Among the earliest of the 'Protestant Reformers' was John Calvin (1509-1564) He was born in Noyon, France to Roman Catholic parents. Calvin was converted from Romanism in 1533, and during the following three years he lived in seclusion under an assumed name. He studied the New Testament in the original language, and though he did not start a distinct sect in his day, he was founder of the doctrine that wears his name, Calvinism. It is usually associated with Presbyterianism, although a number of churches which are not Presbyterian in government hold to Calvin's tenets.
The word Presbyterian comes from the Greek word presbuteros elder); hence, a Presbyterian church is governed by elders. The doctrine and church government system was transferred to Scotland from France, Holland and Geneva. There, under the leadership of John knox, Presbyterianism became very strong. The Church of Scotland came into existence and the first book of discipline was written in 1560; 1592 marked the acceptance by Parliament of Presbyterianism as the established state church.
The Westminister Association, in session from 1643-1649, framed the Westminister Confession of Faith. This became the doctrinal standard for both English and American Presbyterianism. Francis Makemie is considered the founder of American Presbyterianism, for he organized the Rehoboth Presbyterian Church in Maryland in 1684. There have been seventeen distinct segments of Presbyterians from near the beginning of the movement.
Calvin followed a simple worship in his churches. There was congregational singing, a departure from his early experience in the Roman Catholic Church. They used no instruments of music, for Calvin opposed such as a departure from New Testament worship, borrowed from Romanism. He broke away from the altar worship pattern, and placed the reading and preaching in the central place. Strict moral discipline was exercised (for cursing, adultery, playing cards on Sunday evenings, spending time in taverns, betrothing a Papist, wife beating, etc.)
The five points of Calvinism are: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistable Grace, and Preserverence of the Saints. James Arminius, a professor at the University of Leyden, opposed the other professors for their high Calvinism in a theological battle that lasted several years.
Lingle, W.A. Presbyterianism: Their History and Beliefs. 1944. p. 25-26.
Scaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, Vol. III, p. 1892.
Lingle, op, cit.,p.29-42.