John Calvin Complete Commentary - 1 Timothy 5:11 - 5:11

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John Calvin Complete Commentary - 1 Timothy 5:11 - 5:11


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11Refuse younger widows He does not enjoin that they be excommunicated from the Church, or have any mark of disgrace put upon them; but he only asserts that they must not be rewarded by obtaining that honor which he has already mentioned. And if the Spirit of God, by the mouth of Paul, declares that no woman under sixty years of age deserves to be admitted into that order, because at that age the unmarried state was dangerous; what effrontery was it, afterwards, to lay down a law of celibacy for young women in all the warmth of youthful years? Paul, I say, does not allow of abstaining from marriage till they are in extreme old age, and altogether beyond the danger of incontinence. They afterwards came to forty years as the age for putting the veil on virgins, and next to thirty; and at length they began to put the veil — indiscriminately, and without exception — on females of any age. They allege, that continence is much easier for virgins, who have never had a husband, than it is for widows. But they will never succeed in proving, that there is no reason to dread that danger against which Paul guards and commands others to guard. Accordingly, it is rash, and even cruel, to lay a snare for those who still are young girls, and who would have been fitter for the married state.

For when they have begun to be wanton against Christ He says that they are “ against Christ,” who, forgetting the condition to which they were called, indulge in unbecoming mirth; for they ought to have kept themselves under the yoke of modesty, as becomes grave and respectable females. Accordingly, a more luxurious and abandoned course of life is a sort of wantonness against Christ, to whom they had pledged their fidelity. As Paul had seen many instances of this kind, he meets it by a general remedy, that none should be admitted who were of an age that could ever induce them to desire to be married.

How many monsters of crimes are produced every day in Popery by that compulsory celibacy of nuns! What barriers does it not deliberately break through! And therefore, although this course had at first appeared to be commendable, yet, taught by experiments so many and so terrible, they ought to have somewhat complied with in the counsel of Paul. But they are so far from doing this, that they provoke the wrath of God more and more, from day to day, by their obstinacy. Nor do I speak of nuns only, but priests and monks are also compelled by them to observe perpetual celibacy. Yet disgraceful lusts rage amongst them, so that hardly one in ten lives chastely; and in monasteries, the least of the evils is ordinary fornication. If they would incline their heart to hear God speaking by the mouth of Paul, they would instantly have recourse to this remedy which he prescribes; but so great is their pride, that they furiously persecute all who remind them of it.

Some read the words thus: — “ they become wanton, they will marry in opposition to Christ.” Although this makes little difference as to Paul’ meaning, the former view is preferable.