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John Calvin's Birthday: 2002

Two minute birthday speech

Magnificis viris -necnon mulieribus- collegii qui ab me nuncupatur Ioannis Calvini, ego, Ioannes Calvinus, spiritum prudentiae et fortitudinis prosperumque gubernationis successum vobis a Domino precor. (Calvin, Comm. in Ev. Ioh., preface.)

Or, speaking in the vulgar tongue—good morning.

Oh, ye stubborn and hard-necked people! How long will you continue to conjure up the dead? Every year, on my birthday, now fourhundred-and-ninety-three years ago, I am conjured up from the dead.. This despite the divine commandment against it, in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 18. Those who do such things are abominable to the Lord! (Deut. 18.11).

So, do you ask, am I among the saved, or among the lost? Well, I answer, things that are lost cannot be found, so if I am lost, how can I be here? But of course you'll want to know: what punishments or rewards are awarded in the other world for the sins that folk commit here below? (Boccaccio, Decameron, VII.10) Oh, ye of little faith! Let us be content with the limits of our knowing, divinely set before us: We know, and Scripture assures us, that the souls of the pious, having ended the toil of their warfare, enter into blessed rest, where in glad expectation they await the enjoyment of promised glory, and so all things are held in suspense until Christ the redeemer appear (Calvin, Inst., III.xxv.6).

Now, it is a very unfortunate circumstance that I should find myself in Purgatory instead! Yes, you heard me right: I am in Purgatory. This is somewhat of an embarrassment, since of course we all know that Purgatory does not exist. It is a deadly fiction from Satan. It is constructed out of many blasphemies, and men believe in it by some sort of revelation forged by Satan's craft. Some passages of Scripture were ignorantly distorted to confirm it, and I have plainly refuted them in my Institutes (Calvin, Inst. III.v.5).

Still, that's where I presently am. What is purgatory like, do you ask? Read Dante's Divine Comedy. Some are punished in ice, some by fire, and some are submerged "in humano stercore". (I'm not translating that, since it sounds offensive in English.) But, personally, I'm not complaining. Many of my companions are in much sorer punishment. I have a great library at my disposal, and I peruse the works of the Church fathers and the great theologians at leisure. In all, Purgatory looks a bit like the Meeter Center, if it were not for the fact that little demons come to roast the soles of my feet every afternoon at three.

My catholic colleagues, of which there are many in this same place, assure me that all this is because of my role in the condemnation of Michael Servetus. Of course we have some discussions about this. I maintain of course that I am not really in Purgatory, but if I am, it cannot be but completely undeservedly, by the good pleasure of God's election, in his most wise, unchangeable, all-knowing and almighty decision, not on the basis of foreseen unbelief, of unholiness, or of any other evil quality and disposition. (Canons of Dordt, art. 8-11).

Is there anything you can do for me in this world, you ask? Well, traditionally there are prayers, and masses, and giving alms in my name (Decameron, VII.10). But as I have shown in my Institutes, prayers for the dead are wholly inefficacious (Inst. III.xx.24). And the Papist Mass is a damnable desecration of a most Holy Sacrament (Belgic Confession, art. 35), invented by the Pope, qui est nichil aliud quam monstrum ex innumeris Satanae fallaciis conflatum! (Comm. in Ev. Ioh., pref.) So there is nothing you can do really.

But see to your own walk, that you do not fall into fallacy. Preserve the tradition of the true Reformation and defend the Reformed doctrine and practice. Now here you are in grave danger. Not only do you practice necromancy, but there are those among you who fall into the abominable heresy, called "Methodism", saying that smoking and drinking are not permitted to good Christians, as if this were a prerequisite cause or condition to be chosen among the elect! This is already a dry campus, and rumor has it that it will soon be a smoke-free campus as well. What is more important, the Calvin Faculty Handbook and Calvin Smoking Policy, or my own Institutes? May I remind you that these are all good creations of God, permitted, indeed appointed, for men's use by God's providence. As I said in my Institutes, we have never been forbidden to laugh, or to be filled, or delight in musical harmony, or to drink wine. (Inst. III.xix.9) And here I should add, if I had known about this in my own day, smoke a good Dutch cigar!