« PreviousContinue »
of Melancthon, Bucer, and Martyr ; whereby the name of these Nicodemites became obnoxious; for so they were called, who cloaked their errors with his example...
When the emperor held the diet at Ratisbon, in 1541, the necessity of his affairs compelled him to grant the
Protestants the INTERIM; that is, a set form of faith, · which might be agreeable to both parties, till a general
cổuncil sliould regulate the points wherein the Protestants had abandoned the sentiments of the Roman church. The emperor wanted to invade the Turkish dominions in A. frica : But he lost half of his army in that fatal expedition, and returned to Germany, where he renewed his severities against the Protestants. Calvin assisted Melancthon in writing against the interim ; while the emperor and the king of England were engaged in a war against France, which ended in 1546, and was soon followed by the death of Henry VIII. and Francis I. '
The city of Geneva had been infested with the plague, and very unhappy divisions began there in 1546. Calvin, from the pulpit, exclaimed against the wickedness of the people, who revived the controversy about their privileges, and would not suffer their pastors to dispose of the ecclesiastical goods taken from the Pontificians, as they ought to be. The young people would not suffer them. selves to be deprived of their sports, taverns, and other places of debauchery. The ministers insisted earnestly upon it, both in the council and church, threatening the contumacious with excommunication. One of the council accused Calvin, that he had taught false doctrine for the space of seven years : But the council commicted him to prison, without the solicitation of Calvin, and enjoined him to pera form penance by carrying a torch in his hand through the city. .
Viret's servant received a letter from Calvin : But, instead of carrying it to his master, as he was directed, he delivered it to the Syndics, who broke it open, and were not a little displeased at some passages in it, especially where he told Viret, “ that the people of Geneva would 66 govern without GOD; and that he had to do with « hypocrites.” Calvin was sent for to answer this before them; when he justified his complaint by the instance of several debauched persons, who were suffered to scoff at the word of GOD, and to slight their instructions. Calvin left the city, at the same time that Farel departed from Neufchatel to go to Zurick, to be professor at a synod composed of divines from Switzerland and the Grissons.
At his return, he set forth his commentaries on the epistle of St Paul to Titus, which he dedicated to Farel and Viret, in consideration of the strict friendship and unity between them.
Calvin remarked of Luther, that he often prayed he might not see the vials of wrath poured upon Germany; which immediately after his death came upon those places in a storm, and with the swiftness and execution of a whirlwind. Luther died in 1546: and all Germany was in arms, in 1547, on account of religion ; which gave great trouble to Calvin, who was glad that Bucer, Martyr, and some other of his friends, were sheltered from the storm in England, where they were invited by archbishop Cranmer. The Calvinists said, that Bucer favoured episcopacy: But Calvin entertained a good opinion of him, and wrote to him in a very friendly manner, while he was assisting the Reformers in England. Calvin advised Bucer how to conduct himself before king Edward VI. He corresponded with the duke of Somerset; and gave him his opinion how the Reformation should be carried on. In one of his letters to the lord protector, he expressed his dislike of praying for the dead ; - which was one of those • things he termed tolerabiles ineptias, Englished by some, ( tolerable fooleries ; more mildly by others, tolerable un• fitnesses. The protector seemed to threaten to abolish episcopal authority itself, both out of church and state : But this was an impracticable scheme, and archbishop Cranmer soon convinced him of his errors. The foreigi professors, who had taken refuge, and were settled in England, were put upon combating the popish doctrine of the presence of Christ in the sacrament; and many disputes upon that head were held in the universities, as mentioned in the life of Peter Martyr. Calvin, in his epistolary correspondence with the protector, endeavoured to unite the Protestant churches : nay, (says Mr Strype,) there was so much joy abroad at the Reformation in England under Edward VI, that Calvin, Bullinger, and others,
in a letter to the king, offered to make him their de-. < fender, and to have bishops in their churches, as there 6 were in England ; with a tender of their service to assist « and unite together.' This good work was obstructed by the machinations of the council of Trent, and by the artifices of some popish bishops here at home. Calvin, however, renewed his endeavours upon the accession of queen Elizabeth, and, in a letter to archbishop Parker, desired him « to prevail with her majesty to summon a
« general assembly of all the Protestant clergy, where« soever dispersed, and that a set form and method might 6 be established, not only in her dominions, but also « among all the reformed and evangelical churches abroad.” While this important business was meditating, the design was frustrated by the death of Calvin ; but how probably all parties might have been reconciled appears from Cala vin's own opinion of a moderate episcopacy. Let them “ give us, (says he,) such an hierarchy, in which bishops s may be so above the rest, as they refuse not to be under « Christ, and depend upon him as their only head; that " they maintain a brotherly society, &c. If there be any “ that do not behave themselves with all reverence and 66 obedience towards them, there is no anathema, but I e confess them worthy of it.” The truth is, Calvin and Parker were but of one mind; and so are all good men, in essentials : They both laboured and wished to promote the establishment of pure religion, and not their own gain or glory. And so, in later times, if such men as archbishops Usher and Leighton, Mr Borrough, Mr Philip Henry, and some other excellent men, moderate in their tempers, and in their attachment to indifferent things, could have been assembled to determine the outward mode and form of the church, we should have had no dissenters among us but very bad men; and the hearts and hands of all true Christians would have been much more strengthened and united. This is the true purpose of all outward forms amongst Christians; who, if they have indeed the grace of God in their souls, have no real differences between themselves, worth a moment's contention. But to proceed.
Francis Baudouin, who lodged with Calvin, gave out, that, in Bucer's judgment, Calvin kept no measure either in his love or hatred, or that he either raised people above the heavens, or sunk them down to hell. But Calvin solemnly protested, that Bucer had never censured him in that manner. “ I call GOD and his angels to wit" ness, (says Calvin,) that what Baudouin recites of that “ matter, is a wicked fiction of his own. May GOD « so prosper me, as I never heard any such thing from “ Bucer: On the contrary, Bucer, whom I revere as a “ father, cultivated a mutual -brotherly friendship with
me, with so much affection, that it grieved him very " much when I left Strasburg. It is certain, he strove ¢ to the utmost to retain me by any means whatsoever. 4 There is also a letter of his to our senate, wherein he
« complains that I was recalled hither to the great loss of “ the whole church, and in short goes so far, that he " says, I am inferior to none of the ministers of sound “ doctrine, and have but few equals.” Baudouin confesses, in his answer, that he had not seen what Bucer had wrote to Calvin ; but he brags he had Calvin's answer to Bucer. Theodore Beza wrote to Baudouin, and made the following apology for Calvin ; - You say Calvin cursed
himself if ever he heard any such thing from Bucer :
But why do you omit what is most to the purpose ? . For these are Calvin's words : “ Baudouin says, that “ Bucer once told me that I kept no measure in my hatred « or love; but was a man of that vehemence, that I « either extolled a man above the skies, or debased him to “ hell." You see manifestly, though you are so blind ' with rage or hatred that you can see nothing, that what
you wrote obscurely of Bucer's rebuke, Calvin understood as of some conversation; and, therefore, remembering the sweet and uninterrupted friendship that had been between him and Bucer, did not rashly break out
into that expression; so that this is nothing at all to the • letter, which you have corrupted too; for Bucer, whose • letter I have in his own hand-writing, did not write, you
judge as you love, but we judge as we love, whereby he 5 comprehended himself in the number, and deplored a • common fault of mankind.' Beza also remarks, that those two great men soon altered their style in writing to each other; and that there are letters of Bucer to Calvin of a later date, and full of mildness."
. Calvin, (says a late excellent writer) has been taxed with fierceness and bigotry: But his meekness and be
nevolence were as eminent, as the malice of his tra• ducers is shameless. I shall give one single instance of r his modesty and gentleness. While he was a very young • man, disputes ran high between Luther and some other • Reformers, concerning the manner of Christ's presence « in the holy sacrament. Luther, whose temper was na
turally warm and rough, heaped many hard names on • the divines who differed from him on the article of con. I substantiation; and, among the rest, Calvin came in • for his dividend of abuse. Being informed of the harsh ' appellations he received, he meekly replied, in a letter ' to Bullinger; “ It is a frequent saying with me, that, « if Luther should even call me a devil, I hold him not“ withstanding in such veneration, that I shall always « own him to be an illustrious servant of GOD; who, VoE. II.
o though he abounds in extraordinary virtues, is not with or out considerable imperfections.”_ Turretin's opinion r of him also deserves attention. • John Calvin, (says
he,) was à man, whose memory will be blessed in every o succeeding age. He instructed and enlightened, not r only the church of Geneva, but also the whole Reformed ( world, by his immense labours. Insomuch, that all the « Reformed churches are, in the gross, frequently called 6 by his name. Thus wrote this candid Arminian, and r therefore an unsuspected evidence of all undue partia« lity, so late as the year 1734.' See Toplady's Historic . Proof.
In 1548, Calvin wrote his « Antidote against the seven o sessions of the council of Trent.” He also wrote commentaries upon six of St Paul's Epistles : And he more fully confuted the Interim, which was published for the destruction of the German churches. He drew up a treatise against judicial astrology: And he sent letters to the Protestants at Roan, to detect the fraud of a Franciscan friar, who had spread among them the poisonous doctrines of the Libertines and Carpocratians. The latter were condemned in 208, for placing the image of Aristotle next to that of Jesus Christ; and for adoring him, through an extravagant zeal for his doctrine.
The next year, Calvin lost his wife, who was a valuable woman; and he bore his loss with such constancy, that it gave an excellent example to the whole church.
A great contention happened in the Saxon churches about things indifferent : Upon which they sent to Calvin for his judgment, who freely declared his opinion to them. He also admonished Melancthon of his duty, who was accused for too much softness in this point : But Calvin afterwards found it to be a false charge. He wrote consolatory letters to Brentius in his exile. He accompained Farel to Zurick, where, in a syond of all the Helvetian churches, he shewed his agreement with them; and indeed there was no great difficulty to bring good and wise men into an harmonious concord. This agreement made a stronger union between the churches of Zurick and Geneva ; and increased the friendship between Calvin and Bullinger.
When Calvin returned to Geneva, the senate published a decree, empowering the ministers to require of every family an account of their faith: And they ordered, that no holy-day should be observed but the sabbath. This made the enemies of Calvin say, he had even abolished