Fun Facts From Church History: The Outbreak of Bolsec-ianism

At a general meeting, held October 16, 1551, the minister of Jussy, Jean de Saint André, in preaching from the words of St. John, (8:47,) “He that is of God heareth God’s words …,” took occasion to develop the doctrine of eternal election, declaring that “those who are not regenerated by the Spirit of God, continue in a state of rebellion even to the end, because obedience is a gift accorded only to the elect.”

He had scarcely finished speaking when one of the hearers rose up, and pronounced this doctrine false and impious, accompanying his discourse with coarse abuse of those who make God the author of sin, and exhorted the people to guard against this new doctrine as a detestable piece of folly. This man was the old Carmelite monk, Jerome Bolsec, a physician, preacher, and poet, who, wandering by turns in France and Italy, had retired to Geneva some months previously, where he had already frequently attacked the doctrines of Calvin.

Unnoticed in the crowd, the Reformer, whom Bolsec had thought absent, immediately rose up, and by a succession of testimonies borrowed from the writing of Augustine, eloquently refuted his adversary.

Arrested on account of the temerity of his language, and interrogated by the magistrate, Jerome refused to retract, and was thrown into prison. The case was brought before the Council, where he boldly maintained his opinion, adding, besides, that many of the Swiss ministers shared in his sentiments.

Before pronouncing a judgment, which the ministers of Geneva earnestly desired, the magistrates wrote concerning the subject to three reformed towns, namely, Zurich, Berne, and Bâle, furnishing them with a list of the errors of Bolsec, and asking their advice as to how they should treat him.*

The proceedings of the trial have been published in two very excellent volumes.  Whatever you think of Bolsec’s ridiculous views, his willingness to spew them in Geneva shows him to be quite insane.

*Jules Bonnet, Letters of John Calvin

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