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TO AN EDITION . f
PUBLISHED IN THE YEAR MW.
LAST CORRECTIONS AND ADDITIONS.
IN the first edition of this work, not expecting that success which the Lord in his infinite goodness hath given, I handled the subject for the most part in a superficial manner, as is usual in small treatises. But when I understood that it had obtained from almost all pious persons such a favourable acceptance as I never could have presumed to wish, much less to hope; while I was conscious of receiving far more attention than I had deserved, I thought it would evince great ingratitude, if I did not endeavour at least, according to my humble ability, to make some suitable return for the attentions paid to me;—attentions of themselves calculated to stimulate my industry. Nor did I attempt this only in the second edition; but in every succeeding one the work has been improved by some farther enlargements. But though I repented not the labour then devoted to it, yet I never satisfied myself, till it was arranged in the order in which it is now pub. Vofc. I. A
lished: and I trust I have here presented to my readers what their judgments will unite in approving. Of my diligent application to the accomplishment of this service for the Church of God, I can produce abundant proof. For, last winter, when I thought that a quartan ague would speedily terminate in my death, the more my disorder increased, the less I spared myself, till I had finished this book, to leave it behind me, as some grateful return to such kind solicitations of the religious public. Indeed, I would rather it had been done sooner, but it is soon enough, if well enough. I shall think it has appeared at the proper time, when I shall find it to have been more beneficial than before to the Church of God. This is my only wish.
I should indeed be ill requited for my labour, if I did not content myself with the approbation of God alone, despising equally the foolish and perverse judgments of ignorant men, and the calumnies and detractions of the wicked. For though God hath wholly devoted my mind to study the enlargement of his kingdom, and the promotion of general usefulness; and I have the testimony of my own conscience, of angels, and of God himself, that since I undertook the office of a teacher in the church, I have had no other object in \iew than to profit the church by maintaining the pure doctrine of godliness; yet I suppose there is no man more slandered or calumniated than myself. When this Preface was actually in the press, I had certain information, that at Augsburg, were the States of the Empire were assembled, a report had been circular. ted, of my defection to the papacyy and received with nnv becoming eagerness in the courts of the princes. This is the gratitude of those who cannot be unacquainted with the numerous proofs of my Constancy, which not ctaiy refute such a foul calumny, but, with all equitable and humane judge, ought to preserve me from rt. But the devil, with all his host, is deceived* if he think to overwhelm me with vile falsehoods, or to render the more timid, indolent, or dilatory, by such indignities. For I trust that God in his infinite goodness wilF enable me to persevere with patient constancy in the career of his holy calling: of which I afford my pious readers a fresh proof in this edition.
Now my design in this work has been to prepare and qualify students of theology for the reading of the divine word, that they may have an easy introduction to it, and be enabled to proceed in it without any obstruction. For I think I have given such a comprehensive summary, and orderly arrangement of all the branches of religion, that, with proper attention, no person will find any difficulty in determining what ought to be the principal objects of his research in the Scripture, and to what end he ought to refer any thing it contains. This way therefore being prepared, if I should hereafter publish any expositions of the Scripture, I shall have no need to introduce long discussions respecting doctrines, or digressions on common topics, and therefore shall always compress them within a narrow compass. This will relieve the pious reader from great trouble and tediousness, provided he come previous. \y furnished with the necessary information, by a know- ledge"of the present work. But as the reason of this design is very evident in my numerous Commentaries, I would rather have it known from the fact itself, than from my declaration. ■
Farewell, friendly reader, and if you receive any benefit from my labours, let me have the assistance of your prayers with God our Father.
Geneva, lit Aug tut, 1559.
To His Most Christian Majesty, Francis, King of the French and his Sovereign, John Calvin wisheth peace and salvation in Christ.
WHEN I began this work, Sire, nothing was farther from my thoughts than writing a book which would afterwards be presented to your Majesty. My intention was only to lay down some elementary principles, by which inquirers on the subject of religion might be instructed in the nature of true piety. And this labour I undertook chiefly for my countrymen, the French, of whom I apprehended multitudes to be hungering and thirsting after Christ, but saw very few possessing any real knowledge of him. That this was my design, the book itself proves by its simple method and unadorned composition. But when I perceived that the fury of certain wicked men in your kingdom had grown to such a height, as to leave no room in the land for sound doctrine, I thought I should be usefully employed, if in the same work I delivered my instructions to them, and exhibited my confession to you, that you may know the nature cf that doctrine, which is the object of such unbounded rage to those madmen, who are now disturbing your kingdom with fire and sword. For I shall not be afraid to acknowledge, that this treatise contains a summary of that very doctrine, which, according to their clamours,