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of the feeble hand or thread which strings them together; and as they are in no case taken at second hand, but are entirely the result of honest and original research, they may be depended upon for accuracy, no less than prized for their intrinsic worth.
The Writer feels that the proper province of a Commentator is to unfold the mind of his Author, in this case “ the mind of the Spirito,” using such means as may be within his reach; that others to whom such means are not accessible, or who from want of time and opportunity are unable to avail themselves of them, may so reap the benefit of his vicarious labours.
That this has been lost sight of by most of the popular English Commentators, a glance at any of their remarks on those crucial passages which first drive inquirers to Commentaries will painfully prove. There are, we know, passages of Scripture which haunt the minds of thoughtful children and devout servants for days; and these must often depart from our household devotions little the better, in this respect, for the elaborate Commentary to which they have been listening, in the vain hope of hearing some difficult passage which has long perplexed them satisfactorily explained.
These Lectures were thus originally prepared with a view to reading in the household. They contain
C“For the meaning of a book," as one of our deepest thinkers has observed, “is nothing but the meaning of the Author.” Bp. Butler, Analogy, II. vii. The germ of the thought which this profound writer proceeds to expand in a remarkable passage of his immortal work. He seems to have been almost anticipated by Augustine, (In Jo. Tr. cii. 1.):-“ Non enim sonum litterarum ac syllabarum, sed quod sonus ipse significat, et quod eo sono recte ao veraciter intelligitur, hoc accipiendus est dicere."
in fact the substance, considerably enlarged, of what has been actually so delivered. But the materials increasing abundantly, during a revision, upon the Author's hands,—they will, he is aware, in their present form, no longer serve that original purpose. This will, however, account for the particular form in which these Lectures are cast—a form which it was thought good to preserve even when the original design was abandoned: and possibly, by a little previous care in selection, certain paragraphs may be found in each portion, which would yet be available for this purpose also, by any who might be disposed so to employ them; that so the whole household, as well as any individual member of the same, may be presented from time to time with some satisfying application of the word of God. Nevertheless, as they are, they will doubtless be found more suited as a companion to the closet ; and the deepest desire of their Author is, that they may tend to make the devotional study of the Scripture not a whit the less devout, but possibly yet more intelligent.
Having gradually collected a considerable quantity of materials bearing upon this subject,—though at first without any idea of publication,-it became to him a question whether he should altogether lay them aside, or let others share in the results of his threeyears' labour: a labour which only those who have undertaken the like can at all conceive, and which, if foreseen, would scarcely perhaps have been persevered in; a labour which instead of diminishing as the work advances, rather grows and grows.
In the multitude of Commentaries at the present
time, the Writer feels bound to state these reasons for adding to their number.
He has endeavoured throughout to keep in view the happy medium between mere criticism on the one hand, and excessive spiritualizing on the other. It is one thing to make a few crude, common-place observations on any portion of the Scripture, but it is another thing altogether to present in measured terms, and within a reasonable compass, the results of much reading and long meditation upon the same. And there are truths which are only to be learnt, or realized and made one's own, in the school of conflict and sorrow. Especially does it become a feeble and obscure person to take heed lest he incur the charge, from which even a great Commentator was not exempt, that, in some cases at least,“ the opiniator overruled the annotator, and the man had a mind to indulge his fancyd. While, therefore,
d“ Having had the opportunity and happiness of a frequent converse with Dr. Pocock, (the late Hebrew and Arabic Professor to the University of Oxon. and the greatest master, certainly, of the Eastern languages and learning, which this or any other age or nation has bred,) I asked him (more than once, as I had occasion ) what he thought of Grotius's exposition of Isaiah liji. and his application of that prophecy, in the first sense and design of it to the prophet Jeremy? To which, smiling, and shaking his head, he answered, Why, what else can be thought or said of it, but that in this the opiniator overruled the annotator, and the man had a mind to indulge his fancy ? This account gave that great man of it, though he was as great in modesty as he was in learning, (greater than which none could be,) and withal, had a particular respect for Grotius, as having been personally acquainted with him. But the truth is, the matter lay deeper than so; for there was a certain party of men whom Grotius had unhappily engaged himself with, who were extremely disgusted at the book De Satisfactione Christi, written by him against Socinus; and therefore, he was to pacify (or rather satisfy) these men, by turning his pen another way in his Annotations, which also was the true reason that he never answered Crellius; a shrewd argument, no doubt, to such as shall well consider these matters, that those in the Low Countries, who, at that time, went by the name of Remonstrants and Arminians, were indeed a great deal more.” South, Ser. xxxiii. The Messiah's Sufferings for the Sins of the People, Note.
he hopes he has not failed to make that warrantable improvement and reasonable application of the various paragraphs designed to be read from time to time, which is most to be desired in a work of this kind,-he has yet always endeavoured to deal honestly with his author, and honestly also with those who may consult his Commentary, by setting forth, as far as was given him, the meaning of the . one, and satisfying, as far as might reasonably be expected, the probable inquiries of the other. Yet nothing, he trusts, has been advanced in this Commentary which will not be found to coincide, on the whole, with the judgment of sober and pious Divines in past ages, as well as in the present epoch of the Church. Any allowed difficulties and “things too high” for him, he has thought it best honestly to confess and reverently to leave
The writer has by no means such confidence in his own powers of research, or such unworthy ideas of the depth of Holy Scripture, as to regard this as any thing but a humble contribution towards the generally better understanding of this deep portion of the word of God. He has but lent his feeble hand towards “ holding forth the word of life.” Yet, even at the risk of repetition, he may be allowed to dwell for a moment upon the extreme difficulty of any thing in the shape of a continuous and connected comment upon such a portion of the Scripture. It is comparatively an easy task to write desultory and detached observations, mere notes, whether critical, or practical, or both : but to
o “ Nor is it at all incredible, that a book which has been so long in the possession of mankind should contain many truths as yet undiscovered." Bp. Butler, Anal. II. iii.
o characnians; one of the
produce any thing actually homiletic is hard indeed ; how hard it is, none but those who have tried can tell. Especially where one honestly endeavours in exposition to preserve, and convey to the reader, the graphic force of the original, which gives in a few bold strokes a succession of pictures or cartoons, if one may so say,—well calculated to leave a vivid impression on the simple mind, and equally to captivate minds of a higher order, any in fact possessing a true taste for the natural and unartificial, the true “sublime and beautiful.” Some commentators appear quite to have overlooked this, which is so characteristic of these faithful and simple and graphic historians; and they have so overlaid these cartoons with colours of their own, that they have succeeded, if in nothing else, at least in effectually obscuring the original lines. But these the writer has in every case endeavoured to put prominently forward ; filling in, with only so much of his own as was necessary, the original outline. He felt that here was a succession of sacred historical pictures, so to say, in which the God-Man was the principal figure; and he wished those who might read him to feel the same : his aim being that they might thus be helped to realize the Saviour as He is set before us in the Gospels, rather than as He is dressed out in certain fashionable systems, in which, whatever flavour of approved opinion the reader is supposed to recognise, he certainly misses that freshness and force in which the living, speaking, sympathizing Saviour appears in simple narrative.
With regard to the many quotations which may be found in these pages, the writer felt that where an interpretation has been well expressed by others,