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Title: John Calvin's Writings - Character of Calvin, by the Translator
Author: John Calvin
Language: English

Few writers or divines, in any age, have been more exposed to the calumnies of their enemies, or
less flattered by their friends, than John Calvin. His genius, his talents, his learning, his
unwearied labor, his persevering activity, and his striking disinterestedness, secured for him no
small share in the reformation. His system of church government, which originated in a great
measure from the peculiar circumstances of affairs in Geneva, and was extended to France,
Scotland, Holland, etc., gave him a more extended influence, and undisputed power, than he
would otherwise have obtained, and contributed also to make him an object of hatred to the
Roman hierarchy.

A deep and well founded conviction that he has long labored in my own country under a heavy
load of unmerited obloquy induces me to draw a few outlines of his character. In doing this, I
have been guided by all the authentic documents which I could command, without paying any
regard to the statements either of his friends or foes.

Timidity, nay, even pusillanimity was one of the most striking features in the natural character of
Calvin. He wanted courage, as a man, to face and encounter the commonest danger, while, as a
Christian, he was prepared to meet the violent assaults of the most powerful emperors and
monarchs, and to smile, with the most composed complacency, at the grim countenance of the
king of terrors in his most horrid forms, he placed no confidence in himself, but depended upon
the protection, and guidance, and strength of the arm of Omnipotence. He knew that his own
power was nothing; but, relying upon the promises of unchanging Truth and infinite Love, no
dominion, however great — no opposition, however violent — made him shrink from his
Christian duty, or in any instance either to deny or recant the truth. He rested safe and secure
under the panoply of the Lord of Hosts, whether threatened by the blasts of the pope and his
minions, or attacked in Geneva by the vilest and most unprincipled of men. His religious and
moral courage — the gift of the Holy Spirit — in which he was not surpassed by Luther himself,
never forsook him; and he was equally intrepid in exposing what he considered the errors of
improper compliances of the most distinguished leaders in the reformation, as he was
unflinching in his opposition to every kind of heresy, and every heresiarch whose views
diminished the simplicity, undermined the truth, or obscured on his own unceasing combat with
the Anti-Christ, used no armor but what he took from the impregnable tower of dive in truth, and
gloried in no strength, but the love, the righteousness, the grace, and regenerating influences of
the Most High.

Calvin from his earliest years, was unweared in the pursuit of knowledge, and from the first
moment that the book of God was opened to his mind by the Spirit of truth, to the last thread of
his existence, no labor, however great — no study, however arduous — no meditation, however
intense, retarded him in his glorious career of doing all in his power for extending the kingdom
of heaven. His most violent and implacable enemies have never dared to deny him this praise,
and even Voltaire holds him up to the admiration and imitation of mankind for his almost
unparalleled industry, and his admirable disinterestedness. If all his published and unpublished
works were translated, they would form at least seventy octavo volumes, which were prepared in
the midst of constant preaching and lecturing, of unceasing care for the church of God, continued
controversies with the opponents of the gospel, arduous struggles for preserving the doctrines
and discipline of the church of Geneva, frequent trials from his enemies, and repeated
indisposition, during the short period of thirty-one years, he lived and labored ever mindful of
the coming of his Savior; and was distinguished by study, contemplation, watchfulness,
thanksgiving, and prayer.

Calvin’s labors were incessant. He delivered more than 300 sermons and lectures every year; and
his correspondence, commentaries, controversial writings, and admonitions, etc., would form
annually, during the period of thirty one years, between two and three volumes octavo. The
following extract from a letter to Farel, written in 1539, when he published his Commentary on
Romans, gives us a clear view of the active character and persevering labors of our reformer.
“When the messenger called for my book, I had twenty sheets to revise — to preach — to read to
the congregation — to write four letters — to attend to some controversies — and to return
answers to more than ten persons who interrupted me in the midst of my labors for advice.” If
Protestant divines, in the nineteenth century, exhibited the same perseverance and alacrity in
business which distinguished the great luminaries of the reformation, we should not hear of
complaints about the increase of the Roman Catholics. The hierarchy of the church of Rome,
both in England, in Ireland, and Scotland, can only be overcome by out-preaching, out-praying,
and out-living them.

There is no part of the conduct of the reformers more worthy of imitation than their admirable
disinterestedness. The following passage from a letter of Calvin to Farel, written in 1539, proves
under how great a pressure of poverty his Commentary to the Romans was written. “The
Waldensian brethren are indebted to me for a crown, one part of which I lent them, and the other
I paid to their messenger. who came with my brother to bring the letter from Sonerius. I
requested them to give it you as a partial payment of my debt. I will return you the rest when I
am able. My present condition is so very poor, that I have not one penny. It is singular, although
my expenses are so great, that I must still live upon my own money unless I would burden my
brethren. It is not easy for me to take that care of my health which you so affectionately
recommended.” Had the ministers of the gospel in all ages displayed the same disinterestedness
of conduct which marked Calvin, who left only three hundred crowns, even scandal itself could
never have accused the clergy of avarice. Had all our archbishops and bishops exhibited the
same spirit of love which distinguished the late bishop of Durham, who expended between two
and three hundred thousand pounds in religious and benevolent purposes, and in giving money
even for the building of Dissenting places of worship, no true Christian could have complained
on account of the large annual stipends which the English bishops receive. Let the Dissenting
ministers imitate the conduct of John Wesley, who spent more than twenty thousand pounds in
promoting the interests of religion and philanthropy, and died nearly as poor as Calvin; and the
constant example of disinterested conduct, which the clergy of all denominations would then
exhibit could not fail to increase the liberal character of the laymen.

His learning was uncommonly accurate, and so extensive that Scaliger considered him the
profoundest scholar since the days of the apostles. No man has made less parade and show of his
knowledge, or been more assiduous in rendering it subservient to the great purpose of religion.
The defense, illustration, and explanation of the Scriptures formed the great leading object of his
life; and his writings will ever remain a monument of his zeal and ardor in the cause of God and
truth. Although he knew how to appreciate every kind and every department of literature and
science, yet he was fully convinced that the treasury of the divine word, which had for so many
centuries been concealed from the world by a tyrannical hierarchy, could only he unlocked by
the most patient research, and extensive acquaintance with all the stores of ancient and modern
knowledge. f25a Few men seem to have possessed a stronger or more retentive memory, both for
words and things, than this great luminary of the reformation.

Close attention, clearness of thinking, order, frequent repetition, uncommon pleasure, and deep
interest, in the great object of his pursuit, gave him an accuracy, extent, and quickness of
retentive faculties rarely surpassed, he laid up all his varied stores of learning in well-arranged
compartments, and was enabled to take them out for every requisite purpose with great facility
and correctness.

His judgment, logical sagacity, and accuracy were in no respect inferior to his memory; and few
writers surpassed him in perceiving the various bearings of the subject which he investigated, he
is indebted to this faculty for his uncommon power of generalization and success in making
systems, and giving well-digested and clear catechetical instructions, which he highly valued as
containing the true seeds of doctrine. All his writings are intended to cast light upon each other,
and few authors of any age have exhibited greater uniformity, and consistency of sentiment —
one of the surest marks of a sound judgment — than our reformer. Strong expressions
occasionally occur, as in all controversial writers; but by carefully weighing and comparing them
with each other, their harshness will be found to be much diminished. The scope, drift, relation,
and connection of a passage rarely escape the minuteness, clearness, and completeness of his
discriminative powers.

His imagination is greatly inferior to the other faculties of his mind; and he very rarely indulges
in the fascinations of this delightful and uncommon talent. When he suffers himself to be hurried
off by any sudden sallies of this frequently wayward power, he invariably keeps it under the
steady curb and unceasing restraint of judgment.

His affections were warm and ardent. As a brother, friend, husband, father, and minister of the
word of God, he displayed strong and steady attachment. He carried his brother Anthony to
Geneva, and manifested towards him and his family the greatest and steadfast love. After the
death of his friend Caurault, he says, in a letter to Farel, “I am so overwhelmed that I can put no
limits to my sorrow. My daily occupations have no power to retain my mind from recurring to
the event, and revolving constantly the impressive thought. The distressing impulses of the day
are followed by the more torturing anguish of the night. I am not only troubled with dreams, to
which I am inured by habit, but I am greatly enfeebled by those restless watchings which are
extremely injurious to my health.” f26 Calvin thus writes to Viret on the death of his wife: “I
repress, as much as I am able, the sorrow of my heart. With all the exertions of my friends, I
effect less in assuaging my grief than I could wish; but I cannot express the consolations which I
experience. You know the tenderness of my mind, or rather with what effeminacy I yield under
trials; so that without the exercise of much moderation I could not have supported the pressure of
my sorrow.” His unceasing efforts for the spiritual improvement of his church, both at
Strasburgh and Geneva, leave no doubt of the warmth of his attachment. His friends also
invariably manifested their strong love to Calvin, and this affords an undoubted evidence of
mutual and reciprocal feelings. The tears of the magistrates and the ministers of Geneva, when
he was on his death-bed, supply the clearest and most undoubted proof that he had a warm and a
feeling heart.

How, it may be asked, did Calvin comfort himself under his wounded affections? He knew and
felt that his light afflictions, which were but for a moment, were working out for him a far more
abundant, even an eternal weight of glory. The following extracts from his letters prove that he
relied on no comfort but that of his gracious Savior. “The Lord,” he writes to Farel, “has spared
us to survive Caurault. Let us be diligent to follow his example; and watchful to tread in the path
of increasing light, till we shall have finished our course. Let no difficulties dismay us, or any
weight of earthly sufferings impede our progress towards that rest, into which we trust he is
received. Without the hope of this glory to cheer us in our way, we shall be overcome with
difficulties, and driven to despair. But as the truth of the Lord remains firm and unshaken, so let
us abide in the hope of our calling, until the hidden kingdom of God be made manifest.” After
the death of his wife, he writes to Farel: “I now suppress the sorrow of my heart, and give myself
no remission from my official duties. May the Lord Jesus strengthen me in this so great calamity,
which would inevitably have overpowered me unless he had stretched forth his hand from
heaven, whose office it is to raise the fallen, to strengthen the weak, and to refresh the weary.”

Viret, in his answer to Calvin on the death of his with, thus writes: — “I admire the influence of
that divine Spirit which operates in you, and proves himself by his fruits worthy of the name of
the true Comforter.

Justly may I acknowledge the power of that Spirit in you, since you bear with so composed a
mind those domestic misfortunes, which must intimately affect, with the greatest possible
severity, your heart, that was always so readily involved in the calamities of others, and so
accustomed to feel them, as if they were your own. Your example inspires others with new
strength, since you can draw consolation from your own trials, and conduct yourself in all the
duties of your office, at a time when your sorrows are recent, and have the keenest edge to
wound and destroy your constancy, with as much readiness and ease as when all was well. May
the exuberant grace of divine goodness, from which proceed all those other gifts, that the Lord
hath so richly bestowed upon you, supply your own mind with the resolution to bear this cross.”
His feelings for the church of Geneva when he was most unjustly banished by them, show the
ardor of his attachment to the church of God, which had once been intrusted to his care. In a
letter to Viret, he says, “My thoughts relative to the arduous office of governing the church,
disturb and perplex my mind with various anxieties; but their influence will not prevent me from
doing every thing which I judge best for its welfare. Nothing is more conformable to my wishes
and desires than to give up my life in the discharge of my duty. I entreated our friends with tears,
that, omitting all consideration of me, they should consult, in the presence of God, what would
be most beneficial to the church of Geneva.”

Calvin thus writes on this subject in the Preface to his Commentary on the Psalms. “The
obligation and responsibility of my office determined me to restore myself to the flock from
which I had been violently separated; and the best of Beings is my witness with what deep
sorrow, abundance of tears, and extreme anxiety, I entered upon my office.”

To what was Calvin indebted for all the courage, learning, industry, and success, which he
possessed? To a deep and settled piety. After leaving the darkness and superstitions of popery,
he gave up his undivided attention to the sacred records of the divine will. Nor did he study them
for the purpose of confirming his mind in preconceived opinions, but of discovering the
counsels, the plans, the truths of infinite wisdom. His great design was to follow the Lamb of
God whithersoever he went. Hence, by the illumination of the divine Spirit, that confidence and
full assurance of faith, which he so strongly insists on and so beautifully describes. Hence that
noble heroism, with which he pursued the onward tenor of his course, in breaking down the
barriers of popery, and building up the exalted and stately pillars of the reformation, he knew the
power of the divine word, that it was able to bring down all high thoughts in subjection to the
dominion of Christ, and to overcome all principalities and powers. Hence his numerous
commentaries, and his unwearied expositions, both by lectures and by preaching, of the word of
God. To this, and this alone, was he indebted for the confidence with which he met all his
enemies and all his trials; with which he faced all the combined artifice and violence of the
Roman Catholics, and the various sects and heresies rising out of the bosom of the reformation
itself.

Calvin, on his death-bed, looked back, with a self-approving conscience, to the labors in which
he had been engaged; and though he condemns himself for displaying too great violence of
temper on certain occasions, never once complains of self-accusation on account of the death of
Servetus, or of any other part of his arduous labors in opposing Castellio, or others.

Conscience has two great offices to perform, and in one capacity it acts as an accuser and a
judge, in the other as a director and a guide. The improper use of this guide of our thoughts and
actions has been the occasion and the cause of more suffering, and persecution, and misery, than
almost all other causes put together. To this we must trace the error and the sin of the disciples
John and James, when they wished to call down fire from heaven, and our beloved Savior told
them that they knew not what spirit they were of. To this we must attribute the persecution of
pagan and papal Rome; and the first reformers themselves derived from this extensive source of
error, of sin, and of crime, the persecuting principles by which they were all influenced.
Although Calvin had escaped from the deep abyss of popish darkness, he still continued to be
enthralled and awfully deluded by the horrid principle of persecution which he placed in the
hands of the civil magistrate, as the church of Rome vested it in their ruinous, ignorant, and
corrupt hierarchy. Had the church of Geneva been separated from the state, Calvin would never
have thought of placing in the hands of the clergy of that city the power of punishing the
blasphemy of Servetus as a capital crime, since simple excommunication was the extreme
punishment, which the consistory could inflict. Our reformer was so thoroughly convinced of the
power of the magistrates extending to blasphemy against God, that he declares the apostles
themselves, had the government under which they lived been Christian, would have abetted and
sanctioned persecution. The true followers of the meek and lowly Jesus must be compelled to
shed tears over this pernicious and altogether ruthless principle, which was adopted and
maintained by all the great leaders of the reformation. Nay, the very same persecution has been
continued in England until the other day, when Taylor and Carlile were liberated from prison.
May no Briton ever again have cause to lament over this anti-Christian conduct on the part of a
government, which is professedly in league and alliance with the ecclesiastical establishment of
the country. The great and peculiar glory of Christianity is love to God and love to man, founded
on the principle of faith in a dying, risen, and interceding Savior, who will finally come in the
character of a Judge to separate the goats from the sheep, and to assign to each their portion in
endless happiness or misery. It does not confide in the arm of man, in the power of emperors or
of kings for success, but looks up with unbounded confidence to the Lord of Sabaoth for final
victory and triumph.

Calvin was not influenced by any feelings of private revenge, or of personal malevolence against
Servetus, as many, contrary to all the evidence of the truth of history and biography, have
asserted. He was anxious to remove all heretical opinions, and to watch over the purity of the
faith of the church at Geneva, as well as of all the Protestant churches.

This was one cause of his bringing Servetus to trial, and his desire to convince him of the error
of his opinions, and to convert, him to the belief of the truth as it is in Jesus, was, another. All the
Swiss Protestant churches concurred with that of Geneva in sanctioning the punishment of the
Spanish physician. Calvin was desirous that his punishment should have been less ignominious,
and not burning, but the magistrates of Geneva opposed this measure.

It is unfair, uncandid, and ungenerous, to lay the whole weight of persecution, as many
Englishmen do, upon the shoulders of Calvin. f30 Lambert and Askew were burnt in the reign of
Henry VIII; Vane Pare and Joan of Arc, by Edward VI, at the instigation and urgent solicitation
of Archbishop Cranmer, a pattern of humility, meekness, and charity, at Smithfield, London,
three years before Servetus suffered at the Champel of Geneva. Two Anabaptists were capitally
punished under Elizabeth, and sixty Roman Catholics: Legate and Wightman, two Arians, under
James I.

Cold must be the heart that does not feel, and tearless the eyes that do not sympathize with all the
victims of persecution under Charles I and II.

The distinction which Servetus has attained for his various writings, particularly as the
discoverer of the pulmonic circulation of the blood before our illustrious Harvey, has contributed
to make his trial and punishment more conspicuous, while those who suffered in England have
been little noticed in consequence of their ignorance and want of celebrity.

Our reformer has been calumniated without mercy and justice, and with all the rancor of
malevolence and fury, by many of our anonymous compilers of Biographical Dictionaries. Even
Dr. Lempriere, in his Universal Biography, makes the most unfounded assertion, contrary to all
the authentic evidence of history, that two long hours elapsed while Servetus was burning at the
stake. Is such conduct worthy of the generosity for which my countrymen are so justly
renowned?

What has Calvin done to merit such treatment from any of the natives of the British Isles, or of
Ireland herself? We are indebted for all our psalmody in the church of England to Calvin, who
fostered with paternal care the English exiles under the persecution of queen Mary; and these
refugees annexed the Psalms, versified and set to music, to a translation of the Scriptures in the
English language, made chiefly by Coverdale, Goodman, Knox, Gibbs, Sampson, Colt, and
Whittingham. This version of the Psalms soon superseded the Te Deum Benedicite, Magnificat,
Nunc Dimittis, which had been retained until that time in the church of England from that of
Rome. Had Calvin done nothing else for us than this, he deserved at least to have received fair
treatment at our hands.

Not satisfied with this, Calvin used every effort in his power, by correspondence with Peter
Martyr, Bucer, Fagius, Cranmer, Sir William Cecil, Sir John Cheke, the Lord Protector of
England, and others, to have the liturgy of that church improved. He dedicated also his
Commentary on Isaiah, and the Canonical Epistles, to Edward the Sixth, who is justly compared
with king Josiah; and he points out to him the great value and importance of the Scriptures, as
the only certain means for subverting the kingdom of Antichrist. He dedicates also one edition of
his Commentaries on Isaiah to Elizabeth. In his letter to the Protector, he strongly approves of a
liturgy, since it would establish a more certain agreement of all the churches among themselves,
check the instability and levity of innovators, and detect the introduction of new opinions by an
immediate appeal to such a standard. He objects against prayers for the dead, the use of chrism,
and extreme unction. “Religion,” he writes, “cannot be restored to its purity while the spurious
and counterfeit Christianity of popery, that sink of pollution, is only partially drawn off, and a
frightful form of the religion of Jesus is embraced for the pure and original faith.” In the
concluding part of this letter he points out the necessity of maintaining the honor of God in
punishing fornication, adultery, cursing, and drunkenness.

Does not Calvin merit the praise of every true-hearted Englishman, for recommending such
reformation to the uncle of king Edward? Nay, is it not high time that something more effectual
be at present done by the state, in checking drunkenness, if it takes any interest either in the
religious or moral improvement of our country? In some parts of the kingdom, there is a
public-house or tavern for a population of one hundred inhabitants; and, if we allow one for
every three hundred, the places as receptacles for drinking will amount to seventy thousand,
which is more than three times the number of all the clergyman belonging to the Established
church in Great Britain and Ireland. Have we a right to consider that government as paying the
least regard to the morals or religion of a country, which sanctions and licenses such a
disproportionate and unnecessary number of abodes for the drunkard, or the licentious? Surely it
is high time that something else be done for our native land, than the continued following up of a
system, which raises so large a portion of the taxes of the country, by encouraging drunkenness,
which destroys the health, the morals, the religion of the country, and is more effectual in
destroying domestic comfort and happiness, than all other schemes of demoralization combined.
How many families are there among us, which can produce some husband, brother, or son, who
have fallen martyrs to this most degrading and brutalizing of all vices. When will a reformed
parliament be able to say that the following line of Cowper cannot be applied to them, — “Ye all
can swallow, and they ask no more.” f31 Calvin’s uncommon care for all the Protestant churches
in Europe, merits the highest praise. His various letters, dedications, exhortations, written to
every nation of any eminence, where the true principles of the gospel had been introduced, afford
a lasting proof of his ardor and zeal in promoting genuine Christianity.

His letters to John Knox, the Scotch reformer, prove his earnest zeal for the spiritual welfare of
that part of the kingdom; and I am sure none, who has had the happiness, which I have
experienced, of residing in that land of kindness, hospitality, education, morality, and religion,
can entertain a moment’s doubt of the great advantages which Scotland has derived from the
reformer of Geneva. It is, however, not a little singular, that no distinguished author in that
kingdom, with whose writings I am acquainted, has done anything of importance, either in
vindicating the character of Calvin from the unjust aspersions of his calumniators, or in
translating any of his writings. They have been desirous to impress his own character on
themselves and their countrymen, than to exhibit to future ages a full and graphic delineation of
every lineament and feature which distinguish this luminary of the reformation. I trust the time is
not distant when one of the ablest biographers of the age — whose kindness I must ever cherish
with the most grateful feelings — to whom Knox and Melville stand indebted for such a just,
impartial, and correct view of all their labors, studies, and attachment to the gospel and their
country — will be equally successful in doing complete justice to their great master and leader in
the cause of truth and righteousness.

It yet remains for Scotland to rise as one man, and to demand from a reformed parliament the
same freedom in the electing of the ambassadors of the Most High, which has been lately granted
them in the appointment of their country and city members. Religion never will, and never can
flourish in its full extent, until the whole united empire shall feel a deeper interest in the
appointment of ministers of the gospel, than in the choice of any civil officer, however high or
powerful. It may be doubted whether even a tenth part of all the archbishops, bishops, deans,
priests, deacons, and ministers of the word of God, in every part of the kingdom, are elected by
the people. Surely then religion cannot be made a personal consideration, while so large a part of
the inhabitants appear to rest satisfied with such spiritual guides, directors, and comforters, as the
caprice, or interest, or party feeling of the government, or of other patrons, shall appoint. This
state of things must be altered, if we ever expect to behold a lasting and soul-stirring change in
the religious character and views of the whole empire. All the Churchmen and Dissenters in the
United kingdom should use every exertion to inspire their hearers with a deep sense of the
importance and actual necessity of selecting on all occasions their own spiritual instructors.

Ireland herself bears ample testimony, in the province of Ulster, to the advantages which she has
derived from the industry, manufactures, education, and religion, introduced into that country by
the followers of Calvn; and we hope the time is not far distant when the wrongs of that oppressed
nation will be redressed, and the glorious principles of unadulterated Christianity produce their
genuine effect, and seat her side by side with her two sisters, England and Scotland.

Nor is Calvin entitled to receive common justice at the hands of Briton, merely on account of his
labors for promoting our greatest blessings, by advancing the cause of religion. Hume — whose
opinion was not in danger of being warped by any love to Christianity — has clearly proved, in
his reign of Elizabeth, that we are chiefly indebted for our liberties to the stand which the
Dissenters, who were generally Calvinists, made against the arbitrary measures of that illustrious
queen. The friends of slavery are entitled to do their utmost against John Calvin; but no lover of
freedom — no true Briton — no genuine Irishman — no real patriot, can or dare lay his hand on
his heart, and say he has cause to withhold from our reformer his merited share of praise.

Louis the Eleventh wished his son to know merely one sentence, “that dissimulation is a
necessary ingredient in the character of a monarch, without which he cannot rule.”

Politicians alone know to what extent this principle has influenced their councils. All divines,
however, if they wish to have the least claim for that title, ought to adopt Calvin’s device,
“promptly and sincerely .” To these two principles guided by the light of the gospel, and the
piety and boldness it inspired, we may trace all that perseverance, all that heroism and
magnanimity with which he assailed the strong holds of popery, and dared to point out to the
greatest potentate of Europe, the conduct which they ought to pursue.

Weak, timid, pusillanimous, and effeminate as Calvin was by nature, when guided by the Spirit
of God, no danger dismayed him, no enemy arrested his progress. Our reformer manifested the
greatest candor and sincerity to the meek and gentle Melancthon, when he freely admonished
him of his too accommodating character, from a fear of being accused of harshness by the
enemies of the gospel. In writing to Melancthon, Calvin says, “The trepidation of a general, or
leader of an army, is more ignominious than the flight of common soldiers. All will condemn
your wavering as insufferable.

Give, therefore, a steady example of invincible constancy. The servants of Christ should pay no
more regard to their reputation than their lives. I do not suppose you are eager, like ambitious
men, for popular applause. I, however, ingenuously open my mind to you, lest that truly divine
magnanimity with which, otherwise, you are richly endowed, should be impeded in its
operations. I would sooner die a thousand deaths with you, than see you survive the doctrine
which you illustrate and deliver. Be solicitously watchful, lest impious cavillers take the
opportunity of assailing the gospel from your flexible disposition.” He displays the same
sincerity when speaking of his own temper, which was constitutionally susceptible of quick
emotions, and frankly acknowledges that he had not succeeded in his struggles to conquer his
impatience and irritability. “My exertions,” he says, “have not been entirely useless, although I
have not been able to conquer the ferocious animal.” Calvin never lost sight of the future
advancement and prosperity of the church of God, which his commentaries, controversies,
admonitions and other labors, were calculated to promote with the quickest promptness, and the
frankest sincerity.

Calvin’s opinions on all the principal subjects of evangelical truth, and the leading controversies
of that period, were the same with those which were entertained by Luther, and the most
distinguished leaders in the reformation. Even Melancthon writes, in a letter to Calvin, speaking
of predestination: “I know that these remarks agree with your opinions; but mine, since they are
less refined, are better adapted to common use.” In another part of the same letter Melancthon
says, “In beautifying the great and essential doctrines of the Son of God, I wish you to exercise
your eloquence, since it is able to confirm your friends, to terrify your enemies, and assist such
as may be saved. For whose eloquence in reasoning is more nervous and splendid?” Were not
Bucer and Peter Martyr employed in carrying on the reformation in England? Are not their
opinions the same, on all contested points, with Calvin’s? Why then should the Arminians of
Holland and Great Britain, labor to cast the whole blame upon Calvin? Did not Archbishop
Usher, Bishop Hall, the judicious Hooker, entertain the same theological creed? (See note D.) It
is surely high time that these able champions of the same opinions should bear some part of the
blame, if they deserve censure , with our weak and emaciated reformer. Theological hatred, the
most virulent and deadly of all, has been long dealt out without measure, or justice, or truth,
against the Genevese reformer in England, a nation justly distinguished for generosity; but the
time, it may be hoped, is not far distant, when new Horsleys will be raised up to break in pieces
the arrows of calumny, and to make all the followers of the Prince of peace and truth ashamed to
join the ranks of the infidels, in using the poisoned weapons of shameless detraction for the
purpose of vilifying the character of one of the most holy — the most undaunted — the most
laborious, and the most disinterested followers of a crucified Redeemer. f34 Calvin’s great
excellence as a commentator consists in his giving, first, a concise, clear, full, and minute view
of the scope, drift, and connection of the whole passage he is explaining, with the accuracy and
precision of uncommon logical sagacity and acuteness. He then, in the second place, generally
analyzes the sense of each word, and points out its appropriate meaning in the sentence where it
occurs. He uses, without any display, his immense stores of learning, for the purpose of
illustrating what is dark, enlightening what is obscure, and confirming what is doubtful. His
great object is to get to the pith of the subject under his consideration, and to break the shell, that
he may give his readers the kernel, he approaches the only record in which Infinite Truth
addresses lost mankind, with all the feelings of sacred awe, but without superstitious dread; and
his sole aim is to discover, by every possible means in his power, what was the mind of the
Spirit, without laboring to make the Scriptures bend to his own prejudices, or to support his
preconceived opinions. His Harmonies of the Law and Writings of Moses, and of the Gospel,
display the accuracy and extent of his research, which is only surpassed by the correctness of his
judgment. His views of Christian morality, in his various commentaries, are distinguished by a
holy simplicity, which scorns to fritter away the principles of eternal wisdom, or to
accommodate the unerring maxims of the gospel to the manners, customs, or practices of the
world. The great aim of Calvin, in his numerous expositions, was to dispel the clouds of popish
darkness by the glorious light and splendor of the word of the Most High.

None of the reformers understood the advantages of education more clearly than Calvin; and the
establishment of an excellent seminary in Geneva, both for human and divine learning, was one
of the last actions of his life. Even now, when Geneva has generally deserted the standards of the
original reformers, and joined those of Arius or Socinus, her sons rejoice in the great triumph
achieved by the wisdom of Calvin over the power of Napoleon, who, on conquering Geneva,
wanted courage to make any change in the system of education, which had been planted more
than 200 years before Bonaparte was born, by this distinguished friend of genuine Christianity,
and of a truly scriptural education. f35 Beza has left nothing to be added to his account of
Calvin’s death. Our reformer’s unshaken confidence in his Redeemer, care for the prosperity of
the state of Geneva, and the interests of religion in that city, afford a noble and unanswerable
testimony to the piety and integrity of his life. May it be the constant prayer and labor of every
Christian so to live that he may die the death of Calvin, and reposing with unshaken confidence
in the promises of his Immanuel, triumph with unutterable joy in the prospects of that happiness
which is prepared in the mansions of eternal peace and harmony, for all that love the appearing
of the King of glory.



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