The following is part 2 an excerpt from Presbyterians: Their History and Beliefs, by Walter L. Lingle (1950, John Knox Press). Read part one here.
Publishes His Institutes. In the spring of 1536, Calvin published a profound little book on theology, which he named The Institutes of the Christian Religion. Today we would call it a book on systematic theology. The book created a real sensation, and theologians knew that a new star of the first magnitude had arisen on the theological horizon. Calvin kept on revising this little book for the next twenty-three years, until it grew into two large volumes. He lived to see this work translated into practically every language of Europe. Theologians still study and refer to “Calvin’s Institutes.”
Find His Life Work in Geneva. John Calvin was only twenty-seven years of age when he published his Institutes, but from that time on he was a marked man. The publication of that book probably determined his life work. It came about in this way. As the persecutions of Protestants in France grew more severe, Calvin decided to leave France and pass over into the Protestant part of Germany. The safest journey was through Switzerland. So one hot night in August, 1536, he pulled up at an inn in Geneva to spend the nigh expecting to continue on his journey the next day. But God had other plans for him.
William Farel, a fiery Protestant with red hair, glittering eyes and a thunderous voice, had begun Christian work in Geneva in 1532. Under his preachng a great deal had been accomplished. He had blasted away the debris of centuries and laid the foundation for real constructive leadership. When Farel heard that John Calvin, the author of the Institutes, was in Geneva, he felt that he had come to the kingdom for such a time as this. So he sought him out and invited and implored him to remain in Geneva and help him. Calvin begged to be excused that he might continue on his journey and devote himself to his studies.
Let Calvin tell the rest of his story as recorded in the Preface to his Commentary on the Psalms: “Then Farel, finding he gained nothing by entreaties, besought God to curse my retirement and the tranquility of my studies if I should withdraw and refuse to give assistance when the necessity was so urgent. By this imprecation I was so struck with terror that I desisted from the journeyI had undertaken, but being sensible of my natural timidity, I would not bring myself under obligations to discharge any particular office.” So John Calvin, who had planned to spend only one night in Geneva, spent the rest of his life there, with the exception of about three years which he spent in exile in Germany.