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ORIGIN OF THE CALUMNY THAT CALVIN WISHED TO ABROGATE THE LORD’S DAY.
THE authority of Calvin, too, has sometimes been adduced in support of loose views respecting the obligation of the fourth commandment. It is an old and foolish calumny. We take the following extract from Beza, not only to meet this allegation, for Beza, as the personal friend of Calvin, must have known his sentiments perfectly, but to counteract any impressions which may be circulated to the disparagement of the faithfulness and purity of the Church of Geneva, in the days of Calvin. “The year 1550 was remarkable for its tranquillity with respect to the Church. The Consistory resolved that the ministers should not confine their instructions to public preaching — which was neglected by some, and heard with very little advantage by others — but at stated seasons should visit every family from house to house, attended by an elder and a decurion of each ward, to explain the Christian doctrines to the common people, and require from every one a brief account of their faith. These private visits were of great use to the Church, and it is scarcely credible how much fruit was produced by this plan of instruction. The Consistory gave directions that the celebration of the birth of Christ should be deferred to the following day, and that no festival should be observed as holy excepting the seventh, which is called the Lord’s Day. This proceeding gave offense to many, and for the purpose of reproaching Calvin, there were some who circulated an unfounded report of his abrogating the Sabbath itself. ”
MELANCTHON’S APPROBATION OF THE COURSE OF CALVIN TOWARDS SERVETUS.
M. D’Aubigne was strictly correct in his historical allusions to this celebrated German reformer. In a letter from Melancthon to Calvin, bearing the date of October 14th, 1554, we find the following sentiments: — “Reverend and dear brother — have read your book, in which you have clearly refuted the horrid blasphemies of Servetus; and I give thanks to the Son of God, who was the awarder of your crown of victory in your combat.” “To you, also, the Church owes gratitude at the present moment, and will owe it to the latest posterity.” “I perfectly assent to your opinion.” “I affirm also,” says he, in another letter, dated August 20th, “that the Genevese senate did perfectly right in putting an end to this obstinate man, who could never cease blaspheming, and I wonder at those who disapprove of this severity.”
This opinion of Melancthon was sustained by Bullinger, Peter Martyr, Zanchius, Farel, Theodore Beza, Bishop Hall, and others. Your correspondent must, therefore, admit that Melancthon’s name is properly coupled with that of John Calvin, in the affair of Servetus, approve, or disapprove of the sentence as we may. H.B.
THE TESTIMONY OF A UNITARIAN.
The following is from the pen of George Bancroft, author of the History of the United States, formerly minister plenipotentiary to England, a Unitarian in his religious opinions. “It is in season to rebuke the intolerance which would limit the praise of Calvin to a single sect. They who have no admiration but for wealth and rank, can never admire the Genevan reformer; for though he possessed the richest mind of his age, he never emerged from the limits of frugal poverty.
The rest of us may be allowed to reverence his virtues and regret his errors. He lived in a day when nations were shaken to their center by the excitement of the Reformation, when the fields of Holland and France were wet with the carnage of persecution; when vindictive monarchs, on the one side, threatened all Protestants with outlawry and death; and the Vatican on the other, sent forth its anathemas and its cry for blood. In that day, it is too true, the influence of an ancient, long established, hardly disputed error; the constant danger of his position; the intensest desire to secure union among the antagonists of Popery; the engrossing consciousness that his struggle was for the emancipation of the Christian world, induced the great Reformer to defend the use of the sword for the extirpation of error.
Reprobating and lamenting his adhesion to the cruel doctrine which all Christendom had for centuries implicitly received, we may, as republicans, remember, that Calvin was not only the founder of a sect, but foremost among the most efficient of modern republican legislators. More truly benevolent to the human race than Solon, more self-denying than Lycurgus, the genius of Calvin infused enduring elements into the institutions of Geneva, and made it for the modern world the impregnable fortress of popular liberty, the fertile seed-plot of democracy.
Again, we are proud of the free States that fringe the Atlantic. The Pilgrims of Plymouth were Calvinists; the best influence in South Carolina came from the Calvinists in France. William Penn was the disciple of Huguenots; the ships from Holland, that first brought colonists to Manhattan, were filled with Calvinists. He that will not honor the memory, and respect the influence of Calvin, knows but little of the origin of American liberty.
Or do personal considerations chiefly win applause? Then no one merits our sympathy and our admiration more than Calvin. The young exile from France, who achieved an immortality of fame before he was twenty-eight years of age, now boldly reasoning with the king of France for religious liberty; now venturing as the apostle of truth to carry the new doctrines into the heart of Italy; and now hardly escaping from the fury of papal persecution, the purest writer, the keenest dialectician of his age; pushing free inquiry to its utmost verge, and yet valuing inquiry only as the means of arriving at fixed principles. The light of his genius scattered the mask of darkness, which superstition had held for centuries before the brow of religion. His probity was unquestioned, his morals spotless. His only happiness consisted in ‘the task of glory, and of good;’ for sorrow found its way into all its private relations, He was an exile from his place of exile.
As a husband, he was doomed to mourn the premature loss of his wife; as a father, he felt the bitter pangs of burying his only child. Alone in the world, alone in a strange land, he went forward in his career with serene resignation and inflexible firmness: no love of ease turned him aside from his vigils; no fear of danger relaxed the nerve of his eloquence; no bodily infirmities cheeked the incredible activity of his mind; and so he continued, year after year, solitary and feeble, yet toiling for humanity; till after a life of glory, he bequeathed to his personal heirs a fortune, in books and furniture, stocks and money, not exceeding two hundred dollars, and to the world a pure Reformation, a republican spirit by religion, with the kindred principles of republican liberty. ”
TEMPTATION OF JOHN CALVIN.
The following anecdote of Calvin, while it does much honor to his moral and religious character, is a curious historical fact, which deserves to be generally known. It was related at Geneva, by Diodati, one of Calvin’s successors, to the first Lord Orrery, who flourished under the reign of Charles I. The extract is taken from “The State Letters and Memoirs of the Right Honourable Roger Boyle.” “Eckius being sent by the Pope, legate into France, upon his return resolved to take Geneva in his way, on purpose to see Calvin; and if occasion were, to attempt reducing him to the Roman Church.
Therefore, when Eckius was come within a league of Geneva, he left his retinue there, and went, accompanied with one man, to the city in the forenoon. Setting up his horses at an inn, he inquired where Calvin lived, whose house being showed him, he knocked at the door, and Calvin himself came to open to him. Eckius inquiring for Mr. Calvin, he was told he was the person. Eckius acquainted him that he was a stranger; and having heard much of his fame, was come to wait upon him. Calvin invited him to come in, and he entered the house with him; where, discoursing of many things concerning religion, Eckius perceived Calvin to be an ingenious, learned man, and desired to know if he had not a garden to walk in.
To which Calvin, replying that he had, they both went, into it,; and there Eckius began to inquire of him why he left the Roman Church, and offered him some arguments to persuade him to return; but Calvin could by no means be inclined to think of it. At last Eckius told him that he would put his life in his hands; and then said he was Eckius, the Pope’s legate. At this discovery, Calvin was not a little surprised, and begged his pardon, that he had not treated him with that respect which was due to his quality.
Eckius then asked him what revenue he had. He told the Cardinal he had that house and garden, and fifty livres per annum, besides an annual present of some wine and corn; on which he lived very contentedly. Eckius told him, that a man of his parts deserved a greater revenue; and then renewed his invitation to come over to the Roman Church, promising him a better stipend if he would.
But Calvin giving him thanks, assured him he was well satisfied with his condition. — About this time dinner was ready, when he entertained his company as well as he could, excused the defects of it, and paid him great respect. Eckius after dinner desired to know, if he might not be admitted to see the church, which anciently was the cathedral of that city. Calvin very readily answered that he might; accordingly, he sent to the officers to be ready with the keys, and desired some of the syndics to be there present, not acquainting them who the stranger was. As soon, therefore, as it was convenient, they both went towards the church, and as Eckius was coming out of Calvin’s house, he drew out a purse, with about one hundred pistoles, and presented it to Calvin. But Calvin desired to be excused; Eckins told him, he gave it him to buy books, as well as to express his respect for him. Calvin, with much regret took the purse, and they proceeded to the church, where the syndics and officers waited upon them; at the sight of whom Eckins thought he had been betrayed, and whispered thoughts in Calvin’s ear; but Calvin assured him to the contrary. Thereupon they went into the church; and Eckius having seen all, told Calvin he did not expect to find things in so decent an order, having been told to the contrary. After having taken a full view of everything, Eckius was returning out of the church, but Calvin stopped him a little, and calling the syndics and officers together, took the purse of gold which Eckius had given to him, telling them that he had received that gold from this worthy stranger, and that now he gave it to the poor, and so put it all into the poor box that was kept there. The syndics thanked the stranger, and Eckius admired the charity and modesty of Calvin. When they were come out of the church, Calvin invited Eckius again to his house, but he replied that he must depart; so thanking him for all his civilities, offered to take his leave. But Calvin waited upon him to the inn, and walked with him a mile out of the territories of Geneva, where with great compliments, they took a farewell of each other.”
Eckius was a very earned divine, Professor in the University of Ingolstadt, memorable for his opposition to Luther, Melancthon, and other reformers in Germany. He died in 1543 aged fifty-seven.
The chief difficulty, which I had occasion to mention in noticing the allegation made by Romanists and Prelatists, that Calvin was never ordained, was the fact that there is no record, in so many words, of its time and place, and of the persons who officiated at the ordination. I have shown, however, that there is every evidence that could be adduced for the certainty of the fact, and for its universal recognition by all his cotemporaties, both Romish, Anglican, and Reformed.
But the difficulty may be met by an argumentum ad hominem. Has any one, I ask, ever questioned the ordination of Bishop Butler, or does any one now doubt whether he was really and canonically ordained? The answer must be given in the negative. And yet on the ground assumed by our opponents, his ordination may be altogether denied. For in his life by Mr. Bartlett, it is recorded, that “at what time he took orders doth not appear, nor who the bishop was by whom he was ordained.” And again: “It is perhaps a little singular that notwithstanding his private memoranda, which refer to the date of almost every other event connected with his public life, there is no allusion either to the period of his ordination, or to the prelate who conferred orders upon him. ” This, certainly, is very singular, and more than a parallel to the case of Calvin. Was Calvin educated in the Romish Church? — Butler was brought up in the Presbyterian Church. Had Calvin difficulty in making up his mind to embrace the Reformed opinions? — So had Butler in receiving the tenets of the Establishment. Did Calvin embrace and avow the Reformed opinions respecting the Church, and the ministry, and ordination? So did Butler those of the Established Church in England. And do these avowed opinions of Butler, and this very change of connection, make it certain that he must have been regularly ordained, although there is such a mysterious absence of all proof — and how much more certainly must we conclude that such was also the case as it regards Calvin? For if such an omission can be supposed in England, at so recent a period, and under the circumstances of the case, how much more might it be looked for in the earliest period of the Reformation, and amid the incipiency of all their arrangements.
Our opponents, therefore, before again exposing their captious malice by taunting us with the case of Calvin, had better learn the wisdom of that proverb, that “they who live in glass houses ought not to throw stones.”
CALVIN’S MISSION TO BRAZIL.
It was during this dark time that an event occurred which has escaped the notice of many American antiquaries and historians. We mean the emigration of French Protestants to Brazil. To call this a mission, Dr. Henry thinks inaccurate. Yet it appears from the letters of Richer, the preacher of the refugees, that they were not without some thoughts of converting the heathen. Villegagnon, a knight of Malta, gave the great Coligni reason to believe, that he was about to secure a spot in Alnerica, where the persecuted Protestants might find a refuge. The admiral was won by the benevolent prospect. A small island, we suppose it to have been near Rio de Janeiro, was occupied by Villegagnon, in the name of Coligni. Ministers of the word were now demanded, and Richer and Chattier were sent from Geneva. But, by a hideous treachery, these poor non-conformists of the South, less favored than their later brethren of Plymouth, were fiercely pursued under the French edicts. Four of them witnessed a good confession, and were cast into the sea: the rest escaped to France. Jean de Lery, afterwards a minister at Berne, was an eyewitness of these atrocities, which he described on his return.
The unusual interest which attaches to this somewhat obscure chapter in history justifies us in adding a few more particulars. Nicolas de Villegagnon was vice admiral in Brittany, under Henry II. Being disappointed and chagrined, because his services were not sufficiently recognized, he put himself at the head of the expedition aforesaid. There were two excellent ships, and they set sail in 1555. The river Coligni, at which they made settlement, is sufficiently pointed out by the rude approximative statement of the latitude. The natives were kind, but the settlers had more than the usual trials of colonists. Richer, whom we just now named, was fifty years of age, and Chattier about thirty. Even on their voyage they were ill-treated by the people of Villegagnon. They landed on the 7th of March, 1556, and showed their letters, to which was appended the name of Calvin. The perfidious governor did not at first throw aside the mask, but even went so far as to partake of the Lord’s Supper, according to the Protestant rite, as appears from Richer’s letter to Calvin. In this letter are several things worthy of more special notice than we can here bestow. There is much naivete and piety in the good missionary’s report. The people are rude, he says, though he knows not assuredly that they are cannibals. They have no sense of right and wrong, and no idea of God, so that there is little hope of making Christ known to them. The language is a chief hinderance. Nothing can be hoped until there are more settlers, by whose converse and example the Indian people may be christianized. A certain learned doctor Cointiac used the preachers ill, and declared himself an enemy of the Huguenot worship. In this he was now joined by Villegagnon, who suspended Richer from his functions.
Chartier was sent to Europe to represent the matters in contest.
Villegagnon now began to persecute, and forbade the wretched exiles to escape. Richer and his companions retired to the forest, where they were humanely treated by the savages. But others, who endeavored to get off by ship, were seized and imprisoned. Villegagnon, in his new zeal for popery, condemned five Huguenots to death, under the ordounances of Francis I and Henry II. One Bordel was cast into the sea, to die as a martyr: so died also Vermeil and Pierre Bourdon. Villegagnon returned to France and wrote against the gospel, but was answered by Richer. The persecutor died wretched and impenitent.