The "New World" in America derived in no small degree from the principles of the "City of God" established at Geneva by John Calvin, the most famous reformer after Luther. The determination and rigidity that show in portraits of Calvin are mirrored in the tall-hatted, white-collarred Puritans-- grim and humorless, many of them, hard-working and frugal, dedicated to the proposition that anything enjoyable is sin. With zeal born of the conviction that they were an elect siding with God and fulfilling his purpose in the world, these Calvinists founded New England-- and many an American fortune. (367:5)
French by birth, lawyer-humanist by training, practical reformer in Geneva almost by accident, Calvin had come to Switzerland where he could safely publish his 'Institutes of the Christian Religion'. A keystone of Protestant theology, it outlines with clarity what the reformers believed about God, man, and the world. He saw the book through the press in Basel in 1536. Passing through Geneva later that year, the 27-year-old scholar was pressured into staying; the city had expelled its bishop, was in the process of reorganizing, and needed a Protestant teacher. Except for a three-year exile when he lost out in a clash with the city council, Calvin stayed on till his death in 1564, seeking to establish his vision of the apostolic church and a "community fit to worship God." (368:1)
He preached the majesty and sovereignty of God-- who had predestined those to be saved and those to be condemned. "To indulge oneself as little as possible" should be the Christian's goal, as well as "unflagging effort" to cut "all show of superfluous wealth, not to mention licentiousness." Calvin prevailed upon the council to set up a consistory to investigate offenses ranging from card playing, dancing, possessing a book of saints, to overcharges by physician or tailor. Wearing down, banishing his opponents-- even getting the council to burn one, the anti-Trinitarian scholar Servetus-- he persisted in molding Geneva into what John Knox, the dour disciple who took Calvin's message to Scotland, called "the most perfect school of Christ since the days of the apostles.".... (368:2)
His legacy to Protestant mainstreams was immense. And he bequeathed a style of worship followed widely to this day: no elaborate liturgy, a simple gathering of the congregation for scriptural reading, prayer, singing, and sermon. Suspicious of harmony, he had his congregation sing in unison Psalms metrically matched to solemn tunes. The familiar doxology, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow," comes from Calvin's Geneva Psalter.