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counted all things loss ;' assent to abstract propositions, however true, is not christian faith ; conformity to ethical rules, however good, is not christian obedi
DR OWEN did good service to the cause of Christianity, two hundred years ago, by showing the pre-eminent place the person of Christ holds in that religion, in opposition to the British rationalists of that age, who had almost lost sight of him in speculation about evidences, and dogmas, and ethics ; and SCHLEIERMACHER, and his noble followers, NEANDER and THOLUCK, have done a similar service in opposition to the German rationalists of our times. A personal Deity is the soul of natural religion; a personal Saviour—the real living Christ -is the soul of revealed religion. How strange that it should not be impossible-how sad that, through a perverted ingenuity, it should not be uncommon, in reference to both of these—to convert that into a veil which was meant to be a revelation !
A firm belief of the real existence of Jesus Christ, that is, the belief not merely that a person bearing that name lived in a particular country and age, but that the Jesus Christ of the New Testament really did and does exist, that that strangest of all pictures—the gospel history—represents a reality; this living faith of a living Christ (not by any means so common an acquirement as the former) lies at the foundation of true Christianity; and the superstructure is composed of that transforming intimate acquaintance with him, with his person, his character, his mind, his will, which is to be obtained by a careful study of that “ Scripture given by inspiration of God,” which is His word-he being at once its author and its subject,—under the promised influence of His Spirit—the Spirit of truth and of holiness.
1 Phil, iii. 8.
Every part of the inspired volume may be, and ought to be, turned to account in the search after this “excellent knowledge.” The study of no portion of Scripture leads more directly to its attainment than that of the gospel histories. Werewe carefully pondering these wonderful records, supposing us in possession of the fundamental faith just referred to, we might become better acquainted with our Lord, than any of us is with his most intimate friend. His mind and will are there expressed on a great variety of subjects, with a surprising union of clearness and depth; and we see him placed in an endless variety of circumstances of the most trying kind, which bring out, in strong relief, all the features of his character. We see him, indeed, in far more situations fitted to test the character, and disclose its component elements, than we ever have seen-ever can see—any man. And in his case we have this advantage—we are quite sure of two things, of neither of which we can be perfectly certain where a mere man is the object of knowledge, and human testimony is the medium through which our knowledge is obtained : We know, and are sure, that Jesus Christ was exactly what he appeared to be, and that his biographers represent him exactly as he was. In him there was nothing assumed—all was real; and with them there is no misrepresentation. They state exactly what took place,—“ what they saw and heard, that
they declare to us,”—without extenuation, without exaggeration. He could make only a partial revelation of himself—for the capacities of men enabled them to receive only such a revelation,—but the revelation was perfect so far as it went. His biographers could tell us only what they knew, but they tell us that to the life.
With these convictions, I have always held that the study of the gospel history, and especially of “ The Discourses and Sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ ”-into whose “lips grace was poured,”—who had “ the tongue of the learned,” and “ spake as never man spake,"—is one of the most probable means of promoting real vital Christianity in ourselves, and that an exposition of these is one of the most probable means of promoting it in others. It is in the hope of, in some degree, contributing to these ends, that the following Expositions have been prepared, and are now given to the public.
These remarks will be misunderstood, if they be considered as, in the slightest degree, disparaging the epistolary part of the New Testament. In some points of view that, as the completion of the code of divine doctrine and law, given by its Divine Author, not on earth, but from heaven, is peculiarly valuable; but there is comparatively little, if anything, in the apostolical epistles, of which the germ is not to be found in the gospels. The declarations of the apostles are but the development of their Master's thoughts, -a commentary-an infallible one—on his sayings; and we do not rightly estimate these divine writings, if we do not consider them as a part of his word; nor rightly use them, if we do not employ
them for the purpose of better understanding his mind and heart, and so bringing our minds and hearts into conformity with his.
The general name of EXPOSITIONS has been given to the discourses contained in these volumes, because no other designation in common use could have accurately described them all. There will be found among them specimens of what are usually in Scotland called LECTURES, in all the forms which they ordinarily assume—scholia, on particular words and phrases—continuous comment, and illustrated analysis; and the illustrations of the “ Sayings ” of our Lord, as distinguished from his “ Discourses '
generally, take the shape of the Expository Sermon. But, in all the Discourses, Exposition will be found to be the staple; whatever is doctrinal, experimental, or practical, being presented as the result of the application of the principles of strict exposition to the passage under consideration.
In preparing these volumes for the press, I have studied the original text of their subjects with all the grammatical and lexical helps I possessed. I have further availed myself of every assistance within my reach, to be derived from versions of, and commentaries on, the passages explained. My aim was, not to produce an original work, but a satisfactory exposition of an important portion of Scripture; and if I shall be found in any measure to have succeeded, it will not in any wise diminish my
satisfaction, that my success be considered the result less of independent thinking or discovery on my part, than of having carefully consulted and deliberately weighed the inquiries and conclusions of others. In every case, indeed, I claim to have exercised my own judgment; but I have always felt more satisfied when I found myself, as I have usually done, following in the track of the learned and pious of former generations, than when compelled, as I have sometimes been, to walk alone.
It might wear the appearance of ostentation to present a formal list of the works, in various languages, which have been consulted. It is but an act of justice, however, to say that, besides the more ordinary commentaries, ancient and modern, I have found advantage from the works of the following authors :- CALVIN, CHEMNITZ, CARTWRIGHT, Rus, PEARCE, SAURIN, MACKNIGHT, CAMPBELL, BENNET, OLSHAUSEN, and NEANDER, on the gospels generally; MELANCTHON, ROLLOCK, HUTCHESON, LAMPE, MORUS, TITTMANN, and THOLUCK, on the gospel by John; Knapp, in his “ Scripta Varii Argumenti,” on the KNAPP Gospel of the Kingdom-John iii. 14-21; AUGUSTINE, EPISCOPIUS, BLACKALL, BLAIR, VERNEDE, BREWSTER, THOLUCK, and TRENCH, on the Sermon on the Mount; Norris and GROVE, on the Beatitudes. My obliga
, tions to the judicious work of BREWSTER are peculiarly
In illustrating the valedictory discourse, I have been much indebted to GERHARD and to BENGEL,' but still more to the Lectures of my accomplished relative, the Rev. John Brown PATTERSON,” whom the Disposer of
Bengelius magnam sagacitatem in rimandis ac presse explicandis sententiis verborumque etiam minimorum significatibus consumsit."—WINER. I am glad to learn that we are soon to have an English translation of that very remarkable book, his “Gnomon."
· Late minister of Falkirk. Ordained Feb. 26, 1830; died June 29, 1835. His Prize Essay, “On the National Character of the Athenians,"Additional Notes to his grandfather's “ Self-interpreting Bible,”—