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Calvin

.. of its ecclesiastical princes, abandoned the city, which received ./cathen/12495a.htm teachers from Berne in 1519 and from Fribourg in 1526. In 1527 the arms of Savoy were torn down; in 1530 the Catholic party underwent defeat, and Geneva became independent. It had two councils, but the final verdict on public measures rested with the people. These appointed Farel, a convert of Le Fevre, as their preacher in 1534. A discussion between the two Churches from 30 May to 24 June, 1535 ended in victory for the ./cathen/12495a.htm.

The altars were desecrated, the sacred images broken, the Mass done away with. Bernese troops entered and the Gospel was accepted, 21 May, 1536. This implied persecution of Catholics by the councils which acted both as Church and State. Priests were thrown into prison; citizens were fined for not attending sermons. At Zrich, Basle, and Berne the same laws were established.

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Toleration did not enter into the ideas of the time. But though Calvin had not introduced this legislation, it was mainly by his influence that in January, 1537 the articles were voted which insisted on communion four times a year, set spies on delinquents, established a moral censorship, and punished the unruly with excommunication. There was to be a children’s catechism, which he drew up; it ranks among his best writings. The city now broke into jurants and nonjurors for many would not swear to the articles; indeed, they never were completely accepted. Questions had arisen with Berne touching points that Calvin judged to be indifferent.

He made a figure in the debates at Lausanne defending the freedom of Geneva. But disorders ensued at home, where recusancy was yet rife; in 1538 the council exiled Farel, Calvin, and the blind evangelist, Couraud. The Reformer went to Strasburg, became the guest of Capito and Bucer, and in 1539 was explaining the New Testament to French refugees at fifty two florins a year. Cardinal Sadolet had addressed an open letter to the Genevans, which their exile now answered. Sadolet urged that schism was a crime; Calvin replied that the Roman Church was corrupt. He gained applause by his keen debating powers at Hagenau, Worms, and Ratisbon. But he complains of his poverty and ill-health, which did not prevent him from marrying at this time Idelette de Bure, the widow of an Anabaptist whom he had converted. Nothing more is known of this lady, except that she brought him a son who died almost at birth in 1542, and that her own death took place in 1549. After some negotiation Ami Perrin, commissioner for Geneva, persuaded Calvin to return.

He did so, not very willingly, on 13 September, 1541. His entry was modest enough. The church constitution now recognized pastors, doctors, elders, deacons but supreme power was given to the magistrate. Ministers had the spiritual weapon of God’s word; the consistory never, as such, wielded the secular arm Preachers, led by Calvin, and the councils, instigated by his opponents, came frequently into collision. Yet the ordinances of 1541 were maintained; the clergy, assisted by lay elders, governed despotically and in detail the actions of every citizen. A presbyterian Sparta might be seen at Geneva; it set an example to later Puritans, who did all in their power to imitate its discipline.

The pattern held up was that of the Old Testament, although Christians were supposed to enjoy Gospel liberty. In November, 1552, the Council declared that Calvin’s Institutes were a holy doctrine which no man might speak against. Thus the State issued dogmatic decrees, the force of which had been anticipated earlier, as when Jacques Gouet was imprisoned on charges of impiety in June, 1547, and after severe torture was beheaded in July. Some of the accusations brought against the unhappy young man were frivolous, others doubtful. What share, if any, Calvin took in this judgment is not easy to ascertain. The execution of however must be laid at his door; it has given greater offence by far than the banishment of Castellio or the penalties inflicted on Bolsec — moderate men opposed to extreme views in discipline and doctrine, who fell under suspicion as reactionary.

The Reformer did not shrink from his self-appointed task. Within five years fifty-eight sentences of death and seventy-six of exile, besides numerous committals of the most eminent citizens to prison, took place in Geneva. The iron yoke could not be shaken off. In 1555, under Ami Perrin, a sort of revolt was attempted. No blood was shed, but Perrin lost the day, and Calvin’s theocracy triumphed. I am more deeply scandalized, wrote Gibbon at the single execution of Servetus than at the hecatombs which have blazed in the autos-da-f of Spain and Portugal.

He ascribes the enmity of Calvin to personal malice and perhaps envy. The facts of the case are pretty well ascertained. Born in 1511, perhaps at Tudela, Michael Served y Reves studied at Toulouse and was present in Bologna at the coronation of ./cathen/03625a.htm. He travelled in Germany and brought out in 1531 at Hagenau his treatise De Trinitatis Erroribus, a strong Unitarian work which made much commotion among the more orthodox Reformers. He met Calvin and disputed with him at Paris in 1534, became corrector of the press at Lyons; gave attention to medicine, discovered the lesser circulation of the blood, and entered into a fatal correspondence with the dictator of Geneva touching a new volume Christianismi Restitutio, which he intended to publish.

In 1546 the exchange of letters ceased. The Reformer called Servetus arrogant (he had dared to criticize the Institutes in marginal glosses), and uttered the significant menace, If he comes here and I have any authority, I will never let him leave the place alive. The Restitutio appeared in 1553. Calvin at once had its author delated to the Dominican inquisitor Ory at Lyons, sending on to him the man’s letters of 1545-46 and these glosses. Hereupon the Spaniard was imprisoned at Vienne, but he escaped by friendly connivance, and was burnt there only in effigy. Some extraordinary fascination drew him to Geneva, from which he intended to pass the Alps. He arrived on 13 August, 1553.

The next day Calvin, who had remarked him at the sermon, got his critic arrested, the preacher’s own secretary coming forward to accuse him. Calvin drew up forty articles of charge under three heads, concerning the ./cathen/06612a.htm, infant baptism, and the attack which Servetus had ventured on his own teaching. The council hesitated before taking a deadly decision, but the dictator, reinforced by Farel, drove them on. In prison the culprit suffered much and loudly complained. The Bernese and other Swiss voted for some indefinite penalty. But to Calvin his power in Geneva seemed lost, while the stigma of heresy; as he insisted, would cling to all ./cathen/12495a.htm if this innovator were not put to death.

Let the world see Bullinger counselled him, that Geneva wills the glory of Christ. Accordingly, sentence was pronounced 26 October, 1553, of burning at the stake. Tomorrow he dies, wrote Calvin to Farel. When the deed was done, the Reformer alleged that he had been anxious to mitigate the punishment, but of this fact no record appears in the documents. He disputed with Servetus on the day of execution and saw the end. A defence and apology next year received the adhesion of the Genevan ministers.

Melanchthon, who had taken deep umbrage at the blasphemies of the Spanish Unitarian, strongly approved in well-known words. But a group that included Castellio published at Basle in 1554 a pamphlet with the title, Should heretics be persecuted? It is considered the first plea for toleration in modern times. Beza replied by an argument for the affirmative, couched in violent terms; and Calvin, whose favorite disciple he was, translated it into French in 1559. The dialogue, Vaticanus, written against the Pope of Geneva by Castellio, did not get into print until 1612. Freedom of opinion, as Gibbon remarks, was the consequence rather than the design of the ./cathen/12700b.htm. Another victim to his fiery zeal was Gentile, one of an Italian sect in Geneva, which also numbered among its adherents Alciati and Gribaldo.

As more or less Unitarian in their views, they were required to sign a confession drawn up by Calvin in 1558. Gentile subscribed it reluctantly, but in the upshot he was condemned and imprisoned as a perjurer. He escaped only to be twice incarcerated at Berne, where in 1566, he was beheaded. Calvin’s impassioned polemic against these Italians betrays fear of the ./cathen/14113a.htm which was to lay waste his vineyard. Politically he leaned on the French refugees, now abounding in the city, and more than equal in energy — if not in numbers — to the older native factions.

Opposition died out. His continual preaching, represented by 2300 sermons extant in the manuscripts and a vast correspondence, gave to the Reformer an influence without example in his closing years. He wrote to Edward VI, helped in revising the ./cathen/02678c.htm, and intervened between the rival English parties abroad during the ./cathen/09766a.htm period. In the ./cathen/07527b.htm troubles he sided with the more moderate. His censure of the conspiracy of Amboise in 1560 does him honour. One great literary institution founded by him, the College, afterwards the University, of Geneva, flourished exceedingly.

The students were mostly French. When Beza was rector it had nearly 1500 students of various grades. Geneva now sent out pastors to the French congregations and was looked upon as the ./cathen/12495a.htm Rome. Through ./cathen/08680a.htm, the Scottish champion of the Swiss Reformation, who had been preacher to the exiles in that city, his native land accepted the discipline of the Presbytery and the doctrine of predestination as expounded in Calvin’s Institutes. The Puritans in England were also descendants of the French theologian.

His dislike of theatres, dancing and the amenities of society was fully shared by them. The town on Lake Leman was described as without crime and destitute of amusements. Calvin declaimed against the Libertines, but there is no evidence that any such people had a footing inside its walls The cold, hard, but upright disposition characteristic of the ./cathen/12710a.htm, less genial than that derived from Luther, is due entirely to their founder himself. Its essence is a concentrated pride, a love of disputation, a scorn of opponents. The only art that it tolerates is music, and that not instrumental.

It will have no ./cathen/06021b.htm in its calendar, and it is austere to the verge of ./cathen/09591a.htm hatred of the body. When dogma fails the ./cathen/03198a.htm, he becomes, as in the instance of Carlyle, almost a pure Stoic. At Geneva, as for a time in Scotland, says J. A. Froude, moral sins were treated as crimes to be punished by the magistrate. The Bible was a code of law, administered by the clergy.

Down to his dying day Calvin preached and taught. By no means an aged man, he was worn out in these frequent controversies. On 25 April, 1564, he made his will, leaving 225 French crowns, of which he bequeathed ten to his college, ten to the poor, and the remainder to his nephews and nieces. His last letter was addressed to Farel. He was buried without pomp, in a spot which is not now ascertainable.

In the year 1900 a monument of expiation was erected to Servetus in the Place Champel. Geneva has long since ceased to be the head of ./cathen/03198a.htm. It is a rallying point for ./cathen/06258b.htm, ./cathen/14062a.htm propaganda, and ./cathen/11074a.htm conspiracies. But in history it stands out as the Sparta of the ./cathen/12710a.htm, and Calvin is its Religion Essays.

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