During Calvin’s first stint in Geneva, he insisted that the Church alone be allowed to determine who could receive the Lord’s Supper. Unrepentant wretches and those living in open disobedience to God were refused entry.
Although the civil rulers of Geneva at first co-operated to the best of their ability with Calvin, opposition soon arose. Crypto-Catholics, some of them belonging to prominent families, and the so-called Libertines, as well as partisans of Farel like Ami Porral and others, opposed the strict discipline which Calvin sought to impose upon their city. When on January 4, 1538, the Council of Two Hundred voted “that the Supper be refused to no one,” thus offering a direct affront to Calvin and Farel who had vehemently insisted upon the exclusive right of the church and its clergy to determine admission to or exclusion from the Lord’s Supper, the opposition took on serious character. A few months later, on April 22, 1538, the Council ordered Calvin and Farel to leave the city of Geneva within three days. Thus ended Calvin’s first attempt to put into practice his high church ideal.*
*William Mueller A., Church and State in Luther and Calvin: A Comparative Study, 109.
The “Ecclesiastical Ordinances,” were solemnly ratified January 2, 1542, as the Church law of Geneva.
The Ordinances begin
“In the name of God Almighty, we the Syndics, Small and Great Councils with our people assembled at the sound of the trumpet and the great clock, according to our ancient customs, have considered that the matter above all others worthy of recommendation is to preserve the doctrine of the holy gospel of our Lord in its purity, to protect the Christian Church, to instruct faithfully the youth, and to provide a hospital for the proper support of the poor,—all of which can not he done without a definite order and rule of life, from which every estate may learn the duty of its office. For this reason we have deemed it wise to reduce the spiritual government, such as our Lord has shown us and instituted by His Word, to a good form to be introduced and observed among us. Therefore we have ordered and established to follow and to guard in our city and territory the following ecclesiastical polity, taken from the gospel of Jesus Christ”*
This bit is especially interesting:
“That all this (i. e., discipline) shall be done in such fashion that the ministers shall have no civil jurisdiction and shall use none but the spiritual sword of the Word of God as Saint Paul directs them; and that the authority of the government and of ordinary justice shall in no way be diminished by the Consistory, but that civil authority shall remain unimpaired. And in particular, where it shall be necessary to make some punishment or constrain the parties, the ministers with the Consistory, having heard the parties and made remonstrances and admonitions as shall be fitting, shall report all to the Council, which shall deliberate on their report and order and render judgment according to the merits of the case.”*
*Richard Taylor Stevenson, John Calvin: The Statesman (Cincinnati; new York: Jennings and Graham; Eaton and Mains, 1907), 129ff.
[A] new matter for a tragedy has arisen out of mere nothing. For the chief magistrate of Ternier, on false and reckless information, eagerly summoned, as he is accustomed to do, John de Saint André before a public tribunal, charging him with having said before a public assembly, that whoever received the Supper on Christmas-day, received the devil and not Christ. And witnesses were found to give evidence against him. In short, Satan will not lay aside such fanners as these until he has kindled some dreadful conflagration.
Strange people were about in the 16th century. Very strange people who believed strange things about Christmas day. Calvin did his best to disabuse them of their superstitious notions but people are hard to teach.
[Calvin] himself in 1547 confronted the Council of Two Hundred. Feeling had then been running high about the laws for the enforcement of public morals. The Council itself was sharply divided. Calvin, of course, was fiercely abused by those who were opposed to his policy. The Council met on December 16. Word was brought to him that sharp contention had arisen at the meeting, and that threats of violence had been uttered. The streets were filled with excited throngs. He said that he would himself attend the Council. His friends remonstrated, but in vain. He passed through the streets to the council chamber, at the doors of which, as he tells us in his letter to Viret, a tumultuous assembly was gathered.
‘Fearful,’ he says, ‘was the sight. I cast myself into the thickest of the crowd. I was pulled to and fro by those who wished to save me from harm. I called God to witness that I was come to offer myself to their swords, if they thirsted for blood.’
In his farewell words to the ministers of Geneva, just before his death, he refers to this incident, and says that when he entered the Council they said to him, ‘Sir, withdraw, it is not with you we have to do;’ and that he answered, ‘No, I shall not! Go on, rascals, kill me, and my blood will witness against you, and even these benches shall require it.’ He indeed could truly say, ‘The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?’*
*C. H. Irwin, John Calvin: The Man and His Work (Bellingham, WA: The Religious Tract Society, 1909), 114–116.
Oh I want to go…
Der dritte Projektvortrag der Europäischen Melanchthon-Akademie nimmt die Schweizer Reformatoren Zwingli und Calvin in den Blick. 13. Dezember 2015, 17.00, Melanchthonhaus, Bretten.
Anders als im Umfeld der Wittenberger Reformation duldeten die Anhänger der Reformation in der Schweiz keinerlei Bilder in ihren Kirchen. Der Vorbehalt gegen Bilder war der Befürchtung geschuldet, diese könnten den Betrachter zu Verehrung, gar Anbetung verleiten.
Diese Sicht erstreckte sich auch auf die Darstellung der Protagonisten der Schweizer Reformation. Wohl existierten Bildnisse aus dem 16. Jahrhundert, doch erst in der zweiten Jahrhunderthälfte, nach dem Tod von Zwingli und Calvin, fanden diese in größerer Anzahl Verbreitung. Dies verdankt sich dem nun einsetzenden Gedenken an Personen, deren Leben und Wirken den nachfolgenden Generationen als vorbildlich vor Augen gestellt werden sollte. Dr. Maria Weigel stellt in ihrem Vortrag die Bildformeln vor, in denen die Konterfeis der Schweizer Reformatoren der Nachwelt überliefert wurden.
Der Vortrag findet statt im Melanchthonhaus, Melanchthonstr. 1, 75015 Bretten. Der Eintritt ist Frei.
Alas, it is true that with none of my great and numerous shortcomings have I wrestled harder than with such impatience. Yes, I am making some progress but I have never reached the point yet of keeping this wild best completely under control. — John Calvin
This one is good and it belongs on the shelf of every student of historical theology, Church History, Reformation studies, Calvinism, and Calvin studies. In equal measures of clarity and brevity McKim guides readers through the life of Calvin (in part one) and the thought of Calvin (in part two).
The details of Calvin’s life are ably presented and the first part of the volume is certainly a welcome piece of scholarship, but the true value of the volume lies within the second part where McKim analyzes Calvin’s Institutes, book by book, chapter by chapter, section by section and allows readers who may not have read the entire thing for themselves an entrance into its many profundities. Indeed, the second half of McKim’s work could have been published as a stand alone work and titled ‘A Primer in the Theology of John Calvin’.
The best thing about the segment is the ease with which McKim boils Calvin’s ideas down to their most basic and distilled form without losing any of the substance. It’s easy enough to summarize anyone’s notions, but to do so in order that the authentic core is retained is a skill few possess.
McKim doesn’t simply summarize, though. He also quotes Calvin extensively so that readers are drawn in to a direct encounter with Calvin himself. The true genius of the volume is that when readers complete it they will want more.
To that end, McKim provides a very good up to date modern bibliography and he also makes this book group friendly by providing study questions. McKim, in this short but useful work, proves once again that bigger is not necessarily better and in fact the small packages often contain the greatest gifts.
This unique book is an introductory guide to the life and theology of John Calvin (1509-64). Calvin’s theology has been highly significant as a major expression of Protestant theology. Reformed churches throughout the world appropriate Calvin’s theological understandings and find his work provides important insights into Scripture and communicates a vibrant Christian faith. The first part of this book describes events in Calvin’s life that helped shape his major work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. The second part follows the flow of the Institutes and provides a narrative exposition of this major work, with numerous quotations of Calvin’s own words. This enables readers to hear Calvin’s voice as his views are explained. This close reading of Calvin opens the door to further, more thorough Calvin studies.
I commend this treasure to your attention. Especially if you are unfamiliar with the particulars of Calvin’s life or unsure about some aspect of Calvin’s thought. Once you are finished with it, follow the trail McKim marks out to further knowledge through the bibliography. You will certainly not regret the journey.
The Catechism of the Church of Geneva: that is a Plan for Instructing Children in the Doctrine of Christ was published on 27 November, 1545. Every citizen of the City was to learn it.
Here’s his introduction:
It has always been a practice and diligent care of the Church, that children be rightly brought up in Christian doctrine. To do this more conveniently, not only were schools formerly opened and individuals enjoined to teach their families properly, but also it was accepted public custom and practice to examine children in the Churches concerning the specific points which should be common and familiar to all Christians. That this be done in order, a formula was written out, called Catechism or Institute.
After this, the devil, miserably rending the Church of God and bringing upon it his fearful destruction (of which the marks are all too evident in most parts of the world), subverted this sacred policy; nor did he leave surviving anything more than certain trivialities, which give rise only to superstitions, without any edifying fruit. Of this kind is that Confirmation, as they call it, made up of gesticulations which are more than ridiculous and suited rather to monkeys, and rest on no foundation.
What we now bring forward, therefore, is nothing else than the use of a practice formerly observed by Christians and the true worshippers of God, and never neglected until the Church was wholly corrupted.
Learned Christian children make learned Christian adults.
There has come to my notice the foolish writing of a worthless individual, who nevertheless presents himself as a defender and vindicator of the glory of God, because he contests the principle that God rules the world so that nothing happens but by his secret counsel. This wretched fellow does not see that, by snatching at false pretexts for excusing the justice of God, he thereby subverts his power. This is just as if he were to try to rend God himself in pieces. For the rest, to give colour to his sacrilege, with as much malice as wickedness he remarks in his preface that God is not the cause of evil, nor wills sin. As if, when we attribute supreme dominion to God, we call him the author of sin!
So Calvin in a refutation titled Brief Reply in refutation of the calumnies of a certain worthless person.
That’s how you write a book review. Oh for the good old days.
This week’s sessions include a discussion of the Heidelberg Catechism and it’s marvelous. Just fantastic. You’re missing out, really, if you are not taking the University of Geneva course on Calvin.