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THE sacred Scriptures, after the strictest researches of an enlightened and inquiring age, are still allowed by the wise, judicious, and thinking part of mankind, who are acquainted with them, to be the only books in the world which truly and fully show the way of salvation to all those who take any serious thought about it. The Scriptures, from the solid principles of truth contained in them, have the strongest tendency to improve and perfect human nature in every branch of personal and social duty, and to make mankind wiser and better in every station and relation of life. This effect they have produced, and will still produce, wherever they are duly attended to. An attempt, if well executed, to promote the knowledge and practice of the truths they contain, must therefore be of real service to society; and though the attempt should fail, the undertaker may, nevertheless, enjoy the pleasure of a heart ready and disposed to do good, while the candid part of mankind will, on account of the goodness of the design, make the most favourable allowances.
With these views, the author of the following work offers it to the public; confident that it will be found, upon perusal, as well as by the following account of it, to be entirely new, and different, at least in method, from any thing of the kind hitherto published.
METHOD. In this work, the several articles of revealed religion are ranged under distinct heads, or Chapters. The subject of each chapter is only mentioned at the beginning of it; and the Scripture
account of the subject is afterwards given at large, in a numerous collection of express and pertinent texts of Scripture, with which the chapter is filled up. Care is taken to insert every article of revealed religion, and every express and pertinent text upon each article, in order to make it full and complete. The several different words by which any article of religion is expressed in the Bible, are exhibited under distinct Sections; and these sections are filled up with those texts in the Bible, where the word occurs upon that subject, and introduced mostly in the order in which they lie in the sacred books: So this work, in some measure, answers the ends both of a Common-place Book, and Concordance, upon the various articles of religion. Thus, in chap. i. page 34, the ETERNITY of God is expressed by the different words, eternal, everlasting, for ever, the first and the last, which make so many distinct sections. In like manner, every doctrine or duty of revealed religion is laid down first, and the motives to the belief or practice of them are made so many distinct sections in each chapter, and generally come under the heads of threatenings, promises, rewards, punishments, examples, &c.— In this respect the work differs from any book of the kind hitherto published. So much is transcribed of the places quoted, as expresses the principal part of the text, while at the same time it directs the reader to the places themselves, as they lie in the Bible, to be consulted at large upon the subject: more would have needlessly increased the size of the book, and not have left sufficient room for inserting every express and pertinent text upon each subject.
OCCASION AND DESIGN OF THE WORK.-It might easily be made appear, that the reading of the Holy Scriptures, after a method which the nature of their composition seems to require, must be highly useful and proper, for our acquiring from the Scriptures themselves the true knowledge of every article of religion contained in them.
Every one who is acquainted with the sacred Scriptures knows, that the complete account which they contain of any one article
of religion, is never to be met with altogether in one place, without other subjects intermixed with it; but is to be collected from many different places of the Bible, where the sacred writers have touched upon it.
In every one of the many different places of the Bible, where any one article of religion is touched upon, it is still placed in some useful light for instruction, so that none of these places are superfluous. All these places, taken together, do make up the complete Scripture account of the subject; and contain all the light which the Spirit of revelation has afforded upon it, as needful for our instruction: whoever, therefore, will view any Scripture truth in all that light afforded, must search the Scriptures for the different places in which it is contained, or where the subject is mentioned. In these places it will be found sufficiently explained, enforced by all its proper motives, applied to all its proper uses, and set in every advantageous light needful for being rightly understood, and properly applied, even after extraordinary inspiration hath ceased.
Our blessed Saviour, who best knew the most profitable method of our reading the Scriptures, directed [John v. 39] to search them for the knowledge of his character and offices, taught, not all in one, but in different places of the Scriptures; which being taken altogether, fully and plainly described him to the world, and left unbelievers inexcusable. Those have succeeded best in ascertaining the true sense of many portions of Scripture, and in answering objections against them, and setting several Scripture doctrines in a clear light, who have first searched the Scriptures for the whole and complete account of the subject: hereby they were enabled to show that what was doubtful, by being briefly expressed in one place, was sufficiently enlarged upon and explained in others. Besides such explications of Scripture truths as are to be found in the Scriptures themselves, none else are to be depended upon: for the sacred writers, being sufficiently qualified for their work, did not leave it to be mended by inferior hands; but left the Scriptures a finished performance, con
taining a system of religion from God, which, like all his other works, is good and perfect in its kind; being full and complete in all its parts, plain and proper in its terms and expressions, and efficacious or sufficient to answer the ends for which it was written. If it fails, no other writing will prove effectual for reforming the world, and making mankind wise to salvation.
Every hopeful method ought to be tried for assisting Christians to reap from the Holy Scriptures all the benefit they are suited to afford. The dividing of the books of the Bible into chapters and verses, [though not first written in that form,] is of great use for finding any particular place the reader is directed to consult. A work, pointing out to the reader the various places of the Bible where may be found the complete and full account which the sacred writers have given of every article of religion, it is presumed, might be of great use to many who have not leisure or proper helps for such a research; and also to others, on many occasions, who would hereby be furnished with all the express and pertinent Scriptures before them, at once, upon any subject they had occasion to treat of, without the pains of collecting them. Such a work might likewise be of service to those who have not ability to purchase many books, and to others who have not leisure to read many upon religion, or any other subject; as by it they would be assisted to find in the Bible those places, that, taken together, do contain the best, the fullest, and plainest, though brief account, that is to be expected, or anywhere to be found, of every article both of faith and practice. A work that would answer this end, might be the means of occasioning proper places of the Bible to be consulted upon every article of religion, and of use for direction in every circumstance of life; and well calculated for turning the attention of readers from books wherein error is often conveyed along with truth, to the great danger or hurt of their souls; and thus engaging their attention more to the Holy Scriptures, which are the most useful and improving writings for all Christians. And when it shall please God to turn the attention of Christians chiefly to the Bible, and to enable them