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History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation.
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§ 78. Calvin at Basel. 1535 to 1536.


The outbreak of the bloody persecution, in October, 1534, induced Calvin to leave his native land and to seek safety in free Switzerland. He was accompanied by his friend and pupil, Louis du Tillet, who followed him as far as Geneva, and remained with him till the end of August, 1537, when he returned to France and to the Roman Church.447447    M. Crottet, Correspondance de Calvin avec L. du Tillet, 1850.

The travellers passed through Lorraine. On the frontier of Germany, near Metz, they were robbed by an unfaithful servant. They arrived utterly destitute at Strassburg, then a city of refuge for French Protestants. They were kindly received and aided by Bucer.

After a few days’ rest they proceeded to Basel, their proper destination. There Farel had found a hospitable home in 1524, and Cop and Courault ten years later. Calvin wished a quiet place for study where he could promote the cause of the Gospel by his pen. He lodged with his friend in the house of Catharina Klein (Petita), who thirty years afterwards was the hostess of another famous refugee, the philosopher, Petrus Ramus, and spoke to him with enthusiasm of the young Calvin, "the light of France."448448    "Lumen Galliae." See the Reminiscences of Basel, by Petrus Ramus (1572), quoted in Op. XXI. 194. Ch. Waddington, Ramus, sa vie, ses écrits et ses opinions, Paris, 1855. Stähelin, I. 41 sqq. Kampschulte, I. 250.

He was kindly welcomed by Simon Grynaeus and Wolfgang Capito, the heads of the university. He prosecuted with Grynaeus his study of the Hebrew. He dedicated to him in gratitude his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (1539). He became acquainted also with Bullinger of Zürich, who attended the conference of Reformed Swiss divines for the preparation of the first Helvetic Confession (1536).449449    See above, p. 219. Ep. 2634, referred to in Op. XXI. 196.

According to a Roman Catholic report, Calvin, in company with Bucer, had a personal interview with Erasmus, to whom three years before he had sent a copy of his commentary on Seneca with a high compliment to his scholarship. The veteran scholar is reported to have said to Bucer on that occasion that "a great pestilence was arising in the Church against the Church."450450    "Video magnam pestem oriri in Ecclesia contra Ecclesiam." But Erasmus was too polite, thus to insult a stranger. Moreover, he was then living at Freiburg in Germany and had broken off all intercourse with Protestants. When he returned to Basel in July, 1536, on his way to the Netherlands, he took sick and died; and at that time Calvin was in Italy. The report therefore is an idle fiction.451451    It rests on the sole authority of Florimond de Raemond, p. 890. He puts the visit in the year 1534, when Calvin was yet in France, and could not accompany Bucer. Beza and Colladon know nothing of such an interview. Bayle doubted it. Merle d’Aubigné, III. 203-204 (Engl. trans. III. 183-185), however, accepts and embellishes it as if he had been present and heard the colloquy of the three scholars.

Calvin avoided publicity and lived in scholarly seclusion. He spent in Basel a year and a few months, from January, 1535, till about March, 1536.



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