by Dr Rowland S. Ward given on 24 October 2009

at Creek Road Presbyterian Church, Brisbane

 

John Calvin – a Frenchman who lived from 1509-1564 and was one of a number of notable Reformers of the Church.

Assessments of Calvin’s character have varied widely. In 1577 Jerome Bolsec called him “John Calvin of Noyon, a man among all others who were ever in the world ambitious, presumptuous, arrogant, cruel, malicious, vengeful, and above all ignorant.” He had a few other scurrilous comments which I don’t care to repeat here. Bolsec had left the Catholic Church in 1545 and for about 20 years flirted with Protestantism but was doctrinally astray. In fact he was banished from Geneva in 1551 over his denial of predestination. He rejoined the Catholic Church in 1561 and died about 1584.

Calvin’s successor at Geneva, Theodore Beza, praised Calvin as a champion of the truths of God but insisted he did not want to make Calvin an angel. He was indeed “hot tempered and difficult” he writes in 1565, shortly after Calvin’s death.

Although Calvin and Geneva received praise on all sides for the execution of arch-heretic Michael Servetus in 1553, later history is less favourable. Calvin is picked out as a tyrant and an unrepentant murderer.

So who was John Calvin?

Early life

Jean Cauvin or John Calvin as we commonly know him from the Latin version of his name he adopted as a young man, was born in Noyon in Picardy on July 10, 1509. The family had lived in the area for a considerable time, and Noyon then had a population of about 10,000. The economy was based on the Oise valley and was a centre of the grain trade. His ancestors were boatmen, but his grandfather was a barrel-maker, while his father, Gérard (1454-1531), became a clerk who rose to preferment in the church administration of Noyon through the protection of the bishop. Ultimately Gérard became a secretary to the bishop and then procurator of the cathedral chapter, so he had a background in legal and financial matters.

In 1497 Gérard married Jeanne Le Franc, a wealthy hotel-keeper’s daughter. She died when John was young, probably in 1515, leaving four sons – Charles, who was older than John, and Antoine and François, who were younger. Another Antoine had not survived infancy and François died young. There were two daughters from a second marriage, Marie being the only one we know about. Both she and Antoine were to help Calvin in Geneva later on. John’s mother was pious and devoted to the Roman Church. In his popular 1543 little book, A Treatise on Relics, John recalled that his mother took him to view some saints’ relics at a nearby abbey.

John’s father was capable, ambitious and well-connected but rather secular in his spirit, and anxious for the advancement of his family. We know little of John’s childhood. He grew up with close connections with the family of the brother of the bishop. John received some education at the Collège de Capettes in Noyon. In 1521 at 12 years of age he received a quarter of the revenues of the chaplaincy established to attend one of the altars in the cathedral, and about that time or a little later – 1523 is the usual date - he left home to study in Paris with a view to the priesthood. The initial course included grammar, rhetoric and logic, with arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music subsequently.

John Calvin grew up in a world that was changing. The question of reform in the church had been long mooted but Luther’s impact was very significant in France from 1519. In 1521 the theological faculty at the Sorbonne had banned Luther’s writings and the Parlement of Paris followed suit. The same year Jacques Lefèvre and his circle, which included Guillaume Farel and François Vatable, the Hebraist, had to leave Paris for Meaux, some 40 kms distant, where they enjoyed the protection of the King’s sister. But in 1523 the Sorbonne moved against them and the group dispersed. Jean Vallière was executed in Paris in the same year for his Lutheran ideas. It was a dangerous time. The religious choices you made could bring life or death.

The young Calvin was fortunate to have as one of his early teachers in the preliminary grammar studies the notable Latinist Maturin Cordier (c.1480-1564). He was a considerable influence on Calvin but was not then a Protestant as was the case later. His teaching method was simple and clear and focussed also on love for Christ. In 1550 Calvin was to dedicate his commentary on 1 Thessalonians to his old teacher who in fact taught in the Academy of Geneva in the last years of his life. Calvin also came to know the Cop family whose head, Guillaume Cop, was the physician to King Francis. So he was moving in reform-minded and influential circles.

Legal studies

Completing his Master of Arts in 1527 Calvin was entitled to proceed to one of the higher faculties – theology, law or medicine. However, at some point in 1527 Calvin’s father fell out with the church authorities in Noyon over the administration of the estate of two priests, and in fact he was excommunicated in November 1528. Gérard had had enough of theology and directed his son to study civil law instead, which also paid better, and so about the end of 1527 John proceeded to Orléans for his further studies. John had just received extra income from a further benefice. In Orléans his most influential teacher was Pierre de l’Estoile a master of French, and, like Cordier, a humanist scholar. He also met Pierre-Robert (alias Olivétan), a cousin, who was later (1535) to translate the Bible into French with a Latin preface by Calvin. Beza suggests that it was from Olivétan that Calvin learned the truth of the Gospel, but as yet there is no sign of change in Calvin’s Roman Catholic position.

In the middle of 1529 Calvin moved to Bourges to study under Andrea Alciati, the most eminent lawyer of the time. He exchanged one benefice for another at this time. Calvin seems to have gained development in language style from Alciati, but resented the Italian’s negative attitude towards the Frenchman l’Estoile. He also rapidly became proficient in Greek under Melchior Wolmar (1497-1561), a fine scholar with Lutheran leanings to whom Calvin dedicated his commentary on 2 Corinthians in 1546. The young Theodore Beza (1519-1605) was also a student of Wolmar at this time.

Gérard Calvin had been excommunicated late in 1528 and died in May 1531 aged 77, but Charles managed to negotiate a church burial for his father. Perhaps understandably Charles, who had become a priest, resented the treatment his father had received. He drew towards Protestant teaching after his father’s death, was excommunicated in 1534 and died in 1536. His body was buried under the town gallows.

After his father’s death John at age 22 was free of his constraints. He returned to Paris, studied Hebrew and moved in circles that were interested in reform. In April 1532 he published at his own expense a critical text of the classic work by the Roman philosoper Seneca On Clemency. This is the typical step of a man seeking to launch his career as a scholar. It was indeed a competent scholarly volume, but that was all, and it was not a success in the way John had hoped. It had no religious or political implications, although it was written while Calvin was staying at the house of a follower of Luther. In May 1532 he returned to Orléans, walking the 105kms, to complete his studies and graduate Doctor of Laws. Just two years later Calvin returned to Noyon and resigned the benefices he held, which effectively marks his abandonment of the Roman communion. We ask, what had happened?

The short answer is that we know very little because Calvin tells us very little. At some point in this 1532/33 period Calvin became a committed follower of Christ, but what had gone before had somewhat prepared the way. He had been simply a humanist interested in scholarly pursuits and moderate reform. However, in November 1533 Calvin’s friend Nicolas Cop, son of the King’s physician, gave an address in his capacity as the new rector of the University. Cop was perfectly capable of composing it himself and a complete copy in his writing exists. A partial copy of this address also exists in Calvin’s hand, and that he had some part in its composition seems clear. The address was hardly of an extreme character but the times were sensitive and it was regarded as Lutheran, and both men fled – Cop to Basel and Calvin to Angoulême in SW France and the du Tillet home where he made good use of the excellent library there.

Nearly 25 years later Calvin describes the turning around of his life in his Preface to his Commentary on the Psalms (1557) in this way:

“And first, since I was too obstinately addicted to the superstitions of Popery to be easily drawn out of that so deep mire, God, by a sudden conversion [or perhaps a better translation is ‘an unexpected conversion’, which also serves to emphasise where Calvin placed the initiative], subdued my heart (too hardened for my age) to docility. Thus, having acquired some taste of true piety, I burned with such great zeal to go forward that although I did not desist from other studies I yet pursued them more indifferently, nor had a year gone by when all who were desirous of this purer doctrine thronged to me, novice and beginner that I was, in order to learn.”

Calvin’s primary interest now is serving Christ wholeheartedly. Indeed, reminding us of Cordier, he calls himself a ‘lover of Jesus Christ’ but still he thinks his role will be that of a scholar not a public figure. He visits Noyon in May 1534 and resigns the benefices since he is not going on to the priesthood. He is clearly in the camp of the reformers and although never ordained as such he will be a teacher-pastor-scholar for the rest of his life.

Follower of Christ

The Preface of Calvin’s first book in the cause of Christ was written in Orléans in 1534 but the book was not published until 1542. Entitled Psychopannychia and dealing with the doctrine of soul-sleep advanced by the Anabaptists, it is logical to see it as reflecting Calvin’s own concerns as he contemplates leaving the Roman Church and joining the reformers. The reformers rejected purgatory and masses for the dead – how then is death to be understood? What is the place of Christ in time and eternity? How can the reform movement avoid degenerating into a sectarian position?

In October of 1534 there occurred the affair of the Placards instigated by Antoine Marcourt. Posters put up throughout France called the mass idolatry. It polarised the country, incensed the King, and resulted in persecution of the reformers. By January 1535 Calvin had retreated to Basel and provided a Latin Preface for his cousin’s translation of the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into French published in June that year. This was the first Protestant Bible in French. Calvin was a master French linguist and worked on numerous subsequent editions to improve Olivétan’s style.

At Basel also Calvin wrote the first edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion published in March 1536 when he was not yet 27. In Latin, the language of scholars, it was dedicated to King Francis I in a 8,500 word preface vindicating the reformers’ Gospel with a view to changing the King’s persecution policy. The title infers instruction or education in the principles of Christianity is the object. It was printed in a compact pocket-size format. It runs to 146,000 words in English translation, and thus was about 20% shorter than an English New Testament. The book was an immediate success, meeting a great need for the reforming movement. Rearranged and several times expanded the final edition (1559) is five times larger, and thus about the length of a complete English Bible. The first French edition, translated by Calvin himself, was in 1541.

Geneva 1536-38

A few months later Calvin was passing through Geneva, a town of about 10,000 people, where Guillaume Farel (1489-1565) and Pierre Viret (1511-71) had introduced the reformation. Farel pressured him to stay at Geneva and help the reform which was not settled and secure. He put the fear of God into Calvin and Calvin stayed. At first Calvin taught the Scriptures but he played an important role in Lausanne’s acceptance of the reform through an extempore speech there. Soon he was taking a major role in preaching and re-organisation of the church in Geneva. A French catechism was produced in 1537. In January 1537 proposals were put to the Little Council that would give power to the preachers to bar the immoral or heretical from the Lord’s Table, allow the singing of psalms, provide for the instruction of children and regulate marriage. The first was the sticking point, for excommunication belonged to the Little Council, and it was not going to give it up, and especially not to these newly arrived Frenchmen. There were other issues of church practice that were difficult given the military alliance with Bern, and the close connection of religious and civil matters. Opponents of Calvin were elected in 1538 and he and Farel were expelled from Geneva, along with the blind preacher Corault in April 1538.

Strasbourg 1538-41

Farel became pastor at Neuchâtel and Calvin, at the persistent urging of Martin Bucer, and after a short stay in Basel, soon became pastor to French refugees in Strasbourg where reformation had come 15 years before. Here he was to remain, poor but happy, for the next three years. He preached several times a week to a receptive congregation of 4 or 500, and he was writing. In August 1539 a fresh edition of the Institutes, three times longer than the first, was published, followed by his Commentary on Romans, and A Short Treatise on the Lord’s Supper. A further significant work was his 15,000 word Reply to Cardinal Sadoleto. Sadoleto had addressed a flattering letter to the people of Geneva in March 1539 calling them to return to the Roman fold. This reply was written at the request of Geneva, where the situation was very unsettled, and was produced at short notice in September 1539. It was a masterpiece which comprehensively refuted the Cardinal, and, with a major change in leadership in Geneva, led a year later to an invitation to Calvin to return.

Meanwhile, Calvin was thinking of marriage. Writing to Farel in May 1539 he says:

“…I am not one of those insane lovers who embrace also the vices of those with whom they are in love, where they are smitten at first sight with a fine figure. This only is the beauty that allures me, if she is chaste, if not too fussy or fastidious, if economical, if patient, if there is hope that she will be interested about my health.”

In August 1540 Farel officiated at Calvin’s marriage to Idelette de Buren, the widow of Jean Stordier. The Stordiers had been converted from Anabaptism under Calvin’s preaching and became members of the congregation. Then the husband died of the plague leaving his wife and two young children. The marriage occurred a month later and became one of real love and companionship and spiritual support. It appears several children were born but all died at birth or shortly after. Idelette herself died in 1549.

Calvin had probably undermined his health by his intense study as a young man, and he was to suffer poor health all his life.

Recall to Geneva 1541

In 1540, the party that had banished Calvin from Geneva lost power and Calvin was eventually convinced against his will to return to Geneva on his own terms. He returned in September 1541 but far from becoming the master of the city, he had no civil judicial authority at all and was not even a citizen until 1559 when he was invited to become one. Until 1555 there was constant battle since all church decisions had to be approved by the Little Council. Many so-called 'blue' laws were operating long before Calvin came on the scene: dancing in the streets was prohibited in 1539, and card and dice playing was prohibited during preaching times and after 9pm before Calvin.

He resumed his pulpit ministry at the passage he had reached before his banishment, but otherwise made no reference to the past. Calvin managed to have some measure of reform for the church passed by the Little Council in November 1541. He established the consistory of elders and a plan of church discipline, but he could not secure the right of the church to operate it; this the Little Council retained. The records show a very significant effort at reconciliation and restoration by the consistory. It was supposed to be a place of confession not a court of law. However, the Little Council wanted control and made the elders quasi-public officials representing the Little Council and effectively criminalized offences, which was not at all Calvin’s desire. There was resentment by the well-to-do and the old Genevese families to the even-handed approach to discipline Calvin aimed at, and this resentment carried over to dislike of the French refugees who came to the city and eventually formed a majority. The independence of the consistory was only secured in January 1555.

Plague broke out in Geneva in 1543. The Little Council forbade Calvin to minister to the sick and dying and only one other of the pastors was willing to do so. Calvin gradually replaced the pastors who were serving when he returned with more suitable men. The pastors (commonly 9 to 12 men) met each Friday with their assistants for spiritual conference/Bible study to aid in guarding sound teaching, and then the Company of Pastors met by themselves afterwards for mutual admonition. Calvin published A Short Treatise on the Holy Supper late in 1541 to help people understand the Supper. Developing work he had produced in Strasbourg, in 1542 Calvin published The Form of Prayers and Church Songs, which included a number of metrical psalms principally by Clément Marot. The following year more psalms to the total of 49 were published, and the versification was ultimately completed by Theodore Beza over the next 18 years. Early in the same year of 1542 he also published a catechism in 373 questions and answers.

Calvin had begun his exposition of the Bible in Strasbourg where his Commentary on Romans was published in March 1540. A steady stream of commentaries on the rest of the New Testament except Revelation came from his pen between 1546 and 1555, usually in both Latin and French. The Old Testament commentaries were published between 1551 and 1563 beginning with Isaiah and cover also Genesis to Joshua and the Psalms. The commentaries are characterised by lucid brevity. The Institutes was intended to expound particular theological questions in depth. Lectures delivered between 1556-1564 without notes other than the Biblical text were taken down in shorthand and revised by Calvin and cover Hosea, the Minor Prophets, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Daniel and part of Ezekiel.

Calvin was engaged in a number of controversies as well as the struggle with the Little Council. In February 1555 supporters of Calvin were elected and the party who had opposed him were defeated. Their leader Ami Perrin fled the city in May following a riot that looked as if it were part of a coup d’état, and four others were executed for sedition.

Servetus 1553

One particular famous or infamous controversy may be noted, the execution of Michael Servetus in October 1553 for his denial of the Trinity and infant baptism. The law of the Empire considered he who denied the Trinity was acting to kill men’s souls and deserved death. Thus Thomas Aquinas advocated the death penalty for gross heresy not just denial of the Trinity.

On the part of the Church, however, there is mercy which looks to the conversion of the wanderer, wherefore she condemns not at once, but “after the first and second admonition,” as the Apostle directs: after that, if he is yet stubborn, the Church no longer hoping for his conversion, looks to the salvation of others, by excommunicating him and separating him from the Church, and furthermore delivers him to the secular tribunal to be exterminated thereby from the world by death. (Summa, Part 2 of the 2nd part, Qu. 11 Answer to Obj 3).

The Roman Church acted on this teaching in regard to Protestants, over 300 being burned to death during bloody Queen Mary’s five year reign in England (1553-58) for example. No Roman Catholic was ever put to death for his beliefs in Geneva, and few were the executions by Protestants of Roman Catholics for their faith in any case.

Servetus was a Spaniard influenced by Jewish and Islamic theology. He was a strange genius credited with discovering the pulmonary circulation of the blood but erratic and unstable. Servetus was a long-standing agitator of heresy, and in January 1553 had published his provocatively named Christianismi Restitutio (Restitution of Christianity). Calvin had had some acrimonious correspondence with Servetus some years earlier and knew where Servetus lived under an assumed name in SE France at Vienne, south of Lyons. Yet he had not acted against him although warning him against coming to Geneva or he would not leave alive. If Servetus had not been so outrageous in his language, and if the situation in Geneva had not been so perilous, I think the outcome may have been different. Certainly, if Calvin really had been the dictator of Geneva of popular mythology, Servetus would have been beheaded not burned.

A friend of Calvin in Geneva had written to a Roman Catholic cousin to the effect that in Geneva the Protestants were orthodox whereas it was not the same in Vienne where Servetus was working for the archbishop under an assumed name. Pressed for proof the friend in turn pressed Calvin, and with some reluctance, Calvin supplied evidence from Servetus’ handwriting of who Michael Servetus was, as Servetus himself denied that he was the man. Servetus escaped his prison in April, and in June was condemned and burned in effigy indicative of what would happen in reality if he was captured. The very next month five Geneva-trained Reformed preachers were burned at the stake in Lyons singing the 9th Psalm and reciting the Apostles’ Creed to attest their orthodoxy as the flames consumed them.

On 13 August Servetus was recognised in Geneva and arrested after a church service. While it was usual in Geneva to banish heretics, and, as Servetus was not a citizen, this would seem to have been the appropriate sentence, Geneva refused Vienne’s request that he be extradited. Perhaps the Spanish genius was under the delusion that he would find support from the old Genevan opponents of Calvin for he was now outspoken with no sign of the hypocrisy he had displayed in Vienne. Indeed, one of his printers in Vienne had formerly been an opponent of Calvin in Geneva, and a section of the Little Council of Geneva did support Servetus, including Philibert Berthelier.

Berthelier had been involved in a drunken brawl with threats against one of the preachers, yet the Little Council refused to prohibit him from receiving the Lord’s Supper. Calvin affirmed before the Little Council he would refuse to serve Berthelier, and the next day, 3 September, preached to that effect in defiance of the Little Council. However, Berthelier absented himself on the secret advice of some of the Little Council. Calvin felt this was a crisis point and that he would be expelled. His afternoon sermon on Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders, sounded like his last. It did not come to that because a middle group on the Little Council could see the difficulty they would be in if they did so.

On 22 September Servetus demanded Calvin be also put on trial and that either Calvin or Servetus be executed or otherwise punished. Hoping for a moderate reaction from other Protestant cantons, their opinion was sought by the Little Council but all were unfavourable to Servetus, and supported strong action without specifically indicating the penalty. Given Roman and Protestant opinion it was thus impossible for the Little Council to ignore acting against Servetus. On 26 October twenty of the 25 members of the Little Council were present. The first syndic, Ami Perrin, the leader of opposition to Calvin, argued for the release of Servetus but failed. The fear of disunity in the city and civil war swayed the Little Council and Servetus was condemned despite the majority not being supporters of Calvin. They showed their resentment of Calvin by refusing his plea that beheading be the form of the death penalty rather than burning. Perrin did not visit Servetus before his execution on 27 October. Calvin and Farel did, but to no avail in changing Servetus’ mind.

It is hard to avoid seeing the involvement by Calvin as in part motivated by a desire to clear the Reformed from the suspicion of heresy. Calvin’s was the lone voice arguing for the more merciful death by beheading. Farel thought that would be too lenient. Calvin subsequently defended the execution in writing against the criticism of a former friend and theologian, Sebastian Castellio. If anything, Calvin’s reputation advanced significantly following the action. Even Castellio, who is often quoted as advocating religious liberty and tolerance, after admitting he had not read Servetus' writings, said that if he were indeed a blasphemer he deserved to die. The idea of toleration as we understand it was not something that existed for another century. While we do not endorse the action taken, which belonged to the times, - so says the memorial erected in 1903 by latter-day Calvinists - before we are too critical we might consider Roland Bainton’s comment in 1951: “We are today horrified that Geneva should have burned a man for the glory of God, yet we incinerate whole cities for the saving of democracy.”

[In England a Baptist turned Unitarian, Edward Wightman, was burned in 1612 for denial of the Trinity. The law against burning of heretics was passed in England in 1677. In Scotland the young and foolish Thomas Aikenhead was hanged in 1697. This was the last execution for blasphemy in Britain, but burning was the punishment for certain other crimes until abolished in 1790.]

The final years 1555-64

As already noted, in January 1555 Calvin’s supporters finally gained control of the Little Council, and when the insurrection was put down by the Little Council in May, a period of peace and prosperity followed. Calvin preached on average five times a week and gave three biblical lectures each week as well as writing numerous letters to churches and individuals throughout Europe. A plot to assassinate him hatched by the Duke of Savoy came to nothing, and the city experienced a much better public life. John Knox in 1556 stated of Geneva: ‘Here exists the most perfect school of Christ which has been since the days of the Apostles on earth.’

The Academy of Geneva was opened in June 1559 with Beza as the first rector for the hundreds of students from many countries. Geneva’s population was then at its peak of about 20,000. Calvin was able to secure excellent teachers including a number who had formerly taught in Lausanne. Through the academy many were instructed in the Christian faith and sent as missionaries to France and other places, others were prepared for public service. At the time of Calvin’s death there were about 1,500 students, the majority from abroad, and studies in theology and law were available.

Calvin was a pre-eminent preacher and about 1500 of his 5000 sermons survive since in 1549 a stenographer, Denis Reguenier, was appointed to take them down. He transcribed over 2000 in the next 10 or 11 years. The sermons are in expository form and full of good application. They, along with his many letters, give a much better picture of Calvin the man than some of his more scholarly publications. The final edition of the Institutes was completed also in 1559.

Calvin had never sought citizenship, which was normally purchased by foreigners, but at the end of 1559 he was asked to accept it, and graciously did so. The same day he suffered a serious outbreak of tuberculosis, and the next four years of his life were one of constant labour amidst gradual decline so that he became quite emaciated.

On 2 February 1564, he held his last lecture in the Academy and on the 6 February his last sermon. On 27 May 1564, Calvin died in Geneva. He was buried on 28 May without pomp, and at his wish his grave received no gravestone. So no-one knows anymore exactly where Calvin is buried. In his farewell speech of 28 February 1564, Calvin says in retrospect:

“I have had many weaknesses, which you had to bear, and all that I have done is itself at base worth nothing. Wicked men will no doubt exploit this statement. Thus I repeat once more that all my activity is worth nothing and that I am a wretched creature. I can, to be sure, say of myself that I have intended good, that my mistakes have always displeased me and the fear of God has taken root in my heart. You can confirm that my efforts have been good. Therefore I ask you to forgive me my wickedness. However, if there has been anything good, keep to it and follow it!”

He had accumulated virtually nothing in worldly goods and had declined to receive a higher salary than the other pastors. His will dictated a month before he died left 225 French Crowns and includes these words:

I, John Calvin, servant of the Word of God in Geneva, weakened by many illnesses … thank God that he has shown not only mercy toward me, his poor creature, and … has suffered me in all sins and weaknesses but what is much more that he has made me a partaker of his grace to serve him through my work … I confess to live and die in this faith which he has give me, inasmuch as I have no other hope or refuge than his predestination upon which my entire salvation is grounded. I embrace the grace which he has offered me in our Lord Jesus Christ and accept the merits of his suffering and dying that through them all my sins are buried; and I humbly beg him to wash me and cleanse me with the blood of our great Redeemer, as it was shed for poor sinners so that I, when I shall appear before his face, may bear his likeness.

“Moreover, I declare that I endeavoured to teach his Word undefiled and to expound Holy Scripture faithfully according to the measure of grace which he has given me. In all the disputations which I led against the enemies of the truth, I employed no cunning or any sophistry, but have fought his cause honestly. But, oh, my will, my zeal were so cold and sluggish that I know myself guilty in every respect; without his infinite goodness, all my passionate striving would only be smoke, indeed the grace itself which he gave me would make me even more guilty; thus my only confidence is that he is the Father of mercy who as such desires to reveal himself to such a miserable sinner.

“As for the rest, I desire that after my passing my body be buried according to the customary form in expectancy of the day of the blessed resurrection.”

Beza said: ‘It has pleased God to show us in the life of a single man of our time how to live and how to die.’ Who was Calvin? A man of great gifts who offered his heart to God promptly and sincerely. Yes, that, but more. A man who knew he was a sinner saved by grace alone, and who in consequence unreservedly served his Saviour.

Suggested Introductory Literature

Youth:

E.M.Johnston, Man of Geneva (Banner of Truth, 1977)

Adult:

Herman J. Selderhuis, John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life (IVP, 2009)

Student:

Wulfert de Greef, The Writings of John Calvin: An Introductory Guide

(Westminster/John Knox, 2008)

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 03 June 2012 19:32