[In commemmoration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin, Free St George's is pleased to be able to reproduce the following article and its accompanying illustration from The Morning Watch
Vol. 2. The Morning Watch
was the children's magazine of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and was published from 1888 to 1915 under the editorship of Rev. J.P. Struthers of Greenock. The illustrations for the magazine were produced by the lady who eventually became Mrs. Struthers.]
You all know the name of John Calvin, but I am not sure that you have ever seen a picture of him before. You are far more likely to have seen one of Luther. Calvin was a very different man, and a great many people do not like him as well. They do not like him often because they do not like what is called ‘Calvinism.’ But Calvin would have been very sorry to hear his doctrines going by his name. He did not think them Calvinism, but Christianity. He found them in the Bible.
He was a Frenchman, and the ablest Frenchman who has ever lived. He was born in 1509, and so was just a little boy when Luther kindled the fire that ended in the Reformation. What Calvin had to do then was not to begin to protest against Popery, but to prove to the world that the religion of the Protestants was the religion of the Bible. Ignorant priests were telling the ignorant people that the New Testament was a wicked book that Luther had discovered, and with the new ideas that the Reformation was bringing into men’s minds there was a danger that they would be loosed from the superstition of the old Church without being won to the faith of the new. Calvin was brought by what he himself calls ‘a sudden conversion’ to the knowledge of Christ. Driven from Paris by persecution he came to Geneva, where, though he little thought it, his life work was to be done. Here he wrote, when he was only twenty-six, his great book, ‘The Institutes of the Christian Religion,’ perhaps the most powerful statement of the faith that has ever been given to the world.
Geneva was in a very corrupt state under Popery, and Calvin tried to reform it. He was so eager about the purity of the Church, kept godless people so strictly from the Lord’s Table, that he was driven from the city. But things there went from bad to worse. They could not get on without him, and so after three years they sent for him and brought him back in triumph. He became practically the ruler of the city for more than twenty years after this, till his death.
Luther pulled down the old fabric of Popery, but it was Calvin who built up and strengthened the new church. He was the master-mind, the statesman of the Reformation. Though he was the ruling influence in Geneva, he could not do everything as he wished it, and he has been held responsible for a great many things he could not hinder.
He studied and worked so hard that he hardly ever had a day’s health. He had many sorrows, he lost all his children young, and he had on him, like Paul, ‘the care of all the churches.’ But, often sad, and always ill, he wrote one of the greatest commentaries on the Bible, and was the guide and adviser of nearly all the Protestant leaders of the time. His great work, The Institutes, is divided into four parts, and yet the ‘heads’ of it all are Christ and His Church. He gathers everything round God and the love of Christ.
Calvin lies buried in Geneva, but we cannot be certain of his grave, for he ordered that no monument should mark it. This was like the man. The motto of his books, and of his life, might very fitly be, ‘To Thy Name be all the glory.”
J.P. Struthers: The Morning Watch Vol. 2 (Greenock, James M’Kelvie and Sons, 1889) Pp. 55-6
Labels: Calvin, Calvin 500, The Morning Watch