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JOHN CALVIN (1509–1564)
THE FAMOUS REFORMER AND PREACHER
FTER Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation, Calvin was the greatest of those who broke away from the Church of Rome, preached new doctrines and established a new Church. Destined for the Roman clergy, and appointed curé of Marteville, France, when only sixteen years of age, he early dissented from the theology of his Church, and began to preach the new doctrines of the Protestant faith. Soon he made France too hot for him, and fled from place to place, until he finally found a refuge in Geneva, Switzerland, where he founded a church and developed a sectarian faith which has since made its way throughout the Christian world. Calvin was exceptionally clear and exact as a theological writer and acutely logical as a reasoner. Beza, one of his admirers, speaks in high terms of his oratory, saying that he “taught the truth, not with affected eloquence, but with such solid gravity of style that there was not a man who could hear him without being ravished with admiration.”
THE COURAGE OF A CHRISTIAN
[As an example of Calvin's style of preaching we offer a brief extract from a sermon on the necessity of enduring persecution, and the reasons for doing so with courage and fortitude.]
A heathen could say that “It was a miserable thing to save life by giving up the only things which made life desirable !” And yet he, and others like him, never knew for what end men are placed in the world, and why they live in it. It is true they knew enough to say that men ought to follow virtue, to conduct themselves honestly and without reproach ; but all their virtues were mere paint and smoke. We know far better what the chief aim of life should be ; namely, to glorify God,
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in order that he may be our glory. When this is not done, woe to us! And we cannot continue to live for a single moment upon the earth without heaping additional curses on our heads. Still, we are not ashamed to purchase some few days to languish here below, renouncing the eternal kingdom by separating ourselves from Him by whose energy we are sustained in life. Were we to ask the most ignorant, not to say the most brutish, persons in the world why they live, they would not venture to answer simply, that it is to eat, and drink, and sleep; for all know that they have been . created for a higher and holier end. And what end can we find if it be not to honor God, and allow ourselves to be governed by Him, like children by a good parent; so that after we have finished the journey of this corruptible life, we may be received into His eternal inheritance | Such is the principal, indeed the sole end. When we do not take it into account, and are intent on a brutish life, which is worse than a thousand deaths, what can we allege for our excuse 2 To live and not know why, is unnatural. To reject the causes for which we live, under the influence of a foolish longing for a respite of some few days, during which we are to live in the world, while separated from God—I know not how to name such infatuation and madness . • . It were easy, indeed, for God to crown us at once, without requiring us to sustain any combats; but as it is His pleasure that until the end of the world Christ shall reign in the midst of His enemies, so it is also His pleasure that we, being placed in the midst of them, shall suffer their oppression and violence till He deliver us. I know, indeed, that the flesh kicks when it is to be brought to this point, but still the will of God must have the mastery. If we feel some repugnance in ourselves, it need not surprise us; for it is only too natural for us to shun the cross. Still let us not fail to surmount it, knowing that God accepts our obedience, provided we bring all our feelings and wishes into captivity, and make them subject to him. . In ancient times, vast numbers of people, to obtain a simple crown of leaves, refused no toil, no pain, no trouble ; nay, it even cost them nothing to die, and yet every one of them fought for a peradventure, not knowing whether he was to gain or lose the prize. God holds forth to us the immortal crown by which we may become partakers of His glory. He does not mean us to fight at haphazard, but all of us have a promise of the prize for which we strive. Have we any cause then to decline the struggle 2 Do we think it has been said in vain, “If we die with Jesus Christ we shall also live with Him 2 ” Our triumph is prepared, and yet we do all we can to shun the combat.
JACQUES BENIGNE BOSSUET (1627-1704) FRANCE'S GREATEST PULPIT ORATOR
Bossuet, Fénelon and Bourdaloue, followed by a fourth, Massillon, in the later years of the reign of the “Grand Monarque.” Of these, Bossuet has by some been ranked with Mirabeau as the greatest of French orators, though to-day he does not find as many readers as his rival, Fénelon. Bossuet became the recognized champion in France of the Romish Church, converting many Protestants by his sermons at Metz, and numbering the Marshal de Turenne among his converts at Paris. He was distinguished not alone for eloquence, but made himself famous also by his writings. His “Discourse on Universal History,” says Hallam, “is perhaps the greatest effort of his wonderful genius.” . . . Among his most admired productions are six funeral orations, those on Henrietta Maria, Queen of England, and on the Prince de Condé being especially famous as models of eloquence.
T HREE great contemporary orators graced the reign of Louis XIV.,
THE DEATH OF THE PRINCE OF CONDé
[We cannot give a better example of Bossuet's powers than by selecting from his noble address in memory of his friend, the great Condé. It is highly eulogistic throughout, and in this style of oratorical composition remains unsurpassed. We append the closing section of this admirable address, in which the story of a great life is supplemented by that of a noble death.]
The Prince of Condé grew weaker, but death concealed his approach. When he seemed to be somewhat restored, and the Duke d'Enghien, ever occupied between his duties as a son and his duties as a subject, had returned by his order to the king, in an instant all was changed, and his approaching death was announced to the prince. Christians, give attention, and here learn to die, or rather learn not to wait for the last hour to begin to live well. Whatl expect to commence a new life when, seized
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by the freezing grasp of death, ye know not whether ye are among the living or the dead? Ah prevent, by penitence, that hour of trouble and darkness! Thus, without being surprised at that final sentence communicated to him, the Prince remained for a moment in silence, and then all at once exclaimed : “Thou dost will it, O my God, thy will be done ! Give me grace to die well !” What more could you desire 2 In that brief prayer you see submission to the will of God, reliance on His Providence, trust in His grace, and all devotion. From that time, such as he had been in all combats—serene, selfpossessed, and occupied without anxiety, only with what was necessary to sustain them—such also he was in that last conflict. Death appeared to him no more frightful, pale, and languishing, than amid the fires of battle and in the prospect of victory. While sobbings were heard all around him, he continued, as if another than himself were their object, to give his orders; and if he forbade them weeping, it was not because it was a distress to him, but simply a hindrance. At that time he extended his cares to the least of his domestics. With a liberality worthy of his birth and of their services, he loaded them with gifts, and honored them still more with mementos of his regard. . Tranquil in the arms of his God, he waited for His salvation, and implored His support until he finally ceased to breathe. And here our lamentations ought to break forth at the loss of so great a man. But for the love of the truth, and the shame of those who despise it, listen once more to that noble testimony which he bore to it in dying. Informed by his confessor that if our heart is not entirely right with God, we must, in our addresses, ask God himself to make it such as he pleases, and address Him in the affecting language of David, “O God, create in me a clean heart.” Arrested by these words, the prince pauses, as if occupied by some great thought; then calling the ecclesiastic who had suggested the idea, he says: “I have never doubted the mysteries of religion, as some have reported.” Christians, ye ought to believe him ; for in the state he then was, he owed to the world nothing but truth. “But,” added he, “I doubt them less than ever. May these truths,” he continued, “reveal and develop themselves more and more clearly in my mind. Yes! ” says he, “we shall see God as He is, face to face l’’ With a wonderful relish he repeated in Latin those lofty words—“As He is—face to face | " Nor could those around him grow weary of seeing him in so sweet a transport. What was then taking place in that soul | What new light dawned upon him 2 What sudden ray pierced the cloud, and instantly dissipated, not only all the darkness of sense, but the very shadows, and, if I dare to say it, the sacred obscurities of faith ? What then became of those
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splendid titles by which our pride is flattered 2 On the very verge of glory, and in the dawning of a light so beautiful, how rapidly vanish the phantoms of the world ! How dim appears the splendor of the most glorious victory ! How profoundly we despise the glory of the world, and how deeply regret that our eyes were ever dazzled by its radiance. Come, ye people, come now—or rather ye princes and lords, ye judges of the earth, and ye who open to man the portals of heaven; and more than all others, ye princes and princesses, nobles descended from a long line of kings, lights of France, but to-day in gloom, and covered with your grief, as with a cloud, come and see how little remains of a birth so august, a grandeur so high, a glory so dazzling ! Look around on all sides, and see all that magnificence and devotion can do to honor so great a hero; titles and inscriptions, vain signs of that which is no more—shadows which weep around a tomb, fragile images of a grief which time sweeps away with everything else; columns which appear as if they would bear to heaven the magnificent evidence of our emptiness; nothing, indeed, is wanting in all these honors but he to whom they are rendered Weep then over these feeble remains of human life; weep over that mournful immortality we give to heroes.
But draw near, especially ye who run, with such ardor, the career of glory, intrepid and warrior spirits Who was more worthy to command you, and in whom did ye find command more honorable 2 Mourn then that great Captain, and weeping, say: “Here is a man that led tis through all hazards, under whom were formed so many renowned captains, raised by his example, to the highest honors of war; his shadow might yet gain battles; and lo! in his silence his very name animates us, and at the same time warns us, that to find, at death, some rest from our toils, and not arrive unprepared at our eternal dwelling, we must, with an earthly king, yet serve the King of Heaven.” Serve, then, that immortal and ever merciful King, who will value a sigh, or a cup of cold water, given in His name, more than all others will value the shedding of your blood. And begin to reckon the time of your useful services from the day on which you gave yourselves to so beneficent a Master. Will not ye too come, ye whom he honored by making you his friends 2 To whatever extent you enjoyed this confidence, come all of you, and surround this tomb. Mingle your prayers with your tears; and while admiring, in so great a prince, a friendship so excellent, an intercourse so sweet, preserve the remembrance of a hero whose goodness equaled his courage. Thus may be ever prove your cherished instructor; thus may you profit by his virtues; and may his death, which you deplore, serve you at once for consolation and example.