Prefaces and Prologues to Famous Books
Charles W. Eliot

Part 1 out of 9

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[Illustration: _Hippolyte Adolphe Taine From the etching by Asher B.




























_No part of a book is so intimate as the Preface. Here, after the long
labor of the work is over, the author descends from his platform, and
speaks with his reader as man to man, disclosing his hopes and fears,
seeking sympathy for his difficulties, offering defence or defiance,
according to his temper, against the criticisms which he anticipates.
It thus happens that a personality which has been veiled by a formal
method throughout many chapters, is suddenly seen face to face in the
Preface; and this alone, if there were no other reason, would justify
a volume of Prefaces.

But there are other reasons why a Preface may be presented apart from
its parent work, and may, indeed, be expected sometimes to survive
it. The Prologues and Epilogues of Caxton were chiefly prefixed to
translations which have long been superseded; but the comments of this
frank and enthusiastic pioneer of the art of printing in England
not only tell us of his personal tastes, but are in a high degree
illuminative of the literary habits and standards of western Europe
in the fifteenth century. Again, modern research has long ago put
Raleigh's "History of the World" out of date; but his eloquent Preface
still gives us a rare picture of the attitude of an intelligent
Elizabethan, of the generation which colonised America, toward the
past, the present, and the future worlds. Bacon's "Great Restoration"
is no longer a guide to scientific method; but his prefatory
statements as to his objects and hopes still offer a lofty

And so with the documents here drawn from the folios of Copernicus and
Calvin, with the criticism of Dryden and Wordsworth and Hugo, with
Dr. Johnson's Preface to his great Dictionary, with the astounding
manifesto of a new poetry from Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass"--each
of them has a value and significance independent now of the work which
it originally introduced, and each of them presents to us a man._





Here beginneth the volume entitled and named the Recuyell of the
Histories of Troy, composed and drawn out of divers books of Latin
into French by the right venerable person and worshipful man, Raoul le
Feure, priest and chaplain unto the right noble, glorious, and mighty
prince in his time, Philip, Duke of Burgundy, of Brabant, etc. in the
year of the Incarnation of our Lord God a thousand four hundred sixty
and four, and translated and drawn out of French into English by
William Caxton, mercer, of the city of London, at the commandment of
the right high, mighty, and virtuous Princess, his redoubted Lady,
Margaret, by the grace of God Duchess of Burgundy, of Lotrylk, of
Brabant, etc.; which said translation and work was begun in Bruges
in the County of Flanders, the first day of March, the year of the
Incarnation of our said Lord God a thousand four hundred sixty and
eight, and ended and finished in the holy city of Cologne the 19th day
of September, the year of our said Lord God a thousand four hundred
sixty and eleven, etc.

And on that other side of this leaf followeth the prologue.

When I remember that every man is bounden by the commandment and
counsel of the wise man to eschew sloth and idleness, which is
mother and nourisher of vices, and ought to put myself unto virtuous
occupation and business, then I, having no great charge of occupation,
following the said counsel took a French book, and read therein many
strange and marvellous histories, wherein I had great pleasure and
delight, as well for the novelty of the same as for the fair language
of French, which was in prose so well and compendiously set and
written, which methought I understood the sentence and substance of
every matter. And for so much as this book was new and late made and
drawn into French, and never had seen it in our English tongue, I
thought in myself it should be a good business to translate it into
our English, to the end that it might be had as well in the royaume
of England as in other lands, and also for to pass therewith the time,
and thus concluded in myself to begin this said work. And forthwith
took pen and ink, and began boldly to run forth as blind Bayard
in this present work, which is named "The Recuyell of the Trojan
Histories." And afterward when I remembered myself of my simpleness
and unperfectness that I had in both languages, that is to wit in
French and in English, for in France was I never, and was born and
learned my English in Kent, in the Weald, where I doubt not is
spoken as broad and rude English as in any place of England; and have
continued by the space of 30 years for the most part in the countries
of Brabant, Flanders, Holland, and Zealand. And thus when all these
things came before me, after that I had made and written five or six
quires I fell in despair of this work, and purposed no more to have
continued therein, and those quires laid apart, and in two years after
laboured no more in this work, and was fully in will to have left it,
till on a time it fortuned that the right high, excellent, and right
virtuous princess, my right redoubted Lady, my Lady Margaret, by
the grace of God sister unto the King of England and of France,
my sovereign lord, Duchess of Burgundy, of Lotryk, of Brabant, of
Limburg, and of Luxembourg, Countess of Flanders, of Artois, and of
Burgundy, Palatine of Hainault, of Holland, of Zealand and of Namur,
Marquesse of the Holy Empire, Lady of Frisia, of Salins and of
Mechlin, sent for me to speak with her good Grace of divers matters,
among the which I let her Highness have knowledge of the foresaid
beginning of this work, which anon commanded me to show the said five
or six quires to her said Grace; and when she had seen them anon she
found a default in my English, which she commanded me to amend, and
moreover commanded me straitly to continue and make an end of the
residue then not translated; whose dreadful commandment I durst in no
wise disobey, because I am a servant unto her said Grace and receive
of her yearly fee and other many good and great benefits, (and also
hope many more to receive of her Highness), but forthwith went and
laboured in the said translation after my simple and poor cunning,
also nigh as I can following my author, meekly beseeching the
bounteous Highness of my said Lady that of her benevolence list to
accept and take in gree this simple and rude work here following; and
if there be anything written or said to her pleasure, I shall think my
labour well employed, and whereas there is default that she arette it
to the simpleness of my cunning which is full small in this behalf;
and require and pray all them that shall read this said work to
correct it, and to hold me excused of the rude and simple translation.

And thus I end my prologue.

[Footnote A: William Caxton (1422?-1491), merchant and translator,
learned the art of printing on the Continent, probably at Bruges or
Cologne. He translated "The Recuyell of the Histories of Troy" between
1469 and 1471, and, on account of the great demand for copies, was led
to have it printed--the first English book to be reproduced by this
means. The date was about 1474; the place, probably Bruges. In
1476, Caxton came back to England, and set up a press of his own at
Westminster. In 1477, he issued the first book known to have been
printed in England, "The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers."
The following Prefaces and Epilogues from Caxton's own pen show his
attitude towards some of the more important of the works that issued
from his press.]


Thus endeth the second book of the Recule of the Histories of Troy.
Which bookes were late translated into French out of Latin by the
labour of the venerable person Raoul le Feure, priest, as afore
is said; and by me indigne and unworthy, translated into this rude
English by the commandment of my said redoubted Lady, Duchess of
Burgundy. And for as much as I suppose the said two books be not had
before this time in our English language, therefore I had the better
will to accomplish this said work; which work was begun in Bruges
and continued in Ghent and finished in Cologne, in the time of the
troublous world, and of the great divisions being and reigning, as
well in the royaumes of England and France as in all other places
universally through the world; that is to wit the year of our Lord a
thousand four hundred seventy one. And as for the third book, which
treateth of the general and last destruction of Troy, it needeth
not to translate it into English, for as much as that worshipful and
religious man, Dan John Lidgate, monk of Bury, did translate it but
late; after whose work I fear to take upon me, that am not worthy to
bear his penner and ink-horn after him, to meddle me in that work.
But yet for as much as I am bound to contemplate my said Lady's good
grace, and also that his work is in rhyme and as far as I know it is
not had in prose in our tongue, and also, peradventure, he translated
after some other author than this is; and yet for as much as divers
men be of divers desires, some to read in rhyme and metre and some
in prose; and also because that I have now good leisure, being in
Cologne, and have none other thing to do at this time; in eschewing
of idleness, mother of all vices, I have delibered in myself for the
contemplation of my said redoubted lady to take this labour in hand,
by the sufferance and help of Almighty God; whom I meekly supplye to
give me grace to accomplish it to the pleasure of her that is causer
thereof, and that she receive it in gree of me, her faithful, true,
and most humble servant etc.


Thus end I this book, which I have translated after mine Author as
nigh as God hath given me cunning, to whom be given the laud and
praising. And for as much as in the writing of the same my pen is
worn, my hand weary and not steadfast, mine eyne dimmed with overmuch
looking on the white paper, and my courage not so prone and ready to
labour as it hath been, and that age creepeth on me daily and feebleth
all the body, and also because I have promised to divers gentlemen and
to my friends to address to them as hastily as I might this said book,
therefore I have practised and learned at my great charge and dispense
to ordain this said book in print, after the manner and form as ye may
here see, and is not written with pen and ink as other books be, to
the end that every man may have them at once. For all the books of
this story, named "The Recule of the Histories of Troy" thus imprinted
as ye here see, were begun in one day and also finished in one day,
which book I have presented to my said redoubted Lady, as afore
is said. And she hath well accepted it, and largely rewarded me,
wherefore I beseech Almighty God to reward her everlasting bliss after
this life, praying her said Grace and all them that shall read this
book not to disdain the simple and rude work, neither to reply against
the saying of the matters touched in this book, though it accord not
unto the translation of others which have written it. For divers men
have made divers books which in all points accord not, as Dictes,
Dares, and Homer. For Dictes and Homer, as Greeks, say and write
favorably for the Greeks, and give to them more worship than to the
Trojans; and Dares writeth otherwise than they do. And also as for the
proper names, it is no wonder that they accord not, for some one name
in these days have divers equivocations after the countries that they
dwell in; but all accord in conclusion the general destruction of that
noble city of Troy, and the death of so many noble princes, as
kings, dukes, earls, barons, knights, and common people, and the ruin
irreparable of that city that never since was re-edified; which may be
example to all men during the world how dreadful and jeopardous it is
to begin a war and what harms, losses, and death followeth. Therefore
the Apostle saith: "All that is written is written to our doctrine,"
which doctrine for the common weal I beseech God may be taken in such
place and time as shall be most needful in increasing of peace,
love, and charity; which grant us He that suffered for the same to be
crucified on the rood tree. And say we all Amen for charity!



Here endeth the book named _The Dictes or Sayings of the
Philosophers_, imprinted by me, William Caxton, at Westminster, the
year of our Lord 1477. Which book is late translated out of French
into English by the noble and puissant Lord Lord Antony, Earl of
Rivers, Lord of Scales and of the Isle of Wight, defender and director
of the siege apostolic for our holy father the Pope in this royaume of
England, and governor of my Lord Prince of Wales. And it is so that at
such time as he had accomplished this said work, it liked him to send
it to me in certain quires to oversee, which forthwith I saw,
and found therein many great, notable, and wise sayings of the
philosophers, according unto the books made in French which I had
often before read; but certainly I had seen none in English until that
time. And so afterward I came unto my said Lord, and told him how I
had read and seen his book, and that he had done a meritorious deed in
the labour of the translation thereof into our English tongue, wherein
he had deserved a singular laud and thanks, &c. Then my said Lord
desired me to oversee it, and where I should find fault to correct it;
whereon I answered unto his Lordship that I could not amend it, but
if I should so presume I might apaire it, for it was right well
and cunningly made and translated into right good and fair English.
Notwithstanding, he willed me to oversee it, and shewed me divers
things, which, as seemed to him, might be left out, as divers letters,
missives sent from Alexander to Darius and Aristotle, and each to
other, which letters were little appertinent unto dictes and sayings
aforesaid, forasmuch as they specify of other matters. And also
desired me, that done, to put the said book in imprint. And thus
obeying his request and commandment, I have put me in devoir to
oversee this his said book, and behold as nigh as I could how it
accordeth with the original, being in French. And I find nothing
discordant therein, save only in the dictes and sayings of Socrates,
wherein I find that my said Lord hath left out certain and divers
conclusions touching women. Whereof I marvel that my Lord hath not
written them, ne what hath moved him so to do, ne what cause he had at
that time; but I suppose that some fair lady hath desired him to leave
it out of his book; or else he was amorous on some noble lady, for
whose love he would not set it in his book; or else for the very
affection, love, and good will that he hath unto all ladies and
gentlewomen, he thought that Socrates spared the sooth and wrote of
women more than truth; which I cannot think that so true a man and so
noble a philosopher as Socrates was should write otherwise than truth.
For if he had made fault in writing of women, he ought not, ne should
not, be believed in his other dictes and sayings. But I perceive that
my said Lord knoweth verily that such defaults be not had ne found in
the women born and dwelling in these parts ne regions of the world.
Socrates was a Greek, born in a far country from hence, which country
is all of other conditions than this is, and men and women of
other nature than they be here in this country. For I wot well, of
whatsoever condition women be in Greece, the women of this country be
right good, wise, pleasant, humble, discreet, sober, chaste, obedient
to their husbands, true, secret, steadfast, ever busy, and never idle,
attemperate in speaking, and virtuous in all their works--or at least
should be so. For which causes so evident my said Lord, as I suppose,
thought it was not of necessity to set in his book the sayings of his
author Socrates touching women. But forasmuch as I had commandment of
my said Lord to correct and amend where I should find fault, and other
find I none save that he hath left out these dictes and sayings of the
women of Greece, therefore in accomplishing his commandment--forasmuch
as I am not certain whether it was in my Lord's copy or not, or else,
peradventure, that the wind had blown over the leaf at the time of
translation of his book--I purpose to write those same sayings of that
Greek Socrates, which wrote of the women of Greece and nothing of them
of this royaume, whom, I suppose, he never knew; for if he had, I dare
plainly say that he would have reserved them specially in his said
dictes. Always not presuming to put and set them in my said Lord's
book but in the end apart in the rehearsal of the works, humbly
requiring all them that shall read this little rehearsal, that if they
find any fault to arette it to Socrates, and not to me, which writeth
as hereafter followeth.

Socrates said that women be the apparels to catch men, but they take
none but them that will be poor or else them that know them not.
And he said that there is none so great empechement unto a man as
ignorance and women. And he saw a woman that bare fire, of whom he
said that the hotter bore the colder. And he saw a woman sick, of whom
he said that the evil resteth and dwelleth with the evil. And he saw
a woman brought to the justice, and many other women followed her
weeping, of whom he said the evil be sorry and angry because the evil
shall perish. And he saw a young maid that learned to write, of whom
he said that men multiplied evil upon evil. And he said that the
ignorance of a man is known in three things, that is to wit, when he
hath no thought to use reason; when he cannot refrain his covetise;
and when he is governed by the counsel of women, in that he knoweth
that they know not. And he said unto his disciples: "Will ye that I
enseign and teach you how ye shall now escape from all evil?" And they
answered, "Yea." And then he said to them, "For whatsoever thing that
it be, keep you and be well ware that ye obey not women." Who answered
to him again, "And what sayest thou by our good mothers, and of our
sisters?" He said to them, "Suffice you with that I have said to you,
for all be semblable in malice." And he said, "Whosoever will acquire
and get science, let him never put him in the governance of a woman."
And he saw a woman that made her fresh and gay, to whom he said, "Thou
resemblest the fire; for the more wood is laid to the fire the more
will it burn, and the greater is the heat." And on a time one asked
him what him semed of women; he answered that the women resemble a
tree called Edelfla, which is the fairest tree to behold and see
that may be, but within it is full of venom. And they said to him and
demanded wherefore he blamed so women? and that he himself had
not come into this world, ne none other men also, without them. He
answered, "The woman is like unto a tree named Chassoygnet, on which
tree there be many things sharp and pricking, which hurt and prick
them that approach unto it; and yet, nevertheless, that same tree
bringeth forth good dates and sweet." And they demanded him why he
fled from the women? And he answered, "Forasmuch as I see them flee
and eschew the good and commonly do evil." And a woman said to him,
"Wilt thou have any other woman than me?" And he answered to her, "Art
not ashamed to offer thyself to him that demandeth nor desireth thee

So, these be the dictes and sayings of the philosopher Socrates, which
he wrote in his book; and certainly he wrote no worse than afore
is rehearsed. And forasmuch as it is accordant that his dictes and
sayings should be had as well as others', therefore I have set it in
the end of this book. And also some persons, peradventure, that have
read this book in French would have arette a great default in me that
I had not done my devoir in visiting and overseeing of my Lord's
book according to his desire. And some other also, haply, might have
supposed that Socrates had written much more ill of women than here
afore is specified, wherefore in satisfying of all parties, and also
for excuse of the said Socrates, I have set these said dictes and
sayings apart in the end of this book, to the intent that if my said
lord or any other person, whatsoever he or she be that shall read or
hear it, that if they be not well pleased withal, that they with a pen
race it out, or else rend the leaf out of the book. Humbly requiring
and beseeching my said lord to take no displeasure on me so presuming,
but to pardon whereas he shall find fault; and that it please him to
take the labour of the imprinting in gree and thanks, which gladly
have done my diligence in the accomplishing of his desire and
commandment; in which I am bounden so to do for the good reward that
I have received of his said lordship; whom I beseech Almighty God to
increase and to continue in his virtuous disposition in this world,
and after this life to live everlastingly in Heaven. Amen.



The Holy and blessed doctor Saint Jerome saith this authority, "Do
always some good work to the end that the devil find thee not Idle."
And the holy doctor Saint Austin saith in the book of the labour of
monks, that no man strong or mighty to labour ought to be idle; for
which cause when I had performed and accomplished divers works and
histories translated out of French into English at the request of
certain lords, ladies, and gentlemen, as the Recuyel of the History of
Troy, the Book of the Chess, the History of Jason, the history of
the Mirror of the World, the 15 books of Metamorphoses in which be
contained the fables of Ovid, and the History of Godfrey of Boulogne
in the conquest of Jerusalem, with other divers works and books, I
ne wist what work to begin and put forth after the said works to-fore
made. And forasmuch as idleness is so much blamed, as saith Saint
Bernard, the mellifluous doctor, that she is mother of lies and
step-dame of virtues, and it is she that overthroweth strong men into
sin, quencheth virtue, nourisheth pride, and maketh the way ready to
go to hell; and John Cassiodorus saith that the thought of him that is
idle thinketh on none other thing but on licorous meats and viands for
his belly; and the holy Saint Bernard aforesaid saith in an epistle,
when the time shall come that it shall behove us to render and give
accounts of our idle time, what reason may we render or what answer
shall we give when in idleness is none excuse; and Prosper saith that
whosoever liveth in idleness liveth in manner of a dumb beast. And
because I have seen the authorities that blame and despise so much
idleness, and also know well that it is one of the capital and deadly
sins much hateful unto God, therefore I have concluded and firmly
purposed in myself no more to be idle, but will apply myself to labour
and such occupation as I have been accustomed to do. And forasmuch as
Saint Austin aforesaid saith upon a psalm that good work ought not to
be done for fear of pain, but for the love of righteousness, and that
it be of very and sovereign franchise, and because me-seemeth to be
a sovereign weal to incite and exhort men and women to keep them from
sloth and idleness, and to let to be understood to such people as be
not lettered the nativities, the lives, the passions, the miracles,
and the death of the holy saints, and also some other notorious deeds
and acts of times past, I have submised myself to translate into
English the legend of Saints, which is called _Legenda Aurea_ in
Latin, that is to say, the _Golden Legend_; for in like wise as gold
is most noble above all other metals, in like wise is this legend
holden most noble above all other works. Against me here might some
persons say that this legend hath been translated before, and truth it
is; but forasmuch as I had by me a legend in French, another in Latin,
and the third in English, which varied in many and divers places, and
also many histories were comprised in the two other books which were
not in the English books; and therefore I have written one out of the
said three books, which I have ordered otherwise than the said English
legend is, which was so to-fore made, beseeching all them that shall
see or hear it read to pardon me where I have erred or made fault,
which, if any be, is of ignorance and against my will; and submit it
wholly of such as can and may, to correct it, humbly beseeching them
so to do, and in so doing they shall deserve a singular laud and
merit; and I shall pray for them unto Almighty God that He of His
benign grace reward them, etc., and that it profit to all them that
shall read or hear it read, and may increase in them virtue, and
expel vice and sin, that by the example of the holy saints amend their
living here in this short life, that by their merits they and I may
come to everlasting life and bliss in Heaven. Amen.

CATON (1483)


Here beginneth the prologue of proem of the book called _Caton_, which
book hath been translated into English by Master Benet Burgh,
late Archdeacon of Cochester, and high canon of St. Stephen's at
Westminster, which ful craftily hath made it in ballad royal for the
erudition of my lord Bousher, son and heir at that time to my lord the
Earl of Essex. And because of late came to my hand a book of the said
Cato in French, which rehearseth many a fair learning and notable
examples, I have translated it out of French into English, as all
along hereafter shall appear, which I present unto the city of London.

Unto the noble, ancient, and renowned city, the city of London, in
England, I, William Caxton, citizen and conjury of the same, and of
the fraternity and fellowship of the mercery, owe of right my service
and good will, and of very duty am bounden naturally to assist, aid,
and counsel, as far forth as I can to my power, as to my mother of
whom I have received my nurture and living, and shall pray for the
good prosperity and policy of the same during my life. For, as me
seemeth, it is of great need, because I have known it in my young age
much more wealthy, prosperous, and richer, than it is at this day. And
the cause is that there is almost none that intendeth to the common
weal, but only every man for his singular profit Oh! when I remember
the noble Romans, that for the common weal of the city of Rome they
spent not only their moveable goods but they put their bodies and
lives in jeopardy and to the death, as by many a noble example we may
see in the acts of Romans, as of the two noble Scipios, African and
Asian, Actilius, and many others. And among all others the noble Cato,
author and maker of this book, which he hath left for to remain ever
to all the people for to learn in it and to know how every man ought
to rule and govern him in this life, as well for the life temporal as
for the life spiritual. And as in my judgement it is the best book for
to be taught to young children in school, and also to people of every
age, it is full convenient if it be well understood And because I
see that the children that be born within the said city increase, and
profit not like their fathers and elders, but for the most part after
that they be come to their perfect years of discretion and ripeness of
age, how well that their fathers have left to them great quantity of
goods yet scarcely among ten two thrive, [whereas] I have seen and
know in other lands in divers cities that of one name and lineage
successively have endured prosperously many heirs, yea, a five or six
hundred years, and some a thousand; and in this noble city of
London it can unneth continue unto the third heir or scarcely to the
second,--O blessed Lord, when I remember this I am all abashed; I
cannot judge the cause, but fairer ne wiser ne better spoken children
in their youth be nowhere than there be in London, but at their full
ripening there is no kernel ne good corn found, but chaff for the most
part. I wot well there be many noble and wise, and prove well and be
better and richer than ever were their fathers. And to the end that
many might come to honour and worship, I intend to translate this
said book of Cato, in which I doubt not, and if they will read it and
understand they shall much the better con rule themselves thereby; for
among all other books this is a singular book, and may well be called
the regiment or governance of the body and soul.

There was a noble clerk named Pogius of Florence, and was secretary
to Pope Eugene and also to Pope Nicholas, which had in the city of
Florence a noble and well-stuffed library which all noble strangers
coming to Florence desired to see; and therein they found many noble
and rare books. And when they had asked of him which was the best book
of them all, and that he reputed for best, he said that he held Cato
glosed for the best book of his library. Then since that he that was
so noble a clerk held this book for the best, doubtless it must follow
that this is a noble book and a virtuous, and such one that a man may
eschew all vices and ensue virtue. Then to the end that this said book
may profit unto the hearers of it, I beseech Almighty God that I
may achieve and accomplish it unto his laud and glory, and to the
erudition and learning of them that be ignorant, that they may thereby
profit and be the better. And I require and beseech all such that find
fault or error, that of their charity they correct and amend it, and I
shall heartily pray for them to Almighty God, that he reward them.

AESOP. (1483)


Now then I will finish all these fables with this tale that followeth,
which a worshipful priest and a parson told me lately. He said that
there were dwelling in Oxford two priests, both masters of art, of
whom that one was quick and could put himself forth, and that other
was a good simple priest. And so it happened that the master that was
pert and quick, was anon promoted to a benefice or twain, and after
to prebends and for to be a dean of a great prince's chapel, supposing
and weening that his fellow the simple priest should never have been
promoted, but be alway an Annual, or at the most a parish priest. So
after long time that this worshipful man, this dean, came riding into
a good parish with a ten or twelve horses, like a prelate, and came
into the church of the said parish, and found there this good simple
man sometime his fellow, which came and welcomed him lowly; and that
other bade him "good morrow, master John," and took him slightly by
the hand, and asked him where he dwelt. And the good man said, "In
this parish." "How," said he, "are ye here a soul priest or a parish
priest?" "Nay, sir," said he, "for lack of a better, though I be not
able ne worthy, I am parson and curate of this parish." And then that
other availed his bonnet and said, "Master parson, I pray you to be
not displeased; I had supposed ye had not been beneficed; but master,"
said he, "I pray you what is this benefice worth to you a year?"
"Forsooth," said the good simple man, "I wot never, for I make never
accounts thereof how well I have had it four or five years." "And know
ye not," said he, "what it is worth? it should seem a good benefice."
"No, forsooth," said he, "but I wot well what it shall be worth to
me." "Why," said he, "what shall it be worth?" "Forsooth," said he,
"if I do my true diligence in the cure of my parishioners in preaching
and teaching, and do my part longing to my cure, I shall have heaven
therefore; and if their souls be lost, or any of them by my default, I
shall be punished therefore, and hereof am I sure." And with that word
the rich dean was abashed, and thought he should do the better and
take more heed to his cures and benefices than he had done. This was
a good answer of a good priest and an honest. And herewith I
finished this book, translated and printed by me, William Caxton, at
Westminster in the Abbey, and finished the 26th day of March, the year
of our Lord 1484, and the first year of the reign of King Richard the


Second Edition. (1484)


Great thanks, laud, and honour ought to be given unto the clerks,
poets, and historiographs that have written many noble books of
wisedom of the lives, passions, and miracles of holy saints, of
histories of noble and famous acts and faites, and of the chronicles
since the beginning of the creation of the world unto this present
time, by which we be daily informed and have knowledge of many things
of whom we should not have known if they had not left to us their
monuments written. Among whom and in especial before all others, we
ought to give a singular laud unto that noble and great philosopher
Geoffrey Chaucer, the which for his ornate writing in our tongue may
well have the name of a laureate poet. For to-fore that he by labour
embellished, ornated, and made fair our English, in this realm was had
rude speech and incongruous, as yet it appeareth by old books, which
at this day ought not to have place ne be compared among, ne to, his
beauteous volumes and ornate writings, of whom he made many books and
treatises of many a noble history, as well in metre as in rhyme and
prose; and them so craftily made that he comprehended his matters in
short, quick, and high sentences, eschewing prolixity, casting away
the chaff of superfluity, and shewing the picked grain of sentence
uttered by crafty and sugared eloquence; of whom among all others of
his books I purpose to print, by the grace of God, the book of the
tales of Canterbury, in which I find many a noble history of every
state and degree; first rehearsing the conditions and the array of
each of them as properly as possible is to be said. And after their
tales which be of nobleness, wisdom, gentleness, mirth and also of
very holiness and virtue, wherein he finisheth this said book, which
book I have diligently overseen and duly examined, to that end it be
made according unto his own making. For I find many of the said books
which writers have abridged it, and many things left out; and in some
place have set certain verses that he never made ne set in his book;
of which books so incorrect was one brought to me, 6 years past, which
I supposed had been very true and correct; and according to the same I
did so imprint a certain number of them, which anon were sold to many
and divers gentlemen, of whom one gentleman came to me and said that
this book was not according in many place unto the book that Geoffrey
Chaucer had made. To whom I answered that I had made it according to
my copy, and by me was nothing added ne minished. Then he said he knew
a book which his father had and much loved, that was very true and
according unto his own first book by him made; and said more, if
I would imprint it again he would get me the same book for a copy,
howbeit he wist well that his father would not gladly depart from it.
To whom I said, in case that he could get me such a book, true and
correct, yet I would once endeavour me to imprint it again for to
satisfy the author, whereas before by ignorance I erred in hurting and
defaming his book in divers places, in setting in some things that he
never said ne made, and leaving out many things that he made which
be requisite to be set in it. And thus we fell at accord, and he full
gently got of his father the said book and delivered it to me, by
which I have corrected my book, as hereafter, all along by the aid of
Almighty God, shall follow; whom I humbly beseech to give me grace and
aid to achieve and accomplish to his laud, honour, and glory; and
that all ye that shall in this book read or hear, will of your charity
among your deeds of mercy remember the soul of the said Geoffrey
Chaucer, first author and maker of this book. And also that all we
that shall see and read therein may so take and understand the good
and virtuous tales, that it may so profit unto the health of our souls
that after this short and transitory life we may come to everlasting
life in Heaven. Amen.




After that I had accomplished and finished divers histories, as well
of contemplation as of other historical and worldly acts of great
conquerors and princes, and also certain books of ensamples and
doctrine, many noble and divers gentlemen of this realm of England
came and demanded me many and oft times wherefore that I have not done
made and printed the noble history of the Saint Graal, and of the most
renowned Christian King, first and chief of the three best Christian
and worthy, Arthur, which ought most to be remembered among us
Englishmen before all other Christian Kings. For it is notoyrly known
through the universal world that there be nine worthy and the best
that ever were; that is to wit three Paynims, three Jews, and three
Christian men. As for the Paynims, they were to-fore the Incarnation
of Christ, which were named--the first, Hector of Troy, of whom the
history is come both in ballad and in prose--the second, Alexander
the Great; and the third, Julius Caesar, Emperor of Rome, of whom the
histories be well known and had. And as for the three Jews, which also
were before the Incarnation of our Lord of whom the first was Duke
Joshua, which brought the children of Israel into the land of behest;
the second, David, King of Jerusalem; and the third Judas Maccabaeus;
of these three the Bible rehearseth all their noble histories and
acts. And since the said Incarnation have been three noble Christian
men, installed and admitted through the universal world into the
number of the nine best and worthy, of whom was first the noble
Arthur, whose noble acts I purpose to write in this present book here
following. The second was Charlemagne, or Charles the Great, of whom
the history is had in many places both in French and English; and the
third and last was Godfrey of Boulogne, of whose acts and life I made
a book unto the excellent prince and king of noble memory, King Edward
the Fourth. The said noble gentlemen instantly required me to print
the history of the said noble king and conqueror, King Arthur, and of
his knights, with the history of the Saint Graal, and of the death and
ending of the said Arthur, affirming that I ought rather to print his
acts and noble feats than of Godfrey of Boulogne or any of the other
eight, considering that he was a man born within this realm, and king
and emperor of the same; and that there be in French divers and many
noble volumes of his acts, and also of his knights. To whom I answered
that divers men hold opinion that there was no such Arthur, and that
all such books as be made of him be but feigned and fables, because
that some chronicles make of him no mention, ne remember him nothing
ne of his knights; whereto they answered, and one in special said,
that in him that should say or think that there was never such a king
called Arthur, might well be aretted great folly and blindness; for he
said that there were many evidences of the contrary. First ye may
see his sepulchre in the monastery of Glastonbury; and also in
'Polychronicon,' in the fifth book, the sixth chapter, and in the
seventh book, the twenty-third chapter, where his body was buried, and
after found and translated into the said monastery. Ye shall see also
in the history of Boccaccio, in his book 'De casu principum,' part
of his noble acts and also of his fall. Also Galfridus in his British
book recounteth his life, and in divers places of England many
remembrances be yet of him, and shall remain perpetually, and also
of his knights. First in the Abbey of Westminster at Saint Edward's
shrine remaineth the print of his seal in red wax closed in beryl,
in which is written 'Patricius Arthurus, Britanniae Galliae Germaniae
Daciae Imperator.' Item, in the castle of Dover ye may see Gawain's
skull and Caradoc's mantle; at Winchester the round table; in other
places Lancelot's sword, and many other things. Then all these things
considered, there can no man reasonably gainsay but here was a king of
this land named Arthur; for in all places, Christian and heathen, he
is reputed and taken for one of the nine worthy, and the first of the
three Christian men. And also he is more spoken of beyond the sea;
more books made of his noble acts than there be in England, as well
in Dutch, Italian, Spanish, and Greek as in French; and yet of record
remain in witness of him in Wales in the town of Camelot the great
stones and marvellous works of iron lying under the ground, and royal
vaults, which divers now living hath seen. Wherefore it is a marvel
why he is no more renowned in his own country, save only it accordeth
to the word of God, which saith that no man is accepted for a prophet
in his own country. Then all these things aforesaid alleged, I could
not well deny but that there was such a noble king named Arthur, and
reputed one of the nine worthy, and first and chief of the Christian
men; and many noble volumes be made of him and of his noble knights in
French, which I have seen and read beyond the sea, which be not had
in our maternal tongue, but in Welsh be many, and also in French, and
some in English, but nowhere nigh all. Wherefore such as have lately
been drawn out briefly into English, I have, after the simple cunning
that God hath sent to me, under the favour and correction of all noble
lords and gentlemen, emprised to imprint a book of the noble histories
of the said King Arthur and of certain of his knights, after a copy
unto me delivered, which copy Sir Thomas Mallory did take out of
certain books of French and reduced it into English. And I according
to my copy have down set it in print, to the intent that noble men
may see and learn the noble acts of chivalry, the gentle and virtuous
deeds that some knights used in those days, by which they came to
honour, and how they that were vicious were punished and oft put to
shame and rebuke; humbly beseeching all noble lords and ladies and all
other estates, of what estate or degree they be of, that shall see and
read in this said book and work, that they take the good and honest
acts in their remembrance and to follow the same, wherein they shall
find many joyous and pleasant histories and noble and renowned acts
of humanity, gentleness, and chivalry. For herein may be seen
noble chivalry, courtesy, humanity, friendliness, hardyhood, love,
friendship, cowardice, murder, hate, virtue and sin. Do after the good
and leave the evil, and it shall bring you to good fame and renown.
And for to pass the time this book shall be pleasant to read in;
but for to give faith and believe that all is true that is contained
herein, ye be at your liberty. But all is written for our doctrine,
and for to beware that we fall not to vice ne sin, but to exercise and
follow virtue, by which we may come and attain to good fame and renown
in this life, and after this short and transitory life to come unto
everlasting bliss in heaven; the which He grant us that reigneth in
Heaven, the Blessed Trinity. Amen.

Then to proceed forth in this said book which I direct unto all noble
princes, lords and ladies, gentlemen or gentlewomen, that desire
to read or hear read of the noble and joyous history of the great
conqueror and excellent king, King Arthur, sometime King of this noble
realm then called Britain, I, William Caxton, simple person, present
this book following which I have emprised to imprint. And treateth
of the noble acts, feats of arms, of chivalry, prowess, hardihood,
humanity, love, courtesy, and very gentleness, with many wonderful
histories and adventures. And for to understand briefly the contents
of this volume, I have divided it into 21 books, and every book
chaptered, as hereafter shall by God's grace follow. The first book
shall treat how Uther Pendragon begat the noble conqueror, King
Arthur, and containeth 28 chapters. The second book treateth of Balyn
the noble knight, and containeth 19 chapters. The third book treateth
of the marriage of King Arthur to Queen Guinevere, with other matters,
and containeth 15 chapters. The fourth book how Merlin was assotted,
and of war made to King Arthur, and containeth 29 chapters. The fifth
book treateth of the conquest of Lucius the emperor, and containeth 12
chapters. The sixth book treateth of Sir Lancelot and Sir Lionel, and
marvellous adventures, and containeth 18 chapters. The seventh book
treateth of a noble knight called Sir Gareth, and named by Sir Kay
'Beaumains,' and containeth 36 chapters. The eighth book treateth
of the birth of Sir Tristram the noble knight, and of his acts, and
containeth 41 chapters. The ninth book treateth of a knight named
by Sir Kay, 'Le cote mal tailie,' and also of Sir Tristram, and
containeth 44 chapters. The tenth book treateth of Sir Tristram, and
other marvellous adventures, and containeth 83 chapters. The eleventh
book treateth of Sir Lancelot and Sir Galahad, and containeth 14
chapters. The twelfth book treateth of Sir Lancelot and his madness,
and containeth 14 chapters. The thirteenth book treateth how Galahad
came first to King Arthur's court, and the quest how the Sangreal was
begun, and containeth 20 chapters. The fourteenth book treateth of the
quest of the Sangreal, and containeth 10 chapters. The fifteenth book
treateth of Sir Lancelot, and containeth 6 chapters. The sixteenth
book treateth of Sir Boris and Sir Lionel his brother, and containeth
17 chapters. The seventeenth book treateth of the Sangreal, and
containeth 23 chapters. The eighteenth book treateth of Sir Lancelot
and the Queen, and containeth 25 chapters. The nineteenth book
treateth of Queen Guinevere, and Lancelot, and containeth 13 chapters.
The twentieth book treateth of the piteous death of Arthur, and
containeth 22 chapters. The twenty-first book treateth of his last
departing, and how Sir Lancelot came to revenge his death, and
containeth 13 chapters. The sum is 21 books, which contain the sum
of five hundred and seven chapters, as more plainly shall follow

ENEYDOS (1490)


After divers work made, translated, and achieved, having no work in
hand, I sitting in my study whereas lay many divers pamphlets and
books, happened that to my hand came a little book in French, which
lately was translated out of Latin by some noble clerk of France,
which book is named _Aeneidos_, made in Latin by that noble poet and
great clerk, Virgil Which book I saw over, and read therein how, after
the general destruction of the great Troy, Aeneas departed, bearing
his old father Anchises upon his shoulders, his little son Iulus
on his hand, his wife with much other people following, and how he
shipped and departed, with all the history of his adventures that he
had ere he came to the achievement of his conquest of Italy, as all
along shall be shewed in his present book. In which book I had great
pleasure because of the fair and honest terms and words in French;
which I never saw before like, ne none so pleasant ne so well ordered;
which book as seemed to me should be much requisite to noble men to
see, as well for the eloquence as the histories. How well that many
hundred years past was the said book of _Aeneidos_, with other works,
made and learned daily in schools, especially in Italy and other
places; which history the said Virgil made in metre. And when I had
advised me in this said book, I delibered and concluded to translate
it into English; and forthwith took a pen and ink and wrote a leaf or
twain, which I oversaw again to correct it. And when I saw the fair
and strange terms therein, I doubted that it should not please some
gentlemen which late blamed me, saying that in my translations I had
over curious terms, which could not be understood of common people,
and desired me to use old and homely terms in my translations. And
fain would I satisfy every man, and so to do took an old book and read
therein, and certainly the English was so rude and broad that I could
not well understood it. And also my Lord Abbot of Westminster did do
show to me lately certain evidences written in old English, for to
reduce it into our English now used. And certainly it was written in
such wise that it was more like to Dutch than English, I could not
reduce ne bring it to be understood. And certainly our language now
used varieth far from that which was used and spoken when I was born.
For we Englishmen be born under the domination of the moon, which is
never steadfast but ever wavering, waxing one season and waneth and
decreaseth another season. And that common English that is spoken in
one shire varieth from another, insomuch that in my days happened that
certain merchants were in a ship in Thames for to have sailed over the
sea into Zealand, and for lack of wind they tarried at Foreland, and
went to land for to refresh them. And one of them named Sheffield, a
mercer, came into a house and asked for meat, and especially he asked
after eggs; and the good wife answered that she could speak no French,
and the merchant was angry, for he also could speak no French, but
would have had eggs, and she understood him not. And then at last
another said, that he would have "eyren"; then the goodwife said
that she understood him well. Lo, what should a man in these days now
write, eggs or eyren? Certainly it is hard to please every man because
of diversity and change of language. For in these days every man that
is in any reputation in his country will utter his communication and
matters in such manners and terms that few men shall understand them.
And some honest and great clerks have been with me and desired me
to write the most curious terms that I could find; and thus between
plain, rude and curious I stand abashed. But in my judgment the common
terms that be daily used be lighter to be understood than the old and
ancient English. And forasmuch as this present book is not for a rude
uplandish man to labour therein ne read it, but only for a clerk and
a noble gentleman that feeleth and understandeth in feats of arms, in
love and in noble chivalry. Therefore in a mean between both I have
reduced and translated this said book into our English, not over-rude
ne curious; but in such terms as shall be understood, by God's grace,
according to my copy. And if any man will intermit in reading of it,
and findeth such terms that he cannot understand, let him go read
and learn Virgil of the pistles of Ovid, and there he shall see and
understand lightly all, if he have a good reader and informer. For
this book is not for every rude and uncunning man to see, but to
clerks and very gentlemen that understand gentleness and science. Then
I pray all them that shall read in this little treatise to hold me for
excused for the translating of it, for I acknowledge myself ignorant
of cunning to emprise on me so high and noble a work. But I pray
Master John Skelton, late created poet laureate in the University of
Oxenford, to oversee and correct this said book, and to address and
expound, wherever shall be found fault, to them that shall require it.

For him I know for sufficient to expound and English every difficulty
that is therein; for he hath lately translated the Epistles of Tully,
and the book of Diodorus Siculus, and divers other works out of Latin
into English, not in rude and old language, but in polished and ornate
terms craftily, as he that hath read Virgil, Ovid, Tully, and all the
other noble poets and orators to me unknown. And also he hath read
the nine Muses, and understands their musical sciences, and to whom
of them each, science is appropred. I suppose he hath drunken of
Helicon's well. Then I pray him and such others to correct, add, or
minish whereas he or they shall find fault; for I have but followed my
copy in French as nigh as to me is possible. And if any word be said
therein well, I am glad; and if otherwise, I submit my said book
to their correction. Which book I present unto the high born, my
to-coming natural and sovereign lord Arthur, by the grace of God
Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester, first-begotten
son and heir unto our most dread natural and sovereign lord and most
Christian King, Henry the VII., by the grace of God King of England
and of France, and lord of Ireland; beseeching his noble Grace to
receive it in thank of me his most humble subject and servant. And I
shall pray unto Almighty God for his prosperous increasing in virtue,
wisedom, and humanity, that he may be equal with the most renowned of
all his noble progenitors; and so to live in this present life that
after this transitory life he and we all may come to everlasting life
in Heaven. Amen.



To His Most Christian Majesty, FRANCIS, King of the French, and his
Sovereign, John Calvin wisheth peace and salvation in Christ.

When I began this work, Sire, nothing was further from my thoughts
than writing a book which would afterwards be presented to your
Majesty. My intention was only to lay down some elementary principles,
by which inquirers on the subject of religion might be instructed in
the nature of true piety. And this labour I undertook chiefly for
my countrymen, the French, of whom I apprehended multitudes to be
hungering and thirsting after Christ, but saw very few possessing any
real knowledge of him. That this was my design, the book itself proves
by its simple method and unadorned composition. But when I perceived
that the fury of certain wicked men in your kingdom had grown to
such a height, as to leave no room in the land for sound doctrine, I
thought I should be usefully employed, if in the same work I delivered
my instructions to them, and exhibited my confession to you, that
you may know the nature of that doctrine, which is the object of such
unbounded rage to those madmen who are now disturbing the country with
fire and sword. For I shall not be afraid to acknowledge, that this
treatise contains a summary of that very doctrine, which, according to
their clamours, deserves to be punished with imprisonment, banishment,
proscription, and flames, and to be exterminated from the face of the
earth. I well know with what atrocious insinuations your ears have
been filled by them, in order to render our cause most odious in
your esteem; but your clemency should lead you to consider that, if
accusation be accounted a sufficient evidence of guilt, there will be
an end of all innocence in words and actions. If any one, indeed, with
a view to bring odium upon the doctrine which I am endeavouring to
defend, should allege that it has long ago been condemned by the
general consent, and suppressed by many judicial decisions, this will
be only equivalent to saying, that it has been sometimes violently
rejected through the influence and power of its adversaries, and
sometimes insidiously and fraudulently oppressed by falsehoods,
artifices, and calumnies. Violence is displayed, when sanguinary
sentences are passed against it without the cause being heard; and
fraud, when it is unjustly accused of sedition and mischief. Lest
any one should suppose that these our complaints are unfounded, you
yourself, Sire, can bear witness of the false calumnies with which
you hear it daily traduced; that its only tendency is to wrest the
sceptres of kings out of their hands, to overturn all the tribunals
and judicial proceedings, to subvert all order and governments, to
disturb the peace and tranquillity of the people, to abrogate all
laws, to scatter all properties and possessions, and, in a word, to
involve every thing in total confusion. And yet you hear the smallest
portion of what is alleged against it; for such horrible things are
circulated amongst the vulgar, that, if they were true, the whole
world would justly pronounce it and its abettors worthy of a thousand
fires and gibbets. Who, then, will wonder at its becoming the object
of public odium, where credit is given to such most iniquitous
accusations? This is the cause of the general consent and conspiracy
to condemn us and our doctrine. Hurried away with this impulse,
those who sit in judgment pronounce for sentences the prejudices they
brought from home with them; and think their duty fully discharged if
they condemn none to be punished but such as are convicted by their
own confession, or by sufficient proofs. Convicted of what crime?
Of this condemned doctrine, they say. But with what justice is it
condemned? Now, the ground of defence was not to abjure the doctrine
itself, but to maintain its truth. On this subject, however, not a
word is allowed to be uttered.

Wherefore I beseech you, Sire,--and surely it is not an unreasonable
request,--to take upon yourself the entire cognizance of this cause,
which has hitherto been confusedly and carelessly agitated, without
any order of law, and with outrageous passion rather than judicial
gravity. Think not that I am now meditating my own individual defence,
in order to effect a safe return to my native country; for, though I
feel the affection which every man ought to feel for it, yet, under
the existing circumstances, I regret not my removal from it. But I
plead the cause of all the godly, and consequently of Christ himself,
which, having been in these times persecuted and trampled on in all
ways in your kingdom, now lies in a most deplorable state; and this
indeed rather through the tyranny of certain Pharisees, than with your
knowledge. How this comes to pass is foreign to my present purpose to
say; but it certainly lies in a most afflicted state. For the
ungodly have gone to such lengths, that the truth of Christ, if not
vanquished, dissipated, and entirely destroyed, is buried, as it
were, in ignoble obscurity, while the poor, despised church is either
destroyed by cruel massacres, or driven away into banishment, or
menaced and terrified into total silence. And still they continue
their wonted madness and ferocity, pushing violently against the wall
already bent, and finishing the ruin they have begun. In the meantime,
no one comes forward to plead the cause against such furies. If there
be any persons desirous of appearing most favourable to the truth,
they only venture an opinion, that forgiveness should be extended to
the error and imprudence of ignorant people. For this is the language
of these moderate men, calling that error and imprudence which they
know to be the certain truth of God, and those ignorant people, whose
understanding they perceive not to have been so despicable to Christ,
but that he has favoured them with the mysteries of his heavenly
wisdom. Thus all are ashamed of the Gospel. But it shall be yours,
Sire, not to turn away your ears or thoughts from so just a defence,
especially in a cause of such importance as the maintenance of God's
glory unimpaired in the world, the preservation of the honor of divine
truth, and the continuance of the kingdom of Christ uninjured
among us. This is a cause worthy of your attention, worthy of your
cognizance, worthy of your throne. This consideration constitutes true
royalty, to acknowledge yourself in the government of your kingdom to
be the minister of God. For where the glory of God is not made the
end of the government, it is not a legitimate sovereignty, but a
usurpation. And he is deceived who expects lasting prosperity in that
kingdom which is not ruled by the sceptre of God, that is, his holy
word; for that heavenly oracle cannot fail, which declares that "where
there is no vision, the people perish,"[1] Nor should you be seduced
from this pursuit by a contempt of our meanness. We are fully
conscious to ourselves how very mean and abject we are, being
miserable sinners before God, and accounted most despicable by men;
being, (if you please) the refuse of the world, deserving of the
vilest appellations that can be found; so that nothing remains for
us to glory in before God, but his mercy alone, by which, without any
merit of ours, we have been admitted to the hope of eternal salvation,
and before men nothing but our weakness, the slightest confession of
which is esteemed by them as the greatest disgrace. But our doctrine
must stand, exalted above all the glory, and invincible by all the
power of the world; because it is not ours, but the doctrine of the
living God, and of his Christ, whom the Father hath constituted King,
that he may have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river even to
the ends of the earth, and that he may rule in such a manner, that the
whole earth, with its strength of iron and with its splendour of gold
and silver, smitten by the rod of his mouth, may be broken to pieces
like a potter's vessel;[2] for thus do the prophets foretell the
magnificence of his kingdom.

Our adversaries reply, that our pleading the word of God is a false
pretence, and that we are nefarious corrupters of it. But that this is
not only a malicious calumny, but egregious impudence, by reading our
confession, you will, in your wisdom, be able to judge. Yet something
further is necessary to be said, to excite your attention, or at least
to prepare your mind for this perusal. Paul's direction, that every
prophecy be framed "according to the analogy of faith,"[3] has fixed
an invariable standard by which all interpretation of Scripture ought
to be tried. If our principles be examined by this rule of faith,
the victory is ours. For what is more consistent with faith than to
acknowledge ourselves naked of all virtue, that we may be clothed by
God; empty of all good, that we may be filled by him; slaves to sin,
that we may be liberated by him; blind, that we may be enlightened by
him; lame, that we may be guided; weak, that we may be supported by
him; to divest ourselves of all ground of glorying, that he alone may
be eminently glorious, and that we may glory in him? When we advance
these and similar sentiments, they interrupt us with complaints that
this is the way to overturn, I know not what blind light of nature,
pretended preparations, free will, and works meritorious of eternal
salvation, together with all their supererogations; because they
cannot bear that the praise and glory of all goodness, strength,
righteousness, and wisdom, should remain entirely with God. But we
read of none being reproved for having drawn too freely from the
fountain of living waters; on the contrary, they are severely
upbraided who have "hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can
hold no water."[4] Again, what is more consistent with faith, than
to assure ourselves of God being a propitious Father, where Christ is
acknowledged as a brother and Mediator? than securely to expect all
prosperity and happiness from Him, whose unspeakable love towards us
went so far, that "he spared not his own Son, but delivered him up
for us?"[5] than to rest in the certain expectation of salvation and
eternal life, when we reflect upon the Father's gift of Christ, in
whom such treasures are hidden? Here they oppose us, and complain
that this certainty of confidence is chargeable with arrogance and
presumption. But as we ought to presume nothing of ourselves, so we
should presume every thing of God; nor are we divested of vain glory
for any other reason than that we may learn to glory in the Lord.
What shall I say more? Review, Sire, all the parts of our cause,
and consider us worse than the most abandoned of mankind, unless you
clearly discover that we thus "both labor and suffer reproach, because
we trust in the living God,"[6] because we believe that "this is life
eternal, to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath
sent."[7] For this hope some of us are bound in chains, others are
lashed with scourges, others are carried about as laughing-stocks,
others are outlawed, others are cruelly tortured, others escape by
flight; but we are all reduced to extreme perplexities, execrated
with dreadful curses, cruelly slandered and treated with the greatest
indignities. Now, look at our adversaries, (I speak of the order
of priests, at whose will and directions others carry on these
hostilities against us,) and consider a little with me by what
principles they are actuated. The true religion, which is taught in
the Scriptures, and ought to be universally maintained, they readily
permit both themselves and others to be ignorant of, and to treat with
neglect and contempt. They think it unimportant what any one holds or
denies concerning God and Christ, provided he submits his mind with
an implicit faith (as they call it) to the judgment of the Church.
Nor are they much affected, if the glory of God happens to be violated
with open blasphemies, provided no one lift a finger against the
primacy of the Apostolic See, and the authority of their holy Mother
Church. Why, therefore, do they contend with such extreme bitterness
and cruelty for the mass, purgatory, pilgrimages, and similar trifles,
and deny that any piety can be maintained without a most explicit
faith, so to speak, in these things; whereas they prove none of them
from the word of God? Why, but because their belly is their God, their
kitchen is their religion; deprived of which they consider themselves
no longer as Christians, or even as men. For though some feast
themselves in splendour, and others subsist on slender fare, yet all
live on the same pot, which, without this fuel, would not only cool,
but completely freeze. Every one of them, therefore, who is most
solicitous for his belly, is found to be a most strenuous champion
for their faith. Indeed, they universally exert themselves for the
preservation of their kingdom, and the repletion of their bellies; but
not one of them discovers the least indication of sincere zeal.

Nor do their attacks on our doctrine cease here; they urge every topic
of accusation and abuse to render it an object of hatred or suspicion.
They call it novel, and of recent origin,--they cavil at it as
doubtful and uncertain,--they inquire by what miracles it is
confirmed,--they ask whether it is right for it to be received
contrary to the consent of so many holy fathers, and the custom of the
highest antiquity,--they urge us to confess that it is schismatical
in stirring up opposition against the Church, or that the Church
was wholly extinct for many ages, during which no such thing was
known.--Lastly, they say all arguments are unnecessary; for that its
nature may be determined by its fruits, since it has produced such
a multitude of sects, so many factious tumults, and such great
licentiousness of vices. It is indeed very easy for them to insult a
deserted cause with the credulous and ignorant multitude; but, if we
had also the liberty of speaking in our turn, this acrimony,
which they now discover in violently foaming against us with equal
licentiousness and impunity, would presently cool.

In the first place, their calling it novel is highly injurious to God,
whose holy word deserves not to be accused of novelty. I have no doubt
of its being new to them, to whom Jesus Christ and the Gospel are
equally new. But those who know the antiquity of this preaching of
Paul, "that Jesus Christ died for our sins, and rose again for our
justification,"[8] will find no novelty among us. That it has long
been concealed, buried, and unknown, is the crime of human impiety.
Now that the goodness of God has restored it to us, it ought at least
to be allowed its just claim of antiquity.

From the same source of ignorance springs the notion of its being
doubtful and uncertain. This is the very thing which the Lord
complains of by his prophet; that "the ox knoweth his owner, and
the ass his master's crib,"[9] but that his people know not him. But
however they may laugh at its uncertainty, if they were called to seal
their own doctrine with their blood and lives, it would appear how
much they value it. Very different is our confidence, which dreads
neither the terrors of death, nor even the tribunal of God.

Their requiring miracles of us is altogether unreasonable; for
we forge no new Gospel, but retain the very same whose truth was
confirmed by all the miracles ever wrought by Christ and the apostles.
But they have this peculiar advantage above us, that they can confirm
their faith by continual miracles even to this day. But the truth is,
they allege miracles which are calculated to unsettle a mind otherwise
well established, they are so frivolous and ridiculous, or vain and
false. Nor, if they were ever so preternatural, ought they to have any
weight in opposition to the truth of God, since the name of God ought
to be sanctified in all places and at all times, whether by miraculous
events, or by the common order of nature. This fallacy might
perhaps be more specious, if the Scripture did not apprize us of the
legitimate end and use of miracles. For Mark informs us, that the
miracles which followed the preaching of the apostles were wrought
in confirmation[10] of it, and Luke tells us, that[11] "the Lord gave
testimony to the word of his grace," when "signs and wonders" were
"done by the hands" of the apostles. Very similar to which is the
assertion of the apostle, that "salvation was confirmed" by the
preaching of the Gospel, "God also bearing witness with signs, and
wonders, and divers miracles."[12] But those things which we are told
were seals of the Gospel, shall we pervert to undermine the faith of
the Gospel? Those things which were designed to be testimonials of the
truth, shall we accommodate to the confirmation of falsehood? It
is right, therefore, that the doctrine, which, according to the
evangelist, claims the first attention, be examined and tried in
the first place; and if it be approved, then it ought to derive
confirmation from miracles. But it is the characteristic of sound
doctrine, given by Christ, that it tends to promote, not the glory of
men, but the glory of God.[13] Christ having laid down this proof of
a doctrine, it is wrong to esteem those as miracles which are directed
to any other end than the glorification of the name of God alone. And
we should remember that Satan has his wonders, which, though they
are juggling tricks rather than real miracles, are such as delude the
ignorant and inexperienced. Magicians and enchanters have always
been famous for miracles; idolatry has been supported by astonishing
miracles; and yet we admit them not as proofs of the superstition of
magicians or idolaters. With this engine also the simplicity of
the vulgar was anciently assailed by the Donatists, who abounded in
miracles. We therefore give the same answer now to our adversaries as
Augustine[14] gave to the Donatists, that our Lord hath cautioned us
against these miracle-mongers by his prediction, that there should
arise false prophets, who, by various signs and lying wonders, "should
deceive (if possible) the very elect."[15] And Paul has told us, that
the kingdom of Antichrist would be "with all power, and signs, and
lying wonders."[16] But these miracles (they say) are wrought, not by
idols, or sorcerers, or false prophets, but by saints; as if we were
ignorant, that it is a stratagem of Satan to "transform" himself "into
an angel of light."[17] At the tomb of Jeremiah,[18] who was buried
in Egypt, the Egyptians formerly offered sacrifices and other divine
honours. Was not this abusing God's holy prophet to the purposes of
idolatry? Yet they supposed this veneration of his sepulchre to be
rewarded with a cure for the bite of serpents. What shall we say, but
that it has been, and ever will be, the most righteous vengeance
of God to "send those who receive not the love of the truth strong
delusions, that they should believe a lie?"[19] We are by no means
without miracles, and such as are certain, and not liable to cavils.
But those under which they shelter themselves are mere illusions of
Satan, seducing the people from the true worship of God to vanity.

Another calumny is their charging us with opposition to the
fathers,--I mean the writers of the earlier and purer ages,--as if
those writers were abettors of their impiety; whereas, if the contest
were to be terminated by this authority, the victory in most parts of
the controversy--to speak in the most modest terms--would be on our
side. But though the writings of those fathers contain many wise and
excellent things, yet in some respects they have suffered the common
fate of mankind; these very dutiful children reverence only their
errors and mistakes, but their excellences they either overlook, or
conceal, or corrupt; so that it may truly be said to be their only
study to collect dross from the midst of gold. Then they overwhelm us
with senseless clamours, as despisers and enemies of the fathers. But
we do not hold them in such contempt, but that, if it were consistent
with my present design, I could easily support by their suffrages most
of the sentiments that we now maintain. But while we make use of their
writings, we always remember that "all things are ours," to serve us,
not to have dominion over us, and that "we are Christ's"[20] alone,
and owe him universal obedience. He who neglects this distinction will
have nothing decided in religion; since those holy men were ignorant
of many things, frequently at variance with each other, and sometimes
even inconsistent with themselves. There is great reason, they say,
for the admonition of Solomon, "not to transgress or remove the
ancient landmarks, which our fathers have set."[21] But the same rule
is not applicable to the bounding of fields, and to the obedience
of faith, which ought to be ready to "forget her own people and her
father's house."[22] But if they are so fond of allegorizing, why do
they not explain the apostles, rather than any others, to be those
fathers, whose appointed landmarks it is so unlawful to remove? For
this is the interpretation of Jerome, whose works they have received
into their canons. But if they insist on preserving the landmarks of
those whom they understand to be intended, why do they at pleasure so
freely transgress them themselves? There were two fathers,[23] of whom
one said, that our God neither eats nor drinks, and therefore needs
neither cups nor dishes; the other, that sacred things require
no gold, and that gold is no recommendation of that which Is not
purchased with gold. This landmark therefore is transgressed by those
who in sacred things are so much delighted with gold, silver, ivory,
marble, jewels, and silks, and suppose that God is not rightly
worshipped, unless all things abound in exquisite splendour, or rather
extravagant profusion. There was a father[24] who said he freely
partook of flesh on a day when others abstained from it, because he
was a Christian. They transgress the landmarks therefore when they
curse the soul that tastes flesh in Lent. There were two fathers,[25]
of whom one said, that a monk who labors not with his hands is on a
level with a cheat or a robber; and the other, that it is unlawful
for monks to live on what is not their own, notwithstanding their
assiduity in contemplations, studies, and prayers; and they have
transgressed this landmark by placing the idle and distended carcasses
of monks in cells and brothels, to be pampered on the substance of
others. There was a father[26] who said, that to see a painted image
of Christ, or of any other saint, in the temples of Christians, is
a dreadful abomination. Nor was this merely the sentence of an
individual; it was also decreed by an ecclesiastical council, that
the object of worship should not be painted on the walls. They are far
from confining themselves within these landmarks, for every corner is
filled with images. Another father[27] has advised that, after having
discharged the office of humanity towards the dead by the rites of
sepulture, we should leave them to their repose. They break through
these landmarks by inculcating a constant solicitude for the dead.
There was one of the fathers[28] who asserted that the substance of
bread and wine in the eucharist ceases not, but remains, just as the
substance of the human nature remains in the Lord Christ united with
the divine. They transgress this landmark therefore by pretending
that, on the words of the Lord being recited, the substance of bread
and wine ceases, and is transubstantiated into his body and blood.
There were fathers[29] who, while they exhibited to the universal
Church only one eucharist, and forbade all scandalous and immoral
persons to approach it, at the same time severely censured all who,
when present, did not partake of it. How far have they removed these
landmarks, when they fill not only the churches, but even private
houses, with their masses, admit all who choose to be spectators of
them, and every one the more readily in proportion to the magnitude
of his contribution, however chargeable with impurity and wickedness!
They invite none to faith in Christ and a faithful participation of
the sacraments; but rather for purposes of gain bring forward their
own work instead of the grace and merit of Christ. There were two
fathers,[30] of whom one contended that the use of Christ's sacred
supper should be wholly forbidden to those who, content with
partaking of one kind, abstained from the other; the other strenuously
maintained that Christian people ought not to be refused the blood of
their Lord, for the confession of whom they are required to shed their
own. These landmarks also they have removed, in appointing, by
an inviolable law, that very thing which the former punished
with excommunication, and the latter gave a powerful reason for
disapproving. There was a father[31] who asserted the temerity of
deciding on either side of an obscure subject, without clear and
evident testimonies of Scripture. This landmark they forgot when
they made so many constitutions, canons, and judicial determinations,
without any authority from the word of God. There was a father[32] who
upbraided Montanus with having, among other heresies, been the first
imposer of laws for the observance of fasts. They have gone far beyond
this landmark also, in establishing fasts by the strictest laws. There
was a father[33] who denied that marriage ought to be forbidden to the
ministers of the Church, and pronounced cohabitation with a wife to
be real chastity; and there were fathers who assented to his judgment.
They have transgressed these landmarks by enjoining on their priests
the strictest celibacy. There was a father who thought that attention
should be paid to Christ only, of whom it is said, "Hear ye him," and
that no regard should be had to what others before us have either said
or done, only to what has been commanded by Christ, who is preeminent
over all. This landmark they neither prescribe to themselves, nor
permit to be observed by others, when they set up over themselves
and others any masters rather than Christ. There was a father[34]
who contended that the Church ought not to take precedence of Christ,
because his judgment is always according to truth; but ecclesiastical
judges, like other men, may generally be deceived. Breaking down this
landmark also, they scruple not to assert, that all the authority of
the Scripture depends on the decision of the Church. All the fathers,
with one heart and voice, have declared it execrable and detestable
for the holy word of God to be contaminated with the subtleties of
sophists, and perplexed by the wrangles of logicians. Do they confine
themselves within these landmarks, when the whole business of their
lives is to involve the simplicity of the Scripture in endless
controversies, and worse than sophistical wrangles? so that if the
fathers were now restored to life, and heard this art of wrangling,
which they call speculative divinity, they would not suspect the
dispute to have the least reference to God. But if I would enumerate
all the instances in which the authority of the fathers is insolently
rejected by those who would be thought their dutiful children, my
address would exceed all reasonable bounds. Months and years would be
insufficient for me. And yet such is their consummate and incorrigible
impudence, they dare to censure us for presuming to transgress the
ancient landmarks.

Nor can they gain any advantage against us by their argument from
custom; for, if we were compelled to submit to custom, we should have
to complain of the greatest injustice. Indeed, if the judgments of men
were correct, custom should be sought among the good. But the fact
is often very different. What appears to be practiced by many soon
obtains the force of a custom. And human affairs have scarcely ever
been in so good a state as for the majority to be pleased with things
of real excellence. From the private vices of multitudes, therefore,
has arisen public error, or rather a common agreement of vices, which
these good men would now have to be received as law. It is evident to
all who can see, that the world is inundated with more than an ocean
of evils, that it is overrun with numerous destructive pests, that
every thing is fast verging to ruin, so that we must altogether
despair of human affairs, or vigorously and even violently oppose such
immense evils. And the remedy is rejected for no other reason, but
because we have been accustomed to the evils so long. But let public
error be tolerated in human society; in the kingdom of God nothing but
his eternal truth should he heard and regarded, which no succession of
years, no custom, no confederacy, can circumscribe. Thus Isaiah once
taught the chosen people of God: "Say ye not, A confederacy, to all to
whom this people shall say, A confederacy:" that is, that they should
not unite in the wicked consent of the people; "nor fear their fear,
nor be afraid," but rather "sanctify the Lord of hosts," that he might
"be their fear and their dread."[35] Now, therefore, let them, if
they please, object against us past ages and present examples; if
we "sanctify the Lord of hosts," we shall not be much afraid. For,
whether many ages agree in similar impiety, he is mighty to take
vengeance on the third and fourth generation; or whether the whole
world combine in the same iniquity, he has given an example of the
fatal end of those who sin with a multitude, by destroying all men
with a deluge, and preserving Noah and his small family, in order that
his individual faith might condemn the whole world. Lastly, a corrupt
custom is nothing but an epidemical pestilence, which is equally fatal
to its objects, though they fall with a multitude. Besides, they ought
to consider a remark, somewhere made by Cyprian,[36] that persons who
sin through ignorance, though they cannot be wholly exculpated, may
yet be considered in some degree excusable; but those who obstinately
reject the truth offered by the Divine goodness, are without any
excuse at all.

Nor are we so embarrassed by their dilemma as to be obliged to
confess, either that the Church was for some time extinct, or that
we have now a controversy with the Church. The Church of Christ has
lived, and will continue to live, as long as Christ shall reign at
the right hand of the Father, by whose hand she is sustained, by whose
protection she is defended, by whose power she is preserved in safety.
For he will undoubtedly perform what he once promised, to be with his
people "even to the end of the world."[37] We have no quarrel against
the Church, for with one consent we unite with all the company of the
faithful in worshipping and adoring the one God and Christ the Lord,
as he has been adored by all the pious in all ages. But our opponents
deviate widely from the truth when they acknowledge no Church but what
is visible to the corporeal eye, and endeavour to circumscribe it
by those limits within which it is far from being included. Our
controversy turns on the two following points:--first, they contend
that the form of the Church is always apparent and visible; secondly,
they place that form in the see of the Roman Church and her order of
prelates. We assert, on the contrary, first, that the Church may exist
without any visible form; secondly, that its form is not contained
in that external splendour which they foolishly admire, but is
distinguished by a very different criterion, _viz_, the pure preaching
of God's word, and the legitimate administration of the sacraments.
They are not satisfied unless the Church can always be pointed out
with the finger. But how often among the Jewish people was it so
disorganized, as to have no visible form left? What splendid form
do we suppose could be seen, when Elias deplored his being left
alone?[38] How long, after the coming of Christ, did it remain without
any external form? How often, since that time, have wars, seditions,
and heresies, oppressed and totally obscured it? If they had lived
at that period, would they have believed that any Church existed? Yet
Elias was informed that there were "left seven thousand" who had "not
bowed the knee to Baal." Nor should we entertain any doubt of Christ's
having always reigned on earth ever since his ascension to heaven. But
if the pious at such periods had sought for any form evident to their
senses, must not their hearts have been quite discouraged? Indeed it
was already considered by Hilary in his day as a grievous error, that
people were absorbed in foolish admiration of the episcopal dignity,
and did not perceive the dreadful mischiefs concealed under
that disguise. For this is his language:[39] "One thing I advise
you--beware of Antichrist, for you have an improper attachment to
walls; your veneration for the Church of God is misplaced on houses
and buildings; you wrongly introduce under them the name of peace.
Is there any doubt that they will be seats of Antichrist? I think
mountains, woods, and lakes, prisons and whirlpools, less dangerous;
for these were the scenes of retirement or banishment in which the
prophets prophesied." But what excites the veneration of the multitude
in the present day for their horned bishops, but the supposition that
those are the holy prelates of religion whom they see presiding over
great cities? Away, then, with such stupid admiration. Let us rather
leave it to the Lord, since he alone "knoweth them that are his,"[40]
sometimes to remove from human observation all external knowledge
of his Church. I admit this to be a dreadful judgment of God on the
earth; but if it be deserved by the impiety of men, why do we attempt
to resist the righteous vengeance of God? Thus the Lord punished
the ingratitude of men in former ages; for, in consequence of their
resistance to his truth, and extinction of the light he had given
them, he permitted them to be blinded by sense, deluded by absurd
falsehoods, and immerged in profound darkness, so that there was no
appearance of the true Church left; yet, at the same time, in the
midst of darkness and errors, he preserved his scattered and concealed
people from total destruction. Nor is this to be wondered at; for he
knew how to save in all the confusion of Babylon, and the flame of
the fiery furnace. But how dangerous it is to estimate the form of the
Church by I know not what vain pomp, which they contend for; I shall
rather briefly suggest than state at large, lest I should protract
this discourse to an excessive length. The Pope, they say, who holds
the Apostolic see, and the bishops anointed and consecrated by him,
provided they are equipped with mitres and crosiers, represent the
Church, and ought to be considered as the Church. Therefore they
cannot err. How is this?--Because they are pastors of the Church, and
consecrated to the Lord. And did not the pastoral character belong to
Aaron, and the other rulers of Israel? Yet Aaron and his sons, after
their designation to the priesthood, fell into error when they made
the golden calf.[41] According to this mode of reasoning, why should
not the four hundred prophets, who lied to Ahab, have represented the
Church?[42] But the Church remained on the side of Micaiah, solitary
and despised as he was, and out of his mouth proceeded the truth. Did
not those prophets exhibit both the name and appearance of the Church,
who with united violence rose up against Jeremiah, and threatened and
boasted, "the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from
the wise, nor the word from the prophet?"[48] Jeremiah is sent singly
against the whole multitude of prophets, with a denunciation from the
Lord, that the "law shall perish from the priest, counsel from the
wise, and the word from the prophet."[44] And was there not the like
external respectability in the council convened by the chief priests,
scribes, and Pharisees, to consult about putting Christ to death?[45]
Now, let them go and adhere to the external appearance, and thereby
make Christ and all the prophets schismatics, and, on the other hand,
make the ministers of Satan instruments of the Holy Spirit. But if
they speak their real sentiments, let them answer me sincerely, what
nation or place they consider as the seat of the Church, from the time
when, by a decree of the council of Basil, Eugenius was deposed and
degraded from the pontificate, and Amadeus substituted in his place.
They cannot deny that the council, as far as relates to external
forms, was a lawful one, and summoned not only by one pope, but by
two. There Eugenius was pronounced guilty of schism, rebellion, and
obstinacy, together with all the host of cardinals and bishops who had
joined him in attempting a dissolution of the council. Yet afterwards,
assisted by the favour of princes, he regained the quiet possession of
his former dignity. That election of Amadeus, though formally made by
the authority of a general and holy synod, vanished into smoke; and he
was appeased with a cardinal's hat, like a barking dog with a morsel.
From the bosom of those heretics and rebels have proceeded all the
popes, cardinals, bishops, abbots, and priests ever since. Here they
must stop. For to which party will they give the title of the Church?
Will they deny that this was a general council, which wanted nothing
to complete its external majesty, being solemnly convened by two papal
bulls, consecrated by a presiding legate of the Roman see, and well
regulated in every point of order, and invariably preserving the
same dignity to the last? Will they acknowledge Eugenius to be
a schismatic, with all his adherents, by whom they have all been
consecrated? Either, therefore, let them give a different definition
of the form of the Church, or, whatever be their number, we shall
account them all schismatics, as having been knowingly and voluntarily
ordained by heretics. But if it had never been ascertained before,
that the Church is not confined to external pomps they would
themselves afford us abundant proof of it, who have so long
superciliously exhibited themselves to the world under the title of
the Church, though they were at the same time the deadly plagues of
it. I speak not of their morals, and those tragical exploits with
which all their lives abound, since they profess themselves to be
Pharisees, who are to be heard and not imitated. I refer to the very
doctrine itself, on which they found their claim to be considered
as the Church. If you devote a portion of your leisure, Sire, to the
perusal of our writings, you will clearly discover that doctrine to be
a fatal pestilence of souls, the firebrand, ruin, and destruction of
the Church.

Finally, they betray great want of candour, by invidiously repeating
what great commotions, tumults, and contentions, have attended the
preaching of our doctrine, and what effects it produces in many
persons. For it is unfair to charge it with those evils which ought to
be attributed to the malice of Satan. It is the native property of the
Divine word, never to make its appearance without disturbing Satan,
and rousing his opposition. This is a most certain and unequivocal
criterion by which it is distinguished from false doctrines, which
are easily broached when they are heard with general attention, and
received with applauses by the world. Thus, in some ages, when all
things were immerged in profound darkness, the prince of this world
amused and diverted himself with the generality of mankind, and, like
another Sardanapalus, gave himself up to his ease and pleasures in
perfect peace; for what would he do but amuse and divert himself,
in the quiet and undisturbed possession of his kingdom? But when the
light shining from above dissipated a portion of his darkness--when
that Mighty One alarmed and assaulted his kingdom--then he began
to shake off his wonted torpor, and to hurry on his armour. First,
indeed, he stirred up the power of men to suppress the truth by
violence at its first appearance; and when this proved ineffectual, he
had recourse to subtlety. He made the Catabaptists, and other infamous
characters, the instruments of exciting dissensions and doctrinal
controversies, with a view to obscure and finally to extinguish it.
And now he continues to attack it both ways; for he endeavours to root
up this genuine seed by means of human force, and at the same time
tries every effort to choke it with his tares, that it may not grow
and produce fruit. But all his attempts will be vain, if we attend to
the admonitions of the Lord, who hath long ago made us acquainted
with his devices, that we might not be caught by him unawares, and has
armed us with sufficient means of defence against all his assaults.
But to charge the word of God with the odium of seditions, excited
against it by wicked and rebellious men, or of sects raised by
imposters,--is not this extreme malignity? Yet it is not without
example in former times. Elias was asked whether it was not he "that
troubled Israel."[46] Christ was represented by the Jews as guilty
of sedition.[47] The apostles were accused of stirring up popular
commotions.[48] Wherein does this differ from the conduct of those
who, at the present day, impute to us all the disturbances, tumults,
and contentions, that break out against us? But the proper answer to
such accusations has been taught us by Elias, that the dissemination
of errors and the raising of tumults is not chargeable on us, but on
those who are resisting the power of God. But as this one reply is
sufficient to repress their temerity, so, on the other hand, we must
meet the weakness of some persons, who are frequently disturbed with
such offences, and become unsettled and wavering in their minds.
Now, that they may not stumble and fall amidst this agitation and
perplexity, let them know that the apostles in their day experienced
the same things that now befall us. There were "unlearned and
unstable" men, Peter says, who "wrested" the inspired writings of Paul
"to their own destruction."[49] There were despisers of God, who,
when they heard that "where sin abounded grace did much more abound,"
immediately concluded, Let us "continue in sin, that grace may
abound." When they heard that the faithful were "not under the law,"
they immediately croaked, "We will sin, because we are not under
the law, but under grace."[50] There were some who accused him as
an encourager of sin. Many false apostles crept in, to destroy the
churches he had raised. "Some preached" the gospel "of envy and
strife, not in sincerity," maliciously "supposing to add affliction
to his bonds."[51] In some places the Gospel was attended with
little benefit. "All were seeking their own, not the things of Jesus
Christ."[52] Others returned "like dogs to their vomit, and like swine
to their wallowing in the mire."[53] Many perverted the liberty of
the spirit into the licentiousness of the flesh. Many insinuated
themselves as brethren, who afterwards brought the pious into dangers.
Various contentions were excited among the brethren themselves. What
was to be done by the apostles in such circumstances? Should they not
have dissembled for a time, or rather have rejected and deserted that
Gospel which appeared to be the nursery of so many disputes, the cause
of so many dangers, the occasion of so many offences? But in such
difficulties as these, their minds were relieved by this reflection
that Christ is the "stone of stumbling and rock of offence,"[54] "set
for the fall and rising again of many, and for a sign which shall be
spoken against;"[55] and armed with this confidence, they proceeded
boldly through all the dangers of tumults and offences. The same
consideration should support us, since Paul declares it to be the
perpetual character of the Gospel, that it is a "savour of death unto
death in them that perish,"[56] although it was rather given us to
be the "savour of life unto life," and "the power of God to" the
"salvation" of the faithful;[57] which we also should certainly
experience it to be, if we did not corrupt this eminent gift of God
by our ingratitude, and prevert to our destruction what ought to be a
principal instrument of our salvation.

But I return to you, Sire. Let not your Majesty be at all moved by
those groundless accusations with which our adversaries endeavour
to terrify you; as that the sole tendency and design of this new
Gospel--for so they call it--is to furnish a pretext for seditions,
and to gain impunity for all crimes. "For God is not the author of
confusion, but of peace;"[58] nor is "the Son of God," who came to
"destroy the works of the devil, the minister of sin."[59] And it is
unjust to charge us with such motives and designs, of which we have
never given cause for the least suspicion. Is it probable that we are
meditating the subversion of kingdoms?--we, who were never heard to
utter a factious word, whose lives were ever known to be peaceable and
honest while We lived under your government, and who, even now in our
exile, cease not to pray for all prosperity to attend yourself and
your kingdom! Is it probable that we are seeking an unlimited license
to commit crimes with impunity? in whose conduct, though many things
may be blamed, yet there is nothing worthy of such severe reproach!
Nor have we, by Divine Grace, profited so little in the Gospel,
but that our life may be an example to our detractors of chastity,
liberality, mercy, temperance, patience, modesty, and every other
virtue. It is an undeniable fact, that we sincerely fear and worship
God, whose name we desire to be sanctified both by our life and by
our death; and envy itself is constrained to bear testimony to the
innocence and civil integrity of some of us, who have suffered the
punishment of death for that very thing which ought to be accounted
their highest praise. But if the Gospel be made a pretext for tumults,
which has not yet happened in your kingdom; if any persons make the
liberty of divine grace an excuse for the licentiousness of their
vices, of whom I have known many,--there are laws and legal penalties,
by which they may be punished according to their deserts; only let not
the Gospel of God be reproached for the crimes of wicked men. You have
now, Sire, the virulent iniquity of our calumniators laid before you
in a sufficient number of instances, that you may not receive their
accusations with too credulous an ear.--I fear I have gone too much
into the detail, as this preface already approaches the size of a full
apology; whereas I intended it not to contain our defence, but only to
prepare your mind to attend to the pleading of our cause; for, though
you are now averse and alienated from us, and even inflamed against
us, we despair not of regaining your favour, if you will only once
read with calmness and composure this our confession, which we intend
as our defence before your Majesty. But, on the contrary, if your ears
are so preoccupied with the whispers of the malevolent, as to leave
no opportunity for the accused to speak for themselves, and if those
outrageous furies, with your connivance, continue to persecute with
imprisonments, scourges, tortures, confiscations, and flames, we
shall indeed, like sheep destined to the slaughter, be reduced to the
greatest extremities. Yet shall we in patience possess our souls, and
wait for the mighty hand of the Lord, which undoubtedly will in time
appear, and show itself armed for the deliverance of the poor from
their affliction, and for the punishment of their despisers, who
now exult in such perfect security. May the Lord, the King of kings,
establish your throne with righteousness, and your kingdom with
equity. _Basil, 1st August, 1536._

[Footnote A: John Calvin was born at Noyon, Picardy, France, in 1509,
and died at Geneva in 1564. He joined the Reformation about 1528,
and, having been banished from Paris, took refuge in Switzerland.
The "Institutes," published at Basle in 1536, contain a comprehensive
statement of the beliefs of that school of Protestant theology which
bears Calvin's name; and in this "Dedication" we have Calvin's own
summing up of the essentials of his creed.]

[Footnote 1: Prov. xxix. 18.]

[Footnote 2: Daniel ii. 34. Isaiah xi. 4. Psalm ii. 9.]

[Footnote 3 Rom. xii. 6.]

[Footnote 4: Jer. ii. 13.]

[Footnote 5: Rom. viii. 32.]

[Footnote 6: I Tim. iv. 10.]

[Footnote 7: John xvii, 3.]

[Footnote 8: Rom, iv. 25. I Cor. xv. 3, 17.]

[Footnote 9: Isaiah i. 3.]

[Footnote 10: Mark xvi. 20.]

[Footnote 11: Acts xiv. 3.]

[Footnote 12: Heb. ii. 3-4.]

[Footnote 13: John vii. 18, viii. 50.]

[Footnote 14: In Joan, tract. 13.]

[Footnote 15: Matt. xxiv. 24.]

[Footnote 16: 2 Thess. ii. 9.]

[Footnote 17: 2 Cor. xi. 14.]

[Footnote 18: Hierom. in praef. Jerem.]

[Footnote 19: 2 Thess. ii. 10, 11.]

[Footnote 20: i Cor. iii. 21, 23]

[Footnote 21: Prov xxii. 28.]

[Footnote 22: Psalm xlv. 10.]

[Footnote 23: Acat. in lib. II, cap. 16. Trip. Hist. Amb. lib. 2, de
Off. c. 28.]

[Footnote 24: Spiridion. Trip. Hist. lib. 1, c. 10.]

[Footnote 25: Trip. Hist. lib. 8, c. 1. August. de Opere Mon. c. 17.]

[Footnote 26: Epiph. Epist. ab Hier. vers. Con. Eliber. c. 36.]

[Footnote 27: Amb de Abra. lib 1, c. 7.]

[Footnote 28: Gelas. Pap in Conc. Rom.]

[Footnote 29: Chrys. in 1 Cap. Ephes. Calix. Papa de Cons. dist. 2.]

[Footnote 30: Gelas. can. Comperimus de Cons. dist. 2. Cypr. Epist. 2,
lib. 1, de Laps.]

[Footnote 31: August. lib. 2, de Pec. Mer. cap. ult.]

[Footnote 32: Apollon de quo Eccl. Hist. lib. 5, cap. 11, 12.]

[Footnote 33: Paphnut. Trip. Hist. lib. 2, c. 14. Cypr. Epist. 2, lib.

[Footnote 34: Aug. cap. 2, contr. Cresc. Grammatic.]

[Footnote 35: Isaiah viii. 12, 13.]

[Footnote 36: Epist. 3, lib. 2, et in Epist. ad. Julian, de Haeret.

[Footnote 37: Matt, xxvlii. 20.]

[Footnote 38: i Kings xix. 14, 18.]

[Footnote 39: Contr. Auxent.]

[Footnote 40: 2 Tim. ii. 19.]

[Footnote 41: Exod. xxxii. 4.]

[Footnote 42: i Kings xxii. 6, 11-23.]

[Footnote 43: Jer. xviii. 18.]

[Footnote 44: Jer. iv. 9.]

[Footnote 45: Matt. xxvi. 3, 4.]

[Footnote 46: 1 Kings xviii. 17.]

[Footnote 47: Luke xxiii. 2, 5.]

[Footnote 48: Acts xvii. 6, xxiv. 5.]

[Footnote 49: 2 Pet. iii. 16.]

[Footnote 50: Rom. v. 20, vi. 1, 14, 15.]

[Footnote 51: Phil. i. 15, 16.]

[Footnote 52: Phil. ii. 21.]

[Footnote 53: 2 Pet. ii. 22.]

[Footnote 54: 1 Pet. ii. 8.]

[Footnote 55: Luke ii. 34.]

[Footnote 56: 2 Cor. ii. 15, 16.]

[Footnote 57: Rom. i. 16.]

[Footnote 58: 1 Cor. xiv. 33.]

[Footnote 59: 1 John iii. 8. Gal. ii. 17.]


The design of the Author in these Christian Institutes is twofold,
relating, First to the knowledge of God, as the way to attain a
blessed immortality; and, in connection with and subservience to this,
Secondly, to the knowledge of ourselves.

In the prosecution of this design, he strictly follows the method of
the Apostles' Creed, as being most familiar to all Christians. For
as the Creed consists of four parts, the first relating to God the
Father, the second to the Son, the third to the Holy Spirit, the
fourth to the Church; so the Author distributes the whole of this work
into Four Books, corresponding respectively to the four parts of the
Creed; as will clearly appear from the following detail:--

I. The first article of the Creed relates to God the Father, and to
the creation, conservation, and government of all things, which are
included in his omnipotence.

So the first book is on the knowledge of God, considered as the
Creator, Preserver, and Governor of the universe at large, and every
thing contained in it. It shows both the nature and tendency of
the true knowledge of the Creator--that this is not learned in the
schools, but that every man from his birth is self-taught it--Yet that
the depravity of men is so great as to corrupt and extinguish this
knowledge, partly by ignorance, partly by wickedness; so that it
neither leads him to glorify God as he ought, nor conducts him to
the attainment of happiness--And though this internal knowledge is
assisted by all the creatures around, which serve as a mirror to
display the Divine perfections, yet that man does not profit by
it--Therefore, that to those, whom it is God's will to bring to an
intimate and saving knowledge of himself, he gives his written word;
which introduces observations on the sacred Scripture--That he has
therein revealed himself; that not the Father only, but the Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit, united, is the Creator of heaven and earth; whom
neither the knowledge innate by nature, nor the very beautiful mirror
displayed to us in the world, can, in consequence of our depravity,
teach us to know so as to glorify him. This gives occasion for
treating of the revelation of God in the Scripture, of the unity of
the Divine Essence, and the trinity of Persons.--To prevent man from
attributing to God the blame of his own voluntary blindness, the
Author shows the state of man at his creation, and treats of the
image of God, freewill, and the primative integrity of nature.--Having
finished the subject of creation, he proceeds to the conservation
and government of all things, concluding the first book with a full
discussion of the doctrine of divine providence.

II. But since man is fallen by sin from the state in which he was
created, it is necessary to come to Christ. Therefore it follows in
the Creed, "And in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord," &c.

So in the second book of the Institutes our Author treats of the
knowledge of God as the Redeemer in Christ; and having shown the fall
of man, leads him to Christ the Mediator. Here he states the doctrine
of original sin--that man possesses no inherent strength to enable him
to deliver himself from sin and the impending curse, but that, on the
contrary, nothing can proceed from him, antecedently to reconciliation
and renovation, but what is deserving of condemnation--Therefore,
that, man being utterly lost in himself, and incapable of conceiving
even a good thought by which he may restore himself, or perform
actions acceptable to God, he must seek redemption out of himself, in
Christ--That the Law was given for this purpose, not to confine
its observers to itself, but to conduct them to Christ; which gives
occasion to introduce an exposition of the Moral Law--That he was
known, as the Author of salvation, to the Jews under the Law, but more
fully under the Gospel, in which he is manifested to the world.--Hence
follows the doctrine of the similarity and difference of the Old and
New Testament, of the Law and Gospel.--It is next stated, that, in
order to the complete accomplishment of salvation, it was necessary
for the eternal Son of God to become man, and that he actually
assumed a real human nature:--it is also shown how these two natures
constitute one person--That the office of Christ, appointed for the
acquisition and application of complete salvation by his merit and
efficacy, is sacerdotal, regal, and prophetical--Next follows the
manner in which Christ executed his office, or actually performed the
part of a Mediator, being an exposition of the Articles respecting
his death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven.--Lastly, the Author
shows the truth and propriety of affirming that Christ merited the
grace of God and salvation for us.

III. As long as Christ is separate from us, he profits us nothing.
Hence the necessity of our being ingrafted into him, as branches into
a vine. Therefore the doctrine concerning Christ is followed, in
the third part of the Creed, by this clause, "I believe in the Holy
Spirit," as being the bond of union between us and Christ.

So in the third book our Author treats of the Holy Spirit, who unites
us to Christ--and consequently of faith, by which we embrace Christ,
with his twofold benefit, free righteousness, which he imputes to
us, and regeneration, which he commences within us, by bestowing
repentance upon us.--And to show that we have not the least room to
glory in such faith as is unconnected with the pursuit of repentance,
before proceeding to the full discussion of justification, he treats
at large of repentance and the continual exercise of it, which Christ,
apprehended by faith, produces in us by his Spirit--He next fully
discusses the first and chief benefit of Christ when united to us by
the Holy Spirit that is, justification--and then treats of prayer,
which resembles the hand that actually receives those blessings to be
enjoyed, which faith knows, from the word of promise, to be laid up
with God for our use.--But as all men are not united to Christ,
the sole Author of salvation, by the Holy Spirit, who creates and
preserves faith in us, he treats of God's eternal election; which is
the cause that we, in whom he foresaw no good but what he intended
freely to bestow, have been favored with the gift of Christ, and
united to God by the effectual call of the Gospel.--Lastly, he treats
of complete regeneration, and the fruition of happiness; that is, the
final resurrection, towards which our eyes must be directed, since in
this world the felicity of the pious, in respect of enjoyment, is only

IV. But as the Holy Spirit does not unite all men to Christ, or make
them partakers of faith, and on those to whom he imparts it he does
not ordinarily bestow it without means, but employs for this purpose
the preaching of the Gospel and the use of the sacraments, with the
administration of all discipline, therefore it follows in the Creed,
"I believe in the Holy Catholic Church," whom, although involved in
eternal death, yet, in pursuance of the gratuitous election, God has
freely reconciled to himself in Christ, and made partakers of the Holy
Spirit, that, being ingrafted into Christ, they may have communion
with him as their head, whence flows a perpetual remission of sins,
and a full restoration to eternal life.

So in the fourth book our Author treats of the Church--then of the
means used by the Holy Spirit in effectually calling from spiritual
death, and preserving the church--the word and sacraments--baptism
and the Lord's supper--which are as it were Christ's regal sceptre, by
which he commences his spiritual reign in the Church by the energy of
his Spirit, and carries it forwards from day to day during the present
life, after the close of which he perfects it without those means.

And as political institutions are the asylums of the Church in this
life, though civil government is distinct from the spiritual kingdom
of Christ, our Author instructs us respecting it as a signal blessing
of God, which the Church ought to acknowledge with gratitude of
heart, till we are called out of this transitory state to the heavenly
inheritance, where God will be all in all.

This is the plan of the Institutes, which may be comprised in the
following brief summary:--

Man, created originally upright, being afterwards ruined, not
partially, but totally, finds salvation out of himself, wholly in
Christ; to whom being united by the Holy Spirit, freely bestowed,
without any regard of future works, he enjoys in him a twofold
benefit, the perfect imputation of righteousness, which attends him
to the grave, and the commencement of sanctification, which he daily


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