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The general object of this commentary has been already stated, in the preface to a corresponding work, on the New Testament, lately published. And the writer may be allowed to refer his readers to that preface, or rather to the book itself, as to what he has endeavoured to do, towards furnishing a work that should be well adapted to the purpose of family reading. Thus much only he would repeat, for the sake of those who may have one work and not the other, that he keeps in view this same object throughout both, namely, the reading aloud of the Scriptures and commentary to an assembled family; that for this use the text is divided into paragraphs of a convenient length, the explanation and practical improvement being condensed into one continuous lecture; that the parallel passages are largely quoted and always in the very words of Scripture, the quotations from the Psalms being taken from our Prayer Book translation, as being more familiar to most hearers; that controversial matter is studiously avoided, the sense of .each passage which is adopted as the right one being commented on as if it were the only one; and that the doctrines and duties insisted on are in accordance with the formularies of the holy catholic church of Christ, as established in this our highly favoured country.
In almost every respect this work on the Old Testament.will be found written on the same principles, and upon the same plan as the other; so as to form in fact one work only. The text and the lecture will be kept within two pages, in one opening of the book; for both to be at once under the reader's eye. And the Lectures will still be drawn up in a method, which admits according to the nature of the subject, of annotation, paraphrase, disquisition, or practical reflection. Only in the Old Testament, it will be found, that usually there is more of text and less of comment allotted to each single lecture, than in the work previously published. For the practical improvement to be derived from this portion of Scripture, does not so often as in the other portion arise from single expressions or texts; but rather from passages of greater length, whether historical or prophetical. And in such a case, it is desirable both for the assembled family, and for the private student, that a longer passage of Scripture should first be read; and then the comment, which is as the frame to the inimitable picture, or as the setting to the inestimable jewel, will better do its office of directing our attention to the excellency and beauty of the word of God.
It is to be hoped that the diligent study which has been applied to the New Testament, in order to complete that part of the whole undertaking, will have prepared the way for a successful attempt to illustrate the writings of the elder covenant. For not only is the Old Testament not contrary to the New; they are throughout in perfect harmony, the one with the other. And the two taken together constitute one complete revelation of all that man in his present state has to know concerning the mind of God. To explain and enforce the several contents of a Book so heavenly in its origin, so comprehensive in its nature, and so mighty in its influence to all eternity, is indeed a most responsible undertaking. And it is with fear and trembling that this new beginning has been made, in a work, which demands, for its perfect execution, all the wisdom of the wise, and all the devotion of the good. But since every ordained minister ought to be able to explain the whole counsel of God, and since nothing is attempted in this work beyond that which any well instructed master of a family might be supposed able to set forth before his household, it is hoped that the attempt, made simply for the love of God's truth, and with a view to illustrate his holy word, will not be deemed to savour of presumption. And it may perhaps be thought that there is some advantage in having a whole commentary of this kind completed, if it please God that it should be completed, by one and the same hand. For hereby the many detached books of Scripture, and their seeming incongruities and discrepancies, will be more likely to be interpreted in their proper harmony, than by linking together the annotations and reflections, however superior in themselves, of independent or confederated writers. And the various materials of information, supplied by many excellent works of others, in illustration of the sacred volume, being digested by one mind, into one uniform exposition, may help more than most other methods, to give the reader this profitable impression; that, among the conflicting views of divine truth, so frequently and mischievously based on insulated texts, passages, and books, there is such a thing as a possibility of explaining the whole word of God, in consistency with itself, and with sound reason, and common sense, and all undeniable truth.
Let not however the disputer of this world here expect to find an answer for every perverse or frivolous objection, which the wit of man, in its licentious exercise, has discovered or devised. The best reply to such irreverent speculations, is a studied silence. The best means of convincing such gainsayers, is to shew them that we are too much concerned for their folly to answer them according to their foolishness. Nor must it be supposed that a satisfactory solution will be here afforded, for the many real and obvious difficulties which the word of God presents to the most devout student. Some of these arise from the imperfection of human language; some from the difference between the original and the translation; many from the prejudices current amongst men, many more from the unwillingness, and incapacity of mankind to receive the things of God. A passage now inexplicable, may have been suited to edify men of past generations. Or it may edify them that are to come. It may be profitable to some few in all ages of the world, preeminent in understanding and in grace. Or it may be something utterly beyond the understanding of any man, touched upon of necessity in connexion with something else, which is plain and useful to many or to all. In such cases, we can give no reason for that which God has said but this: it is reasonable that there should be some points in his revelation above our comprehension.
Nor again let the votaries of any human system of divinity, here look to see their favourite texts disproportionately brought forward, their select doctrines appended to every text, whether relevant or irrelevant, and the scientific terms of their theological vocabulary substituted for the plain, pure, and simple phraseology of the inspired writers. On the contrary, it is the fundamental plan of this work, to follow out each passage of Scripture in its own legitimate bearing; neither stretching nor curtailing any single line of doctrine or duty; but speaking the whole truth in the same proportion as it is set down in God's word; with as little reference as possible to the vain questions and bitter disputes which have been the bane of theology; and yet with all due deference to the general consent of the true church throughout all ages, so well expressed, in almost every instance, by our own articles and liturgy. Surely nothing would more tend, under the blessing of God, to heal our unhappy divisions both in the church and out of it, than a habit of studying the Bible on such principles as these. And nothing would more largely help to advance the kingdom of our Redeemer, either abroad or at home, than the healing of our unhappy divisions. That this work, however unworthy in its plan or execution, may be blest in the furtherance of ends so excellent, that both the writer and the reader may be enabled in their religious convictions to call no man master upon earth, to side with no party except so far as it sides with truth, to believe the truth sincerely, and to love it fervently, and above all to adorn the truth thus held, by a humble heart, a holy life, and a heavenly mind, may God of his infinite mercy grant, through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.