Saturday, April 25, 2015

April 25, 1564 A.D. John Calvin pens his last will and testament



April 25, 1564 A.D.  John Calvin pens his last will and testament.
Brief backstory and the will (further details on his life are told by us elsewhere).  Dr. Rusten tells the story at p. 232.
Rusten, E. Michael and Rusten, Sharon. The One Year Christian History. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2003. 

John Calvin was born 10 July 1509 in Picardy, France.
He tells of his conversion this way:
“God drew me from obscure and lowly beginnings and conferred on me the most honorable office of herald and minister of the gospel…What happened first was that by an unexpected conversion he tamed to teachableness a mind too stubborn for its years.”
At age 26, he began work on his seminal and very influential Institutes of the Christian Religion.  Ultimately, he ended up in Geneva where he worked, lived and died in 1564.  He lived modestly, frugally, and thoughtfully, becoming, in time, the intellectual engineer of Reformed theology, a restoration of simple, intelligent, Biblical, catholic, holy and apostolic Churchmanship.  He was often ill.  He preached 5 times a week. He wrote commentaries on nearly every book of the Bible. 
His last sermon was on 6 February 1564.  The 55-year old Reformer was carried to the church, St. Peter’s, Geneva.
On 25 April 1564, he called Geneva’s notary, Peter Chenalat, to record (Calvin dictated it) and witness his last will and testament.  Calvin said:
“In the name of the Lord, Amen. I, John Calvin, minister of the Word of God in this Church of Geneva, being afflicted and oppressed with various diseases…give thanks to God, that taking mercy on me, whom He created and placed in this world…And I testify and declare, that it is my intention to spend what yet remains of my life in the same faith and religion which He has delivered to me by His gospel…With my whole soul I embrace the mercy which He has exercised towards me through Jesus Christ, atoning for my sins…that under His shadow I may be able to stand at the judgment–seat.  I likewise declare, that…I have endeavored, both in my sermons and also in my writings and commentaries, to preach His Word purely and chastely, and faithfully to interpret His sacred Scriptures…I also testify and declare, that…with the enemies of the gospel, I have acted candidly and sincerely in defending the truth.  But, woe is me!...I confess I have failed innumerable times to execute my office properly, and had not He, of boundless goodness, assisted me, all that zeal had been fleeting and vain…As God is the Father of mercy, He will shew Himself a Father to me, who acknowledge myself to be a miserable sinner.”
Calvin’s second half of the will bequeathed the “slender patrimony” to family and friends. He had few possessions.  He had refused pay raises and lived with simplicity and frugality.
He died on 27 May 1564.
A few questions:
·        Who ever writes a will like this in these times?  Why not?  The lawyers in estates and wills don’t teach this.  (I took a law course in Estates and Wills.)  But why not include a theological preamble for the family legacy?  Children and grandchildren?

·        Calvin left a theological, intellectual and moral legacy to Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Germany, France, England, Scotland, Hungary and the United States.  He was well-received by English Reformers. 17th century Laudians and 19th century Tractarian thugs were viciously hostile to one whose God-given gifts and achievements dwarfed their’s. They labored to diminish and efface Calvin from memory.  To their petulant chagrin, Calvin was a best seller in Elizabethan England.  

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