From the Archives: Calvin the Reluctant Recruit
Calvin did not seek out the leadership role in Geneva; indeed, it appears he would have much preferred to avoid it. The first selection below is taken from his preface to the commentary on the Psalms. The second selection refers to his return to Geneva for the second period and is found in a letter to Farel.
Whenever I call to mind the wretchedness of my life there, how can it not be but that my very soul must shudder at any proposal for my return? I will not mention the anxiety by which we were continually tossed up and down and driven to and fro from the time I was appointed your colleague. …When I remember by what torture my conscience was racked at that time, and with how much anxiety it was continually boiling over, forgive me if I dread the place as having about it something of a fatality in my case. You yourself, with God, are my best witness that no lesser tie could have held me there so long, save that I dared not throw off the yoke of my calling, which I was convinced had been laid on me by the Lord. Therefore, so long as I was bound hand and foot, I preferred to suffer to that extreme rather than for a moment to listen to the thoughts that were apt to come into my mind of moving elsewhere, thoughts which often stole in upon me unawares. But now that by the favour of God I am delivered, who will not excuse me if I am unwilling to plunge again into the gulf and whirlpool which I know to be so dangerous and destructive?
Wherever else I had gone, I had taken care to conceal that I was the author of [the Institutes]; and I had resolved to continue in the same privacy and obscurity, until at length Guillaume Farel detained me at Geneva, not so much by counsel and exhortation, as by a dreadful curse, which I felt to be ...