To the Most Virtuous and Noble Queen Elizabeth, Queen of England, France and Ireland, etc. Your humble subjects of the English Church at Geneva, wish grace and peace from God the Father through Christ Jesus our Lord.
How hard a thing it is, and what great impediments let, to enterprise any worthy act, not only daily experience sufficiently shows (most noble and virtuous Queen) but also that notable proverb does confirm the same, which admonishes us, that all things are hard which are fair and excellent. And what enterprise can there be of greater importance, and more acceptable unto God, or more worthy of singular commendation, than the building of the Lord's Temple, the house of God, the Church of Christ, whereof the Son of God is the head and perfection?
When Zerubbabel went about to build the material Temple, according to the commandment of the Lord, what difficulties and stays daily arose to hinder his worthy endeavours, the books of Ezra and Esdras plainly witness how that not only he and the people of God were sore molested with foreign adversaries, (whereof some maliciously warred against them, and corrupted the King's officers: and others craftily practised under pretence of religion) but also at home with domestic enemies, as false Prophets, crafty worldlings, faint-hearted soldiers, and oppressors of their brethren, who as well by false doctrine and lies, as by subtle counsel, cowardice, and extortion, discouraged the hearts almost of all: so that the Lord's work was not only interrupted and left off for a long time, but scarcely at the length with great labour and danger after a sort brought to pass.
Which thing, when we weigh aright, and consider earnestly how much greater charge God has laid upon you in making a builder of his spiritual Temple, we can not but partly fear, knowing the craft and force of Satan our spiritual enemy, and the weakness and unability of this our nature: and partly fervent in our prayers toward God that he would bring to perfection this noble work which he has begun by you: and therefore we endeavour ourselves by all means to aid, and to bestow our whole force under your grace's standard, whom God has made as our Zerubbabel for the erecting of this most excellent Temple, and to plant and maintain his holy word to the advancement of his glory, for your own honour and salvation of our soul, and for the singular comfort of that great flock which Christ Jesus the great shepherd has bought with his precious blood, and committed unto your charge to be fed both in body and soul.
Considering therefore how many enemies there are, which by one means or other, as the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin went about to stay the building of that Temple, so labour to hinder the course of this building (whereof some are Papists, who under pretence of savouring God's words, traitorously seek to erect idolatry and to destroy your majesty: some are worldlings, what as Demas have forsaken Christ for the love of this world: others are ambitious prelates, who as Amasiah and Diotrephes can abide none but themselves: as Demetrius many practise sedition to maintain their errors) we persuaded ourselves that there was no way so expedient and necessary for the preservation of the one, and the destruction of the other, as to present unto your Majesty the holy Scriptures faithfully and plainly translated according to the languages wherein they were first written by the holy ghost. For the word of God is an evident token of God's love and our assurance of his defence, wheresoever it is obediently received: it is the trial of the spirits: and as the Prophet says, It is a fire and a hammer to break the stony hearts of them that resist God's mercies offered by the preaching of the same. Yes, it is sharper than any two edged sword to examine the very thoughts and to judge the affections of the heart, and to discover whatsoever lies hidden under hypocrisy and would be secret from the face of God and his Church. So that this must be the first foundation and groundwork, according whereunto the good stones of this building must be framed, and the evil tried out and rejected.
Now as he that goes about to lay a foundation surely, first takes away such impediments, as might justly either hurt, let or disform the work: so is it necessary that your grace's zeal appear herein, that neither the crafty persuasion of man, neither worldly policy, or natural fear dissuade you to root out, cut down and destroy these weeds and impediments which do not only deface your building, but utterly endeavour, yes and threaten the ruin thereof. For when the noble Josias enterprised the like kind of work, among other notable and many things he destroyed, not only with utter confusion the idols with their appertinances, but also burnt (in sign of detestation) the idolatrous priests' bones upon their altars, and put to death the false prophets and sorcerers, to perform the words of the Law of God: and therefore the Lord gave him good success and blessed him wonderfully, so long as he made God's word his line and rule to follow, and enterprised nothing before he had inquired at the mouth of the Lord.
And if these zealous beginnings seem dangerous and to breed disquietness in your dominions, yet by the story of King Asa it is manifest, that the quietness and peace of kingdoms stands in the utter abolishing of idolatry, and in advancing of true religion: for in his days Judah lied in rest and quietness for the space of thirty-five years, till at length he began to be cold in the zeal of the Lord, feared the power of man, imprisoned the Prophet of God, and oppressed the people: then the Lord sent him wars and at length took him away by death.
Wherefore great wisdom, not worldly, but heavenly is here required, which you grace must earnestly crave of the Lord, as did Solomon, to whom God gave and understanding heart to judge his people aright, and to discern between good and bad. For if God for the furnishing of the old temple gave the Spirit of wisdom and understanding to them that should be the workmen thereof, as to Bezeleel, Aholiab, and Hiram: how much more will he imbue your grace and other godly princes and chief governors with a principal Spirit, that you may procure and command things necessary for this most holy Temple, foresee and take heed of things that might hinder it, and ablish and destroy whatsoever might impare and overthrow the same?
Moreover the marvellous diligence and zeal of Jehoshaphat, Josiah, and Hezekiah ar by the singular providence of God left as an example to all godly rulers to reform their countries and to establish the word of God with all speed, lest the wrath of the Lord fall upon them for the neglecting thereof. For these excellent Kings did not only embrace the word promptly and joyfully, but also procured earnestly and commanded the same to be taught, preached and maintained through all their countries and dominions, binding them and all their subjects both great and small with solemn protestations and covenants before God to obey the word, and to walk after the ways of the Lord. Yes and in the days of King Asa it was enacted that whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel, should be slain, whether he were small or great, man or woman. And for the establishing hereof and performance of this solemn oath, as well Priests as Judges were appoointed and placed through all the cities of Judah to instruct the people in the true knowledge and fear of God, and to minister justice according to the word, knowing that, except God by his word did reign in the hearts and souls, all man's diligence and endeavours were of none effect: for without this word we cannot discern between justice, and injury, protection and oppression, wisdom and foolishness, knowledge and ignorance, good and evil. Therefore the Lord, who is the chief governor of his Church, wills that nothing be attempted before we have inquired thereof at his mouth. For seeing he is God, of duty we must give him this pre-eminence, that of ourselves we enterprise nothing, but that which he has appointed, who only knows all things, and governs them as may best serve to his glory and our salvation. We aught not therefore to prevent him, or do anything without his word, but as soon as he has revelied his will, immediately to put it into execution.
No as concerning the manner of this building, it is not according to man, nor after the wisdom of the flesh, but of the Spirit, and according to the word of God, whose ways are divers from man's ways. For if it was not lawful for Moses to build the material Tabernacle after any other sort than God had showed him by a pattern, neither to prescribe any other ceremonies and laws than such as the Lord had expressly commanded: how can it be lawful to proceed in this spiritual building any other ways, than Jesus Christ the Son of God, who is both the foundation, head and chief cornerstone thereof, has commanded by his word? And for as such as he has established and left an order in his Church for the building up of his body, appointing some to be Apostles, some Prophets, others Evangelists, some pastors, and teachers, he signifies that every one according as he is placed in this body which is the Church, aught to inquire of his ministries concerning the will of the Lord, which is revealed in his word. For they are, says Jeremiah, as the mouth of the Lord: yes he promises to be with their mouth, and that their lips shall keep knowledge, and that the truth and the law shall be in their mouth. For it is their office chiefly to understand the Scriptures and teach them. for this cause the people of Israel in matters of difficulty used to ask the Lord either by the Prophets, or by the means of the High Priest, who bare Urim and Thummim, which were tokens of light and knowledge, of holiness and perfection which should be in the Hight Priest. Therefore when Jehoshaphat took this order in the Church of Israel, he appointed Amariah to be the chief concerning the word of God, because he was most expert in the law of the Lord, and could give counsel and govern according unto the same. Else there is no degree or office which may have that authority and privilege to decide concerning God's word, except withall he has the Spirit of God, and sufficient knowledge and judgement to define according thereunto. And as every one is imbued of God with greater gifts, so aught he to be herein chiefly heard, or at least that without the express word none be heard: for he that has not the word, speaks not by the mouth of the Lord. Again, what danger it is to do any thing, seem it never so godly or necessary, without consulting with God's mouth, the examples of the Israelites, deceived hereby through the Gibeonites: and of Saul, whose intention seemed good and necessary: and of Josiah also, who for great considerations was moved for the defence of true religion and his people, to fight against Pharoah Necho King of Egypt, my sufficiently admonish us.
Last of all (most gracious Queen) for the advancement of this building and rearing up of the work, two things are necessary, First, that we have a lively and steadfast faith in Christ Jesus, who must dwell in our hearts, as the only means and assurance of our salvation: for he is the ladder that reaches from the earth toheaven: he lifts up his Church and sets it in the heavenly places: he makes us lively stones and builds us upon himself: he joins us to himself as the members and body to the head: yes he makes himself and his Church one Christ. The next is, that our faith bring forth good fruits, so that our godly conversation may serve us as a witness to confirm our election, and be an example to all others to walk as appertains to the vocation whereunto they are called: lest the word of God be evil spoken of, and this building be stayed to grow up to a just height, which cannot be without the great provocation of God's just vengeance and discouraging of many thousands through all the world, if they should see that our lives were not holy ad agreeable to our profession. For the eyes of all that fear God in all places behold your countries as an example to all that believe, and the prayers of all the godly at all times are directed to God for the preservation of your majesty. For considering God's wonderful mercies toward you at all seasons, who has pulled you out of the mouth of the lions, and how that from your youth you have been brought up in the holy Scriptures, the hope of all men is so increased, that they cannot but look that God should bring to pass some wonderful work by your grace to the universal comfort of his Church. Therefore even above strength you must show your self strong and bold in God's matters: and though Satan layall his power and craft together to hurt and hinder the Lord's building: yet be you assured that God will fight from heaven against this great dragon, the ancient serpent, which is called the devil and Satan, till he has accomplished the whole work and made his Church glorious to himself, without spot of wrinkle. For albeit all other kingdoms and monarchies, as the Babylonians, Persians, Grecians and Romans have fallen and taken end: yet the Church of Christ even under the Cross has from the beginning of the world been victorious, and shall be everlastingly. Truth it is, that sometime it seems to be shadowed with a cloud, or driven with a stormy persecution, yet suddenly the beams of Christ the sun of justice shine and bring it to light and liberty. If for a time it lie covered with ashes, yet it is quickly kindled again by the wind of God's Spirit: though it seem drowned in the sea, or parched and pined in the in the wilderness, yet God gives ever good success, for he punishes the enemies, and delivers his, nourishes them and still preserves them under his wings. This Lord of lords and King of kings who has ever defended his, strengthen, comfort and preserve your majesty, that you may be able to build up the ruins of God's house to his glory, the discharge of your conscience, and to the comfort of all them that love the coming of Christ Jesus our Lord.
From Geneva, 10 April, 1560