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Calvin's Battle for the Reformation


Timeline of John Calvin (1509-1564)

(modified from one produced by Marcus Serven)

1509 — Born in Noyon, Picardy, France, the second of six children (10 July)

1523 — Starts studies at the University of Paris

1528 — Starts studies in law at the University of Orleans

1529 — Starts studies in law at the University of Bourges

1531 — Returns to Paris to study theology, after death of his father

1532-1533 (approx.) — Converted to Christ

1533 — Flees Paris soon after his friend, Nicolas Cop, delivers an unwelcome reformatory address to the university

1534 — "The Affair of the Placards" (17-18 October) increases persecution of French Protestants

1536 — Publishes his first edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion in Basle

1536 — Enlisted as a Reformer in Geneva by William Farel

1536 — The Genevan Confession is adopted by the City Council (10 November)

1537 — A Protestant Statement of Faith is presented to the City Council

1538 — Banished from Geneva with Farel and Elie Corault (25 April)

1538-1541 — Labours in Strasbourg

1539 — Replies to Bishop Jacopo Sadolet’s letter to Geneva

1540 — Publishes his first commentary on a biblical book, Romans

1540 — Marries the widow Idelette de Bure (6 August)

1541 — Returns to Geneva (13 September)

1541 — The Ecclesiastical Ordinances are established in Geneva

1542 — Birth and death of John and Idelette Calvin’s son, Jacques

1543 — Plague in Geneva; the City Council votes to spare Calvin from "plague duty"

1549 — Calvin’s wife Idelette dies after a brief illness (29 March)

1553 — Michael Servetus is executed by burning at Geneva (27 October)

1555 — A public riot instigated by the "Libertines" fails (16 May), and the key leaders are arrested or flee the city

1559 — Founding of the Genevan Academy with Theodore Beza as Rector (5 June)

1559 — Publishes the final edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion in Geneva

1562 — The whole 150 Psalms are put to music in a French Psalter

1564 — Carried to church for the last time and receives the Lord's Supper from Beza (2 April)

1564 — Makes moving address to the Genevan rulers (26 April)

1564 — Makes farewell address to tearful, local ministers (28 April & 19 May)

1564 — Dies peacefully (27 May)

1564 — Buried in Genevan cemetery in an unmarked grave (28 May)

Calvin Quotes

The heretic Arminius on Calvin's commentaries: "Next to the perusal of the Scriptures ... I exhort my pupils to peruse Calvin's commentaries, which I extol in loftier terms than Helmich himself [a Dutch theologian, 1551-1608]; for I affirm that he excels beyond comparison in the interpretation of Scripture, and that his commentaries ought to be more highly valued than all that is handed down to us by the library of the fathers; so that I acknowledge him to have possessed above most others, or rather above all other men, what may be called an eminent gift of prophecy."

Calvin on his conversion: "... since I was too obstinately devoted to the superstitions of Popery to be easily extricated from so profound an abyss of mire, God by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame, which was more hardened in such matters than might have been expected from one at my early period of life. Having thus received some taste and knowledge of true godliness, I was immediately inflamed with so intense a desire to make progress therein."

Calvin on his wife after her death: "I have been bereaved of the best companion of my life, of one who, had it been so ordered, would not only have been the willing sharer of my indigence, but even of my death. During her life she has been the faithful helper of my ministry."

Calvin on catechetical instruction of the youth: "It has ever been the practice of the church, and one carefully attended to, to see that children should be duly instructed in the Christian religion … it was a received public custom and practice, to question children in the churches on each of the heads, which should be common and well known to all Christians. To secure this being done in order, there was written out a formula, which was called a catechism … What we now bring forward, therefore, is nothing else than the use of things which from ancient times were observed by Christians, and the true worshippers of God, and which never were laid aside until the church was wholly corrupted."

Calvin on congregational singing: "... what St. Augustine said is true, that one can sing nothing worthy of God save what one has received from him. Wherefore though we look far and wide we will find no better songs nor songs more suitable to that purpose than the Psalms of David, which the Holy Spirit made and imparted to him. Thus, singing them we may be sure that our words come from God just as if He were to sing in us for His own exaltation."

Prof. Barry Gritters on Calvin's bad health: "Only one of his physical ailments would have driven most pastors to a bed of rest; Calvin endured, without complaint, a dozen. His own testimony was that he went twenty years without letup from headaches. He suffered arthritis, gout, malaria, and finally five years of tuberculosis. One story has a doctor recommending Calvin gallop hard on a horse to dislodge his kidney stone, but his hemorrhoids were so severe he could not bear to ride" (The Sixteenth-Century Reformation of the Church [Grand Rapids: RFPA, 2007], p. 16)