• Claude Of Savoy

    Claude Of Savoy


    Claude de Savoy  first appeared in the character of a religious reformer at Bern, in Switzerland, and, by his bold and startling doctrines, created a great sensation among the citizens of that republic. Simler and others apply to him the epithet Allobrox ; but Berchtoldt Haller, in a letter dated May 7th, 1534, calls him Gallus, a Frenchman. Schelhorn has attempted to reconcile the apparent discrepancy, by mentioning the fact, that the Allobroges, inhabiting the Pays de Vaud, the Genevese, and other inhabitants of the neighbouring territory, spoke the French language. It would appear, that Claude had acted in a military capacity, before he commenced religious reformer; for Stupanus says, that Celius Secundus Curio took refuge in a town, near Moncaglieri, called " Ramonisium, of which one Claude of Savoy had the command."

    Claude was a follower of Servetus, whose opinions he disseminated in Savoy, Switzerland, Suabia and Bavaria. The Pastors of Bern endeavoured to bring him over to a belief in the preexistence and divinity of Christ, by an appeal to the writings of the New Testament; but he could not be prevailed upon to make any further admission, than that Christ was the Son of God by nature, and in that sense God himself. He persisted in denying Christ's existence from eternity; and contended that he was born in time, although in a miraculous manner, of the Virgin Mary. He said that Christ preexisted in the eternal decree of God, not in reality, but in idea only; and that it is purely as a man that he is an object of our faith. From this point the Pastors of Bern were unable to move him: but they insisted upon his keeping these views to himself, and in a few weeks afterwards he left their canton. On this occasion Bullinger composed a treatise in defence of the two natures in Christ, with the double object of preventing the spread of Claude's opinions, and asserting the orthodoxy of the Swiss Churches.

    Disappointed at the opposition which he had to encounter in Switzerland, Claude now resolved to visit Germany ; and on his road he passed through Basle, where he had an interview with Oswald Myconius. But he was arrested, and sent summarily away. On being released, he withdrew to Wittenberg, for the purpose of conversing with Luther, and his friends: but there also he found the recollection of John Campanus too fresh in men's minds, to allow him any chance of success, in promoting the particular object which he had in view. After a stay of some months, therefore, during which he was employed in propagating his opinions among those who were willing to listen to him, he was warned to take his departure, and returned to the north of Italy, in the year 1537. Beza informs us, in the Preface to his " History of Valentine Gentilis," that Claude, after some stay in Italy, returned into Germany. At Augsburg he succeeded in procuring a few followers ; but when the circumstance beicame known, he was arrested, and compelled to quit the city without delay. Caspar Schwenckfeldt, in a letter addressed to the brethren at Augsburg and Strasburg, in 1542, warns them, in the strongest terms, against the Antitrinitarian opinions of Claude.

    We find him next at Constance, where he conducted himself so discreetly, as to gain the friendship of Ambrose Blaurer. But though he refrained from conversing on his favourite topics, he hesitated not to commit his thoughts to writing. In a treatise, the contents of which Martin Frecht subsequently communicated to his friends at Constance, occurs the following statement of Claude's opinions, written by himself. "' The Lord thy God is one.' Whence then are there two others ? particularly since it is written, ' Who hath been his counsellor ?' That man alone, whom Mary conceived and brought forth, is called the Son of God. Thus, the angels sang concerning him,' This day is born a Saviour of the world:' they did not however say, ' This day a God is born.' But if Jesus is thus divided into God and man, the Virgin would not be the mother of Christ, but only of a part of him. Observe also the expression ' this day,' which indicates a definite time. He was not, therefore, begotten eternally of the Father, as they falsely imagine. It is likewise sufficiently shewn, by the declaration ' he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham,' that the Father, wishing to reconcile the world to himself, willed to do this by a creature, and by blood, and not by any divinity. It is not said, that he took on him a sonship, which had existed from eternity, but only the seed of Abraham. I confess, however, that Jesus Christ is God in that manner, in which he himself said that he was. If he called those gods, to whom the word of God came, how much more him, whom the Father sanctified; who received the Holy Spirit above his fellows, so that all might receive it through him from the Father. I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and that he alone was from eternity; and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. I believe that he was conceived of the Holy Spirit, and born of a virgin, and at a given time; but not therefore from eternity. I believe also in the Spirit, but not in God the Holy Ghost. In short, I do not believe, that three persons are one God; but I know that they are three men. Three persons are three men, and not one God." Frecht adds, that Claude further expresses himself thus: "Christ is from eternity in the Word,—in promise. He was also before Abraham in dignity, as John the Baptist says concerning him, Mark iii. But he was not Christ in that [Word ?] from eternity. He was Christ in Mary : before that he was nothing. God also is one from eternity, and was not the Father from eternity; for he became a Father, when he created men and Christ. It is said, ' In the beginning was the word.' Christ is the word; that is, the speaking word. It is also said, ' the word became flesh;' and no one denies that the word which God spoke, which he promised, became flesh."

    About the year 1550, as we learn from Schelhorn, Claude was at Memmingen, where he endeavoured to persuade some of the inhabitants, that the Virgin Mary bore many sons besides Christ; that there are not three persons in one essence ; that the Father alone is the true God, and is greater than the Son; and that the Scriptures have been corrupted, particularly John i. 1, the true reading of the last clause of which, he contended, was, "and the word was God's." The same conjecture was afterwards revived by Samuel Crellius, with whom it is supposed by many to have originated; but having the authority of no manuscript, or version in its favour, it meets with few advocates among the Unitarians of the present day.

    Claude further said, that the truth was not yet brought to light, but that it would at length be rescued, by himself, from the obscurity in which it lay. He pretended also to be able to interpret dreams, and predict future events; and denounced judgment upon all Cities and Magistrates, that did not believe in him. But he was banished from the town; and efforts were made to convince his followers of their errors. These facts Schelhorn professes to have learnt from public documents. But the same writer informs us, that it required no less than five years of incessant labour, on the part of the Pastors of Memmingen, and of Ludwig Rab, an eminent Theologian, who was brought from Ulm to Memmingen expressly for the purpose, to re-convert those, whom Claude had succeeded in bringing over to his own opinions.

    After the year 1555, we hear nothing more of him ; and the time and place of his death are buried in the same impenetrable obscurity as those of his birth.

    Caspar Schwenckfeldt speaks of him as the founder of one of the Anabaptist sects, which took from him the name of Claudians; and says that by the Logos, in John's Gospel, he understood the idea of the redemption of the world, conceived in the Divine Mind. The middle clause of John i. 1,—" the word was with God,"—he interpreted, " Deus secum decrevit" (God determined with himself); and the first clause in verse 14,—'"the word was made flesh,"— "Deus decretum suum perfecit, et manifestum reddidit" (God accomplished his decree, and made it manifest).

    None of the writings of Claude remain ; but Schwenckfeldt, Haller and Bullinger, have all given separate and independent accounts of his opinions.


    (Vidend. Bock, Hist. Ant. T. I . pp. 103—106; T. II. pp. 298—300. 308. 409. 415,416. Trechsel, Mich. Servet und seine Vorganger, S. 56 —59. Epistolae ab Ecclcs. Selv. Reformatoribus, vel ad eos scripts, Cent. i. p. 139. Schelhornii Diss. Epistolar. de Mino Celso Senensi, Ulmaj, 1748, pp. 74—77. Amoen. Literar. T. XIV. p. 337; T. XI. pp. 91, 92.)


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