The Commentary On Joshua was the last literary labor of its venerable Author. When he engaged in it, his constitution, which had never been strong, was completely worn out by excessive exertion, and almost every line of it must have been dictated to his amanuensis during momentary intervals of relief from severe bodily pain. On this point we possess authentic documents which leave no room for doubt.
In a letter dated 30^th November 1563, not quite six months before his death, after alluding to the difficulty he felt in continuing his studies, while both mind and body were exhausted by sickness, he states that he had undertaken a Commentary on Joshua, in compliance with the wishes of his friends, but had not then been able to advance beyond the third Chapter, though he had endeavored to be as brief as possible.
Little more than two months after this letter was written, on 6^th February 1564, he made his appearance in the pulpit for the last time; and on 10^th March following, the complication of diseases which too plainly indicated that his earthly career was about to close, had become so alarming as to cause an entry in the Register of Geneva in the following terms: -- |Arrete que chacun prie Dieu pour la sante de M. Calvin, qui est indispose depuis longtemps, et meme en danger de mort:| -- |Decreed that every one pray to God for the health of Mr. Calvin, who has been indisposed for a long time, and even in danger of death.|
Such are the circumstances in which this Commentary was composed, and it is impossible, in reflecting on them, not to admire the indomitable energy which Calvin displayed in proceeding with his task, and in meeting the remonstrance's of those who would have withdrawn him from it, with the heroic exclamation, |Would you that the Lord, when He comes, should find me idle!|
A Work written at such a time, and in such a spirit, might justly claim exemption from criticism; but it has no need of indulgence, and can well afford to be judged by its own intrinsic merits. Viewed merely as an intellectual effort, it displays all the excellencies which characterize the other Commentaries of its distinguished Author: viewed in a higher and better light, it is his dying bequest to the Church -- a solemn ratification of the whole System of Doctrine which he had so long, so earnestly, and so successfully promulgated.
As an appropriate conclusion both to the present Volume and the others which have preceded it, a valuable Tract, first published in this country in 1845, has been appended. It contains a Preface by the Rev. William Pringle, its original editor, an Essay from the German of Professor Theoluck, and a series of Extracts from Writers often differing widely from each other, but all concurring in a united testimony to the greatness of Calvin's talents, or the excellence of his character. In the present reprint, the chief change consists in the insertion of Additional Testimonies.
The list of Calvin's Writings, which completes the present Volume, is in accordance with that furnished by his greatest Biographer, Henri of Berlin, and will enable the reader to comprehend at a single glance the amazing extent of his literary labors.
December 30, 1854.