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TO THE HIGH AND MIGHTY MONARCH,
BY THE GRACE OF GOD KING OF GREAT BRITAIN, FRANCE, AND IRELAND,
DEFENDER OF THE FAITH.
MOST GRACIOUS AND DREAD SOVEREIGN :
Nothing can so much concern a man to seek for, as life eternal. The only means to find this eternal life, is the knowledge of God. There is no means to know God, to purpose, but by his Word. This word, though plain, and clear in the main truths, yet wants not some difficulties in other expressions. The explication of these difficulties, is, for a great part, the occasion and matter of our sermons, lectures, commentaries ; every man holding it both a high honour, and a happy service, to be God's trucheman to the world. The clearest and shortest way of explication, is, by Paraphrase. Many learned interpreters, both of our Church and the Roman, have undertaken this task by parcels; the use and benefit whereof is, and should no less be, universal.
My meanness hath, therefore, boldly endeavoured this great work ; which, as I durst not undergo, without the aid of the best commenters, both ancient and modern ; so I do in all humility subject it to the grave and holy judgment of this renowned Church. It is so far from my thoughts, peremptorily to prescribe senses unto any, as that I am ready, upon better information, to amend my own errors: only my desire and ambition is, to give some light to weaker apprehensions; wherein I hope to do a service, not utterly unbeseeming your Majesty's gracious patronage; and unspeakably beneficial to many thousands of souls ; who shall bless God, for the least glimpses of illumination in these Divine Oracles. The work, such as it is, I most humbly cast down, with myself, at your Majesty's feet ; for who, but God's vicegerent upon earth, could seem proper to challenge the protection of a business, so highly importing the honour of the God of Heaven ; and, amongst kings, besides the relation of a sovereign Master, who, but the Defender of that true Faith, which is infallibly grounded upon these Holy Scriptures : eminent no less in goodness and piety, than in greatness and power; the great pattern of devotion, twice every day, even in public view, constantly busied in this book of God? In so many names, I have presumed, through your Majesty's royal hands, to tender it unto God's Church, not without the vows of my most fervent prayers to God, for the enlargements of his blessings upon your sacred person, family, government; as who am ever justly obliged to be
THE CHRISTIAN READER.
READER : I cannot be so weak, as not to presuppose, that so great and bold a work must needs undergo variety of constructions. There will not want some, I doubt not, who will be of opinion, that this labour might have been better spared ; as thinking the Scriptures to lie already too open to vulgar hands; with whom it is not now seasonable to argue that beaten question, concerning the expedience of the free allowance of God's Book to laic readers ; wherein the Church of England, our dear and blessed mother, hath sufficiently declared her judgment, besides words, by her ingenuous practice. Only, therefore, taking this liberty for granted, I shall easily from hence evince the usefulness of some such plain and orthodox explication. For, since the Scriptures are, through the liberal blessing of God, promiscuously allowed to all hands, I ask, whether it be not much better they should be put into the way of being rightly understood by the simplest, than to lie under the danger of an ignorant misconstruction. Neither do I hereby endeavour to make them more common, but better conceived ; that, where the letter is in use, the sense may not be mistaken. The inconveniences, that are pretended to have followed upon the open and free permission of Scriptures in vulgar languages, have sensibly arisen from the misunderstanding of them. Remove that peril ; and the frequence and universality of them can be no other than a blessing. This service I have here endeavoured to perform ; having commonly, in the passages of this work, trod in the steps, as I have judged, of the best interpretations; and seldom when, gone alone. Neither do I offer to obtrude these my explications upon any reader, as magisterial and peremptory. Who am I, that I should take upon me to govern, and command other men's thoughts? but modestly and humbly propound them to God's
Church, as probable helps to weaker judgments: leaving my reader free, in the mean time, if my sense satisfy not, to his own further disquisition : only, since all men have not choice of commenters, nor leisure to compare them, nor skill to judge of the fairest sense, I have undertaken this pains for the ease and advantage of my plain reader, to cull out and commend unto him, the most safe and likely interpretations. In the historical part, he shall need little help; in the poetical, or sapiential, more ; in the prophetical, most of all, in many passages whereof, every line is a riddle. I should be vain to brag of my fidelity herein ; as who have not knowingly omitted any clause, wherein there seemed to be any show of difficulty; nor clogged the volume with glossés, that I conceived unnecessary.
Some, perhaps, will imagine it might have been much better, to have taken the whole texts beforo me, than to have thus selected some noted periods of harder construction; who may be pleased to consider, how much vastness might so havo accrued to this labour, and how little use. To paraphrase easy texts, had been to set up a candle before the sun ; and to publish the whole text, with a partial explication, if leave might possibly have been obtained for so bold a project, had been to raise the bulk, and to lose the vigour and benefit of the work : since there be some historical books of Scripture, wherein there is very little use of any paraphrase ; and some, as those of the Chronicles, wherein there is none at all. Herein, therefore, I have done that which I judged to avail most to the use and profit of my Christian reader; whom I must suppose furnished with a Bible at home, and willing to help his understanding in places of more obscurity.
To foremention the particularities of that benefit, which may arise to God's Church, in the use of so plain an enarration of the meaning of his Holy Spirit, were both to distrust the judgment of others, and to seem to set forth the glory of my own endeavours; the infirmities whereof, if they may receive pardon from God and my superiors, and amendment from more able hands, to whose aid and correction I do humbly submit myself and them, it shall be the utmost of my aim and ambition.
That good God, who hath so graciously enabled me, notwithstanding the throng of other occasions, to go through with this well-meant work, bless it to the behoof of his Church, and the glory of his own Name. Amen.