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

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the substance of Popery upon the reformed Churches. JMat-
thias Flacius, with others, attacked those evasive divines,
and with an overbearing intolerance and bitterness accused
^Iclancthon of apostacy from the true doctrines. Calvin, at
their request, wrote Melancthon an admonitory letter. Con-
sidering his anxieties lest Melancthon had yielded too much
on tliis occasion, this letter is an uncommon instance of faith-
ful friendsliip to that distinguished man, and of supreme re-
gard to the cause of Christ.f

While the German Churches were thus oppressed by the
severity of Charles, and multiplying their difficulties by per-
sonal dissensions, the Swiss were making important advances
in composing their differences of opinion about the Eucha-
rist. Luther, after the interview of IMarpurg in 1529, had been
most vehemently tenacious in maintaining the doctrine of Con-
subsiantifition. Zuinglius, BuUinger, Calvin and others were
decidedly opposed to this doctrine, as l^eing nothing essen-
tially different in absurdity from the Romish Transuhstantia-
tion. IMelaiicthon, Bucer and Calvin were anxious io keep
all the Churches in fellowship, and had used accommodating:

* Sec Letters, No. 3fi. f See Letters, No. .T*;.


terms in explaining tlie presence of Christ in the elements of
the Supper. In consequence of this, Calvin was represented
as holding the opinion of Luther that, after the consecration
of the elements, the body and blood of Christ are substan-
tially present, together with the substance of tlie bread and
wine. To remove these unfounded suspicions, Calvin repair-
ed with Farel to Zurich, and in a pubHck conference Sv^t-
tled the agitated question on the permanent basis of a writ-
ten confession. The articles were approved ]:)y the other
Swiss Churches, and the Church of Zurich was thus united
to that of Geneva, and Bullinger to Calvin, in rene^ved and
durable bonds of amity. "^

Loelius Socinus, of Sienna, who injudiciously indulged
himself in curious and scholastick questions, having some
acquaintance with Calvin, addressed to him several en-
quiries of a theological nature. Calvin answered his ques-
tions about the resurrection and other points ; and at the
«ame time suspecting his opinions, he plainly advised him to
check his ardent desire for unprofitable speculations, as the
Indulgence might be the occasion of much evil to him in the
cnd.f This man was artful in concealing his own wayward
opinions, under the form of questions to be discussed, as
though he was seeking for light, when his real ol^ject ^vas to
puzzle and undermine the opinions of others, and draw them
into darkness and doubt. He appears to have profited so
far by the admonitions of Calvin as to have concealed the
extent of his presumptuous speculations, not only from him
but also from Melancthon and Camerarius. After his death,
it was ascertain(;d that he was the principal author of those
opinions which have given a new appellation to an old he-
resy. Faustus Socinus obtained at Zurich the papers of his
uncle, from which the notions of the Paulicians were re-

* See Tract.^heolog. Calvini, p. 648, dated August 1, 1549.
f Two letters to Socinus, in Epist.Calvini ; the last dated Ucceir.ber, 1 .U9.


vived, That the Almighty Saviour is a mere man, and the
Holy Spirit a mere attribute ; and that the essential doctrines
of the Gospel, original sin, the atonement, and the agency
and grace of the Holy Spirit are not taught in the scrips
lures. #

Not^^ithstanding the conflicts with which the Genevese
Church had struggled, her numbers were increased, and on
account of the persecutions which prevailed in France and
Germany, and the wars in both countries, many respectable
strangers had sought refuge in this independent city, where
they were received by Calvin with great kindness. The
divine blessing rested upon his labours, both as Professor of
Theology and Pastor of that Church, while his reputation
and the influence of his WTituigs were extensively increasing
in the Churches abroad.

Early in the spring of this year, the faith and fortitude of
Calvin were brought to a severe trial. The companion,
who had for about nine years cherished him in the most af-
fectionate manner, was removed by death in March, 1549.
She was comely in her person,f amiable in her manners, and
devoutly humble in her religious duties ; and her death
was to Calvin, amidst his labours and infirmities, an irrepa-
rable loss. His strong and habitual faith, however, enabled
him to submit, with exemplary calmness and constancy, to
this chastising stroke from the hand of divine sovereigntj'.
On this interesting occasion, he shall speak for himself.

" Calvin to Farel.

'* The report of the death of my wife has doubtless reach-
ed you before this. I use every exertion in my power not
to be entirely overcome with heaviness of heart. My friends,
who arc about me, omit nothing that can aiford any allevi-

' Sac Raylc. Art. Fausl. Socinus. Notes'. f Bayle.


ation to the depression of my mind. When your brother
left UP, vv^e almost despaired of her life. On Tuesday, all
the brethren being present, we united in prayer. Fouppi-
nus then, in the name of the rest, exhorted her to faith and
patience. In a few words, (for she was very feeble,) she
gave evidence of the state of her mind. After this I added an
exhortation, such as I thought suitable to tlie occasion. As
she had not mentioned her children, I was apprehensive that
from delicacy she might cherish in her mind an anxiety
more painful than her disease ; and I declared before the
brethren, that I ^vould take the same care of them as if they
were my own. She answered, / have already commciulcd
them to the Lord, When I observed that this did not lessen
my obligation of duty to them, she answered immediately.
If the Lord takes theni under his protcetion, I hioiv theij nill
he entrusted to your care. The elevation of her mind was
so great that she appeared to be raised above this world.
On the day when she gave up her soul to the Lord, our bro-
ther Borgonius, a little before 6 o'clock, opened to her the
consolations of the Gospel, during which she frequently ex-
claimed, so that we all perceived that her affections were on
things above. The words she uttered were, glorious Re-
surrection I — God of Abraham, and of all our fathers I — The
faithful have, for so many ages, hoped in thee, and not one has

been disappointed. / will also hope. These short sen^

tences she rather ejaculated, than pronounced with a conti-
nued voice. She did not catch them from others. But by
these few words she manifested the thoughts which exercif-
€d her mind, and the meditations which she cherished in
her own heart. At 6 o'clock I was compelled to leave home.
After seven they shifted her position, and she immediately
began to fail. Perceiving her voice beginning to falter,
she said. Let us pray — Let us pray — Fray for mc, aU of you.
-^At this tiflie I entn-ed the kou?e. Slie lyas unable tt)

64 LIFE OF CALVliV 1549

speak, but gave signs of an agitated mind. I said a few
things concerning the grace of Christ, the hope of eternal
life, our domestick intercourse and fellowship, and our de-
parture from this society and union. I retired to pray. She
>\'as attentive to the instruction, and heard the prayers with
a sound mind. Before 8 o'clock she breathed her last so
placidly, that those present could not distinguish the mo-
ment which closed her life. — I now suppress the sorrow of
my lieart, and give myself no remission from my official du-
ties. But the Lord still exercises me Avith other troubles.
Farewell, dear and faithful brother. May the Lord Jesus
strengthen you by his spirit, and me also in this so gi-eat ca-
lamity, which would inevitably have overpowered me unless
from heaven he had stretched forth his hand, whose office it
is to raise the fallen, to strengthen the weak, and to refresh
the weary. Salute all the brethren and your whole family.

« Geneva, April 11, 1549."

" Calvin to Viret.

" Although the death of my wife is a very severe afflictioH^
yet I repress, as nmch as I am able, the sorrow of my heart.
My friends also afford every anxious assistance, yet with all
our exertions we effect less, in assuaging my grief than I
could wish ; but still the consolation which I do obtain I can-
not express. You know the tenderness of my mind, or rather
with what effeminacy I yield under trials ; so that without
the exercise of much moderation, I could not have supported
the pressure of my sorrow. Certainly it is no common occa-
sion of grief. I am deprived of a most amiable partner,
who, wliatever might have occurred of extreme endurance,
would have been my willing companion, not only in exile
and poverty, but even in death. While she lived she was

1549 LIFE OF CALVIN. 6:5

indeed the faithful helper of my ministry, and on no oc-
casion did I ever experience from her any inten'uptlon.

" For your friendly consolation I return you my sincere
thanks. Farewell, my dear and faithful brother. ]\Iay the
Lord Jesus watch over and direct you and your ^dfe. To
her and the brethren express my best salutation.

" Yours, JOHxN CALVIN.

** April 7, 1549."

" ViRET TO Calvin.

" The things which are related to me, by the united testi-
mony of the most respectable witnesses, concerning the forti-
tude and equanimity of your mind, under this so severe fa-
mily wound and domestick grief, aiford me reason to suppose,
that I should congratulate rather than console you in my
letter ; especially as I am perfectly aware of that whicli you
call the tenderness of your mind. This quality may, with
more propriety, be ascribed to you than effeminacy, as your
conduct fully proves the last to be inapplicable to your dis-
position. On this account, I the more admire the influence
of that divine Spirit which operates in you ; and abundantly
proves himself by his fruits worthy of the name of the true
Comforter. And may I not justly acknowledge the power of
that Spirit in you, since you bear, with so composed a mind,
those domestick misfortunes, which with the greatest possi-
ble severity most intimately aifect your heart, which was al-
ways so easily moved at the calamities of others, and so ac-
customed to feel them as if they w^re your own. Believe
me, your fortitude is uncommon, and so is the testimony of
divine benevolence towards you. This makes me greatly
ashamed of myself, that in a similar affliction I did not ex.


ercise tlie same fortitude, nor even arrive at the least shadow
of it. I was so overpowered and prostrated by that stroke of
adversity, tliat the whole earth appeared to me nothing but a
mere wilderness. Every thing was unpleasant ; tliere was no
object which could assuage the sorrow of my soul. I often
accused myself of bearing my aiTliction with much less forti-
tude, than was becoming my station, and still less becoming
a man who had embraced the doctrine of divine wisdom, at
its first appearance, professing myself not only a disciple, but
a teacher of others ; because I was unable to use those reme -
dies, in my own sufferings, which I prescribed to others un-
der like trials. But you, on the contrary, are so far from be-
ing dejected and disheartened, that you inspire others with
new strength by your example; testifying that you have
done that yourself which you recommended to others, and
thus you are able, when in health, to give the best counsels to
the sick, and in your own trials can draw consolation from
them, and conduct yourself as though all was well. It com-
forted me beyond measure, when I was informed, not by vague
rumours, but by so many messengers, that you went through
ail the duties of your office, with a readiness and ease, great-
er than usual, and that you were always present in body and
mind, at all your meetings, sermons, and all publick and pri-
vate duties, to the admiration of all ; and that you did this
especially at the time, when your sorrows were recent, and
had the keenest edge to wound and destroy your constancy.
Proceed therefore with the same stability ; and so conduct
yourself as to confirm this opinion of you in the minds of all,
that you have always exercised that presence of mmd, which
this ailliction has not so disturbed, and that repose which
it has not so interrupted, but that you were able to discern,
and command with ease, all those things which could tend
to comfort you. Tliat you may do this, and persevere in
your course m ith fortitude, and receive daily an increase of


strength, and more ample consolation, is my most fervent
prayer to God. And what more can I do to assist you ?
For I have neither the inQuence of authority, nor the acute-
ness of reasoning, to withdraw or dissuade you from tJiis se-
vere conflict of sorrow, unless your own mind supplies you
with resohition in bearing this cross, through the exuberant
grace of divine goodness, from which proceed all those otlier
gifts, wliich the Lord has so richly bestowed upon you. I
will therefore say no more on this subject. I may have said
too much already. My wife salutes you most affectionately,
and is exercised with no common grief, by the death of her
dearest sister, and with me considers it a calamity to us all.
It grieves me, that an opportunity is not now affordrd me for
a personal interview^ with you. Should you wish it, no im-
peding circumstances shall prevent me fi-om visiting you.
My colleagues salute you with all the brethren, among
whom you may number Francis of Viviers, \v^ho is now here
and begs me to salute you In his name. Salute our domestick
and other friends, especially Gallasius, Beza# and Ottoman,
in my name, to whom Francis also wishes health. Farewell,

" Lausanne, April 10, 1549."

The year 1550 was comparatively tranquil, and the eccle-
siastical affairs were conducted ^\ ith unusual harmony. As
some persons neglected publick worship, and others attended
but with little profit, it was decreed by the Senate, that
the Ministers should not limit their labours to preaching the
word, but should at stated times visit every family, attend-
ed by the Decurion of each ward, and a ruling Elder : and

* In 1548, Beza left Paris, and arrived at Geneva Oct. 24, Trom tlicnce
he went to Tubingen, to see his old instructor, Melchior ^^\)lnlar. He re-
turned to Geneva, and at the call of the Church of Lausanne, and the solicit-,
ations of Calvin, ho commenced his ecclesiastical labours in this city, 1549


that they should question each person summarily concern-
ing the reason of his faith. This personal application of in-
struction was attended with favoui*able and extensive bene-
fits. It was also decreed, that the commemoration of the
nativity of the Saviour should be referred to the next Lord's
day, and that no day should be observed as holy excepting
every seventh day which is called the Lord's day. This
regulation ojffended some Avho were attached to the festivals,
and they attempted to excite an opposition to this proceed-
ure, by insinuating that Calvin would finally abolish the
Lord's day itself. But however ready the opposers w ere to
charge this decree upon Calvin, the fact was, that it was
passed by the people not only without the request, but even
without the knowledge of the IMinisters ; and Calvin, though
he j udged this measure inexpedient, at this time and under
all the circumstances, laboured to conduct himself in the most
accommodating manner respecting this subject.^ At this
time, to expose and counteract the disposition to detraction
which is too commonly indulged by many, Calvin publish-
ed, on this occasion, a small work concerning Scandaly which
he dedicated to his old and faithful friend Laurence of Nor-

jMartin Bucer, Professor of Theology in the University of
Cambridge, closed his learned and useful career February
28, 1551. As he had been higlily respected by Edward
VT., his remains were interred with distinguished funeral ho-
nours. J The death of Bucer occurred at the critical mo-
ment Avhen the Liturgy of the English Church w as under-
going a reform. The loss of liis influence in that work,
and the close of a long and most confidential intimacy and
correspondence, so deeply affected Calvin, that in his letter

* Epist. Cal. to the Minister of Burcn, elated July 10, 155.0.
f See Opuscula Calvini, p. 64.
+ See Burnet, vol. 3, p. 155.


to Farel, he forebore dwelling on the painful subject ; and says,
" When I reflect with myself, how great a loss the Church of
God has sustained in the death of this man, it cannot be but
that I should be tortured with fresh sorrow. His influence
was great in England. And from his writings, I cannot but
indulge the hope, that posterity will be l)encfited in a still
more extensive degree. It may be added that the Church
appears to be deprived of faithful Teachers." He proceeds
to mention, in the same letter, the death of his friend Joa-
chim Vadian, Consul of St. Gal, a civil Magistrate valua-
ble for his learning and piety, the weight of whose influ-
ence was very great in the civil and religious concerns of
the Helvetians. #

Those who, from restlessness or ambition, are ever upon
the watch to elTect their evil purposes, are seldom without
some pretext sufficiently plausible to afford them the hope
of accomplishing those objects, to which their hatred of reli-
gion, or love of power, so strongly and anxiously impels them.
The faction of Geneva, in order to stir up the sleeping fires
of contention, first openly opposed the granting of the rights
of citizenship to those w^ho, exiled from other countries by
persecution, had taken up their residence in this city. They
next attacked Calvin with deriding language, as he was retir-
ing from a meeting held across the Pthone ; and to gratify
their disposition for mischief, and abuse against the Minis-
ters who reproved their vices, and the Consistory that disci-
plined them, they secretly removed one of the posts of the
bridge over which Raymond Calvet muri necessarily pass at
night, and he narrowly escaped b ing precipitated into the
river. For the purpose also c f raising a popular tumult, a
child was presented for baptism in the Church of St. Ger-
vais, to whom it was well known that the Minister could not

* See Cal. Epist. Letter to Farcl June 15, 1551, and to Virct May 10,


administer that ordinance, if he adhered to the estabhshed
rules of ecclesiastical order. He refused to give the name
Balthazar, and a violent tumult was raised on the occasion.
Against these evils, however, Calvin opposed no means of
defence, but the shield of steady and invincil:>le patience.#

The successive attacks of the factious, to demolish the
Consistory, had on the whole tended to add new strength to
the l^asis, and to increase the compactness and durability of
the edifice of Church discipline. Ecclesiastical censures were
extremely dreaded, and the stoutest hearts Avere appalled at
the disgrace which accompanied them. To avoid the infa-
my of publick censure, as they were determined to persist in
their heretical opinions and vicious conduct, they judged it
expedient to remove Calvin from his office, or destroy his in-
fluence, as he was the principal barrier which obstructed
their course, and the chief supporter of correct discipline.

Among the Hydras of faction, which successively shot
fartli their revegetating heads in Geneva, Jerome Bolseck oc-
cupies a distinguished place. He j&rst appeared in the char-
acter of a Parisian Monk, of the order of the Carmelites.
Some years however before this, he had quitted his habit,
A\ ithout changing his disposition. After obtruding himself
upon the pious Duchess of Ferrara, as a Reformer, his hy-
pocrisy was detected and he was driven from her court.
With only three days preparatory study, he then assumed the
profession of medicine, and soon after came to Geneva.
Finding himself despised as a quack, by the learned Physi-
cians of this city, he Avas compelled to take some other
course, and unfortunately attempted to establish himself as a

* Quick's Synodicon, vol. 1, Art. of Discipline. Baptism, p. 46. Also,
Synod 3d at Orleans, p. 25, sect. 21. Children of excommunicated parents
^\ ere not to be baptized. Pagan names, and names sacred to God, and tlie
names Baptist, Angel, Archangel, &c. were to be refused.— See Bing*
l\am*s works, vol. 2, p- 774-.


Theologian. The diversity of opinion, about the doctrine of
predestination, opened the way for his attaching himself to
that party, who were in opposition to the confession of the
Church and the principles of Calvin. He soon began to ad-
vance his sentiments on some disputed points in the publick
meetings. Calvin, in a private conversation, pointed out his
errours, and endeavoured to persuade him into the belief of
better things. Disregarding these counsels, and pleased
with the commendations of the disaiiected, he was instiga-
ted to address the people at a meeting of the congregation,
the 16th of October, after one of the Ministers had discours-
ed from John, viii. 47. concerning the sovereignty of the
grace of the Holy Spii'it. He undertook to prove the fallacy
of the doctrine of divine sovereignty, as stated by the Preach-
er, and added haughty and seditious reproaches against the
avowed principles of that Church. As Calvin left the house
at the close of the regular service, Bolseck supposed he was
absent. He had however returned with the crowd, and
stood unobserved by Bolseck till he finished his harrangue.
Calvin immediately stepped forward^ and on this unexpected
emergency, discovered an extent of knowledge, strength of
memory, and force of reasoning, which astonished the assem-
bly. He confuted and overwhelmed Bolseck, with so many
passages of scripture, so many quotations from Augustine, so
aptly arranged and so pointedly applied, that all the factious
were covered with confusion for the Monk, who alone stood
with a frozen and unblushing front. One of the iMagistrates
being present ordered him into custody as a seditious i)erson.
The SwisB Churches were consulted, and after a full hearing
before the Senate, this seditious man was soitcnccd, upon liis
own answers and confessions, to perpetual banishment, on
pain, if he returned, of being whipped for his scandals, his
impieties, and his ill life. His sentence was published by
sQimd of trumpet, and being forbidden to reiMain in the. tor-

72 LIFE OF CALVIN. 155:2

ritories of Geneva, he retired to a neighbouring town in the
limits of the Canton of Bern, from which territory he was
twice afterwards expelled for his seditious conduct.*

Bolseck, finding himself an outcast in Switzerland, went
into France, and sought to obtain ordination^ first at Paris
and then at Orleans ; artfully dissembling repentance, and
voluntarily seeking reconciliation with the Church of Gene-
va, from which he was excommunicated, previously to his
expulsion from that city. His apparent penitency made a
favourable impression on the Synod of Orleans in 1562 ; and
it would seem that he was entered on their list of Preachers,
as in the records of the Synod 1563, at Lyons, he is named
among the vagrants and deposed Ministers, as a most
infamous liar and apostate.f Bolseck returned to the Papists,
and settled at Autun, in the character of Physician, where,
by his looseness of manners, he subjected himself to the re-
proach even of the most licentious. J

The College of Ministers at Geneva, in a publick assem-
bly, discussed the doctrine of divine predestination, and Cal-
vin summing up the whole in a treatise, it received their
approbation, and was published January 1, 1552. This in-
tricate subject was limited within its proper bounds ; its
connection w ith other points opened ; and its purposes illus-
trated with great clearness. This litigated question, which
always afforded to the uneasy and unprincipled a plausible
pretext to raise difficulties, was now eagerly seized, by the
combined efforts of the factious in Geneva, and in the dif-
ferent Churches of the Canton of Bern, who were anxious
to ])last the reputation, and destroy the influence of Calvin.
Castalio retained his bitterness against him ; and for fear of
the consequences of being known, propagated in secret the

• See Bayle's Diction. Bolseck notes.

Online LibraryElijah WatermanMemoirs of the life and writings of John Calvin : together with a selection of letters → online text (page 6 of 34)