Elijah Waterman.

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

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* Seckendorf, Vol. 2, p. 420, and list of Lutlici-'s writings in indcK TTT
DUpin, Cent. 16. b. 11. p. 177.


I often sai/y if he should call me a devil, I hold him in such ho-
nour, that I would acknowledge him an eminent servant of God. '^
— But as he is endowed with great virtues, so he labours un-
der great failings. I wish he had studied more effectually
to restrain his impetuosity of temper, which breaks forth in
every direction ; that he had always turned this vehemence,
which is so natural to him, against the enemies of the truth,
and not equally brandished it against the servants of God ;
and that he had given more diligent labour, to search out
his o\vn faults. He has been surrounded by too many flat-
terers, seeing he is also too much inclined by nature to in-
dulge himself. It is our duty to reprehend Avhat is evil in
him, in such a manner as to yield very much to his excellent
qualities. Consider, I beseech you, with your colleagues, in
the first place, that you have to deal with a chief servant of
Christ, to whom we are all much indebted- And then, that
by contending, you will effect nothing, but a pleasure to the
impious, who will triumph, not so much over us as over the
Gospel. For reviling one another, they will give us more
than full credit. But when we preach Christ witli one con-
sent, and one mouth, they pervert this union, to diminish our
faith, by which they disclose, more than they would, the im-
portance of our united labours. I wish you to examine and
reflect upon these things, rather than dwell on what Luther
has merited by his intemperate language. Lest that befall
us, therefore, which Paul denounces, that by biting and de-
vouring one another ^\'e should be consumed, however he
may have provoked us, we must rather al^stain from the con-
test, than^increase the A\ound, to the conunon injury of the

* Luther, in his asperity ag-ainst the Zuinglians, Bullinger and otliers,
had used harsh language ; and Calvin, wlio was anxious to prevent tlie con-
troversy, states his own feelings, supposing Lutlier should call him a devilt
fcc. to allay the resentment of Bullinger and tlie other Pastors of Zurichr

154i5 LIFE OF CALVIN. 49

The persecutions in France, at this time, induced some per-
sons who adhered to the Reformers in private, to conform to
the externals of Popery, in order to shield themselves from
chains and death. Calvin disapproved of their conduct, and
published a tract# exposing such a conformity to the Pa-
pists as inconsistent with their duties to their families and
the cause and commands of Christ. These persons, who
were for compromising their religion for the favour of the
world, complained of the principles which Calvin had es-
tablished, as the rules of duty for the professed followers of
Christ, as too rigid and severe. They, appealed to the ad-
vice of Luther and Melancthon, expecting more favourable
terms. Calvin, at their request, addressed a letter to Luther,
and another to Melancthon,f accompanied by his treatise, and
a subsequent defence^ of it. In this defence he gave them
the appellation of Psemlo-Nicodemites, as they had justified
their covert acknowledgment of Christ, by the example
of Nicodcmus, in visiting Jesus by night. It does not ap-
pear that Luther answered the letter of Calvin. But Ble-
lancthon gave his opinion in full and decisive language.
In allusion to the feelings of Calvin al^out the controversy of
Osiander, expressed in the sentence quoted above, Melanc-
thon concludes his letter in these words, — April 17th, the daij
on which Noah, 384-6 7/ears ago, entered the ark, hy ivhich
example, God testifies that he will not forsake his Church,
when tossed on the mighty waters.^ Those two tracts of Cal-
vin, with the letter of Melancthon, and tliose of Bucer and
Peter Martyr^f annexed, were published in 1546. Three
years after, Bullinger, and the other Pastors of Zurich, ad-
dressed a letter to Calvin, approbating the doctrine which he

* See Opuscula Calvini, p. 434. Be vitcmdis Supcrstitionibus.
I See Letters, No. 31.

4 Opuscula Cal. p. 444. J Opus. Cal. p. 4)7.

If See Notes No. 13.



had supported, That It jvas unlaivful for any Christian to
appear to assent to those false doetrines and that supersti-
tion which in his heart he condemns.

A young fri^n, by llie name of Troilelt, having coun-
terfeited the hermit in France, returned to Geneva about
this time, with an assumed appearance of piety. Calvin,
remarkable for his penetration in distinguishing the dispo-
sitions of persons, and their real from their avowed opi-
nions, soon discovered the hypocrisy of Troilett, and gave
liim in a private conversation his advice. He however,
aided by others, became still more obtrusive in his man-
ners, in the meetings of the congregation. At length Cal-
vin gave him a public reprimand, for his unbecoming and
disorderly conduct. Incensed at this, he readily found
those who justified and encouraged his audacity ; and, on
the death of one of the jMinisters, he demanded to be in-
troduced into the vacancy. The Senate interposed their
authority, and ordered an enquiry to be made respecting
his character. The Ministers of the Genevese Chm'ches
laid before the Senate the reasons of their objections, that
he was by party influence, and the low arts of intrigue,
pushing himself forward to the pastoral olHce •, that the
baseness of his morals w^as evinced by the surreptitious
letters, which he had produced to support a lame charac-
ter; and that, in consequence of this fact, he was even
now the sport of his own faction. The Senate ordered the
ecclesiastical laws to be enforced against him, and he w^as

In the beginning of the year 154:0, Charles V. and Paul
III. concerted a plan which, in its result, w^as designed to
eilrct injuriously the dearest interests of the German and
Swiss Reformers. So confident was the Pope of success,

* Epist^ Calvini ad Farellum, dat. Sept. 8.


that in July he addressed a letter* to the Swiss, declaring
his determination to unite his forces with the Empcrour's,
and revenge their contumaciousness by an exterminating war.
The Swiss were thrown into great consternation by this letter,
and by the measures of CliarJes, who had put the Elector of
Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse under the Ban of the
Empire, more effectually to ruin tJiem by exposing their
dominions to every species of lawless depredation. f The
Emperour managed in the most artful manner, to divide and
awaken those States Avhich were deeply interested to be united
in their common defence ; and with no less duplicity he led
the Pope into all his measures, by holding out to him the
advantages which the Romish Church ^v ould derive from
suppressing the Protestants. In both respects he succeedexl
beyond his expectations. After multiplied disasters, those
Princes were humbled at his feet, and yielded to such terms
as this haughty man saw expedient to prescribe. J The accu=
mulated fruits of years appeared in a moment to be swept away,
from themselves and their children ; their hopes of the Re-
formation blasted ; and their dearest interests in the visible
Church sinking into the grave with their venerable Reform-
er.^ Death, by many, was embraced as a happy de-
liverance from the distresses which they felt, and the more
tempestuous trials which they feared. The fugitive breth-
ren gave to the reformed Churches the most dismal tidings
of the ruin of their cause. The intimate friends of Calvin,
Bucer, IMelancthon and many others, Avere borne down with
anguish, and their lives threatened with imminent danger.
The letters of Bucer conveyed the feelings of his heart in
the concise language of grief : O my Calvin ! is not God thus
wanting to his promises^ because ive have despised them ?

* Dupin Eccl. Hist. 16 Cent. B. 3, p. 34.

f Dupin, 16 Cent. B, 3, p. 39.

t Dupin p. 73. § Luther died February 18, 154G.

32 LIFE OF CALVIxN. 1546

How suddcnii/, all our loftiness is fallen into baseness and mise-
rij ? — Beseech the Lord fervently for the health of this Churchy
that she may learn to lose her lifey that she may save it.^ —
Amidst these convulsions, the soul of Calvin while he sympa-
thized in their sorrows, Avas still undismayed. Firm as the
rocks of his country, and with views far more elevated than
her mountains afford, he looked abroad over all the darkness
of Pontifical impiety and imperial ambition, which, like the
clouds of morning mist, winding around their tops, transient-
ly dissolved, before the visions of faith, and passed away be-
neatli the light of the promises and the Providence of the
Redeemer. The Pope discovered too late, that the disguised
policy of Charles was directing all his measures to the accu-
mulation of his own power ; that with all his means to crush
the Protestant and establish the Romish worship, he had
done nothing, but negotiate with the enemies of Popery, on
terms that would best secure his personal domination ; and,
apprehensive that his next step would be to dictate laws to
the States of Italy, he suddenly withdrew his troops, prefer-
ring that the Protestants should abide in their strength, as a
check upon this ambitious and perfidious man. The Pope
was thus turned back by the way which he came, disappointed
of his purpose, and dismayed at the influence which he had
thrown into the hands of Charles.

During the troubles in Germany, the Genevese were agita-
ted with internal factions. Ammi Perrin, a man of consum-
mate vanity, audacity and ambition, headed the unruly and
disaffected in that city. By the suffrages of the people, lie
had Ijecn elected to the office of Captain General of Geneva.
From this circumstance, and the singularity of his manners,
Calvin, usually in his letters to Farel and Viret, designated
him by the title of Comicus C\csar, the comical Emperovr.

• Epist. Cahini, p. 45, et 4,%.

154r LIFE OF CALVIiN. 53

Exposed by their immoralities to ecclesiastical censures, Per-
rin and his associates concerted a plan to weaken and destroy
the influence of Calvin. Two of the colleague Pastors, becom-
ing from their intemperance liable to the severity of the laws,
instigated one of the Senators to accuse Calvin of teaching
false doctrine. The Senator, who brought the accusation,
was summoned before the Council, and the matter being heard,
he was sentenced, as a calumniator, and the two Pastors were
deposed from their office, and forliidden to frequent the
•^ine shops.

Amidst these difficulties, Calvin laboured to evince that the
Gospel which he announced was not a matter of refined spe-
culation, or worldly convenience, but the high calling of God,
the supreme business of a Christian's life. The plain instruc-
tions of Calvin gave offence to those ^vho wished to revel in
licentious amusements, and yet be treated as good and whol-
some members of the Church. Perrin and some others, fall-
ing under censure, Avere anxious to escape the judgment of the
Consistory, and pleaded that the trial for criminal conduct
should come only before the Senate. The Consistory urged,
in defence of their rights, that the system of discipline had
been sanctioned, as conformable to the word of God ; and im-
plored the support of the Senate, that the Church might re-
ceive no injury. The Senate decreed, that the ecclesiastical
laws should be observed, and established the sentence against
the delinquents. The violence of Perrin and his associates
was greatly increased in their endeavours to raise disorder and
sedition in the city. To allay the increasing evils, the Coun-
oil of two hundred WTre convoked to meet on the lOth of Sep-
tember, 1547. On the preceding day, Calvin informed his
colleagues, that tumults would pro})ably be excited by the
factious, and that it was his intention, to be i)resent at the
meetuig. Accordingly Calvin, accompanied by his colleagues,
proceeded to the Council house, but arrived before tlir ap-


pointed time. Seeing- many persons walking about tlie door,
they retired through an adjoining gate and were unnoticed.
They had not been long in this retreat, l^efore they lieard
loud and confused clamours, Avhich instantly increased with
all the signs of sedition. Calvin ran to the place, and though
the aspect of things was terrible, he advanced into the midst
of the violent and noisy crov/d. His presence struck them
with astonishment. ITis friends pressed around him,
as a defence. He raised his voice, and solemnly declared,
that he came to oppose his body to their swords, and if they
ivere determined to shed any blood, he exhorted them to be-
gin with his. The heat of the sedition abated. On entering
the Senate chamber, he found a more violent contest. He
pressed between the parties, when they were upon the point
of drawing their swords for mutual slaughter, in the very
sanctuary of justice. Like an Angel of peace, he arrested
the fury of the faction, and having brought the assembly to
their seats, he addressed them in a continued and impressive
oration. He pointed out to the seditious their crimes, and
the puljlick evils 'which must inevitably follow upon indulg-
ing in such immoralities and factions ; and denounced upon
them the judgments of God, if they should persist in such
iniquities. The eifects of this address were so deeply felt, by
the seditious themselves, that they commended him for his
interposition, which had arrested their bloody attack upon
the Senates

Soon after this, the wife of Perrin was called before the
Consistory for her improper conduct. She became petulant,
and hitemperatcly added insult to abuse. After being re-
proved without ciTect by Pouppinus, one of the IMinisters,
she was referred to the Senate, and by their order confined in
prison. She made her escape, and meeting Pouppinus with-

* Culvin's Letter to Viret, dated Sept. 17, 1547, in ejus Epistolis.


out the gates of the city, attacked him ^vith the most a])usive
language. The next day a libel was found alfixed to the
pulpit, in v/liich the Pastors were threatened with death, if
they persisted in their adjierence to the rules of discipline
and publick reproof. The Senate ordered a strict enquiry
after the conspirators. One James Cruet was apprehended,
and his papers examined. Among these were letters and
other writings, which insulted the Senate and the laws of tlie
Republick ; threatened the life of Calvin ; ridiculed the scrip-
tures as false ; abused the Saviour ; and called the immorta-
lity of the soul a ckeam and a fable. # Convicted of these
and other crimes against the city and Senate, Gruet was sen-
tenced to death, and pul^lickly beheaded. Perrin and his
wife retired from Geneva. Calvin, however, interceded
with the Senate to remit their sentence against her, upon her
showing any signs of repentance. But this interposition pro-
duced no effect upon the mind of this outrageous woman.

Amidst those conflicts, Calvin was watchful over the in-
terest of the reformed Churches of France. In August, he
addressed a letter to the Church of Rohan to counteract the
errours of a Franciscan Friar, who was labouring, to ijuposc
upon that people the corruptions of the heresy of Carpocra-

The interests of the Protestant Churches of Germany were
at this time endangered by the proceedings of the famcui
Council of Trent,"]: which was called by Paul III., and open-
ed in that city January 7, 154G. Between that time and
March, 1547, it held seven sessions. The acts of this last
general Council were published for the special purpose of con-
demning the opinions of Zuinglius, Luther and their follow-

* Calvin's leUer to Viret, July 2, 1547, In Epis.

t" Calvini Opuscula p. 403. Carpocrates was author of a pernicious heresy
in the 2d. Century. Mosh. vol. 1, p. 184, and liccs' Cyclopedia,
t Dupin, 16 CenU Hist, of Gouii. Trent.


ers. To rectify their misrepresentations, and false statements,
of the conduct and principles of the Reformers, Calvin pub-
lished, in November, 1547, an antidote against the seven ses-
sions of the Council of Trent. In this he recited the acts of
eacli session, and replied with energy and effect-^

In the mean time, the faction of Perrin became anxious to
have their leader restored to his office and influence in the
city. They proposed a settlement of all the subsisting diffi-
culties, and requested that Viret should be called from
Lausanne, to assist in effectuating this object. Calvin ac-
cordingly wrote to Viret and Farel.f These Ministers came
to Geneva, and through their address and influence, and at
the request of Calvin, the Senate reluctantly, because jealous
of tlie dissimulation of Perrin, restored him to his office, af-
ter the Consistory had removed the sentence of excommuni-
cation. This accommodation took place in the beginning
of 1548.

However Farel, Viret and Calvin might have expected
that this accommodation would be permanent, they soon
found, that Perrin and his faction had pursued those mea-
sures of peace, in order the more extensively to effect their
hostile purpose. Tliey threw off the mask by degrees, and
with increased impudence proceeded to vent their malice
against Calvin, in those methods which are the last resorts of
meanness. Some cut their corslets in the form of a cross ;
others named their dogs Calvin ; some changed his name in-
to Cain ; and a few abstained from the Supper of the Lord,
to express their hatred of the Pastor. Conscious of his own
integrity, Calvin, unmoved by these reproaches, pursued the
regular course of duty, and procured the arraignment of
these revilers before the Senate, for their contemptuous con-
duct towards the ministry. Being convicted, they sanction-

* Cal. Opus. p. 226.

t Epist. C'alvini, to Viret, March, 1547. To Farel, August, 154".


ed anew the terms of reconciliation with their oaths, on the
18th of December, and for a season their factious proceed-
ings were suppressed.

Having obtained complete success in the battle of JMuUi-
berg on the Elbe, in the spring of 15 ir, and made the Elect-
or of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse prisoners, the Eni-
perour, to make sure of his ambitious purposes, called a Diet
at Augsburg. After much opposition from the Pope, and
fruitless delays from their mutual jealousies, he determined
to settle, agreeable to his own wishes, tlie religious order of
his own dominions. He accordingly published, May 15,
1518,# a system of doctrine and worship, designed to regu-
late the Churches of Germany, till another Council should
be convened. This Formula was called the Interim. It
artfully covered the substance of Popery, with some ac-
commodating expressions, to quiet the Protestants, under the
imperial authority. In the general alarm and resentment,
it engaged the attention of Calvin. He exposed the oppres-
sive measures of Charles ; unmasked this system of hypocri-
sy, as he examined it step by step ; and demonstrated its
noxious tendency to subvert the foundation of the Protestant
cause.f During this year, amidst the vexatious factions of
his own Church, Calvin, as though surrounded by a perfect
calm, completed and published his learned commentaries
on the Epistles of the Apostle Paul. And also, in a small
but elegantly written work, he exposed, with much acuteness,
the falsity and folly of judicial astrology.

Bucer, having read the Interim at the request of the
Elector of Brandenburg, plainly told him, " that it was no-
thing but downright Popery, only a little disguised." The
Elector was highly offended, and Bucer, not without great

* See Burnet's Hist, of the Reformation, vol.2, p. 81. Dupin, 16 Cent,
t See Opuscuh Thsologiea Calvini, p. 260.



hazard, returned to Strasburg. Germany, which had been
the sanctuary of the persecuted Pteformers from Italy and
France, Avas now threatened with an overwhehning storm ;
and many of her Ministers were compelled to shelter them-
selves in obscure retreats, or to take refuge in Switzerland and
England. Henry VIII. was succeeded, in 1547, by his son Ed-
ward VI., a youth distinguished for his piety and early at-
tachment to the cause of the Reformation. The venerable
Cranmer, with others under the auspices of the Lord Pro-
lector and the Prince, had entered on the work of purifying
the Church, with moderation and wisdom. To forward, in
the best manner, the laborious undertaking, they judged it
expedient to ask the assistance of some of the experienced
Reformers from Germany. For this purpose, Cranmer ad-
dressed letters, in the name of the King,# to Peter JMartyr,
at Strasburg, requesting him and others to come into Eng-
land. IMartyr, with Bernard Ochinus, arrived in England in
Nov. 15 ir. Martyr was appointed Divinity Professor at Ox-
ford ; Ochinus was made a Canon of Canterbury ; and a sa-
lary of forty marks was settled on each of tliem by the King.
The letters of ^Martyr conveyed to his friends the account
of the changes which were taking place in England, in ec-
clesiastical matters, and excited the attention of Calvin and
Bucer. " Calvin ^wrote," sai/s Bishop Burnet, " to the rro-
tcctor on the 29th of October,! encouraging him to go on,
notwithstanding the wars, as He^ekias had done in his Re-
formation. He lamented the heats of some that professed the
Gospel ; but complained that he heard there were few live-
ly sermons preached in England ; and that tlie Preachers recit-
ed their discourses coldly. He much approves of a set form

* Burnet's Hist, of the Reformation, vol. 2, p. 50.

f Idem, p 83. The three editions of Calvin's Letters which 1 have be-
fore me, of Geneva, Hannau and Amsterdam, all have this letter dated Oc-
tober 2?.


of prayers, whereby the consent of all the Churches did more
manifestly appear. But he advises a more complete Keform-
ation. He taxed the prayers for the dead, the use of chrism
and extreme tmction, since tliey ,*ere no where recommend-
ed m scripture. He had heard, that the reason why tliey
went no farther, was, because the times would not bear it-
But this was to do the work of God by political ma.iu>s •'
which, though they ought to take place in other thi«g« yet
should not be followed in matters in which the salvation of the
soui IS concerned. But above all, he complained of the impie-
ties and vices which were so common in England ; as swca. -
ing, drmkmg and uncleanness, and prayed him earnestly that
these things might be looked after." Such is the account
which Burnet* gives of the elegant letter of Calvin to the
Duke of Somerset.^ When Nicolaus, the messenger, deliver-
ed It to the Duke, and informed him that he had another
lor the King, he graciously undertook the office of delivering
It, and ,ventthe next day to the palace, where it was ret
ceived with great pleasure by the young monarch and the
royal Council. Cranmer informed Nicolaus, that Calvin
could do nothing more useful than to write often to the
Aing.J: Bucer still remained at Strasburg, but the troubles
in Germany about the Interim daily increasing, he yiekled
to the request of Archbishop Cranmer, and ,vith Paul Fa-i-
us^ arrived in England in the spring of 1519.11 Bucer ^^s

thi's totcr b"?,?'""; '." '"\'''^'°^y °f "'^ Presbyterians, gives ™ account of
tlus letter, but not w.th the cndour and correctness of Burnet. Heylin is

tlieking See Ucvlin, Hist. Prcsb n 12 + «!«o i «. xr o.

* Ca.vin.s,ettertorareUateaaune^:^:55t,n j:;;.i::'^^^^^ ""• "•
TesZlltTolyiT ™P"'><=<J''' Cambridge to translate the Old
Gre k ButZ ,^ '"' ""' ""^^^ '"^ New Testament from the

Gieek. But these works were not completed. Fagius died Nov. 15 15S0


appointed Professor of Tlieology at Cambridge, and gave
Calvin an account of the state of religion in that country.
Considering the temporizing spirit of Bucer, and the exten-
sive benefit he might render the English Church, Calvin, in
his an£\ver,# advised him to be decisive and express on the
subject of the Lord's Supper, and effectually consoled him
in his exile from Strasburg.

The expediency of submitting to the Interim had excited
a controversy among the Saxon Divines. Melancthon and
others concurred in the opinion, that in matters of an indif-
ferent nature compliance was due to the imperial edicts.
Under this covert, they sheltered themselves from persecu-
tion, while in appearance they connived at the imposition of

Online LibraryElijah WatermanMemoirs of the life and writings of John Calvin : together with a selection of letters → online text (page 5 of 34)