TO CHRISTIAN READERS, HEALTH.
As it may seem wonderful to some, and indeed incredible, that these Lectures were taken down with such fidelity and care, that Mr. John Calvin uttered not a word in delivering them, which was not immediately written down; it may be needful here shortly to remind pious readers of the plan they pursued who have transmitted them to us. And this is done, that their singular diligence and industry may stimulate others to do the same, and that the thing itself may not appear incredible.
And, first, it must be remembered, that Calvin himself never dictated, as many do, any of his Lectures, nor gave any orders that any thing should be noted down while he was interpreting Scripture, much less after finishing the Lecture, or on the day after its delivery; but he occupied a whole hour in speaking, and was not wont to write in his book a single word to assist his memory. When, therefore, some years ago, Mr. John Budaeus and Charles Jonvill, with two other brethren, (whom Budaeus himself mentions in his preface, and that so it was many know,) found, in writing out The Exposition On The Psalms, that their common labor would not be wholly in vain, they were impelled by a stronger desire and alacrity of mind, so that they resolved to take down, with more diligence than before, if possible, the whole exposition on what are called The Twelve Minor Prophets. And, in copying, they followed this plan. Each had his paper prepared in a form the most convenient, and each took down by himself with the greatest speed. If a word had escaped one, (which sometimes happened, particularly on points of dispute and in those parts which were delivered with some warmth,) it was taken up by another; and when it so happened, it was easily set down again by the writer. Immediately at the close of the Lecture, Jonvill took with him the papers of the other two, placing them before him, and consulting his own, and collating them together, he dictated to some other person for the purpose of copying what they had hastily taken down. At last he read the whole over himself, that he might be able to recite it the following day before Mr. Calvin at home. When sometimes any little word was wanting, it was added in its place; or, if any thing seemed not sufficiently explained, it was readily made plainer.
Thus it happened that these Lectures came forth to the light; and what great benefit they will derive from them, who will seriously read them, can by no means be told: for who, endued with a sound judgment, does not see that such was the way which this most illustrious man possessed in explaining Scripture, that he had it in common with very few? He everywhere so unfolds the design of the Holy Spirit, so gives his genuine meaning, and also so sets before our eyes every recondite doctrine, that you find nothing but what is openly explained; and this is what his many writings most abundantly testify, in which he has made every point of the Christian religion so plain, that all, except they be wholly blind to the sun, acknowledge him to be a most faithful interpreter.
But that I may now say nothing of his many Commentaries, he has so surpassed himself in these Lectures, that one can hardly persuade himself that a style so elegant, and so perfect in all its parts, could have flowed extemporaneously, for he explains the weightiest sentiments in suitable words, clearly handles obscure things, clothes them with various ornaments, and so proceeds in his teaching, that the language he uses, spontaneously poured forth, seems to have been long and much labored. But of all these things I prefer that a judgment should be formed by a perusal, rather than that I should longer detain readers by a lengthened discussion of particulars. Then farewell all ye who hope for some benefit from these Lectures.
Geneva, February 1, 1559.