Imágenes de páginas

victor's joy until every warrior, however unworthy, is restored to his own place in the regiment, and enrolled beneath the banner of the Lord of hosts. Let the church, then, awake and diligently discharge this part of its duty, remembering "that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." James v. 20.

“ Return, () wanderer, to thy home,

Thy Father calls for thee;
No longer now an exile roam
In guilt and misery.

Return! return!"

The Last Days of Calvin.



ALVIN'S life in Geneva, for some time after 1553, was little better

than a daily cross. During his last days in the summer, the name of Servetus had been made the rallying cry of the Libertines; and the prisoner, in turn, had unsuccessfully sought to make that party an instrument of deliverance for himself, and a means of encompassing the Reformation with ruin by the death of its guiding spirit. After the execution of the Spaniard, a cry of injustice and cruelty was raised against the Reformers ; the Libertines showing a dogged determination to make capital out of what has been styled a theological tragedy. While the arch-heretic yet lived a captive within the city, disputes ran high on the right of civil councils to revoke consistorial judgments. These quarrels were nothing less than the clashing of opposing forces, expressed in the terms good and evil. The Consistory as surely defended the cause of righteousness, as the factious majority of the Council represented the worst spirit of worldliness. Two leading members of the Libertine party were Perrin and Berthelier, and the latter, having been excommunicated by the pastors, now enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing the senate refuse to ratify a righteous sentence. By bringing the religious censorship and the civil power into collision, the anti-Calvinists supposed they were laying a snare in the Refurmer's path, the meshes of which he could scarcely elude. The pastors had expelled Berthelier; the Council refused to sanction the vote. How did Calvin's traducers rejoice over this unparalleled dilemma! Not to stand by the Consistory would be to quail before and succumb to the godless. By doing what conscience dictated he would challenge the ruling power.

It turned out, however, that what appeared to be a dilemma to common observers, was 10 Calvin no dilemma at all, Strikingly interesting, as an historical crisis, was the scene in the Church of St. Peter on the communion Sabbath of September. St. Peter's was the sanctuary frequented by the wealthy classes, and on this occasion excitement warmed the faces of a large congregation. What would the pastor do ? Could that fragile form repulse the assaults of sin, which with brazen impudence was desccrating the very precincts of the Lord's table? Time soon showed whence victory would come. In the sermon the Reformer solemnly declared he would never dispense those elements to known revilers of Christ; and when he stood before the table, towards which the expelled members indecently pushed their way, he told them, as he spread his hands over the bread and the wine, that their taking his life should not hinder him from doing his duty. Wilful wrong-doing can turn the bravest into abject cowards. The Libertines, completely crest-fallen, hastily retired.

It is but doing justice to our subject that we explain what the Libertines were at heart. Because human nature is radically the same in all ages, our social and political enemies of the nineteenth century are actuated by the same spirit of evil which perplexed Geneva three hundred years ago. Those atheistical socialists who to-day impose on the good nature of the ignorant, and draw constituents from the purlieus of discontent, and who shout “Liberty," when they mean * Licence,” are morally descended from the Genevese agitators who excited popular passions by proclaiming: “ The Romanists compelled our going to mass; the Protestants oblige us to go to church.” Calvin opposed these men even with more spirit than he did the papacy. “A dog will bark when he sees his master attacked,” he said ; "and should not I be a cowardly wretch if I could see God's truth assailed and stand silent?” This was indeed a stern controversy ; and it becomes hard to understand how Calvin's weak body, governed though it was by an indomitable will, so well bore the brunt of the conflict. Whatever opinion we may hold on his procedure, only wilful blindness will

deny that Geneva, under his rule, became an oasis in a wide desert. Whatever we may say against encouraging virtue by the civil code will not alter the fact that the republic was benefited by the restraints put upon vice; or that numbers, who were possibly not subjects of genuine faith, exbibited a degree of moral decorum, in a high degrec salutary, when masses of people were groping their way from the shades of popish corruption into the open day of gospel liberty.

In the year following the death of Servetus, faction was busy in Geneva. A sly caution characterised the Libertines, but their action showed an intense hatred of Calvin's rule. Yet what other could be expected from men who had only welcomed the Reformation because it exempted them from political and prelatical tyranny? Now and again, it is true, a show of reconcilation was patched up between the factions and the Reformers ; but probably they remained as antagonistic as is Christ to anti-Christ. At a public dinner given in 1554, Calvin being present, the members of the Two Hundred affirmed with uplifted hands, that they would advance the principles of the Reformation, while in reality many of them were the pastors' chief crosses. Subsequently an atrocious libel on Calvin was sent to the Council; but the author, by very violence, overshooting his mark, saw his abuse fall flat and harmless. A more insidious and insulting manœuvre of the enemy was an attempt-for a time successful—to set up a press censorship, with authority to inspect all writings intended for publication, and to forbid the printing of such as were not approved. Calvin declined to acknowledge this tribunal, refusing to submit his manuscripts for "ignorant dolts to nibble at.” Then the common people, tutored by bad masters, would sometimes assume a threatening bearing towards the Reformer, who of those days observes, “ Dogs bark at me on all sides.”

Imaginary grievances cropped up; even the English and French refugees who flocked into the city were made a bone of contention. Because these poor people were received with open arms by the Consistory, they were wantonly insulted, or even maimed by the evil disposed. Yet the refugees were warmly welcomed by the Christian population. The republic was not wealthy, and in preceding years of agitation and war, the city walls and forts lapsed into a ruinous condition. The foreign families, who now with their wealth settled in the town, were reckoned by the wisest citizens as an equivalent to stone and money wherewith to rebuild the walls; and being in a position to afford them a haven from the violence of Romish inquisitors, gave Calvin high satisfaction. To turn from the sickening cruelties then common to England and France, and to look into such cities of refuge as Geneva, Basle and Zurich then were, is to enjoy a sunny contrast. For the most part the refugees were industrious persons, who in return for shelter, benefited the states they settled in either with their arts or learning Some were manufacturers: others were scholars. The former were allowed to establish factories, while the learned served as pastors, as tutors, and as printers' readers, the last calling then being considered an occupation suitable for gentlemen. Lodging at Basle,

Foxe there begun the Book of Martyrs, and, as is well known, Knox · learned his system of church government while in exile. Yet praise

worthy as was the hospitality of other cities, the refugees fared nowhere so comfortably as at Zurich under Bullinger. They occupied a separate mansion as though at a university, and the pressing generosity of the authorities would have supplied the whole cost of their living had the visitors been less independent.

There is no doubt that life at Geneva, with its light and shade, was a bracing discipline to such a spirit as Calvin, who from his humble manse could take in at a glance a view of Christendom. In 1554 he was engaged over some disputes with his neighbours of Berne, and later in the same year he gained a signal victory over the Libertines. That determined party, in their animosity against naturalised foreigners, matured a plot of insurrection, and had not their machinations been discovered and frustrated, Geneva might have had to mourn a Protestant Black Bartholomew. Spending their strength, however, in an insignificant riot, the conspirators paid a salutary penalty. Some were executed; and the firebrands Berthelier and Perrin relieved the city of their presence by ignominously absconding.

It is indeed surprising that pious families, driven from their homes by Romish abominations, should have awakened contention among Continental Protestants. But so it was ; and the behaviour of Swiss Calvinists to these poor wanderers happily contrasted with the procedure of Lutheran Christians. A shipload of Protestants, escaped from London, on being refused a landing at several Lutheran ports, could only find a welcome in the south of Germany and among the Swiss Calvinists. It would seem that Lutherans of those days were so weary of their friends that when Cranmer discovered an inclination to make an alliance, their admiration for the English order did not nearly equal the prelate's respect for the German regime.

Even after the example it had made of Servetus, Geneva was troubled by anti-trinitarian teachers. The false doctrine chiefly affected the Italians, who, on account of their language, maintained a separate congregation. The Consistory successfully interfered. The abettors of heresy either fled or were banished, while one recanter was required to walk bareheaded, and to carry a torch through the leading thoroughfares. Singular is the fact, that while the principle of toleration was almost universally rejected, and while the Reformers were combating error with carnal weapons, Poland, now so unhappy, because of the liberty she allowed, became the common home for all shades of opinion.

In those days of no newspapers and few books, the private life of public men was often subjected to inconvenient scrutiny. It was so with the Reformers. What a grateful morsel fell into the lap of the gossips, when, in 1558, rumour announced that Farel, the dear friend of Calvin, was about to wed his housekeeper, a girl scarcely half his age ! Spiteful wit over this occurrence found many opportunities for exercise ; but such things touched not the men whose zeal for the gospel rendered them callous to all save success in their calling.

Other matters, besides an old man's wedding or prosecutions for heresy, attracted attention in those same months of 1558. Calvin was confined with an intermittent fever. As we look into his sick room at this time, we see the Reformer depressed by reason of an inability to preach, and bitterly complaining of the miseries of idleness. But Calvin in weakness—so friends averred—did more than others in their strength. During a compulsory seclusion of eight months he wrote numberless letters, issued the last edition of the Institutes, and composed other things. The Commentary on Isaiah was now dedicated to Elizabeth, who though her accession to the throne of England gave high satisfaction at Geneva, did not return the esteem she commanded. One act of Calvin's sickness was his writing to Secretary Cecil, imploring his aid in the cause of truth : another act was his replying to a message from an English prelate by sending his own amanuensis to settle over the French congregation in London. About this time, Knox quitted the land of exile and returned to Edinburgh. The Scotch leader trusted Calvin's judgment before his own, and many letters passed between Scotland and Geneva, asking for, and containing solutions of difficult questions of church polity. Knox loved a rough-and-ready cure for abuses and human weaknesses ; but Calvin, who is also supposed to have been stern and uncompromising, could advise his friend to practise gentleness, and to live an example of kindliness among a people just emerging from centuries of darkness.

In the meantime an unfortunate jealousy springing up between Geneva and Berne hampered the progress of the Reformation ; but as both cities acknowledged the importance of continuing friends, their alliance was renewed. Nevertheless, these bickerings of rival systems perplexed the church; for the Bernese adopted a lower standard of theology than the Calvinists tolerated. Then a rupture occurring between the preachers of Berne and the civil authorities, Viret and others many favours.

swelled the crowd of refugees in Geneva. This being the conjucture of the refounding of the college, Beza became lecturer in the class-room as well as a stated preacher, while Viret and his compeers accepted other appointments. This little university has been largely useful in spreading Calvin's system of theology over Europe. In his day the rules observed by students were wholesomely strict, and great attention was given to classical literature. The school growing in popularity, attracted

One citizen bequeathed his substance to the institution, and a printer gave to the library a copy of every work he issued. So appreciated were its advantages, that the college at once became a favourite resort for students, as many as a thousand youths having attended Calvin's lectures. The refounding of the college was among the last acts of Calvin's life. This institution originally sprang from the munificence of a wealthy burgher, who devoted his wealth to the cause of education. After surviving a century it succumbed to the influence of civil discord, and died a natural death; but since his return to the chief pastorate the resuscitation of the school was aimed at by Calvin.

Since 1549, when his wife died, he may be said to have relinquished the world and its comforts. He not only lived humbly, but in a manner which astonished such scholars as, in passing through Geneva, expected to find the greatest theologian of his era housed in a style corresponding to his influence. But he was great enough to make a friend of poverty. Though bent on re-organizing the college, it was not until 1558, when the republic had grown tranquil by the absence or defeat of the Libertines, that earnest efforts were made to accomplish the design. The sum required was a very formidable one for so small a state; but evidence of the citizens' good-will and liberality was shown when the Reformer himself collected ten thousand florins. The Genevese knew of other methods of diverting movey into needy channels. The public notaries were instructed to advise their clients to remember poor students while bequeathing their property. How much we see of Calvin in these transactions ! How amply can a strong will compensate for a fragile body! He could leave a sick room to traverse the city with toilsome perseverance, and to speak grateful words to the workmen who were rearing the college walls. Calvin's triumphs were only valued as they beneficially affected mankind. His sympathy with Christians in their trials and dangers widely differed from what a cold nature would have evinced. He esteemed no effort too costly if it only benefited one soul; nor did he think his sacrifices of worldly advantage too great when his self-denial served the church.

Margaret of Navarre, as a true friend of Protestantism, was able occasionally to influence her brother in the Reformer's favour even against his inclinations. To the agency of good and bad women, the church has too often ascribed her seasons of peril or tranquillity. The accession of Henry the Second of France increased the trials of the faithful, for till the king's death, twelve years later, truth was repressed, and the inquisition established in France, while the court for trying heresy became known as the “ Burning Chamber.” Yet in spite of all enemies the tenets of Calvin

struck deeper root and spread their branches until one portion of Old Paris won the sobriquet of Little Geneva. Then

« AnteriorContinuar »