« PreviousContinue »
children bringing forth the fruits of righteousness, you must endeavour to keep them within the sphere of the Spirit's action. The hearts of the young especially are influenced by the characters of those who are near them, and the more saintly the character the more potent and gracious is its influence. It should be an axiom with us that we cannot take others to a higher platform of spirituality than we have attained ourselves. They must be drawn by the magnetism of sanctity. When our Saviour wanted to raise his disciples from the lower level of worldliness and selfishness, to which we all gravitate, he brought them within the sphere of the influence of his own heavenly life. This suggests and defines the true principle of action, in seeking to develop and mould in children Christian character. If the Spirit of God dwells in our hearts, and radiates throughout the sphere we occupy, our influence will prove a mighty power in the sanctification of character.
And what more blessed sight in this fallen world is there, than to see children growing in godliness? Samuel, under the influence of Eli; and Timothy, under the influence of his mother and grandmother, are pictures which not only command our admiration, but which point a moral.
It is to be feared that in the present day, when family ties are loosening, and children are too early allowed to escape from parental control, filial piety will be as rare as it is beautiful. No means must be neglected by us in surrounding our Sunday-school children with a Christian atmosphere as often as possible. The difficulties are great in connection with the routine of the ordinary school, and the time of teaching too limited, but this only points to the necessity for the special services of the Sunday evening and the week. These afford the most favourable opportunities for developing the new life in the souls of the children, and rescuing them from the pernicious influences in which, alas ! too many are allowed to grow. Every school should have its special service, in which the aim should be manifest-namely, to nurture spiritual life, and mould Christian character. And wherever these services have been thus maintained, the Spirit has been present to bless. The work of the Sunday-school has been consolidated, and its fruits garnered.
In conclusion, let me urge you to seek the mighty baptism of the Spirit as the grand secret of true success in your work. And no gifts are more free that the gifts of the Holy Spirit. “If we, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto our children, how much more shall our Father who is in heaven give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him !” “If thou, then wouldst have thy soul surcharged with the fire of God, so that those who come nigh to thee shall feel the power of the mysterious influence, thou must draw nigh to the source of that fire, to the throne of God and of the Lamb, and shut thyself out from the world—that cold world, which so swiftly steals our fire away. Enter into thy closet, and shut to thy door, and, there isolated, await the baptism; then the fire shall fill thee, and when thou comest forth, holy power will attend thee, and thou shalt labour, not in thine own strength, but 'WITH DEMONSTRATION OF THE SPIRIT, AND WITH POWER.'”
Calvin and Servetus as Religious Reformers.
BY G. HOLDEN PIKE.—PART I. MENEVA has been called the Rome of the Protestants, and how far
U the saying is true will appear as we proceed. The city is famous on account of its natural attractiveness as well as for the men of renown who were born within its liberties. First mentioned by Julius Cæsar, Geneva is celebrated in history, not so much on account of its illustrious citizens, as for the share it had in the revival of religion during the awakening of the sixteenth century; and because it was the principal home and last resting-place of that princely spirit of the Reformation, John Calvin. What Calvin did and what he left undone divers busy pens have told us ; but while professions of impartiality have been plentiful, unbiassed writing has been rare. We discard at the outset this virtue of zealous impartiality-the cant term of one-sided chroniclers. On the contrary, we are conscious of harbouring partiality for Calvin, which prompts us to rerere his memory, and to advance what we have to say as a contribution to the cause of honesty and truth. To affirm that the Reformer has had detractors is equivalent to saying that he was a great man whose yearnings of soul for the spiritual weal of mankind, mediocrity and milk-and-water zeal have not always been able to understand. “The social and moral state of Geneva, bears still, after a lapse of three centuries, marks of the strong impression John Calvin made upon it,” says one. “He found a society disjointed, ignorant, and licentious; and left it at his death orderly, religious, moral, and patriotic."*
Not intending to write a complete life of Calvin, we shall only make use of such salient points of his history as will serve our purpose. First seeing the light at Noyon in 1509, he was born in the bosom of the Romish Church. He was not unfortunate in his parentage, his mother having been as pious as beautiful, and his father as honest as he was well-to-do. After beginning his education at Noyon, Calvin proceeded to Paris at fourteen to study under the celebrated scholar Corderius, who in after days learned religion from his former pupil and died a faithful Protestant.
Early detecting their son's quick intelligence, Calvin's parents determined that he should enter the Church, since in the sacred profession he would have sufficiently good prospects of distinguishing himself, and of reflecting honour on the paternal roof. Having started on this path, his chances of brilliantly succeeding brightened as he advanced, and it became plainly apparent that considerable preferment would be within his reach if he chose to make the best of his advantages. But as the young scholar's strength expanded, his sire grew correspondingly ambitious, and desired to see John's powers diverted from divinity to law. By reading the French Bible the first sparks of truth were already ignited in his heart, and he became sufficiently awake to the errors of Rome to be indifferent about joining the ranks of her clergy. Complying with
his father's wishes, John proceeded to Orleans, still, however, giving much time to theology. While thus employed he first became acquainted with the principles of the Reformation. Moved either by a desire to arrive at truth, or to complete some ambitious design, he laboured at his desk so as to jeopardise his health by midnight studies. Yet the picture of his youth is not an unpleasant contemplation. His parents being in comparatively easy circumstances, Calvin knew no such cares as embittered the early days of his great compeer Luther ; his powers were recognized and he associated with aristocratic companions. The chief fault we can find with him is, that he pursued knowledge too ardently for his strength, thus sacrificing health to learning; one of his habits having been to spend the night in study, and then to lie in bed during the day to digest what he had read.
At an uncertain date Calvin left Orleans for the more famous schools of Bourges; and it was while studying Greek under Wolmar, & zealous friend of the Reformation, that he became finally confirmed in Protestant principles. Having no strong liking for the law, when his father died about this time, and he became his own master, he relinquished legal studies and attended wholly to theology. His break with Rome was consequent on his conversion ; and this change, the death of the elder Calvin, and John's declaring for the Reformation by promulgating the Protestant doctrines, occurred almost simultaneously in 1532, when he again settled in Paris.
The French empire at this conjuncture was wavering between Rome and the Reformation, and a strong party in the capital were favourable to the truth. It was a crisis of hope and of fear. France half promised to become the European nursery of the faith. Both Louis the Twelfth and Francis the First were partially favourable to the reformed doctrines. But these cheerful symptoms passing away were succeeded by quarrels and bloodshed ; the friends of the gospel, and of peace were disappointed, for they found that popery retained a strong hold upon the masses of the benighted nation, and the rulers adapted their religion to political necessity. How many subsequent woes would France have escaped, past and present, had she risen in her greatness to welcome the Reformation !
To look into the Paris of the first half of the sixteenth century is instructive, so far as the insight supplies some odd phases of human nature. The ignorance of many of the university doctors seems to have been only equalled by their conceit of learning. The spread of the reformed doctrines created much excitement, and even alarm; and the fanatical clergy laboured earnestly to stamp out what there appeared of life in the upspringing seeds of a purer faith. Here, indeed, was a field worthy of the ability and powers of Calvin. What he would have effected had events allowed of his labouring unmolested we are only able to surmise; for a curious incident necessitated his flight from the capital. In those days certain ecclesiastical grandees, who occupied stations superior to their mental and educational qualifications, were not averse from accepting an occasional sermon in manuscript from such of their gifted contemporaries as would supply them. Nicholas Cop, rector of the Sorbonne, was of this unhappy class, and was a gentleman who would have been learned and eloquent, had eloquence merely consisted
in words, and learning in pretending to know. Once, to escape a dilemma, Cop preached a discourse written by the Reformer, the occasion being important and the assembly select. As the rector opened up his theme, the sticklers for the “old learning” twisted uneasily upon their benches; for the sermon discomfited the Romanists by pleading forcibly for the doctrine of justification by faith. After so daring an assault on the enemy's position, both writer and preacher sought safety in flight; and after their departure many troubles fell to the lot of the Protestants. Some zealous but indiscreet friends violently denounced the pope and the mass by means of placards distributed over Paris, a procedure which instead of aiding the good cause produced a reaction resulting in the death of many protestors.
By his action in this crisis the French King — the wily Francis the First — proved himself a devoted papist and a cruel persecutor. Yet the current of the Reformation becoming inconveniently strong, fear taught him to dissemble by assuring the Protestant princes of Germany that his correcting hand only touched the Anabaptists-a sect for which none seem to have entertained either pity or esteem. Nevertheless the hand of Providence soon revealed itself. Driven from France, Calvin purposed taking refuge at Basle ; but a night spent at Geneva, while on the way thither, nad the effect of altering the whole course of his life.*
The history of Geneva strikingly illustrates how good may be brought out of evil. Once a fief of the German empire, the republic was governed by its bishops till the time of the Reformation ; but these prelates were given to turning their “crosses into swords, their flocks into serfs, and their pastoral dwellings into fortified castles.” The power of the ecclesiastics excited the covetousness of the greedy dukes of Savoy, and constant feuds were fomented until the Savoyards were vanquished by the French in 1553. Prelatical treachery suggested the Swiss alliance and promoted the Reformation, of which Geneva may be considered the capital.
To go back more than three centuries in the history of Geneva is to discover that on the death of Seyssel, the prince-bishop, in 1513, the first of those violent agitations commenced which ended in the establishing of a purer faith. Seyssel was a good man and a patron of liberty. During several generations the dukes of Savoy coveted the temporalities of the see at the foot of the Alps, and some even supposed that by Savoyard influence Seyssel had been poisoned. The choosing of a successor, under these circumstances, was an important event and the occasion of great excitement in the city. The citizens chose the abbot of Bonmont, an easy-living ecclesiastic as the times went, but still a partizan of the republic against the house of Savoy. The reigning duke,
* In his twenty-fourth year Calvin was at the head of the Reformation in France ; and in his twenty-seventh year the “Institutes" in their first form were published. "Such an instance of maturity of mind, and of opinion, at so early an age would be remarkable under any circumstances," says the Encyclopædia Britannica,' “but in Calvin's case it is rendered peculiarly so by the shortness of the time which had elapsed since he gave himself to theological studies. It may be doubted, also, if the history of literature presents us with another instance of a book written at so early an age which has exercised such a prodigious influence upon the opinions and practices both of contemporaries and of posterity.”
however, not being of a disposition to allow the passing away of any chance of aggrandisement, forthwith nominated his cousin, John the Bastard-a low-minded profligate who had wasted both strength and wits in animal pleasures. On hastening to Rome, John was formally installed by Leo the Tenth-a pontiff who lied on principle, holding with some show of logical acumen, that he could absolve himself from keeping his word as reasonably as he could others. The Swiss deputies, on arriving in Rome, found themselves and their candidate superseded, so that on returing to Geneva, John the Bastard took possession of his see in spite of the ominous grumblings of his subjects. Ultimately the pope transferred the temporalities to the duke of Savoy-a dispensation which occasioned him great glee, till the College of Cardinals refused to sanction the innovation, and even then the duke only nominally relinquished his pretensions, for as the bishop continued his vassal, he received the coveted profits in an indirect manner. The prelate allowed his inheritance to become a mere appendage of the dukedom, and a trustee was set over him to take account of the revenues. In the meantime the citizens were divided into opposing sections, the Mamelukes being Savoyards, or such as favoured the duke's demands, and the Eidgenossen being the friends of the republic, or the patriotic party. In the State Councils factious animosities were ever cropping up; while one means adopted by the Savoyards to further their designs was the encouraging of all kinds of light recreation-frivolities which grew until Geneva was renowned as one of the most pleasure-loving cities of the age.
Geneva's break with Rome was consummated in 1535, a principal agent having been the enthusiastic Farel. When Calvin sought a night's lodging in the city, in the July of the year following, he found the great movement inaugurated, the want of the hour being men of parts and zeal to carry on the work so auspiciously begun. Farel, with glowing ardour, exerted his whole strength to relieve the gross darkness by some enlivening beams. He is thought to have been a little opinionated and somewhat intolerant: but let the failings of a man be forgotten who was manifestly influenced by so strong a love of the true faith. Though the field was as wide as the continent, men fitted by nature and grace to enter in and labour were sadly wanting, and consequently, news of Calvin's arrival could not have come more opportunely. Exercised by a determination to secure his services, Farel with his usual impetuosity walked straight to Calvin's lodgings and abruptly exhorted him to remain in a city which not only needed men of his calibre, but into which Providence had so strangely directed him. But though earnest when aroused, Calvin was not easily persuaded, and the scene which ensued, as characteristic of the times and of the men, was worthy of the pencil of a great master. When the traveller showed some hesitation, the discourse waxed vehement, and Farel invoked curses both on the head of Calvin and his studies if he dared to forsake work which God had given him. Farel triumphed, and Calvin stayed ; in the first instance accepting the office of teacher of theology. In the pulpit of St. Peter, his great talents were immediately recognised, grateful crowds attending his sermons, and even following him home after them. He and Farel now earnestly applied themselves to the Herculean task of reforming the