Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 34: John, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
THE TRANSLATOR’S PREFACE
Commentaries on the Gospel according to John are numerous, and some of them are written with great learning and ability. Rarely has a separate and extended interpretation been given to any of the other three Gospels, which are, indeed, so closely interwoven with each other, that it is scarcely possible to expound one of them in a satisfactory manner, without bringing the whole into one view, comparing parallel passages, accounting for apparent contradictions, and supplying the omissions of each narrative, to such an extent as to produce what shall be in substance, though not always in form, a Harmony of the Three Evangelists.
Few of these difficulties meet the expositor of John’s Gospel, in which the slender thread of narrative — until it reaches the period of the last sufferings of our Savior — does little more than connect long discourses, which He delivered to the multitude and to his disciples. Whatever opinion may be formed as to the theory of the elder Tittmann, that John, wrote his work for the express purpose of proving the supreme Divinity of Christ, we cannot avoid being struck with the fact, that the miracles which he selects are distinguished by peculiar grandeur, and that the discourses which he relates contain the most abundant and delightful exhibitions of the glory of the Son of God, and of the nature of his mediatorial office, which our great Master was pleased to make during his personal ministry.
Lampe, Hutcheson, and Tittmann, are better known, and more highly esteemed, in this country than any other Commentator on John that could be named. The three quarto volumes of Lampe are a monument of judicious toil, and present such stores of philological, historical, and theological learning as ought never to be mentioned but with respect and gratitude. Though not free from the faults of the Cocceian School, of which his miscellaneous treatises afford some unhappy proofs, his Commentary displays generally such caution and judgment, that it deserves to be not only consulted, but perused throughout, and carefully studied. Hutcheson wanted both the acuteness and the industry requisite for the successful elucidation of the Holy Scriptures, but is justly admired for the copiousness, variety, and excellence of his practical observations.
Tittmann’s Meletemata Sacra in Evangelium Joannis, now happily rendered accessible to the English reader, 1 I must be regarded as one of the most valuable contributions of modern times to biblical interpretation. Accurate scholarship, elegant and flowing language, deep reverence for the inspired volume, and a warmth of affectionate piety closely resembling that of the disciple whom Jesus loved, have gained for that work a reputation which is likely to increase. To the reader who is chiefly desirous to ascertain the meaning of Scripture, and who willingly dispenses with what serves no other purpose than illustration: Tittmann’s exposition of the first four Chapters of John’s Gospel will be highly acceptable; though it must be acknowledged that the remaining portion of the work — not executed till towards the close of the life of the venerable author — is somewhat less attractive, and, if it has been prepared with equal care, yet, in consequence of extreme unwillingness to bring forward explanations which had been already given, it will sometimes disappoint one who only dips into an occasional passage, and has not made himself familiar with the profound views unfolded in the earlier pages.
These and other eminent writers have been deeply indebted to Calvin’s Commentary on John’s Gospel, but have left its claims to the attention of all classes of readers as strong and urgent as ever. Where they differ from him, they often go astray, and where they agree with him, they generally fall below the instructive power of his own pen; for few can equal his clear and vigorous statements. When he places in a just light — as he frequently does — those texts which had been wrested for the confutation of heretics, none but eager and unscrupulous controversialists will complain. Every honorable mind will admire the unbending integrity of our Author, which, even in the defense of truth, disdains to employ an unlawful weapon, and devoutly bows to the dictates of the Holy Spirit.
The present Work brings under review some of the most intricate questions in theology; and in handling them he is not more careful to learn all that has been revealed than to avoid unauthorized speculation. They who know the difficulty of the path will the more highly appreciate so skillful a guide, who advances with a firm step, points out the bypaths which have misled the unwary, conducts us to scenes which we had not previously explored, and aids us in listening to a Divine voice which says, This is the way, walk, ye in it.
In the Harmony of the Three Evangelists, the reader is so constantly referred to this Commentary, which appeared two years sooner, that the benefit of the former cannot be fully reaped, unless the latter be at hand. The Author’s references are sometimes vague, but the Translator has endeavored to discover and point out the page in which the desired information may be obtained.
Auchterarder, 10th April, 1847.
Clarke’s Biblical Cabinet, volumes 44 and 45.