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John Calvin

This reformer was born at Noyon in Picardy, July 10, 1409. He was
instructed in grammar learning at Paris under Maturinus Corderius, and
studied philosophy in the college of Montaign under a Spanish professor.
His father, who discovered many marks of his early piety, particularly
in his reprehensions of the vices of his companions, designed him at
first for the church, and got him presented, May 21, 1521, to the chapel
of Notre Dame de la Gesine, in the church of Noyon. In 1527 he was
presented to the rectory of Marieville, which he exchanged in 1529 for
the rectory of Pont l'Eveque, near Noyon. His father afterward changed
his resolution, and would have him study law; to which Calvin, who, by
reading the scriptures, had conceived a dislike to the superstitions of
popery, readily consented, and resigned the chapel of Gesine and the
rectory of Pont l'Eveque, in 1534. He made a great progress in that
science, and improved no less in the knowledge of divinity by his
private studies. At Bourges he applied to the Greek tongue, under the
direction of professor Wolmar. His father's death having called him back
to Noyon, he stayed there a short time, and then went to Paris, where a
speech of Nicholas Cop, rector of the university of Paris, of which
Calvin furnished the materials, having greatly displeased the Sarbonne
and the parliament, gave rise to a persecution against the protestants,
and Calvin, who narrowly escaped being taken in the college of Forteret,
was forced to retire to Xaintonge, after having had the honour to be
introduced to the queen of Navarre, who had raised this first storm
against the protestants. Calvin returned to Paris in 1534. This year the
reformed met with severe treatment, which determined him to leave
France, after publishing a treatise against those who believe that
departed souls are in a kind of sleep. He retired to Basil, where he
studied Hebrew: at this time he published his Institutions of the
Christian religion; a work well adapted to spread his fame, though he
himself was desirous of living in obscurity. It is dedicated to the
French king, Francis I. Calvin next wrote an apology for the protestants
who were burnt for their religion in France. After the publication of
this work, Calvin went to Italy to pay a visit to the duchess of
Ferrara, a lady of eminent piety, by whom he was very kindly received.

From Italy he came back to France, and having settled his private
affairs, he proposed to go to Strasbourg or Basil, in company with his
sole surviving brother, Antony Calvin; but as the roads were not safe on
account of the war, except through the duke of Savoy's territories, he
chose that road. "This was a particular direction of Providence," says
Bayle; "it was his destiny that he should settle at Geneva, and when he
was wholly intent upon going farther, he found himself detained by an
order from heaven, if I may so speak." At Geneva, Calvin therefore was
obliged to comply with the choice which the consistory and magistrates
made of him, with the consent of the people, to be one of their
ministers, and professor of divinity. He wanted to undertake only this
last office, and not the other; but in the end he was obliged to take
both upon him, in August, 1536. The year following, he made all the
people declare, upon oath, their assent to the confession of faith,
which contained a renunciation of popery. He next intimated, that he
could not submit to a regulation which the canton of Berne had lately
made. Whereupon the syndics of Geneva, summoned an assembly of the
people; and it was ordered that Calvin, Farel, and another minister,
should leave the town in a few days, for refusing to administer the

Calvin retired to Strasbourg, and established a French church in that
city, of which he was the first minister: he was also appointed to be
professor of divinity there. Meanwhile the people of Geneva entreated
him so earnestly to return to them, that at last he consented and
arrived September 13, 1541, to the great satisfaction both of the
people and the magistrates; and the first thing he did, after his
arrival, was to establish a form of church discipline, and a
consistorial jurisdiction, invested with power of inflicting censures
and canonical punishments, as far as excommunication, inclusively.

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