Images de page

than any of his predecessors. But, as his chief intention seems to have been the discussion of such passages as particularly required observation, while he dwells upon these, he designedly omits many things which are calculated to baffle, in some measure, persons of ordinary ability. Melancthon was followed by Bullinger, who hath deservedly obtained great praise, for he has very much distinguished himself by uniting ease with learning. At last, Bucer has completed the whole by publishing his lucubrations on this epistle. For this commentator, as you know, is distinguished by recondite learning, by a copious acquaintance with many subjects, by the perspicuity of his genius, by the extent of his reading, and his many and various other attainments, which give him a decided superiority over the greatest part of his contemporaries, place him on an eminence where few can come in competition with him, and almost none are entitled to carry from him the palm of victory. This expositor is also justly entitled to the peculiar praise of a minuteness and diligence in interpreting Scripture, which give him a superiority over any writer of the present time.

To wish, therefore, to contend with writers of such unrivalled excellence, as it would, I confess, be a proof of too presumptuous an emulation, so it never even entered my mind that I should deprive them of the least portion of their celebrity. Let their favour and authority with the public which all good men acknow


ledge they deserve, remain unimpaired. This, I hope, will be granted me, that no production of man ever attained such consummate perfection as not to leave room for the industry of their successors to improve, either by polishing, or adorning, or illustrating. With respect to myself, I dare only declare, that I considered this work might not be wholly without its use; and I have been induced to commence it from no other cause than the good of the church. Besides, I expected, that in consequence my different manner of writing, I should incur no envy from imitation, which I had the greatest cause to fear. For Melancthon had attained his object by illustrating the most necessary chapters; and he omitted many which ought not to be neglected. While this author was engaged on such subjects as were of the greatest consequence, he could have no desire to prevent others from also examining such parts as merited their attention. Bucer is too prolix to be read hastily by persons who are distracted by other employments, and too sublime to be understood by men in the lower ranks of life, and who are unable to devote their undivided attention to his writings. For whatever subject he handles, the incredible fertility of genius, in which he excels, supplies him with such a fund of matter, that he does not know when to give over writing. Since, however, the former of these commentators has not examined every passage; and the latter, in too diffuse a manner to be read in a short time; my

plan seemed likely to have no appearance of emu̟lation. I doubted, however, for some time, whether it would be better for me to glean, as it were, a few grapes after the labours of such distinguished men, and of other writers, which I might so collect together, as to be useful to persons of moderate talents; or to compose an uninterrupted commentary, in which many things would necessarily be repeated that all, or at least some of them, had already mentioned. But since they frequently vary from each other, and thus occasion much difficulty to readers not distinguished for acuteness, and in a state of hesitation concerning the opinion which they ought to adopt, I thought my labour might be useful, if, by pointing out the best interpretation, I relieved those of the trouble of judging, who are not of themselves able to form any certain conclusion, particularly as I intended to treat every subject so concisely, that my readers would not lose much time, while they found in my commentary the sentiments of others. In fine, I did my utmost to prevent any of my readers from having just cause to complain of many needless and superfluous observations in this commentary.

I say nothing of its usefulness, which, however, impartial judges will perhaps, after reading, confess to be greater than I dare modestly promise. It is proper that I excuse myself for occasionally dissenting, or certainly differing a little from others. The word of God ought to be held by us in such venera

tion, that it should be distracted as little as possible [ by a variety of our interpretations. For the ScripT ture is thus, I know not how, shorn of its majesty, particularly if it is not done with much selection, and with great sobriety. And if it is considered sacrilegious to contaminate any thing dedicated to God, no defence can be made for him who handles with impure, or improperly prepared hands, one of the most sacred of all our earthly blessings. On this account, rashly to turn the Scriptures into various senses, and to wanton with them as in sport, which has frequently, for a good while, been now done by many, is a degree of boldness nearly allied to sacrilege. We ought, however, always to observe, that men distinguished for the zeal of piety, and who handle the mysteries of God with a deep sense of religion and sobriety, have by no means on all occasions agreed among themselves in their interpretations of Scripture. For God never designed so to bless his servants, that each of them was endowed with a full and perfect understanding on every point; and this was permitted, no doubt, for the purpose of our being preserved, first, in a state of humility; and, secondly, in the exercise of brotherly love and communion. Since, therefore, we have no cause to expect, in this present life, what otherwise is very much to be desired-to agree constantly with each other in understanding the various passages of Scripture, every effort is to be used that we depart from the opinions of our pre

decessors and superiors induced by no passion for novelty--impelled by no desire of reproving others— instigated by no hatred-provoked by no ambition, but compelled by necessity alone, and seeking nothing else than the good of others. We should adopt this plan in explaining Scripture; and less liberty ought to be taken in the doctrines of religion, in which the Lord is particularly desirous that the minds of his people should harmonize. My readers will easily observe that I have had a regard to both. But since it is not becoming me, either to determine or pronounce any thing concerning myself, I willingly refer to you for a judgment on this work; and if all men justly submit, for the most part, to your decision, I ought to yield to it in all things; for the more intimately I am acquainted with you by familiar intercourse, which generally diminishes something of the high opinion we form of others, the more is my value and esteem of you heightened. All men of learning also agree in regarding you with distinguished honour and estimation. Farewell.

STRASBURGH, 18th October, 1539.

« PrécédentContinuer »