Elijah Waterman.

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

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putable Reformers, with whom Calvin had any unfriendly
controversy, or any one who did not respect him during his
whole life. The integrity, the peaceableness and stability
of Calvin may be put beyond controversy, by a correct an-
swer to these questions of fact — JV/io were the enemies ? —
Who mere the friends of Calvin while he lived ?

It is readily admitted, that the Papists hated him. At
Noyon, a report that he was dead being circulated, in con-
sequence of an illness with which he was seized in divine ser-
vice, they decreed a publick procession, and returned thanks
in their Churches to Almighty God for his death. The
next year, 1552, their city was destroyed by fire, and Cal-
vin writes to Farel, " I have no doubt but you have heard,
that I survive my native place : So that I am obliged now
to mourn the destruction of that city which, the last year,
celebrated a publick procession and thanksgiving on account
of a false report of my death." ^'

In the Bull of Pope Pius V., deposing and excommunicat-
ing Queen Elizaljeth, dated 1509, Calvin's Institutes are no-
ticed with special attentioir. " Libros manifestam ha^rcsim

* See ]t«i Epist. Calvlni ad FaTellum, cUt. Dccei-nbcr 2, 1550.

136 LIFE OF CALVIN. 1553

continentes, toto regno proponi, impia mysteria, et Instituta
ad Calvini prasscriptum a se suscepta, et observata, etiam a
SLibditis servari iiiandavit."# " She has commanded books
containing manifest heresy to be published through her whole
kingdom ; the impious mysteries and Institutes according to
Calvin are received and observed by herself and even enjoin-
ed upon all her subjects to be obeyed.'''*

The Papists, iu their annual legends, still remember Cal-
vin. A gentleman of respectability stated to the writer of
this Life, that being at Strasburg in in ir89, he attended
one of those weekly lectures, in a Roman Catholic Church,
at which their most popular Preachers officiate, and
appropriately discourse against the hereticks who have im-
bibed the opinions of Calvin. The Preacher, in the course
of his sermon, related in a terriiick manner the torments
which Calvin's soul endured in purgatory, for renouncing
and opposing the mother Church : — That no person dared
to approach his grave, on account of the dismal groans
and horrid shrieks which proceed from it. The Preacher,
moreover, to leave no doubts on the minds of the ignorant
mnltitude, declared, that he himself had heard the fright-
ial outcries of the tormented soul of that heretick. The
gentleman, who witnessed the relation of these things at
Strasburg, had resided some time at Geneva, without hav-
ing heard that any of those marvellous circumstances attend
the unknoim spot where Calvin was buried.

The Papists still dread the infiuence of his writings, espe-
cially the temperate and distinct light in which the truth is
presented in his Institutes. Bayle states, from Schultingius,
^^ That as soon as this work of Calvin was published at
Strasburg, about the year 1545, Bernard Cincius, Bishop of
Aquila, carried a copy of it to Cardinal IMarcellus Cervin,

» BnrTTet's Hist. Reform.- vol. 2, p. rAY, Collect.

^^53 LIFE OF CALVIN. 137

Legate of the Pope at the court of the Emperour ; and that
these two able men judged it to be a more dangerous Wk
than all the other writings of the Lutherans^ Schultingius
was a Papist, and Canon of Cologne. He undertook to con^
fute the Institutes of Calvin. - This work was consi-
dered," he says, "as the principal fortress of the Protes-
tants." He proceeds to give an account of the numerous
editions through which it had passed ; besides its aln-idge-
ments and translations into different languages. He says,
that in England they almost gave Calvin's Institutes the'
preference to the Bible; that the Bishops ordered all the
ministers, ut pene ad vcrbum has educantr-^hat they should
learn them almost to a word;-^w^d, vt turn AngUce exactissi^
me versi in singulis Ecclesiis a parochis legencli appendantur,
—that being most exactly turned into English, they should be
kept in all the Churches for publick W6:^;#~that they were
also studied in both the Universities ;— that in Scotland the
young students in Divinity began by reading these Insti-
tutes ;— that at Heidelburg, Geneva, Herborne, and in all
the Calvinistical Universities, these Institutes were publickly
taught by the Professors ;-~that in Holland, Ministers, Civi-
hans and the common people studied this work with great
diligence, even the coachman and the sailor noctuma verset
maim, versetque diurna ;^ih^i esteeming it as a pearl of
great price, they had it bound and gilt in the most elegant
manner. This work, Schultingius asserts, was appealed to
as a standard, on all theological questions. Such is the ac-
count given of the authority of Calvin's Institutes by a pro-
fessed Papist, who lifted up his mighty arm to destroy tiu's

* "^^h^^^s Norton, a Barrister who, after Sternhold's death, assisted Hop-
kms Wdham Whittingham and others, in completing the first version oftlie
fsalms into Enghsh, which was done at Geneva, and published at the end
of the Geneva Bible, 1560, translated the Institutes of Calvin, perhaps about
1575. Norton s translation is quite literal, but the stvle is now anti.n,a*cd



principal fortress of the Protestants, in four large folio vo-
lumes, published at Cologne, in the year 1602.#

The animosity enkindled by the Arminian controversy,
supported by the half Papist and persecuting Archbishop
Laud, changed the state of things in respect to the authority
of Calvin's Institutes in England. Francis Cheynell, in his
Sermon to the Commons, I\Iarch 25, 1646, p. 42, says ; *^ The
old statutes did recommend Calvin's Institutions to tutors, as
a fit book to be expounded to their scholars. But that
good statute -was omitted in the book of new statutes ; be-
cause there are so many precious truths in Calvin's Institu-
tions contrarij to the piety of those timesj in which the new

statutes were enacted. AVe begin to see with one eye,

and hope that we shall in due time recover the other."

The learned Poole, in the preface to the first volume of his
Synopsis, published in 1669, apologises for not naming Cal-
vin in the catalogue of authorities. Being patronized by ma-
ny, who were bitter against the sentiments of Calvin, to avoid
giving oifence, he says, that where he could he had selected
from other Avriters who had taken from his Commentaries,
and adorned their works a\ ith his labours ; and that he
could name many such who aifected to despise Calvin, who
was yet both their author and master. He adds that the
works of Calvin are in almost all hands, as well as in the
ghops of the booksellers ; and he hopes that the friends of
Calvin will take no exception at the omission, as it is dulciit^
€x ipso fonte, sweeter to drink at the fountain, and he

* See Bayle, Art. Sclmltingius.

I When Laud was Archbishop of Canterbury.— Laud was charged with
"Popish inclinations. A lady who had turned Papist, being- asked by the
Archbishop the cause of her changing her rehgion, tartly replied. My
Lord, it was because /ever Aaferf a crourf. He requested her to explain. /
perceived, said she, that your Lordship and many others -were making for
Rome tvith all speed, to prevent st press, I went before you. Bayle.

1553 LIFE OF CALVIN. 139

would by no means prevent their possessing the A\'orks of
Calvin. In Mr. Poole's preface to the third volume, pub-
lished 1073, which begins with the Prophet Isaiah, he says,
that he ranks Calvin as an expositor above all his praises ;
and that in the judgment of all a\ hose minds were exercis-
ed, and well instructed in sacred things, Calvin, in his most
accurate and critical Commentaries on the Prophets, had
joined great learning with great judgment, in explaining He-
brew words and phrases, as well as in elucidating obscure
passages. The preceding facts open some light on the pre-
sent subject, as to the occasion and cause of the opposition
which has so long prevailed in England against Calvin and
his writings ; and which has led to many of those unchris-
tian and disingenuous misrepresentations which were design
ed to blast the one, and suppress the influence of the other.
The unhallowed aspersions, which have l^een circulated by
the dominant class of Arminians i7i that cowitry respecting
Calvin, have been with some persons in this, of bigoted and
feverish minds, a sufficient argument for reproaching him,
and all those who are denominated from his name, with che-
rishing an intolerant spirit in matters of religion.

The inquisitorial mania of Archbishop Laud still so far
prevails among the Dignitaries of the English Church, as to
render it somewhat indispensable, on publick occasions, for
the preacher who would prove his orthodoxy, and secure his
popularity, to speak directly or indirectly of " the impious
dogmas of Calvin.'* — And it is a subject of regret, that from
the fear of the overbearing prejudices of Arminianism, the
same temporising expedient, which aifected the learned
Poole in his two first volumes, should operate so powerfully
as to exclude the name of Calvin from the pious and popular


Commcfilarics of Dr. Thomas Scott ;# a Divine wlio lias per-
haps surpassed all others in detailing the definite and legiti-
mate sentiments of Calvin, on all the great doctrinal points
of theology. It is unquestionably true, as Poole asserts, that
many Commentators, who have not had boldness or ingenu-
ousness enough to acknowledge it, have still lighted their
lamps at the luminous and evangelical Avritings of the Ge-
ne vese Theologian. And while the Church of Christ endures,
the light which Calvin opened from the scriptures will ex-
tend its ])eams, through one medium or another, to cheer, to
guide and edify the followers of Christ. The friends and
defenders of evangelical truth are already clad in the ar-
mour of God. They are meekly and firmly advancing in
the defence of the pure doctrines of the Reformation in the
English Church ; and are labouring, after the example of
Calvin, above all others, with apostolick zeal, for the unlimit-
ed circulation of the scriptures in all languages, and the ex-
tension of the knowledge of them through all nations. The
progress of truth, even amidst the sound of war, and the deso-
lations wliicli are in the earth, is accelerated by the union of
the friends of Zion. The chains of bigotry are dropping from
the hands of those who have been bound ; and the scales of pre-
judice are falling from the eyes of many who have been blind,
^len of the first talents, and most extensive erudition, in that
communion, have dared temperately to combat the enemies of
Galvin, to break up their deceptive coverts of attack through
the medium of false authorities and misrepresentations, and
to set forth in a clear light the influence which the Divine

* In justice to Dr. Scott, it must be said, that in his able remarks
on the Bishop of Lincoln's Refutation of Calvinism, he has more than
atoned for his former neglect of Calvin ; still it may be observed that
in Dr. Scott's Notes on the Bible, the name of Calvin might in many
instances justly hold the plaqes now occupied by the names of [JIam=
inond, Han, Lowth, AVhilby, and even Beza.

1553 LIFE OF CALVIN. 141

of Geneva had with Somerset, Cranmer and King Edward,
in forwarding the reformation of tlie Liturgy, and infusing
into the doctrinal articles of lliat Church the pure spirit of
the Gospel. These faitliful labourers have done much.
They liave laid the foundation, and cast abroad tlie light,
which will form a new era in that Cliurcli, the heads of
which, many of them at least, have since the days of Laud
been embittered against the name and writings of " the ve-
nerable Calvin."^ — They have entered upon a work of Re-
form, which will have extension and enlargement ; and if
under Providence that Church is to be preserved, they will,
in all probability, be the instruments. They have even now
opened the door of hope, that their Israel may arise in puri-
ty and stability before God. To such men, all the lovers of
the truth as it is in Jesus will, as Calvin did, extend the
right hand of fellowship, whatever may be the minor dis-
tinction of forms, or the subordinate peculiarity of their for-

A quotation from the Christian Observer shall close this
part of our subject.

" Few names stand higher, or in a more deserved pre-emi-
nence, amongst the wise and pious members of tJie English
Church, than that of Bishop Andrews. His testimony to
the memory of Calvin is, that ' he was an illustrious person,
and never to be mentioned Avithout a preface of the highest
honour. 't Whoever examines the sermons, writings, &c.
of our Divines, in the reigns of Elizabeth and James /.,
will continually meet with epithets of honour with wliicU
his name is mentioned ; the leanied, the nise, the judicious,
the pious Calvin, are expressions every where to be found in

* See Bisliop Ilorsely's Charge in 1800,

t It is an additional argument of the deference paid to his opinions, that
the Litur^q-r/ underwent an entire alteration. In compliance with the objcc-
rions which Calvin i-nad<: to It as '/; hrcviovshj g/ofyd.


the remains of those times. It is well known that his Insti'

tutes were read and studied in the Universities^ by every stu-
dent in Divinity, for a consideralile portion of a century ; nay
that by a convocation held at Oxford, that book was recom-
mended to the general study of the nation. So far was the
Church of England, and her chief Divines, from countenanc-
ing that unbecoming and absurd treatment, ^vith which the
name of this eminent Protestant is now so frequently disho-
noured, that it would be no difficult matter to prove, that
there is not a parallel instance upon record, of any single
individual being equally and so unequivocally venerated, for
tlie union of wisdom and piety, both in England, and by a
large body of the foreign Churches, as John Calvin. No-
thing but ignorance of the ecclesiastical records of those
times, or resolute prejudice, could cast a cloak of conceal-
ment over this fact \ it has been evidenced by the combined
testimony both of enemies and friends to his system of doc-
trines. #"

Some time in April of this year, Bertilier, who held the
office of clerk in the lower Council, was excommunicated.
Perrin, who was now one of the Syndicks, his wife and Bal-
thazar, had each of them also experienced the weight of the
same censure. All means were used, and all efforts made,
at this time, to deprive the Consistory of the right to exer-
cise their authority. The first step which the factious took,
for effecting their purpose, was to petition the Senate to ab-
solve Bertilier from the sentence of the Consistory. Calvin,
in the name of this l^ody, appeared before the Senate, and

* Christian Observer, vol. 2, p. 142, 143'

1553 LIFE OF CALVIN. 143

pointed out, with great plainness, the obligation they were
under to enforce the ecclesiastical laws. The question was
of great moment ; and he omitted nothing \vhich might
lead to a correct decision. lie proved to them, that to yield
to this request would dissolve the whole compact of dis-
cipline in that Church. After hearing the reasons on both
sides, the upper Senate determined that Bcrtilier was justly
excommunicated. Defeated but not discouraged, he next
brought the question before the lower Council, that they
should restore him without consulting the Consistory. The
point was abruptly carried ; and the Council of two hun-
dred decreed, that the final sentence of excommunication
belonged to the Senate, and that they might absolve in all
cases from the sentence of the Consistory. The Senate pre-
cipitately granted Bcrtilier a letter of absolution, sanctioned
with the stal of the Republick. This decree was passed on
the 31st of August, two days previous to the Sabbath on
which the Lord's Supper was to be administered. Perrin
and his faction supposed, that they had involved Calvin in
a dilemma of no small consequence. They were animated
with the expectation, that if Calvin refused to comply with
the mandate of the Senate, in admitting Bcrtilier to the
Supper, he would be overpowered by the faction ; if he yield-
ed, the authority of the Consistory would be absolutely de-
stroyed. Calvin was immediately informed of these transac-
tions. During the two days previous to the Sabbath, he
deliberately formed his opinion, and took the stand which he
believed his duty called him to maintain. In his morn-
ing sei-mon, before the administration of the Supper, he
spoke of the wickedness of those who treated the sacred em-
blems of the body and blood of Christ with contempt ;
and stretching forth his hand, he said, in a low and solemn
voice, After the example of Chrysostom, sooner mil I suffer
death, than permit this hand to adminiMer the- holy thinsrs of

144 LIFE OF CALVIN. 1553

the Lord, to those who are lawfully condemned as despisers of
God. These words had a most poAverful effect upon the
whole assembly. The factious, who were waiting to enjoy
their expected triumph, were dismayed ; and Perrin pri-
vately directed Bertilier not to present himself at the Ta-
ble. The sacred elements were administered, in the most
solemn silence, and a peculiar awe pervaded the assembly, as
if the Deity himself had been in sight.

In the afternoon, Calvin expounded that distinguished
passage in the Acts of the Apostles, in which Paul took
leave of the Church of Ephesus. He called the assembly to
witness, that he himself would neither oppose the Magistracy,
nor teach them to do it. He exhorted them with many
words, that they should persevere in the doctrines which
they had heard. At length, as if addressing them for the
last time, he says, Since these things are so, permit me also,
brethren, to use the words of the Apostle ; I commend you to
God, and to the word of his grace. This sentence impressed
the wicked with wonderful force ; the pious were also awa-
kened to discharge their official duty with more vigilance
and seriousness. The next day, Calvin, together with his
colleagues and the Consistory, deliberately petitioned both
the Senate and lower Council, That as the law ivhich commit-
ted the power of excommunication to the Consistory, was
7nade by the people, so the people only should have the pow-
er of abrogating it. The minds of the Senate were now
greatly changed. It was determined, that the decree of the
Council of two hundred should be suspended, and the opi-
nion of the four Swiss cities obtained concerning the right
of excommunication as exercised by the Consistory. In the
mean time, the former laws were to remain in full force. The
storm was thus rather suspended than dispersed.

Farel was at Geneva for his health, during the time of some
of these transactions. In a pubKck discoiu'se, relying on the

1553 LIFE OF CALVIN. 115

justice of the cause, on his age and former influence, lie re-
proved the factious with severity for their vices and sedi-
tious conduct. They resented his pointed admonitions, and
after his return to Neufchatel, made their allegations, and
fixed the day for his trial. An order was obtained from
the Senate, addressed to the city of Neufchatel, demanding
his presence at Geneva at the appointed time. Farel came
accordingly, not however without danger from the violence
of the disaffected, who declared, that he deserved to be pu-
nished by being cast into the river Rhone. A young man, of
a deliberate and determined spirit, admonished Perrin, \\\\o
was the principal leader in all opposition to religious re-
straints, to see that Farel, the cojumon father of their citi/, re-
ceived no injury. Being joined by another young man of
equal resolution and integrity, they invited all the friends of
order to assemble in the Senate chamber at the time of his
trial. Almost the whole city were collected, when the venc-
rable Farel entered the room. His accusers were astonished
at the concourse, and became anxious for their personal safe^
ty. Farel was heard in his own defence, and acquitted :
and his abusive enemies, with apparent regret for their
conduct, sued to him for pardon.

The following Letters, written in the undisguised lan-
guage of the most friendly correspondence, will afford
additional light on the transactions of this tempestuous

^< Calvin to Viret, wishes health.

" I would have been silent about our affairs, lest I should
give you fruitless anxiety ; but apprehending that the va-
rious reports might be more grievous, I thought it most
prudent to give you a summary of the .^^tate of things



here. The participation of the Supper being interdicted^
FIX months ago, to Bertilier, he complained to the Senate;
and we were called before that Comicil on his account.
'Fhe cause being heard, the Senate declared, that he wae
;iustly excommunicated. From that time he remained qui-
et, either through despair or contempt. But now, lest the
Syndicate of Perrin should be past, he requests the Senate
to restore him without consulting the Consistory. Being
again called, I endeavoured to prove to them by many ar-
guments, that this could not be justly done, according to
the establislied laws ; and moreover, that it was not right
to weaken in this way the discipline of the Church. How-
ever in my absence, and without consulting the Consisto-
ry, they granted him the privilege of partaking of the
Lord's Supper. As soon as I was informed of this, I used
all means in my power, to have the Syndicks call the
Senate. I omitted nothing that could, in my opinion, tend
to change their minds. I solemnly declared, that I was
determined rather to suffer death, than thus basely pro-
fane the holy Supper of the Lord: as nothing could be
more pernicious than that he, who had impudently deri-
ded and insulted the Church of God, should raise the
standard of rebellion, and excite the vilest persons, and all
who resembled him, to the same insolence and obstinacy.
It was answered, that the Senate changed nothing in their
former decree. Hence you Avill perceive, that I hold the
ministry on this condition, that I must suffer the autho-
rity of the Consistory to be trodden under foot, and offer
the Supper of the Lord to those who manifestly despise
it, and who boast, that they regard not his IMinisters. I
would suffer a hundred deaths, rather than expose Christ
to such contempt and insult. I shall not mention what I
said in my two discourses yesterday, as it will be told by
many. Now let these wicked and abandoned men have


what they have long desired. The calamity of the Church
forely afflicts me as it ought. But if God grants so much
to hcentious adversaries, that the h'berty of my ministry
is destroyed by their violent commands, I Iiave discharg-
ed the duties of my station. He who has inflicted the
wound will provide the remedy. And indeed, since so
great impunity of wickedness has been increasing now for
many years, the Lord, perhaps, is preparing some judg-
ment, the infliction of wliich I am unwortliy to behold.
On the whole, Avhatever may happen, it is our duty to
be in subjection to his will. Fare^vell, beloved brother.
May the Lord be always with you, govern and protect
you. In return, pray that he may support this unhappy
Church. Geneva, Sept. 4, 1553.'*

Rodolphus Gualter, a colleague of Bullinger at Zurich,
returning from Geneva, gave him an account of the faction
and proceedings of Perrln and Bertilier. In a letter, da-
ted Sept. 14, BcTLLiNGER writcs to Calvix : — " My dear
brother, I received your letter, and the information I de-
rived from Gualter has rendered me extremely anxious.
Do not retire, I beseech you, from that Church, which
has so many excellent men. You should call to mind
that passage in the Acts of the Apostles, Fear noty for 1
have much people in this city. And although the wicked
and polluted are more numerous than we wish they \\ere,
yet many things arc to be borne for the sake of the elect.
Besides you are not ignorant how all those would leap
for joy, who hate the true Gospel in France ; and the ex-
treme danger to which you would expose the French ex-
iles, if you should depart from Geneva. Stay therefore,
stay and bear whatever reproaches, contempt, dangers and
sufferings the J^ord shall please to luring upoji you. The

148 LIFE OF CALVIN. 155^

Lord will not forsake you. Through manifold tribulations

Online LibraryElijah WatermanMemoirs of the life and writings of John Calvin : together with a selection of letters → online text (page 12 of 34)