« AnteriorContinuar »
Tian Institutes. These circumstances and considerations have led to the present translation and publication, which, from the very respectable encouragement it has received, the Translator trusts will be regarded as an acceptable service to the religious public.
Among the different methods of translation, which have been recommended, he has adopted that which appeared to him best fitted to the present undertaking. A servile adherence to the letter of the original, the style of which is so very remote from the English idiom, he thought would convey a very inadequate representation of the work; such extreme fidelity, to use an expression of Cowper's, being seldom successful, even in a faithful transmission of the precise sentiments of the Author to the mind of the reader. A mere attention to the ideas and sentiments of the original, to the neglect of its style and manner, would expose the Translator of a treatise of this nature to no small danger of misrepresenting the meaning of the Author, by too frequent and unnecessary deviations from his language. He has, therefore, aimed at a medium between servility and looseness, and endeavoured to follow the style of the original as far as the respective idioms of the Latin and English would admit.
After the greater part of the work had been translated, he had the happiness to meet with an edition in French, of which he has availed himself in translating the remainder, and in the revision of what he had translated before. Every person, who understands any two langua. ges, will be aware that the ambiguity of one will sometimes be explained by the precision of another: and, notwithstanding the acknowledged superiority of the Latin to the French in most of the qualities which constitute the excellence of a language, the case of the article is not the only instance in which Calvin's French elucidates his Latin.
The Scriptural quotations which occur in the work, the Translator has given, generally, in the words of our common English version; sometimes according to the readings in the margin of that version; and, in a few instances, he has literally translated the version adopted by the Author, where the context required his peculiar reading to be preserved. Almost all the writers of that age, writing chiefly in a dead language, were accustomed to speak of their adversaries in terms which the polished manners of the modern times have discarded, and which would now be deemed illiberal and scurrilous. Where these cases occur, the Translator has not thought himself bound to a literal rendering of every word, or at liberty to refine them entirely away, but has adopted such expressions as he apprehends will give a faithful representation of the spirit of the author to modern readers.
Intending this work as a complete system of theology, the Author has made it the repository of his sentiments on all points of faith and practice. The whole being distributed into four parts, in conformity to the Apostle's Creed, and this plan being very different from that of most other bodies of divinity, the Translator has borrowed from the Latin edition of Amsterdam a very perspicuous General Syllabus, which will give the reader a clear view of the original design and plan of the treatise.
He would not be understood to represent these Institutes as a perfect summary of Christian doctrines and morals, or to profess an unqualified approbation of all the sentiments they contain. This is a homage to which no uninspired writings can ever be entitled. But the simplicity of method; the freedom from the barbarous terms, captious questions, minute distinctions, and intricate subtilties of many other divines; the clearness and closeness of argument; the complete refutation of the advocates of the Roman "church, sometimes by obvious conclusions from their professed principles, sometimes by clear proofs of the absurdities they involve; the intimate knowledge of ecclesiastical history; the familiar acquaintance with former theological controversies; the perspicuity of scriptural interpretation; and the uniform spirit of genuine piety, which pervade the book, cannot escape the observation of any judicious reader.
It has been advised by some persons that the translation should be accompanied by a few notes, to elucidate and enforce some passages and to correct others: but, on all the consideration the Translator has been able to give to this subject, he has thought it would be best to content himself with the humble office of placing the sentiments of Calvin before the reader with all the fidelity in his power, without any addition or limitation. He hopes that the present publication will serve the cause of true religion, and that the reputation of the work itself will sustain no diminution from the form in which it now appears.
London, May 12, 1813.
P. S. Many persons have expressed a wish that the present edition of the Institutes should be preceded by a Life of the Author. But, to attempt doing any thing like justice to the subject, would require at least another volume, which could not be composed without more time and labour than the Translator has hitherto been able to devote to it. He now intends, however, to take every opportunity of collecting materials for the purpose, and will feel himself much obliged by any communications relative to the subject itself, or to sources from which the requisite information may be derived.