Saturday, April 22, 2017


Reformation 500 WEEK 17    John calvin and Farel

After the publication of the first edition of his Institutes in early 1536, Calvin decided to go to the German-Swiss city of Strasbourg, to pursue the quiet life of a scholar, and to partner with Martin Bucer. “However, because of hostilities between Francis I and Charles V and troop movements resulting in blocked roads” (DeMar, Reformation, 201), he took a detour; and “on a warm day in August, 1536, arrived through the gates of Geneva [population then about 10,000]” (Kuiper, 192).

“A postcard-picture spot, Geneva nestles against a lake surrounded by mountains. The city could boast inhabitants as far back as the days of Julius Caesar.  (Nichols, Reformation, 75). “Near-by, through a pass in the Alps, runs an important trade route connecting Italy, German, and France” (Kuiper, 192).

“When Calvin entered Geneva, he did not think anyone in that city knew of him.  He himself was a total stranger there, and of the situation in Geneva he knew little or nothing” (Kuiper, 193). He did not know that William Farel (1489-1565), an old acquaintance from Paris, had come as an exile to Geneva in 1532 and after much effort had convinced the citizens of Geneva to forsake Catholicism in favor of the Reformation. “On May 21, 1536, the General Assembly of the citizens voted in favor of the Reformation and made Protestantism the official religion of Geneva” (Kuiper, 192).

“All through this time, Geneva was in revolt against its bishop, and against its lord, the Duke of Savoy. Farel was of a fiery temper, and gifted with eloquence and a powerful voice. But he did not feel himself equal to the task of bringing peace and order to the distracted city. Then he heard that Calvin had come to Geneva [unknown to Calvin, his Institutes had already made him famous all over Europe]. It came to Farel as a revelation that this young Frenchman of twenty-seven was just the man for the place. Farel hurried to the inn where Calvin was stopping for the night [hoping to convince him to remain and help with reform efforts]” (Kuiper, 193). “Calvin protested, pleading his youth, his inexperience, his need of further study, his natural timidity and bashfulness, which made him unfit for public action” (Schaff, 8:348).

When Calvin gave his final answer of “No!” Farel “rose from his chair, and, straightening himself out to his full height as his long beard swept his chest, he directed his piercing look full at the young man before him and thundered: ‘May God curse your studies if now in her time of need you refuse to lend your aid to His Church’.” (Kuiper 193-94).

In the Preface to his commentary on Psalms, Calvin describes his encounter with Farel: “I had resolved to pass quickly by Geneva, without staying longer than a single night in that city.” But Farel “strained every nerve to detain me. And after having learned that my heart was set upon devoting myself to private studies, for which I wished to keep myself free from other pursuits, and finding that he gained nothing by entreaties, he proceeded to utter an imprecation that God would curse my retirement, and the tranquility of my studies, if I should refuse to give assistance, when the necessity was so urgent. By this imprecation [which I felt to be as if God had from heaven laid His mighty hand upon me to stop me] I was so stricken with terror, that I ceased from my journey [to Strasbourg and agreed to stay in Geneva].”

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 John Calvin and William Farel

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 17

Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts.

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