Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Geneva's Triple Light

In an elegaic poem about Jonathan Mitchell (1624 - 1668) written by one Francis Drake (fl. 1650 - 1668), he refers to "Geneva's Triple Light," meaning William Farel, Pierre Viret and John Calvin. They were the Genevan "Triumvirate" (again to use Drake's phrase) of the age.

Unlike Caesar, Pompey and Crassus, however, this triumvirate was an example not of rivalry and jealousy, but of brotherly love. Calvin's dedication to Farel and Viret prefacing his commentary on Titus is a true testimony to this brotherly love:






My Commentary-which now goes forth bearing the inscription of your name-is, indeed, a small gift; yet I fully believe that it will be acceptable to you, for this reason, that the subject of the Epistle induced me to make this Dedication. The task of putting the finishing hand to that building which Paul had begun in Crete, but left incomplete was undertaken by Titus. I occupy nearly the same position with regard to you.

When you had made some progress in rearing this church with vast exertions, and at great risk, after some time had elapsed I came, first as your assistant, and afterwards was left as your successor, that I might endeavor to carry forward, to the best of my ability, that work which you had so well and so successfully begun. This work, I and my colleagues are endeavoring to perform, if not with so great progress as might have been desired yet heartily and faithfully, according to our small ability.

To return to you, in consequence of holding the same relation to you which Paul assigned to Titus, I have been led to consider this similarity as a good reason for selecting you above all others, for dedicating to you this labor of mine. Meanwhile, to the present age, and perhaps to posterity, it will, at least, be some evidence of that holy union and friendship which exists between us. I think that there has never been, in ordinary life, a circle of friends so sincerely bound to each other as we have been in our ministry. With both of you I discharged here the office of pastor; and so far was there from being any appearance of envy, that you and I seemed to be one. We were afterwards separated by places; for you, Farell, were invited by the church of Neufchastel, which you had rescued from the tyranny of Popery, and brought into obedience to Christ; and you, Viret, are held in the same relation by the church of Lausanne.

While each of us occupies his own position, our union brings together the children of God into the fold of Christ, and even unites them in his body; while it scatters not only those outward enemies who openly carry on war with us, but those nearer and domestic enemies, by whom we are inwardly assailed. For I reckon this also to be one of the benefits resulting from being closely related, that filthy dogs, whose bites cannot succeed so far as to tear and rend the Church of Christ, do nothing more than bark against it with all their might. And, indeed, we cannot too thoroughly despise their insolence, since we can, with truth, glory before God, and have proved to men by the clearest evidence, that we cultivate no other society or friendship than that which has been consecrated to the name of Christ, which has hitherto been advantageous to his Church, and which has no other aim than that all may be at one with us in Him.

Farewell, my most excellent and most upright brethren. May the Lord Jesus continue to bless your pious labors!

Geneva, 29th November 1549.

Theodore Beza, Johannis Calvini Vita:

Calvin greatly delighted in that intimate friendship which he enjoyed with Farel and Viret, -- a friendship hateful to the evil-minded, but most gratifying to the good. And it was indeed a fair sight to contemplate these three extraordinary men, endowed with such various gifts, labouring in perfect union together to accomplish this heavenly design. Farel was conspicuous through greatness of soul, and a certain heroic nature; no one could remain unmoved by the thunder of his eloquence, or listen to his fervent prayers without feeling raised towards heaven. Viret, on the contrary, spoke with such exquisite sweetness, that his hearers hung irresistably on his lips. But as to Calvin, as many as were the words which he uttered, so many were the deep thoughts which filled the breasts of his hearers: so that it has often entered my mind, that in the union of the gifts enjoyed by these three, we see that which would constitute the highest perfection of an evangelical teacher.

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