« AnteriorContinua »
TO THE FIFTH EDITION.
THE NOTES on the parables were written in 1804. At this period the light which has now become general, among the unprejudiced seekers after the true knowledge of the Scriptures, was as the dawning of the day. With limited discoveries and destitute of necessary resources, the author, at the commencement of improvement in knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, attempted a work, to do justice to which would require attainments and talents to which, after so long a time, he has not the vanity to lay any claims. And yet, the humble hope which he so long ago entertained, and which was expressed in the preface to the first edition, has been abundantly realized. The work has unquestionably been a means in the hand of Providence, of leading many minds to valuable improvements in the knowledge of the Scriptures. It certainly has exerted an influence far more extensive than the most flattering hopes of the author held to view, at the time it was written.
On account of so many of the parables being used, by the believers in endless punishment, to support and enforce that sentiment, the author of the Notes was induced to study them with special reference to the question, whether they might not, with more proprie
ty, be applied in a different manner. Of this fact he became fully satisfied; even as much so as he is now. But though he entertained no scruples on that point, he was not so happy as to be fully satisfied, in every case as to the true intent of the parable. In this situation, he cautiously endeavored not to apply any parable to a subject, which was not found to be embraced in the system of truth which the Scriptures clearly and evidently support. Little harm is done by applying a parable to a subject to which it was not intended by the author to apply, provided the subject to which it is misapplied be a truth clearly supported by either Scripture or man's experience; but to misconstrue any passage of the divine testimony, so as to give support to what is not true, is unquestionably, no small damage; and if the error be of magnitude, whereby our heavenly Father is represented in an unlovely character, or our confidence in his goodness diminished such misconstruction is not only a reprehensible violence on the Scriptures, but a dishonor to their divine Author.
Some instances, illustrative of the foregoing remarks, are here presented. These words in Matt. xii, 20, " a bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory,' may be understood only to apply to the kind and gentle spirit which Jesus manifested in the days of his ministry on earth, without doing any material injury to the text, even if by a bruised reed and smoking flax the then waning power of the tribe of Judah were intended, as the Notes apply them.
We may notice the parables in Matt. xiii. 44-46, which read thus: Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a
man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman seeking goodly pearls; who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.' Notwithstanding the author of the Notes applied these parables as the honest convictions of his understanding dictated, at the time he wrote, and although he now confidently believes in the truth of all the doctrine communicated in the notes and their illustrations; yet he is not now as confident as he was then that these parables were not intended by the Saviour to teach his disciples and the people, that in order to possess themselves of the kingdom of heaven, by which he meant the new dispensation which he came to introduce, they must part with all that they held dear in the world. And he now thinks himself able to give more than mere plausible answers to those objections to this application of the parables, which are suggested in the notes. Applying these parables which way of the two we may, we feel satisfied that no material injury is done to the Scriptures thereby; provided that in applying them in one way, care be taken not to carry the meaning so far as to oppose the Scriptural truths embraced in the other.
The second edition of the Notes was published in 1812. At this time, the practice of applying many of the parables to prove and enforce the doctrine of endless punishment, had scarcely at all abated. The work was not in the market (a small edition of one thousand copies only having been published,) and by the believers in the impartial goodness of our heavenly Father much called for. This induced the author to add the
ILLUSTRATIONS to the original work, and to dispose of the copyright, that the publisher might feel interested in keeping a supply in the market. At this time the author saw no cause for varying the application of any of the Parables, from that made in the first edition; and being all the time engaged in controversy with the opposers of Universal Salvation, he was led to manifest more of the spirit of defence and opposition, in the illustrations, than at this day, when the controversy seems nearly decided, and the arguments which have been relied on to support the cruel doctrine of endless punishment, nearly all abandoned, seems either called for or justifiable. In relation to this circumstance, the reader of the present time will make a reasonable allowance.
The third edition was published in 1822, in the State of Maine, far distant from the author's residence, which allowed him no opportunity to revise or correct the work, both which he would have been glad to do at that time. During the time, in which the present edition has been in press, the feeble state of the author's health has rendered it impossible for him to make all the corrections which better health and more leisure would have enabled him to do.
To conclude the reader may be assured that the sentiments maintained in the following sheets, are according to the honest convictions entertained by the author, truths fully and clearly supported by divine revelation, and of a character calculated to administer no small consolation to the sincere believer.
Boston, July, 1831.