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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 39: Corinthians, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at


The Sixteenth century was distinguished by a large and valuable accession of Expositors of the Sacred Volume. Mosheim reckons up not fewer than fifty-five writers, who, in the course of that century, devoted their labors, to a greater or less extent, to the interpretation or illustration of the inspired writings — a circumstance which at once indicated the progress of the principles of the Reformation, and contributed most materially to their diffusion. Nor were expository treatises, in illustrations of the Sacred Scriptures, simply increased in number; they were marked by a decided improvement in point of intrinsic value. It is to the honor of a large proportion of the Interpreters of that age, that, rejecting the practice so well exposed by Bishop Horsley, of “drawing I know not what mystical meanings, by a certain cabalistic alchemy, from the simplest expressions of holy writ,” they made it their endeavor, in every case, to ascertain the true meaning of the Spirit of God, by a careful examination of the text and context.

In unbending integrity of purpose in the investigation of the Inspired Oracles — which must be regarded as one of the primary excellences of an Expositor — John Calvin is surpassed by none in his own, or indeed in any age. His readers, even where they may not be prepared to adopt his interpretation of a passage, cannot fail to perceive that it is his sincere desire and honest endeavor to ascertain its true meaning. His uprightness of design is more especially observable in connection with passages bearing on controverted points. In such cases the candid reader will discover no disposition to wrest a single expression for the purpose of enlisting it on the side of a particular system of opinion; but, on the contrary, the utmost fairness of interpretation is uniformly apparent.

Every one that is acquainted with Calvin’s history, and considers the trying scenes through which he was called to pass, must feel astonished that he should have found leisure to prepare, in addition to all his other writings, Commentaries on nearly the whole of the Sacred Scriptures. That he wrote so much, and more especially as an Expositor, appears to have been chiefly owing to the frequent and urgent solicitations of his intimate and beloved Farel, who “not merely entreated Calvin, but frequently urged him with great vehemence to write one Commentary after another, from a conviction that he possessed the gifts requisite for exposition in a very extraordinary manner, and that, with the blessing of God, his works of this kind would be extensively useful. ‘Being an inconsiderable man myself,’ said he, ‘I am wont to require very much from those that possess the greatest excellence, and often press them hard to labor beyond their strength.’ It was his conviction that every one who had received superior talents was bound to devote them to the advancement of the kingdom of God.”  1

The Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians form a most important part of the Sacred Writings. Though not so systematic as the Epistle to the Romans, they contain many passages, bearing directly on the fundamentally important doctrines of the Christian system, while they are of the highest utility in connection with Practical Theology. The disorders that had unhappily crept into the Church at Corinth, gave occasion for the Apostle’s handling at greater length than in any of his other Epistles various important points as to doctrine and worship; while the relaxed state of discipline that had begun to prevail among them rendered it necessary to exhibit more fully the principles which ought to regulate the administration of the Christian Church. In this the overruling hand of Him who brings good out of evil is strikingly apparent.

While in the selection of the particular places into which the Gospel was first introduced, and in which Christian Churches were first planted, there is a display of Divine sovereignty which it is beyond our power for fathom, this at least is abundantly manifest, that the places selected were not those in which the triumphs of the Gospel were likely to be most easily affected, but quite the reverse. As the skill of the workman appears so much the more strikingly, when the tools employed by him are few and simple, and the materials to be wrought upon are hard and unyielding; so the wonders achieved in the first ages of the Church, through the foolishness of preaching. (1Co 1:21) excite so much the more our astonishment, when we take into view the peculiarly formidable obstacles that opposed its progress in the places that were selected as the scenes of its triumphs. Of this the inspired narrative furnished in the Acts of the Apostles presents numerous and striking illustrations; and when we observe the particular Churches to which Paul’s Epistles are addressed — in the order in which they are presented to our view in the New Testament — it might almost seem as if the order of arrangement had been designed for the very purpose of calling our particular attention to the fact that the triumphs of the Gospel had been most signal in those places in which its success might have appeared most unlikely. It is a remarkable circumstance, and, assuredly, it is not to be looked upon as merely accidental, that the Christian Church to which the first of Paul’s Epistles — in the order in which they stand — is addressed, is one that had been planted, not in some city of secondary importance, but in Rome itself, the metropolis of the then known world; while the second of the Churches to whom Paul’s Epistles are addressed is that of Corinth, a city that was proverbial among Heathens themselves for its extraordinary profligacy, and consequently the most unlikely place of all to be the scene of the triumphs of a religion that will allow of no compromise with iniquity.

When Paul first visited Corinth, appearances were most unpromising; but, having received special encouragement from his Divine Master, he continued to labor at Corinth for a year and six months, (Ac 18:11;) and such was the success of his labors in that profligate city, that after enumerating some of the worst descriptions of character, he says to the Corinthian converts, — “And such were some of you,” (1Co 6:11). While, however, the notorious wickedness that prevailed at Corinth was the occasion of illustrating so much the more clearly the power of Christianity in subduing human depravity, that extreme dissoluteness of manners to which the Corinthian Christians had been addicted previously to their conversion, and which was daily witnessed by them in the unconverted around them, was fitted to exert a most injurious influence; and while the disorders that prevailed in the Corinthians Church after Paul left them, were in part attributable to the insidious efforts of false teachers, there seems every reason to believe that they were, in a very considerable degree, owing to the contagion of corrupt manners around them. It is to this that we must trace their preference of the ornaments of speech to the plain unadorned doctrine of the cross — their party jealousies — their vexatious lawsuits — their unseemly fellowship with heathens in their idol-feasts; and their philosophical speculations, leading them to question the possibility of a resurrection from the dead; while the flagrant case of incest, fallen into by one of their number, and connived at by the others, must still more manifestly be ascribed, in part, to the contagion of evil example. Yet even in this we have occasion still farther to mark the overruling hand of God in making evil subservient to good — the disordered state of the Corinthian Church having given occasion for exhortations and reproofs that are fraught with invaluable instruction to the Church of Christ in every successive age.

Calvin’s Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians was first published in the year 1546, and his Commentary on the Second Epistle was published in the course of the same year. It was a year that was greatly “unfavorable to Calvin’s repose. He was obliged to cheer the drooping spirits of the Genevese, whom the designs of Charles V. against The Reformed Religion had alarmed. But, besides the cares which the fear of all these evils occasioned him, he was deeply afflicted at the state of Geneva, and the general and daring profligacy of its inhabitants.”  2

In the course of the same year (as is stated by Beza) one of the members of the senate, “instigated, it is supposed, by two ministers of the Consistory, both of them given to drunkenness, and not less afraid than others of the rigor of the law, accused Calvin of preaching false doctrine.” It may well appear surprising that in such circumstances he should have found leisure for preparing this valuable portion of his Expository Works. This, however, is not peculiar to this portion of his Commentaries; for the greater part of them were prepared amidst numerous engagements and harassing occurrences. Yet they do not bear the marks of haste, but might seem to have been prepared in quiet retirement.

The reader will observe that The Dedication, which is prefixed to the Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians in all the ordinary editions of Calvin’s works, bears date in 1556. It is however stated, at the same time, by Calvin in the close of the Dedication, that the Commentary to which it is prefixed had been originally published by him ten years previously. It will farther be observed that in the commencement of the Dedication, Calvin alludes to an individual to whom he had originally dedicated the Commentary, but whose name he had been under the painful necessity — contrary to his usual manner — of erasing from his writings. The individual alluded to is James of Burgundy. The original Dedication, which is exceedingly rare, is contained in “Lettres de Calvin a Jaque de Bourgogne,” kindly allowed to the Translator by Mr. Laing, Edinburgh, from the Library of Writers to the Signet. A translation of that Dedication, as well as of the one that was subsequently prefixed by Calvin to this part of his Commentaries, will be found below.

The circumstances connected with the case of James of Burgundy, are briefly stated by Bayle in his Dictionary, (Art. Philip of Burgundy,) in the following terms: — “James of Burgundy, Lord of Fallaix, grandson, I suppose, of Baldwin, another natural son of Duke Philip, professed the Protestant religion, but being scandalized at the disputes which arose at Geneva between Bolsec and Calvin in the year 1551, he and his wife turned aside from the doctrine of the Reformed. He had carried it fair in the Church several years. Calvin dedicated to him his Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, but afterwards he suppressed that Dedication, and prefixed another to The Marquis of Vic.”

Farther, Bayle, in the Art. Calvin, remarks, when speaking of Beza’s Life of Calvin — “We do not find in the edition of 1564, in 12mo, what I have transcribed from the folio edition of 1565, when I said that the grandson of a bastard of Philip, the good Duke of Burgundy, forsook the Church of Rome.”

The editor of “Lettres de Calvin,” states that, after much fruitless search in many quarters for two documents referred to in Calvin’s Letters, viz. the Dedication of Calvin’s Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, and an Apology for the Masters of Falais, presented to the Emperor Charles the Fifth, and composed by Calvin, he had at length obtained them from one of the librarians of Geneva. The Dedication, he states, had been “transcribed from a copy that is at present at Strasburg.” “These pieces,” he adds, “arrived just in time for being printed in the last sheet of the Letters, to which I have not failed to append them, as being absolutely necessary to render them intelligible. I flatter myself that the public will receive them with delight, as an authentic document,  3 hitherto wanting in the ecclesiastical history of this country. Even those who have neither interest nor inclination for knowing this history to the bottom, will admire the beauty of Calvin’s genius, the insinuating turns of the Dedication, and the liberty and modesty that reign equally in the Apology; and they will agree with me in thinking, that Calvin was no less expert, in the art of pleading, than he had been in the art of preaching.”

James of Burgundy was the grandson of Baldwin, a natural son of Philip, Duke of Burgundy, whom the Emperor Maximilian, in 1501, put in possession of Falais, a “Manor of Brabant, situated on the borders of the county of Namur, upon the river Mohaine, between the towns of Huy and Henneguy.” He was “elevated to the court of the Emperor Charles the Fifth. He embraced the views of the Protestants at the age of fifteen. He afterwards married Jolande of Brederode, a descendant of the ancient Counts of Holland, and aunt to Henry of Brederode.” “This marriage increased the suspicions that he had conceived as to the religions in which he was brought up, so that he adopted the resolution of leaving his native country, where he reckoned his life no longer safe. His withdrawment led to a law-suit, before the court of Malines, for the confiscation of his lands. During his exile, the Master of Falais changed his abode from time to time, having taken refuge first at Cologne, afterwards at Strasbourg, and at Basle, and, last of all, at Geneva. There is ground to believe that he was a person of merit, upon the testimony of Calvin himself, who, after pronouncing upon him the highest eulogiums in his Dedication to the First Epistle to the Corinthians, carried on a familiar correspondence with him for nearly ten years, and takes pleasure in subscribing himself very frequently his friend unreservedly forever.  4

“It is true that this friendship did not always continue, but, on the contrary, changed into irreconcilable aversion. It may at first view be thought, that the fault was altogether on the side of the Master of Falais, and that Calvin must have had sufficient reasons for carrying matters so far. We must, however, beware of forming a rash judgment. We often see the greatest animosities between the best friends arise out of nothing. Frequently the two parties are equally in the wrong; and in many cases the fault is found to have been on the side of the one that had been least suspected.”... The reader who peruses superficially the statement of Beza, quoted by Bayle, might imagine not merely that the Master of Falais had approved of all that Bolsec had done or said, but also that he entirely abandoned the side of the Protestants, and entered again the communion of the Romish Church. He might, therefore, fall into a mistake on all these points.

“I do not believe that the Master of Falais ever thought of approving of the conduct of Bolsec, who ventured in a full church to contradict a minister, when preaching the doctrine of predestination. Neither Calvin nor Beza say so. Besides, the Master of Falais protests in his Apology, that he has no sympathy with those that support their religion in a turbulent and seditious manner. Assuredly he must have been a fanatic, to do what Bolsec did on that occasion; but to say that he had done well, he must have been a downright madman.

“Nor is there any better proof that the Master of Falais was of Bolsec’s opinion on the subject of predestination. Calvin, Beza, and Castalio himself, (who would not have failed to mention it,) say no such thing. Besides this, the Confession of the Master of Falais, such as he had published in his Apology, is quite in unison with Calvin’s sentiments; and it may be presumed that he had not renounced these views in three years afterwards, while experience tells us, that they have once imbibed. What was then, properly, the ground of quarrel between Calvin and the Master of Falais? In my opinion it was this: After Bolsec had been put in prison, on the 16th October 1551, for having contradicted the doctrine of Calvin, and given occasion of offense in the Church, Calvin was disposed to punish him with all possible severity. To accomplish his purpose in accordance with forms, he asked the opinion of the Churches of Switzerland, hinting to them at the same time what he desired from them.”

“‘We are desirous,’ says he, ‘to clear our Church from this pestilence in such a way that it will not, on being expelled from it, do injury to the neighboring Churches.’ meaning, plainly enough, that he must either be put to death, or suffered to remain in prison during his whole life.”

The Master of Falais was of another mind; whether it was that he was influenced by a regard to his own interest, and that, being sickly, he imagined that his life depended on that of his physician; or whether it was that, from a principle of humanity and Christianity forbearance, he reckoned that Bolsec’s imprudence did not merit so severe a punishment, he wrote to the clergy of the Cantons, or to his friends in that quarters, and thereby defeated the design of Calvin, who received replies less full and distinct, and much more moderate, than he had expected and desired. Calvin finding himself thwarted by the Master of Falais, got into a passion, broke entirely with him, and roused up against him so many enemies at Geneva, that he was obliged to retire into the district of Vaud.

“Judge, now, which of the two was in the right — Calvin or the Master of Falais.” “I do not know what became of the Master of Falais after this time, nor when he died, nor where, nor in what communion. I cannot, however, subscribe to the views of Mr. Bayle, who says that the Master of Falais turned aside from the doctrine of the Reformed, and that he renounced the Reformed Church. I am of opinion that Beza, on whose authority Mr. Bayle proceeds, means nothing more than this, that the Master of Falais left the Church of Geneva, on quarreling with Calvin. This does not mean that he renounced the Reformed Church, or abandoned the Protestant party. For it was possible to quarrel with Calvin, to reject his views on predestination and on persecution, and spurn the discipline of the Church of Geneva, and yet, after all, be as good a Protestant, and member of the Reformed Church, as Calvin himself.”

From the extracts furnished above form an introductory notice by the editor  5 of the work already referred to, (“Lettres de Calvin a Jaque de Bourgogne,”) it will abundantly appear that the writer is desirous to present as favorable a view of James of Burgundy as the circumstances of the case will at all admit of. His attempt to show that James of Burgundy may have, after all, remained in connection with the Reformed Church, appears to be more ingenious than solid, and seems directly at variance with a statement by Calvin in his second Dedication to this part of his Commentaries, to this effect, that the individual to whom the former Dedication was addressed “has intentionally made it his object, not merely to withdraw as much as possible from me personally, but also to have no connection with our Church.”  6 This expression naturally conveys the idea that he had not simply left the Church of Geneva, but had withdrawn entirely from the Reformed Church. But however matters may have been as to this, the case, as a whole, was of such a nature as could not fail to be painful in the extreme to the mind of Calvin. In proportion, however, to the pain excited in his mind by this distressing case, must have been the happiness afforded him by an occurrence of an opposite nature, which took place about the same time.

The Church of Geneva, which had suffered from the defection of James of Burgundy, was strengthened by the accession of an Italian nobleman, Galeazus Caracciolus, who, having been led to espouse the Protestant faith, took up his residence at Geneva in the year 1551, with a view to enjoy the society of Calvin, and have opportunity of attending upon his ministry. The particulars of his history, and more especially of his conversion from Popery, are interestingly narrated in a work entitled — “The Italian Convert — Newes From Italy of A Second Moses — The Life of Galeacius Caracciolus, The noble Marquesse of Vico,” etc. London, 1635.

This work was written originally in Italian, “by Nicola Balbani, minister of the Italian Church in Geneva. It was translated into Latin by Beza; into French by Minutoli and by Sieur de Lestan; and into English by William Crashaw.”  7

The writer of this work referred to presents, in the dedicatory epistle, the following brief summary of the leading facts of this interesting case: —

“I present you with as strange a story as, out of the holy stories, afore it be laid down at large? Thus it is: — Galeacius Caracciolus, son and heir-apparent to Calantonius, Marquesse of Vicum in Naples, bred, borne and brought up in Popery — a courtier to the Emperor Charles the Fifth, nephew to the Pope, Paul the Fourth, being married to the Duke of Nucerne’s daughter, and having by her six goodly children, at a sermon of Peter Martyr’s was first untouched, — after reading Scripture, and other good means, was fully converted — labored with his lady, but could not persuade her; therefore, that he might enjoy Christ and serve Him with a good conscience, he left his lands, livings and honors of a Marquesdome, the comforts of his lady and children, the pleasures of Italy, his credit with the Emperor, his kindred with the Pope, and forsaking all for the love of Jesus Christ, came to Geneva, and there lived a poor and mean, yet an honorable and a holy life for forty years; and though his father, his lady, his kinsmen, yea, the Emperor and Pope did all they could to reclaim him, yet continued he constant to the end, and lived and died the blessed servant of God, leaving behind him a rare example to all ages.”  8

Caracciolus was born at Naples in January 1517. His father’s name was Calantonius, who was descended from the ancient and noble family of the Caracciolies in the district of Capua, and was elevated by Charles the Fifth to the rank of Vico. His mother was descended from the noble family of the Caraffi, and was sister to Pope Paul the Fourth. His wife, Victoria, was daughter to the Duke of Nuceria, one of the principal noblemen of Italy. She brought him a large fortune. He had by her six children — four sons and two daughters. His mind was first influenced in favor of the Protestant religion by repeated conversations held by him with a nobleman nearly related to him, who had, along with various persons of distinction in Italy, been induced to renounce Popery, chiefly through the instrumentality of a Spanish nobleman, who at that time resided at Naples — Joannes Waldesius. The more immediate instrument, however, of his conversion, was the celebrated Peter Martyr Vermilius. Caracciolus having from curiousity gone to hear him, was savingly impressed by what he heard; and it is to be noticed as an interesting coincidence, that the means of his conversion was a discourse on a passage in the First Epistle to the Corinthians.

“At that time Peter Martyr was in hand with Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, and as he was showing the weakness and deceitfulness of the judgment of man’s reason in spiritual things, as likewise the power and efficacy of the Word of God in those men in whom the Lord worketh by His Spirit — amongst other things he used this simile or comparison: If a man, walking in a large place, see afar off men and women dancing together, and hear no sound of instrument, he will judge them mad, or at least foolish; but if he come nearer them, and perceive their order and hear their music, and mark their measures and their courses, he will then be of another mind, and not only take delight in seeing them, but feel a desire in himself to bear them company and dance with them. Even the same (said Martyr) betides many men, who, when they behold in others a sudden and great change of their looks, apparel, behavior, and whole course of life, at the first sight they impute to melancholy, or some other foolish humor; but if they look more narrowly into the matter, and begin to hear and perceive the harmony and sweet consent of God’s Spirit, and His word in them, by the joint power of which two this change was made and wrought, (which afore they counted folly,) then they change their opinion of them, and first of all begin to like them, and that change in them, and afterwards feel in themselves a motion and desire to imitate them, and to be of the number of such men, who, forsaking the world and his vanities, do think that they ought to reform their lives by the rule of the gospel, that so they may come to true and sound holiness. This comparison, by the grace of God’s Spirit, wrought so wonderfully with Galeacius, as himself hath often told more carefully to restrain his affections from following the world and his pleasures, as before they did, and to set his mind about seeking out the truths of religion and the way to true happiness... And thus far, in this short time, had the Lord wrought with him by that sermon: — as first, to consider with himself seriously whether he were right or no: secondly, to take up an exercise continual of reading Scripture: thirdly, to change his former company and make choice of better. And this time was done in the year 1541, and in the four and twentieth year of his age.”

Caracciolus having thus had his eyes opened to the errors of Popery, and being fully satisfied that it was his duty to embrace the Protestant faith, found himself placed in peculiarly trying circumstances. Even those of his countrymen who were personally inclined towards the Protestant cause could not be persuaded to hold meetings in private for their mutual edification, but were prepared not merely to conceal their real sentiments, but even to practice occasional conformity to the rites of Popery. In these circumstances he was called to consider whether he would be prepared to spend the remainder of his life in daily violation of the dictates of conscience, or forsake all for Christ.

“The sacrifice of his secular dignities and possessions did not cost him a sigh, but as often as he reflected on the distress which his departure would inflict on his aged father, who, with parental pride, regarded him as the heir of his titles and the stay of his family, — or his wife whom he loved, and by whom he was loved tenderly, and on the dear pledges of their union, he was thrown into a state of unutterable anguish, and started back with horror from the resolution to which conscience had brought him. At length, by an heroic effort of zeal, which few can imitate and many will condemn, he came to the determination of bursting the tenderest ties which perhaps ever bound man to country and kindred.”  9

The reader will observe that the author of the work already referred to — “The Life of Galeacius Caracciolus,” etc., entitles it — “The Italian Convert — Newes from Italy of a Second Moses” — and in accordance with this title the writer, in the dedicatory epistle prefixed to the work, institutes a comparison between Moses and the subjects of his narrative in a variety of interesting particulars.

“I may say much rather than Jacob — Few and evil have my days been; yet in these few days of mine something have I seen, more have I read, more have I heard; yet never saw I, heard I, or read I any example (all things laid together) more nearly seconding the examples of Moses than this of the most renowned Marquesse Galeacius. Moses was the adopted son of a king’s daughter; Galeacius the natural son and heir apparent to a Marquesse; Moses a courtier in the court of Pharoah, Galeacius in the court of the emperor Charles the Fifth; Moses by adoption a kin to a Queen, Galeacius by marriage to a Duke, by blood son to a Marquesse, nephew to a Pope; Moses in possibility of a kingdom, he in possession of a Marquesdome; Moses in his youth brought up in the heathenism of Egypt, Galeacius schooled in the superstition of Popery; Moses at last saw the truth and embraced it, so did Galeacius; Moses openly fell from the heathenism of Egypt, so did Galeacius from the superstition of Popery. But all this is nothing to that which they both suffered for their conscience. What Moses suffered Saint Paul tells us — ‘Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter, and chose rather to suffer adversities with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the rebuke of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.’ Nay, Moses had rather be a base brick maker amongst the oppressed Israelites, being true Christians, than to be the son of a king’s daughter in the court of Pharaoh amongst idolaters. In like case noble Galeacius, when he was come to years and knowledge of Christ, refused to be called son and heir to a Marquesse, cup-bearer to an Emperor, nephew to a Pope, and chose rather to suffer affliction, persecution, banishment, loss of lands, livings, wife, children, honors and preferments, than to enjoy the sinful pleasures of Italy for a season, esteeming the rebuke of Christ greater riches than the honors of a Marquesdome without Christ, and therefore, seeing he must either want Christ or want them, he despoiled himself of all these to gain Christ. So excellent was the fact of Moses, and so heroical, that the Holy Ghost vouchsafes it remembrance both in the Old and New Testament, that so the Church in all ages might know it and admire it, and doth chronicle it in the epistle to the Hebrews almost two thousand years after it was done. If God himself did so to Moses, shall not God’s Church be careful to commend to posterity this second Moses, whose love to Christ Jesus was so zealous, and so inflamed by the heavenly fire of God’s Spirit, that no earthly temptations could either quench or abate it; but to win Christ, and to enjoy Him in the liberty of His Word and Sacraments, he delicately contemned the honors and pleasures of the Marquesdome of Vicum — Vicum, one of the paradises of Naples, Naples, the paradise of Italy — Italy of Europe — Europe of the earth; yet all these paradises were nothing to him in comparison of attaining the celestial paradise, there to live with Jesus Christ.”

“And for my part I freely and truly profess, I have been often ravished with admiration of this noble example — to see an Italian so excellent a Christian — one so near the Pope so near to Jesus Christ, and such blessed fruit to blossom in the Pope’s own garden; and to see a nobleman of Italy forsake that for Christ, for which I fear many amongst us would forsake Christ Himself. And surely (I confess truth) the serious consideration of this so late, so true, so strange an example hath been a spur to my slowness, and whetted my dull spirits, and made me to esteem more highly of religion than I did before. I know it is an accusation of myself, and a disclosing of my own shame to confess thus much; but it is a glory to God, an honor to religion, a credit to the truth, and a praise to this noble Marquesse, and therefore I will not hide it. And why should I shame to confess it, when that famous and renowned man of God, holy Calvin, freely confesseth,  10 as in the sequel of this story you shall hear, that this nobleman’s example did greatly confirm him in his religion, and did revive and strengthen his faith, and cheer up all the holy graces of God in him.”

Caracciolus had no sooner left Naples, forsaking country and kindred for the sake of Christ and his gospel, than every possible effort was employed by his family and relatives, and all that were concerned for the credit of the religion that he had abandoned, to induce him to return.

On his refusing to do so, “sentence was passed against him, and he was deprived of all the property which he inherited from his mother.” “In the following year... an offer was made to him in the name of his uncle now Pope Paul IV.,  11 that he should have a protection against the Inquisition, provided he would take up his residence within the Venetian States; a proposal to which neither his safety nor the dictates of his conscience would permit him to accede.” He went repeatedly to Italy, and had interviews with his aged father, but was refused the privilege of seeing his wife and family, until about six years after he had quitted Naples. His wife, Victoria, then wrote to him, earnestly requesting an interview with him, and fixing the place of meeting. This she did on two different occasions, but in both instances, on his arrival at the appointed place, after a fatiguing and dangerous journey, he had the disappointment of finding that she did not make her appearance. At length, impatient of delay, he went once more to Italy, and at his father’s house had an interview with Victoria, when he entreated her to accompany him to Geneva, “promising that no restraint should be laid on her conscience, and that she should be at liberty to practice her religion under his roof. After many protestations of affection, she finally replied, that she could not reside out of Italy, nor in a place where any other religion than that of the Church of Rome was professed, and farther, that she could not live with him as her husband so long as he was infected with heresy.” The scene at their final parting was peculiarly tender. “Bursting into tears, and embracing her husband, Victoria besought him not to leave her a widow, and her babies fatherless. The children joined in the entreaties of their mother, and the eldest daughter, a fine girl of thirteen, grasping his knees, refused to part with him. How he disengaged himself, he knew not; for the first thing which brought him to recollection was the noise made by the sailors on reaching the opposite shore of the Gulf.” (of Venice.) “He used often to relate to his intimate friends, that the parting scene continued long to haunt his mind; and that not only in dreams, but also in reveries into which he fell during the day; he thought he heard the angry voice of his father, saw Victoria in tears, and felt his daughter dragging at his heels.”  12

Caracciolus spent the remainder of his days at Geneva, with the exception of five years spent by him at Nion and Lausanne, for the sake of economy in his living, and continued steadfast in his attachment to the Protestant faith. He was on terms of intimate friendship with Calvin, which continued unbroken until the death of the Reformer in 1564 — thirteen years subsequent to the time when Carcciolus went to reside at Geneva. One step taken by him during his exile must be regarded as (to say the least) of greatly questionable propriety — that of contracting a second marriage, about nine years after he went to reside at Geneva. Calvin, on being consulted by him as to the propriety of such a step, “felt great scruples as to the expediency” of it, but “ultimately gave his approbation to it, after he had consulted the divines of Switzerland and the Grisons.”  13 Accordingly, the courts of Geneva having legally pronounced a sentence of divorce against Victoria, on the ground of her obstinate refusal to live with her husband, he married Anne Fremejere, the widow of a French refugee from Rouen, with whom he continued to live happily in a state of dignified frugality.  14 He was held, deservedly, by the Church of Geneva, and wherever he was known, in the greatest esteem, as one whose piety was of a very high order. Matthew Henry, in one part of his Writings,  15 makes mention of “a noble saying of the Marquis of Vico, ‘Let their money perish with them, who esteem all the wealth of this world worth one hour’s communion with God in Jesus Christ,’” and assuredly the devotedness manifested by him to the cause of Christ affords ample evidence that the sentiment was deeply inwrought into his mind. He died at Geneva in 1568, in the sixty-eighth year of his age.

Calvin’s Commentary on Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians having, (in common with a large portion of his Commentaries on other parts of the Scriptures) been translated by himself into French for the benefit of his countrymen, the Latin original and French version have been carefully collated, and any additional terms or clauses that occur in the latter, tending to bring out more fully the Author’s meaning, will be found given at the bottom of the page. “Calvin,” says Pasquier (Biographia Evangelica) “was a good writer, both in Latin and French, and our French tongue is highly obliged to him for enriching it with so great a number of fine expressions.” D’Aubigne, when speaking of Calvin’s early education, states that “he made great progress in Latin literature. He became familiar with Cicero, and learned from this great master to employ the language of the Romans with a facility, purity, and ease that excite the admiration even of his enemies. But at the same time, he found riches in this language which he afterwards transferred to his own.” “CALVIN when called upon to discuss and to prove, enriched his mother-tongue with modes of connection and dependence, with shadows, transitions, and dialectic forms, that it did not as yet possess.”  16

The Old English Translation of this part of Calvin’s Commentaries having been published in black letter in 1573, about thirty years after the Commentary itself was first published by Calvin, it is not to be wondered that it abounds with obsolete terms and phrases, fitted to render it unpalatable to modern taste. In addition to this, the Author’s meaning has, in not a few instances, been manifestly misapprehended, and in almost all cases Calvin’s critical observations are entirely omitted. The Translator, Mr. Thomas Timme, was the author of various works, one of which more particularly — quaintly entitled “A Silver Bell,” appears to have gained much celebrity. It has been thought proper to subjoin to this Preface, a fac-simile of the title-page to this old English version, with a copy of “The Epistle Dedicatorie” to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In preparing the present Translation of this part of Calvin’s Commentaries, care has been taken to bring out as fully as possible the Author’s meaning, while the reader will find in a variety of instances in the Notes some additional light thrown on some important but difficult passages — derived chiefly from the labors of interpreters that have appeared subsequently to the times of Calvin. The Translator is fully persuaded that Calvin’s Commentaries on both of Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians will be found, in so far at least as the Author’s meaning is properly brought out in the Translation, to justify most amply the confident expectation of the Author himself, (as expressed in his first Dedication to the Commentary on the First Epistle) — that it would “furnish no ordinary assistance for thoroughly understanding Paul’s mind.”

Elgin, October 1848.



Kirch-hoffer’s Life of Farel, pp. 281, 282.


Mackenzie’s Life of Calvin, p. 63.


Un monument authentique;” — “An authentic moment.”


Entier amy a jamais;” — “Thorough friend for ever.”


Avertissement de l’Editeur.”


Nihil haberet cum Ecclesia nostria commune;” — “De n’avoir rien de commun avec nostre Eglise;” — Might have nothing in common with our Church.


M’Crie’s History of the Reformation in Spain. — Note.


Baxter, in his “Treatise of Conversion,” makes the following interesting allusion to the case of Caracciolus: — “As it was with Carraciolus, the Marquis of Vicum, when his conscience bid him leave his land, and friends, and all for Christ, to forsake Popery, and betake himself to these countries where he might enjoy the gospel, his house and lands then came in his eyes: ‘What! must I leave all these for mere conscience, and live I know not how.’ His wife hangs upon him, his children with tears do cry after him, ‘O father! leave us not.’ And many a sob and sigh it costs his heart before he could resolve to get away.” — Baxters Works, volume 7. — Ed.


M’Crie’s History of the Reformation in Spain.


The reader will find the statement referred to in the second dedication prefixed by Calvin to his commentary on 1st Corinthians — “Caeterum quia et ego, quantum ad fidei meae pietatisque confirmationem valeat tuum exemplum experior,” etc.; — “As however I, for my part, know by experience the tendencies of your example to strengthen my faith and piety,” etc. — Ed.


It is remarked by David Dundas Scott, Esq., Translator of Ranke’s History of the Popes of Rome, in connexion with the case of certain relatives of Pope Paul IV. who had incurred his sever displeasure, that “although Paul seems to have relaxed the stern severity of the archinquisitor in regard to his Protestant nephew, [Galeacius Caracciolus,] by permitting him to be dealt with in the way of remonstrance and bribery, when another would have been arrested and put to death, still the compulsory retirement of the latter, after literally leaving ‘brethren and sisters, and father and mother, and wife and children, and lands for Christ’s sake and the gospel’ to Geneva, where he spent the evening of his days as a ruling-elder in the Italian Reformed Church, presented a striking contrast to the brilliant fortunes of his cousins the Caraffas, during their enjoyment of the Papal favor. But when the Pope found these ungrateful, and when that favor was lost, the Genevan exile [Caracciolus] must have felt peculiarly thankful for the deliverance he had had from such tempations and reverses, and one can hardly suppose but that the Pope himself must have been affected by the contrast at all points between his many Roman Catholic and one Reformed relative.” — Ranke’s History of the Romish Popes,. Note.


M’Crie’s History of the Reformation in Spain.


The part which Calvin acted as to this matter will be found to be in exact accordance with the views expressed by him, when commenting on 1 Corinthians 7:15 — a passage on which opposite opinions have been entertained by eminent interpreters. It may be noticed in connexion with this case, that the United Brethren, when laboring in the West India Islands, near the close of the last century, felt greatly at a loss as to the course proper to be pursued in the case of converted negroes, whose husbands or wives had (as very frequently happened) been purchased by proprietors from other islands, and were, in consequence of this, parted from them for ever. “For some time” they “prohibited the converts from contracting another marriage, apprehending this to be inconsistent with the principles of Christianity.” Afterwards, however, in particular cases, they judged it better “not to hinder,” though they “did not advise, a regular marriage with another person.” — Brown’s History of Misssions, volume 1.


M’Crie’s History of the Reformation in Spain,


Communicant’s Companion.


D’Aubigne’s History of the Reformation, (Oliver and Boyd’s Edition,) volume 3.

Next: Facsimile of Title Page to 1573 English Translation