Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 8: Psalms, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
THE EPISTLE DEDICATORY
[PREFIXED TO THE ORIGINAL TRANSLAT10N, 1571.]
To The Right Honorably And Verie Good Lord,
EDWARD DE VERE, ERLE OF OXINFORD,
Lord Great Chamberlain Of England, Vicount Bulbecke, Etc. 10
Wisheth Increace Of Godly Knowldge,
With Health, Honour, And Prosperitie.
IT may, peraduenture, be thought in respect of the matter wherof this woork treateth, that it ought rather to haue bin dedicated to som of my very good Lords, the Lords Spirituall, or to some of the Clergie, all to whom such things seeme to perteine more peculiarly, by reason of theyr charge and calling. Which opinions as I purpose not to encounter, but rather most willingly submit my selfe and my doings to the iudgement and reformation of such reuerend Fathers and learned men, as God hath put ill trust with the care of his flock, and the charge of his Church within this Realms euen so forasmuch as the things which the Holy Ghost vttereth in the Sacred Scriptures belong indifferently unto all men, of what estate, degrees sex, age, or calling, so euer they be, without exception: I haue at this time set all other respects and considerations aside, and only had an eye to my dutie towards your Lordship.
And bicause my continuall troubles and sutes in the Lawe (as yit vnended after more than three yeeres trauel) haue bereft mee of the greatest part of my timer, so as I could not dispatch things with such expedition as otherwise I might haue done; my care and indeuer hath bin too recompence mine ouerlong silence with goodnes of matter, that might redound to the furtherance of our Christen common weale, and also be meete for your Lordship too looke vpon. But you, perchaunce, according too the noble courage and disposition of your yeeres, doo looke I should presente vntoo you some Historie of the Conquestes and affaires of mightie Princes, some treatise of the government of common weales, some description of the platte of the whole Earth, or some discourse of chiualrie and feates of Armes. These things are, in deede, meete studies for a noble manne, and in their season right necessary for the common welth; but as nowe I present vntoo your honor muche greater things that is, to wit, true Religyon, true Godlynesse, true Vertue, wythout the whych, neyther force, policie, nor freend ship, are of any value, neyther can any common weale any Cities any householde, or any company, bee wel gouerned, or haue any stable and long continuance. These be the things wherin your Lordship may do God, your Prince, and your Cuntrie, best seruice, and which do giue true nobilitie, or rather are the very nobilitie it self.
The greater that you are of birth and calling, the more doo these things belong vnto you. The greater gifts of Nature, the mo graces of mind, the mo worldly benefites that God hath bestowed vppon you, the more are you bound to be thankful vnto him. But thankful you cannot bee without the true knoweledge of him, neyther can you know him rightly but by his woord. For his sword is the lanterne of your feete, and the light of your steppes. Whosoeuer walked without it, walketh but in darkenesse, though he were otherwise as sharpe sighted as Linceus or Argus, and had all the sciences artes, conning, eloquence, and wisedome of the worlde. No sound and substantiall truthe is too bee founde any where els saue onely there. And, therfore, the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of Moyses, willeth you that the lawe of God (that is to say, his word and doctrine) shoulde not departe from your mouth, but that you should bynde it about your wrists, imbroyder it vpon your garments ingraue it vpon the postes of your house, and write it in the tables of your hart. And Dauid, speaking by the same spirite, exhorteth you by his owne example to set your whole delight in it, too occupy your selfe in it day and night, too lay it vp in your hart, too set more store by it than by riches, to be mindeful of it, to make it your counsayler, to stick too it, too talke of it afore Kings and greate men, to loue it, too make your songs of it, to remember it night and day, too count it sweeter than Hony, too take it as an heritage, and too make it the ioy of your hart. Neyther is it without cause that GOD calleth so ofte vppon Magistrates and noble men by name, that they should be diligent in his worde. For looke how muche the greater burthen and charge lyeth vpon their shoulders and the greater accounte they haue to make afore him; so muche the greater wisedome and knoweledge haue they need of, which are not to be atteyned elsewhere than in his lawe. I beseeche your Lordship consider how God hath placed you vpon a high stage in the eyes of all men, as a guide, patterne, insample, and leader vnto others if your vertues be vncounterfayted, if your religion be sound and pure, if your doings be according to true godliness you shalbe a stay to your cuntrie, a comforte too good men, a bridle too euil men, a ioy too your freends, a corzie too your enemies, and an increace of honor to your owne house. But if you should become eyther a counterfayt Protestant, or a peruerse Papist, or a colde and carelesse newter, (which God forbid,) the harme could not be expressed which you should do to your natiue Cuntrie. For (as Cicero, no lesse truely than wisely affirmeth, and as the sorrowfull dooings of our Present dayes do too certeinly auouch) greate men hurt not the common weale so much by beeing euil in respect of themselues, as by drawing others vnto euil by their euil example. I assure your Lordshippe I write not these things as though I suspected you to be digressed from that soundnes and sinceritie wherein you were continually trayned and traded vnder that vigilant Vlisses of our common welth, sometyme your Lordship’s carefull Chyron or Phoenix, and nowe your faithful Patroclus, or as though I mistrusted your Lordship to be degenerated from the excellent towardnes, which by foreward proof hath giuen glad foretokens, and (I trust also) luckye hansels of an honorable age too ensue; but bycause the loue that I owe to God and his religion, the care that I haue of the church and my natiue cuntrie, the dutie wherin Nature hath bound mee to your Lordship, and (which is an occasion too make all good and honest men look about them) the perilousnes of this present time, wherin all meanes possible are practiced to ouerthrowe Christe’s kingdom and to abolishe all faithfullnes from among men, make mee to feare and forecast, not so much what is true, as what may bee noysome and hurtful; and, therfore, I seek rather too profite by wholesome admonition, than to delight by pleasant speeches. These be no dayes of daliance; for Sathan, the workmaster of all mischeef, being greued that his own king dome draweth to an end, not onely goeth about like a roring Lyon too deuoure folke by open force, but also like a slie Serpent setteth snares and pitfalles innumerable, to intrap men and bring them to destruction by policie laying wayt for all men, but specially for such as are of high estate, as who alwayes carye greatest nombers with them which waye so euer they incline. Hee turneth himselfe intoo mo shapes than euer did Proteus: and suche as himselfe is, suche are his ministers. First and foremost the obstinate and stubborneharted Papistes, the sworne enemies of God, the pestilent poyson of mankinde, and the very welsprings of all error, hipocrisie, and vngraciousnes, (who, while they beare sway, bee more cruel than Beares, Wolues, and Tigres; and when they bee kept vnder, more deceitfull than Cerastes and Crocodyles; and at all times more mischeuous than the Diuel himselfe,) labor with tooth and nayle too winde their owne trash into credit with all men, and to bring the heauenly doctrine of the Gospel in hatred.
Ageine, the Atheistes, which say in their hartes there is no God; and the Epicures, which depriue God of his prouidence in gouerning the world, as though hee eyther vnderstoode not what is doone vppon Earth, or els cared not for mennes affaires: seeke they not by all meanes possible too weede all Religion, all feare of God, all remorse of conscience out of mennes harts? Out of these rootes spring other impes, no lesse perniciouse than the stockes of whiche they come, men of all Religions, Shippemen that canne sayle with all wethers, Carpenters that can hewe with bothe handes, Laddes that canne holde with the Hare and hunt with the Hounde, and (as the Scripture termeth them) time-seruers and menpleasers. Of which torte be the picthank Preests of Hammon, who, with the venemouse blaste of their filthie flattery, corrupt the wel instructed mindes of our Alexranders, (that is to say, of our noble men,) by bearing them in hand, that they bee the sonnes of Iupiter, add making them beleeue themselues too bee Gods, yea, sometimes before they be scarce men. These, after the maner of Panthers and Mermaides, astonne the senses with a deadly sweetnes, and work destruction by delighting. Moreouer, to the further withdrawing of men’s minds from the estimation of the sound Religion, it falleth out that euen in the outward face of the Church there be many Hipocrites, many looce liuers, many Sectaries, and many wranglers, whiche pretending the countenance of Chryste’s flock, but beeing in deede the Deuil’s hirelings, confessing GOD with their mouth, but denying him in their works, cause his holy, pure, and reuerend doctrine to bee slaundered and ill-spoken of among the Gentiles, (that is, too wit, among the Papist and worldlings,) and so alienate men from Christ.
The ignorant sort also deeming things vntowardly by the outward shew, charge the Gospell with the faultes of men, which it reprooueth and bringeth too lyght, as who would Say, that hee whiche bewrayeth a Murtherer, or rebuketh an Adulterer, were too bee counted an offender in the same caces, bicause hee discouereth their wickednesse, too the intent too haue it punished or redressed. And these are stumbling-blocks common to all sortes of men; but more peculiar to great menne are those that I spake of in the third place, and also these ensuing, namely, noblenesse of birth, renowne of Aunceters, fauor of their Prince, freendship of their peeres, awe of their inferiours, great alyances, greate retinewes depending vpon them, libertie aboue the common rate, welth, honor, riches, ease, sumptuouse fare, costly apparel, gorgeouse buildings, attendaunce of seruants, and suche other like, whiche as they bee the singuler good giftes and benefites of God bestowed vpon them for their comfort, to the end they should the more loue him and imbrace his truthe: so Sathan abusing the infirmitie and corruption of man’s nature, dooth in many menne wrest them all too a contrary ende, namely, too the proude contempt and impugning, or at leastwise to the carelesse neglecting of God’s true Religion and seruice.
As for the fraylnesse of youth it self, the open manaces and priuie practizes of Antichrist, the common hatred and disdeine of the Worlde ageinst the sincere worshippers of God, the hardnesse and aduersities which they endure in this life, and infinite other by matters whiche are no small hinderances too the proceeding of the Gospel, I wil not stand too intreat of them. For doubtlesse, although Antichrist were abolished although Sathan were a sleepe, although the world were at one with vs. although wicked counsel were vtterly put too silence, although no euil example were giuen vs. although no outwarde stumbling-blocke were cast in our waye; yit haue wee one thing in our selues and of our selues, (euen originall sinne, concupiscence, or lust,) which neuer ceaseth too egge vs and allure vs from God, and too staine vs with all kinde of vnclennes, according as Sainct Iames sayth: Every man is tempted of his owne lust. This is the breth of the venemouse Cockatrice which hath infected the whole offspring of Adam. This is the sting of that olde Serpent whose wounds neither Chyron, Aesculupius, nor Apollo, can heale, no, nor any wight in Heauen or Earth, saue onely God. This is the bitter fountaine Exampeus, which with his brackishnesse marreth the sweete Riuer Hipanis, that is to say, the flowing streame of all God’s graces, benefited and gifts in vs.
Good cause haue we therfore to bee forewarned and continually admonished to beware of the mischeef that is armed with so many weapons and policies to anoy: specially considering how the operation therof is to slea both bodie and soule, and to drown them togither in to endles damnation. For this I dare be bolde to say vpon the warrant of assured truthe, that whosoeuer is but lightly blasted with the poyson of Papistrie, is the vnapter to all the duties of true vertue and godlines, like as a Cripple or lame man is the vnmeeter and vnabler for the affaires of this life. But as for him that is throughly saped in it, and hathe digested it into his bowels, and hath setled the roots of it in the bottome of his hart; depending vpon the Antichrist of Rome as vpon the mouth of God, He can neyther be the faithful seruant of God, nor a hartie Subiect too his Prince, nor a good and sound member of the common welth, vntill hee haue done as the Snake dooth when he commeth to engender with the Lamprey.
For the better manifestation of all the which things I besech your good Lordship to peruse this present books, which doubtlesse, for the exceellency therof, not onely deserueth more singular commendation than man’s wit is able to yeeld, but also is worthy too be had continually in all mennes hands, or rather too bee printed in their hartes. For if you haue an eye too the Authors, it was written by Prophets, Preestes, and Kinges, inspired with the Holye Ghost, the fountaine of an vnderstanding, wysedom, and truth, and auouched onto vs by Christie the Sonne of the euellasting God. Or if you haue an eye to the matter, it conteineth a treatise of the Doctrine of lyfe and euerlasting Saluation, the particulars wherof are as many as are the points of true Religion and holinesse to Godward, or the points of faithfull meening and honest dealing too manward. And these things are common to it with the residue of holy Scripture.
The thing that is peculiar to it, is the maner of the handling of the matters wherof it treateth. For whereas other partes of holy writ (whither they be historicall, morall, iudiciall, ceremoniall, or propheticall) do commonly set down their treatises in open and plaine declarations; this parte consisting of them all, wrappeth vp things in types and figures, describing them finder borowed personages, and oftentimes winding in matters by preuention, speaking of thinges too come as if they were past or present, and of things past as if they were in dooing, and euery man is made a bewrayer of the secretes of his owne hart. And forasmuche as it consisteth cheefly of prayer and thanksgiving, or (which comprehendeth them bothe) of inuocation, whiche is a communication with God, and requireth rather an earnest and deuout lifting vp of the minde, than a loud or curious vtterance of the voice: there be many vnperfect sentences, many broken speeches, and many displaced words, according as the voice of the partie that prayed was eyther preuented with the swiftnesse of his thoughtes, or interrupted with vehemency of ioy or greef, or forced to surcease through infirmities that hee might recouer newe strength and cheerfulnesse, by interminding God’s former promises and benefites. Notwithstanding, the obscuritie of those places is not so great but that it may be easely ouercome, by such as, when they pray, doo vtterly sequester their mindes from all earthly imaginations and fleshly conceits, and after a sort forsaking their bodies for the time, do mount vppe aboue the world by faith, and present themselues before the heauenly throne of grace, to seek the vnspeakable and inestimable comfort of their soules.
Suche are the conteints, and suche is the maner or disposition of the ground-worke of this booke, that is to say, of the Psalmes themselues. Whervnto (for the better vnderstanding of them) heere is added an exposition or Commentarie written in Latin by that learned Clerk and faithful minister of Chryst in the church of Geneua, Master Iohn Caluin, whose worthy praise and commendation, his owne manifolde woorks moste peinfully, sincerely, and soundly set foorth too the greate furtherance and profite of the whole Christen common weale, doo better declare than my pen can vtter or my wit deuice. And among the reste of them, it is thoughte of most learned men, that next vntoo his Institutions, this presente volume beareth the Bel, bothe for varietie of matter, substantialnes of doctrine, depth of iudgement, and perfectnesse of penning. For it is not puffed vp with vaine sound of emptie woords, nor with Rhetorical inlarging of painted sentences, but it is stuffed with piththy and grounded matter, such as plainly sheweth him too haue bin a man indued with the Spirite of God, and also well practized and tryed in the affaires and troubles of this world.
What is to bee thought of the translation of it, that I remitte to your Lordship’s fauourable acceptation, vnder whose Antesigne it is my desire that it may fight in the defense and maintenance of the true religion ageinst Antichrist and his wicked members. Onely thus muche I may safely say of it, that in all pointes (to the vttermoste of my power, and according to the abilitie which God hath giuen me to edifie withall) I haue sincerely performed the dutie of a faithfull Interpreter, rather indeuering too lay foorth things plainlye (yea, and sometimes also homely and grossely) too the vnderstanding of many, than too indyte things curyously too the pleasing of a fewe. For in this and suche other workes, the rude and ignorant haue more interest than the learned and skillful. If any thing be amisse, (as I dare not presume too vpholde that nothing hath escaped mee in so great a woorke,) my hartie desire is, that the same may be amended by such as are of sound iudgement and knowledge in God’s woorde, so as no inconuenience may ensue of it too the churche of Christ. And look what I request in the behalfe of this present booke, the same do I request for all other books whiche I haue or (by God’s grace and permission) shall heerafter put foorth for the edifying of Chrystes flock: for I knowe how suche things are the woork of God and not of man.
What remayneth then, but that your Lordship, framing your selfe according to the rule of God’s most holy word, should hie you apace to the atteinment of the true honor and immortall glory, by subduing sinne, the world, and the Deuil, the Hectors that cannot bee vanquished but by a christen Achilles; and by your good guyding bring many vnto Christ, that in the end you may receiue the rewarde of true and perfect blissednesse, euen the everlasting salvation of the soule, whiche is the faire Helen for whose safetie it behooueth all good men too endure, not tenne yeeres warre, but continuall warre all their life long. To the furtherance wherof, God hath by householde alyance lincked vnto your Lordship a long experienced Nestor, whose counsaile and footsteps if you folowe, no doubte but you shalbee bothe happie in your selfe, and singularly profitable to your common welth; and moreouer, God shall blisse you with plentiful and godly issue by your vertuous and deerbeloued Spouse, to continew the honor and renoavne of your noble house after the happy knitting vp of bothe your yeeres, which I pray God may bee many in vnseperable loue, like the loue of Ceix and Alcyonee, to the glory of God, and the contentation of bothe your desires.
Written at London, the 20th of
Your good Lordship’s moste humlble to commaund, Arthur Goldling.
Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, was highly distinguished for his wit, valor, and Patriotism. In two several tournaments he was honored by receiving the prize from the hand of his mistress, Queen Elizabeth, baring been led armed, by two ladies, into the Royal Presence Chamber. Walpole notes that he was an admired poet, and reckoned the best waiter of comedy in his time. He died at a very advanced age, June 24, 1604. It is extremely probable that Arthur Golding, the old Translator, was related, perhaps not distantly, to this nobleman. It appeals from Dugdale, and other authorities, that John, 16th Earl of Oxford, his father, married Margaret, daughter of John Golding, and sister of Sir Edward Golding, for his second wife, by whom he had Earl Edward, after whom it is likely he was named, and a daughter.