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PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
To mention all the motives which induced me to publish the following Notes, would extend this epistle beyond its proper limits; yet, it may be satisfactory to note some of the most important.
It has appeared to me for some time, that something of this nature was as much needed, among christian people, as any thing that could be offered from the Scriptures; and that, on account of the very different manner in which public teachers have treated the Parables of the New Testament, and the disagreeable consequences arising therefrom.
Perhaps it may be said, without any offence to the feelings of the reader, that most of the ideas imbibed by people in general, in divinity, are received from the pulpit. And while one congregation is attending to explanations of the Parables in one way, another is entertained with different ideas on the same passages. When those ideas are received, they form quite a difference in the opinions of christians; this dissimilarity of sentiments engenders twice as much disaffection in the heart, where nothing contrary to charity ought to be found; and this disaffection is like a hot bed to the seeds of contention, and roots of bitterness.
And although I do not expect so favorable a consequence to result from my little Pamphlet, as a general agreement among christians, in respect to the Parables; yet, I entertain an humble hope, that it may make, at least, an approximation towards so favorable an object; perhaps by inducing some more able writer, who possesses more leisure for writing, to favor the public with a treatise on so worthy a subject.
In my travels through the country in discharge of duties enjoined by the ministry of the Saviour of sinners, I have met with more opposition to the gospel preached to Abraham, from false notions of the Parables of the New Testament, than from any other quarter. Often, after travelling many miles and preaching several sermons in a day, I have found it necessary to explain several Parables to some inquiring hearer, when my strength seemed almost exhausted. At such times, I have thought a volume, such as the reader has in his hand, might save me much labor. And I have often said to myself, if God will give me a few weeks leisure, I will (with his assistance) employ them in writing Notes on the Parables. This favor has at last been granted, though it was by depriving me of that degree of health which was necessary to the performance of those journeys which I had already appointed; yet, preserving so much as to render me composed in my study.
I am persuaded that a just knowledge of the Parables is almost indispensably necessary to a knowledge of the doctrine preached by Christ, as much of his public communication was in this way. It is in the Para
bles of Christ that we learn the nature of the two dispensations or covenants; the situation of man by reason of sin; the character of the Saviour, as the seeker and Saviour of that which was lost; the power of the gospel, as a sovereign remedy for the moral maladies of man, and its divine efficacy in reconciling and assimilating the sinner to God. It is by the Parables that we learn the unprofitableness of legal righteousness in point of justification to eternal life; the absolute necessity of becoming new creatures, in order to enter the kingdom of God; the true character of the Saviour, as the Lord our Righteousness, and his divine power to make all things new.
And I may add to the above consideration many friendly requests from respectable brethren in the min istry, and many of my hearers who have made themselves partially acquainted with my manner of explaining the Parables.
Some will undoubtedly ask why the author was not more particular in quoting scripture evidence for the assistance of the reader. To which I answer: my main design was to have my explanations, or Notes, derive evidence from the subject of discourse, or particular circumstance which seemed to introduce or occasion the Parable. I will mention two particulars for examples. The three Parables in the 15th of St Luke were evidently introduced as an answer to the Pharisees and Scribes who objected to Christ for receiving sinners; which objection was the evident occasion of the three Parables; and by attending to that circumstance, the reader will discover the propriety of my Notes.
Again, the Parables of Tares, in the 13th of St Matthew, continues the thread of discourse from the explanation of the Parable of the Sower; and by connecting these Parables as they ought to be, the reader will find the evidence for the propriety of what I have written on that Parable. Again, many quotations would of necessity have enlarged the work, which would have occasioned an additional expense to the reader.
Again, I do by no means wish to have the Bible read the less, but the more, in consequence of my Notes; I wish the reader to search the Scriptures, to see if these things are so; and to satisfy himself, by becoming acquainted with the most valuable of all books. I have, however, on those particular Parables where I saw the greatest danger of error, introduced, as I think sufficient evidence by quotations. The method which I have pursued in most of the Parables would, I acknowledge, be a very bad method in sermonizing, as the hearers in that case would be lost in the multitude of particulars; yet, in reading, I supposed it an advantage to have the subjects particularly divided. The reason why I have omitted all the Parables in St Mark and St John, is because of their similarity with those on which I have written, or because I saw no probability of their being misunderstood; and the same reason I would give for omitting some in St Matthew and in St Luke.
I must tell you further, christian reader, that I am not without some fears respecting your getting a just understanding of the subject before you. Should you, when you have read it through, say it is not altogether according to the ideas which I have heretofore entertained, and dismiss the work without further notice,
I am sure you are likely to understand but little of the matter. It will be necessary to read it a number of times with attention, to search the Scriptures in connexion with the Parables, and to take great care that vou do not admit prepossessed ideas as evidence against what you read.
Again, should you hurry through the work, and say it is a good thing, and acknowledge the ideas to be just, without an exception, and pay no more attention to the work, you are equally, as in the other case, liable to know but little of what you read. Suffer me, therefore, earnestly to intreat, that you neither justify nor condemn these Notes until you can do it with a good understanding, and on the authority of the Scrip
And may the spirit of HIM, in whom dwells the fulness of wisdom and knowledge, direct you in these serious and solemn inquiries: and that he may make you all wise in his wisdom, holy in his holiness, righteous in his righteousness, and perfect in his perfection, is the fervent desire and joyful hope of a servant of all