While studying law in Bourges, Jean Chauvin, now twenty-two years old, received word that his father was dying. The year was 1531. Jean traveled back to his hometown of Noyon to see his father one last time. The young Chauvin, still with his title of chaplain, performed the funeral service for his father.
And now, what would Jean do? His father had wanted him to be a lawyer, and so far Jean had learned his lessons in law extremely well. But lawyers must also be aggressive in public debate. Jean did not relish that. His heart was too tender for heated argument. He would travel to Paris instead. There—he could be a scholar.
He would try his hand at writing a book. That’s what scholars did. That suited his natural desire for peace and quiet, and study. He researched his subject well. He wrote about an ancient, secular work called Meekness, and signed it by his Latin name Johannes Calvinus. Meekness and compassion were virtues he must have thought important in this age of religious persecution and burnings at the stake. But whatever were the motives of Johannes Calvinus (for that was now how he became known, or in English, as John Calvin), his book was carefully, scholarly, and splendidly written. The new author was obviously gifted. Yet, the book did not sell so well, and John Calvin had paid for the printing himself.
He ate his meager supper of hard bread, cheese, and a little wine, and pondered his present situation. He looked out the window of his tiny, rented room. He could see the university nearby. His stomach hurt and his head ached. Maybe he should finish his studies in law.
He packed up his belongings and headed back to Orleans once more. He spent another year there before again being called to Noyon. This time, his brother Charles needed help. Calvin helped him, and then traveled to Paris once again.
In all these endeavors, John Calvin continued to hear of the new Lutheran doctrines, and as the Bereans of old, he diligently searched the Scriptures to see if these teachings were true. We don’t know the exact circumstances of his conversion to the Reformed faith, but it occurred at about this time in his life.
The change had been slow in coming. But when it came, it was firm, and solid as rock. The Spirit cemented the truth of salvation by grace alone deeply and mightily in Calvin’s soul. This is what Calvin himself wrote of his experience: “God by a sudden conversion subdued…my heart.”
This heart, now subdued, would be used of great service to man and God.