To The Most Serene And Most Mighty
The King Of The Goths And Vandals.
What I once said, most excellent king, when the Annotations On Hosea, taken from my Lectures, were published, I now again repeat, -- that I was not the author of that edition: for I am one who is not easily pleased with works I finish with more labor and care. Had it been in my power, I should have rather tried to prevent the wider circulation of that extemporaneous kind of teaching, intended for the particular benefit of my auditory, and with which benefit I was abundantly satisfied.
But since that specimen, (The Commentary On Hosea,) published with better success than I expected, has kindled a desire in many to see that one Prophet followed by the other eleven Minor Prophets, I thought it not unseasonable to dedicate to your Majesty a work of suitable extent, and replete with important instructions, not only that it may be a pledge of my high regards, but also that the dedication to so celebrated a name might procure for it some favor. It is not, however, ambition that has led me to do this, for I have long ago learned not to court the applause of the world, and have become hardened to the ingratitude of the many; but I wished that some fruit might come to men of your station from the recesses of our mountains; and it has also been my legitimate endeavor, that many to whom I am unknown, being influenced by the sacred sanction of their king, might be made more impartial, and come better prepared to read the work.
And this, I promise to myself, will be the case, as you enjoy so much veneration among all your subjects, provided you condescend to interpose your judgment, such as your singular wisdom may dictate; or, as age may possibly not bear the fatigue of reading, such as your Majesty's eldest son Heric, the heir to the throne, may suggest, whom you have taken care to be so instructed in the liberal sciences, that this office may be safely intrusted to him. And that I might have less doubt of your kindness, there are many heralds of your virtues, and even some judicious and wise men, who are entitled to be deemed competent witnesses. It is not, therefore, to be wondered, most noble king, that a present from so distant a region should be offered to your Majesty by a man as yet unknown to you, who, on account of the excellent and heroic endowments of mind and heart in which he has understood you to excel, thinks himself to be especially attached to you.
But though the excellency of the Book may not, perhaps, be such as will procure much favor to myself, you will not yet despise the desire by which I have been led to manifest the high regards I entertain towards your Majesty, nor will you yet find this present now offered to you wholly unworthy, however much it may be below the elevated station of so great a king. If God has endued me with any aptness for the interpretation of Scripture, I am fully persuaded that I have faithfully and carefully endeavored to exclude from it all barren refinements, however plausible and fitted to please the ear, and to preserve genuine simplicity, adapted solidly to edify the children of God, who, being not content with the shell, wish to penetrate to the kernel. What I have really done it is not for me to say, except that pious and learned men persuade me that I have not labored without success. But these Commentaries may not, perhaps, answer the wishes and expectations of all; and I myself could have wished that I had been able to give something more excellent and more perfect, or at least what would have come nearer to the Prophetic Spirit. But this, I trust, will be the issue, -- that experience will prove to upright and impartial readers, and those endued with sound judgment, provided they read with well-disposed minds, and not fastidiously, what I have written for their benefit, that more light has been thrown on the Twelve Prophets than modesty will allow me to affirm.
With the industry of others I compare not my own, (which would be unbecoming,) nor do I ask any thing else, but that intelligent and discreet Readers, profiting by my labors, should study to be of more extensive advantage to the public good of the Church; but as it has not been my care, nor even my desire, to adorn this Book with various attractives, this admonition is not unseasonable; for it may invite the more slothful to read, until, by making a trial, they may be able to judge whether it may be useful for them to proceed farther in their course of reading. Indeed, the fruit which my other attempts in the interpretation of Scripture have produced, and the hope which I entertain of the usefulness of this, please me so much, that I desire to spend the remainder of my life in this kind of labor, as far as my continued and multiplied employment's will allow me. For what may be expected from a man at leisure cannot be expected from me, who, in addition to the ordinary office of a pastor, have other duties, which hardly allow me the least relaxation: I shall not, however, deem my spare time in any other way better employed.
I now return again to you, most valiant king. He who knows your prudence and equity in managing public affairs, your moral habits, your whole character and virtues, will not wonder that I have resolved to dedicate to you this work. But as it is not my design to write a long eulogy on what is praiseworthy in you, I shall only briefly touch on what is well known, both by report and public writings: -- God tried you in a wonderful manner before he raised you to the throne, for the purpose not only of exhibiting in you a singular proof of his providence, but also of setting forth to our age as well as to posterity, an illustrious example of a steady perseverance in a right course. You have, doubtless, been thus proved by both fortunes, that there might not be wanting a due trial of your temperance and moderation in prosperity, and of your patience in adversity, until it was given you from above to emerge at length, no less happily than in a praiseworthy manner, from so many dangers, perils, difficulties, and hindrances, that having set the kingdom in order, you might publicly and privately enjoy a cheerful tranquillity. And now, by the unanimous consent of all orders, you bear a burden more splendid and honorable to you than grievous, for all venerate your authority, and show their esteem by love as well as by commendations.
In addition to these benefits of God comes this, the chief, which must not be omitted, -- that your eldest son, Heric, a successor chosen by you from your own blood, is not only of a generous disposition, but also adorned with mature virtues; and hardly any one more fit, had you no children, could the people have chosen for themselves. And this, among other things, is his rare commendation, that he has made so much progress in the liberal sciences, that he occupies a high station among the learned, and that he is not tired with diligent application to them, as far as he is allowed by those many cares and distractions in which the royal dignity is involved. At the same time, the principal thing with me is this, that he hath consecrated in his palace a sanctuary, not only to the heathen muses, but also to celestial philosophy. The more confidence therefore I have, that some place will be there found, and some favor shown to these Commentaries, which he will find to have been written according to the rule of true religion, and will perceive calculated to be of some small help to himself.
May God, O most serene king! keep your Majesty long in prosperity, and continue to enrich you with all kinds of blessings. May He guide you by his Spirit, until, having finished your course, and migrating from earth to the celestial kingdom, you may leave alive behind you the most serene king Heric, your successor, and his most illustrious brothers, John Magnus and Charles: and may the same grace of God, after your death, appear eminent in them, as well as fraternal and unanimous concord.
Geneva, January 26, 1559.