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History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation.
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§ 82. First Labors and Trials.


Calvin began his labors, Sept. 5, 1536, by a course of expository lectures on the Epistles of Paul and other books of the New Testament, which he delivered in the Church of St. Peter in the afternoon. They were heard with increasing attention. He had a rare gift of teaching, and the people were hungry for religious instruction.

After a short time he assumed also the office of pastor which he had at first declined.

The Council was asked by Farel to provide a suitable support for their new minister, but they were slow to do it, not dreaming that he would become the most distinguished citizen, and calling him simply "that Frenchman."470470    "Ille Gallus." Annal. Calv. XXI. 204. The Registers were then kept in Latin, but after 1537, in French. The native languages superseded the Latin with the progress of the Reformation. He received little or no salary till Feb. 13, 1537, when the Council voted him six gold crowns.471471    Under that date the Registres du Cons. report: "Icy est parlédeCalvinusqu’il na encore guère reçeu et estéarrestéque l’on luy délivre ung six escus soleil" (Annal. 208).

Calvin accompanied Farel in October to the disputation at Lausanne, which decided the Reformation in the Canton de Vaud, but took little part in it, speaking only twice. Farel was the senior pastor, twenty years older, and took the lead. But with rare humility and simplicity he yielded very soon to the superior genius of his young friend. He was contented to have conquered the territory for the renewed Gospel, and left it to him to cultivate the same and to bring order out of the political and ecclesiastical chaos. He was willing to decrease, that Calvin might increase. Calvin, on his part, treated him always with affectionate regard and gratitude. There was not a shadow of envy or jealousy between them.

The third Reformed preacher was Courault, formerly an Augustinian monk, who, like Calvin, had fled from France to Basel, in 1534, and was called to Geneva to replace Viret. Though very old and nearly blind, he showed as much zeal and energy as his younger colleagues. Saunier, the rector of the school, was an active sympathizer, and soon afterwards Cordier, Calvin’s beloved teacher, assumed the government of the school and effectively aided the ministers in their arduous work. Viret came occasionally from the neighboring Lausanne. Calvin’s brother, and his relative Olivetan, who joined them at Geneva, increased his influence.

The infant Church of Geneva had the usual trouble with the Anabaptists. Two of their preachers came from Holland and gained some influence. But after an unfruitful disputation they were banished by the large Council from the territory of the city as early as March, 1537.472472    Ann. 208-210."Conseil des Deux-cents (Lundi 19 Mars). Fuit propositum negotium illorum Katabaptistarum sur lesquelz a estéadviséque iceulx et tous aultres de leur secte soyent perpetuellement bannys de ceste citéet terres dicelle sus poenne de la vye." They were asked to recant, but answered that their conscience did not allow it, whereupon they were, "perpetually banished."

A more serious trouble was created by Peter Caroli, a doctor of the Sorbonne, an unprincipled, vain, and quarrelsome theological adventurer and turncoat, who changed his religion several times, led a disorderly life, and was ultimately reconciled to the pope and released from his concubine, as he called his wife. He had fled from Paris to Geneva in 1535, became pastor at Neuchâtel, where he married, and then at Lausanne. He raised the charge of Arianism against Farel and Calvin at a synod in Lausanne, May, 1537,473473    The troubles with Caroli began in January, 1537; the synod convened May 13. Opera, X. 82, sqq.; letter of Farel, p. 102, of Calvin, 107; Annal. 207 and 211. Kampschulte (I. 296) gives a wrong date (March). because they avoided in the Confession the metaphysical terms Trinity and Person, (though Calvin did use them in his Institutio and his Catechism,) and because they refused, at Caroli’s dictation, to sign the Athanasian Creed with its damnatory clauses, which are unjust and uncharitable. Calvin was incensed at his arrogant and boisterous conduct and charged him with atheism. "Caroli," he said, "quarrels with us about the nature of God and the distinction of the persons; but I carry the matter further and ask him, whether he believes in the Deity at all? For I protest before God and man that he has no more faith in the Divine Word than a dog or a pig that tramples under foot holy things" (Matt. 7:6). This is the first manifestation of his angry temper and of that contemptuous tone which characterizes his polemical writings. He handed in with his colleagues a confession on the Trinity.474474    Confessio de Trinitate propter calumnias P. Caroli, signed by Farel, Calvin, and Viret, and approved by Capito, Bucer, Myconius, and Grynaeus, in Opera, IX. 703-710. The synod after due consideration was satisfied with their orthodoxy, and declared Caroli convicted of calumny and unworthy of the ministry. He died in a hospital at Rome.475475    On the controversies with Caroli, see Beza, Vita, in Op. XXI. 126 sq.; Letters, Nos. 638, 640, 644, 645, 665, in the 4th. vol. of Herminjard; Ruchat, vol. v.; Henry, I. 253; II. 37, 182; III. Beil., 209; and Merle d’Aubigné, VI. 362 sqq.



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