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The text of Coverdale's Dedication to Henry VIII and his Prologue to the Reader below is based upon the electronic text in the Chadwyck-Healey CD-ROM, The Bible in English (Cambridge, 1996). I have modernized the spelling and punctuation, and have supplied some explanatory notes in square brackets. —M.D.M.
Unto the most victorious Prince and our most gracious sovereign Lord, king Henry the eighth, king of England and of France, lord of Ireland, etc. Defender of the Faith, and under God the chief and supreme head of the Church of England.
The right and just administration of the laws that God gave unto Moses and unto Joshua: the testimony of faithfulness that God gave of David: the plenteous abundance of wisdom that God gave unto Solomon: the lucky and prosperous age with the multiplication of seed which God gave unto Abraham and Sara his wife, be given unto you most gracious Prince, with your dearest just wife, and most virtuous Princess, Queen Anne, Amen.
CAIPHAS being bishop of that year, like a blind prophet (not understanding what he said) prophesied, (See John c. 11) that it was better to put Christ unto death, than that all the people should perish: he meaning, that Christ was an heretic, a deceiver of the people, and a destroyer of the law, and that it was better therfore to put Christ unto death, than to suffer him for to live, and to deceive the people. &c. where in very deed Christ was the true prophet, the true Messiah, and the only true Saviour of the world, sent of his heavenly father to suffer the most cruel, most shameful, and most necessary death for our redemption: according to the meaning of the prophesy truly understood.
Even after the same manner the blind bishop of Rome, (that blind Baalam I say) not understanding what he did, gave unto your grace this title: Defender of the faith, only because your highness suffered your bishops to burn God's word the rule of faith, and to persecute the lovers and ministers of the same. Where in very deed the blind bishop (though he knew not what he did) prophesied, that by the righteous administration and continual diligence of your grace, the faith should so be defended, that God's word the mother of faith with the fruits thereof, should have his free course throughout all Christendom, but specially in your realm.
If your highness now of your princely benignity will pardon me to compare these two bishops (I mean bishop Caiphas and the bishop of Rome) and their prophesies together, I doubt not but we shall find them agree like brethren, though the one be a Jew and the other a counterfeit Christian. First, Caiphas prophesied that it was better to put Christ unto death, than that the people should perish. The bishop of Rome also, not knowing what he prophesied, gave your grace this title: Defender of the faith. The truth of both these prophesies is of the holy ghost (as was Baalam's prophesy) though they that spake them knew not what they said. The truth of Caiphas' prophesy is, that it was necessary for man's salvation, that Christ by his death should overcome death, and redeem us. (See Numbers chap. 24) And the truth of our Baalam's prophesy is, that your grace in very deed should defend the faith, yea even the true faith of Christ, no dreams, no fables, no heresy, no papistical inventions, but the uncorrupted faith of God's most holy word, which to set forth (praised be the goodness of God, and increase your gracious purpose) your highness with your most honorable council, applieth all his study and endeavor.
These two blind bishops now agree in the understanding of their prophesies: for Caiphas taketh Christ for an heretic, our Baalam taketh the word of Christ for heresy. Caiphas judgeth it to be a good deed to put Christ unto death, that he should not deceive the people, our Balaam calleth defending of the faith, the supressing, keeping secret, and burning of the word of faith: lest the light thereof should utter his darkness: lest his own Decretals and Decrees, his own laws and constitutions, his own statutes and inventions should come to none effect: lest his intolerable exactions and usurpations should lose their strength: lest it should be known what a thief and murderer he is in the cause of Christ, and how heinous a traitor to God and man in defrauding all Christian kings and princes of their due obedience: lest we your grace's subjects should have eyes in the word of God, at the last to spy out his crafty conveyances and jugglings: and lest men should see, how sore he and his false Apostles have deceived all Christendom, specially your noble realm of England.
Thus your grace seeth how brotherly the Jewish bishop and our Balaam agree together, not only in mitre and outward appearance: but as the one persecuted the Lord Jesus in this own person, so doth the other persecute his word and resisteth his holy ordinance in the authority of his anointed kings. For so much now as the word of God is the only truth that driveth awaye all lies, and discloseth all Juggling and deceit, therefore is our Balaam of Rome so loathe that the scripture should be known in the mother tounge: lest if kings and princes (specially above all other) were exercised therein, they should reclaim and challenge again their due authority, which he falsely hath usurped so many years, and so to tie him shorter: and lest the people being taught by the word of God, should fall from the false feigned obedience of him and his disguised Apostles, unto the true obedience commanded by God's own mouth: as namely, to obey their prince, to obey father and mother, etc., and not to step over father and mother's belly to enter into his painted religions, as his hypocrites teach: For he knoweth well enough, that if the clear Son of God's word come once to the heat of the day, it shall drive away all the foul mist of his devilish doctrines. Therefore were it more to the maintenance of Antichrist's kingdom, that the world were still in ignorance and blindness, and that the scripture should never come to light. For the scripture (both in the old testament and in the new) declareth most abundantly that the office, authority and power given of God unto kings is in earth above all other powers: let them call themselves Popes, Cardinals, or whatsoever they will, (See Romans ch. 13) the word of god declareth them (yea and commandeth them under pain of damnation) to be obedient unto the temporal sword, as in the old Testament all the Prophets, Priests and Levites were. (See Math. ch. 17, Titus ch. 3, Exod. ch. 22, Psal. 81) And in the new Testament Christ and his Apostles both were obedient themselves, and taught obedience of all men unto their princes and temporal rulers: which here unto us in the world present the person of God, and are called gods in the scripture, because of the excellency of their office. And though there were no more authorities but the same, to prove the preeminence of the temporal sword, yet by this the scripture declareth plainly, that as there is nothing above God, so is there no man above the king in his realm but that he only under God is the chief head of all the congregation and church of the same. And in token that this is true, there hath been of old antiquity (and is yet unto this day) a long ceremony used in your realm of England, that when your grace's subjects read your letters, or begin to talk or come of your highness, they move their bonettes for a sign and token of reverence unto your grace, as to their most sovereign lord and head under God, which thing no man useth to do to any bishop, whereby (if our understanding were not blinded) we might evidently perceive, that even very nature teacheth us the same, that scripture commandeth us: and that like as it is against God's word that a king should not be the chief head of this people, even so (I say) is it against kind that we should know any other head above him under God.
And that no priest nor bishop is exempt (nor can be lawfully) from the obedience of his prince, the scripture is full both of strait commandments and practices of the holiest men (See Numbers 12, Joshua 4, 1 Kings 18, Leviticus 18, Matthew 14). Aaron was obedient unto Moses, and called him his lord, though he was his own brother. Eleazar and Phineas were under the obedience of Joshua. Nathan the prophet fell down to the ground before king David, he had his Prince in such reverence (He made not the king for to kiss his foot as the bishop of Rome maketh Emperors to do); notwithstanding he spared not to rebuke him, and that right sharply when he fell from the word of God to adultery and manslaughter. For he was not afraid to reprove him of his sins, no more than Elijah the prophet stood in fear to say unto king Ahab, It is thou and thy father's house that trouble Israel, because ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and walk after Baal. And as John the Baptist durst say unto king Herod, It is not lawful for thee to take thy brother's wife. But to my purpose I pass over innumerable more examples both of the old Testament and of the new, for fear lest I be too tedious unto your grace. In sum, in all godly regiments of old time the king and temporal judge was obeyed of every man, and was always under God the chief and supreme head of the whole congregation, and deposed even priests when he saw an urgent cause, as Solomon did unto Abiathar (see 1 Kings 2). Who could then stand against the godly obedience of his prince (except he would be at defiance with God and all his holy ordinances) that were well acquainted with the holy scripture, which so earnestly commendeth unto every one of us the authority and power given of God unto kings and temporal rulers? (See Exod. 22, Jeremiah 29, Baruch 2, Matthew 17.) Therefore doth Moses so straitly forbid the Israelites to speak so much as an evil word against the prince of the people, much less than to disobey him, or to withstand him. Doth not Jeremy the prophet and Baruch also exhort the people in captivity, to pray for the prosperous welfare of the king of Babylon, and to obey him, though he was an infidel? In the new Testament when our savior Christ (being yet free and Lord of all kings and princes) showed his obedience in paying the tribute to our example, did he not a miracle there in putting the piece of money in the fish's mouth (that Peter might pay the customer therewith) and all to stablish the obedience due unto princes? Did not Joseph and Mary the mother of our savior Christ depart from Nazareth unto Bethlehem (see Luke 2) so far from home, to show their obedience in paying the tax to the prince? (See Romans 13) And would not our Savior be born in the same obedience? Doth not Paul pronounce him to resist God himself, that resisteth the authority of his prince? (See 1 Peter 2) And (to be short) the Apostle Peter doth not only stablish the obedience unto princes and temporal rulers but affirmeth plainly the king (and no bishop) to be the chief head. Innumerable places more are there in scripture, which bind us to the obedience of our prince, and declare unto us, that no man is nor can be lawfully exempt from the same, but that all the ministers of God's word are under the temporal sword, and princes only to owe obedience unto God and his word.
And whereas Antichrist unto your grace's time did thrust his head into the imperial crown of your highness (as he doth yet with other noble princes more) that learned he of Satan the authour of pride, and therein doth he both against the doctrine and also against the example of Christ, which because his kingdom was not of this world, meddled with no temporal matters, as it is evident both by his words and practice (Luke 12, Matthew 26, John 6, John 18) where he that hath eyes to see, may see, and he that hath ears to hear, may hear, that Christ's administration was nothing temporal, but plain spiritual, as he himself affirmeth and proveth in the fourth chapter of saint Luke out of the prophet Isaiah, where all bishops and priests may see, how far their binding and loosing extendeth, and wherein their office consisteth, namely in preaching the Gospel. etc.
wherefore (most gracious prince) there is no tongue I think, that can fully express and declare the intolerable injuries, which have been done unto God, to all princes and to the comynaities [?] of all christian realms, since they which should be only the ministers of God's word, became lords of the world, and thrust the true and just princes out of their rooms. Whose heart would not pity it (yea even with lamentation) to remember but only the intolerable wrong done by that Antichrist of Rome unto your grace's most noble predecesor king John? I pass over his pestilent picking of Peter Pens out of your realm; his stealing away of your money for pardons, benefices and bishoprics; his deceiving of your subject's souls with his devilish doctrines and sects of his false religions; his bloodshedding of so many of your grace's people, for books of the scripture. Whose heart would not be grieved (yea and that out of measure) to call to remembrance how obstinate and disobedient, how presumptuous and stubborn that Antichrist made the bishops of your realm against your grace's noble predecesors in times past, as it is manifest in the Chronicles? I trust verily there be no such now within your realm: if there be, let them remember these words of scripture: (Proverbs 16) Presumptuousness goeth before destruction, and after a proud stomach there followeth a fall.
What is now the cause of all these intolerable and no more to be suffered abominations? Truly even the ignorance of the scripture of God. For how had it else been possible, that such blindness should have come into the world, had not the light of God's word been extinct? How could men (I say) have been so far from the true service of God, and from the due obedience of their prince, had not the law of God been clean shut up, depressed, cast aside, and put out of remembrance? As it was afore the time of that noble king Josias, and as it hath been also among us unto your grace's time: by whose most righteous administration (through the merciful goodness of God) it is now found again (See 2 Kings 22, 2 Chronicles 24) as it was in the days of that most virtuous king Josias. And praised be the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost world without end, which so excellently hath endued your princely heart with such ferventness to his honor, and to the wealth of your loving subjects, that I may righteously (by just occasions in your person) compare your highness unto that noble and gracious king, that lantern of light among princes, that fervent protector and defender of the laws of God: which commanded straitly (as your grace doth) that the law of God should be read and taught unto all the people, set the priests to their office in the word of god, destroyed Idolatry and false idols, put down all evil customs and abuses, set up the true honour of God, applied all his study and endeavor to the righteous administration of the most uncorrupted law of God, etc. O what felicity was among the people of Jerusalem in his days! And what prosperous health both of soul and body followeth the like ministration in your highness, we begin now (praised be God) to have experience. (See Jeremiah 44) For as false doctrine is the original cause of all evil plagues and destruction, so is the true executing of the law of God and the preaching of the same, the mother of all godly prosperity. The only word of God (I say) is the cause of all felicity, (See Wisdom 7) it bringeth all goodness with it, it bringeth learning, it gendereth understanding, it causeth good works, it maketh children of obedience; briefly, it teacheth all estates their office and duty. Seeing then that the scripture of God teacheth us every thing sufficiently, both what we ought to do, and what we ought to leave undone; whom we are bound to obey, and whom we should not obey; therefore (I say) it causeth all prosperity, and setteth every thing in frame; and where it is taught and known, it lighteneth all darknesses, comforteth all sorry hearts, leaveth no poor man unhelped, suffereth nothing amiss unamended, letteth no prince be disobeyed, permitteth no heresy to be preached; but reformeth all things, amendeth that is amiss, and setteth every thing in order. And why? because it is given by the inspiration of God, therefore is it ever bringing profit and fruit, by teaching, by improving, by amending and reforming all them that will receive it, to make them perfect and meet unto all good works. (See 1 Timothy 3)
Considering now (most gracious prince) the inestimable treasure, fruit and prosperity everlasting, that God giveth with his word, and trusting in his infinite goodness that he would bring my simple and rude labour herein to good effect, therefore as the holy ghost moved other men to do the cost hereof, so was I boldened in God, to labor in the same. Again, considering your Imperial majesty not only to be my natural sovereign liege Lord and chief head of the church of England, but also the true defender and maintainer of God's laws, I thought it my duty and to belong unto my allegiance, when I had translated this Bible, not only to dedicate this translation unto your highness, but wholy to commit it unto the same: to the intent that if anything therein be translated amiss (for in many things we fail, even when we think to be sure) it may stand in your grace's hands, to correct it, to amend it, to improve it, yea and clean to reject it, if your godly wisdom shall think it necessary. And as I do with all humbleness submit mine understanding and my poor translation unto the spirit of truth in your grace, so make I this protestation (having God to record in my conscience) that I have never wrested nor altered so much as one word for the maintenance of any manner of sect: but have with a clear conscience purely and faithfully translated this out of five sundry interpreters, having only the manifest truth of the scripture before mine eyes, trusting in the goodness of God, that it shall be unto his worship; quietness and tranquility unto your highness; a perfect stablishment of all God's ordinances within your grace's dominion; a general comfort to all Christian hearts, and a continual thankfulness both of old and young unto God, and to your grace, for being our Moses, and for bringing us out of this old Egypt from the cruel hands of our spiritual Pharaoh. For where were the Jews (by ten thousand parts) so much bound unto king Dauid (see 1 Samuel 17) for subduing of great Goliath and all their enemyes, as we are to your grace, for delivering us out of our old Babylonian captivity? For that which deliverance and victory I beseech our only mediator Jesus Christ, to make such means for us unto his heavenly father, that we never be unthankful unto him nor unto your grace, but that we ever increase in the fear of him, in obedience unto your highness, in love unfeigned unto our neighbors, and in all virtue that commeth of God. To whom for the defending of his blessed word (by your grace's most rightful administration) be honor and thanks, glory and dominion, world without end, Amen.
Your grace's humble subject and daily orator, Miles Coverdale.
CONSIDERING How excellent knowlege and learning an interpreter of scripture ought to have in the tongues, and pondering also mine own insufficiency therein, and how weak I am to perform the office of a translator, I was the more loath to meddle with this work.
Notwithstanding whan I considered how great pity it was that we should want it so long, and called to my remembrance the adversity of them, which were not only of ripe knowlege, but would also with all their hearts have performed that they began, if they had not had impediment: considering (I say) that by reason of their adversity it could not so soon have been brought to an end, as our most prosperous nation would fain have had it: these and other reasonable causes considered, I was the more bold to take it in hand. And to help me herein, I have had sundry translations, not only in Latin, but also of the Dutch interpreters: whom (because of their singular gifts and special diligence in the Bible) I have been the more glad to follow for the most part, according as I was required. But to say the truth before God, it was niether my labor nor desire, to have this work put in my hand: nevertheless it grieved me that other nations should be more plenteously provided for with the scripture in their mother tongue, than we: therefore when I was instantly required, though I could not do so well as I would, I thought it yet my duty to do my best, and that with a good will.
Whereas some men think now that many translations make division in the faith and in the people of God, that is not so: for it was never better with the congregation of God, than when every church almost had the Bible of a sundry translation. Among the Greeks had not Origen a special translation? Had not Vulgarius one peculiar, and likewise Chrysostom? Beside the seventy interpreters, is there not the translation of Aquila, of Theodotion, of Symachus, and of sundry other? Again among the Latin men, thou findest that every one almost used a special and sundry translation: for in so much as every bishop had the knowledge of the tongues, he gave his diligence to have the Bible of his own translation. The doctors, as Hireneus, Cyprianus, Tertullian, S. Jerome, S. Augustine, Hilarius and S. Ambrose upon diverse places of the scripture, read not the text all alike.
Therefore ought it not to be taken as evil, that such men as have understanding now in our time, exercise themselves in the tongues, and give their diligence to translate out of one language into another. Yea we ought rather to give God high thanks therefore, which through his spirit stirreth up men's minds, so to exercise themselves therein. would God it had never been left off after the time of S. Augustine, then should we never have come into such blindness and ignorance, into such errors and delusions. For as soon as the Bible was cast aside, and no more put in exercise, then began every one of his own head to write whatsoever came into his brain and that seemed to be good in his own eyes: and so grew the darkness of men's traditions. And this same is the cause that we have had so many writers, which seldom made mention of the scripture of the Bible: and though they sometime alleged it, yet was it done so far out of season and so wide from the purpose, that a man may well perceive, how that they never saw the original.
Seeing then that this diligent exercise of translating doth so much good and edifieth in other languages, why should it do evil in ours? Doubtless like as all nations in the diversity of speaches may know one God in the unity of faith, and be one in love: even so may diverse translations understand one another, and that in the head articles and ground of our most blessed faith, though they use sundry words. Wherefore methinks we have great occasion to give thanks unto God, that he hath opened unto his church the gift of interpretation and of printing, and that there are now at this time so many, which with such diligence and faithfulness interpret the scripture to the honor of God and edifying of his people, whereas (like as when many are shooting together) everyone doth his best to be nearest the mark. And though they cannot all attain thereto, yet shooteth one nearer than another, and hitteth it better then another, yea one can do it better than another. Who is now then so unreasonable, so despiteful, or envious, as to abhor him that doth all his diligence to hit the prick [target], and to shoot nearest it, though he miss and come not nearest the mark? Ought not such one rather to be commended, and to be helped forward, that he may exercise himself the more therein?
For the which cause (according as I was desired) I took the more upon me to set forth this special translation, not as a checker, not as a reprover, or despiser of other men's translations (for among many as yet I have found none without occasion of great thanksgiving unto God) but lowly and faithfully have I followed mine interpreters, and that under correction. And though I have failed anywhere (as there is no man but he misseth in some thing) love shall construe all to the best without any perverse judgment. There is no man living that can see all things, niether hath God given any man to know everything. One seeth more clearly than another, one hath more understanding than another, one can utter a thing better than another, but no man ought to envy, or despise another. He that can do better than another, should not set him at naught that understandeth less: Yea he that hath the more understanding, ought to remember that the same gift is not his but God's, and that God hath given it him to teach and inform the ignorant. If thou hast knowlege therefore to judge where any fault is made, I doubt not but thou wilt help to amend it, if love be joined with thy knowledge. Howbeit wherein so ever I can perceive by myself, or by the information of other, that I have failed (as it is no wonder), I shall now by the help of God overlook it better and amend it.
Now will I exhort thee (whosoever thou be that readest scripture) if thou find ought therein that thou understandest not, or that appeareth to be repugnant, give no temeritous nor hasty judgment thereof: but ascribe it to thine own ignorance, not to the scripture, think that thou understandest it not, or that it hath some other meaning, or that it is happly overseen of the interpreters, or wrongly printed. Again, it shall greatly help thee to understand scripture, if thou mark not only what is spoken or written, but of whom, and unto whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstance, considering what goeth before, and what followeth after. For there be some things which are done and written, to the intent that we should do likewise: as when Abraham believeth God, is obedient unto his word, and defendeth Lot his kinsman from violent wrong. There be some things also which are written, to the intent that we should eschew such like. As when David lieth with Urias' wife, and causeth him to be slain. Therefore (I say) when thou readest scripture, be wise and circumspect: and when thou commest to such strange manners of speaking and dark sentences, to such parables and similitudes, to such dreams or visions as are hid from thy understanding, commit them unto God or to the gift of his holy spirit in them that are better learned than thou.
As for the commendation of God's holy scripture, I would fain magnify it as it is worthy, but I am far insufficient thereto, and therefore I thought it better for me to hold my tongue, than with few words to praise or commend it: exhorting that (most dear reader) so to love it, so to cleave unto it, and so to follow it in thy daily conversation, that other men seeing thy good works and the fruits of the holy ghost in thee, may praise the father of heaven, and give his word a good report: for to live after the law of God, and to lead a virtuous conversation, is the greatest praise that thou canst give unto his doctrine.
But as touching the evil report and dispraise that the good word of God hath by the corrupt and evil conversation of some, that daily hear it and profess it outwardly with their mouths, I exhort thee (most dear reader) let not that offend thee nor withdraw thy mind from the love of the truth, niether move thee to be partaker in like unthankfulness: but seeing that light is come into the world, love no more the works of darkness, receive not the grace of God in vain. Call to thy remembrance how loving and merciful God is unto thee, how kindly and fatherly he helpeth thee in all trouble, teacheth thine ignorance, healeth thee in all thy sickness, forgiveth thee all thy sins, feedeth thee, giveth thee drink, helpeth thee out of prison, nourisheth thee in strange countries, careth for thee, and seeth that thou want nothing. Call this to mind (I say) and that earnestly, and consider how thou hast received of God all these benefits (yea and many more than thou canst desire) how thou art bound likewise to show thyself unto thy neighbour as far as thou canst, to teach him if he be ignorant, to help him in all his trouble, to heal his sickness, to forgive him his offenses, and that heartily, to feed him, to cherish him, to care for him, and to see that he want nothing. And on this behalf I beseech thee (thou that hast the riches of this world, and lovest God with thy heart) to lift up thine eyes, and see how great a multitude of poor people run through every town: have pity on thine own flesh, help them with a good heart, and do with thy counsel all that ever thou canst, that this unshamefast begging may be put down, that these idle folks may be set to labor, and that such as are not able to get their living, may be provided for. At the least thou that art of counsel with such as are in authority, give them some occasion to cast their heads together, and to make provision for the poor. Put them in remembrance of those noble cities in other countries, that by the authority of their princes have so richly and well provided for their poor people, to the great shame and dishonesty [dishonor] of us, if we likewise receiving the word of God, show not such like fruits thereof. Would God that those men (whose office is to maintain the common wealth) were as diligent in this cause as they are in other. Let us beware betimes, for after unthankfulness there followeth ever a plague: the merciful hand of God be with us, and defend us that we be not partakers thereof.
Go to now (most dear reader) and sit thee down at the Lord's feet and read his words, (See Deut. 6) and, as Moses teacheth the Jews, take them into thine heart, and let thy talking and communication be of them when thou sittest in thine house, or goest by the way, when thou lyest down, and when thou riseth up. And above all things fashion thy life and conversation according to the doctrine of the holy ghost therein, that thou mayest be partaker of the good promises of God in the Bible, and be heir of his blessing in Christ. In whom if thou put thy trust, and be an unfeigned reader or hearer of his word with thy heart, thou shalt find sweetness therein, and spy wonderous things, to thy understanding, to the avoiding of all sedicious sects, to the abhorring of thy old sinful life, and to the stablishing of thy godly conversation.
In the first book of Moses (called Genesis) thou mayest learn to know the almighty power of God in creating all of naught, his infinite wisdom in ordering the same, his righteousness in punishing the ungodly, his love and fatherly mercy in comforting the righteous with his promises.
In the second book (called Exodus) we see the mighty arm of God, in delivering his people from so great bondage out of Egypt, and what provision he maketh for them in the wilderness, how he teacheth them with his wholesome word and how the Tabernacle was made and set up.
In the third book (called Leviticus) is declared what sacrifices the priests and Levites used, and what their office & ministration was.
In the fourth book (called Numbers) is declared how the people are numbered and mustered, how the captains are chosen after the tribes and kindreds, how they went forth to the battle, how they pitched their tents, and how they brake up.
The fifth book (called Deuteronomy) showeth how that Moses now being old, rehearseth the law of God unto the people, putteth them in remembrance again of all the wonders and benefices that God had showed for them, and exhorteth them earnestly to love the Lord their God, to cleave unto him, to put their trust in him and to hearken unto his voice.
After the death of Moses doth Joshua bring the people into the land of promise where God doth wonderous things for his people by Joshua, which distributeth the land unto them, unto every tribe their possession. But in their wealth they forgot the goodness of God, so that oft times he gave them over into the hand of their enemies. Nevertheless whensoever they called faithfully upon him, and converted, he delivered them again, as the book of Judges declareth.
In the books of the kings, is described the regiment of good and evil princes, how the decay of all nations commeth by evil kings. For in Jeroboam thou seest what mischief, what idolatry and such like abomination followeth, when the king is a maintainer of false doctrine, and causeth the people to sin against God, which falling away from God's word, increased so sore among them, that it was the cause of all their sorrow and misery, and the very occasion why Israel first and then Judah, were carried away into captivity. Again, in Josaphat, in Hezekiah and in Josia thou seest the nature of a virtuous king (see 2 Chron. 17). He putteth down the houses of idolatry, seeth that his priests teach nothing but the law of God, commandeth his lords to go with them, and to see that they teach the people. In these kings (I say) thou seest the condition of a true defender of the faith, for he spareth niether cost nor labor, to maintain the laws of God, to seek the wealth and prosperity of his people, and to root out the wicked. And where such a prince is, thou seest again, how God defendeth him and his people, though he have never so many enemies. Thus went it with them in the old time, and even after the same manner goeth it now with us: God be praised therefore, and grant us of his fatherly mercy, that we be not unthankful, lest where he now giveth us a Josaphat, an Hezekiah, yea a very Josia, he send us a Pharaoh, a Jeroboam, or an Ahab.
In the two first books of Ezra and in Esther thou seest the deliverance of the people, which though they were but few, yet is it unto us all a special comfort, for so much as God is not forgetful of his promises, but bringeth them out of captivity, according as he had told them before.
In the book of Job we learn comfort and patience, in that God not only punisheth the wicked, but proveth and trieth the just and righteous (howbeit there is no man innocent in his sight) by diverse troubles in this life, declaring thereby, that they are not his bastards, but his dear sons, and that he loveth them.
In the Psalms we learn how to resort only unto God in all our troubles, to seek help at him, to call only upon him, to settle our minds by patience, and how we ought in prosperity to be thankful unto him.
The Proverbs and the Preacher [Ecclesiates] of Solomon teach us wisdom, to know God, our own selves, and the world, and how vain all things are, save only to cleave unto God.
As for the doctrine of the Prophets, what is it else, but an earnest exhortation to eschew sin, and to turn unto God? A faithful promise of the mercy and pardon of God, unto all them that turn unto him, and a threatening of his wrath to the ungodly? Saving that here and there they prophesy also manifestly of Christ, of the expulsion of the Jews, and calling of the Heathen.
Thus much thought I to speak of the old Testament, wherein almighty God openeth unto us his mighty power, his wisdom, his loving mercy and righteousness: for the which cause it ought of no man to be abhorred, despised, or lightly regarded, as though it were an old scripture that nothing belonged unto us, or that now were to be refused (See John 5). For it is God's true scripture and testimony, which the Lord Jesus commandeth the Jews to search. whosoever believeth not the scripture, believeth not Christ, and whoso refuseth it, refuseth God also.
The New Testament or Gospel, is a manifest and clear testimony of Christ how God performeth his oath and promises made in the old Testament, how the New is declared and included in the Old, and the Old fulfilled and verified in the New.
Now whereas the most famous interpreters of all give sundry judgments of the text (so far as it is done by the spirit of knowledge in the holy ghost) methink no man should be offended thereat, for they refer their doings in meekness to the spirit of truth in the congregation of God; and sure I am, that there commeth more knowledge and understanding of the scripture by their sundry translations, than by all the glosses of our sophistical doctors. For that one interpreteth something obscurely in one place, the same translateth another (or else he himself) more manifestly by a more plain vocable of the same meaning in another place. Be not thou offended therefore (good Reader) though one call a scribe, that another calleth a lawyer; or elders, that another calleth father and mother; or repentance, that another calleth penance or amendment. For if thou be not deceived by men's traditions, thou shalt find no more diversity between these terms than between four pence and a groat [four penny piece]. And this manner have I used in my translation, calling it in some place penance, that in another place I call repentance, and that not only because the interpreters have done so before me, but that the adversaries of the truth may see, how that we abhor not this word penance (as they untruly report of us) no more than the interpreters of Latin abhor penitere, when they read resipiscere. Only our hearts desire unto God, is, that his people be not blinded in their understanding, lest they believe penance to be ought save a very repentance, amendment, or conversion unto God, and to be an unfeigned new creature in Christ, and to live according to his law. For else shall they fall into the old blasphemy of Christ's blood, and believe, that they themselves are able to make satisfaction unto God for their own sins, from the which error God of his mercy and plenteous goodness preserve all his.
Now to conclude: for so much as all the scripture is written for thy doctrine and ensample, it shall be necessary for thee to take hold upon it while it is offered thee, yea and with ten hands thankfully to receive it. And though it be not worthily ministered unto thee in this translation (by reason of my rudeness) yet if thou be fervent in thy prayer, God shall not only send it thee in a better shape, by the ministration of other that began it afore, but shall also move the hearts of them which as yet meddled not withal, to take it in hand, and to bestow the gift of their understanding thereon, as well in our language as other famous interpreters do in other languages. And I pray God, that through my poor minstration herein, I may give them that can do better, some occasion so to do: exhorting thee (most dear reader) in the meanwhile on God's behalf, if thou be a head, a judge, or ruler of the people (see Joshua 1, Deut. 17) that thou let not the book of this law depart out of thy mouth, but exercise thyself therein both day and night, and be ever reading in it as long as thou livest: that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God, and not to turn aside from the commandment, niether to the right hand nor to the left: lest thou be a knower of persons in judgment (see Deut. 24, Romans 12, 1 Pet. 4), and wrest the right of the stranger, of the fatherless or of the widow, and so the curse to come upon thee. But what office soever thou hast wait upon it, and execute it, to the maintenance of peace, to the wealth of thy people, defending the laws of God, and the lovers thereof, and to the destruction of the wicked.
If thou be a preacher, and hast the oversight of the flock of Christ, awake and feed Christ's sheep with a good heart (see Acts 20, 1 Pet. 5, 1 Tim. 4, Titus 2) and spare no labor to do them good, seek not thyself, and beware of filthy lucre, but be unto the flock an ensample, in the word, in conversation, in love, in ferventness of the spirit, and be ever reading, exhorting, and teaching in God's word, that the people of God run not unto other doctrines and lest thou thyself (when thou shouldest teach other) be found ignorant therein. And rather than thou wouldest teach the people any other thing than God's word take the book in thine hand, and read the words even as they stand therein (for it is no shame so to do, it is more shame to make a lie). This I say for such as are not yet expert in the scripture, for I reprove no preaching without the book as long as they say the truth.
If thou be a man that hast wife and children first love thy wife (see Ephesians 5), according to the ensample of the love wherewith Christ loved the congregation, and remember that so doing, thou lovest even thyself: if thou hate her, thou hatest thine own flesh: if thou cherish her and make much of her, thou cherishest and makest much of thyself, for she is bone of thy bones, and flesh of thy flesh. And whosoever thou be that hast children, bring them up in the nurture and information of the Lord (see Ephesians 6). And if thou be ignorant, or art otherwise occupied lawfully that thou canst not teach them thyself, then be even as diligent to seek a good master for thy children, as thou wast to seek a mother to bear them: for there lieth as great weight in the one as in the other. Yea better it were for them to be unborn, than not to fear God, or to be evil brought up; which thing (I mean bringing up well of children) if it be diligently looked to, it is the upholding of all comonwealths: and the negligence of the same, the very decay of all realms.
Finally, whosoever thou be, take these words of scripture into thy heart, and be not only an outward hearer, but a doer thereafter, and practice thyself therein, that thou mayest feel in thine heart, the sweet promises thereof for thy consolation in all trouble, and for the sure stablishing of thy hope in Christ, and have ever an eye to the words of scripture, that if thou be a teacher of other thou mayest be within the bounds of the truth, or at the least, though thou be but an hearer or reader of another man's doings, thou mayest yet have knowledge to judge all spirits, and be free from every error, to the utter destruction of all seditious sects and strange doctrines, that the holy scripture may have free passage, and be had in reputation, to the worship of the author thereof, which is even God himself: to whom for his most blessed word be glory and dominion now and ever.
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