Many years ago, almost on my first acquaintance with Calvin, I was impressed by a phrase in that last brief letter of his to his old companion in labor and battle, William Farel:
Live mindful of our union which, as it has been useful to the Church of God, so its fruits await us in heaven.
We may begin here, though it is where Calvin's work ended. His friendships, labors, struggles, and studies had as their aim to be “useful to the Church of God.” It was in Geneva that they had been fellow-laborers, but it is not merely to the Church of Geneva that he thinks their labor to have been useful. It was a contribution to a far wider community, the Church of God, that has no boundaries narrower than the communion of believers, the divine society extending over all the world and throughout all the ages of mankind's history. The Holy Catholic Church was for him a universal reality, however hidden from men's eyes through the prevailing abuses and the proud assumptions of those who claimed to rule and speak for the Church.