Heroes of the Faith: John Calvin

John Calvin was a pastor, French theologian and Geneva reformer in the Protestants Reformation. The theology of Calvinism is named for him, and he strongly developed the system of predestination, eternal damnation, absolute sovereignty of God and new forms of church government and liturgy.
He was born as Jehan Cauvin on July 10, 1509 in Picardy, France. His mother was an innkeeper and died during his childhood. His father worked as a registrar for the ecclesiastical court and intended for all three of his sons to enter the priesthood when he died in 1531.
By the age of twelve, Calvin worked as a clerk to the bishop and was able to attend college in Paris where he learned Latin and philosophy.

John Calvin

Calvin provided two accounts of his conversion to Christ. The first he mentioned a sudden change of mind:
“God by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame, which was more hardened in such matters than might have been expected from one at my early period of life. Having thus received some taste and knowledge of true godliness, I was immediately inflamed with so intense a desire to make progress therein, that although I did not altogether leave off other studies, yet I pursued them with less ardour.
And in the second account, he mentioned the long inner turmoil he dealt with:
“Being exceedingly alarmed at the misery into which I had fallen, and much more at that which threatened me in view of eternal death, I, duty bound, made it my first business to betake myself to your way, condemning my past life, not without groans and tears. And now, O Lord, what remains to a wretch like me, but instead of defense, earnestly to supplicate you not to judge that fearful abandonment of your Word according to its deserts, from which in your wondrous goodness you have at last delivered me.
There is much debated among scholars about the exact details, but what is clear is that his conversion led to a break with the Roman Catholic Church.

Idelette Calvin

By 1532, Calvin received his law degree and published his first book.
By 1533, tensions were rising in the Catholic Church and reformation was on the horizon. Calvin was forced into hiding and remained on the move sheltering with a friend, before finally being forced to flee France around October 1534.
In March 1536, he wrote the Institutes of the Christian Religion on the defense of his faith. Later that year, he wrote separate articles to the confession of faith.
From 1538 until 1541, he served as Minister of Strasbourg, France. In August 1540, he married Idelette de Bure, a widow with two children. Their only child was born and died in 1542.
The council of Geneva passed his Ecclesiastical Ordinances on November 20, 1541. While serving in Geneva, he preached over 2000 sermons and was known for working his way through the Bible using a series of consecutive sermons.
Idelette Calvin died on March 29, 1549. He never married again and wrote of his sorrow “I have been bereaved of the best friend of my life, of one who, if it has been so ordained, would willingly have shared not only my poverty but also my death. During her life she was the faithful helper of my ministry. From her I never experienced the slightest hindrance.”.

John Calvin

Opposition began to crow at Geneva and later became known as a defender of Christianity.
Calvin was deeply committed to his homeland in France and gave tremendous energy toward the French Protestant cause. As one historian explains:
“He supplied the dogma, the liturgy, and the moral ideas of the new religion, and he also created ecclesiastical, political, and social institutions in harmony with it. A born leader, he followed up his work with personal appeals.”
In late 1558, he became ill with a fever but forced himself to finish the final revision of the Institutes. He then forced himself to preach, leading to a violent fit of coughing in which he burst a blood-vessel in his lungs. His health began to decline and on February 6, 1564 he preached his final sermon. Two months later he wrote out his will.
John Calvin died on May 27, 1564 at the age of 54. His body lay in state, but so many came to see him, the reformers were afraid of a cult forming. The following day he was buried in an unmarked grave in Geneva.
While the exact location of his grave is unknown, a stone was added in the 19th Century at the spot thought to be his grave.

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