Laboring with Every Fiber of His Being

When one examines the shear quantity of work John Calvin accomplished in his life, it is simply staggering. I am on;y personally helped in reminding myself of God’s particular gifting and calling for Calvin. If it were not for this, I would probably feel immense guilt for my comparative laziness.

But the labours of Calvin were as multiplied and arduous as his achievements were marvellous. The Genevan edition of his works amounts to twelve folio volumes. Besides these, there exist at Geneva two thousand of his sermons and lectures, taken down from his mouth, as he delivered them. He was but twenty-eight years in the ministry altogether. He was always poor, so as not to be able to have many books. The sufferings of his body from headache, weakness, and other complaints, were constant and intense, so that he was obliged to recline on his couch a part of every day. It was only the remnants of his time, left from preaching and correspondence, he devoted to study and writing. And yet, every year of his life may be chronicled by his various works. In the midst of convulsions and interruptions of every kind, he pursued his commentaries on the Bible, as if sitting in the most perfect calm, and undisturbed repose. His labours were indeed incredible, and beyond all comparison. He allowed himself no recreation whatever. He preached and wrote with headaches that would, says Beza, have confined any other person to bed.

Calvin was a member of the Sovereign Council of Geneva, and took a great part in the deliberations, as a politician and legislator. He corrected the civil code of his adopted country. He corresponded with Protestants throughout Europe, both on religious subjects and State affairs; for all availed themselves of his experience in difficult matters. He wrote innumerable letters of encouragement and consolation to those who were persecuted, imprisoned, condemned to death for the Gospel’s sake. He was a constant preacher, delivering public discourses every day in the week, and on Sunday preaching twice. He was Professor of Theology, and delivered three lectures a week. He was President of Consistory, and addressed remonstrances, or pronounced other ecclesiastical sentences against delinquent church members. He was the head of the pastors; and every Friday, in an assembly called the Congregation, he pronounced before them a long discourse on the duties of the evangelical ministry. His door was constantly open to refugees from France, England, Poland, Germany, and Italy, who flocked to Geneva, and he organized for these exiled Protestants, special parishes. His correspondence, commentaries, and controversial writings, &c., would form annually, during the period of thirty-one years, between two and three octavo volumes; and yet he did not reach the age of fifty-five. When laid aside by disease from preaching, he dictated numberless letters, revised for the last time his Christian Institutes, almost re-wrote his Commentary on Isaiah, frequently observing that “nothing was so painful to him as his present idle life.” And when urged by his friends to forbear, he would reply, “Would you have my Lord to find me idle when he cometh?” “O, the power of Christian faith! and of the human will! Calvin did all these things—he did more than twenty eminent doctors; and he had feeble health, a frail body, and died at the age of fifty-five years! We bow reverently before this incomparable activity, this unparalleled devotion of Calvin to the service of his Divine Master!”

Thomas Smyth, Calvin and His Enemies: A Memoir of the Life, Character, and Principles of Calvin. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 25-27.

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