Wednesday, May 27, 2009

5/27- Calvin's death

(Farel at Calvin's deathbed)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

5/27- The Death of Calvin
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. (Psalm 116:15)
2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (II Tim. 2:2)

Beza (edited by Smyth) on the death of Calvin: On the 27th of May, about eight o’clock in the evening, the symptoms of dissolution came suddenly on. In the full possession of his reason, he continued to speak, until, without a struggle or a gasp, his lungs ceased to play, and this great luminary of the Reformation set, with the setting sun, to rise again in the firmament of heaven. The dark shadows of mourning settled upon the city. It was with the whole people a night of lamentation and tears. All could bewail their loss; the city her best citizen, the church her renovator and guide, the college her founder, the cause of reform its ablest champion, and every family a friend and comforter. It was necessary to exclude the crowds of visitors who came to behold his remains, lest the occasion might be misrepresented. At two o’clock in the afternoon of Sabbath, his body, enclosed in a wooden coffin, and followed by the syndics, senators, pastors, professors, together with almost the whole city, weeping as they went, was carried to the common burying ground, without pomp. According to his request, no monument was erected to his memory; a plain tone, without any inscription, being all that covered the remains of Calvin. Such was Calvin in his life and in his death. The place of his burial is unknown, but where is his fame unheard?

Beza’s poem on Calvin’s burial:
Why in this humble and unnoticed tomb
Is Calvin laid — the dread of falling Rome,
Mourn’d by the good, and by the wicked fear’d.
By all who knew his excellence revered;
From whom ev’n virtue’s self might virtue learn,
And young and old its value may discern?
’Twas modesty, his constant friend on earth,
That laid this stone, unsculptured with a name;
Oh! happy turf, enrich’d with Calvin’s worth,
More lasting far than marble is thy fame!

For most saints, they are marked by their death date more than their birth date (partially because birth dates were not always known, partially because often the death date marked their martyrdom). Calvin did not die a martyr, but the world took notice of his death. About eight years before Calvin had tertian fever and the rumor spread through France that he had died. His spiritual enemies held a celebratory parade in his home town of Noyon thanking God for his death. Calvin did not want attention given to himself, so he made sure he was to be buried in an unmarked grave. Even in his death, the glory was to go to God. That's a lesson for us!
Calvin was not of great physical stature. He ate only one meal a day the last few years of his life (partly because of his stomach problems). He went mostly without sleep. He had a great sense of duty- writing and speaking until he had no strength to do so. In his time, he had many enemies, yet he also made many friends, with many seeking his advice. His main influence is not his life or death, but his writings which live on- though many need to be re-translated from the older King James’ English to more current language.
I n the last few weeks I have thought about the dying out of a generation of great Christian leaders in America. Billy Graham is in poor health. Last week, one of the greatest missionologists- and a Presbyterian- Ralph Winter died (he of founded the US Center for World Missions and developed the idea of reaching people groups). We need to pray as one generation passes, that the Lord will raise up laborers for his harvest field. Calvin was a disciple maker. When he died he left many leaders (though none of his caliber)- like Beza, Bullinger, Knox, the company of pastors. Jesus did this too. If God has taught you anything, it would be well that you entrust that to others also while God has given you life. Calvin had a driving purpose to pass on his faith and zeal to others while he could.

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