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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

Gerard Cauvin had early seen that his second son


needed a man of altogether different mould of character to do the work that was now necessary. When Farel's anxieties and vexations were at their height, he learned almost by accident that a distinguished young French scholar, journeying from Ferrara to Basel, driven out of his direct course by war, had arrived in Geneva, and was staying for a night in the town. This was Calvin.

Sec. 4. _Calvin: Youth and Education._

Jean Cauvin (latinised into Calvinus) was born at Noyon in Picardy on the 10th of July 1509. He was the second son in a family of four sons and two daughters. His father, Gerard Cauvin, was a highly esteemed lawyer, the confidential legal adviser of the nobility and higher clergy of the district. His mother, Jeanne La France, a very beautiful woman, was noted for her devout piety and her motherly affection. Calvin, who says little about his childhood, relates how he was once taken by his mother on the festival of St. Anna to see a relic of the saint preserved in the Abbey of Ourscamp, near Noyon, and that he remembers kissing "part of the body of St. Anna, the mother of the Virgin Mary."[98]

The Cauvins belonged to what we should call the upper middle class in social standing, and the young Jean entered the house of the noble family of de Montmor to share the education of the children, his father paying for all his expenses. The young de Montmors were sent to

College in Paris, and Jean Cauvin, then fourteen years of age, went with them. This early social training never left Calvin, who was always the reserved, polished French gentleman--a striking contrast to his great predecessor Luther.

Calvin was a Picard, and the characteristics of the province were seen in its greatest son. The Picards were always independent, frequently strongly anti-clerical, combining in a singular way fervent enthusiasm and a cold tenacity of purpose. No province in France had produced so many sympathisers with Wiclif and Hus, and "Picards" was a term met with as frequently on the books of Inquisitors as "Wiclifites," "Hussites," or "Waldenses"--all the names denoting dissenters from the mediaeval Church who accepted all the articles of the Apostles' Creed but were strongly anti-clerical. These "brethren" lingered in all the countries of Western Europe until the sixteenth century, and their influence made itself felt in the beginnings of the stirrings for reform.

Gerard Cauvin had early seen that his second son, Jean, was _de bon esprit, d'une prompte naturelle a concevoir, et inventif en l'estude des lettres humaines_,[99] and this induced him to give the boy as good an education as he could, and to destine him for the study of theology. His legal connection with the higher clergy of Noyon enabled him, in the fashion of the day, to procure for his son more than one benefice. The boy was tonsured, a portion of the revenue was used to pay for a curate who did the work, and the rest went to provide for the lad's education.

Young Calvin went with the three sons of the de Montmor family to the College de la Marche in Paris. It was not a famous one, but when Calvin studied there in the lowest class he had as his professor Mathurin Cordier, the ablest teacher of his generation.[100] His aim was to give his pupils a thorough knowledge of the French and Latin languages--a foundation on which they might afterwards build for themselves. He had a singularly sweet disposition, and a very open mind. He was brought to know the Gospel by Robert Estienne, and in 1536 his name was inscribed, along with those of Courat and Clement Marot, on the list of the principal heretics in Paris. Calvin was not permitted to remain long under this esteemed teacher. The atmosphere was probably judged to be too liberal for one who was destined to study theology. He was transferred to the more celebrated College de Montaigu. Calvin was again fortunate in his principal teachers. He became the pupil of Noel Beda and of Pierre Tempete, who taught him the art of formal disputation.

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