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Art. II.-JOHN CALVIN : AN HISTORICAL
1. Joannis Calvini Opera quae supersunt omnia. Edid
erunt G. BAUMER, E. CUNITZ, E. REUSS. Tomi LIX.
(Braunschweig: Schwetschke. 1863–1900.) 2. Life of Calvin. By T. H. DYER. (London: John
Murray. 1850.) 3. Johann Calvin, seine Kirche und sein Staat in Genf. Von
F.W. KAMPSCHULTE. Two volumes. (Leipzig : Duncker
und Humblot. 1869–1899.) 4. Histoire du Peuple de Genève. Par AMÉDÉE ROGET.
Sept tomes. (Genève : Jullien. 1870-1883). 5. Servetus and Calvin. By R. Willis. (London: H. S.
King. 1877.) 6. La Théocratie à Genève au Temps de Calvin. Par E.
Choisy. (Genève : Eggimann. 1897.) 7. John Calvin. By WILLISTON WALKER. (New York:
G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1906.) 8. Jean Calvin : les Hommes et les Choses de son Temps.
Par E. DOUMERGUE. Tomes I.-III. (Lausanne :
Bridel. 1899-1905.) And many other works. To explain and apologize for the faults of a great man, while admitting their reality, is a service to be rendered by the biographer not only to the subject of his work but to mankind at large. To deny the existence of those faults is often to do a grave disservice to both. A false or glozing statement which can be disproved ; an intentional omission where an adversary can fill the hiatus ; a captious argument in the face of plain facts : these things when detected are deemed to militate against the character not so much of the biographer as of him whom he defends. And perhaps no man's memory has suffered more from want of candour on the part of zealous admirers than that of the great Reformer the fourth centenary of whose birth falls in the present year of grace. Down to sixty years ago there were but two opinions regarding John Calvin: one that of the Ultra
montanes as represented in the outrageous Vie de Calvin by Audin, who depicts a cold villain; the other that of Protestant Europe, which sought and found, as it believed, a blameless saint. This legendary figure was first dealt with in England by Dyer, who founded his work on an enthusiastic Leben Calvins' by one Paul Henry, a Protestant pastor, but used the documents supplied him by the latter to arrive at a calmer estimate of the Reformer's failings as well as his virtues. There followed the essay of Mark Pattison in the same sense, perhaps in parts a little exaggerated. And recently there has appeared the work of Professor Williston Walker, on the whole the most judicial which has yet been published, following closely on the lines of C. A. Cornelius' Historische Arbeiten.
It was hoped that in the monumental work of M. Doumergue would be found the final word not only on the facts of Calvin's life but on the enigmas of his character. This hope has scarcely been fulfilled. Sumptuous in form and brilliant in style, crowded and at times overladen with details bearing more on the times than on the history of the Reformer, and based on the newest documental discoveries, the book is fatally lacking in impartiality. Acute enough in his judgement of fables which can be swept aside without affecting the character of his hero, M. Doumergue refuses to recognize plain facts when dealing with the labours of his predecessors, especially those of the Old Catholic Kampschulte, certainly (with Roget and Cornelius) the fairest critic of Genevan history who has yet appeared, and acknowledged as such by both parties. Should M. Doumergue's work ever include the affair of Servetus, it is to be hoped that we may not find in him another defender of a lost cause.
a Born at Noyon in Picardy on July 10, 1509, and sprung ' Hamburg. 1835-44. Three vols.
Pattison, Collected Essays, ii. 1-41. 'The murder of the heroic Servetus' (p. 6) is surely not a very sane description ; nor is it possible to agree with the statement that Calvin neglected dogma (p. 23), while the assertion that he (p. 6) 'overthrew the liberties of the State which so generously sheltered him' seems at variance with that on p. 22, the discipline did not create freedom ; it organized and affirmed it.'
from that race of plebeian officials which afterwards gained recognition as the 'nobility of the robe,' and which gave to France some of her brightest geniuses, young John Calvin started with many advantages in life besides his own great talents. His father held ecclesiastical as well as civil office, and his constant relations with the great episcopal family of Hangest de Montmor” enabled him to have his son educated, though at his own expense, with the sons of that house. At the age of twelve the lad was invested with the revenues of a chapel ? in the cathedral of Noyon and subsequently, though he was never in holy orders, with the living of Martinville, which he exchanged for that of Pont l'Évêque. Not for the first or the last time did the Church cherish in her bosom a future foe. With the young Montmors Calvin was sent to the University of Paris, first to the Collège de la Marche and then to that nursery of great saints and great sinners, the Montaigu'3—infamous for its vermin, its riots, its debaucheries; famous for its pupils-Erasmus, Rabelais, Calvin, Xavier, Loyola ; the last of whom entered it even as Calvin departed for Orleans. Thither he went to study law at the desire, as he says, of his father ; possibly at his own also, for he had ever a juristic mind. Attracted by the fame of the great lawyer Alciati, he left Orleans for Bourges, but here he studied Greek also and that under the guidance of Melchior Wolmar, a German from whom it is suggested that he imbibed Protestant ideas. The question of his
Beza's presentation of this family as 'the Mommorii' led McCrie, (Early Years of Calvin, p. 5) to imagine that these were a different family from the Hangests. The Count-bishop of Noyon was ex officio one of the twelve peers of France.
2 To speak of this as a 'bursary' (C. H. Irwin, John Calvin : the Man and his Work, p. 9) is not candid. It was a mere ecclesiastical abuse, for which the best excuse was the prevalence of such, and it resulted in the usual complaints of scandalous neglect and non-residence. Cf. Doumergue, Jean Calvin, i. 39, n. 2.
• Doumergue, op. cit. i. 51-52, 69-73, has collected atrocious particulars. The students of the Montaigu were not riotous through over. feeding. No meat and no wine were allowed, except for 'theologians and priests,' who had for dinner a pint of wine among three, and a whole herring or two eggs; the students had half a herring or one egg apiece. * La délicatesse, c'était la mort,' says Doumergue truly.
change of opinions and its cause has been debated at wearisome length-Doumergue devotes to it thirty folio pagesand to no great purpose. It is certain that when in 1533 he returned to Paris and to the study of theology he was no longer a Romanist but not yet a Reformer. Here, however, he took his decisive step. He had made the acquaintance of the family of William Cop, a Baseler, the king's physician, and a friend of Reuchlin and Erasmus. A son of his, Nicolas, was Rector of the University in 1533, and had in that capacity to deliver a public oration at the Church of the Mathurins. This speech Calvin wrote for him and it proved so full of Protestant ideas that the Parliament of Paris courteously invited Cop to visit their assembly. He started to go, but luckily thought better of it and fled, as did Calvin, who had been identified as the true author of the speech and who had to escape by a window. But his troubles were not of long duration : Queen Margaret of Navarre succeeded in stopping the proceedings against him, and for a brief period he is said to have resided at her court at Nérac ; he was certainly also with his friend Louis du Tillet at Angoulême. But all this must have taken up a very short time, for in May 1534 he was back in Noyon, where he had already been in 1531 at the deathbed of his father who died at variance with the authorities of the Church over a matter which to the impartial observer savours of embezzlement.' Calvin's admirers do not hesitate to affirm that in 1534 he' surrendered' his benefices for conscientious
As a matter of fact he sold one and gave the other (Pont l'Évêque) to a relative. And then there ensued a most mysterious affair. He was twice imprisoned ; once for raising a tumult in church; the second time for no reason assigned. Doumergue thinks that the tumult was a pretext for laying the heretic by the heels ; but was Calvin
1 Williston Walker, John Calvin, p. 46.
* E.g. H. F. Henderson, Calvin in his Letters, p. 2 : “When personal religion took possession of him in his twenty-third year he resigned his benefices.' Doumergue, op. cit. i. 425, n. 3, is perfectly frank. "On le voit bien ; nous sommes dans une banque et non dans un temple.' The affair is strangely in contrast with Calvin's undoubted contempt for lucre in later life.
so very unlikely to proclaim his new views ? At all events from this episode arose the monstrous slander unweariedly propagated by Romanists to the effect that he was whipped and fleurdelisé (i.e. branded) for unnatural crime. Had the charge been brought against his brother Charles it would have been more probable. He died, a priest and excommunicated-no Protestant, indeed, as some would have it ; but, as Guizot first pointed out, merely a thoroughly bad man. A younger brother, Antoine, and a sister followed Calvin to Geneva.
Already, before this profession of Protestantism Calvin had published his first work—a commentary on the De Clementia of Seneca. It has been frequently reprinted, and it is the more remarkable that so few of the critics who talk of it seem to have read it. Varillas' heads the list of such with the statement that Calvin filled it with praises of the Sacramentarians and invectives against the ancient Church. On the other hand it was claimed, and is claimed, that the book is a plea for toleration of the Reformers, whose persecution had already begun in France, and that Calvin is remonstrating with Francis I. as a Seneca with a Nero. There is in reality little more than the title to justify such an assumption. Doumergue regards the book as 'a magnificent manifesto of Liberalism,' ? but founds his judgement on some vague tirades against the tyranny of bad princes and the cruelty of bad schoolmasters. We turn to the saner judgement of
. Guizot, who with all the good will in the world had to confess that “it is true that in the course of his work Calvin does not speak of the Reformers and their hardships; he makes no allusion to them which one can lay hold of.' If the book is intended as a general plea for toleration of all sorts and conditions, one can only say that Calvin unfortunately changed his views later on. But it is nothing of the kind. It is a learned, dull, didactic first attempt. Calvin's real appeal, and that a famous one, came in the shape of the address to Francis I. prefixed to the Institutes. Of these something must now be said. i Quoted by McCrie, op. cit. c. i. n. 30.
op. cit. i. 213. Quatre grands chrétiens Français (E. T.) p. 168.