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frequent allusions to rites, customs, and incidents, well known to the natives of the writer's country, and to his contemporaries, render such occasional illustrations, as can be given in the notes, very expedient for those of distant lands and ages. It is not on account of any peculiar obscurity in sacred writ, that more has been judged requisite in this way, with regard to it, than with regard to any other writings; but partly on account of certain peculiarities in the case, and partly on account of the superior importance of the subject. Of both these I shall have occasion to take notice in the Preliminary Dissertations. There is a further use in bringing additional light for viewing these subjects in, though we admit that the light absolutely necessary was not deficient before. To brighten our perceptions is to strengthen them; and to strengthen them, is to give them a firmer hold of the memory, and to render them more productive of all the good fruits that might naturally be expected from them. The most we can say of the best illustrations which, from the knowledge of Christian antiquity, critics have been enabled to give the sacred text, is like that which the ingenious author of Polymetis says, in regard to the utility of his inquiries into the remains of ancient sculpture and painting, for throwing light upon the classics. “ The chief use,” says he “, “ I have found in this “sort of study, has not been so much in discover
ing what was wholly unknown, as in strengthening and beautifying' what was known before,
10 Dialogue V1.
expeis not I writ,
in the mpor. ve OC
sertaStional admit ficient ngthen nem a more tural11 say ledge
d to nious
" When the day was so much overcast just now,
you saw all the same objects that you do at pre“sent; these trees, that river, the forest on the left "hand, and those spreading vales, on the right: but
now the sun is broke out, you see all of them more clearly, and with more pleasure. It shows scarce any thing that you did not see before ; but it
gives a new life and lustre to every thing that you “ did see."
It cannot, however, be denied that, on this subject, many things have been advanced, in the way of illustration, which have served more to darken, than to illuminate, the sacred pages. I have great reason to think that, in my researches into this mat
I have been impartial ; but, whether I have been successful, is another question : for, though partiality in the method of conducting an inquiry, sufficiently accounts for its proving unfruitful, the utmosť impartiality will not always ensure success. There are more considerations which, in a work of this kind, must be taken into view, than even readers of discernment will at first have any apprehension of. Several of the changes here adopted, in translating both words and idioms, will, I know well, upon a superficial view, be judged erroneous; and many of them will doubtless be condemned' as frivolous, which, it is to be hoped, will, on deeper reflection, be admitted, by well informed judges, both to be more apposite in themselves, and to render the matter treated more perspicuous.
In illustrating the principles on which some of the changes here made are founded, a great deal more, in the way of critical discussion, was found necessary, in order to do justice to the argument, than could, with propriety, be thrown into the notes. A conviction of this, first suggested the design of discussing some points more fully in preliminary dissertations. This, however, is not the only use which these discourses were intended to answer. Though there has appeared, since the revival of letters in the West, a numerous list of critics on the Bible, little has been done for ascertaining the proper, and, in some respect, peculiar, rules of criticising the sacred books; for pointing out the difficulties and the dangers to which the different methods have been exposed, and the most probable means of surmounting the one, and escaping the other. Something in this way has been attempted here. Besides, I have been the more free in applying my philological remarks in these discourses, to various passages in the other apostolical writings, as I had a more extensive view in translating, when I first engaged in it, than that to which at last I found it necessary to confine myself.
I have endeavoured, in the interpretations given, to avoid, with equal care, an immoderate attachment to both extremes, antiquity and novelty. I am not conscious that I have in any instance, been inclined to disguise the falsity of an opinion, because ancient, or, with partial fondness, hastily to admit its truth, because new. That an opinion is the opinion of the multitude is, to some, a powerful recommendation;
to others it appears an infallible criterion of error ; to those who are truly rational it will be neither. There are, indeed, many cases wherein antiquity and universality are evidences of some importance. It has been, all along, my intention never to overlook these circumstances, where they could be urged with propriety; for certain it is, that singularity is rather an unfavourable presumption. But I hope that, with the help of some things which are treated in the Preliminary Dissertations, the intelligent and candid reader will be convinced, that nowhere have I more effectually restored the undisguised sentiments of antiquity, than where I employ expressions which, at first sight, may appear to proceed from the affectation of novelty. I have, to the utmost of my power, observed the injunction which God gave to the Prophet Jeremiah "l: I have stood in the ways ; I have looked and asked for the old paths. And if, in this research, I have, in any instances proved successful; men of discernment will, I am persuaded, be sensible, that nowhere have I been luckier in conveying the genuine conceptions of the most venerable antiquity, than in those places which, to a superficial ex. amination, will appear, in point of language, most chargeable with innovation. The very command, to look and to ask for the old paths, implies that it may happen that the old paths are deserted, consequently untrodden, and known, comparatively, to very few. In that case, it is manifest that the person who would
11 Jer. vi. 16.
recommend them, runs the risk of being treated as
in this work, have erred in many things : for to err is the lot oi frail humanity; and no merely human production ever was, or ever will be, faultless. But I can say, with confidence, that I have not erred in any thing essential. And wherefore am I thus confident? Because I am conscious that I have assiduously looked and asked for the old paths; that I have sought out the good way; that I might, at all hazards, both walk therein myself, and recommend it to others : and because I believe the word of the Lord Jesus: Whosoever will do the will of God, shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God". This I think a sufficient security, that no person, who is truly thus minded, shall err in what is essential. In what concerns the vitals of religion, rectitude of disposition goes farther, even to enlighten the mind, than acuteness of intellect, however important this may be, in other respects. But the exercise of no faculty is to be despised, that can be rendered, in any degree, conducive to our advancement in the knowledge of God. Nay, it is our duty to exert every faculty in this acquisition, as much as possible,