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Infcribed to the Founders, Benefactors and Trustees, of the CHARITY-SCHOOLS in and about the Cities of London and Westminster, and Bills of Mortality.
HE Honour and Truft you have conferred on me to prefide in the general Meetings of your Society, has engaged my Thoughts and Endeavours to do every thing within the Sphere of my Capacity, for promoting this most pious, charitable and ufeful Defign, which had its beginning in this great City, and from a very small Seed, has by the Bleffings of the Almighty, and your good Examples and charitable Benefactions, diffufed itself into moft parts of the Kingdom.
The Holy Bible, which for fo many Ages was concealed from, or denied to thofe that were called the Laiety, is now in the Poffeffion of almoft every Family, and by the Inftitution of Charity-Schools Children of the meaneft fort of the People, are not only taught to read, but are alfo inftructed in the Doctrines and Precepts of the Chriftian Religion; the Knowledge and Obfervance of which are abfolutely requifite to the obtaining eternal Salvation.
It must be allowed, that there are many excellent Catechifms, which contain the Principal Articles of the Chriftian Religion, and are admirably adapted for the Inftruction of Youth: But as the Bible is the Fountain from whence all these Rivulets are deriv'd, whatever contributes to the Knowledge of the Holy Scripture cannot but be of great Ufe. The most learned Men that have wrote upon the Bible, have acknowledged that Scripture is the beft Expofitor of itself. The Harmony that is found between the Books of Mofes, the Pfalms, the Prophets and the New Teftament do in a wonderful manner, both ilJuftrate and support the Authority of each other.
The New Testament is the real Light of the figurative Darkness of the Types and Myfteries of the Old, the very Confummation of the Prophecies of good Things to come. By comparing one part of the Holy Scriptures with another, many difficult Paffages are made clear and easy to be understood; and the plaineft Doctrines which relate either to Faith or Practice, are ftrengthened and confirmed.
To this Effay I was induced by obferving that the ufual Method of reading the Bible from one Chapter to another, as they ftand in Order, makes it very difficult for thofe of low Capacities, to obferve the Connexion of the facred Hiftory, and the Illuftration that one part of it receives from the other, without having it pointed out to them; and therefore I thought it might be of fome Ufe, that where there
is a plain Reference and Analogy of one part to the other, the Hiftory, Application and Analogy might
be seen in one View.
Great Part of the Holy Bible is Hiftorical; and as Hiftory is the most apt and useful way of conveying Inftruction to the Mind, especially to thofe of tender Years, (because it carries with it the force of Example as well as Precept) fo by comparing and connecting the different Paffages that relate to each other, the whole is illuftrated and explained; and therefore makes a deeper and more lafting Impreffion upon the Mind.
The great Ufe of thus reading and comparing the Scripture is fo evident, that I need not enlarge upon it, and yet how few are there that will allow themfelves Time to do it? Nay, how many are there, that because they will not be at the Pains to confider and examine the Scriptures, refufe or neglect the Means by which thofe feeming Difficulties which they raise to themselves may be removed?
It was this Confideration that induced me to publifh this Effay, which was at firft intended only for my own private Ufe; and however imperfect this Attempt may be, however unfit for the Perufal of those, whofe Study and Profeffion renders them far more capable of undertaking a Work of this Nature, than I prefume to be; yet as nothing of this Kind, or at leaft in this Method, has been yet made publick, if from this imperfect Effay, the Charity-Children and common fort of People may reap any Benefit, I fhall think my Labour fully recompenfed.
I have avoided giving my own Thoughts by way of Comment upon any Texts of Scripture, not only out of a juft Senfe how unequal I fhould be to fuch a Task, but also out of a firm Perfuafion that Scripture is never fo well interpreted as by itself. It is our best, our safeft, our only infallible Guide. There is a Concord and Harmony throughout the whole,
that carries with it the clearest Evidence of its being a Divine Revelation.
It is evident, that the Holy Scripture, if duly confidered, tends to fet forth and difplay the Infinite Wisdom and Providence of God in his Government of the World, and his ineftimable Love to Mankind in the Redemption of it: But yet some of those Pasfages, if confidered fingly by themselves, may feem obfcure by being but fhortly related, which in other parts of Scripture are made clear, plain, and obvious to the meanest Apprehenfions.
First, The Account we have of the Creation of the World, in the Book of Genefis, is very much illuftrated by the magnificent Defcriptions that are to be found of it in other parts of the Scripture.
Secondly, The direful Confequences of the Difobedience of our first Parents upon themselves and all their Pofterity will more fully appear by what is expreffed in the New Testament relating thereto.
Thirdly, Enoch, the feventh from Adam, was a Preacher of Righteoufnefs, and not only warned that Generation of the approaching Flood, but also foretold the Deftruction of the World by Fire.
His Tranflation to Heaven was a vifible Affurance, that notwithstanding the great length of the Lives of thofe of that Generation, yet there was a future and eternal State, into which all Mankind were to pass.
This Miracle was again repeated, and the fame Hope of Immortality declared by the Afcent of Elijab to Heaven, and this at a Time when both the Princes, Priefts, and People of Ifrael, were funk into the groffeft Idolatries and other Impieties.
But this important Truth (upon the Belief of which all Religion depends) was confirmed beyond all Contradiction, by our Saviour's Refurrection and Afcent into Heaven, having by Death destroyed him who had the Power of Death, that is the Devil, and deli
ver'd them who, thro' Fear of Death, were all their Life-time fubject to Bondage; and thereby eternal Life and Immortality were brought into the clearest Light by the Gospel.
Fourthly, The Subverfion of Sodom by Fire from Heaven, is a Type of that Perdition which is prepared for the ungodly, when our Saviour fhall come in flaming Fire, taking Vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the Gofpel, who fhall be punished with an everlasting Deftruction, from the Presence of the Lord, and from the Glory of his Power.
How great an Illuftration does the Story of the Faith of Abrabam in the Old Teftament, receive by being compared with what our Saviour and his Apoftles fay of it in the New, where it is made the Standard and Example of that Faith which is to be exercised by the Members of the Christian Church, which Acts of Faith may be reduced to the following Particulars.
I. His leaving his Native Countrey upon the Divine Command, which is clearly reprefented in Hebrews xi. 8, 9, 10. The Parallel to which, in the Chriftian Church, is the Obedience to the Divine Command, not to love this World, nor the Things that are in it, but to fet our Affections on the Things that are above, which every one in his Baptism vows to do.
II. The fecond great Act of Abraham's Faith was his Confidence in the Promises, which affured him that he should have a Son by Sarah, when, according to the Courfe of Nature, the Thing promised was highly improbable; and which miraculous Child fhould have a numerous Pofterity that should inherit all the Land of Canaan, and from whom the Meffiab fhould defcend.
III. The third Inftance of his Faith, was his offering up Ifaac, the Son of the Promife, the Sincerity