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History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation.
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§ 76. Calvin as a Wandering Evangelist. 1533–1536.


For nearly three years Calvin wandered as a fugitive evangelist under assumed names436436    Such as Charles d’Espeville, Martianus Lucanius, Carolus Passelius, Alcuin, Deperçan, Calpurnius. There is a monograph on these assumed names, Diatribe de Pseudonymia Calvini, by Liebe, Amsterdam, 1723, which includes several letters of importance. So says Kampschulte, I. 245. from place to place in Southern France, Switzerland, Italy, till he reached Geneva as his final destination. It is impossible accurately to determine all the facts and dates in this period.

He resigned his ecclesiastical benefices at Noyon and Pont l’Evèque, May 4, 1534, and thus closed all connection with the Roman Church.437437    Le Vasseur, 1161. Herminjard, V. 104. Op. XXI. 193. That year was remarkable for the founding of the order of the Jesuits at Montmartre (Aug. 15), which took the lead in the Counter-Reformation; by the election of Pope Paul III. (Alexander Farnese, Oct. 13), who confirmed the order, excommunicated Henry VIII., and established the Inquisition in Italy; and by the bloody persecution of the Protestants in Paris, which has been described in the preceding section.438438    Beza calls the year 1534 "horrenda in multos pios saevitia insignia" (Calv. Op. XXI. 124).

The Roman Counter-Reformation now began in earnest, and called for a consolidation of the Protestant forces.

Calvin spent the greater part of the year 1533 to 1534, under the protection of Queen Marguerite of Navarre, in her native city of Angoulême. This highly gifted lady (1492–1549), the sister of King Francis I., grandmother of Henry IV., and a voluminous writer in verse and prose, was a strange mixture of piety and liberalism, of idealism and sensualism. She patronized both the Reformation and the Renaissance, Calvin and Rabelais; she wrote the Mirror of a Sinful Soul, and also the Heptameron in professed imitation of Boccaccio’s Decamerone; yet she was pure, and began and closed the day with religious meditation and devotion. After the death of her royal brother (1547), she retired to a convent as abbess, and declared on her death-bed that, after receiving extreme unction, she had protected the Reformers out of pure compassion, and not from any wish to depart from the faith of her ancestors.439439    Dyer (Life of Calvin, p. 18) says of her: "Plato’s divine and earthly love never met more conspicuously in a human being," and quotes the remark of M. Génin, the editor of her correspondence: "Le trait saillant du caractère de Marguerite c’est d’avoir alliétoute sa vie les idées religieuses et les idées d’amour mondain."

Calvin lived at Angoulême with a wealthy friend, Louis du Tillet, who was canon of the cathedral and curé of Claix, and had acquired on his journeys a rare library of three or four thousand volumes.440440    Ep. 20, Op. X. Pt. I. 37. Florimond de Raemond (p. 883) extends Calvin’s sojourn at Angoulême to three years, which is evidently an error. He taught him Greek, and prosecuted his theological studies. He associated with honorable men of letters, and was highly esteemed by them.441441    Florimond de Raemond: "Il estoit en bonne estiméet réputation, aiméde tous ceux qui aimoient les lettres." He began there the preparation of his Institutes.442442    According to the same Roman Catholic historian. He also aided Olivetan in the revision and completion of the French translation of the Bible, which appeared at Neuchâtel in June, 1535, with a preface of Calvin.443443    Ep. 29 in Op. X. Pars I. 51: the preface in vol. IX. 787-790. Beza (followed by Stähelin, I. 88) makes him take part also in the first edition, which appeared in 1634, and contained only the New Testament. But this seems to be an error. See Reuss, "Révue de Theologie," 1866, No. III. 318, and Kampschulte, I. 247; also Herminjard, III. 349, note 8.

From Angoulême Calvin made excursions to Nérac, Poitiers, Orleans, and Paris. At Nérac in Béarn, the little capital of Queen Marguerite, he became personally acquainted with Le Fèvre d’Étaples (Faber Stapulensis), the octogenarian patriarch of French Humanism and Protestantism. Le Fèvre, with prophetic vision, recognized in the young scholar the future restorer of the Church of France.444444    Beza (XXI, 123): "Excepit juvenem [Calvinum] bonus senex et libenter vidit, futurum augurans insigne coelestis in Gallia instaurandi regni instrumentum." Perhaps he also suggested to him to take Melanchthon for his model.445445    According to Florimond de Raemond. Roussel, the chaplain and confessor of Marguerite, advised him to purify the house of God, but not to destroy it.

At Poitiers, Calvin gained several eminent persons for the Reformation. According to an uncertain tradition he celebrated with a few friends, for the first time, the Lord’s Supper after the Reformed fashion, in a cave (grotte de Croutelles) near the town, which long afterwards was called "Calvin’s Cave."446446    Bayle, Art. Calvin and La Place. Crottet, Petite Chronique Protestante de France, 96 sqq. Stähelin, I. 32. Lefranc, 120. Herminjard, III. 202, note 4.

Towards the close of the year 1534, he ventured on a visit to Paris. There he met, for the first time, the Spanish physician, Michael Servetus, who had recently published his heretical book On the Errors of the Trinity, and challenged him to a disputation. Calvin accepted the challenge at the risk of his safety, and waited for him in a house in the Rue Saint Antoine; but Servetus did not appear. Twenty years afterwards he reminded Servetus of this interview: "You know that at that time I was ready to do everything for you, and did not even count my life too dear that I might convert you from your errors." Would that he had succeeded at that time, or never seen the unfortunate heretic again.



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