On the Day of Calvin’s Death

Today is the anniversary of Calvin’s death.  I’ve previously posted on the event of course and you can enjoy 24 Hours of Calvin here.

After Zwingli, Calvin was the greatest of the Reformers.  It’s proper to remember him on the anniversary of his death.  Here’s how it happened according to Philip Schaff

On the 19th of May, two days before the pentecostal communion, Calvin invited the ministers of Geneva to his house and caused himself to be carried from his bed-chamber into the adjoining dining-room. Here he said to the company: “This is the last time I shall meet you at table,”—words that made a sad impression on them. He then offered up a prayer, took a little food, and conversed as cheerfully as was possible under the circumstances. Before the repast was quite finished he had himself carried back to his bed-room, and on taking leave said, with a smiling countenance: “This wall will not hinder my being present with you in spirit, though absent in body.”

From that time he never rose from his bed, but he continued to dictate to his secretary.

Farel, then in his eightieth year, came all the way from Neuchâtel to bid him farewell, although Calvin had written to him not to put himself to that trouble. He desired to die in his place. Ten days after Calvin’s death, he wrote to Fabri (June 6, 1564): “Oh, why was not I taken away in his place, while he might have been spared for many years of health to the service of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ! Thanks be to Him who gave me the exceeding grace to meet this man and to hold him against his will in Geneva, where he has labored and accomplished more than tongue can tell. In the name of God, I then pressed him and pressed him again to take upon himself a burden which appeared to him harder than death, so that he at times asked me for God’s sake to have pity on him and to allow him to serve God in a manner which suited his nature. But when he recognized the will of God, he sacrificed his own will and accomplished more than was expected from him, and surpassed not only others, but even himself. Oh, what a glorious course has he happily finished!

Calvin spent his last days in almost continual prayer, and in ejaculating comforting sentences of Scripture, mostly from the Psalms. He suffered at times excruciating pains. He was often heard to exclaim: “I mourn as a dove” (Isa. 38:14); “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it” (Ps. 39:9); “Thou bruisest me, O Lord, but it is enough for me that it is thy hand.” His voice was broken by asthma, but his eyes remained bright, and his mind clear and strong to the last. He admitted all who wished to see him, but requested that they should rather pray for him than speak to him.

On the day of his death he spoke with less difficulty. He fell peacefully asleep with the setting sun towards eight o’clock, and entered into the rest of his Lord. “I had just left him,” says Beza, “a little before, and on receiving intimation from the servants, immediately hastened to him with one of the brethren. We found that he had already died, and so very calmly, without any convulsion of his feet or hands, that he did not even fetch a deeper sigh. He had remained perfectly sensible, and was not entirely deprived of utterance to his very last breath. Indeed, he looked much more like one sleeping than dead.