Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 1: Genesis, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
TO THE RIGHT HONORABLE, MY VERIE GOOD
LORDE AMBROSE, EARLE OF WARWICKE,
BARON LISLE, MAISTER OF HER MAIESTIE’S ORDINANCE, KNIGHT OF THE
MOST NOBLE ORDER OF THE GARTER AND ONE OF HER HIGHNESSE
PRIUIE COUNSELL, AND TO THE RIGHT HONORABLE LADIE
HIS WIFE, ENCREASE OF HONOUR, AND TRUE
KNOWLEDGE IN CHRIST IESVS.
If the Apostle Paule (right honorable) condemne the negligence of men, because they behold not the euident spectacle of the glorie of God which is set before their eyes in the workemanship of the worlde,by which they wickedly suppresse the light of trueth: no lesse foule and shameful was that ignorance of the original and creation of mankind which almost in euery age and time so greatly preuailed. The which ignorance immediately ensued. the building of Babylon by the forgetting of those things which ought to haue beene dayly and howerly spoken off. For at what time godlesse men were banishcd from their natiue soile and dispersed, they therewithall abandoned the pure worship of God: Insomuch that to what part of’ the earth so euer they came, they had no care to bring with them that which they had heard of their forefathers, concerning the creating and repairing of the worlde. And so it came to passe, that no nation, except only the posteritie of Abraham, knew by the space of two thousand yeares, either from whence or when mankind had his originall. As for the labour which Ptolome bestowed in translating the books of. Moses into the Greeke tongue, it was at that time more laudable than fruitful: when as the light which he went about to bring out of darknes, was neuerthelesse through the carelesnesse of men extinguished. Whereby wee may perceiue, that they which ought to haue endeuored themselues, to knowe the workemaister of the worlde, sought rather by their vngod- linesse howe they might be wilfully blinde and ignorant. In the meane time the liberal Sciences florished, men’s witts were sharpe and quicke, greate paines euery way was taken: and yet nothing was spoken of the creation of the worlde. Aristotle, the prince of philosophers, dreamed of the eternitie of the world. Plato, his schoolmaister, shooting somewhat more neere vnto the marke, wandered notwithstanding somewhat from the trueth. But whether they, and all other nations with them, were wilfully blinde, or whether they were ignorant through their owne negligence, this booke of Moses deserueth to be esteemed as a most precious iewell, which certifieth vs not only of the creation of the worlde, but also howe, after the mortall fall of man, God adopted a Church to him selfe: which was the true worship of him, and with what exercises of godlinesse the fathers occupied them selues: howe pure religion, through the wicked negligence of men, was for a time decayed, and afterward restored to her former state: when God made a free couenaat of eternall saluation with a certeine people: Howe, of one man withered, and almost halfe dead, there sprang seede, which sodainly grewe into a huge people: and, finally, by what wonderfull meanes God: aduanced and defended his chosen familie, though it were poore and destitute of al helpe, and enuironed with thousands of enemies on euery side. Howe necessarie the knowledge of these thinges is, your Honours by the vse and experience thereof may deeme. Therefore, the Argument being so diuine, and accordingly handled by that notable instrument of God’s Church, Iohn Caluine, (whose workes proclaime his praise,) and no commentarie vpon the same afore this time englished, I haue thought good to set forth the same in our vulgar tongue, vnder your Honour’s protection, that a more general profite being thereby reaped of my countrie men, it may bee somewhat the farther from obliuion. And because I knowe what godly delight your noble and vertuous Lady taketh in reading such bookes, I presume to ioyne her with your Honour herein, that others of her sex, hearing of her honorable name, may followe her godly steppes with like zeale in that religious exercise. For what Christian will not thinke it a Booke worthie the reading, which he seeth warranted by your names? Therefore partely the godly zeale found out in you by effect, and partely your Honour’s courteous liking afore time of my pains this way taken, harteneth me to aduenture the offer of this poore present, as a token proceeding from a well-wishing minde. Thus hauing bene too tedious vnto your Honours, I most humbly take my leaue, beseeching the Lord God to defend you both with his shield, to sustein you with inuincible fortitude, to gouerne you with his spirit of prudence, and to powre vpon you all manner of blessings.
Your Honor’s most humble