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Reformed Literature
A Presbyterian Internet Journal

The Man God Mastered (A brief biography of John Calvin)

J. Cadier (Translated from French by O.R. Johnston)

This book is a very readable and simple biography of Calvin. It does not pretend to be an academic type history instead it is an attempt to take Calvin to the typical reader.

It starts with Calvin's birth in Noyon to the son of the business manager of the clergy in that town. He was given two benefices as an income stream to support him through his studies.

The author charts the survival of the Cauvin family home until 1918 when it was destroyed during shelling.

It tracks Calvin to Paris, then Orleans and on to Bourges, Paris and then Noyon in his studies. It also shows the various influences on his life during each of these moves from men like Melchior Wolmar.

In 1532 he had settled on life as a humanist scholar. Yet, by late 1533 a change has taken place in his life and he is decidedly siding with the Reformation. In 1534 he returned to Noyon to give up his benefices and make a final break with the Roman Catholic church. Towards the end of 1534, Calvin and de Tillet are feeling that France was becoming rather precarious and made their way to Basle via Strasbourg.

In Basle he began his work on the great work of the Institutes of Christian Religion. In 1536, he stopped at Geneva on the way back to Basle where Farel managed to persuade him to stay at to preach. Despite a good reception for his preaching a civil/ecclesiastical dispute in 1538 saw the town council refuse both Farel and Calvin the right to preach.

After his banishment Calvin and Farel departed for Basle. Farel quickly moved to Neuchatel in the place of Marcourt (author of the placards) while Calvin stayed a while and then moved to Strasbourg to be with Bucer, Capito and Sturm. Throughout this period he had warm contact with Luther and Melanchthon and others. By 1541, the political situation in Geneva had changed and he was being invited back to Geneva. The account goes that the first Sabbath back in Geneva, he want up the pulpit steps and simply began again without any comment at the exact point in the Scriptures he had broken off his expositions before being banished.

The book goes on to detail the rest of his time in Geneva. The publication of the institutes, the controversy with the Nicodemites and even the issues around Servetus.

Well worth a read and very accessible. It may be out of print but can be easily found on any second hand book website at a reasonable price. You should read at least one Calvin biography in this year!