True Reform

(Part 2 of 2)

Geneva, though Protestant, was a wicked and evil city, with rampant immorality. The great struggle would be in instilling a Christian ethic and worldview among the population. Here Calvin, beginning his work as Farel’s assistant, began to put forth papers on church government and catechisms. He sought to set up a theocracy in the city.

For three years the work of Calvin and Farel grew, yet the city was not ready for them and they were expelled from Geneva in 1538. This was a crushing blow for Calvin, suffering much depression from it. Calvin then traveled to Strassburg in Germany, meeting many of the leaders of the Lutheran reformed movement. Here he began to mull and develop his doctrine of the church and how it was to be governed.

He also met his wife, Idelette de Buren, a widow. She bore three children, all of whom died in infancy. She too died after only 9 years of marriage. Calvin said of her death:

“I have been bereaved of the best friend of my life, of one who, if it has been so ordained, would willingly have shared not only my poverty but also my death. During her life she was the faithful helper of my ministry. From her I never experienced the slightest hindrance.”

In 1541, Geneva sent word that they wanted Calvin back. Church attendance had dwindled and the city was considering going back to Catholicism. Reluctant at first, Calvin did return and carried on his work of reform there. He accomplished much in this regard. The city became a beacon of the Reformation, housing those protestants who fled Catholic execution and displaying great moral reform. There were many obstacles on the way, including an ongoing fight with the cities Libertines and the execution of Michael Servetus, a heretic and anti-trinitarian, by the government of Geneva.

Calvin preached consistently, twice every Sunday and in the week he conducted other services. He wrote much and was constantly busy. Yet he suffered from ill health which eventually caught up with him. After a sickness that he had while he revised his Institutes one last time, he got up to preach. He strained his voice so badly he burst a blood vessel in his lungs. From there his health dropped into a drastic downward spiral. He died on the 15th of May 1564 and was gathered to God’s people.

His grave had to be moved because of the sheer volume of people who visited, and the reformers wanted to avoid idolatry and worship of saints. His exact burial location is still not known.

Pope Pius the IV had this to say about his bitter enemy, John Calvin: “The strength of that heretic consisted in this, that money never had the slightest charm for him. If I had such servants, my kingdom would extend from sea to sea.”

He was a man used by God and to God alone belongs all the glory.

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