De Clementia, Conversion, and Cop: Life of Calvin, Part 3

Calvin was growing disillusioned with humanism while studying law in Bourges in 1531 when his father died. Freed from dad’s expectations of making law his profession, Calvin packed his bags for Paris to resume his theological pursuits.

It was 1532, at age 23, when Calvin published his first book, a commentary on Seneca’s De Clementia. He hoped it would make for a celebrated inauguration to the guild, but it didn’t sell like he dreamed.

In 1533, now some 16 years after Luther posted his 95 theses (and inadvertently launched the Reformation), Calvin was in Paris, certainly now converted and a Protestant. His friend Nicholas Cop delivered a catalytic All Saints’ Day convocation address at the University of Paris. He heralded Christ as the sole mediator, not Mary or any “saint.” The address, supposedly written by Calvin in part, meant Calvin and Cop had to flee town.

Still in exile from Paris in January 1535, Calvin went to Basel where as a fugitive from France he would write and publish his first edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion.

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This is part 3 of our 9-part series tracing some key contours of the story of Calvin’s life.

  • Part 1: Born to Gerard (1509-1523)
  • Part 2: Off to Paris (1523–1532)
  • Part 3: De Clementia, Conversion, and Cop (1532–33)
  • Part 4: Institutes (1535–1536)
  • Part 5: A Night’s Stay in Geneva (1536–1538)
  • Part 6: The Golden Years (1538–1541)
  • Part 7: Return to Geneva (1541–1553)
  • Part 8: The Fateful Years (1553–1554)
  • Part 9: An Unmarked Grave (1554–1564)

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.