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Humility in Death

If a memorial death authenticates a holy life, then we can find strength in the death of John Calvin.

On February 6, 1564, Calvin, fifty-five years old, stood for the last time in his pulpit at Saint Pierre in Geneva.  In mid-sermon, he was seized by a coughing fit and slowly left the pulpit with his sermon unfinished. Over the next few weeks, he wrote and met with friends as he was able. On one occasion when he was encouraged to take a rest from his feverish writing, he replied, “What! Would you have the Lord find me idle when he comes?”

When it appeared the end was near, his friend and mentor, eighty-year-old William Farel, set out on foot, walking a great distance, to join with others who had gathered to say goodbye. Calvin lingered, quoting Scripture and praying, until Saturday, May 27, 1564, when he quietly passed away.  His fellow preacher, Theodore Beza, said, “On this day with the sun setting, the brightest light in the Church of God on earth was taken to heaven!”

Calvin had instructed that his body be laid in a common cemetery with no tombstone.  He didn’t want his grave becoming a shrine as tombs of earlier saints had become.  It didn’t – today his grave site is unknown.

We find great encouragement from these champions of the Gospel who were so driven to be all they could be for God.