The Five Students of Lyons - GARNET PEET (1960 - 1987)
Clarion Vol. 35,
No. 25 (1989)
Here follows the speech given by Mr. Garnet Peet, B.A., M. Div., a former Guido student, at the Guido de Bris High School Commencement Exercises held on October 17, 1986.
Having asked the question, "What do you think of when I say, 'Guido,' " and having mentioned some of the recreational experiences most Guido grads have in common, Mr. Peet continued:
But I hope you also say, "When I think of Guido, I think of a school that showed me how to think, and be Reformed." Graduates of Guido, tonight I want you to think about the past so that you can face the future. And if there's one thing that all Guido Graduates have in common, it's that we were taught the Reformed faith, not just in Reformed Religion class, but in History, Geography, Chemistry, and even P.E. - all these subjects were taught from a Reformed perspective. We learned how we should think and how we should act from a Biblical point of view.
But maybe some of you are afraid of what lies ahead. Sure, you remember the past, all that education you received at high school, but now you're on your own. In College or Grade 13 or University, you can't think fast enough to give all the answers to every question you are faced with.
At your job You just aren't sure how to act and what to do around people who've never heard of Guido, of being Reformed, who've never believed in Jesus Christ. Maybe some of you wonder if Guido has properly prepared you in the past, prepared you for the future that lies ahead.
Well let me tell you about five students from the past, five Reformed students, probably your age. They had learned a lot of things you've learned and they were able to face the future. These five students were from Lyons, France. They lived in the 1500s, during the Reformation, and they believed the gospel. They even went to Switzerland to study Reformed theology, since Switzerland was relatively free of persecution. And they studied a long time, too, passed a lot of tests and exams, and finally graduated. They hoped to become missionaries.
But now they wanted to head home to France, after graduation. They stopped in Geneva for a while and probably spoke to John Calvin there, but then continued on to Lyons, France. On their way, they met a traveler who asked if he could travel with them. Fine, no problem. Once they reached home, the stranger they had met invited them to visit him at his home. They had gotten to know one another a bit; the graduates had probably talked about their studies and about their ideas for the future. So the five students visited this man - and were arrested, then imprisoned.
Lyons may have had many Reformed believers in the city, but the people in power were still fiercely Roman Catholic. So the five graduates from Lyons became the five prisoners of Lyons. This happened in April, 1552. In June, Calvin already wrote them a letter, encouraging them to keep up their faith. Calvin stressed that God would give them strength to face the future, through the Holy Spirit.
Well, these five graduates were tried in Lyons and found guilty of heresy. Then they were sent off to Paris to the French supreme court. Again they were declared guilty of heresy. Appeals were made by all kinds of Reformed people but to no avail. Eventually, the five graduates were taken from their Paris dungeon and shipped back to Lyons. That was in March, 1553. They had already suffered for a whole year. More appeals were made, but the Paris verdict was upheld and even the king agreed that they were guilty of heresy. On May 16th, the five were told to prepare for death. Guido de Bris was hanged for being Reformed. These five young men were burned alive, at the stake. Why? Because they too were Reformed. They said, "l am Reformed, I belong to Jesus Christ alone, my faithful Saviour in life and death . . . ." and they died for their confession.
But that's not the end of the story. During their imprisonment, these graduates wrote letters to John Calvin and received letters from him. I'd like to pass on to you a little of what they said. In Calvin's first letter, he had encouraged these students. So the five replied, "We want you to know that although our body is so confined here between four walls, yet our spirit has never been so free and so comforted Their faith in God had been strengthened tremendously because of their persecution.
They went on to say, "We are so far indeed from wishing to regard our affliction as a curse of God, as the world and the flesh wish to regard it, that we regard it rather as the greatest blessing that has ever come upon us . . . ." Isn't that odd? They were happy to be in jail! Why? "For in our affliction we are made true children of God, brothers and companions of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and are conformed to His image; and by our affliction the possession of our eternal inheritance is confirmed to us."
And now comes the most striking statement of all, one that applies to us all tonight, but especially to you, graduates, who leave the school of theory so to speak, to enter the school of practice, the school of life - the world beyond Guido. These five graduates said to Calvin, "We are bold to say and affirm that we shall derive more profit in this school for our salvation than has ever been the case in any place where we have studied . . . we testify that this persecution in prison is the true school of the children of God, in which they learn more than the disciples of the philosophers ever did in their universities. Indeed, it must not be imagined that one can have a true understanding of many of the passages of Scripture without having been instructed by the Teacher of all truth in this College, prison . . . ."
That's why I called Guido the school of theory - you've learned about Math and Geography and History from a Christian perspective. You've learned what it means to be a Christian in all areas of life: in your thinking, your working, your talking. But now you're leaving Guido, and going into the world ... College, University after Grade 13, or work somewhere. You're starting school over again - the school of life. You've learned what the Bible means, what it says - now you have to apply it in your daily thinking and living beyond Guido.
And now listen to these five graduates of Lyons again. "It is true that one can have some knowledge of Scripture and can talk about it and discuss it a great deal; but this is like playing at charades. We therefore praise God with all our heart and give Him undying thanks that He has been pleased to give us by His grace not only the theory of His Word, but also the practice of it, and that He has granted us this honour - which is no small thing for us who are vessels so poor and fragile and mere worms creeping on the earth . . . ." And how had God taught them the practice of His Word?
"By bringing us out to be His witnesses and giving us constancy to confess His Name and maintain the truth of His Holy Word before those who are unwilling to hear it - indeed, who persecute it with all their force - to us, to say, who previously were afraid to confess the truth even to a poor labourer who would have heard it eagerly . . . ."
These five students faced their future by using what they had learned in the past. They had learned a lot of nice things in Switzerland, but now they put these things into practice! In prison they didn't give up, complain, question, but they said, "We trust in our Saviour, we have learned about Him, we belong to Him, we trust Him for our future." Even before the courts in Paris, these boys said, "We are Reformed, we belong to Jesus Christ alone." They used what they had learned - the theory, and put it into practice in their lives.
And was it all for nothing? They died young, a terrible death, their whole future seemed wasted - all because they wanted to confess Christ. But Calvin said, "Your chains have become renowned and the noise of your imprisonment has been spread everywhere abroad - thus it must be that despite Satan, your death will resound far more powerfully so that the name of our Lord may be magnified thereby ... For let the enemies do their utmost, they shall never be able to bury out of sight that light which God has made to shine in you, in order that many may contemplate it from afar In death, they spoke louder words of truth than in life.
And what does all this have to do with you, graduates? I know we don't suffer persecution in Canada today. I know none of you will be burned at the stake for being a Guido graduate. But I also know your future will not be easy. You must go out into the world to study more, to work. You must make new friends and make many important decisions. I don't expect you all to be as courageous as the five graduates of Lyons. But I do believe that the same God who strengthened those five martyrs, will strengthen you. You are graduates of Guido! Think about your past, and now use what you have learned for your future. Put the theory into practice. Be a Christian on campus, at home, on the job, and your Father in heaven, your faithful Saviour, He will care for you in the days to come. When you are faced with problems you can't solve, don't give up! Turn to Father, in prayer. When you just don't know anymore - how to act, what to say, where to go - remember what you were taught in the past and pray to your King for help.
He gave those five students in Lyons the faith and the courage to remain Reformed, even in the face of death. Well, He will fill you with His Spirit to give you wisdom, faith and courage to remain Reformed and to face your future. And the fact that you've graduated from Guido doesn't mean you can't ask teachers for advice still - and you've got your parents and the church too!
If I still have a minute, I would like to give you some advice from a former Guido graduate. I went to University and I was very impressed with some of my professors, especially in history and philosophy courses. I worked summers in landscaping and again, I was impressed with what some of those guys could do - beautiful work. But often these people who impressed me, me, a little graduate from Guido, often these people were unbelievers.
You, too, will be impressed by people, by places and by things and ideas as you go on in life. And don't close your eyes! Open your eyes and ears and mind to these things. Don't go to College or University and hide in a corner - no, be humble and listen, learn, be involved. Let your light shine! But be impressed, above all, by your God. You belong to Jesus Christ. You do! You are ail covenant children. Well, remember to whom you belong. Remember the faithfulness of your God who never let you down, who even sent His Son to die for you. He won't let you down in the days and years to come, for He is a faithful Saviour. He encouraged those five students I spoke about. He encouraged Guido do Bris so long ago! He will encourage you also.
As John Calvin told those five students, so I tell you, I shall not constrain nor exhort you anymore, knowing that our heavenly Father gives you to experience how precious His consolations are. . , has already so shown you how His Spirit dwells in you, that we are well assured that He will perfect you to the end. Pray our good Lord to have you in His holy protection, to strengthen you more and m ore by His power, to make you feel what care He takes of your salvation, to increase you in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and make them serve His glory to the end . Your humble brother, John Calvin."
Clarion Vol. 36, No. 5
IN MEMORIAM Garnet
John Peet, BA, M.Div.
For the first time in the history of our Theological College the Lord took unto Himself an alumnus of our school: Garnet John Peet, who was born on Reformation day 1960 and died on February 15,1987. He had just graduated in the fall of 1986 and was minister elect of the Canadian Reformed Church at Ottawa. He had hoped as yet to be able to enter into the ministry and had already chosen Hebrews 2:14 and 15 as the text for his inaugural sermon.
Now Prof. L. Selles officiating at Garnet's funeral spoke of Christ who has freed us from devil and death. After Guido de Bris High School had been established, Garnet Peet came as a young enthusiastic lad from his hometown Chatham to Hamilton. He had a burning desire to become a bringer of the good tiding and dreamt of being a missionary or evangelist. Now he wanted to receive Reformed education and he directed his studies of English, History, Latin, German and even Greek already in High School towards his ultimate goal. At the end of his life he would be the first alumnus of this High School to be invited as commencement speaker.
He related Calvin's correspondence with the five young men imprisoned in France who had finished their studies and had been eager to spread the gospel but whose lives were ended at the moment when it pleased the sovereign and wise God to take them to Himself. Garnet did not mention his own situation; it made his message even more powerful and unforgettable. After matriculation from High School he had entered upon studies in classical civilization and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree at McMaster University. When in 1982 he was admitted to the Theological College, he showed himself to be an intelligent and original student. He enjoyed the studies tremendously and was especially interested in the relation between art and theology. Garnet drank the God-given cup of life to the brim: he worked during summers in Germany and spent his holidays traveling all over Europe, visiting cathedrals and museums, marveling at the beautiful specimens of Christian art.
Back in Hamilton he wrote fine papers about the meaning of the second commandment, the iconoclast controversy in church history and - another field of intense interest - about the struggle of the confessing church in Germany against national socialism. In the meantime his zeal for spreading the gospel manifested itself in his regular visits to an old age home. Old people loved him for his joy and cheerfulness and Garnet enlisted the students of the College to speak a simple word from the Scriptures to those men and women who were sitting in the shadow of death. In congregational meetings he showed slides about the World Relief Fund and he organized help for persecuted Christians. It must have been three years ago that the first symptoms of cancer appeared.
Garnet had just happily married Konnie van Weerden, and especially for her but also for all of us in our small College community the discovery came as a shock. The Lord, however, gave Garnet the grace of remaining steadfast and even joyful. He played with his newborn son Neil and at the same time he could frankly speak about his illness and the future. He became deeply aware of the fact that not the quantity of the number of our years is important but the graciously granted quality of redeemed life.
In the beginning of his studies, his chapel talks dealt with the relation of the gospel to the ancient world. He once spoke about the figurehead of the Twin Brothers; it was on the ship of Alexandria that brought the Apostle Paul, and in him the gospel, to Rome. But at the end of his studies, when his deadly illness had become manifest, he turned to texts as Amos 3:6, Isaiah 45:7 and Lamentations 3:31-33. The LORD makes weal and creates woe, but, though He causes grief, He will have compassion. He does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men.
Also the congregations in Ontario listened attentively to his edifying words, e.g. from Psalm 121, and felt the power of the living words coming from the lips of a dying young man. In July 1986 Garnet wrote his last and because of his illness, belated paper. The course Dogmatics had ended with the doctrine of salvation and the doctrine of the last things.
Our student had become interested in what Calvin in his correspondence had written about the comunion of the believers with the Lord Jesus Christ. He studied a German publication of W. Kolfhaus and elaborated on a comparison between the mystical ideas of Eckhart and Calvin's Scriptural approach. Let me quote the last page, where Garnet in the line of Kolfhaus draws "some beautiful, comforting conclusions from the Unio cum Christo":
Believers no longer need fear death, since they are "in Christ," who is the source of all life, forever. Since we are united to Him eternally, indissolubly, all our tears and troubles are His also. Our life is in Him, so we never need to fear losing Christ or His losing us. Perseverance of the saints is found in the Unio cum Christo. Our hope is not based on the future, on how far we can come along in our sanctification, but our hope is based on our union with Him.
He is our hope for the future. Our anchor is in heaven and thus is sure and firm. " Bis zum Tod und uber den Tod hinaus erstreckt sich die Kraft der Christus-Gerneinschaft." This also applies to our bodies, since we, body and soul, are united to Christ, the man God. Thus the resurrection of the body is sure since He is united to all of us, every part of us. Every sickness of the brethren is sickness in Christ, every healing of brethren, healing in/of Christ. Even the "kleine Glaube" has Christ, all of Him, as Saviour. In the fight against sickness, against sin, against all troubles and terrors, we are united to Him, our Lord and Saviour. Praise be to God.
One may imagine the deep emotion when Garnet wrote the last page (page 26) of his last paper. His work at the Theological College was finished; a few months later his task on earth came to an end at age 26. But finis is at the same time continuatio. Christ says: I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die (John 11 :25).