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have occasioned him inexpressible regret, on the recollection | Sudlow, a good friend of Mr. Henry, said, before he left of his being at all accessary to it. Chester, they should never see him again. His friends therefore should have dissuaded him from this undertaking, especially on horseback. As he passed Dudden he drank a glass of the mineral water there. Before he came to Torporley, his horse stumbled in a hole, and threw him off. He was a little wet, but said he was not hurt, and felt no inconvenience from the fall. His companions pressed him to alight at Torporley, but he resolved to go on to Nantwich, and there he preached on Jer. xxxi. 18; but all his hearers noticed his want of his usual liveliness, and after dinner, he was advised to lose a little blood. He consented to this, though he made no complaint of indisposition. After bleeding he fell asleep, and slept so long, that some of his friends thought it right to awaken him, at which he expressed himself rather displeased.
As he continued to interest himself in the welfare of that society to the very last, so likewise he did in whatever concerned the other congregations in that neighbourhood, with which he had been so long connected; and in this his last journey he visited several of them, to the great injury of his health: indeed he may be said to have sacrificed his life in their service. On Tuesday, June 8, he went to Wrexham, and, having preached there, returned to Chester that night; he says, "not at all tired:" but it seems he had some apprehension of a return of the diabetes, and drank some of the Bristol water, by way of prevention. On the 14th he went to visit his brother Warburton, at Grange, and from thence to Knutsford, whither Mr. Gardiner accompanied him, and where he met several of his brethren. From thence he rode, on the Tuesday evening, to Chowbent in Lancashire, and the next day returned to Chester. Though he did not perceive himself to be greatly fatigued, some of his friends could not but fear that he must have injured his health by riding so many miles in so short a time, and by preaching at every place where he came, especially in so hot a summer. Indeed he himself, in a letter written at this time to Mrs. Henry, complains of the heat of the weather, which, he says, made him as faint and feeble as he was when he came up last from the country; and, from a subsequent passage, it seems as if he found himself, after his late hasty tour, far from being well. "If God bring me home in safety," says he, "I believe it will do well to use the means I did last year, unless the return of the cool weather should make it needless; for when I am in the air I am best." He adds, "Though I am here among my old friends, yet I find my new ones lie near my heart, among whom God has now cut out my work."
His old intimate friend, Mr. Illidge, was present, who had been desired by Sir Thomas Delves and his lady to invite him to their house, at Doddington, whither their steward was sent to conduct him. But he was not able to proceed any further, and went to bed at Mr. Mottershed's house, where he felt himself so ill that he said to his friends, "Pray for me, for now I cannot pray for myself." While they were putting him to bed, he spoke of the excellence of spiritual comforts in a time of affliction, and blessed God that he enjoyed them. To his friend, Mr. Illidge, he addressed himself in these memorable words: "You have been used to take notice of the sayings of dying men-this is mine: That a life spent in the service of God, and communion with him, is the most comfortable and pleasant life that one can live in the present world." He had a restless night, and about five o'clock on Tuesday morning he was seized with a fit, which his medical attendants agreed to be an apoplexy. He lay speechless, with his eyes fixed, till about eight o'clock, June 22, and then expired.
A near relation of his wrote on this occasion, "I believe it was most agreeable to him to have so short a passage from his work to his reward. And why should we envy him? It is glorious to die in the service of so great and good a Master, who, we are sure, will not let any of his servants lose by him.' Yet it cannot but be regretted, that any of them should, by an inordinate zeal, shorten their days, and, by this means, prevent their more lasting usefulness.
On Thursday, before the corpse was removed from Nantwich, Mr. Reynolds, of Salop, preached an excellent sermon on the sad occasion, which was printed. Six ministers accompanied it to Chester, who were met by eight of the clergy, ten coaches, and a great many persons on horseback. Many dissenting ministers followed the mourners, and a universal respect was paid to the deceased by persons of distinction of all denominations. He was buried in Trinity Church, in Chester, where several dear relatives had been laid before him. Mr. Withington delivered a suitable discourse, for the improvement of the providence, at the Thursday lecture, and another on the Lord's day morning after the funeral, as Mr. Gardiner also did in the afternoon, on 2 Kings ii. 12, My father, my father, &c. Mr. Acton, the Baptist minister, took a respectful notice of the loss which the church had sustained by this event. When the news of his death reached London, it occasioned universal lamentation: there was scarcely a pulpit among the dissenters in which notice was not taken of the breach made in the church of God; almost every sermon was a funeral sermon for Mr. Henry; and many, who were no friends to the nonconformists, acknowledged that they had lost one who was a great support and honour to their interest. The sermon preached to his congregation at Hackney, July 11, 1714, was by his intimate friend, Mr. William Tong, on John xiii. 36, Whither I go thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterward. This discourse was published, and afterward subjoined to the folio edition of Mr. Henry's Works.
In the last letter which Mrs. Henry received from him, dated June 19, he informed her that he had taken the coach for Wednesday, the 23d, and that he was to get into it at Whitchurch, from whence he was pleased to think he should have the company of Mr. Yates of that place; and as the following Wednesday was the day for the quarterly fast at Hackney, he expressed his desire that due care might be taken to engage the assistance of some of his brethren.
The next day after he wrote this letter was the sabbath, which he spent at Chester; and it was the last he spent on earth: a remarkable circumstance, that Providence should so order it that his last labours should be bestowed where they were begun, and where the most of his days had been spent. It was also singular and pleasing that, on his two last sabbaths in the church below, he was directed to a subject SO peculiarly adapted to the occasion, namely, that of the eternal sabbath in heaven, on which he was so soon to enter; for on the preceding Lord's day, he had preached twice on Heb. iv. 9, There remaineth a rest for the people of God; which he considered, agreeably to the original, under the idea of a sabbath, which he illustrated in a variety of particulars. On the Lord's day following, he kept the same idea in view, while he treated on that solemn caution, for the improvement of the subject-Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. The circumstances of Mr. Henry's closing his ministry in this remarkable manner, induced Mr. Tong, in his Life, to give his readers the substances of both these discourses.
The next day after delivering them he set off, in his journey homeward, without feeling any inconvenience from the past day's labours; indeed he thought he had found relief from his late indisposition, by his excursion to Knutsford and Lancashire; so that he was encouraged (not very prudently) to make an appointment for preaching at Nantwich that day, in his way to London. But all his friends observed that he appeared very heavy and drowsy; though, when asked how he did, he always answered, "Well." An apothecary, however, Mr.
EPISTLE TO THE READER.
Ir is not so much our design to recommend this excellent performance, as to tell the world how sensible we are that it can never need our recommendation. We are fully assured it is able to speak for itself; and, if it were not so, we know very well that our names and sentiments can never contribute any authority to it.
We will not take notice of those extrinsic and occasional advantages which give unto books a precarious and short lived reputation; such as, the capacity of the generality of readers, the humours of the age, an entire subserviency, or a direct opposition to the prevailing interests of the places in which we live but this is certain, the real intrinsic and abiding value of a work of this nature must arise from the excellency of its subject, together with the just manner in which it is treated.
The subject of this book may, with very good reason, challenge the preference to every thing else in this world: it is the first volume of the oracles of God, of equal authority with the rest of the Bible, and of excellent use to explain and confirm the other parts of sacred writ unto us.
The study of antiquity has always been accounted a very profitable and pleasing thing, and there is no antiquity like unto that which we have in the Books of Moses: other histories are novel and modern, if compared with this: some of them, perhaps, may lead us a thousand years back, two thousand is a great way; those that pretend to go higher, lose themselves, and us too, in the dark and untrodden paths of fancy and conjecture; but here we have a book that gives us a certain, rational, satisfactory account of the beginning of time, the creation of the world, the original of nations, the division of languages, and, what concerns us most to know, the unhappy source of all that vanity and vice that have corrupted human nature, and made so deplorable a breach betwixt God and man; together with the wonderful counsels and methods of Divine love, for the recovery of sinners by the Promised Seed, so directly shadowed forth, especially by the typical sacrifices of the Levitical law,
It ought to be very grateful to us, to consider how, in giving us the Bible, our gracious God has most kindly supplied the manifest deficiencies of our personal knowledge. We are short lived and short sighted creatures, it is but very little that falls under our own observation; but God has put a book into our hands, by the help whereof we may stretch out our knowledge to a vast compass: if we look into the historical part of it, we may go back as far as to the beginning of time; and if we consult the prophetical, we may look as far forward as to the end of days, and may take a view, from first to last, of all those things in which our duty and happiness are most nearly interested.
TO THE PUBLIC.
MR. HENRY's Comment upon the Bible being grown very scarce, and there being a demand both at home and abroad for a new edition, it is hoped the present method taken to restore it to the public will meet with general approbation and encouragement, as it seems the best way to promote the spreading of this valuable work: for it could not be purchased, being so voluminous, by every one's purse at once, and therefore this expedient of publishing a certain number of sheets weekly by subscription, was resolved on.
As to the merit of MR. HENRY 8 Comment, little need be said. This fifth edition bespeaks its former kind reception in the learned world; and the present demand for it shows, that it still continues to have the public favour and esteem. And indeed it is worthy. THERE IS NO COMMENT UPON THE BIBLE, EITHER ANCIENT OR MODERN, IN ALL RESPECTS EQUAL TO MR. HENRY'S. He had a great insight into the true sense and meaning of scripture, and had a peculiar talent at raising some spiritual use and improvement from every passage. In these two things he excelled, and for these he has gained an established reputation-established among the Ministers of the Gospel, who make the scripture the standard of their preaching, and who have long found MR. HENRY to be unto them as a library; and established among all serious persons, both CHURCHMEN and DISSENTERS, who make the word of
As to the manner in which the reverend Author has treated this noble subject, we shall only say it is worthy of himself, that is, of one who from a child has known the holy scriptures, that, by the example and advice of an excellent father, by the help of a pious and learned education, has searched very narrowly into them, and not only made them the delightful subject of his solitary hours, but constantly allowed them a large room both in his family devotions and public ministrations. How great and manifest advantages have resulted from hence to himself, as to his own temper and conduct, and to the happy people among whom he has spent so much of his life and labours, we must not say, because we would not offend him, but leave it to the impartial thoughts of all those that will be so kind to themselves as to accept of the assistance that is here offered unto them.
We cannot conclude without expressing our hearts' desire and prayer to God, that our dear and honoured brother may live to see the good success of this part of his work, and may have the opportunity to pursue and perfect all his further designs of this nature,
LONDON, 31st Oct. 1706.
RECOMMENDATION BY THE EMINENT MR. ROMAINE,
WAS BY HIM ANNEXED TO A FOLIO EDITION, PUBLISHED IN NUMBERS IN THE YEAR 1761.
JOHN SHOWER, WILLIAM TONG.
I God their study and delight, and who think it their happiness to be able to say with that great king, Lord, what love have I unto thy law; all the day long is my study in it. And his character will be further established, as the work spreads; for whoever really desires to be made wiser in the things of God, or to attain greater experience of them, will find, by the help of divine grace, the reading of MR. HENRY very instructing and improving.
It need not be doubted then, but the present publication of this work, the character of which is so well established, will be favourably received; and the more so, as it is seasonable. There is at present a great revival of religion, both at home and in the American Colonies: and all these religious people make the scripture the rule of their faith and practice. They prize the good word of life, and they experience the power of it: for they receive it, not as the word of man, but as it is in truth the word of God, which also worketh in them. Such persons will be thankful for this publication, which puts into their hands the best help now extant to their reading with profit the Gospel of their salvation.
For these reasons I heartily recommend the present edition of MR. HENRY'S Comment, and hope it will tend to promote the interest of religion, and bring many souls to the knowledge of saving truth.
LAMBETH, June 16, 1761.
KINGS OF JUDAH AND ISRAEL,
FROM THE FOUNDING OF SOLOMON'S TEMPLE, IN THE YEAR OF THE WORLD THREE THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED AND THIRTYTHREE, TO ITS FINAL DESTRUCTION BY NEBUCHADNEZZAR; CONTAINING THE SPACE OF FOUR HUNDRED AND TWENTYTHREE YEARS.
ABSTRACT OF THE REIGNS
Jeroboam I. . . .
The TEMPLE destroyed, and JUDAH, with the remainder of ISRAEL, carried away to Babylon by
The number of the kings of Judah, of the race and family of David, excepting Athaliah, who was daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, was 21. Average of their reigns in 423 years, 20 years and 52 days each. Number of the kings of Israel in 254 years from the reign of Jeroboam I. to the third captivity under Hoshea, 19. Average of their reigns, 13 years 98 days each.
THOUGH it is most my concern, that I be able to give a good account to God and my own conscience, yet, perhaps it will be expected, that I give the world also some account of this bold undertaking; which I shall endeavour to do with all plainness, and as one who believes, that if men must be reckoned with in the great day, for every vain and idle word they speak, much more for every vain and idle line they write.
And it may be of use, in the first place, to lay down those great and sacred principles which I go upon, and am governed by, in this endeavour to explain and improve these portions of holy writ; which endeavour I humbly offer to the service of those (and to those only I expect it will be acceptable) who agree with me in these six principles.
Divine revelations, when first given, were confirmed by visions, miracles, and prophecy; but they were to be transmitted to distant regions and future ages, with their proofs and evidences, by writing, the surest way of conveyance, by which the knowledge of other memorable things is preserved and propagated. We have reason to think that even the Ten Commandments, though spoken with such solemnity at Mount Sinai, would have been, long before this, lost and forgotten, if they had been handed down by tradition only, and never had been put in writing: it is that which is written, that remains.
I. That religion is the one thing needful; that to know, and love, and fear God our Maker, and in all the instances both of The scripture indeed is not compiled as a methodical sysdevout affection, and of a good conversation, to keep his com tem or body of divinity, secundum artem-according to the rules mandments, (Eccles. 12. 13.) is, without doubt, the whole of of art, but in several ways of writing, (histories, laws, propheman; it is all in all to him. This the wisest of men, after a cies, songs, epistles, and even proverbs,) at several times, and close and copious argument in his Ecclesiastes, lays down as by several hands, as Infinite Wisdom saw fit. The end is the conclusion of this whole matter, (the Quod erat demonstran-effectually obtained; such things are plainly supposed and dum of his whole discourse;) and therefore I may be allowed taken for granted, and such things are expressly revealed and to lay it down as a postulatum, and the foundation of this whole made known, as, being all put together, sufficiently inform us of all the truths and laws of the holy religion we are to believe, and be governed by.
thence, that the scriptures are not now necessary, is as absurd as it would be to argue that the world might do well enough without the sun, because in the Creation the world had light three days before the sun was made.
It is necessary to mankind in general, that there should be religion in the world, absolutely necessary for the preservation That all scripture is given by inspiration of God, (2 Tim. 3. of the honour of the human nature, and no less so for the pre-16.) and that holy men spake and wrote as they were moved by servation of the order of human societies. It is necessary to the Holy Ghost, (2 Pet. 1. 21.) we are sure; but who dare preeach of us in particular, that we be religious; we cannot other- tend to describe that inspiration? None knows the way of the wise answer the end of our creation, obtain the favour of our Spirit, nor how the thoughts were formed in the heart of him Creator, make ourselves easy now, or happy for ever. A man that was inspired, any more than we know the way of the soul that is endued with the powers of reason, by which he is capa- into the body, or how the bones are formed in the womb of her ble of knowing, serving, glorifying, and enjoying his Maker, that is with child, Eccles. 11. 5. But we may be sure that the and yet lives without God in the world, is certainly the most blessed Spirit did not only habitually prepare and qualify the despicable and the most miserable animal under the sun. penmen of scripture for that service, and put it into their hearts II. That divine revelation is necessary to true religion, to the to write, but did likewise assist their understandings and memobeing and support of it. That faith without which it is im-ries in recording those things which they themselves had the possible to please God, cannot come to any perfection by seeing knowledge of, and effectually secure them from error and misthe works of God, but it must come by hearing the word of take; and what they could not know but by revelation, (as for God, Rom. 10. 17. The rational soul, since it received that instance, Gen. 1. and John 1.) the same blessed Spirit gave fatal shock by the Fall, cannot have or maintain that just regard them clear and satisfactory information of. And, no doubt, to the great Author of its being, that observance of him, and as far as was necessary to the end designed, they were expectation from him, which are both its duty and felicity, directed by the Spirit, even in the language and expression; without some supernatural discovery made by himself of him- for there were words which the Holy Ghost taught; (1 Cor. 2. self, and of his mind and will. Natural light, no doubt, is of 13.) and God saith to the prophet, Thou shalt speak with my excellent use, as far as it goes; but it is necessary that there words, Ezek. 3. 4. However, it is not material to us, who drew be a divine revelation, to rectify its mistakes, and make up its up the statute, nor what liberty he took in using his own words: deficiencies, to help us out there where the light of nature when it is ratified, it is become the legislator's act, and binds leaves us quite at a loss, especially in the way and method of the subject to observe the true intent and meaning of it. man's recovery from his lapsed state, and his restoration to his Maker's favour; which he cannot but be conscious to himself of the loss of, finding, by sad experience, his own present state to be sinful and miserable. Our own reason shows us the wound, but nothing short of a divine revelation can discover to us a remedy to be confided in.
The scripture proves its divine authority and original both to the wise and to the unwise: even to the unwise and least-thinking part of mankind, it is abundantly proved by the many incontesta ble miracles wrought by Moses and the prophets, Christ and his apostles, for the confirmation of its truths and laws: it would be an intolerable reproach to eternal Truth, to suppose this divine The case and character of those nations of the earth which seal affixed to a lie. Beside this, to the more wise and thinkhad no other guide in their devotions than that of natural light, ing, to the more considerate and contemplative, it recommends with some remains of the divine institution of sacrifices re- itself by those innate excellencies which are self-evident chaceived by tradition from their fathers, plainly show how neces-racteristics of its divine original. If we look wistly, we shall sary divine revelation is to the subsistence of religion; for soon be aware of God's image and superscription upon it. A those that had not the word of God, soon lost God himself, be- mind rightly disposed by a humble sincere subjection to its came vain in their imaginations concerning him, and prodi- Maker, will easily discover the image of God's wisdom in the giously vile and absurd in their worships and divinations. It is awful depth of its mysteries; the image of his sovereignty in the true, the Jews, who had the benefit of divine revelation, lapsed commanding majesty of its style; the image of his unity in the sometimes into idolatry, and admitted very gross corruptions; wonderful harmony and symmetry of all its parts; the image yet, with the help of the law and the prophets, they recovered of his holiness in the unspotted purity of its precepts; and the and reformed: whereas the best and most admired philosophy image of his goodness in the manifest tendency of the whole to of the Heathen could never do any thing toward the cure of the welfare and happiness of mankind in both worlds; in short, the vulgar idolatry, or so much as offered to remove any of it is a work that fathers itself. those barbarous and ridiculous rites of their religion, which were the scandal and reproach of the human nature. Let men therefore pretend what they will, deists are, or will be, atheists; and those that, under colour of admiring the oracles of reason, set aside as useless the oracles of God, undermine the foundations of all religion, and do what they can to cut off all communication between man and his Maker, and to set that noble creature on a level with the beasts that perish.
And as atheists, so deists, notwithstanding their vainglo rious pretensions to reason, as if wisdom must die with them, run themselves upon the grossest and most dishonourable absurdities imaginable; for if the scriptures be not the word of God, then there is no divine revelation now in the world, no discovery at all of God's mind concerning our duty and happiness: so that let a man be ever so desirous and solicitous to do his Maker's will, he must, without remedy, perish in the ignorance of it, since there is no book but this, that will undertake to tell him what it is; a consequence which can by no means be reconciled to the idea we have of the Divine goodness. And (which is no less an absurdity) if the scrip
III. That divine revelation is not now to be found or expected any where but in the scriptures of the Old and New Testament; and there it is. It is true, there were religion and divine revelation before there was any written word; but to argue from VOL. I.-3
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tures be not really a divine revelation, they are certainly as great a cheat as ever was put upon the world: but we have no reason to think them so; for bad men would never write so good a book, nor would Satan have so little subtlety as to help to cast out Satan; and good men would never do so wicked a thing as to counterfeit the broad seal of Heaven, and to affix it to a patent of their own framing, though in itself ever so just. No, These are not the words of him that hath a devil.
IV. That the scriptures of the Old and New Testament were purposely designed for our learning. They might have been a divine revelation to those into whose hands they were first put, and yet we, at this distance, have been no way concerned in them; but it is certain that they were intended to be of universal and perpetual use and obligation to all persons, in all places, and all ages, that have the knowledge of them, even unto us upon whom the ends of the world are come, Rom. 15. 4. Though we are not under the law as a covenant of innocency, for then, being guilty, we should unavoidably perish under its curse; yet it is not therefore an antiquated statute, but a standing declaration of the will of God concerning good and evil, sin and duty, and its obligation to obedience is in as full force and virtue as ever and unto us is the gospel of the ceremonial law preached, as well as unto them to whom it was first delivered, and much more plainly, Heb. 4. 2. The histories of the Old Testament were written for our admonition and direction, (1 Cor. 10. 11.) and not barely for the information and entertainment of the curious. The prophets, though long since dead, prophesy again by their writings, before peoples and nations; (Heb. 12. 5.) and Solomon's exhortation speaketh
unto us as unto sons.
The subject of the holy scripture is universal and perpetual, and therefore of common concern. It is intended, 1. To revive the universal and perpetual law of nature, the very remains of which (or ruins rather) in natural conscience, give us hints that we must look somewhere else for a fairer copy. 2. To reveal the universal and perpetual law of grace, which God's common beneficence to the children of men, such as puts them into a better state than that of devils, gives us some ground to expect. The divine authority likewise, which in this book commands our belief and obedience, is universal and perpetual, and knows no limits, either of time or place; it follows, therefore, that every nation and every age, to which these sacred writings are transmitted, are bound to receive them with the same veneration and pious regard that they commanded at their first entrance.
Though God hath, in these last days, spoken to us by his Son, yet we are not therefore to think that what he spake at sundry times and in divers manners to the fathers, (Heb. 1. 1.) is of no use to us, or that the Old Testament is an almanac out of date; no, we are built upon the foundation of the prophets, as well as of the apostles, Christ himself being the Corner-stone, (Eph. 2. 20.) in whom both these sides of this blessed building meet and are united: they were those ancient records of the Jewish church, which Christ and his apostles so oft referred to, so oft appealed to, and commanded us to search and to take heed to. The preachers of the gospel, like Jehoshaphat's judges, wherever they went, had this book of the law with them, and found it a great advantage to them to speak to them that knew the law, Rom. 7. 1. That celebrated translation of the Old Testament in the Greek tongue by the Seventy, between two and three hundred years before the birth of Christ, was to the nations, a happy preparative for the entertainment of the gospel, by spreading the knowledge of the law for as the New Testament expounds and completes the Old, and thereby makes it more serviceable to us now than it was to the Jewish church; so the Old Testament confirms and illustrates the New, and shows us Jesus Christ, the same yesterday that he is today, and will be for ever.
V. That the holy scriptures were not only designed for our learning, but are the settled standing rule of our faith and practice, by which we must be governed now, and judged shortly it is not only a book of general use, (so the writings of good and wise men may be,) but it is of sovereign and commanding authority; the statute-book of God's kingdom, which our oath of allegiance to him, as our supreme Lord, binds us to the observance of. Whether we will hear, or whether we will forbear, we must be told, that this is the oracle we are to consult, and to be determined by; the touchstone we are to appeal to, and try doctrines by; the rule we are to have an eye to, by which we must in every thing order our affections and conversations, and from which we must always take our measures. This is the testimony, this is the law which is bound up and sealed among the disciples, that word, according to which if we do not speak, it is because there is no light in us, Isa. 8. 16, 20.
The making of the light within our rule, which by nature is darkness, and by grace is but a copy of, and conformable to, the written word, is setting the judge above the law; and making the traditions of the church rivals with the scripture, is no better it is making the clock, which every one concerned puts backward or forward at pleasure, to correct the sun, that faithful measurer of time and days. These are absurdities, which, being once granted, thousands follow, as we see by sad experience.
VI. That therefore it is the duty of all Christians diligently to search the scriptures, and it is the office of ministers to guide and assist them therein. How useful soever this book of books is in itself, it will be of no use to us, if we do not acquaint
ourselves with it, by reading it daily, and meditating upon it, that we may understand the mind of God in it, and may apply what we understand to ourselves for our direction, rebuke, and comfort, as there is occasion. It is the character of the holy and happy man, that his delight is in the law of the Lord; and, as an evidence thereof, he converses with it as his constant companion, and advises with it as his most wise and trusty counsellor, for in that law doth he meditate day and night, Ps. 1. 2.
It concerns us to be ready in the scriptures, and to make ourselves so by constant reading and careful observation, and especially by earnest prayer to God, for the promised gift of the Holy Ghost, whose office it is to bring things to our remembrance which Christ hath said to us; (John 14. 26.) that thus we may have some good word or other at hand for our use in our addresses to God, and in our converse with men ; in our resistance of Satan, and in communing with our own hearts; and may be able, with the good householder, to bring out of this treasury things new and old, for the entertainment and edification both of ourselves and others. If any thing will make a man of God perfect in this world, will complete both a Christian and a minister, thoroughly furnish him for every good work, it must be this. 2 Tim. 3. 17.
It concerns us also to be mighty in the scriptures, as Apollos was, (Acts 18. 24.) that is, to be thoroughly acquainted with the true intent and meaning of them, that we may understand what we read, and may not misinterpret or misapply it, but by the conduct of the blessed Spirit may be led into all truth, (John 16. 13.) and may hold it fast in faith and love, and put every part of scripture to that use for which it was intended. The letter, either of law or gospel, profits little without the Spirit.
The ministers of Christ are herein ministers to the Spirit for the good of the church; their business is to open and apply the scriptures; thence they may fetch their knowledge, thence their doctrines, devotions, directions, and admonitions, and thence their very language and expression. Expounding the scriptures was the most usual way of preaching in the first and purest ages of the church. What have the Levites to do but to teach Jacob the law; (Deut. 33. 10.) not only to read it, but to give the sense, and cause them to understand the reading? Neh. 8. 8. How shall they do this, except some man guide them? Acts 8. 31. As ministers would hardly be believed without Bibles to back them, so Bibles would hardly be understood without ministers to explain them; but if, having both, we perish in ignorance and unbelief, our blood will be upon our own head.
Being fully persuaded therefore of these things, I conclude, that whatever help is offered to good Christians in searching the scriptures, is real service done to the glory of God, and to the interests of his kingdom among men; and that is it which hath drawn me into this undertaking, which I have gone about in weakness, and in fear, and much trembling, lest I should be found exercising myself in things too high for me, (1 Cor. 2. 3.) and so laudable an undertaking should suffer damage by an unskilful management.
If any desire to know how so mean and obscure a person as I am, who in learning, judgment, felicity of expression, and all advantages for such a service, am less than the least of all my Master's servants, came to venture upon so great a work, I can give no other account of it than this: It has long been my practice, what little time I had to spare in my study from my constant preparations for the pulpit, to spend it in drawing up expositions upon some parts of the New Testament, not so much for my own use, as purely for my own entertainment, because I knew not how to employ my thoughts and_time more to my satisfaction. Trahit sua quemque voluptas-Every man that studies, hath some beloved study, which is his delight above any other; and this is mine. It is that learning which it was my happiness from a child to be trained up in, by my ever honoured father, whose memory must always be very dear and precious to me: he often reminded me that a good textuary is a good divine; and that I should read other books with this in my eye, that I might be the better able to understand and apply the scripture.
While I was thus employing myself, came out Mr. Burkitt's Exposition, of the Gospels first, and afterward of the Acts and the Epistles, which met with very good acceptance among serious people, and no doubt, by the blessing of God, will continue to do great service to the church. Soon after he had finished that work, it pleased God to call him to his rest; upon which I was urged, by some of my friends, and was myself inclined, to attempt the like upon the Old Testament, in the strength of the grace of Christ. This upon the Pentateuch is humbly offered as a specimen: if it fnd favour, and be found any way useful, it is my present purpose, in dependence upon Divine aids, to go on, so long as God shall continue my life and health, and as my other work will permit.
Many helps, I know, we have of this kind in our own language, which we have a great deal of reason to value, and to be very thankful to God for: but the scripture is a subject that can never be exhausted. Semper habet aliquid relegentibus-However frequently we read it, we shall always meet with something new. When David had amassed a vast treasure for the building of the temple, yet saith he to Solemon, Thou mayest add thereto, 1 Chron. 22. 14. Such a treasure is scriptare-knowledge; it is still capable of increase, till we all come to the perfect man,