Elijah Waterman.

Memoirs of the life and writings of John Calvin : together with a selection of letters online

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MEMOIRS U SEP -.9 1931

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Calvinum assldue comltata modestla vlvum.
Hoc corde manibus finxerat ipsa suis

Ipsa a quo potuit virtutem discere virtus :
Roma, tuus terror maximus iUe fuit.



ffah & JFlosmer, Printers, Hartford, Conn.



C ###*## ) -n

'^ SEAL, > ^ ^ IT REMEMBERED, That on the first day of July,

i .. C in the thirty-seventh year of the Independence of the

' '"^***'^'* J United States of America, ELIJAH WATERMAN, of

said district, hath deposited in this office the title of a

book, the right whereof he claims as author, in the words following-—

' o wit :

"^lemoirs of the Life and Writings of John Calvin : together with a se-
irction of Letters, written by him and other distinguished Reformers : Al-
so, Notes and Biograpliical Sketches of some of his Cotemporaries. Com-
piled by the Kev. Elijah Waterm A^-, Pastor of the Presbyterian Church
in Bridgeport."

Ill conformity to an act of the Congress of the United States, entitled
''An Act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of
Maps, Charts and Books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies,
during the times therein mentioned." And the act of Congress of the U-iit-
rd States, entitled " An Act, supplementary to the act, entitled An Act for
the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts and
Books, during the times therein mentioned; and extending the benefits
thereof to the arts of Designing, Engraving and Etchmg Historical and oth-
er Prints."

Clerk of the District of Connecticut.
\ true copy of record, examined and sealed by me,

Clerk of the District of Connectiait^


Page 1. Note, read Tractatus Theologici Calvioi.

1 6. Bottom line, for 26th read 20th .

1 9. Note, for the second Epistolis read Epistola.

20. Line 9 from bottom, read 1534.
20. Note, for Bern read Buren.

35. Note, for April 7tli read April 17th.

.?8. Line 5, read 1540.

.)!. Line 10, for awaken read weaken.

106. Line 7, for re.ison read reasons,

l.n. Note, line 6, ibr September read August.

181. Line 3 from bottom, for Ecclesiar.tibus read Ecclcsiasticis.

188. Line 15, read, to continue stedfast in their sufferings.

9^. Under Extract No. 2, the mark ot quotation should have been

ait before the w ord Nothing, at line 4.


A HE following Memoirs have respect to a pe-
riod highly interesting in the annals of the Christian
Church, and are designed to exhibit the character of
one of the most successful Reformers. The delinea-
tion of the features of a mind of ascendant powers,
pressed with difficulties and invincible in advancing
the best good of man, becomes interesting and in-
structive, in proportion as the details are complete,
impartial and authentick. In the pursuit of this ob-
ject, the compiler has omitted no means, and spared
no labour, which his limited time and talents would
enable him to apply.

The Letters and Prefatory Epistles of Calvin furnish
a great proportion of those facts which Theodore Be-
za has collected in his life of this Reformer. In these
Mem^oirs the writer has preserved his own method,
and stated the facts without any special regard to the
style of the authors from whom they arc compiled.
In those instances where reference is not made to the
authorities, the materials of the narrative are chiefly
from the writings of Calvin, or from his life by Beza.
While he feels himself responsible to the publick for
the correctness of the history, and the faithfulness of
the translation of the Letters, he is flu' from presuming-


that he has not fallen into errours, either from his own
inattention or the incorrectness of his guides.

The original plan has been extended, and the labour
bestowed upon the compilation is much greater than
was at first proposed. A necessity, arising from cir-
cumstances which it would be useless to detail, has
precluded the opportunity of that more severe revision
of the work, which the compiler would most cheerful-
ly have attempted, in order to have rendered it more
worthy of the extensive patronage it has received.

In making a selection from the numerous Letters of
Calvin and others, he has been desirous of producing
those which he believed would best illustrate the events
of the life and the moral qualities of the mind of Cal-
vin. Written from the impulse of the moment, and
in the confidence of friendship, they are the index of
his heart, and fi rigorous testimony, that his talents
were profound, his labours immense, and his influence,
in the Reformation, commensurate with both.

The compiler cheerfully acknowledges his obliga-
tion to several gentlemen for their obliging generosi-
ty in supplying him with rare and valuable books, by
which he has been enabled to bring before the patrons
of the work, new and correct information, concerning
Calvin, the Reformers and the Reformation itself.

Bridgeport, March 1, 1813.

31 E M O I R S





John CALVIN was bom at Noyon in Picardy, a pro
vince of France, July 10th, A. D. 1509. His parents, Gerard
Chauvin and Joanna le Franc, were in respectable circum-
stances and of virtuous and unblemished reputation.^ They
possessed the esteem of many of the nobility in their neigh-
bourhood, and were favoured with the privilege of liberally
educating their son in the family of Mommor, one of the mos^
distinguished in that province. In this noble family, Calvin
received the discipline of childhood and the rudiments of lite-
rature.f With the children of this nobleman, his father sent
him to Paris, for the more favourable prosecution of his stu-
dies. Under the instruction of the learned Mathurin Cordier,t
Principal of the College of la Marche, he laid the foundation
of that correct knowledge of the Latin language, which ena^
bled him eminently to surpass his cotemporaries in writing it
^vith elegance and ease.

* Beza de Coena Domini, &c. Oper. Tom. 1. page 257.

t See tl^e dedication to Claude Hangest, in commentariis Seneca de Cle-
mentia; Tractatis Theologicis Calvini, ad fincm. Amsterdam edition, 1667

* See Notes and Biographical sketches in this volume : No. 1.



From la JMarche, Calvin wa? removed to the College of
Montaigii. In this seminary, under the instruction of a learn-
ed Spaniard, he made unusual proficiency, and was distin-
guished by being advanced from the common exercises of his
fellcw-students, to those of philosophy and the mathematicks.
In his boyhood he discovered a devout disposition, in severely
censuring the vices of his companions. His father viewed
witli pleasure the grave deportment of his son, and procured
for him, at tJie age of 12 years, from the Bishop of Noyon, a
benefice in the Cathedral Church of la Gesine. At this time
he must have received the tonsure,# the first step towards
priestly orders in the Church of Rome, of which he was a
member, and to which his father was now looking for his ad-»
vancement in wealth and honour. Calvin however was ulti-
mately introduced to the work of the ministry in a way vastly
difforent from what his father had devised, and for purposes
totally foreign from those which his patrons in the Chmxli
had intended.

For several years Calvin pursued the study of polite litera-
ture at Paris. In 1527, he was presented to an additional be-
nefice, the Rectory of Martville, which, in 1529, he ex-
changed for the parocliial Curacy of Pont rEvecj[ue,f the
native place of his father. In this town Calvin sometimes
prcaclicd, although he belonged to the clergy only by the
tonsure. Gerard, flattered with tlie distinguished attain-
ments of hif^ son, and observing liow greatly tlic science of the
law enriched its professors, suddenly changed his purpose,
and recalled hhn from the study of philosophy, to that of
jurisprudence. On this course of studies, Calvin entered re-
luctantly, and only in obedience to the v/ill of his father. He
says himself,! that his mind was too strongly addicted to the

* Sec Notes and Biog'. Xo. 2.

t Dit lincourt, as quoted by Bayle, Gen. Die. Art. Cal

■» Srt tetters in this Work, Xo. !►


superstitions of the Papacy, to be easily drawn from that mire ;
and his habits too firmly seasoned, to yield with docility to a
change of studies so unexpected. About this time, he he-
came acquainted with his kinsman Peter Robert 0]ivetan.#
This acquaintance was followed by consequences of great mo-
ment to Calvin and the cause of the Reformation, which ^sa?
now almost imperceptibly extending its influence in France.
From that learned and pious man he imbibed his first taste
for the true doctrines of religion. The dawning of the pure
light upon his devout mind awakened him to unremitting
diligence in searching the scriptures. His other studies, for
which he had no affection, he pursued in a cold and indiifer-
ent manner. He seized every unoccupied hour for the pri-
vate perusal of the Bible, till, his mind sickening at the su-
perstitious errours of Popery, he began to withdraw himself
from that communion.

On changing his purpose, as to the profession of his son,
Gerard placed him at the University of Orleans. And al-
though Calvin was indijfferent to the study of jurisprudencf^,
he still made such progress, under the tuition of the learned
Peter Stella,f that he was invited by tlie professors to supply
the chair, in their occasional absence. On leaving that I'ni-
versity, he received, as a testimony of respect, a unanimous and
gratuitous offer, from the whole faculty, of a doctor's degree.

Before a year had passed at Orleans, he attracted the at-
tention of all those, who w^re desirous of the knowledge of
the true doctrines. Modesty and diffidence were predomi-
nant qualities of his mind. He was fond of retirement, and
at this time peculiarly solicitous to be unkjiown. This how-
ever was so far from being granted him, that all his retreats
for study were frequented by such numbers as to have the

* See Notes and Rioj^. No. 3.

t This distinguislied b.wy-r was afterwards President of the Parriamem
of Paris. Bayle.


appearance of a public school. His application to study was
severe, and his acquirements were ricJi and astonishing. lie
seldom retired for sleep till the night was far advanced. He
allowed himself only a few hours for repose, and resumed, in
his morning meditations, the subject which liad engaged his
attention the preceding evening. He thus digested and stored
up in his memory, whatever he apprehended would be valua-
ble for future application. This practice, continued morning
by morning, contributed extensively to facilitate his acquisi-
tion of knowledge, to strengthen his unusual powers of memo-
ry, and to enlarge the vigorous grasp of liis youthful mind.

Andrew Alciat, an Italian lawyer, had by his talents given
a high reputation to the University of Bourges. Calvin was
removed by his father from Orleans, to attend the lectures of
this distinguished Professor. The munificence of Francis I.
in patronizing literary men, had drawn many foreigners into
France, and among others the learned IMelchior AA^olmar,#
who was, at this time, Professor of the Greek language, in
that University. Under his instruction Calvin applied him-
self to the study of the Greek. Both literature and religion
combined to form between these two men a strong and dura-
ble friendship. During his residence at Bourges, Calvin unit-
ed with his professional studies his researches on theological
su])ject?, and occasionally preached at Ligniers, a small town
in the province of Berri, with the permission and sometimes
in the presence of the Seigneur. The sudden death of his
father recalled liim from Bourges to the domcstick concerns
of the family at Noyon.f

From his native place, Calvin visited Paris, and prepared
his very learned and elaborate commentary on Seneca's Epis-
tle de Clcmcntia, Anticipating the progress of the new opi"

• See Notes and Bio^. No. 4. f Beza, Opera Tom. 1, paj. 237—
speaking of the mother of Calvin, sa> s— " Honcsdssimam matronam jam
olim defunctam—I'/iai most viriuom- xvoman lovrr since dcccastd"

1532 LIFE OF CALVIlSr. 5

nionSf and the violent persecutions which would be raised to
suppress every incipient attempt to reform the abuses of the
Clmrch, he selected, with the provident spirit of a great ge-
nius, this appropriate subject, and laboured, with much ad-
dress, to impress on the mind of Francis, the mild and mode-
rating principles of clemency. # He illustrated and enforced
the thoughts of that moralist, by an extensive selection of au-
thorities and examples from the most distinguished Poets and
Historians of Greece and Rome. It is a specimen of learn-
ing and eloquence unrivalled as the production of a young
man at the age of tv/enty-two year?.

The dedication of this work to Claude Hangest, Abbot of
St. Kloi at Noyon, one of the family of Mommor, bears date
at Paris, April 4th, 1532. As it was Avritten in Latin, the
author of course latinized his own name, Cauvin, by Calvinus*
Cauvin in the dialect of Picardy, his native province, and
Chauvin in French,* have the same import as Calvinm in La-
tin. This work was extensively circulated, and the author
became known by the common appellation of Calvin, which he
afterwards retained as the surname of his family .f

During a few months residence at Paris, Calvin became
acquainted with the principal advocates of the pure
doctrines. Among these he especially distinguished Stephen
de la Forge,J a celebrated merchant, who was afterwards
burnt for the name of Christ. Being left free at this time to
make his own election of pursuits in life, Calvin laid aside

* Varillas Hist, of Francis I. as quoted by Bayle.

•j: Calvin has been captiously censured by his enemies, for iLe change.

of a letter in his name. Eut tlie censure equally falls upon Erasmus,,

Luther, Melancthon — and almost every author of any distinction in that

period. Dupin Eccles. Hist. Cent. 16. book 3, p. 255 ; and Maim-

bourg and Drelincourt, in Ba^le. — Art. Cal.

\ He is mentioned by Calvin with the distinction of a martyr in hlB
Tract against the iiierimeff.— — -Opuscula Calvini, p. 376.


his legal studies, and devoted hiriLsclf to the cause of reli-
gion. This gave high satiFfaction to the friends of the Re-
formation, ^vho tlien lield their private assemblies at Paris.
In these he was active in illustrating and confirming the ge-
nuine doctrines of the Bible.

On the first of November, Nicholas Cop, Rector of the
University of Paris, delivered a discourse, at the meeting for
the annual celebration of the festival of All Saints.^ At the
f;uggestion of Calvin, the Rector treated concerning the su-
perstitions of that day, with a plainness which offended the
Doctors of the Sorbonne and the Parliament of Paris. The
Rector ^vas summoned to appear before the Senate. He sur-
rendered himself to the officer ; but on his way he was ad-
monished by his friends not to trust himself with his adver-
saries. He returned home, and sul)6equently retired to Ba-
sil^ his native City.f

Calvin being implicated in this business, w^as next pursued
by IMorin, who hasted to his lodgings in the College of For-
tret, to seize his person. At this time Calvin was providen-
tially absent ; but Morin secured his papers, among which
were several letters from his friends, whose lives by this event
^vc^c exposed to imminent danger.

The minds of the inquisitorial judges were so highly ex-
asperated against the Reformers, that their severity was on-
ly arrested by the interference of Margaret de Valois, Queen
«f Navarre. J This Princess was the only sister of Francis I.
Possessed of strong powers of mind, and an amiable temper,
she was eminently qualified, both by the dignity of her sta-

* The oi\^ln of All Saints day. — When the Saints in the Church of

Home had muhiplicd beyond tlic number of the days of the year the

first of November vvas consecrated with due ceremonies to honour— P«-
'n^ia. All tU Suints. Rccs' Cyclopaedia— .Vrt. AH Saints..

I See Letters, No. 2.
S«e Xofes ami Bro». No. 5.


tion and the purity of her prhiciple?, to afford a powerful
protection to the persecuted Reformers. At tlie very side of
the throne, her enlightened soul penetrated the dark cover-
ings which the arts of superstition had thrown before the
esyes of royalty. She early cherished, with an affectionate
licart, the dawning hght of the true doctrines and pure a\ or-
ship of God. In this persecution she extended her favour
to Calvin ; sent for him to her palace ; received him with
kindness ; heard him discourse ; and used her influence with
the king for his personal safety.

From Paris, Calvin retired to Saintonge, to visit his friend
Lewis du Tillet, Canon of Angouleme. Their acquaintance
commenced at the University of Orleans. Calvin, during his
residence in this respectable family, instructed Tillet in the
Greek language, and in the pure doctrines of the gospel.
He drew up, at his request, some short Christian exhorta-
tions, which were publickly read in the Church and distri-
buted among the people, in order to bring their minds, by
degrees, to an enquiry after the truth.

From Saintonge, Calvin went to Nerac, in the province o£
Aquitain, to visit James Faber, Stapulensis, Professor in the
University of Paris. ^ The Queen of Navarre had rescued,
after a severe contest, this early Reformer out of the hands
of the Inquisitors of the Sorbonne, who tlu'eatened his life
for having agitated theological questions in that seminary.
She provided for his security and support in Nerac, a town
within her own jurisdiction. This venerable old man re-
ceived young Calvin with joy, and predicted that he would
be the instrument, in the handis of God, of establishing the
true religion in France.

Calvin returned to Paris, and with much caution secreted
himself from the rage of his enemies, who still rememlicrcd

* See Notes and Blog. No. 6.


ihc abuse Avhicli by his means had been oiiered to their
tSaints. At this time, Michel Seivetus had commenced the
dissemination of his opinions concerning the doctrine of the
holy Trinity. He requested an interview uith Calvin, for a
pubhck di.'^putation. The latter, at the manifest liazard of
his Hfe, re])aired to the appointed place, and waited a long
time in vain for tlie arrival of his antagonist.

Francis, under the infhiencc of his sister, appeared disposed
to treat the Reformers with moderation. He had from politi-
cal motives, at least, favoured the Lutherans in Germany,
and even invited I^Ielancthon to reside at Paris. This mo-
deration excited the resentment of the Pope, and the preju-
dices of many of his own subjects, who were anxious to root
up every germ of the Reformation, by the severest means.
Alarmed by the threats of the Pope, and the virulence of his
adherents, Francis was prepared to take any occasion to re-
trieve the confidence of the Papists, and strengthen himself
against his rival Charles V. " The indiscreet zeal of some,
who had imbibed the reformed opinions, furnished him with
such an occasion as he desired. They had affixed at the
gates of the palace, and other publick places, papers con-
taining indecent reflections on the doctrines and rites of the
Popish Church." Gerard Roussel, a doctor of the Sorbonne,
and Coraud, a ]\Ionk of the order of Augustine, who liad,
through the influence of the Queen of Navarre, for two
years pul)lickly preached the true doctrines in Paris, were
now seized in their pulpits and thrown into prison.-^ The
King, infatuated a\ ith rage at this insult, decreed a publick
procession. " Tlic holy sacrament was carried through the
city in great pomp. Francis walked uncovered before it,
bearing a lighted torch in his hand ; the princes of the blood
supported the canopy over it ; the nobles marched in order

• See Notes and Biog. No. 7.


behind. In the presence of this numerous assembly, the
King, in strong and animated language, declared that if one
of his hands were infected with heresy, he would cut it off
with the other, and would not spare even his own children
if found guilty of that crime."# To finish the proof of his
zeal for the Romish Church, he ordered eiglit of the Re-
formers to be burnt alive, in four of the most frequented
parts of the city. The sentence was executed, with all the
torture of the most ferocious barbarity.

After these transactions, Calvin, steady to his purpose, took
a more decided stand in the cause of the Reformation. He
publickly renounced all fellowship with the Romish Church,
by resigning, on the 4th of May, 1534, the benefices of the
Chapel of la Gesine and the Rectory of Pont I'Eveque.f
By a covert conduct, he might have still enjoyed the annual
emolument of these livings under tlie Papacy. In throw-
ing himself, therefore, poor and unpatronized, upon the hand
of his Divine IMaster, he demonstrated the firmness of his
principles, and the ])urity of his motives. Retiring to Or-
leans, the place of his more youthful studies and devotions,
he prepared and published a scriptural and elaborate con-
futation of an errour revived from ancient times. That the
soul sleeps from death, to the resurrection of the body. This
treatise! is a proof, that the author, at the age of 25, ^^ as
intimately acquainted with the divine scriptures and the
tvorks of the Fathers ; that his studies must have been labo-
rious, his memory strong, and his intellect clear and com-

* Robertson's Charles V. B. 6, p. Ill, and 112.-Mosheim, Vol. 3. p.
351.— -Dupin.— 16 Cent.

t Drelincoiirt—quoted by Bayle.

% It was entitled Psychopannychid^ThQ dedication to a cerhiih frientl

j» dated Orlean.^, 1534 Opuscula Calvini, p. 335.



The Reformation commenced at Basil in 1525, and iU
proiprees opened a safe retreat for Cop, the Rector of the
University of Paris. To this city Calvin now looked for per-
gonal safety, and a retirement for study, -which his own
country denied him. In company a\ itli his friend Lewis du
Tilict, he proceeded on his way from Orleans to Basil
through Lorraine. Near Metz, one of the servants taking
their money escaped with a horse, and left them embarrass-
ed without the means of proceeding. By tlie assistance of
the other servant, ho-v\xver, who had ten crowns, they arriv-
ed at Strashurg, and "v\ ithout farther difiiculty reached Ba-
sil. In this toAvn resided those early Reformers, Simon Gry-
neus and Wolfgang Capito. With these ministers Calvin
formed an intimate and permanent friendship. In close re-
tirement, and almost unknown, he applied himself to the stu-
dy of the Hebrew, the know ledge of \\hich language had
become important to enable him more effectually to advance
the cause of religion.

The o])jcct of Francis, in burning those Reformers at Pa-
ris, was to conciliate Paul III., and detach him from the in-
terest of Charles V., against whom he was at this time de-
termined to declare war. No less intrigue w^as used in the
labours of du Bellay, who was sent ambassadour into Germa-
ny, to appease the indignation of the Protestants, which the
cruelty of Francis had excited against him. The courtly
art and eloquence of this minister Avere exerted to persuade
them, that the king had only burnt some Anabaptists, who
had substituted their own inspirations for the word of God,
and who abusively trampled on the la-ws, and excited insur-
rection against the magistracy. This pretext it was expect-
ed would be a sullicient defence, as that sect had rendered
themselves extremely odious by their excesses to the sober
and pious in Germany. This representation was therefore

Online LibraryElijah WatermanMemoirs of the life and writings of John Calvin : together with a selection of letters → online text (page 1 of 34)