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

Relating that Maystre Johan Calvin


The

people of Geneva were not discouraged. On the 19th October, the _Council of the Two Hundred_ placed on their register a declaration that every means must be taken to secure the services of "Maystre Johan Calvinus," and on the 22nd a worthy burgher and member of the _Council of the Two Hundred_, Louis Dufour, was despatched to Strassburg with a letter from both the civic Councils, begging Calvin to return to his "old place" (_prestine plache_), "seeing our people desire you greatly," and promising that they would do what they could to content him.[145] Dufour got to Strassburg only to find that Calvin had gone to Worms. He presented his letters to the Council of the town, who sent them on by an express (_eques celeri cursu_)[146] to Calvin (Nov. 6th, 1540). Far from being uplifted at the genuine desire to receive him back again to Geneva, Calvin was terribly distressed. He took counsel with his friends at Worms, and could scarcely place the case before them for his sobs.[147] The intolerable pain he had at the thought of going back to Geneva on the one hand, and the idea that Bucer might after all be right when he declared that Calvin's duty to the Church Universal clearly pointed to his return,[148] overmastered him completely. His friends, respecting his sufferings, advised him to postpone all decision until again in Strassburg. Others who were not near him kept urging him. Farel thundered at him (_consterne par tes foudres_).[149] The pastors of Zurich wrote (April 5th 1541):

style="text-align: justify;"> "You know that Geneva lies on the confines of France, of Italy, and of Germany, and that there is great hope that the Gospel may spread from it to the neighbouring cities, and thus enlarge the ramparts (_les boulevards_) of the kingdom of Christ.--You know that the Apostle selected metropolitan cities for his preaching centres, that the Gospel might be spread throughout the surrounding towns."[150]

Calvin was overcome. He consented to return to Geneva, and entered the city still suffering from his repugnance to undertake work he was not at all sure that he was fitted to do. Historians speak of a triumphal entry. There may have been, though nothing could have been more distasteful to Calvin at any time, and eminently so on this occasion, with the feelings he had. Contemporary documents are silent. There is only the minute of the Council, as formal as minutes usually are, relating that "Maystre Johan Calvin, ministre evangelique," is again in charge of the Church in Geneva (Sept. 13th, 1541).[151]

Calvin was in Geneva for the second time, dragged there both times unwillingly, his dream of a quiet scholar's life completely shattered. The work that lay before him proved to be almost as hard as he had foreseen it would be. The common idea that from this second entry Calvin was master within the city, is quite erroneous. Fourteen years were spent in a hard struggle (1541-55); and if the remaining nine years of his life can be called his period of triumph over opponents (1555-64), it must be remembered that he was never able to see his ideas of an ecclesiastical organisation wholly carried out in the city of his adoption. One must go to the Protestant Church of France to see Calvin's idea completely realised.[152]


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