Primary Sources for the Presbyterian Masses

The World’s Debt to Calvin

In Uncategorized on 30/06/2009 at 13:19

The world is indebted to the church for everything noblest and best in her free institutions.  Freedom is under perpetual obligations to her.  Enforcement of organic law must exist, whether in church, state or nation; otherwise, everything rushes to ruin in all society.  It is the glory of the Calvinistic church, and not her reproach, that she “enforced” her denominational law in favor of Presbyterian “doctrine, order and worship,” giving thereby to the nations their most precious inheritance.  “By these,” says Mr. Buckle, “the dying spark of freedom was kindled into a blaze.”  “To John Knox,” says Froude, “England owes a debt for liberty it cannot pay.”  “Calvin’s principles,” says Henri, “are immortal and immovable in both government and doctrine.”  “Thousands were debtor to him,” says the judicious Hooker, “as touching divine knowledge, yet he to none but only to God—a founder of the French Church, incomparably the wisest it ever had since the hour it enjoyed him.”  “Geneva,” says Montesquieu, “is the mother of modern republics, and should celebrate with festivity the day on which Calvin entered the city.”  “Calvin,” says Bunsen, “spoke for all times and all men;” and in the language of Motley, “Europe owes her political liberty to Calvinism.”  “The Institutes,” says Guizot, “are one of the noblest edifices ever erected by men.”  Bancroft declares that “Calvin, bowing to no patent of nobility, but that of the elect of God, made Geneva the impregnable fortress of popular liberty;” and adds that the very “first voice” raised for liberty in this land, both civil and religious, “came from Presbyterians,” and that “he who will not honor the memory and influence of Calvin knows but little of the origin of American liberty.”  Is it in John Calvin we glory?  God forbid; but in God we glory, who gave us John Calvin.  What kind of an argument is it that would impeach all this glorious record as an “oppression of the conscience” through “sectarian law.”—Foreign paper.

[excerpted from The Reformed Presbyterian and Covenanter 15.4 (April 1877): 113.]

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  1. This is an interesting and valuable evaluation of the contribution of calvinism to liberty. Having studied and taught American History at S.
    C. State College, I can attest to the fact that Calvinism played a much bigger part in the history of America thn most people imagine.

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