13 February, 2006

What do theologians leave behind when they die?

If you were a world-famous theologian that was looked upon for wisdom and guidance by all of Europe what would you leave behind when you died?

THE WILL OF JOHN CALVIN.

In the name of the Lord – Amen. I, John Calvin, minister of the word of God in the church of Geneva, finding myself so much oppressed and afflicted with various diseases, that I think the Lord God has determined speedily to remove me out of this world, have ordered to be made and written, my testament, and declaration of my last will, in form and manner following: First, I give thanks to God, that taking compassion on me whom he had created and placed in this world, he not only delivered me by his power out of the deep darkness of idolatry, into which I was plunged, that he might bring me into the light of his gospel, and make me a partaker of the doctrine of salvation, of which I was most unworthy; that with the same goodness and mercy he has graciously and kindly borne with my multiplied transgressions and sins, for which I deserved to be rejected and cut off by him; and has also exercised towards me such great compassion and clemency, that he has condescended to use my labor in preaching and publishing the truth of his gospel. I also testify and declare, that it is my full intention to pass the remainder of my life in the same faith and religion, which he has delivered to me by his gospel; having no other defense or refuge of salvation than his gratuitous adoption, on which alone my safety depends. I also embrace with my whole heart the mercy which he exercises towards me for the sake of Jesus Christ, atoning for my crimes by the merits of his death and passion, that in this way satisfaction may be made for all my transgressions and offenses, and the remembrance of them blotted out. I further testify and declare that, as a suppliant, I humbly implore of him to grant me to be so washed and purified by the blood of that sovereign Redeemer, sited for the sins of the human race, that I may be permitted to stand before his tribunal in the image of the Redeemer himself. I likewise declare, that according to the measure of grace and mercy which God has vouchsafed me, I have diligently made it my endeavor, both in my sermons, writings, and commentaries, purely and uncorruptly to preach his word, and faithfully to interpret his sacred Scriptures. I testify and declare that in all the controversies and disputes, which I have conducted with the enemies of the gospel, I have made use of no craftiness, nor corrupt and sophistical arts, but have been engaged in defending the truth with candor and sincerity.
But, alas! my study, and my zeal, if they deserve the name, have been so remiss and languid, that I confess innumerable things have been wanting in me to discharge the duties of my office in all excellent manner; and unless the infinite bounty of God had been present, all my study would have been vain and transient. I also acknowledge that unless the same goodness had accompanied me, the endowments of mind bestowed upon me by God, must have made me more and more chargeable with guilt and inactivity before his tribunal. And on these grounds I witness and declare, that I hope for no other refuge of salvation than this alone – that since God is a Father of mercy, he will show himself a Father to me, who confess myself a miserable sinner. Further, I will, after my departure out of this life, that my body be committed to the earth in that manner, and with those funeral rites, which are usual in this city and church, until the day of the blessed resurrection shall come. As for the small patrimony which God has bestowed upon me, and which I have determined to dispose of in this will, I appoint Anthony Calvin, my very dearly beloved brother, my heir, but only as a mark of respect. Let him take charge of, and keep as his own, my silver goblet, which was given me as a present by Mr. Varanne: and I desire he will be content with it. As for the residue of my property, I commit it to his care with this request, that he restore it to his children at his death. I bequeath also to the school for boys, ten golden crowns, to be given by my brother and legal heir, and to poor strangers the same sum. Also to Jane, daughter of Charles Costans and of my half-sister by the paternal side, the sum of ten crowns. Furthermore, I wish my heir to give, on his death, to Samuel and John, sons of my said brother, my nephews, out of my estate, each forty crowns, after his death; and to my nieces Ann, Susan, and Dorothy, each thirty golden crowns. To my nephew David, as a proof of his light and trifling conduct, I bequeath only twenty-five golden crowns.

6 comments:

Droll Flood said...

The answer to the post's question: the Word proclaimed. This was the one thing that Calvin was first, a pastor.
I hope in providence that nephew David got his act together...

Penumbra said...

Hey, David still got 25 gold crowns. Sounds to me like this was simply Calvin's humorous response to his nephew's "light and trifling" behavior.

ellie said...

What beautiful prose! He was indeed a sad and depressed character in spite of his salvation. He felt unworthy through and through... It reminds me that each theologian has unique personality traits. These traits serve Gods purposes.Consider your own personality traits and ponder your unique purpose........

Nate said...

He was a depressed man. He saw failure through and through. If you read any of his bios he was incredible though. Multiple diseases, including the plague, children that died young and no heir, a rebellious city in which he ministered, and HATED by many.

Many reasons to be depressed, but he pressed on to the prize!

Read Thea Van Halsema, This Was John Calvin. It is GREAT!

edwardseanist said...

I would say that his personality traits were shaped by his view of God. You can't spend your life feasting on the Word of God and come away with a high view of yourself.

Droll Flood said...

Theodore Beza has a biography of Calvin as well as Van Halsema. I would recommend Thea Van Halsema's book: it is an interesting read, however Beza's biography has a ton more weight as an "authority," given that he was a personal friend of Calvin. I believe that D'Aubigne has some biographical stuff on Calvin too.

In his providential lot, Calvin was a physiological wreck: gout, phthysis, etc. but was given by God amazing strength to press onward. He wanted to proclaim God's word, and nobody save God could stop him from doing it.
Calvin was righteously angry with the Roman Catholic church for all their crap they taught which hid and obscured the Gospel from the people, which plunged those people into darkness in regards to salvation. In Calvin's commentary on the Harmony of the Gospels, he rarely goes two sections without lambasting Rome and its teachings.