(Calvin on Hosea, part [prefactory b])

John Calvin to the Christian Reader, health. 
    Since I can truly and justly say, and prove by competent 
witnesses, that the writings, which I have hitherto sent forth to 
the public, and which might have been finished with more care and 
attention, have been almost extorted from me by importunity, it is 
evident that these Annotations, which I thought might bear a 
hearing, but were unworthy of being read, would have never through 
me been brought forth to the light. For if, by many watchings, I can 
hardly succeed in rendering even a small benefit to the Church by my 
meditations, how foolish were it in me to claim a place for my 
sermons among the works which are published? Besides, if, with 
regard to those compositions which I write or dictate privately at 
home, when there is more leisure for meditation, and when a finished 
brevity is attained by care and diligence, my industry is yet made a 
crime by the malignant and the envious, how can I escape the charge 
of presumption, if I now force upon the whole world the reading of 
those thoughts which I freely poured forth for the present 
edification of my hearers? But since to suppress them was not in my 
power, and their publication could not be otherwise prevented by me 
than by undertaking the labour (which my circumstances allowed not) 
of writing the whole anew, and many friends, thinking me to be too 
scrupulous a judge of my own labours, cried out, that I was doing an 
injury to the Church, I chose to allow this volume, as it is, taken 
from my lips, to go forth to the public, rather than by prohibition 
to impose on myself the necessity of writing; which I was forced to 
do as to The Psalms, before I found out, by that long and difficult 
work, how unequal I am to so much writing. 
    Let, then, these explanations on Hosea go forth, which it is 
not in my power to keep from the public. But how they have been 
taken down, it is needful to declare, not only that the diligence, 
industry, and skill of those who have performed this labour for the 
Church, may not be deprived of their commendation, but also that 
readers may be fully persuaded, that there are here no additions, 
and that the writers did not allow themselves to change a single 
word for a better one. How they assisted one another, one of their 
number, my best friend, and through his virtues, dear to all good 
men, Mr John Budaeus, will, as I expect, more fully explain. 
    But it would have been incredible to me, had I not clearly 
seen, when the day after they read the whole to me, that what they 
had written differed nothing from my discourse. It would have 
perhaps been better had more liberty been taken to cut off 
redundancies, to bring the arrangement into better order, and to 
use, in some instances, more distinct or graceful language: but I do 
not interpose my judgement; this only I wish to witness with my own 
hand, that they have taken down what they have heard from my lips 
with so much fidelity, that I perceive no change. Farewell, 
Christian reader, whoever thou be, who desires with me to make 
progress in celestial truth. 
    Geneva, February 13, 1557. 
John Budaeus, to Christian Readers, health. 
    When some years ago the most learned John Calvin, at the 
request and entreaty of his friends, undertook to explain in the 
school The Psalms of David, some of us, his hearers, took notes from 
the beginning of a few things in our own way, for our own private 
meditation, according to our own judgement and discretion. But being 
at length admonished by our own experience, we began to think how 
great a loss would it be to many, and almost to the whole Church, 
that the benefit of such Lectures should be confined to a few 
hearers. Having therefore gathered courage, we fully thought that it 
was our duty to unite a care and concern for the public with our own 
private benefits and this seemed possible, if, instead of following 
our usual practice, we tried, as far as we could, to take down the 
Lectures word for word. Without delay I joined myself as the third 
to two zealous brethren in this undertaking; and it so happened, 
through God's kindness that a happy issue was not wholly wanting to 
our attempt: for when the labours of each of us were compared 
together, and the Lectures were immediately written out, we found 
that so few things had escaped us, that the gaps could easily be 
made up. And that this was the case as to the work in which was made 
the first trial of our capacities, Calvin himself is a witness to 
us; and that this has been far more fully the case with respect to 
the Lectures on Hosea, (as by long use and exercise we became more 
skilful,) even all the hearers will readily acknowledge. 
    But the design on this occasion was to induce him, if possible, 
to publish complete Commentaries on this Author; but it then 
happened to us otherwise than we expected: for all hope of obtaining 
this object he cut off from us from reverence to Bucer, who, in this 
case, as well as in all other things, had performed most faithful 
and most useful services, as the whole Church acknowledges, and as 
Calvin in particular has at all times most honourably declared to us 
and to all. It therefore remained that the Lectures, as taken down 
by us, should be published. And as all the most pious promised to 
themselves great benefit from our labour, we daily increased our 
exertions, that such a hope might not pass away into smoke. Being 
therefore stirred on by these desires, as well, doubtless, as by the 
prospect of benefiting the godly, we exerted ourselves so much, that 
all readily allowed that we exercised nothing short of the greatest 
diligence. The more wonderful it may seem, that he was afterwards 
induced to change his mind, so as to frustrate our hope and that of 
many of the godly; and that, on the other hand, he was constrained, 
however anxious to perform a most useful service to the Church, to 
incur the great envy and implacable hatred of many. But those who 
plead only the authority of Bucer in this affair are moved, I 
willingly acknowledge, by a reason not altogether unjust; yet they 
will seem to me too stiff and unbending, if they will not suffer 
themselves to be influenced by sufficient excuses, which I hope will 
be the case before long. But as to those who are carried away by the 
insane love of evil-speaking, and avail themselves of the least 
opportunity of strife, as they ought to be disregarded and detested 
as monsters by all the godly, so it is not needful to labour much to 
satisfy them, for the barking of dogs, provided it hurt not the 
Church, may without great danger be passed by and despised. 
    We have, indeed, prefaced these things for the sake of those 
who have very often solicited us respecting the Lectures on the 
Psalms, that they may not think themselves to have been deceived by 
us with a vain expectation; for, let them know, that they shall 
sometimes have, through God's favour, correct and complete 
Commentaries on The Book of Psalms. But if this long desire does 
much distress them, let them remember that we also no less anxiously 
look for that great treasure. But it is right that we both should 
pardon a man who has constant and most burdensome occupations, and 
somewhat moderate our too prurient and premature wishes: and to 
indulge him seems right even on this one account, that he, the least 
of all, indulges himself, never taking any rest or relaxation of 
mind from his vast labours, so that it is a matter of doubt to none 
but that he drags a little body, not only through the divine 
kindness, but by a singular miracle, which cannot be told to 
posterity, - a body, by nature weak, violently attacked by frequent 
diseases, and then exhausted by immense labours; and, lastly, 
pierced by the unceasing stings of the ungodly, and on all sides 
distressed and tormented by all kinds of reproaches. 
    But as this is not the place for making complaints, I now come 
to you, Christian Readers, to whom it is our purpose to dedicate 
this work, The Lectures on the Prophet Hosea; and we dedicate it, 
not that we claim any thing as our owns except the diligence we 
employed in collecting it: but we hesitate not to make it, as it 
were, our own, for it would have never come to you except through 
our assistance. For though we judged the work altogether excellent 
which is now offered to the Church, yet we could hardly at last 
convince the author of this; and he suffered himself to be overcome 
by our importunate entreaties only on this condition, that we were 
to be accountable for whatever judgement good men might form of the 
work: so unfit a judge he is of his own productions. But we, though 
he may modestly extenuate them more than what is right, yet dare to 
promise to ourselves, that not only the author's labour will be duly 
appreciated by you, but that we shall also secure to ourselves no 
common favour. 
    These Lectures, we trust, will not be less acceptable to you, 
because the author, regarding the benefit of the school, (as it was 
right,) in some degree departed from the usual elegance of all his 
other works, and from embellishment of style. For, being oppressed 
with a vast quantity of business, he was constrained to leave home, 
after having had hardly, for the most part, half an hour to meditate 
on these Lectures: he preferred to advance the edification and 
benefit of his hearers by eliciting the true sense and making it 
plain, rather than by vain pomp of words to delight their ears or to 
regard ostentation and his own glory. I would not, at the same time, 
deny but that these Lectures were delivered more in the scholastic 
than in the oratorical style. If, however, this simple, though not 
rude, mode of speaking should offend any one, let him have recourse 
to the works of others, or of this author himself, especially those 
in which, being freed from the laws of the school, he appears no 
less the orator than the illustrious theologian: and this we declare 
without hesitation, and with no less modesty than with the full 
consent and approbation of the best and the most learned. 
    We do not indeed thus speak as if we would, by a censorious 
superciliousness, claim for him alone the glory of an orator, or 
would not, by calling him a theologian, acknowledge many others as 
celebrated men. Far from us be such a folly. But an occasion such as 
this being offered of testifying our mind, we could hardly, even in 
any other way, excuse our neglect to the godly, to whom it is well 
known, that our silence concerning Calvin has not hitherto well 
pleased turbulent men; who are more willing to have their vanity 
expressly reprobated by us, than to suffer us by a tacit consent and 
modest silence either to approve of his doctrine, and to acknowledge 
in him an evidence, the most clear, of God's kindness towards us, or 
to cover by a fraternal dissimulation their madness; and thus each 
of us would have to mourn by himself in silence. 
    But, as I have said, the language here is unadorned and simple, 
very like that which we know was ever wont to be used formerly in 
Lectures: not such as many of whom we have heard employ, who repeat 
to their hearers from a written paper what had been previously 
prepared at home; but such as could be formed and framed at the 
time, more adapted to teach and edify than to please the ear. 
Except, then, we are greatly mistaken, he so expresses almost to the 
life the mind of the Prophet, that no addition seems possible. For, 
after having carefully examined every sentence, he then briefly 
shows the use and application of the doctrine, so that no one, 
however ignorant, can mistake the meaning: in short, he so unfolds 
and opens the subjects and fountains of true theology, that it is 
easy for any one to draw from them what is needful to restore and 
refresh the soul; yea, the ministers of the word may hence 
advantageously derive ample streams, with which, as by a celestial 
dew, they may abundantly refresh the people of God, whether by 
exhortation, or consolation, or reproof, or edification. And of 
these things we clearly see some instances and examples in all his 
discourses, especially in those in which he so accommodates the 
doctrine of the Prophets to our own times, that it seems to suit 
their age no better than ours. 
    But that we may at length make an end, it remains, Christian 
Readers, that we receive and embrace with suitable gratitude all the 
other innumerable gifts of God which he daily pours on us in great 
abundance, as well as this incomparable treasure of his goodness, 
and employ them for the purpose of leading a holy and godly life to 
the glory of his name, and to the edification of our brethren: and 
that this may be done, we must pray for the Spirit of God, that we 
may come to the reading of Scripture instructed by him, and bring a 
mind purified from the defilements of the flesh, and a meek spirit 
capable of receiving celestial truth. And for this end much help may 
be given us by the short prayers which we have taken care to add at 
the close of every Lecture, as gathered by us with the same care and 
fidelity as the Lectures were: the minds of the pious may by these 
be refreshed, and may collect new vigour for the next Lecture; and 
the ignorant may also have in these a pattern, as it were, painted 
before them, by which they may form their prayers from the words of 
Scripture. For as at the beginning of the Lectures he ever used the 
same form of prayer, which we intend also to add, that his manner of 
teaching may be fully known to you; so he was wont ever to finish 
every Lecture by a new prayer formed at the time, as given him by 
the Spirit of God, and accommodated to the subject of the Lecture. 
    If we shall understand that these Commentaries will be 
acceptable to you, though the work is the fruit of another s labour, 
we shall yet engage, God favouring us, to do the same as to the 
remaining Prophets. When he shall undertake to lecture on them, it 
is our purpose to follow him with no less diligence, and take down 
what remains to the end. In the meantime, enjoy these. Farewell. 
    Geneva, February 14, 1557. 
John Crispin to Christian Readers, health. 
    As it may seem wonderful to some, and indeed incredible, that 
these Lectures were taken down with such fidelity and care, that Mr 
John Calvin uttered not a word in delivering them, which was not 
immediately written down; it may be needful here shortly to remind 
pious readers of the plan they pursued who have transmitted them to 
us. And this is done, that their singular diligence and industry may 
stimulate others to do the same, and that the thing itself may not 
appear incredible. 
    And, first, it must be remembered, that Calvin himself never 
dictated, as many do, any of his Lectures, nor gave any orders that 
any thing should be noted down while he was interpreting Scripture, 
much less after finishing the Lecture, or on the day after its 
delivery; but he occupied a whole hour in speaking, and was not wont 
to write in his book a single word to assist his memory. When, 
therefore, some years ago, Mr John Budaeus and Charles Jonvill, with 
two other brethren, (whom Budaeus himself mentions in his preface, 
and that so it was many know,) found, in writing out The Exposition 
on the Psalms, that their common labour would not be wholly in vain, 
they were impelled by a stronger desire and alacrity of minds so 
that they resolved to take down, with more diligence than before, if 
possible, the whole exposition on what are called The Twelve Minor 
Prophets. And, in copying, they followed this plan. Each had his 
paper prepared in a form the most convenient, and each took down by 
himself with the greatest speed. If a word had escaped one, (which 
sometimes happened, particularly on points of dispute and in those 
parts which were delivered with some warmth,) it was taken up by 
another; and when it so happened, it was easily set down again by 
the writer. Immediately at the close of the Lecture, Jonvill took 
with him the papers of the other two, placing them before him, and 
consulting his own, and collating them together, he dictated to some 
other person for the purpose of copying what they had hastily taken 
down. At last he read the whole over himself, that he might be able 
to recite it the following day before Mr Calvin at home. When 
sometimes any little word was wanting, it was added in its place; 
or, if any thing seemed not sufficiently explained, it was readily 
made plainer. 
    Thus it happened that these Lectures came forth to the light; 
and what great benefit they will derive from them, who will 
seriously read them, can by no means be told: for who, endued with a 
sound judgement, does not see that such was the way which this most 
illustrious man possessed in explaining Scripture, that he had it in 
common with very few? He everywhere so unfolds the design of the 
Holy Spirit, so gives his genuine meaning, and also so sets before 
our eyes every recondite doctrine, that you find nothing but what is 
openly explained; and this is what his many writings most abundantly 
testify, in which he has made every point of the Christian religion 
so plain, that all, except they be wholly blind to the sun, 
acknowledge him to be a most faithful interpreter. 
    But that I may now say nothing of his many Commentaries, he has 
so surpassed himself in these Lectures that one can hardly persuade 
himself that a style so elegant, and so perfect in all its parts, 
could have flowed extemporaneously, for he explains the weightiest 
sentiments in suitable words, clearly handles obscure things, 
clothes them with various ornaments, and so proceeds in his 
teaching, that the language he uses, spontaneously poured forth, 
seems to have been long and much laboured. But of all these things I 
prefer that a judgement should be formed by a perusal, rather than 
that I should longer detain readers by a lengthened discussion of 
particulars. Then farewell all ye who hope for some benefit from 
these Lectures. 
    Geneva, February 1, 1559. 
The Commentaries of John Calvin on the Prophet Hosea. 
The prayer which John Calvin was wont to use at the beginning of his 
May the Lord grant, that we may engage in contemplating the 
mysteries of his heavenly wisdom with really increasing devotion, to 
his glory and to our edification. Amen. 
Commentaries on the prophet Hosea 
The Argument 
    I have undertaken to expound The Twelve Minor Prophets. They 
have been long ago joined together, and their writings have been 
reduced to one volume; and for this reason, lest by being extant 
singly in our hands, they should, as it often happens, disappear in 
course of time on account of their brevity. 
    Then the Twelve Minor Prophets form but one volume. The first 
of them is Hosea, who was specifically destined for the kingdom of 
Israel: Micah and Isaiah prophesied at the same time among the Jews. 
But it ought to be noticed, that this Prophet was a teacher in the 
kingdom of Israel, as Isaiah and Micah were in the kingdom of Judah. 
The Lord doubtless intended to employ him in that part; for had he 
prophesied among the Jews, he would not have complimented them; 
since the state of things was then very corrupt, not only in Judea, 
but also at Jerusalem, though the palace and sanctuary of God were 
there. We see how sharply and severely Isaiah and Micah reproved the 
people; and the style of our Prophet would have been the same had 
the Lord employed his service among the Jews: but he followed his 
own call. He knew what the Lord had intrusted to him; he faithfully 
discharged his own office. The same was the case with the Prophet 
Amos: for the Prophet Amos sharply inveighs against the Israelites, 
and seems to spare the Jews; and he taught at the same time with 
    We see, then, in what respect these four differ: Isaiah and 
Micah address their reproofs to the kingdom of Judah; and Hosea and 
Amos only assail the kingdom of Israel, and seem to spare the Jews. 
Each of them undertook what God had committed to his charge; and so 
each confined himself within the limits of his own call and office. 
For if we, who are called to instruct the Church, close our eyes to 
the sins which prevail in it, and neglect those whom the Lord has 
appointed to be taught by us, we confound all order; since they who 
are appointed to other places must attend to those to whom they have 
been sent by the Lord's call. 
    We now, then, see to whom this whole book of Hosea belongs, - 
that is, to the kingdom of Israel. 
    But with regard to the Prophets, this is true of them all, as 
we have sometimes said, that they are interpreters of the law. And 
this is the sum of the law, that God designs to rule by his own 
authority the people whom he has adopted. But the law has two parts, 
- a promise of salvation and eternal life, and a rule for a godly 
and holy living. To these is added a third part, - that men, not 
responding to their call, are to be restored to the fear of God by 
threatening and reproofs. The Prophets do further teach what the law 
has commanded respecting the true and pure worship of God, 
respecting love; in short, they instruct the people in a holy and 
godly life, and then offer to them the favour of the Lord. And as 
there is no hope of reconciliation with God except through a 
Mediator, they ever set forth the Messiah, whom the Lord had long 
before promised. 
    As to the third part, which includes threats and reproofs, it 
was peculiar to the Prophets; for they point out times, and denounce 
this or that judgement of God: "The Lord will punish you in this 
way, and will punish you at such a time." The Prophets, then, do not 
simply call men to God's tribunal, but specify also certain kinds of 
punishment, and also in the same way they declare prophecies 
respecting the Lord's grace and his redemption. But on this I only 
briefly touch; for it will be better to notice each point as we 
    I now return to Hosea. I have said that his ministry belonged 
especially to the Kingdom of Israel; for then the whole worship of 
God was there polluted, nor had corruption lately begun; but they 
were so obstinate in their superstitions, that there was no hope of 
repentance. We indeed know, that as soon as Jeroboam withdrew the 
ten tribes from their allegiance to Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, 
fictitious worship was set up: and Jeroboam seemed to have wisely 
contrived that artifice, that the people might not return to the 
house of David; but at the same time he brought on himself and the 
whole people the vengeance of God. And those who came after him 
followed the same impiety. When such perverseness became 
intolerable, God resolved to put forth his power, and to give some 
signal proof of his displeasure, that the people might at length 
repent. Hence John was by God's command anointed King of Israel, 
that he might destroy all the posterity of Ahab: but he also soon 
relapsed into the same idolatry. He executed God's judgement, he 
pretended great zeal; but his hypocrisy soon came to light, for he 
embraced false and perverted worship; and his followers were nothing 
better even down to Jeroboam, under whom Hosea prophesied; but of 
this we shall speak in considering the inscription of the book. 

Calvin on Hosea
(proceed to the commentary...)

file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-b.txt