CALVIN had not been long in Basle when dreadful news arrived which deeply agitated the inhabitants of that reformed city, and especially Calvin himself. It was reported that in consequence of some controversial placards which had been posted up in Paris, and throughout France, the king’s anger had broken all bounds, that the evangelicals were persecuted, that the Chatelet directed the inquisition... and that the burning piles were preparing. Cop, Du Tillet, Calvin, and other refugees conversed about these mournful events. Du Tillet blamed the violent language of the placards; Calvin seems to have kept silence on this point — at least in his famous epistle to Francis I. he does not disavow the placards, which it would have been wise to do, if he had decidedly blamed them. Days and weeks went by in the midst of continual uneasiness; the air seemed big with storms, and terrible explosions from time to time startled every compassionate heart.
At the end of November, Calvin heard of the successive deaths of Berthelot, Du Bourg, Paille, and several others whom he had known. How often he had sat at Du Bourg’s table, how often conversed with the poor cripple!... Calvin, in his emotion, was greatly surprised at those who could find no tears for such sorrows. ‘Let us reject the mad philosophy,’ he said in after years, ‘which would make men entirely unfeeling that they may be wise. The stoics must have been void of common sense, when they trampled on the affections of man... There are fanatics even now who would like to introduce these dreams into the Church, who ask for a heart of iron, who cannot support one little tear, and yet, if anything happens to them, against their will, they lament perpetually... The affections which God has placed in human nature are not more vicious of themselves than He who gave them. Ought we not to rejoice in God’s gifts? Why, then, should we not be permitted to feel sorrow when they are taken from us?
Let believers lament, therefore, when one of their relations or friends is taken away by death, and let them be sad when the Church is deprived of good men. Only, as we know that life is given us in Christ Jesus, let our sorrow be moderated by hope.’ One day, probably in December or January, Calvin saw an old man arrive: he was half blind, and felt his way as he walked towards him. It was Courault, who, liberated from prison by Margaret’s influence, had escaped from the convent where he had been shut up. It was a great joy to the young doctor to see this venerable christian again, whose death three years later was to overwhelm him with such deep distress. The refugees surrounded Courault, and wanted to know the terrible news from Paris. He had not witnessed the punishments, but he could describe them, and cries of sorrow rose from every heart. Courault was soon followed by other fugitives. For some weeks there was a little repose; the sky was heavy and threatening, but silent.
On a sudden the tempest burst out again, the bolts fell furiously and consumed many other victims. About the end of January 1535 the news of the martyrdoms of the 21st of that month reached Basle. Calvin’s soul was perpetually agitated by these atrocious persecutions. ‘Alas!’ he exclaimed, ‘in France they are burning many faithful and holy people!’ He saw them fastened to the estrapade, swinging in the air, plunged into the flames, and then drawn out to be plunged into them again... ‘With what furious rage the enemies of God are transported,’ he said; ‘but though horrible curses and execrable reproaches are hurled upon the christians from every side, they continue to repose firmly on the grace of Jesus Christ, having confidence that they will be safe even in death.’ Calvin was not the only person to feel these keen emotions. ‘As gibbets were set up in various parts of the kingdom,’ says Mezeray, ‘and chambers ardentes were instituted, the Lutheran preachers and those who had listened to them took flight, and in a few months there were more than a hundred refugees who carried their sorrows and their complaints to the courts of the German princes.’ Their tales excited great indignation in Germany. True, the martyrs were often calumniated, but in many cities the refugees from beyond the Rhine were able to refute the falsehoods of their enemies. The true christians were not deceived, and they recognized the victims as their brethren. This was a consolation to the reformer. ‘The news having spread to foreign nations,’ he said, ‘these burnings were counted very wicked by a large number of Germans, and they felt great bitterness against the authors of such tyranny.’ The ‘bitterness’ was still greater at Basle. Among those who shared Calvin’s sorrow was Oswald Myconius, the friend of Zwingle, antistes or president of the Church, for whom the reformer entertained an affection that lasted all his life. He called him ‘his very excellent, most esteemed brother, and very respected friend.’ Myconius, as we have stated elsewhere, was a distinguished philosopher and pupil of Erasmus and Glareanus: while residing at Zurich, he had taught the classics, and among his pupils was Thomas Plater; but the disastrous battle of Cappel had made him renounce this duty. At the moment when Plater, outstripping the fugitives, who were hurrying from the fight, was about to enter the city, he encountered Myconius, who was pacing backwards and forwards before the gates, full of anguish at the thought of the dangers incurred by Zwingle, Zurich, and the Reformation... The professor had hardly caught sight of his pupil, when, running up to him, he asked: ‘Is Master Ulrich dead?’ ‘Alas! yes,’ answered Plater. Myconius, struck to the heart, stood motionless, and then, with profound sorrow, exclaimed: ‘I can live at Zurich no longer.’ Plater, who had had nothing to eat for twenty-four hours, went home with Myconius, who gave him food, and then sat down by him, silent and oppressed by the weight of his thoughts. At last Myconius took him into his room, and said to him, with consternation: ‘Where must I go?’... The pastor of St. Alban’s church at Basle had also fallen on the mountain of Zug. ‘Go to Basle, and become minister there,’ said Plater. Shortly after this the professor and his pupil set out on foot for Basle, where they arrived after many adventures and alarms.
A few days later Myconius was called upon to preach the Council Sermon, which was delivered at six in the morning. ‘When I entered his room on the morning of the appointed day,’ says Plater, ‘I found him still in bed. “Father,” said I, “get up; you have your sermon to preach.” “What! is it to-day?” said Myconius, and jumped out of bed. “What shall be the subject of my sermon? Tell me.” “I cannot.” “I insist upon your giving me a subject.” “Very well; show whence our disaster proceeded, and why it was inflicted on us.” “Jot that down upon a piece of paper.” I obeyed, and then lent him my Testament, in which he placed the memorandum I had just written. He went into the pulpit, and spoke eloquently before an audience of learned men, attracted there by the desire to hear a man who had never preached before. All were filled with wonder, and after the sermon I heard Doctor Simon Grynaeus say to Doctor Sulterus (who at that time belonged to us): “O Sulterus, let us pray God for this man to stay among us, for he may do much good.”’ Myconius was nominated pastor of St. Alban’s, and was soon after called to replace Oecolampadius as president of the Church at Basle. He had entertained some illusions with regard to Francis I. A Frenchman, a strong partisan of that king, had persuaded him that Francis was not ill-disposed towards the Gospel; that if he dissembled his sentiments, it was only because of the prelates of his kingdom; and that if he once obtained the possessions in Italy which he coveted, it would be seen that he had not much liking either for the pope or the papists, Myconius was struck with indignation and grief, when he heard of the barbarous executions with which that prince had feasted the eyes of the citizens of Paris. He could sympathize all the more with Calvin, as, although a man of mild and temperate disposition, he shared in the decided and energetic opinions of the author of the placards. ‘Why sew new patches on so torn a garment?’ he said, speaking of popery. ‘We should never meet the dragon but to kill him.’ A great unity of sentiment drew Calvin and Myconius together in the disastrous times of which we are speaking. The burning stakes of Paris drove them farther from Rome, and bound them closer to the Gospel.
There were minds, however, upon which persecution produced a very different effect. Amid all this indignation and sorrow, Du Tillet remained shut up in himself and silent. The gentleness of the Word of God attracted him, but the bitterness of the cross terrified him. He had quitted everything with joy, believing that a general reform of the Church would be carried out promptly; but when he saw a mortal combat beginning between the Gospel and popery, ‘he felt a deep emotion, he lost his rest,’ as he tells us himself, ‘and suffered inexpressible trouble and anguish of mind.’ Each of the punishments at Paris added to the doubts and agitation of that candid but weak nature. He seemed to fear schism only, but the prospect of persecution and reproach had some share in his alarm. ‘He did not understand,’ as Calvin says, ‘that while bearing the cross we keep Christ company, so that all bitterness is sweetened.’ He kept himself apart, he passed days and nights filled with torture. ‘I have been lonely, and without rest for the space of three years and a half,’ he wrote to his old friend in 1538. His intimacy with the reformer was changed, and three years later he was to cause him a sorrow as great, nay greater, no doubt, than that which Calvin had felt when he heard of the deaths of the martyrs.
The intrigues of the agents of Francis I. began to be attended with success.
They displayed inconceivable activity to mislead public opinion. They spoke, wrote, and distributed everywhere ‘certain little books full of lies, in which it was said that the king had behaved harshly to none but rebels, who desired to disturb the State under the cloak of religion.’ Men, and often the best of men, are unhappily prone to believe evil. Germany began to cool down; even at Basle many people were deceived; and although they did not believe all the calumnies circulated against the martyrs, the impression still remained. ‘If a few sectarians have been punished,’ said many good men, ‘they are anabaptists, who far from taking the Word of God for the rule of their faith, follow only their own corrupt imaginations, and have at bottom no other doctrine but a contempt of the higher powers.
We can not defend the cause of a handful of seditious people who desire to overthrow everything, even Political order.’ Shut up with his books in the room he occupied at Catherine Klein’s, Calvin thought day and night of these cruel accusations, and his noble soul felt indignant not only that the children of the heavenly Father should be forced to suffer atrocious punishments, but that it was attempted to defame their characters. ‘These court practicers,’ he said, ‘load the holy martyrs after their death with undeserved blame and vile calumnies, and endeavor to hide the disgrace of this shedding of innocent blood under cowardly disguises. They thus put poor believers to death, and no one is able to have compassion on them.’ The young doctor saw himself between two rivers of blood — that of his brethren already immolated, and that of other christians who would certainly be immolated in their turn. He had not been able to prevent the death of a Milon and a La Forge; but he would at least try to turn away the sword that threatened other lives. ‘If Ido not oppose it righteously and to the best of my ability,’ said Calvin, ‘I shall fairly be called cowardly and disloyal on account of my silence.’ He will speak, he will rush between the executioners and their victims. A heavenly word rang through his soul:
Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. ( Proverbs 31:8) He therefore formed one of those resolutions which, in a character such as his, are unalterable. ‘I will obey Him who speaks to me from on high,’ he said. ‘I will reply to the wicked tales that are circulated against my brethren; and as similar cruelties may be practiced against many other believers, I will endeavor to touch foreign nations with some compassion in their favor. Such was the reason,’ he adds, ‘which moved me to publish the Institutes of the Christian Religion.” Never had a noble book so noble an origin. Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, and Tertullian had written their Apologies by the light of the stakes of the second century; Calvin wrote his by the light of those of the sixteenth. The publication of the Christian Institutes was the pitiful cry of a compassionate soul at the sight of those who were going to the stake.
Calvin had long meditated the great subject which then absorbed him — the system of christian faith; and his book was to be the finest body of doctrine ever possessed by the Church of Christ. During four centuries, reckoning from the twelfth, minds of the highest order had formulated abstract systems, in which scholastic rationalism and ecclesiastical authority were habitually combined; they had wasted their strength in running after expositions, contradictions, resolutions, and interminable pros and cons ; theology was lost in an and wilderness. It was about to come out of it in order to enter into new lands. But it was not a trifling matter to make christian science pass from death to life, from darkness to light. It required an awakened conscience, a heart thirsting for righteousness, a high intelligence, and a powerful will boldly to break through all the chains, to scatter to the winds the sentences and the sums which the schoolmen had painfully woven out of traditions that were often impure, and to set up in their place the living rock of the heavenly Word on which the temple of God is to be built.
Calvin was the man called to this work. Until his time, dogmatics, when passing from one period to another, had always advanced in the same direction, from abstraction to abstraction. But suddenly the course was changed; Calvin refused to tread the accustomed road. Instead of advancing in the way of the schoolmen towards new developments of a more refined intellectualism, he turned eagerly backwards, he heard the voice of conscience, he felt the wants of the heart, he ran whither alone they can be satisfied, he traversed fifteen centuries. He went to the gospel springs, and there collecting in a golden cup the pure and living waters of divine revelation, presented them to the nations to quench their thirst.
The Reformation was not simply a change in the doctrine or in the manners or in the government of the Church: it was a creation. The first century had witnessed the first christian creation, the fifteenth century witnessed the second.
Luther, by the power of his faith, was the principal organ of this new creation. Freeing himself from the thick darkness that had hung over mankind for so many centuries, he had with holy energy hurled his lightnings and thunderbolts in every direction around him, so that all the horizon was lighted up. Calvin appeared; he gathered up these scattered flames, and made them into an immense fire; and while the gleams of the primitive creation of the Church had been confined almost entirely within the limits of the Roman world, the fires of the new creation are spreading to the ends of the earth.
Calvin retired within himself to meditate on the work to which God called him; he turned a deep glance into those depths of Scripture which he had so often sounded. Holding the torch of the Spirit, he summoned before him the great persons of the christian economy, not to make them figure as the schoolmen had done, in a learned fencing-match, but to elicit from them the fundamental truths of faith, and plant the golden columns of the temple of light and life.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion is Calvin’s great achievement; it is Calvin himself, and we must therefore describe it. History, indeed, generally narrates the actions performed by the arm of the soldier or the negotiations of the diplomatist; but the work that Calvin then accomplished, by spiritual force, far exceeds in the importance of its consequences all that has ever been done by the pens of the ablest statesmen or the swords of the bravest warriors. Let us describe therefore, this ‘action’ of a nature apart. ‘Curious minds,’ as Calvin calls them, will perhaps pass over these pages: we regret it, but we must write them all the same. ‘The whole sum of wisdom,’ said the great doctor of modern times at the beginning of his work, ‘is that by knowing God, each of us knows himself also; and these two facts are bound to each other by so many ties, that it is not easy to discern which goes before and produces the other.’
In fact, Calvin, when addressing man, shows him first of all God himself — wonder of wonders! — in man. ‘God,’ says he to man, ‘has stamped in you a knowledge of himself, and he continually refreshes this memory in you, as if he poured it out drop by drop. We have a consciousness of divinity graven so deeply on our minds, that we can not erase it. The rebellion even of the wicked bears testimony of this, for while combating madly to throw off the fear of God, that fear remains inevitably clinging to them, as if it were in the marrow of their bones.’ But after ascribing to man the exquisite privilege of bearing the name of God within him, Calvin immediately brings a severe charge against the human race. ‘Alas! we shall hardly find one in a hundred that cherishes this divine seed in his heart.
Some through curiosity fly away in vain speculations; others vanish in foolish superstitions; others, finally, deprive God of his office as judge and governor, shut him up idle in heaven, and thus remain without God in the world... What is to be done? Shall we toss and tumble continually, carried hither and thither by many erroneous levities?’ Calvin then takes man by the hand, and wishing him to know the eternal mysteries, places him before a vast spiritual mirror, the Holy Scriptures, where all invisible things appear in their living reality. Thus distinguishing himself from all the doctors of catholicism who had spoken for ten centuries, he puts in the fore-front, in an absolute manner, the full sufficiency and sovereign authority of the Word of God. ‘God,’ said he, ‘has opened his sacred mouth, to make known that he is the God whom we should adore. When a handsome book in well-formed characters is set before those who have weak eyes, or before decrepit old men, they can hardly read two words consecutively; but if they take a magnifying glass, forthwith they read everything distinctly. If we wish to see clearly, let us take Holy Scripture: without it we have but a confused and partial knowledge of God in our minds; but that drives away all obscurity in us, and shows us clearly God’s heart.’
Already in the time of Calvin there were certain doctors who would strip the Bible of its inspiration and christianity of its supernaturalism. ‘There are, I know full well,’ he said, ‘despisers, and cavillers, and mockers, who attack the Word, and if I had to fight out this quarrel with them, it would not be difficult for me to silence their cackling. But in addition to all the proof that reason brings, there is one above all others. It is necessary that the same Spirit which has spoken by the mouth of the prophets should enter our hearts, that he should touch them to the quick, and convince them that the prophets have faithfully declared what had been enjoined them from on high.’ The testimony of the Holy Ghost — that is the proof of proofs.
Calvin then turns to man, the self-worshiper, who puts himself in the place of God, and reveals to him the sin that is in him. ‘Come down now,’ he says, ‘come down and consider thyself. Learn to know this sin, derived from Adam and dwelling in us, like a glowing furnace, perpetually throwing out flames and sparks, and the fire of which not only burns the senses, but pollutes all that is most noble in our souls.’ There is no means by which man can escape of himself from this wretchedness of his nature. ‘If thou pretendest to rise by thy own strength, thou standest on the end of a reed that snaps immediately.’ Then Calvin shows man where his salvation is to be found, and describes with grandeur the work of expiation. ‘While our condemnation holds us surprised, trembling, and startled before the judgment seat of God, the penalty to which we were subject has been laid on the innocent. All that can be imputed to us in the sight of God is transferred upon Jesus Christ.
The divine founder of the Kingdom has suffered in the place of the children of the Kingdom... Our peace can be found only in the terrors and agony of Christ our Redeemer.’ But how does this work, accomplished out of man, act in man?... Such is the great question the Reformer sets himself. Divine faith which lays hold of the righteousness of Christ upon the cross gives birth at the same moment to the holiness of Christ in the heart. ‘Man has no sooner embraced the atonement with a faith full of confidence,’ he says, ‘than he experiences an unalterable peace in his conscience. He possesses a spirit of adoption which makes him call God my Father! and which procures him a sweet and joyful communion with the heavenly Father. Immediately the least drop of faith is put into our souls we begin to contemplate the face of God, kind and favorable to us. True, we see it from afar, but it is with an undoubting eye, and we know that there is no deception.’
A new question is here started. The young doctor is asked: Is man saved by charity or without it? He makes answer: ‘There is no other faith which justifies save that which is united with charity; but it is not from charity that it derives the power to justify. Faith justifies only because it puts us in communication with the righteousness of Christ. Whosoever confounds the two righteousnesses (that of man and that of God) hinders poor souls from reposing on the sole and pure mercy of God, plaits a crown of thorns for Jesus Christ, and turns his sacrifice to ridicule.’
Here Calvin puts forward the grand idea which characterizes the Reformation effected by his teaching; namely, that it is only the new man which we should value. After insisting as much as any doctor on the work that Christ does without us, he insists more than any on the work Christ must do within us. ‘I exalt to the highest degree,’ he says, ‘the conjunction that we have with our Chief, — the dwelling he makes in our hearts by faith, — the sacred union by which we enjoy him. It is necessary that we should perceive in our lives a melody and harmony between the righteousness of God and the obedience of our souls.’
But Calvin observed that many humble, timid christians were distressed because they experienced only a weak faith. Those he consoles, and the images he employs are picturesque: ‘If any one, shut up in a deep dungeon,’ he says, ‘received the light of the sun obliquely and partially, through a high and narrow window, he would not certainly have a sight of the full sun, yet he would not fail to receive a certain quantity of light and to enjoy its use. In the same way, though we are shut up in the prison of this earthly body, where much obscurity surrounds us on every side, if we have the least spark of God’s light, we are sufficiently illuminated and may have a firm assurance.’
May not that flame be extinguished, ask christians hesitatingly. ‘No,’ said Calvin, ‘the light of faith is never so extinct that there does not remain some glimmer. The root of faith is never so torn from the heart, that it does not remain fastened there, although it seems to lean to this side or that.’ ‘Faith,’ he exclaimed (and he had often felt it), ‘faith is an armed man within us to resist the attacks of the evil one... If we put faith in the front, she receives the Blows and wards them off. She may indeed be shaken, as a stalworth soldier may be compelled by a violent blow to step backwards. Her shield may receive damage so as to lose its shape, but not be penetrated; and even in this extremity the shield deadens the blow, and the weapon does not pierce to the heart.’
After consoling the timid and uplifting the wounded, this extraordinary man, who speaks with the firmness of one of the captains of the army of God, exhorts the soldiers of Christ to be brave: ‘When St. John promises the victory to our faith, he does not mean simply that it will be victorious in one battle, or in ten , but in all. Be full of courage then. To fluctuate, to vary, to be tossed to and fro; to doubt, to vacillate, to be kept in suspense and finally to despair... that is not having confidence. We must have a solid support on which we can rest. God has said it, that is enough. Being under the safeguard of Christ, we are in no danger of perishing.’ Calvin turning to Rome seeks for the origin of its errors and superstitions, and finds it in the pelagianism with which it is tainted. Grace in all its fullness, — grace from the first movement of regeneration until the final accomplishment of salvation, was the keynote of all Calvin’s theology; and it is also the powerful artillery with which he batters the Roman fortress. Like St. Paul in the first century, like St. Augustine in the fifth, Calvin is the Doctor of grace in the sixteenth. This is one of his essential features. ‘The will of man,’ he said, ‘can not of itself incline to good. Such a movement, which is the beginning of our conversion to God, Scripture entirely attributes to the Holy Ghost. A doctrine not only useful, but sweet and savory through the fruit it bears; for those who do not know themselves to be members of the peculiar people of God, are in a continual trembling... No doubt the wicked find in it a matter to accuse and cavil at, to disparage and ridicule... but if we fear their petulance, we must keep silence as to our faith, for there is not a single article which they do not contaminate with their blasphemies. Christ (he continues) wishing to deliver us from all fear in the midst of so many deadly assaults, has promised that those who have been given him by his Father to keep, shall not perish.’ At this period Calvin hears a clamor raised against him. He is accused of maintaining that God predestines the wicked to evil, and he replies at once by reprobating such an impious doctrine. ‘These mockers jabber against God,’ he says, ‘alleging that the wicked are unjustly condemned, since they execute only what God has determined... Not so,’ he exclaims; ‘far from having obeyed God’s command, the wicked by their lusts rebel against it as far as in them lies. There must be no fencing with God; there must be no saying, with Agamemnon in Homer, speaking of evil: It is not I who am the cause, but Jupiter and Fate.’ Calvin next hastens to show the fruits of faith: ‘We have given the first rank to doctrine,’ he said, ‘but to be useful to us, it must penetrate into the soul, pass into the manners and regulate the actions of our life... Since the Holy Ghost consecrates us to be temples of God, we must take pains that the glory of God fills the temple... We know those babblers who are content with having the gospel on their lips, whilst it ought to sink to the bottom of the soul, and we detest their babbling.’
Calvin had carefully studied the condition of the Church during the Middle Ages: what had he found there?... The separation of religion and morality: a government, official doctrines, ceremonies, but all stripped of moral life.
At that time religion was a tree stretching its branches wide into the air, but there was no sap flowing through them. To restore a lively faith in religion, and through faith a holy morality was the reformer’s aim. He said: ‘God first impresses on our hearts the love of righteousness, to which we are not inclined by nature; and then he gives us a certain rule, which does not permit us to go astray.’ Accordingly, a morality, unknown for ages, became not only in Geneva, but wherever Calvin’s doctrine penetrated, the distinctive feature of the Reformation.
An important thought, however, still absorbs him. He wishes not only to effect certain reforms in certain articles, but to constitute the Church. In Calvin’s estimation the Church is in an especial manner the whole assembly of the children of God; but he acknowledges also, as having a right to this name, the visible assembly of those who, in different parts of the world, profess to worship the Lord: ‘A great multitude, in which the children of God are, alas! but a handful of unknown people, like a few grains on the threshing-floor under a great heap of straw. Our rudeness, our idleness, and the vanity of our minds require external helps (he added), and for that reason God has instituted pastors and teachers.’ That was a solemn time for Calvin, when in the room he occupied at Catherine Klein’s, he finished his Institutes. In after years pious christians entered her house with respect, and one of them, Peter Ramus, being there in 1568, five years after the reformer’s death, exclaimed with emotion: ‘Here were kindled the torches that shed so great a light! Here those illustrious Christian Institutes were composed; and here Calvin gave himself up wholly to heavenly vigils!’ The Christian Institutes in its earliest form was a simple defense, explaining briefly law, faith, prayer, the sacraments, christian liberty, and the nature of the Church and State. But the French refugees at Geneva, and even distant protestants, continually solicited Calvin to set forth the whole Christian doctrine in his book; and accordingly it received numerous additions. The Christian Institutes are a proof that christian love prevailed in Calvin’s mind: indeed, he wrote for the justification of believers, his brethren.
However, by defending the reformed, he explained and justified the Reformation itself. What are its principles? The formative principle of faith and of the Church is, with him as with Luther, the sovereign Word of God; but he asserts it with more decision than his predecessor. Calvin is and-traditional: he will have nothing to do with host, or font, or festivals and other ceremonies preserved by Luther. He did not reform the Church, he re-formed it; he created it anew. Zwingle also was scriptural, as opposed to tradition; yet Calvin’s theology is different from his; that of the Zurich doctor was specially exegetic, while that of the Geneva doctor was specially dogmatic. If from the formative principle we pass to that which theologians call the material principle, namely, that which distinguishes the nature and very essence of its doctrine, we find that it is at the heart the same in Luther and in Calvin — gratuitous salvation; but the former, clinging to christian anthropology, laid down as a fundamental article, the justification by faith of the regenerate man; whilst Calvin, clinging particularly to theology, to the doctrine of God, proclaimed first of all, salvation by the sovereignty of divine grace.
Calvin’s polemics, in his Institutes, are essentially positive. Like a master in the midst of artists, who are endeavoring to draw the same picture, Calvin traces his outline with a bold hand, distributes the light and shade, and succeeds in making an admirable work. And from that time his rivals have only to look at it, to acknowledge the imperfections of their own, with all their want of proportion and extravagance... Calvin destroys what is ugly, but he first creates the beautiful.
The Institutes were admired by the finest spirits of the age. Montluc, bishop of Valence, called Calvin the greatest theologian in the world. A French writer of our day, who does not belong to the Reform, but is a correct and profound thinker, has characterized the Institutes ‘as the first work of our times which presents an orderly arrangement of materials with a composition thoroughly appropriate and exact;’ and has distinguished Calvin himself, ‘as treating in a masterly manner all the questions of christian philosophy, and as rivaling the most sublime writers in his great thoughts on God, whose style (he adds) has been equaled, but not surpassed, by Bossuet.’