« AnteriorContinua »
id foundation was laid for the Reformation in Geneva, and the minds of the inhabitants at large became prepared to give it a cordial reception.
Viret soon joined Farell and Froment. Their preaching was unremitted, and the number of believers increased day by day. This opportunity was too favour able to be neglected by the Senate of Berne, who had been slandered for favouring the Reformtion by Furbit, a Dominican monk and doctor of the Sarbonne. The Senate demanded the punishment of Furbit. He was actually imprisoned. The irritated clergy could not brook that one of their body should be subjected to the judicature of laymen. They were countenanced by the Senate of Fribourg; but the more powerful menaces of Berne prevailed with the Senate of Geneva. After a public disputation, Furbit was again imprisoned, from which he was afterwards enlarged at the intercession of the king of France.
At length the Reformation was sanctioned by the Senate in a solemn decree of Aug. 27, 1535. Farell, Viret, and Froment had continued, under the protection of the mission of Berne, the irreligious instructions, and claimed an open toleration, till one of the churches in the suburbs was seized by the populace with the connivance of the Senate. Here Farell preached the first sermon, 1 March, 1534.
But what wisdom can avail, where intemperate zeal dictates, and when the populace is the chosen instrument for the execution of its fury and its whims? The multitude, inflamed by Farell's ardent sermons, broke every
where the images. Farell thundered from the pulpit, even in the churches exclusively reserv, ed to the Catholics, till those who yet remained were removed by a decree of the Senate, and all the monasteries suppressed, and appropriated to secular uses. A confession of faith, composed by Farell, was adopted, and sanctioned with an oath, which, for its native simplicity, as Ruchat observes, has been highly and deservedly recommended.
But what use did the Reformed make of this glorious victory? Did they obey the command of their divine Master, to do to others, as they would that others should do to them? No. They showed no symptoms of his meekness. They treated the Catholics with uncommon harshness, and proved too often, that they were more eager to imitate, than to abhor their example. was abolished, the The mass images in the church proscribed, and the refractory punished with imprisonment and exile. With the same intemperate zeal they went on reforming the churches in the country, till the civil magistrate interposed, and notwithstanding the cries of Farell, "that the work of God ought not to be obstructed," obtained a month's time for the dissenters to reflect maturely on a topic so serious.
But in this reprehensible point Farell was not alone. Nor was he so guilty, as in more favourable circumstances he might apHe was unquestionpear to us. ably a worthy man; a man of eminent abilities, and genuine piety.
His blemish was the blemish of all the Reformers. Even Melanchton was not free.
He admonished the Senate of Venice of the errors of Servetus, because he had heard that his book was then in circulation. Melanchton procured the death of two Socinians, and approved the condemnation of Servetus. Moreover it ought not to be omitted, as it must influence our judgment respecting Farell's and Calvin's transactions, that at Geneva religion and politics were uncommonly blended to gether; that the Roman Catholics had become dangerous citizens, through their connexions with the bishop and dukes of Savoy, and that the safety of the Republic was often endangered by them.
Having given this brief history of the state of Geneva previously to the time when Calvin began to have influence there, we shall now turn our attention to the character and usefulness of that extraordinary man.
study of dialectics, the barbarous logic of the schools.
His father originally intended him for the church, for which he appeared to be peculiarly fitted, by his early seriousness of disposition, gravity of manners, and abhor rence of vice, which he sharply reproved in his companions. With this view, in 1521, a benefice was procured for him in the cathedral church of Noyon, and in 1527, a parochial curacy in the neighbouring village of Pont l'Evesque. But becoming acquainted about this time with Peter Olivetan, a Protestant, he imbibed from him the principles of the Reformed religion, which disgusted him with the superstitious errors of Popery; and his father beginning to think that the profession of law would be both more honourable and more lucrative, in compliance with his desire, he determined to relinquish theological pursuits.
In consequence of this determination, he went to Orleans, and there, under the tutorage of Peter de l'Etoille, undoubtedly the most eminent civilian of his time, entered with such ardour on his new studies, as soon enabled him occasionally to supply his master's chair. He was indeed more like a teacher than a scholar and when he left the University, as a testimony of approbation and high respect, he received an unanimous and gratuitous offer of a doctor's de
JOHN CALVIN, the son of Gerard Chauvin (latinised Calvinus) and of Joanna Le Franc, was born 10th July, 1509, at Noyon, in Picardy, a province of France. His father being a man of talents and probity was highly esteemed by his fellow citizens, and particularly by a noble family, under whose roof John received the first rudiments of education. From his native city he was sent to Paris, where he made uncommon proficiency in the Latin language under Maturinus Corderius, one of the most distinguish-gree. ed teachers of the age. He afterwards removed to the college of Montague, then under the direction of a learned Spaniard; and there leaving his fellow students far behind him in classical attainments, he commenced the
Mean while, he did not neglect sacred learning in private; but even in this made such attainments as to excite the admiration of all the friends of pure and undefiled religion in that city. He seldom slept till the night was far advanced, and
after a very few hours repose, resumed his meditations on the subject that had engaged his attention the preceding evening. This habit regularly continued, improved his memory, facilitated his acquisition of knowledge, expanded and strengthened all the powers of his mind. But his incessant application produced a weakness in his stomach, which was the cause of various diseases, and at length of his premature death.
Attracted by the reputation of the University of Bourges, to which the talents of Alciat, an Italian lawyer, added lustre, Calvin went thither to attend his Jectures, and there gained the friendship of Wolmar, who taught him Greek, and for whom he had such an esteem, as afterwards to dedicate to him his Commentary on 2d Corinthians. He remained at the University till the sudden death of his father recalled him to his native country; but during his residence, he preached more than once at Lignieres, a village in the neighbourhood. He soon after visited Paris, where, in 1533, he wrote his Commentary on Seneca de Clementia, an author whom he read and illustrated with great delight. In a few months he became acquainted with the principal Protestants in Paris, who at their private meetings earnestly besought him to give himself wholly to the Lord, and to them in the work of the ministry. He yielded to their entreaties; but Paris was not destined to be the scene of his labours. For, having urged Nicolas Cop, rector of the University, boldly to preach the truth before the doctors of the
Sorbonne, when Cop thereby excited the resentment of his learned audience, and being cited
appear before their parliament, consulted his safety by flight, the officers who were sent to apprehend him, not finding him, forcibly entered Calvin's house, and seized his letters, among which there were many from the friends of the Reformation, which had almost involved them in destruction. But this threatened storm was prevented by the prudent intercession of the queen of Navarre, the only sister of the French king, a woman of extraordinary powers, and warmly attached to the Protestant cause.
Calvin, to escape the cruel designs of his enemies, left Paris, and took refuge at Saintonge, where, at the request of a friend, he published some short relig ious addresses, and dispersed them among the people. 1534, he returned to Paris, whither he seems to have been directed by Providence, that he might check, for a least, the zeal of Servetus, who was disseminating his Antitrinitarian heresies in that city. Undaunted by his exposure to the malice of his adversaries, Calvin would have held a public conference with Servetus, but this heretic, after having agreed to it, shrunk from the interview.
This year a dark cloud hung over the interests of the Refor mation in France, raised by the indiscreet zeal of some of its adherents. "They had affixed to the gates of the Louvre, and other public places, papers containing indecent reflections on the doctrines and rites of the Popish church. Six of the per
sons concerned in this rash action were discovered and seized *. The king, in order to avert the judgments which it was supposed their blasphemies might draw down upon the nation, appointed a solemn procession. The holy sacrament was carried through the city in great pomp; Francis walked uncovered before it, bearing a torch in his hand; the princes of the blood supported the canopy over it; the nobles marched in order behind. In the presence of this numerous assembly, the king, accustomed to express himself on every subject in strong and animated language, declared that if one of his hands were infected with heresy, he would cut it off with the other, and would not spare even his own children, if found guilty of that crime. As a dreadful proof of his being in earnest, the six unhappy persons were publicly burned before the procession was finished, with circumstances of the most shocking barbarity attending their execution."+
Calvin retired to Orleans, whence, accompanied by his old Saintonge friend, he proceeded to Basil, where he studied Hebrew; and though anxious to be concealed, felt himself constrained, on the following account, to publish his Institutions of the Christian Religion, The Protestant princes of Germany, with whom Francis, under a pretended regard for their religious tenets, had made an alliance, having in the most pointed terms expressed their indignation at his suspicions, not to say treach
* According to Beza, in his life of Calvin, the number was eight.
↑ Robertson's Charles V. Book 6.
erous and inhuman conduct, to exculpate himself, and preserve their friendship, which he wished to employ against his rival Charles V. he affirmed that he had punished only some fanatical and seditious Anabaptists, whom he knew the Protestants as well, as the Papists abhorred.
This false and unprovoked in. sult, Calvin judged it necessary to contradict and repel; and with this design, in 1535, pub lished his Institutions, to which he prefixed a preface addressed to Francis, which in force of argument, energy of expression, and elegance of latinity, has seldom been equalled, and never excelled.
After visiting the duchess of Ferrara, daughter of Louis XIL of France, a princess of eminent piety, who received and entertained him with every mark of esteem, he returned to the neighbourhood of Paris, but finding the country a scene of confusion and danger, he settled his pecuniary affairs, and, accompanied by Anthony his only brother, resolved to reside at Basil or Strasburg. The war on the frontiers of France and Germany made them travel by the way of Geneva, whither he was thus, unintentionally on his part, led by the hand of Provi dence. Farell and Viret, who a few years before had introduced the gospel into Geneva, earnest. ly importuned him to become their associate in the ministry. He was with difficulty persuaded, not indeed till Farell had ventured in the name of the Almighty to denounce a curse against him if he should refuse. He yielded at length to the soli citation of the presbytery and
magistrates, by whose suffrage, with the concurrence of the people, he was chosen to be their Minister and Professor of Divinity in the year 1536.
Fully prepared by his long course of study, by his ardour of mind and habits of devotion, for the faithful exercise of the ministerial functions, he commenced his public labours by composing a concise and simple Formula of Christian Doctrine, to which he added a short Catechism, for the use of the church at Geneva, then scarcely emancipated from antichristian bondage. Persuaded that some form of ecclesiastical government was absolutely necessary for maintaining the unity and order of the church, and preferring the Presbyterian, as being not only the most simple in itself, the best calculated for the impartial administration of discipline, as well as removed at once from the imperiousness of Episcopacy, and the irregularity of Anabaptism; but as, in their opinion, the most agreeable to the intimations of scripture, Calvin, Farell, and Viret, resolved to establish it at Geneva. Though opposed both by public violence and private malignity, they succeeded; and after the people had solemnly abjured Popery, on the 20th of July, 1537, they took an oath of adherence to certain articles of doctrine and discipline,
The Anabaptists of that time, or Mennonites, held opinions subversive at once of Christian truth and social order. They employed arms to propagate their system, and were the cause not only of commotions,
but of bloodshed throughout the provinces of the German empire. See Mosheim, Cent. 16. § 3. pt. 2.
which also received the sanction of the Senate.
Besides his own church, Calvin took on himself the care of believers, wherever they dwelt, and, by his correspondence, administered to them the instruction, reproof, or consolation, which their conduct or their cireumstances required. The conformity of multitudes to the Rocommunion, mish forms of while they secretly embraced the doctrines of the Reformed church, about this period particularly, called forth his zeal for the truth, and was the occasion of his writing two masterly and elegant Epistles, in which he exhorted the people to renounce their idolatrous communion, and the authority of their priests, whose conduct he reprobated as flagitious and detestable.
His attention was, in the following year, occupied by dissensions in his own city, which he in vain endeavoured to heal. When a whole state embraced the religious system of the Reformers, though all became by profession Protestants, multitudes, it is obvious, would retain much of their original prejudice and error. At Geneva, accordingly, though all professed the true religion, many continued in the practice of those impurities to which they had been addicted when their consciences were under the guidance of the priests of Rome. Political discussions in Savoy, were also the means concerning the war then raging of producing variance and animosities among the rich and the noble, and consequently tended to injure the cause of religion. Farell, Calvin, and Corald, his colleague, beheld with deep con