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vie with each other which shall set the best exam. ple to the rest ; not from a spirit of ambition, or vain glory, but simply to provoke to love and to good works ; each shepherd (as christian ministers are usually termed) feeding, according to the language of our Saviour, the lambs, as well as the sheep of their respe&ive flocks, till the chief shepherd shall appear, when he will distinguish by his favour those who shall have distinguished themselves as his servants during his absence from us. As I have no expectation of seeing you any more in this life, may we so conduct ourselves in our separation from each other as to secure a happy meeting in another. Į subscribe myself,
Your former pastor,
and at all times,
your christian friend,
HESE Notes on the books of Scripture I was led to compofe as part of my ministerial duty at Birmingham, where I introduced the custom of expounding the scriptures from the pulpit, as distinct from preaching. There are many subjects within the compass of religious knowledge with which it behoves all christians to be acquainted, that cannot be conveniently introduced into discourses from particular texts; and the amount of all the illustrations of scripture that could be given in this way would be very inconsiderable in the course of several years. But when large portions are read, and professedly expounded, nothing of importance to the right understanding of them will pass without notice. In this profefled exposition circumstances in history, geography, and the customs of antient nations, &c. which it is desirable that all christians should be acquainted with, will of course come into view, and be explained inore or kss largely as the occasion Mall require.
This exposition I gave at first extempore ; but sind. ing that this part of the service was particularly attend.
ed to by my audience, I gave more attention to it my. self, and composed my notes and observations with inore care ; and I foon perceived that this was the most acceptable, and generally thought to be the most use. ful, part of the service, And havipg been frequently requested to publish what I delivered in this manner, both by my own congregation, and several ministers for their use, I undertook to do it.
In this work I had made confiderable progress when the riots at Birmingham put a period to my labours in that place, and destroyed a great part of what I had composed of thefe Notes, and had tranferibed for the prefs. Not, however, discouraged by this circumstance, I resumed the same service at Hackney; and, as far as I could judge, with the same acceptance and advantage. And having abundant leisure fince my settlement in this country, and having recomposed as well as I could the notes that were destroyed at the riots, I have completed the whole in the best manner that I have been ca. pable of; urged both by my own liking to the work, and the frequent requests of my friends in England.
But tho' I have spared no pains to make this work as perfect as i could, too much must not be expected from it, because my plan does not comprehend every thing. If critics and scholars look into it for the folu. tion of all such difficulties as they particularly with to see discussed, they will be disappointed. These Notes will appear, from the account I have given of them, to have been composed for the use of unlearned,.tho' liberal and intelligent, christians; for of such my congregations confited. Nothing, however, which such persons are much interested to know I have passed without notice, whether I could explain the passages to my own satiss faétion or not, and a few observations of a more critical nature I have added since ; but which, if any minifter chufe to avail himself of my labour, he may omit, dr change, as he shall think proper. The same may be · done by those masters of families whose laudable cure tom it is to read portions of the scripture to their chil. dren and servants, and to those it is my with more particularly to recommend what I have done.
My object in these Notes being originally the in. struction of my hearers, as it is now of my readers, I collected from commentators, and every other quarter, all the illustrations of difficult passages that I could find; and having no view to publication, I took no care to note my authorities. This, indeed, if the original and only proper authorites be meant, is now impoflible, all fucceeding commentators having without fcruple borrowed from preceding ones. I have, however, not failed to mention the names of most late writers whose remarks appeared to be their own and valuable,
My custom was to note whatever appeared to me to be neceffary for the illustration of that portion of fcripture that I proposed to read, without consulting any commentator, and afterwards to look over fuch as were generally the most esteemed, as. Patrick, Lowth, Whitby, Doddridge, &c. &c. to see whether I had omitted any thing that would suit me. Dut the greater part of there Noies will be found io confit vi fuch observations as I did not borrow from any writer, tho' many of them will be, no doubt, materially the famo with those of others.
As my principal object in the expofition of the fcrip. tures from the pulpit was to give my hearers what appeared to me to be the true meaning of what I read to them, I did not, in this part of the service, make many obfervations of a praclical nature. To enforce the practice of moral duties I considered as the more parti.. cular province of preaching. Sometimes, however, this was unavoidable in the expofition. Accordingly some remarks of this kind, and such as appeared to be of par. ticular importance, will occasionally occur.
The reader must not be offended if the same observations occur several times in the course of these Notes, as similar passages require them, and especially when their importance is very great. Without this the ex. position of many pañages would be exceedingly imperfe&; and it would greatly perplex the reader to be re. ferred from one part of the work to an other, in order to the understanding of the passage before him.
Besides, the state of the times with respect to the most prominent subjects of general discussion, requires the more frequent mention of some topics than of o. thers. A Protestant expositor, for example, writing a. bout the time of the reformation from popery, would naturally take frequent opportunities of expoling the grofs abuses in doctrine and discipline which had been introduced by the church of Rome, in order the more effeélually to guard his hearers against the prevailing fuperftitions and errors, This, in a t'rotestant country is not how neceíTary.
For a fimilar reason writing, as I do, in an age in which there is great prevalence of infidelity, and in