Back in Geneva




Reform in Geneva In September 1541 Calvin was invited back to Geneva, where the Protestant revolution, without strong leadership, had become increasingly insecure. Because he was now in a much stronger position, the town council in November enacted his Ecclesiastical Ordinances, which provided for the religious education of the townspeople, especially children, and instituted Calvin’s conception of church order.

In 1541 John Calvin returned to Geneva.

It also established four groups of church officers: pastors and teachers to preach and explain the Scriptures, elders representing the congregation to administer the church, and deacons to attend to its charitable responsibilities. In addition it set up a consistory of pastors and elders to make all aspects of Genevan life conform to God’s law.

It undertook a wide range of disciplinary actions covering everything from the abolition of Roman Catholic “superstition” to the enforcement of sexual morality, the regulation of taverns, and measures against dancing, gambling, and swearing. These measures were resented by a significant element of the population, and the arrival of increasing numbers of French religious refugees in Geneva was a further cause of native discontent.



These tensions, as well as the persecution of Calvin’s followers in France, help to explain the trial and burning of Michael Servetus, a Spanish theologian preaching and publishing unorthodox beliefs in supporting Calvin's proposals for reforms, the council of Geneva passed the Ordonnances ecclésiastiques (Ecclesiastical Ordinances) on 20 November 1541. The ordinances defined four orders of ministerial function:
pastors to preach and to administer the sacraments;
doctors to instruct believers in the faith;
elders to provide discipline; and
deacons to care for the poor and needy.

They also called for the creation of the Consistoire (Consistory), an
ecclesiastical court composed of the lay elders and the ministers. The city government retained the power to summon persons before the court, and the Consistory could judge only ecclesiastical matters having no civil jurisdiction. Originally, the court had the power to mete out sentences, with excommunication as its most severe penalty. The government contested this power and on 19 March 1543 the council decided that all sentencing would be carried out by the government.

In 1542, Calvin adapted a service book used in Strasbourg, publishing La Forme des Prières et Chants Ecclésiastiques (The Form of Prayers and Church Hymns). Calvin recognised the power of music and he intended that it be used to support scripture readings. The original Strasbourg psalter contained twelve psalms by Clément Marot and Calvin added several more hymns of his own composition in the Geneva version. At the end of 1542, Marot became a refugee in Geneva and contributed nineteen more psalms. Louis Bourgeois, also a refugee, lived and taught music in Geneva for sixteen years and Calvin took the opportunity to add his hymns, the most famous being the Old Hundredth.

In the same year of 1542, Calvin published Catéchisme de l'Eglise de Genève (Catechism of the Church of Geneva), which was inspired by Bucer's Kurze Schrifftliche Erklärung of 1534. Calvin had written an earlier catechism during his first stay in Geneva which was largely based on Martin Luther's Large Catechism. The first version was arranged pedagogically, describing Law, Faith, and Prayer. The 1542 version was rearranged for theological reasons, covering Faith first, then Law and Prayer.

Historians debate the extent to which Geneva was a theocracy. On the one hand, Calvin's theology clearly called for separation between church and state. Other historians have stressed the enormous political power wielded on a daily basis by the clerics.

During his ministry in Geneva, Calvin preached over two thousand sermons. Initially he preached twice on Sunday and three times during the week. This proved to be too heavy a burden and late in 1542 the council allowed him to preach only once on Sunday.

Death of Idelette

But in September 1541, John headed toward Geneva to see if there was any reason why he should change his mind. “I offer my heart to the Lord in sacrifice,” he wrote. Idelette stayed behind in Strasbourg until he determined whether Geneva would be safe for her.

Geneva showered gifts on him. “There was a new robe of black velvet, trimmed with fur. And a house on Rue de Chanoines, a short narrow street near the cathedral. At the back of the house was a garden which overlooked the blue lake.” Then the Council sent a herald and two-horse carriage to bring Idelette, the children and all the family furniture from Strasbourg to Geneva.

It was a traumatic move for Idelette as well as for John. Strasbourg had become home for her and her children. Her brother and his family were there as well. All she knew of Geneva was what John had previously experienced there, and it all sounded like more uncertainty and confusion, if not trial and tribulation. But she went. And when she began settling down in the new house at Number 11 Rue de Chanoines, she was pleased. It was nothing like the crowded boarding house in Strasbourg.

The city council had loaned furniture to them, because they had very little of their own. Behind the house was a vegetable garden, which Idelette planted each year. She also planted herbs and flowers which scented the air. When guests came, John proudly took them out in the back yard to show off Idelette’s vegetable garden.

During their first summer in Geneva, Idelette bore a son prematurely. Little Jacques died when he was only two weeks old. It was a severe blow for both of them. “The Lord has certainly inflicted a bitter wound in the death of our infant son,” John wrote a fellow minister. “But He is Himself a father and knows what is good for His children.”

Three years later, a daughter died at birth, and two years after that, when both John and Idelette were 39, a third child was born prematurely and died. Then Idelette’s physical problems worsened. Coughing spells dragged her down.

While life in Geneva was better for John Calvin the second time around, it still was difficult. He had as many enemies in the city as he had friends. Some of the citizens called their dogs “Calvin.” What angered John more, however, was when the insults touched Idelette.

Idelette’s first marriage to Jean Stordeur had never been solemnized by a civil ceremony, because Anabaptists felt marriage was a sacred ceremony, not a legal act. Hence, years later in Geneva, the gossips in Geneva spread the word that Idelette was a woman of ill repute and that her two children had been born out of wedlock. John Calvin and Idelette were now unable to have children, the gossips said, because God was punishing them for her previous immorality.

Despite her poor health, Idelette tried to keep John on an even keel. Friends remarked that John was in better control of his temper, in spite of various provocations. No doubt, Idelette defused numerous explosions.

She was still in her 30s when disease, probably tuberculosis, began wasting her. In August 1548 John wrote, “She is so overpowered with her sickness that she can scarcely support herself.” And in 1549, when she had just turned 40, she lay dying. She had been married to John for only nine years.

On her sickbed she had two major concerns. One was that her illness should not be a major hindrance to John’s ministry. The other was her children.

Later, in a letter, John recalled the time: “Since I feared that these personal worries might aggravate her illness, I took an opportunity, three days before her death, to tell her that I would not fail to fulfill my responsibilities to her children.” She immediately responded by saying, “I have already entrusted them to God.” When I said that this did not relieve me of my responsibility to care for them, she answered, “I know that you would not neglect that which you know has been entrusted to God.”

On the day of her death, John was impressed with her serenity. “She suddenly cried out in such a way that all could see that her spirit had risen far above this world. These were her words, ‘O glorious resurrection! O God of Abraham and of all of our fathers, the believers of all the ages have trusted on Thee and none of them have hoped in vain. And now I fix my hope on Thee.’ These short statements were cried out rather than distinctly spoken. These were not lines suggested by someone else but came from her own thoughts.”

An hour later she could no longer speak and her mind seemed confused. “Yet her facial expressions revealed her mental alertness.” John recalled later. “I said a few words to her about the grace of Christ, the hope of everlasting life, our marriage and her approaching departure. Then I turned aside to pray.” Before long she quietly “slipped from life into death.”

John was grief-stricken. He wrote to his friend Viret, “You know how tender, or rather, soft my heart is. If I did not have strong self-control I would not have been able to stand it this long. My grief is very heavy. My best life’s companion has been taken from me. Whenever I faced serious difficulties she was ever ready to share with me, not only banishment and poverty, but even death itself.”

To his friend Farel he wrote, “I do what I can to keep myself from being overwhelmed with grief. My friends also leave nothing undone that may bring relief to my mental suffering . . . May the Lord Jesus . . . support me under this heavy affliction.”

John Calvin was only 40 when Idelette died, but he never remarried. Later he spoke about her uniqueness and pledged that he intended henceforth “to lead a solitary life.”

Idelette deBure Calvin’s wife was full of heartache, but, never a complainer, she brought joy and peace wherever she lived. John had known much about God the Father as Sovereign. Through her life and in her death Idelette taught him a little about the Holy Spirit as Comforter.

Calvin takes over Geneva

In October 1549, he was again required to preach twice on Sundays and, in addition, every weekday of alternate weeks. His sermons lasted more than an hour and he did not use notes. An occasional secretary tried to record his sermons, but very little of his preaching was preserved before 1549. In that year, professional scribe Denis Raguenier, who had learned or developed a system of shorthand, was assigned to record all of Calvin's sermons. An analysis of his sermons by T. H. L. Parker suggests that Calvin was a consistent preacher and his style changed very little over the years.  John Calvin was also known for his thorough manner of working his way through the Bible in consecutive sermons.

In November 1552, the Council declared Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion to be a "holy doctrine which no man might speak against."

From March 1555 to July 1556, Calvin delivered two hundred sermons on Deuteronomy.

Voltaire wrote about Calvin, Luther and Zwingli, "If they condemned celibacy in the priests, and opened the gates of the convents, it was only to turn all society into a convent. Shows and entertainments were expressly forbidden by their religion; and for more than two hundred years there was not a single musical instrument allowed in the city of Geneva. They condemned auricular confession, but they enjoined a public one; and in Switzerland, Scotland, and Geneva it was performed the same as penance."

Throughout the rest of his life in Geneva, he maintained several friendships from his early years including Montmor, Cordier, Cop, Farel, Melanchthon and Bullinger


He  remained in Geneva until his death May 27, 1564. Those years were filled with lecturing, preaching, and the writing of commentaries, treatises, and various editions of the Institutes of the Christian Religion.

 ( Dr. Karin Maag, H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies https://www.amazon.com/101-Good-Reasons-Believe-Comprehensive-ebook/dp/B078Z92BTV/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1518442100&sr=8-1&keywords=101+good+reasons+to+believe)  

Geneva was a church-city-state of 15,000 people, and the church constitution now recognized "pastors, doctors, elders and deacons," but the supreme power was given to the magistrate, John Calvin. He was appointed by the city council and paid by them. He could at any time have been dismissed by them (as he had been in 1538).  His was a moral authority, stemming from his belief that, because he proclaimed the message of the Bible, he was God's ambassador, with divine authority behind him. Within five years fifty-eight sentences of death and seventy-six of exile, besides numerous committals of the most eminent citizens to prison, took place in Geneva. As such, he was involved in much that went on in Geneva, from the city constitution to drains and heating appliances.

Following his return, Calvin introduced new forms of church government and liturgy, despite opposition from several powerful families in the city who tried to curb his authority.

During this period, Michael Servetus, a Spaniard regarded by both Roman Catholics and Protestants as having a heretical view of the Trinity, arrived in Geneva. He was denounced by Calvin and burned at the stake for heresy by the city council. Following an influx of supportive refugees and new elections to the city council, Calvin's opponents were forced out. Calvin spent his final years promoting the Reformation both in Geneva and throughout Europe.

When Servetus unexpectedly arrived in Geneva in 1553, both sides felt the need to demonstrate their zeal for orthodoxy. Calvin was responsible for Servetus’ arrest and conviction, though he had preferred a less brutal form of execution.



His role in the infamous execution of Michael Servetus in 1553, then, was not an official one. Servetus fled to Geneva to escape Catholic authorities: he had denied the Trinity, a blasphemy that merited death in the 1500s all over Europe. Geneva authorities didn't have any more patience with heresy than did Catholics, and with the full approval of Calvin, they put Servetus to the stake.

Following the execution of Servetus, a close associate of Calvin, Sebastian Castellio, broke with him on the issue of the treatment of heretics. In Castellio's Treatise on Heretics (1554), he argued for a focus on Christ's moral teachings in place of the vanity of theology, and he afterward developed a theory of tolerance based on biblical principles.

It is really surprising that a theology based on Jesus of Nazareth could support the intolerant stand of the Romans and the Protestants.  The teachings of Jesus was indeed clear.

 Matthew 5:43-48 New International Version (NIV)

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor] and hate your enemy.’
44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.“Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.”
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil … never avenge yourselves.”

The cross itself was the ultimate example of what he taught.


After years as a minister, writer and leader in Geneva and then Strassburg, Calvin returned to Geneva and resumed efforts to make the city a model Christian community, in part through tight restrictions on individual and social behavior and by the scrutiny (and punishment) of citizens by church and civil authorities. Thus Calvin’s name is often connected with grim moral austerity and denial of pleasure.  John Calvin allowed no art other than music, and even that could not involve instruments.

The Libertines : Spirituels or Patriots

Calvin encountered bitter opposition to his work in Geneva. Around 1546, the uncoordinated forces coalesced into an identifiable group whom he referred to as the libertines, but who preferred to be called either Spirituels or Patriots. According to Calvin, these were people who felt that after being liberated through grace, they were exempted from both ecclesiastical and civil law. The group consisted of wealthy, politically powerful, and interrelated families of Geneva.

At the end of January 1546, Pierre Ameaux, a maker of playing cards who had already been in conflict with the Consistory, attacked Calvin by calling him a "Picard", an epithet denoting anti-French sentiment, and accused him of false doctrine. Ameaux was punished by the council and forced to make expiation by parading through the city and begging God for forgiveness.

A few months later Ami Perrin, the man who had brought Calvin to Geneva, moved into open opposition. Perrin had married Françoise Favre, daughter of François Favre, a well-established Genevan merchant. Both Perrin's wife and father-in-law had previous conflicts with the Consistory. The court noted that many of Geneva's notables, including Perrin, had breached a law against dancing. Initially, Perrin ignored the court when he was summoned, but after receiving a letter from Calvin, he appeared before the Consistory.


Ami Perrin, (died 1561), Swiss opponent of the religious Reformer John Calvin at Geneva and leader of the anti-Calvinist Libertines.

A member of a prominent Genevese family, Perrin was associated with the city’s anti-Savoyard party Huguenots (Eidguenots) and commanded a company outfitted against the Duke of Savoy in 1529. Between 1544 and 1555 he stood as one of the most powerful figures in Geneva, serving many times as the city’s intercantonal and foreign emissary.

He was instrumental in bringing Calvin into Geneva through Farel.

Perrin early embraced the Reformation and championed the cause of Geneva’s seminal Reformer, Guillaume Farel. Consequently, he opposed the growth of the Calvinist theocracy, siding with and eventually leading an established party of moderation, the Libertines. In May 1555 an armed rising of his Libertines was resisted by the city’s government, and he was condemned to death. He managed to escape to Bern, where, with a few supporters (Fugitifs), he continued a futile opposition in exile.

The story doesn't end there:


When fellow reformer John Eckius, who disagreed with him on various points, got sick in Geneva, Calvin wrote this about him: “One says that Eckius will recover: The world still does not deserve to be delivered of this wild beast.”


For having disagreed with him on some points of doctrine, Sebastian Castillo, rector of a boys school in Geneva and an old friend of Calvin, was fired from his position and expelled from the city. For accusing the Calvinist doctrine of being absurd, Jérôme-Hermès Bolsec was sent to prison for weeks and then banished from Geneva.


For criticizing Calvin at a banquet, Pierre Ameaux, a city official, was forced to make expiation by parading through the city squares in a hair-shirt and begging God for forgiveness. These are the words of the official sentence:

“He is condemned to go around the city in penitential clothing, bareheaded, carrying a torch in his hand. When arriving before the tribunal, he must kneel, confess having evilly and maliciously spoken vile words, and manifest his repentance; then, he must beg for mercy before God and the justice of man. He is condemned to pay all the expenses. This sentence should be publically announced."


For having accused Calvin of Miguel Servet, condemned to burn for disagreeing with Calvin being a heretic, Jacques Gruet was tortured and beheaded in 1547.  


Galiffé, who delved into the records of that time.describing that within a short period of Calvin’s rule , “One counts 30 executions of men and 28 of women,
subdivided by method of death: 13 persons hanged, 10 beheaded, 55 quartered, 35 burned alive after being tortured.”


Reporting the religious persecutions of Calvin, author Jean Tet affirms that:
“from 1542 to 1546, which was the softer period of his government,
we count 58 capital executions, 76 banishments and 900 imprisonments.”


Presbyterianism, An Overview  Editor:Mason Shefa



Discipline and opposition (1546–1553)


By 1547, opposition to Calvin and other French refugee ministers had grown to constitute the majority of the syndics, the civil magistrates of Geneva. On 27 June an unsigned threatening letter in Genevan dialect was found at the pulpit of St. Pierre Cathedral where Calvin preached. Suspecting a plot against both the church and the state, the council appointed a commission to investigate. Jacques Gruet, a Genevan member of Favre's group, was arrested and incriminating evidence was found when his house was searched. Under torture, he confessed to several crimes including writing the letter left in the pulpit which threatened the church leaders. A civil court condemned Gruet to death and he was beheaded on 26 July. Calvin was not opposed to the civil court's decision.

The libertines continued organizing opposition, insulting the appointed ministers, and challenging the authority of the Consistory. The council straddled both sides of the conflict, alternately admonishing and upholding Calvin. When Perrin was elected first syndic in February 1552, Calvin's authority appeared to be at its lowest point. After some losses before the council, Calvin believed he was defeated; on 24 July 1553 he asked the council to allow him to resign. Although the libertines controlled the council, his request was refused. The opposition realized that they could curb Calvin's authority, but they did not have enough power to banish him.

Calvin used Protestant principles to establish a religious government; and in 1555, he was given absolute supremacy as leader in Geneva.Under his leadership, Geneva was organized as a theocracy, or political unit "governed directly by God."  

Calvin believed the church should faithfully mirror the principles laid down in Holy Scripture. In his Ecclesiastical Ordinances he argued that the New Testament taught four orders of ministry: pastors, doctors, elders, and deacons. Around these, the city was organized.

Pastors conducted the services, preached, administered the Sacraments, and cared for the spiritual welfare of parishioners. In each of the three parish churches, two Sunday services and a catechism class were offered. Every other weekday, a service was held—later on, every day. The Lord's Supper was celebrated quarterly.

The doctors, or teachers, lectured in Latin on the Old and New Testaments usually on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The audience consisted mainly of the older schoolboys and ministers, but anyone could attend.

In every district, elders kept an eye on spiritual affairs. If they saw that so-and-so was frequently the worse for drink, or that Mr. X beat his wife, or that Mr. Y and Mrs. Z were seeing too much of each other, they admonished them in a brotherly manner. If the behavior didn't cease, they reported the matter to the Consistory, the church's governing body, which would summon the offender. Excommunication was a last resort and would remain in force until the offender repented.

Finally, social welfare was the charge of the deacons. They were the hospital management board, social security executives, and alms-house supervisors. The deacons were so effective, Geneva had no beggars.

The system worked so well for so many years that when John Knox visited Geneva in 1554, he wrote a friend that the city "is the most perfect school of Christ that ever was in the earth since the days of the apostles."


Securing the Protestant Reformation (1553–1555)

After the death of Servetus, Calvin was acclaimed a defender of Christianity, but his ultimate triumph over the libertines was still two years away.

He had always insisted that the Consistory retain the power of excommunication, despite the council's past decision to take it away. During Servetus's trial, Philibert Berthelier asked the council for permission to take communion, as he had been excommunicated the previous year for insulting a minister. Calvin protested that the council did not have the legal authority to overturn Berthelier's excommunication. Unsure of how the council would rule, he hinted in a sermon on 3 September 1553 that he might be dismissed by the authorities. The council decided to re-examine the Ordonnances and on 18 September it voted in support of Calvin—excommunication was within the jurisdiction of the Consistory. Berthelier applied for reinstatement to another Genevan administrative assembly, the Deux Cents (Two Hundred), in November. This body reversed the council's decision and stated that the final arbiter concerning excommunication should be the council. The ministers continued to protest, and as in the case of Servetus, the opinions of the Swiss churches were sought. The affair dragged on through 1554. Finally, on 22 January 1555, the council announced the decision of the Swiss churches: the original Ordonnances were to be kept and the Consistory was to regain its official powers.

The libertines' downfall began with the February 1555 elections. By then, many of the French refugees had been granted citizenship and with their support, Calvin's partisans elected the majority of the syndics and the councillors. On 16 May the libertines took to the streets in a drunken protest and attempted to burn down a house that was supposedly full of Frenchmen. The syndic Henri Aulbert tried to intervene, carrying with him the baton of office that symbolised his power. Perrin seized the baton and waved it over the crowd, which gave the appearance that he was taking power and initiating a coup d'état. The insurrection was soon over when another syndic appeared and ordered Perrin to go with him to the town hall. Perrin and other leaders were forced to flee the city. With the approval of Calvin, the other plotters who remained in the city were found and executed. The opposition to Calvin's church polity came to an end.

Final years (1555–1564)

Calvin's authority was practically uncontested during his final years, and he enjoyed an international reputation as a reformer distinct from Martin Luther. Initially, Luther and Calvin had mutual respect for each other. A doctrinal conflict had developed between Luther and Zurich reformer Huldrych Zwingli on the interpretation of the eucharist. Calvin's opinion on the issue forced Luther to place him in Zwingli's camp. Calvin actively participated in the polemics that were exchanged between the Lutheran and Reformed branches of the Reformation movement. At the same time, Calvin was dismayed by the lack of unity among the reformers. He took steps toward rapprochement with Bullinger by signing the Consensus Tigurinus, a concordat between the Zurich and Geneva churches. He reached out to England when Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer called for an ecumenical synod of all the evangelical churches. Calvin praised the idea, but ultimately Cranmer was unable to bring it to fruition.

 Calvin sheltered Marian exiles (those who fled the reign of Catholic Mary Tudor in England) in Geneva starting in 1555. Under the city's protection, they were able to form their own reformed church under John Knox and William Whittingham and eventually carried Calvin's ideas on doctrine and polity back to England and Scotland.



The Collège Calvin is now a college preparatory school for the Swiss Maturité.

Within Geneva, Calvin's main concern was the creation of a collège, an institute for the education of children. A site for the school was selected on 25 March 1558 and it opened the following year on 5 June 1559. Although the school was a single institution, it was divided into two parts: a grammar school called the collège or schola privata and an advanced school called the académie or schola publica. Calvin tried to recruit two professors for the institute, Mathurin Cordier, his old friend and Latin scholar who was now based in Lausanne, and Emmanuel Tremellius, the former Regius professor of Hebrew in Cambridge. Neither was available, but he succeeded in obtaining Theodore Beza as rector. Within five years there were 1,200 students in the grammar school and 300 in the advanced school. The collège eventually became the Collège Calvin, one of the college preparatory schools of Geneva; the académie became the University of Geneva.



Impact on France

Calvin was deeply committed to reforming his homeland, France. The Protestant movement had been energetic, but lacked central organizational direction. With financial support from the church in Geneva, Calvin turned his enormous energies toward uplifting the French Protestant cause. As one historian explains:

He supplied the dogma, the liturgy, and the moral ideas of the new religion, and he also created ecclesiastical, political, and social institutions in harmony with it. A born leader, he followed up his work with personal appeals. His vast correspondence with French Protestants shows not only much zeal but infinite pains and considerable tact and driving home the lessons of his printed treatises. Between 1555 and 1562, more than 100 ministers were sent to France. Nevertheless French King Henry II severely persecuted Protestants under the Edict of Chateaubriand and when the French authorities complained about the missionary activities, the city fathers of Geneva disclaimed official responsibility.

While instituting many positive policies, Calvin's government also punished "impiety" and dissent against his particularly spare vision of Christianity with execution.

The struggle over control of Geneva lasted until May 1555, when Calvin finally prevailed and could devote himself more wholeheartedly to other matters. He had constantly to watch the international scene and to keep his Protestant allies in a common front. Toward this end he engaged in a massive correspondence with political and religious leaders throughout Protestant Europe.

He also continued his commentaries on Scripture, working through the whole New Testament except the Revelation to John and most of the Old Testament. Many of these commentaries were promptly published, often with dedications to such European rulers as Queen Elizabeth, though Calvin had too little time to do much of the editorial work himself. Committees of amanuenses took down what he said, prepared a master copy, and then presented it to Calvin for approval. During this period Calvin also established the Genevan Academy to train students in humanist learning in preparation for the ministry and positions of secular leadership. He also performed a wide range of pastoral duties, preaching regularly and often, doing numerous weddings and baptisms, and giving spiritual advice

In 1559 Calvin founded what is now the University of Geneva…

Calvin, for his part, preached twice every Sunday and every day of alternate weeks. When not preaching, he lectured as the Old Testament professor three times a week. He took his place regularly on the Consistory, which met every Thursday. And he was either on committees or incessantly being asked for advice about matters relating to the deacons.

Calvin drove himself beyond his body's limits. When he could not walk the couple of hundred yards to church, he was carried in a chair to preach. When the doctor forbade him to go out in the winter air to the lecture room, he crowded the audience into his bedroom and gave lectures there. To those who would urge him to rest, he asked, "What? Would you have the Lord find me idle when he comes?"

His afflictions were intensified by opposition he sometimes faced. People tried to drown his voice by loud coughing while he preached; others fired guns outside the church. Men set their dogs on him. There were even anonymous threats against his life.

Calvin's patience gradually wore away. Even when he was patient, he was too unsympathetic sometimes. He showed little understanding, little kindness, and certainly little humor.

Calvin finally wore out in 1564. But his influence has not. Outside the church, his ideas have been blamed for and credited with the rise of capitalism, individualism, and democracy. In the church, he has been a major influence on leading figures such as evangelist George Whitefield and theologian Karl Barth, as well as entire movements, such as Puritanism.

Day to day, church bodies with the names "Presbyterian" or "Reformed" (and even some Baptist groups) carry forward his legacy in local parishes all over the world.

Some scholars attribute capitalism to Calvinism’s influence. Among the first was Max Weber in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904)…

In the first five years of his rule in Geneva,

58 people were executed and
76 exiled for their religious beliefs.
Calvin allowed no art other than music,
and even that could not involve instruments.

Under his rule,

Geneva became the center of Protestantism, and sent out pastors to the rest of Europe,
Presbyterianism in Scotland,
the Puritan Movement in England and
the Reformed Church in the Netherlands.  

Last illness

Left: Calvin as an old man in Musée de la Réformation Genève  Right: Traditional grave of Calvin in the Cimetière de Plainpalais in Geneva; the exact location of his grave is unknown.
In late 1558, Calvin became ill with a fever. Since he was afraid that he might die before completing the final revision of the Institutes, he forced himself to work. The final edition was greatly expanded to the extent that Calvin referred to it as a new work. The expansion from the 21 chapters of the previous edition to 80 was due to the extended treatment of existing material rather than the addition of new topics. Shortly after he recovered, he strained his voice while preaching, which brought on a violent fit of coughing. He burst a blood-vessel in his lungs, and his health steadily declined. He preached his final sermon in St. Pierre on 6 February 1564. On 25 April, he made his will, in which he left small sums to his family and to the collège. A few days later, the ministers of the church came to visit him, and he bade his final farewell, which was recorded in Discours d'adieu aux ministres. He recounted his life in Geneva, sometimes recalling bitterly some of the hardships he had suffered. Calvin died on 27 May 1564 aged 54. At first his body lay in state, but since so many people came to see it, the reformers were afraid that they would be accused of fostering a new saint's cult. On the following day, he was buried in an unmarked grave in the Cimetière des Rois. The exact location of the grave is unknown; a stone was added in the 19th century to mark a grave traditionally thought to be Calvin's.




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