Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 39: Corinthians, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
SECOND EPISTLE DEDICATORY
TO LORD GALLIAZUS CARACCIOLUS:
A Nobleman, Distinguished Still More By Eminent Virtues Than By Illustrious Descent, Only Son And Rightful Heir Of The Marquis Of Vico, Health: —
Would that when this Commentary first saw the light, I had either not known at all, or else had known thoroughly the individual whose name, hitherto inscribed upon this page, I am now under the necessity of erasing! I have, it is true, no fear of his upbraiding me with fickleness, or complaining that I have taken from him what I had previously given, for having 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, he has left himself no just ground of complaint. It is, however, with reluctance that I deviate from my custom, so as to erase any one’s name from my writings, and it grieves me that that individual should have quitted the lofty eminence that I had assigned him, 19 so as not to hold out a light to others, as it was my desire that he should. 20 As, however, it is not in my power to remedy this evil, let him, so far as I am concerned, remain buried, as I am desirous even now of sparing his credit by not mentioning his name.
To you, however, most illustrious Sir, I should have had to look out for some apology, for now putting you in his place, did I not freely take this liberty, from the confidence that I have in your incredible kindness of disposition, and your affection towards me personally, which is well known to all our friends. To return again to wishes, would that I had known you ten years sooner, for I should not have had occasion at present for making any change. So far as an example to the Church generally is concerned, it is a fortunate circumstance; because there will not only be no loss incurred by burying in oblivion the individual who has withdrawn from us, but in place of him we shall have in you a compensation 21 much more abundant and every way superior. For although you do not court public applause — satisfied to have God alone as your witness — and though it is not my design to herald your praises, yet it were not proper to conceal altogether from my readers what is useful and profitable to be known: — that a man, sprung from a family of the first rank, 22 prosperous in honors and wealth, blest with a spouse of the noblest descent and strictest virtue, a numerous offspring, domestic quiet and harmony, and happy in his entire condition in life, has, of his own accord, with the view of joining the camp of Christ, quitted his native country, has left behind him a fertile and lovely domain, a splendid patrimony, and a residence not less commodious than delightful, has stript himself of domestic splendor, has left father, wife, children, relatives, and connections, and after bidding farewell to so many worldly allurements, satisfied with our mean style, adopts our frugal and homely way of living, just as if he were one of ourselves. 23 I make mention, however, of these things to others, in such a way as not to overlook at the same time my own individual advantage; for if I hold up here, as in a mirror, your virtues before the eyes of my readers, in order that they may set themselves to imitate them, it were a shame if I, who have a nearer view of them, were not more keenly affected by a daily and distinct contemplation of them. As, however, I for my part know by experience the tendency of your example to strengthen my faith and piety, and all the children of God that live here acknowledge, as I do, that they have derived from this source no ordinary advantage, I have thought that it might be of importance, that, by my publishing it, the like benefit were made to flow out to a still greater distance. But for this, 24 it were utter folly to expatiate in the praises of a man, whose nature and disposition are at the farthest distance possible from ostentation, and that, too, before persons who are in foreign and far distant regions. Hence, if any considerable number to whom, in consequence of distance, you have been hitherto unknown, shall, on this admirable example being presented to them, prepare to imitate it, by leaving the nests to which they too fondly cling, I shall have obtained an ample reward for what I have written.
It ought, indeed, to have been more than simply common and customary among Christians, not simply to leave contentedly behind them estates, castles, and princely domains, where Christ cannot be followed otherwise, but even cheerfully and willingly to despise, in comparison with Him, everything that is most valued under heaven. 25 Such, however, is the backwardness or rather indifference that pervades all of us, that, while many give a cold assent 26 to the doctrine of the gospel, scarcely one in a hundred will, for the sake of it, if he possesses the most insignificant little farm, allow himself to be torn from it. Scarcely one is induced, without the greatest difficulty, to renounce the smallest conveniences: so very far are they from being prepared to abandon, as were befitting, life itself. 27 Above all things, I should wish that all resembled you in that first of all excellences — self-denial. For you are well prepared to bear witness to me, and I in like manner to you, how little pleasure we feel in cultivating the society of those, who, after leaving their native country, come at length to manifest, that they have not left their old dispositions behind them.
As, however, it were better that my readers should revolve in their minds, more than I can express in words, I now turn to entreat, that God, who has encouraged you hitherto by the wonderful efficacy of His Spirit, may furnish you with an unconquerable perseverance unto the end. For I am well aware with what arduous conflicts God has exercised you, and from which, in accordance with your singular prudence, you conclude, that a hard and laborious warfare is still awaiting you. Well knowing, however, from ample experience, how necessary it is for us to have a hand held out to us from heaven, you will, of your own accord, unite with me in imploring from that source the gift of perseverance. As for myself, I will entreat Christ our King, to whom supreme power has been given by the Father, and in whose hands all the treasures of spiritual blessings have been deposited, that He may long preserve you safely to us for the spread of His kingdom; and that He may in you accomplish farther triumphs over Satan and his bands.
24th January 1556, ten years after this Commentary was first published.
“Par mon Epistre;” — “By my Epistle.”
“Par bon exemple;” — “By a good example.”
“On aura en vous pour recompense vn exemple;” — “We shall have in you, by way of compensation, an example.”
“Vn homme de maison anciene et grand parentage;” — “A man of an ancient house and great parentage.”
“Vit frugalement et selon la facon du commun peuple, ne plus ne moins qu’un autre d’entre nous le premier qu’on scache prendre;” — “He lives frugally, and after the manner of the common people, neither more nor less than one of ourselves, the first that might be fixed upon.”
“Autrement, si je n’auoye cest esgard;” — “Otherwise, if I had not this in view.”
The reader will observe that Calvin here repeats, in precisely the same words, a statement which had been made by him in his previous dedication to James of Burgundy, and unquestionably the conduct of Caracciolus still more strikingly exemplified the spirit of self-denial which Calvin here recommends. — Ed.
“Consentent a la doctrine de l’Evangile tellement quellement, et comme faisans signe de la teste;” — “They consent to the doctrine of the gospel in some sort of way, and as giving a nod of assent with the head.”
“Pour ceste querelle;” — “In that contest.”