In the summer of 1960, I stood in the Church of St. Peter in the city of Geneva. This beautiful Gothic structure was once a Roman Catholic cathedral. But in May of 1536, the City councillors and leading citizens stood within the walls of that cathedral and solemnly swore to accept the Gospel for the sole rule of their faith and life; and at the same time resolved to have done with all masses, images, idols, and other objectionable rituals. Unfortunately, neither the council nor the people knew anything about the principles of the Gospel; but they were sick and tired of the political domination of the bishop and were determined to rid Geneva of the immoral influence of the priests. Their adoption of Protestantism was not due to their conversion, but rather to their desire for political freedom.

They invited a visiting Frenchman to organize the new Protestant church. This was John Calvin. At the beginning of the Reformation era, Geneva was a city of moral filth. Bishop and priests set a woeful example of debauchery. Encouraged and inspired by this example, the people engaged in all kinds of vice and corruption. Every third house was a tavern. Public and private parties were followed by wild orgies. Geneva, indeed, presented a deplorable picture.

Then, in the course of the next 28 years, Calvin was instrumental in uplifting the city from its moral filth to a worldwide example of civic righteousness.

While the decadence in American life has not yet reached that which obtained in Geneva in the early part of the sixteenth century, the statistics, with which we are all familiar, indicate that crime, delinquency, immorality and unethical practices are increasing at an alarming rate.

Light From The Archives

It was this frightening moral ...

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