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  • JOHN CALVIN'S WRITINGS -
    LETTER 8.


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    CALVIN TO FAREL.

    The numerous deaths, which have occurred this year among my pious friends, I hope will instruct me in the emptiness of this present life; and impress me, in the midst of my sorrow, with holy meditations concerning my own morality. Poralis, the first syndic of this city, has departed to be with the Lord. His death, as was to be expected, is severely felt, and deeply lamented by us. His dying testimony was a source of consolation, while the very circumstance of his piety increased our grief; as we felt his loss to be, on that account, a more extensive deprivation. The day after he fell sick, Viret and myself were with him, and he informed us that he was in danger of losing his life; for the disease with which he was afflicted was fatal to his family. We conversed on a variety of subjects, in which he interested himself with as much familiarity as if in usual health. The two following days, his complaint increased, but in no period of his life, had he discovered more strength of mind, or greater powers of eloquence, than at this time, while he addressed those who visited him with some excellent exhortations, adapted to the character and circumstances of each individual, he now appeared to be much better, and we entertained hopes of his recovery. But after three days, the disease renewed its severity, and he was evidently in great danger; but as his body was oppressed, his mind grew more enlarged and animated. I pass the intermediate time, to the day on which he died. Viret and myself visited him about nine o’clock in the morning, I said a few things concerning the cross, the grace of Christ, and the hope of eternal life, for we would not fatigue him with a long discourse. He answered, that he knew how to accept the messenger of God in a proper manner, and of what importance the ministry of Christ was in confirming the consciences of believers. He then discoursed upon the ministry and its use so powerfully, that we were both struck with astonishment, and as often as I reflect upon it, I am still confounded; for he appeared to be delivering some of our discourses improved by his own deep and long meditations, he concluded by saying, that he believed the remission of sins, of which we assured him from the promise of Christ, with as much confidence as though an angel should appear to him from heaven. He then enlarged upon the harmony of the members of the church, which he commended with the highest eulogy; testifying that his best consolations, in the warfare of death, were drawn from his being established so fully in that unity. He had, a little time before, called for some of our colleagues, with whom he became reconciled, lest by persisting in this disagreement, others might make a bad use of his example. He observed to us, “As the welfare of the church obliges you to bear with them as brethren, why should I not, for the same reason, acknowledge them as pastors?’ He admonished them with seriousness, and called up to their remembrance the sins of which they had been guilty. But I come to his last words. Turning to those who were present, he exhorted them, that they should hold in high estimation the communion of the church, and advised those who were still addicted to superstitious ceremonies and festivals, to lay aside their obstinacy, and unite with us in the worship of God; for we saw better, and judged more perfectly than they could in these matters. He confessed, that he himself had been obstinate in these things, but at last his eyes were opened to see the baneful effects of contention. After this, he summed up his faith in a short, solemn, and clear confession. He than exhorted Viret and myself to constancy in all the parts of our official duty, and, as in a prophetic vision, he spoke of our future difficulties. Concerning the interests of the republic, his counsel was judiciously directed to whatever related to its prosperity.

    He urged the most diligent attention to be given, to effect a reconciliation with the allied cities; and that the clamors of some turbulent people should not discourage us in our efforts. After addressing a few words to him, we prayed with him and retired. About two in the afternoon, my wife visited him, when he exhorted her to be of good courage, whatever might happen, and to consider that she was led to this city not rashly, but by the wonderful wisdom of God, to assist in spreading the gospel. He soon after said, that his voice began to fail him; that however that might fail him, he should retain in his mind, and die in the confession of faith that he had made. He recited the song of Simeon, and applied it to himself, saying, “I have seen and embraced thy salvation;” and then composed himself to rest.

    From this time he was deprived of his voice, but continued to indicate by signs, that he had lost nothing of the rigor of his mind. About four in the afternoon, I went with the syndics to visit him. As he sometimes attempted to speak, and was unable, I requested him not to fatigue himself, adding that we were abundantly satisfied with his confession. I then began to speak as well as I could. He heard with a composed and tranquil mind. We had scarcely left him, when he rendered up his pious soul to the Lord Jesus Christ. This narration will be scarcely credible to you, when you consider the nature of the man; but remember that he was endowed entirely with a new spirit.

    We are now deeply occupied in choosing new colleagues; and our trouble is increased, as those whom we suppose fit for the place, upon trial, disappoint our expectations. We will inform you of our progress, as your advice may be useful to us. Farewell.

    June 16, 1542.

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