By Jeff Straub
Editor’s note: In honor of the 500th anniversary of Reformation Day, this article is the third in a series exploring the history and significance of the Protestant Reformation from a Baptist perspective. (View part 1 and part 2.)
John just wanted a quiet place to study. He had been driven out of Paris when he was accused of being a Luther man. He really wasn’t interested in being a leader of anything. He just wanted a quiet place to read and write. Then he met Bill, 20 years his senior and a man on a mission. Bill preceded John to Geneva by four years but found the locals less than enthusiastic to embrace his ideas. Bill was not to be dissuaded. From 1532 to 1536, he kept hammering away at the Romanists in Geneva trying to plant the flag of reformation in that Swiss city.
One day Bill heard that John was passing through the area and sought him out. “John, where are you going?” “Some place quiet,” came the reply. “Quiet? At such a time as this? Now is the time and this is the place for action. We need your help!” “Who, me?” John replied rather sheepishly.
Let me finish the story in John’s own words. “I had resolved to continue in the same privacy and obscurity, until at length William Farel detained me at Geneva, not so much by counsel and exhortation, as by a dreadful imprecation, which I felt to be as if God had from heaven laid his mighty hand upon me to arrest me. . . . He proceeded to utter an imprecation that God would curse my retirement, and the tranquility of the studies which I sought, if I should withdraw and refuse to give assistance.” Thus, John Calvin came to Geneva and became the great reformer in that city.