Calvin, John (15091564)

Calvin, John, or Cauvin, the great Reformer, born at Noyon, in Picardy; devoted for a time to the law, was sent to study at the university of Orleans, after having mastered Latin as a boy at Paris; became acquainted with the Scriptures, and acquired a permanently theological bent; professed the Protestant faith; proceeded to Paris; became the centre of a dangerous religious excitement; had to flee for his life from France; retired to Basel, where he studied Hebrew and wrote his great epoch-making book, the “Institutes of the Christian Religion”; making after this for Strassburg, he chanced to pass through Geneva, was arrested as by the hand of God to stay and help on God's work in the place, but proceeded with such rigour that he was expelled, though recalled after three years; on his return he proposed and established his system of Church government, which allowed of no license in faith any more than conduct, as witness the burning of Servetus for denying the doctrine of the Trinity; for twenty years he held sway in Geneva, and for so long he was regarded as the head of the Reformed Churches in Scotland, Switzerland, Holland, and France. Besides his “Institutes,” he found time to write Commentaries on nearly all the books of the Bible; was a man of masculine intellect and single-hearted devotion to duty, as ever in the “Great Taskmaster's” eye. His greatest work was his “Institutes,” published in Basel in 1535-36. It was written in Latin, and four years after translated by himself into French. “In the translated form,” says Prof. Saintsbury, “it is beyond all question the first serious work of great literary merit not historical in the history of French prose.... Considering that the whole of it was written before the author of it was seven-and-twenty, it is perhaps the most remarkable work of its particular kind to be anywhere found; the merits of it being those of full maturity and elaborate preparation rather than of youthful exuberance” (15091564).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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