Elijah Waterman.

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

. (page 18 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

on the IWi of December, reciched Geneva ; the issue of
which was unfavourable to the cause of the Reformers, as the
Prince was taken prisoner.

The bodily infirmities of Calvin grew more complicated
and severe, but his watchful and vigorous mind rose in its
exertions. The nearer he approached the termination of his
course, the more unremitted were his studies. These labours
he pursued when his reputation Mas established beyond the
possibility of enlargement, and when every i)ersonal consider-
ation called him to repose. His publick duties were only
relinquished by a])solute weakness. When confined to his
bed, oppressed with the headache, weakness of the bowels,
and the pains of the gout, he would dictate letters, treatises
and commentaries, till his amanuensis was wearied. Ilis an-
swers to the Polanese, against the enemies of the divinity
•of Jesus Christ, and to the de]njtip« of the Synod of Lyons ;



212 LIFE OE CALVIN. 1564

his Commentary and Harmony on the fom" books of Moses,
"RTitten first in Latin, and translated by himself into French,
and his Commentary on Joshua, which he commenced this
year and finished on his death bed, are an ami)le testimony
that the object of his labours was the glory of Christ and the
prosperity of his Church.

On the 6th of February, 1564, he preached his last ser-
m.on, and closed his theological lectures. He was then so
severely oppressed with the asthma, as almost to deprive
him of the use of his voice. After this time, he was occa-
sionally carried to the meeting of the congregation, and for
the last time on the 31st of March. In a letter to the Phy-
sicians of Montpelier, dated the 8th of February, he describes
the complicated diseases, which his unremitting labours and
studies had produced and cherished, with accumulating
strength, from the earlier part of life. Considering that
their generous assistance could no longer be of any service,
he commends them to the blessing and protection of God.
For ten years he had usually abstained from all animal food
at dinner, and rarely eat any thing after breakfast till his
stated hour for supper. For the head ache, with which he
was frequently afflicted, he used fasting as a common remedy,
and sometimes passed thirty-six hours without any food.
His bodily constitution was of a dry temperament, and in-
clined to the consumption. His sleep was short and unsound.
Five years before his death, he was occasionally afflicted
with spitting of blood. When the quartan ague abated its
severity, he was seized with the gout in his right foot. He
was at times visited with the pains of the cholick, and a few
months before his death with the stone. The Physicians
exhausted their skill in prescribing remedies, and he
was no less faithful in following their directions, as far as it
respected punctuality in taking their medicines. But nei-
Iheir by arguments nor bodily distress, would he be induced



156i LIFE OF CALVIN. 2V3

to suspend his laborious studies. Under the pressure of
these complicated disorders, he was never heard to utter a
syllable unbecoming the fortitude and patience of a Chris-
tian. In his severest pains he a\ ould raise his eyes to Iiea-
ven, and say, i/bw lo7ig, O Lord ? In his days of health also
he often used these words, when lie heard of any calamities
befalling his brethren, whose aflliction deeply ailcctcd the
sensibility of his heart. When his friends expostulated,
and aA'ectionately urged him to cease in his sickness, from
dictating and writing, he would say, What ! would you that
when the Lord comes, he should surprise me in idleness .•*

On the 10th of JMarch, when Beza and other friends visited
him in their usual manner, they found him dressed and sit-
ting at the table on which he had been accustomed to write.
Observing theiu, he reclined his head upon his haiid, appar-
rently in silent meditation, and after a few moments, address-
ed them in a slow and interrupted voice, but ^v ith a cheer-
ful countenance ; / return you thanks^ my dearest brethren^
for your solicitude for me, and I hope that in a fortnight, J
shall assist at your assembly for the last time ;# after that 1
think the L.ord will manifest his ivill n'Uh respect to nic, and
will taJce me to himself

On the Sith of March, he attended the meeting of the
Consistory for the discipline of morals, and the service being
past in peace, he said, " I perceive that the Lord has given
Die some enlargement." Then taking the New Testament
in French, he read some of the marginal annotations, whicU
he had corrected, and asked the opinion of liis colleagues
concerning their propriety. The exertions of ihii day w ere

• The assembly, or meeting of the Consistory, before the Hciministra-
tion of the Supper was called, tiie Censura JMorum, or discijiline of mo-
rals, at whicli time Uiey enquirid after any dflinquencics of the mcnibers,
that tliey mij^lit be dealt with as tu' ''.isc rcf|uircd, before coming- to the
table on the next Lord's Dav



214 LIFE OF CALVIN. ISai

too fatiguing, and on the morrow he was more unwell. On
the 2rth, he was carried to the door of the Council House,
and walked, supported by two friends, into the chamber.
Being uncovered, he presented Beza, the Rector of the Col-
lege, to the favour and patronage of the Senate. He thank-
ed them for all their kindnesses and respect ; and especially
for the proofs of aifection which they had shewn him during
his present illness ; / feel, said he, that I have come here for
the last time. Having uttered these words with difficulty,
his voice failed him, and he took leave of the Senators, who
were all in tears.

On the 2d of April, the stated Sabbath for their commun-
ion, being very feeble, he was carried to the house of wor-
ship in an easy chair. He heard the sermon, received the
Lord's Supper from the hands of Beza, and joined the con-
gregation in a hymn, with a trembling voice, while his pale
countenance manifested tokens of peace and joy.

He made his will on the 25th of April, in which he express-
es with great meekness, his views of the way of salvation for
sinners, and his experience of the riches of divine grace,
through Jesus Christ.

" The Will of John Calvin.

« In the name of God, Amen. On the 25th of April, 1564,
I, Peter Chenalat, citizen and Notary of Geneva, witness and
declare, that I was called, by the worthy John Calvin, Minis-
ter of the word of God, in this Church of Geneva, and citizen
of the same city ; who, being indisposed in body, but of a
sound mind, declared his determination to make his last will
and testament, and requested me to write what he should
dictate and declare by word of mouth — Avhich I have done,
as he pronounced and declared, word for word, without
omission or addition, in the following form :



1564 LIFE OF CALVIN. 215

" In the name of God, Amen. I, John Calvin, Minister of
the word of God, in the Church of Geneva, oppressed and af-
flicted with various disorders, believing that God will shortly
remove me out of this world, have determined to make my
testament, and to commit to writing my last will in the fol-
lowing form :

" First, I give thanks to God, that, having mercy upon
me, whom he created and placed in this world, he has not
only delivered me out of the thick darkness of idolatry, in
which I was buried, but has brought me into the light of
his Gospel, and made me a partaker of the doctrine of salva-
tion, of which I was most unworthy : that, Avith the same
mercy and kindness, he has graciously borne a\ ith my mul-
tiplied transgressions and sins, for which I deserved to be re-
jected and cut oif by him : that he has, liowever, exercised
such great clemency and compassion towards me, that he
has used my labours in preaching and promulgating the
truth of his Gospel. And I testify and declare my intention
to pass the remainder of my life in the same faith and reli-
gion, which he has delivered to me in his Gospel : that I have
no other defence or refuge of salvation, than his gratuitous
adoption, on Avhich alone rests my confidence : and with my
whole heart I embrace the mercy which he exercises towards
me, for the sake of Jesus Christ, accepting the merits of his
death and sufferings, that in this way he may be satisfied for
all my transgressions and sins, that their remembrance may
be blotted out. I also testify and declare, that as I am a
supplicant I ask of him, that he would wash and purify me
in the blood of the exalted Redeemer, effuso pro humaxi
GENEiiis PECcATis, skcd for tlic sws of the human race, that I
may be permitted to stand before his tribunal in the image of
the Redeemer himself. I declare also, that I have sedulous-
ly exerted my lal)ours, according to the measure of qrace and
favour whieh God hi)s bestowed upon me ; that both in my



21G LIFE OF CALVIN, 15G4.

sermons, writings and commentaricF, I have faithfully and
purely declared his word, and with integrity interpreted the
holy scriptures. I also testify and declare, that in all the
controversies and disputes which I have conducted with the
enemies of the Gospel, I have used neither craftiness, nor the
pernicious arts of sophistry, but have candidly and sincerely
been engaged in the defence of the truth.

" But, alas, my study and my zeal (if worthy of that name)
liave been so languid and remiss, that I confess innumerable
things have been wanting in me to the full discharge of the
duties of my office ; and imless the unmeasurable bounty of
God had been present, all my study would have been vain
and transient. And I also acknowledge, that unless he had
been present to assist me by his grace, I should have become,
in his sight, more and more guilty of negligence and sloth,
for which cause I witness and declare, that I hope for no
other refuge of salvation than this, that since God is the
father of mercy, he may shew himself a father to me, who ac-
knowledge myself a miserable sinner.

" Further, I ^viII, after my departure from this life, that
my body be committed to the earth, in that manner, and
with those funeral rites, which are ordinarily used by this
Church, and in this city, until the day of the glorious resur-
rection shall come.

"With respect to tin \i. mall worldly estate, which God
has bestowed upon me, a.:(l which I have determined to dis-
pose of in this testament, I will, that Anthony Calvin, my
dear brother, be my heir ; and out of respect to him, let him
have and hold for himself, the silver goblet which was given
to me by Mr. de Varannes, with which I desire him to be
contented, as I commit to his trust the remainder of my es-
tate, requesting of him that at his decease this goblet may
be given to his children. I bequeath ten gold crowns, to be
given ])y my brother and legal heir, to the children's school ;



Jo64 LIFE OF CALVIN. 217

and as many to the support of poor strangers. Also, I will to
Joanna, daughter of Charles Costans and of my half sister
on the paternal side, and to Samuel and John, the sons of my
said brother, each forty crowns, out of my estate, after his
death : To his daughters Anna, Susanna and Dorothy, each
thirty crowns : To David, their brother, on account of his
known youthful levity and petulance, only twenty -five
crowns.

" This is the amount of all the property which God hatli
given me, as far as I am able to ascertain it, from an estima-
tion of my books, furniture and estate of every kind. Should
there, however, prove to be more, I will, that it be equally
distributed among my brother's children, not excluding Da-
vid, if by the favour of God he shall conduct himself with
propriety.

" Nothing of much value, I believe, will remain after my
debts are discharged, the management of which business I
commit to my brother, in whose faithfulness and good will, I
have confidence, on which account I will and appoint him to
be the executor of this my testament, and together with him
my worthy friend Laurence de Normandie ; giving them
full power and authority, without an order of Court, to take
an inventory of my goods, and sell the moveables, to procure
money to fulfil the conditions of my ab©ve written will, which
I have set forth and declared, this 25th day of April, in the
year 15G4.

« JOHN CALVIN.

" The next day, being the 26th of April 1504, the same
worthy man, Calvin, commanded me to be called to him, to-
gether with Theodore Bcza, Raymond Calvet, Michael Cop,
Lewis Enoch, Nicholas Calladon, James de Bordes, Ministerr5
and Preachers of the word of God in the Church of Geneva,
and also the worthy Hem-y Scringer, Professor of Arts, citi-

28



218 LIFE OF CALVIN. 1564

zens of Geneva, and in their presence lie testified and declar=
cd, that he dictated to me his testament, in the form above
written. He directed me to read the same in their liearmg.
He then testified and declared it to be his last will, which he
desired to have carried into effect. In testimony and confirm-
ation of which, he requested them all to witness the same
with their hands, which was done the year and month above,
at Geneva, in the street commonly called the Canons, and m
ihe house of the testator. In proof of which, I have sub-
scribed the same with my hand, and sealed it with the com-
mon seal of our Supreme Court.

« PETER CHENALAT."

Having thus made his will, he signified to the four Syn-
dicks, and to the Senators, his desire to address them before
his death in the Senate-room, to which he hoped to be car-
ried on the following day. They answered, that it would
be more agreeable to visit him, and requested him to be
careful of his health. On the next day, they all repau:ed
from the Senate room, to the house of Calvin. After mutu-
al salutations, he acknowledged the respect they had shown
him, and addressed them as follows :—

« I have long wished for a conference with you, but have
deferred it till I was more certainly assured of the near ap-
proach of death. I return you thanks, my highly honoured
Lords, for having distinguished me with so many honours,
which I have by no means deserved, and for bearing so pa-
tiently with my many infirmities, which I have always con-
sidered as a singular mark of your benevolence towards me.
In the exercise of my ministry, I have been obliged to under-
go various contests, and to sustain many msults ; trials, to
which the best of men must submit, and which I know and
acknowledge have not arisen fi'om your fault. I earnestly
beseech you, that, if in any thing I have not performed my



1564i LIFE OF CALVIN. 219

duty as I ought, you will ascribe it to my inaljiiity, and not
to any indisposition. I assure you, that I have always taken
a deep interest in the welfare of this Rcpublick ; and if I
have not accomplished alJ that my station demanded of me,
I have however always laboured with my ^vhole strength to
promote the publick good. Should 1 refrain from avowing,
that the Lord has sometimes used my endeavours for the ac-
complishment of this object, I should be guilty of dissimula-
tion. I must entreat your pardon, once more, that I have
effected so little in my publick and private capacity, in com-
parison with what I ought to have done ; and I freely ac-
knowledge, that I am much indebted to you, for having
borne, with so much equanimity, my vehemence, which has
sometimes been immoderate, for ^\ hicli sin, I trust I have al-
so the forgiveness of God.

" As to the doctrines which you have heard from me, I
testify to you, that I have not rashly nor uncertainly, but pure-
ly and sincerely, taught the word entrusted to me of God,
knowing that other^\'ise his indignation would aheady hang-
suspended over my head ; but now I am confident, that my la-
bours in the ministry have not been displeasing to him. I
make this declaration, in the presence of God, and before you,
the more willingly, as I have no doubt, but that Satan^ after
his usual manner, will raise up many vain, dishonest and gid-
dy minded men, to corrupt the pure doctrines which you
have heard from me."

He then called their attention, to those immense benefits
with which God had distinguished them. *' There is no one,"
he said, " who can inform you better than myself, from how
many and how great dangers, the Almighty and merciful
God has delivered you. You see in what circumstances you
are placed. Whether in prosperity or adversity, keep this
truth, I entreat you, constantly before your eycF, that it is He
alone preserves cities and kingdoms ; and that He in return



220 LIFE OF CALVIN. 1564

demands that they worship Him. Remember that David,
that illustrious king, testifies, that it was when he enjoyed a
profound peace, that he experienced his fall, from which he
never would have arisen, if God had not stretched out his
hand, with singular favour, to his relief. What then may
not happen to weak and infirm men, since so powerful and
brave a Prince has fallen ? You must humble yourselves,
therefore, in the presence of God, that he may give you grace
to live in his fear, and to put your whole confidence in him.
Thus will you be assured of the continuance of the same pro-
tection which you have so often experienced, and may pro-
ceed with stability, under his care, even when your prosperity
and security may hang suspended on a slender thread. If
things proceed prosperously, take heed, I beseech you, not to
exalt yourselves like profane men, but with all humility of
heart, give thanks unto God. If misfortunes befal you, and
death surround you on every side, still hope in him, who
raises even the dead : Nay, consider well, that God is by
this means awakening you from your sloth, that you may
learn to look unto him alone, with the most entire confidence.
If you would preserve this Republick in its present stability,
give the most persevering heed, that you pollute not, by your
vices, the sacred seats on which he has placed you. He is
the Most High God, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, who
will honour those who honour him, but will cast down in
abasement, those who despise him. Worship him, therefore,
according to his commandments, and think more and more
Intensely on this duty. We are very far from rendering un-
to God, our reasonable service. I know the disposition and
manner of life of each of you, and that you have need of this
exhortation. Among those who excel, there is no one, who
does not come short of his duty in many things. Let every
one examine himself, and ask of God the supply of his own
deficiencies, We see ^^•hat corruptions prevail in most of the



15G4 LIFE OF CALVIN. 221

Councils of the earth. Some, cold and indiiTerent to the pub-
lick interest, pursue with eagerness their own emoluments ; oth-
ers are only intent upon the gratification of their passions ; oth-
ers abuse, beyond measure, the talents which God has given
them ; others vainly labour to display their own importance,
and with confidence demand, that ^vhatever they determine
should be approved by the people at large. I would remind
the aged not to envy those young persons whom they find to
be adorned of God with excellent gifts. I advise the young
to conduct themselves with modesty, and to keep far from all
self sufficiency. Let not one interfere with the duties of an-
other. Avoid animosities, and those asperities of mind,
which prevent many, in the management of publick concerns,
from discharging correctly the duties of their office. You
will avoid these evils, if each one keeps himself within the
limits of his own station, and faithfully fulfils the duties which,
in the Republick, are committed to his charge. In judicial
proceedings, I beseech you, to give no place to partialities or
prejudices. Let no one pervert judgment by artful sophistry :
let no one oljstruct or weaken the force of the laws by chicane
and plausible address : let no one depart from Avhat is just
and good. If the evil passions are excited by temptation,
resist them with firmness ; look to him by whom you are pla-
ced on the seat of judgment, and ask of him the guidance of
the Holy Spirit. Finally, I again beseech you to pardon my
infirmities, which I confess and acknowledge before God, and
the Angels, and moreover before you, venerable Lords."

When he had said these things, he prayed to the Almighty
and most merciful God, that he would enrich them more
abundantly m itli his gifts, and guide them with his Iloly Spi-
rit to the prosperity of the Republick. He then gave his
right hand to each one — and bade them all a sorrowful fare-
well. They parted from him with tears as from a com.mon
father. l



i^2 LIFE OF CALVIN. 1564

On the 28th of April, at the request of Calvin, all the Mi-
nisters in the jurisdiction of Geneva, assembled in his room,
and he addressed them as follows :

" After my death, my brethren, continue in this work, and
be not discouraged. The Lord will preserve this Republick and
this Church, against all the threats of the enemies. Put away all
divisions from among yourselves,and embrace one another with
mutual charity. Consider daily, what you owe to the Church
in which God has placed you ; and suiTer nothing to separate
you from it. It will indeed be easy for those, who are desir-
ous of leaving their flocks, to find some pretexts to cover their
desertion ; but they will discover, by experience, that God
cannot be deceived. When I first came to this city, the gos-
pel was indeed preached, but the afiairs of religion were in a
most disordered state, as if Christianity consisted in nothing
but the destruction of images. There were many wicked
men, from whom I suflfered many extreme indignities ; but
the Lord God himself so strengthened me, even me, I say,
who am by nature so timid, (I speak as the fact is,) that I was
enabled to resist all their efi^orts. When I returned to this
place from Strasburg, I yielded to the call with an unwilling
mind, because it appeared to me that my return would be
fruitless. I was ignorant of the designs of God, and the un-
dertaking was full of multiplied and magnified difficulties.
But persevering in my work, I perceived at length, that the
Lord blessed my labours. Persevere then, my brethren, in
your vocation ; hold fast the estabUshed order ; give all dili-
gence, that the people yield obedience to the doctrines ; for
there are still some Avicked and insolent men. You see that
the order of the Church is well regulated ; and if it is de-
stroyed by your negligence, you will bring upon yourselves
the severest judgments of God. I now testify to you, my
brethren, that I have always lived with you, and now depart
from you, in the true and sincere bonds of charity. And if.



1564i LIFE OF CALVIN. 22S

at any time, in the course of my sickness, yon have found me
too morose, I ask your forgiveness, and give you many thanks,
that during my confinement, you have discharged the duties
of ray office."

He then reached his hand to each of Jiis brethren, who
retired weeping and with sorrowful hearts.

On the 2d of May, Calvin received a letter from Farel,#
now 75 years of age, and quite infirm, informing him of his
determination to make him a visit. To this letter he return-
ed the following ans^rer :

« Calvin to Farel, Wishes health.

" Farewell, my best and most ^vorthy brother. Since
God has determined, that you should survive me in this
world, live mindful of our union, which has been so useful
to the Church of God, and the fruits of which await us in
heaven. Do not fatigue yourself on my account. I draw
my breath with difficulty ; and am expecting continually
that my breath will fail. It is sufficient that I live and die
in Christ, who is gain to his servants in life and in death.
Again, farewell, with the brethren.

« Geneva, May 2, 1564."

The venerable Farel, however, visited Calvin, and renew-
ed with him for a night that friendship, Avhich death can-
not dissolve, but which will be consummated in the heaven-
ly world. After this, Calvin spent his time almost con-
stantly in prayer, wiiich his difficulty in breathing prevent-
ed him from uttering with a distinct articulation ; but his
expressive eyes raised towards heaven, and the serenity of

* Viret was at this time at the Court of the amiable and intrepid Jane,
Queen of Navarre, daughter of Margaret de Valois, whose piety and
constancy she surpassed. Under the protection of this patroness of the
Reformers, Yirctdicdin 1571, aged CO.



224 LIFE OF CALVIN. 1564

his countenance bespoke the comfort of his mind, and the
solemnity of his devotion. As his voice was sometimes
distinct, he was heard to say, / ?vas dumb, O Lord, because
thou didst it, — / did mourn as a dove. — Lord, thjj hand is