Imatges de pÓgina
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SKETCH OF THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF JOHN CALVIN, Taken from the Religious Monitor, with the addition of several extracts of a communication received from a learned and ingenious Correspondent.

Continued from page 345.

"THE time at length arrived," says Beza, "when the Lord was to shew favour to the church at Geneva." The syndics who had given authority and effect, as well as secretly instigated, to the decree of banishment, were removed from the government either by death or by exile. The people, also, who had never wholly forgotten their injured pastors, afraid of continuing exposed to the infamy to which their unchristian conduct subjected them among their Protestant brethren, and, perhaps, expecting to derive even political advantages from the presence and counsels of Calvin, began to feel their loss, and earnestly solicited his return. This illustrious exile had resolved to live and die at Strasburg; and, therefore, at first refused the invitation of the Senate and people; not from any diminution of his affection to them, but from averVol. III. No. 9. Ала

sion to political controversies and tumultuous assemblies, and from a persuasion of his being eminently useful to the church at Strasburg. Their solicitations, however, becoming daily more unanimous and urgent, Calvin feared to resist what might be a call from God; and having stipulated for the recal of his colleague Viret, returned to Geneva on the 13th September, 1541,. and was cordially received by every order of the citizens. stored to his importunate people, and remembering the fatal effects of their former irregularities, he immediately established a form of discipline, and an ecclesiastical consistory, with power to censure the disorderly, the vicious, and the profane, and to punishthem if incorrigible or contumacious, even to the length of excommunication and imprison◄ ment. The people professed to


submit to this new arrangement,

and he voluntarily resigned his academic chair, most probably as the only way of avoiding the disgrace of expulsion.

He did more, however, than merely express his disapprobation of the licentious doctrines of the Libertines, a sect that arose in Flanders about the year 1525, and was afterwards countenanced by the queen of Navarre, from mistaken notions of the piety of some of its leaders. Their tenets were impious in the extreme, and subversive of every principle of morality; for they did not hesitate to ascribe to the secret agency of the Spirit of God, all the thoughts, and purposes, and actions of men, sinful as well as holy. Calvin not only refuted their opinions in a particular treatise, but wrote to the queen of Navarre, importunately soliciting her to withdraw her pat ronage from these enemies of the gospel. Though he offended the queen by this spirited conduct, his authority, connected with the force of argument dis played in his treatise, had the desired effect of checking the progress of these fanatical and dangerous principles.†

During the plague at Geneva in 1546, violent commotions were excited by disputes about the right of succession to many who were suddenly carried off before they had nominated their heirs. The confusion thus occasioned by the fluctuating state of property, was increased in

Spon. histoire de Geneve, tom. ii.

p. 57.

For a particular account of the history and opinions of this sect, vid. Calvini Instruct. adv. Libertinos passim oper. tom. viii. p. 374 ed. Amst, 1667, and Mosheim ut supra.

1550 by the opposition which was made to the abolition of every holiday, except the Sabbath, and by the revival of the controversy concerning the jurisdiction of the church. But the most interesting contest in which Calvin during this period engaged, respected the truth and tendency of the doctrine of absolute predestination. It was begun by Bolsec, originally a Carmelite friar, who had embraced the reformed religion, and who in 1551 openly avowed, and publicly preached at Geneva, the sentiments afterwards adopted by Arminius, that the decree of predestination had a respect to faith and good works, foreseen as its conditions. He charged Calvin with making God the author of sin; with encouraging sinners in security, and believers in licentiousness; with misrepresenting the opinions of Augustine, and with leading the people blindfold to destruction. Calvin, who was present on one of the occasions when Bolsec accused him of these dangerous sentiments, immediately ascended the pulpit, and replied to every article with such precision and energy, as effectually silenced the objections of his enemies, and confirmed the faith of his friends. The whole tenor of his "warning against the Liber tines," and the explicit manner in which, in all his writings, he uniformly guards his readers against the perversion or abuse of the doctrine of unconditional decrees, furnish innumerable and unequivocal proofs that these accusations were altogether unfounded: "Paul," says he, "teaches us, that to this end we are elected, that we may lead holy and un

blameable lives. If then sanctity of life is the very end of election, this doctrine ought rather to awaken and urge us to the attain-ment of holiness, than serve as a plea for indolence."* Bolsec was imprisoned by authority of the Senate, and afterwards with the approbation of the Swiss churches, banished from Geneva for sedition and pelagianism. The contentions about predestination were renewed after Bolsec's exile. Calvin had opponents among the Roman Catholics, and among the Protestants. Even Melancthon was one. Many of them invidiously repeated the suggestion, that Calvin made God the author of sin, and introduced a stoic faith. Berthelier, a man of consummate impudence, and a principal leader of the faction against Calvin, being removed from the eldership for misconduct, raised a hue and cry in his complaints to the Senate, which were soon followed by the clamours of many others. They pretended that the presbytery assumed the authority of the magistrates. Upon which the council of two hundred decreed, that the final act of excommunication properly belonged to the Senate. This act incensed Calvin to such a degree, that after inveighing against those who partook of the Lord's supper unworthily, he broke forth, with uplifted hand and voice, in these words; "but

In hunc finem electos esse nos

Paulos admonet, ut sanctam ac inculpatam vitam traducamus. Si electionis scopus est vitæ sanctimonia, magis ad cam alacriter meditandam expergefascere et stimulare debet, quam ad desidiæ prætextum valere. Intitut. lib. iii. cap. 23. objec. 4.


I shall rather suffer myself to be slain, than that this hand shall administer the holy bread of our Lord to condemned contemners of God." Berthelier, with his associates, absented themselves from the Lord's supper; but Calvin urged this point with such vehemence, threatening to leave Geneva, yea, taking his farewell from his congregation, that he obtained from the council of two hundred the suspension of this obnoxious decree, till the opinion of the four Helvetic cantons upon this subject was obtained. When after the violent death of Michael Servetus, the question arose, in 1554, how heretics were to be punished, some being of opinion, that the cause of heresy ought to be left exclusively to God; Calvin published his refutation of the doctrine of Servetus, with his reasons why and how far heretics ought to be punished by the magistrate. He was answered under the fictitious name of Martin Bell, by either Castalio or Lælius Socinus, to which a reply was written by Beza.

It must be acknowledged, candour being our guide, that both erred with sincerity, and that Beza, in particular, was induced by his warm attachment to Calvin, to patronize his cause. If such misteps were not so many warnings to us, we might wish that Beza had remained silent, and that this fact might be blotted out of Calvin's history. But notwithstanding his accomplishments, ments, gigantic learning, and solid piety, Calvin was a man. He could not brook opposition, and many of his antagonists were haughty and violent: while to his favourers the purity of his life

seemed nearly a justification of his severity. It ought besides never to be forgotten, that at Geneva there was à continued strug gle between the aristocratic and democratic factions, and that many of their ecclesiastical contentions were so blended with political, that it is often difficult to discriminate between them. Moreover Calvin's temper was constitutionally irascible, and became more so by his continued struggles and undeserved reproaches. There is abundant reason to believe that ardent zeal for the reformation and love to his divine Master constituted his principal motive, although that motive might receive fresh vigour from his natural temper


however, passed upon him, "that naked, in his shirt, bare footed, his head uncovered, with a burning torch in his hand, he should, on his knees, implore the mercy of his judges, aeknowledge and detest his heretical opinions, burn his writings with his own hands, and lastly, that he, with a trumpet before him, should be carried through the principal streets of Geneva, forbidden to leave that city :" all which being punctually performed, he was enlarged from prison by the Senate of Geneva, Sept. 2, 1558. All this shows, that the inquisition had not been divested of its terrors in reformed Geneva. But if we look at the reverse of the medal, we shall see Calvin often abused, slandered and vilified, not only by his political, but by his religious antagonists. His faith was ridiculed, libels were posted up every where, and even his personal safety was often in danger. Who of us would dare to affirm that, if placed in his situation, with that authority with which he was encircled, he would have acted with more moderation? While his faults remain to us as a hand on the wall, let us admire his uncommon talents and his indefatigable industry. Let us revere his disinterestedness, his piety, and his exemplary life, and pay to his memory the just tribute of our gratitude and eswas, teem.

The case of Valentinus Gentilis cannot be passed by, as it shows us more fully the spirit of those times which ought to be kept in view in a discussion of Calvin's character. Gentilis was an antitrinitarian. Through fear of the fate of Servetus he made a recantation. Though his penitence was feigned, he implored mercy, detested his errors, and eulogized Calvin. The ministers of Geneva, says Calvin, though they did not expect any thing of his sincerity and constancy, would not interrupt an act of mercy, and while they remained silent, his sentence was so far mitigated, that he obtained his life. This sentence

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Beligious Communications.


Ir is a characteristic of the divine government, that every event, which takes place under it, however melancholy in itself considered, is made to issue in some important good. The Most High will, in the end, make it appear to all intelligent beings, that he has, at no time, given up the reins of government, and that he has never been unwise in any of his purposes. "The wrath of man shall praise" him," and the remainder of wrath" he will "restrain."

No event which has taken place in the church has made a more bright and glorious display of God's character, as Governor of the world, than the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles. Like all other great and interesting events, relating to the Redeemer's kingdom, it was a subject of prophecy; and, when it took place, the astonishment of the world was excited. As many as had faith, saw in it the unsearchable judgments of God, The apostle Paul viewed the matter of so great impor tance, that he improved a considerable part of his epistle to the Romans in stating and explaining it. While he appeared to venerate the nation of the Jews, as being his own kindred according to the flesh, and as having long stood in a covenant relation to God; he signified that God had given them" the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear." They

stumbled at the stumbling stone, and rock of offence, which was laid in Zion. Therefore the apostle spake of them as having “fallen,” as being “broken off," and as being for a season "cast away" by God. Having given a fair statement of this event, which in itself was melancholy, the apostle laboured to show that the obstinacy and rejection of the Jews were overruled by the great Head of the church, to subserve most important and glorious purposes; that their rejection was not final; but that the time would come, when, to the unspeakable joy of the whole Christian world, the Jews should again be grafted into their own olive tree, and partake, with the Gentiles, of its root and fatness. On this subject he addressed the church at Rome, who were Gentiles, in the following, impressive language: "Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God; on them, which fell, severity; but towards thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. For, if thou wert cut out of the olive tree, which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree; how much more shall these, which are the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mys

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