The sources on this and the following chapters in § 81.
93. The State of Geneva after the Expulsion of the Reformers
I. The correspondence in Opera, vols. X. and XI., and Herminjard, Vols. V., VI., and VII. — Annal. Calv, XXI. 235-282. — The Chronicles of Roset and Bonivard; the histories of Spon, Gaberel, Roget, etc.
II. Henry, I. ch. XIX. — Staehelin, I. 283-299. — Dyer, 113-123. — Kampschulte, I. 342 sqq. — Merle D’Aubigné, bk. XI. chs. XVIII. (vol. VI. 610 sqq.) and XIX. (vol. VII. 1 sqq.).
C. A. Cornelius (Cath.): Die Rueckkehr Calvins nach Genf. Muenchen, 1889. Continuation of his essay, Die Verbannung Calvins aus Genf. Muenchen, 1886. Both in the Transactions of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences.
The answer to Sadolet was one of the means of saving Geneva from the grasp of popery, and endearing Calvin to the friends of freedom. But there were other causes which demanded his recall. Internal disturbances followed his expulsion, and brought the little republic to the brink of ruin.
Calvin was right in predicting a short régime to his enemies. In less than a year they were demoralized and split up into factions. In the place of the expelled Reformers, two native preachers and two from Bern were elected on the basis of the Bernese customs, but they were below mediocrity, and not fit for the crisis. The supremacy of the State was guarded. Foreigners who could not show a good practical reason for their residence were banished; among them, even Saunier and Cordier, the rectors of the schools who faithfully adhered to the Reformers.
There were three main parties in Geneva, with subdivisions.
1. The government party was controlled by the syndics of 1538 and other enemies of the Reformers. They were called Articulants or, by a popular nickname, Artichauds, from the twenty-one articles of a treaty with Bern, which had been negotiated and signed by three counsellors and deputies of the city — Ami de Chapeaurouge, Jean Lullin, and Monathon. The government subjected the Church to the State, and was protected by Bern, but unable to maintain order. Tumults and riots multiplied in the streets; the schools were ruined by the expulsion of the best teachers; the pulpit lost its power; the new preachers became objects of contempt or pity; pastoral care was neglected; vice and immorality increased; the old licentiousness and frivolities, dancing, gambling, drunkenness, masquerades, indecent songs, adulteries, reappeared; persons went naked through the streets to the sound of drums and fifes.
Moreover, the treaty with Bern, when it became known, was very unpopular because it conceded to Bern the rights of sovereignty. The Council of Two Hundred would not submit to it because it sacrificed their liberties and good customs. But the judges of Bern decided that the Genevese must sign the treaty and pay the costs. This created a great commotion. The people cried “treason,” and demanded the arrest of the three deputies who had been outwitted by the diplomacy of Bern, but they made their escape; whereupon they were condemned to death as forgers and rebels. The discontent extended to the pastors who had been elected in the place of Farel and Calvin.
Within two years after the banishment of the Reformers, the four syndics who had decreed it came to grief. Jean Philippe, the captain-general of the city and most influential leader of the Artichauds, but a man of violent passions, was beheaded for homicide, and as a mover of sedition, June 10, 1540. Two others, Chapeaurouge and Lullin, were condemned to death as forgers and rebels; the fourth, Richardet, died in consequence of an injury which he received in the attempt to escape justice. Such a series of misfortunes was considered a nemesis of Providence, and gave the death-blow to the anti-reform party.
2. The party of the Roman Catholics raised its head after the expulsion of the Reformers, and received for a short time great encouragement from the banished bishop Pierre de la Baume, whom Paul III. had made a cardinal, and from the Letter of Cardinal Sadolet. A number of priests and monks returned from France and Savoy, but the Answer of Calvin destroyed all the hopes and prospects of the Romanists, and the government showed them no favor.
3. The third party was friendly to the Reformers. It reaped all the benefit of the blunders and misfortunes of the other two parties, and turned them to the best account. Its members were called by their opponents Guillermains, after Master Guillaume (Farel). They were led by Perrin, Porral, Pertemps, and Sept. They were united, most active, and had a definite end in view — the restoration of the Reformation. They kept up a correspondence with the banished Reformers, especially with Farel in Neuchâtel, who counselled and encouraged them. They were suspected of French sympathies and want of patriotism, but retorted by charging the government with subserviency to Bern. They were inclined to extreme measures. Calvin exhorted them to be patient, moderate, and forgiving.
As the Artichauds declined, the Guillermains increased in power over the people. The vacant posts of the late syndics were filled from their ranks. The new magistrates assumed a bold tone of independence towards Bern, and insisted on the old franchises of Geneva. It is curious that they were encouraged by a letter of the Emperor Charles V., who thus unwittingly aided the cause of Calvin.
The way was now prepared for the recall of Calvin. The best people of Geneva looked to him as the saviour of their city. His name meant order, peace, reform in Church and State.
Even the Artichauds, overpowered by public opinion, proposed in a general assembly of citizens, June 17, 1540, the resolution to restore the former status, and spoke loudly against popery. Two of the new preachers, Marcourt and Morland, resigned Aug. 10, and returned to Bern. The other two, Henri de la Mare and Jacques Bernard, humbly besought the favor of Calvin, and begged him to return. A remarkable tribute from his rivals and enemies.
94. Calvin’s Recall to Geneva
Literature in § 93, especially the Correspondence and Registers.
Calvin did not forget Geneva. He proved his interest in her welfare by his Answer to Sadolet. But he had no inclination to return, and could only be induced to do so by unmistakable indications of the will of Providence.
He had found a place of great usefulness in a city where he could act as mediator between Germany and France, and benefit both countries; his Sunday services were crowded; his theological lectures attracted students from France and other countries; he had married a faithful wife, and enjoyed a peaceful home. The government of Strassburg appreciated him more and more, and his colleagues wished to retain him.
Melanchthon thought he could spare him less at the Colloquies of Worms and Ratisbon than anybody else. Looking to Geneva he could, from past experience, expect nothing but severe and hard trials. “There is no place in the world,” he wrote to Viret, “which I fear more; not because I hate it, but because I feel unequal to the difficulties which await me there.” He called it an abyss from which he shrank back much more now than he had done in 1536. Indeed, he was not mistaken in his fears, for his subsequent life was an unbroken struggle. We need not wonder then that he refused call upon call, and requested Farel and Viret to desist from their efforts to allure him away.
At the same time, he was determined to obey the will of God as soon as it would be made clear to him by unmistakable indications of Providence. “When I remember,” he wrote to Farel, “that in this matter I am not my own master, I present my heart as a sacrifice and offer it up to the Lord.” A very characteristic sentence, which reveals the soul of his piety. A seal of Calvin bears this motto, and the emblem is a hand presenting a heart to God. Seventeen years later, when he looked back upon that critical period of his life, he expressed the same view. “Although the welfare of that Church,” he says, “was so dear to me, that I could without difficulty sacrifice my life for it; yet my timidity presented to me many reasons of excuse for declining to take such a heavy burden on my shoulders. But the sense of duty prevailed, and led me to return to the flock from which I had been snatched away. I did this with sadness, tears, and great anxiety and distress of mind, the Lord being my witness, and many pious persons who would gladly have spared me that pain, if not the same fear had shut their mouth.” He mentions especially Martin Bucer, “that excellent servant of Christ,” who threatened him with the example of Jonah; as Farel, on Calvin’s first visit to Geneva, had threatened him with the wrath of God.
His friends in Geneva, the Council and the people, were convinced that Calvin alone could save the city from anarchy, and they made every effort to secure his return. His recall was first seriously discussed in the Council early in 1539, again in February, 1540, and decided upon Sept. 21, 1540. Preparatory steps were taken to secure the co-operation of Bern, Basel, Zürich, and Strassburg. On the 13th of October, Michel Du Bois, an old friend of Calvin, was sent by the Large Council with a letter to him, and directed to press the invitation by oral representation. Without waiting for an answer, other petitions and deputations were forwarded. On the 19th of October the Council of Two Hundred resolved to use every effort for the attainment of that object. Ami Perrin and Louis Dufour were sent (Oct. 21 and 22) as deputies, with a herald, to Strassburg “to fetch Master Calvin.” Twenty dollars gold (écus au soleil) were voted, on the 27th, for expenses. The Registres of that month are full of actions concerning the recall of “the learned and pious Mr. Calvin.” No more complete vindication of the cause of the Reformers could be imagined.
Farel’s aid was also solicited. With incomparable self-denial he pardoned the ingratitude of the Genevese in not recalling him, and made every exertion to secure the return of his younger friend, whom he had first compelled by moral force to stop at Geneva. He bombarded him with letters. He even travelled from Neuchàtel to Strassburg, and spent two days there, pressing him in person and trying to persuade him, as well as Capito and Bucer, of the absolute necessity of his return to Geneva, which, in his opinion, was the most important spot in the world.
Dufour arrived at Strassburg in November, called upon the senate, followed Calvin to Worms, where he was in attendance on the Colloquy, and delivered the formal letter of invitation, dated Oct. 22, and signed by the syndics and Council of Geneva. It concludes thus: “On behalf of our Little, Great, and General Councils (all of which have strongly urged us to take this step), we pray you very affectionately that you will be pleased to come over to us, and to return to your former post and ministry; and we hope that by God’s help this course will be a great advantage for the furtherance of the holy gospel, seeing that our people very much desire you, and we will so deal with you that you shall have reason to be satisfied.” The letter was fastened with a seal bearing the motto: “Post tenebras spero lucem.”
Calvin was thus most urgently and most honorably recalled by the united voice of the Council, the ministers, and the people of that city which had unjustly banished him three years before.
He was moved to tears by these manifestations of regard and confidence, and began to waver. But the deputies of Strassburg at Worms, under secret instruction from their government, entered a strong protest against his leaving. Bucer, Capito, Sturm, and Grynaeus, when asked for advice, decided that Calvin was indispensable to Strassburg as the head of the French Church which represented Protestant France; as a theological teacher who attracted students from Germany, France, and Italy, to send them back to their own countries as evangelists; and as a helper in making the Church of Strassburg a seminary of ministers of the gospel. No one besides Melanchthon could be compared with him. Geneva was indeed an important post, and the gate to France and Italy, but uncertain, and liable to be involved again in political complications which might destroy the evangelical labors of Calvin. The pastors and senators of Strassburg, urged by the churches of Zürich and Basel, came at last to the conclusion to consent to Calvin’s return after the Colloquy of Worms, but only for a season, hoping that he may soon make their city his final home for the benefit of the whole Church.
Thus two cities, we might almost say, two nations, were contending for the possession of “the Theologian.” His whole future life, and a considerable chapter of Church history, depended on the decision. Under these circumstances he could make no definite promise, except that he would pay a visit to Geneva after the close of the Colloquy, on condition of getting the consent of Strassburg and Bern. He also prescribed, like a victorious general, the terms of surrender, namely, the restoration of Church discipline.
He had previously advised that Viret be called from Lausanne. This was done in Dec. 31, 1540, with the permission of Bern, but only for half a year. Viret arrived in Geneva Jan. 17, 1541. His persuasive sermons were well attended, and the magistrates showed great reverence for the Word of God; but he found so much and such difficult work in church and school, in the hospital and the poorhouse, that he urged Calvin to come soon, else he must withdraw or perish.
On the 1st of May, 1541, the General Council recalled, in due form, the sentence of banishment of April 23, 1538, and solemnly declared that every citizen considered Calvin, Farel, and Saunier to be honorable men, and true servants of God. On the 26th of May the senate sent another pressing request to Strassburg, Zürich, and Basel to aid Geneva in securing the return of Calvin.
It is astonishing what an amount of interest this question of Calvin’s return excited throughout Switzerland and Germany. It was generally felt that the fate of Geneva depended on Calvin, and that the fate of evangelical religion in France and Italy depended on Geneva. Letters arrived from individuals and corporations. Farel continued to thunder, and reproached the Strassburgers for keeping Calvin back. He was indignant at Calvin’s delay. “Will you wait,” he wrote him, “till the stones call thee?”
95. Calvin’s Return to Geneva. 1541
In the middle of June, Calvin left Regensburg, before the close of the Colloquy, much to the regret of Melanchthon; and after attending to his affairs in Strassburg, he set out for Switzerland. The Genevese sent Eustace Vincent, a mounted herald, to escort him, and voted thirty-six écus for expenses (Aug. 26).
The Strassburgers requested him to retain his right of citizenship, and the annual revenues of a prebend, which they had assigned him as the salary of his theological professorship. “He gladly accepted,” says Beza, “the former mark of respect, but could never be induced to accept the latter, since the care of riches occupied his mind the least of anything.”
Bucer, in the name of the pastors of Strassburg, gave him a letter to the Syndics and Council of Geneva, Sept. 1, 1541, in which he says: “Now he comes at last, Calvin, that elect and incomparable instrument of God, to whom no other in our age may be compared, if at all there can be the question of another alongside of him.” He added that such a highly favored man Strassburg could only spare for a season, on condition of his certain return. The Council of Strassburg wrote to the Council of Geneva on the same day, expressing the hope that Calvin may soon return to them for the benefit of the Church universal. The Senate of Geneva, in a letter of thanks (Sept. 17, 1541), expressed the determination to keep Calvin permanently in their city, where he could be as useful to the Church universal as at Strassburg.
Calvin visited his friends in Basel, who affectionately commended him to Bern and Geneva (Sept. 4). Bern was not very favorable to Calvin and the clerical ascendency in Geneva, but gave him a safe-conduct through her territory.
At Soleure (Solothurn) he learned that Farel was deposed, without a trial, by the magistracy of Neuchâtel, because he had attacked a person of rank from the pulpit for scandalous conduct. He, therefore, turned from the direct route, and spent some days with his friend, trying to relieve him of the difficulty. He did not succeed at once, but his efforts were supported by Zürich, Strassburg, Basel, and Bern; and the seignory of Neuchâtel resolved to keep Farel, who continued to labor there till his death.
Calvin wrote to the Council of Geneva from Neuchâtel on Sept. 7, explaining the reason of his delay. The next day he proceeded to Bern and delivered letters from Strassburg and Basel.
He was expected at Geneva on the 9th of September, but did not arrive, it seems, before the 13th. He wished to avoid a noisy reception, for which he had no taste. But there is no doubt that his arrival caused general rejoicing among the people.
The Council provided for the Reformer a house and garden in the Rue des Chanoines near St. Peter’s Church, and promised him (Oct. 4), in consideration of his great learning and hospitality to strangers, a fixed salary of fifty gold dollars, or five hundred florins, besides twelve measures of wheat and two casks of wine. It also voted him a new suit of broadcloth, with furs for the winter. This provision was liberal for those days, yet barely sufficient for the necessary expenses of the Reformer and the claims on his hospitality. Hence the Council made him occasional presents for extra services; but he declined them whenever he could do without them. He lived in the greatest simplicity compatible with his position. A pulpit in St. Peter’s was prepared for him upon a broad, low pillar, that the whole congregation might more easily hear him.
The Council sent three horses and a carriage to bring Calvin’s wife and furniture. It took twenty-two days for the escort from Geneva to Strassburg and back (from Sept. 17 to Oct. 8).
On the 13th of September Calvin appeared before the Syndics and the Council in the Town Hall, delivered the letters from the senators and pastors of Strassburg and Basel, and apologized for his long delay. He made no complaint and demanded no punishment of his enemies, but asked for the appointment of a commission to prepare a written order of church government and discipline. The Council complied with this request, and resolved to retain him permanently, and to inform the Senate of Strassburg of this intention. Six prominent laymen, four members of the Little Council, two members of the Large Council, — Pertemps, Perrin, Roset, Lambert, Goulaz, and Porral, — were appointed to draw up the ecclesiastical ordinances in conference with the ministers.
On Sept. 16, Calvin wrote to Farel: “Thy wish is granted, I am held fast here. May God give his blessing.”
He desired to retain Viret and to secure Farel as permanent co-laborers; but in this he was disappointed — Viret being needed at Lausanne, and Farel at Neuchâtel. By special permission of Bern, however, Viret was allowed to remain with him till July of the next year. His other colleagues were rather a hindrance than a help to him, as “they had no zeal and very little learning, and could not be trusted.” Nearly the whole burden of reconstructing the Church of Geneva rested on his shoulders. It was a formidable task.
Never was a man more loudly called by government and people, never did a man more reluctantly accept the call, never did a man more faithfully and effectively fulfil the duties of the call than John Calvin when, in obedience to the voice of God, he settled a second time at Geneva to live and to die at this post of duty.
“Of all men in the world,” says one of his best biographers and greatest admirers, “Calvin is the one who most worked, wrote, acted, and prayed for the cause which he had embraced. The coexistence of the sovereignty of God and the freedom of man is assuredly a mystery; but Calvin never supposed that because God did all, he personally had nothing to do. He points out clearly the twofold action, that of God and that of man. ‘God,’ said he, ‘after freely bestowing his grace on us, forthwith demands of us a reciprocal acknowledgment. When he said to Abraham, “I am thy God,” it was an offer of his free goodness; but he adds at the same time what he required of him: “Walk before me, and be thou perfect.” This condition is tacitly annexed to all the promises. They are to be to us as spurs, inciting us to promote the glory of God.’ And elsewhere he says, ‘This doctrine ought to create new vigor in all your members, so that you may be fit and alert, with might and main, to follow the call of God.’”
96. The First Years after the Return
Calvin entered at once upon his labors, and continued them without interruption for twenty-three years — till his death, May 27, 1564.
The first years were full of care and trial, as he had anticipated. His duties were more numerous and responsible than during his first sojourn. Then he was supported by the older Farel; now he stood at the head of the Church at Geneva, though yet a young man of thirty-two. He had to reorganize the Church, to introduce a constitution and order of worship, to preach, to teach, to settle controversies, to conciliate contending parties, to provide for the instruction of youth, to give advice even in purely secular affairs. No wonder that he often felt discouraged and exhausted, but trust in God, and a sense of duty kept him up.
Viret was of great service to him, but he was called back to Lausanne in July, 1542. His other colleagues — Jacques Bernard, Henri de la Mare, and Aimé Champereau — were men of inferior ability, and not reliable. In 1542 four new pastors were appointed, — Pierre Blanchet, Matthias de Greneston, Louis Trappereau, and Philippe Ozias (or Ozeas). In 1544 Geneva had twelve pastors, six of them for the county Churches. Calvin gradually trained a corps of enthusiastic evangelists. Farel and Viret visited Geneva on important occasions. For his last years, he had a most able and learned colleague in his friend Theodore Beza.
He pursued a wise and conciliatory course, which is all the more creditable to him when we consider the stern severity of his character and system. He showed a truly Christian forbearance to his former enemies, and patience with the weakness of his colleagues.
“I will endeavor,” he wrote to Bucer, in a long letter, Oct. 15, 1541, “to cultivate a good understanding and harmony with my neighbors, and also brotherly kindness (if they will allow me), with as much fidelity and diligence as I possibly can. So far as it depends on me, I shall give no ground of offence to any one … If in any way I do not answer your expectation, you know that I am in your power, and subject to your authority. Admonish me, chastise me, exercise towards me all the authority of a father over his son. Pardon my haste … I am entangled in so many employments that I am almost beside myself.”
To Myconius of Basel he wrote, March 14, 1542:
“I value the public peace and concord so highly, that I lay restraint upon myself; and this praise even the adversaries are compelled to award to me. This feeling prevails to such an extent, that, from day to day, those who were once open enemies have become friends; others I conciliate by courtesy, and I feel that I have been in some measure successful, although not everywhere and on all occasions.
“On my arrival it was in my power to have disconcerted our enemies most triumphantly, entering with full sail among the whole of that tribe who had done the mischief. I have abstained; if I had liked, I could daily, not merely with impunity, but with the approval of very many, have used sharp reproof. I forbear; even with the most scrupulous care do I avoid everything of the kind, lest even by some slight word I should appear to persecute any individual, much less all of them at once. May the Lord confirm me in this disposition of mind.”
He met at first with no opposition, but hearty co-operation among the people. About a fortnight after his arrival he presented a formula of the ecclesiastical order to the Small Council. Objection was made to the monthly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, instead of the custom of celebrating it only four times a year. Calvin, who strongly favored even a more frequent celebration, yielded his better judgment “in consideration of the weakness of the times,” and for the sake of harmony. With this modification, the Small Council adopted the constitution Oct. 27; the Large Council confirmed it Nov. 9; and the general assembly of the citizens ratified it, by a very large majority, in St. Peter’s Church, the 20th of November, 1541. The small minority, however, included some of the leading citizens who were opposed to ecclesiastical discipline. The Articles, after the insertion of some trifling amendments and additions, were definitely adopted by the three Councils, Jan. 2, 1542.
This was a great victory; for the ecclesiastical ordinances, which we shall consider afterwards, laid a solid foundation for a strong and well-regulated evangelical church.
Calvin preached at St. Peter’s, Viret at St. Gervais. The first services were of a penitential character, and their solemnity was enhanced by the fearful ravages of the pestilence in the neighboring cities. An extraordinary celebration of the holy communion on the first Sunday in November, and a weekly day of humiliation and prayer were appointed to invoke the mercy of God upon Geneva and the whole Church.
The second year after his return was very trying. The pestilence, which in 1541 had been raging in Strassburg and all along the Rhine, crept into Switzerland, diminishing the population of Basel and Zürich, and reached Geneva in the autumn, 1542. To the pestilence was added the scourge of famine, as is often the case. The evil was aggravated by the great influx of strangers who were attracted by Calvin’s fame and sought refuge from persecution under his shelter. The pest-house outside of the city was crowded. Calvin and Pierre Blanchet offered their services to the sick, while the rest of the ministers shrank back. The Council refused to let Calvin go, because the Church could not spare him. Blanchet risked his life, and fell a victim to his philanthrophy in eight or nine months. Calvin, in a letter dated October, 1542, gives the following account to Viret, who, in July, had left for Lausanne: —
“The pestilence also begins to rage here with greater violence, and few who are at all affected by it escape its ravages. One of our colleagues was to be set apart for attendance upon the sick. Because Peter [Blanchet] offered himself all readily acquiesced. If anything happens to him, I fear that I must take the risk upon myself, for, as you observe, because we are debtors to one another, we must not be wanting to those who, more than any others, stand in need of our ministry. And yet it is not my opinion, that while we wish to provide for one portion we are at liberty to neglect the body of the Church itself. But so long as we are in this ministry, I do not see that any pretext will avail us, if, through fear of infection, we are found wanting in the discharge of our duty when there is most need of our assistance.”
Farel, on a like occasion, visited the sick daily, rich and poor, friend and foe, without distinction. We must judge Calvin by his spirit and motive. He had undoubtedly the spirit of a martyr, but felt it his duty to obey the magistrates, and to spare his life till the hour of necessity. We may refer to the example of Cyprian, who fled during the Decian persecution, but died heroically as a martyr in the Valerian persecution.
In 1545 Geneva was again visited by a pestilence, which some Swiss soldiers brought from France. The horrors were aggravated by a diabolical conspiracy of wicked persons, including some women, connected with the pest-house, for spreading the plague by artificial means, to gain spoils from the dead. The conspirators used the infected linen of those who had died of the disease, and smeared the locks of the houses with poison. A woman confessed, under torture, that she had killed eighteen men by her infernal arts. The ravages were fearful; Geneva was decimated; two thousand died out of a population of less than twenty thousand. Seven men and twenty-one women were burned alive for this offence. The physician of the lazaretto and two assistants were quartered.
Calvin formed a modest estimate of his labors during the first years, as may be seen from his letters. He wrote to Myconius, the first minister of Basel, March 14, 1542: —
“The present state of our affairs I can give you in a few words. For the first month after resuming the ministry, I had so much to attend to, and so many annoyances, that I was almost worn out; such a work of labor and difficulty has it been to upbuild once more a fallen edifice (collapsum edificium instaurare). Although certainly Viret had already begun successfully to restore, yet, nevertheless, because he had deferred the complete form of order and discipline until my arrival, it had, as it were, to be commenced anew. When, having overcome this labor, I believed that there would be breathing-time allowed me, lo! new cares presented themselves, and those of a kind not much lighter than the former. This, however, somewhat consoles and refreshes me, that we do not labor altogether in vain, without some fruit appearing; which, although it is not so plentiful as we could wish, yet neither is it so scanty but that there does appear some change for the better. There is a brighter prospect for the future if Viret can be left here with me; on which account I am all the more desirous to express to you my most thankful acknowledgment, because you share with me in my anxiety that the Bernese may not call him away; and I earnestly pray, for the sake of Christ, that you would do your utmost to bring that about; for whenever the thought of his going away presents itself, I faint and lose courage entirely … Our other colleagues are rather a hindrance than a help to us; they are rude and self-conceited, have no zeal and less learning. But what is worst of all, I cannot trust them, even although I very much wish that I could; for by many evidences they show their estrangement from us, and give scarcely any indication of a sincere and trustworthy disposition. I bear with them, however, or rather I humor them, with the utmost lenity; a course from which I shall not be induced to depart, even by their bad conduct. But if, in the long run, the sore need a severer remedy, I shall do my utmost, and shall see to it by every method I can think of, to avoid disturbing the peace of the Church with our quarrels; for I dread the factions which must always necessarily arise from the dissensions of ministers. On my first arrival I might have driven them away had I wished to do so, and that is also even now in my power. I shall never, however, repent the degree of moderation which I have observed, since no one can justly complain that I have been too severe. These things I mention to you in a cursory way, that you may the more clearly perceive how wretched I shall be if Viret is taken away from me.”
A month later (April 17, 1542), he wrote to Myconius: —
“In what concerns the private condition of this Church, I somehow, along with Viret, sustain the burden of it. If he is taken away from me, my situation will be more deplorable than I can describe to you, and even should he remain, there is some hazard that very much may not be obtained in the midst of so much secret animosity [between Geneva and Bern]. But that I may not torment myself beforehand, the Lord will see to it, and provide some one on whom I am compelled to cast this care.”
In February, 1543, he wrote to Melanchthon:
“As to our own affairs, there is much that I might write, but the sole cause which imposes silence upon me is, that I could find no end. I labor here and do my utmost, but succeed indifferently. Nevertheless, all are astonished that my progress is so great in the midst of so many impediments, the greater part of which arise from the ministers themselves. This, however, is a great alleviation of my troubles, that not only this Church, but also the whole neighborhood, derive some benefit from my presence. Besides that, somewhat overflows from hence upon France, and even spreads as far as Italy.”
97. Survey of Calvin’s Activity
Calvin combined the offices of theological professor, preacher, pastor, church-ruler, superintendent of schools, with the extra labors of equal, yea, greater, importance, as author, correspondent, and leader of the expanding movement of the Reformation in Western Europe. He was involved in serious disciplinary and theological controversies with the Libertines, Romanists, Pelagians, Antitrinitarians, and Lutherans. He had no help except from one or more young men, whom he kept in his house and employed as clerks. When unwell he dictated from his bed. He had an amazing power for work notwithstanding his feeble health. When interrupted in dictation, he could at once resume work at the point where he left off. He indulged in no recreation except a quarter or half an hour’s walk in his room or garden after meals, and an occasional game of quoits or la clef with intimate friends. He allowed himself very little sleep, and for at least ten years he took but one meal a day, alleging his bad digestion. No wonder that he undermined his health, and suffered of headache, ague, dyspepsia, and other bodily infirmities which terminated in a premature death.
Luther and Zwingli were as indefatigable workers as Calvin, but they had an abundance of flesh and blood, and enjoyed better health. Luther liked to play with his children, and to entertain his friends with his humorous table-talk. Zwingli also found recreation in poetry and music, and played on several instruments.
A few years before his death, Calvin was compelled to speak of his work in self-defence against the calumnies of an ungrateful student and amanuensis, François Baudouin, a native of Arras, who ran away with some of Calvin’s papers, turned a Romanist, and publicly abused his benefactor. “I will not,” he says, “enumerate the pleasures, conveniences, and riches I have renounced for Christ. I will only say that, had I the disposition of Baudouin, it would not have been very difficult for me to procure those things which he has always sought in vain, and which he now but too greedily gloats upon. But let that pass. Content with my humble fortune, my attention to frugality has prevented me from being a burden to anybody. I remain tranquil in my station, and have even given up a part of the moderate salary assigned to me, instead of asking for any increase. I devote all my care, labor, and study not only to the service of this Church, to which I am peculiarly bound, but to the assistance of all the Churches by every means in my power. I so discharge my office of a teacher, that no ambition may appear in my extreme faithfulness and diligence. I devour numerous griefs, and endure the rudeness of many; but my liberty is uncontrolled by the power of any man. I do not indulge the great by flattery; I fear not to give offence. No prosperity has hitherto inflated me; whilst I have intrepidly borne the many severe storms by which I have been tossed, till by the singular mercy of God I emerged from them. I live affably with my equals, and endeavor faithfully to preserve my friendships.”
Beza, his daily companion, thus describes “the ordinary labors” of Calvin, as he calls them: “During the week he preached every alternate, and lectured every third day; on Thursday he presided in the meetings of Presbytery (Consistory); and on Friday he expounded the Scripture in the assembly which we call ‘the Congregation.’ He illustrated several sacred books with most learned commentaries, besides answering the enemies of religion, and maintaining an extensive correspondence on matters of great importance. Any one who reads these attentively, will be astonished how one little man (unicus homunculus) could be fit for labors so numerous and great. He availed himself much of the aid of Farel and Viret, while, at the same time, he conferred greater benefits on them. Their friendship and intimacy was not less hateful to the wicked than delightful to all the pious; and, in truth, it was a most pleasing spectacle to see and hear those three distinguished men carrying on the work of God in the Church so harmoniously, with such a variety of gifts. Farel excelled in a certain sublimity of mind, so that nobody could either hear his thunders without trembling, or listen to his most fervent prayers without being almost carried up to heaven. Viret possessed such suavity of eloquence, that his hearers were compelled to hang upon his lips. Calvin filled the mind of the hearers with as many weighty sentiments as he uttered words. I have often thought that a preacher compounded of the three would be absolutely perfect. In addition to these employments, Calvin had many others, arising out of circumstances domestic and foreign. The Lord so blessed his ministry that persons flocked to him from all parts of the Christian world; some to take his advice in matters of religion, and others to hear, him. Hence, we have seen an Italian, an English, and, finally, a Spanish Church at Geneva, one city seeming scarcely sufficient to entertain so many nests. But though at home he was courted by the good and feared by the bad, and matters had been admirably arranged, yet there were not wanting individuals who gave him great annoyance. We will unfold these contests separately, that posterity may be presented with a singular example of fortitude, which each may imitate according to his ability.”
We shall now consider this astounding activity of the Reformer in detail: his Church polity, his theological system, his controversies, and his relation to, and influence on, foreign churches.