Hiya dear Dan. Yes it is fascinating . Because in that day, the local priest was in total charge of everything. It's also fascinating that a guy in his 20s could publish a thousand page book - without a word processor or convenient library. And that there would be any demand for such a technical book of theology. Who do you know that reads multi-volume books like that? Written in Latin? :)
As for the "ruling elder" - this concept did not appear until his third edition. No doubt his intentions were good. Just a Luther's were when he tried to define the Lord's Supper in terms which most of us do not accept. That is, unless you are Lutheran...
These guys were intensely persecuted in an era where heretics were tracked down burned in public. Some of the early editions of the Institutes were published under a false name to protect the author. Calvin's books were indeed burned in front of the great cathedral of Notre Dame, which was on fire a few years ago.
My owns views sometimes more resemble those of the Anabaptists. But they had some errors too, in my opinion. I wish Calvinists would drop that designation. Jesus taught to call no man your master. And Paul was disappointed that the Corinthians were following him instead of Christ.
Calling yourself by another's name just adds another layer of complication to the simplicity of the Gospel. Calvin had a huge influence in his day and in the Reformation which followed - yet he did not want to have a grave marker.
What these old-timers can remind us of is that things do not have to be perfect before the Almighty can use us in this world.