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OF THE CHARACTER AND DESIGN OF THIS WORK.
Is my General Preface prefixed to Genesis, I gave a succinct account of the Plan I pursued in preparing this Work for the press: but as this plan became necessarily extended, and led to much farther reading, examination, and discuston, I judge it necessary to give my Readers a general Summary of the whole, that they may be in possession of my mode of proceeding, and be enabled more fully to comprebend the reasons why the Work has been so long in passing through the press.
My education and habits from early youth led me to read and study the Bible, not as a text-book to confirm the articles of a preconceived creed, but as a revelation from God to man, (of His will and purposes, in reference to the origin and designation of His human offspring,) which it was the duty and interest of all the inhabitants of the earth, deeply to study, and earnestly to endeavour to understand; as it concerned their peace and happiness, and the perfection of their being in reference to both worlds.
Conscious that Translators in general must have had a particular creed, in reference to which they would naturally Consider every text; and this reference, however honestly intended, might lead them to glosses not always fairly de ducible from the original words; I sat down with a heart as free from bias and sectarian feeling as possible, and carefully read over, cautiously weighed, and literally translated, every word, Hebrew and Chaldee, in the Old Testament. And as I saw that it was possible, even while assisted by the best translations and best lexicographers, to mistake the import of a Hebrew term, and considering that the cognate Asiatic lanfuages would be helps of great importance in such an enquiry, I collated every verse, where I was apprehensive of any difficulty, with the Chaldee, Syriac, Arabic, and Persian, and the Ethiopic in the Polyglott Translation, as far as the Sacred Writings are extant in these languages: and I did this with a constant reference to the Various Readings collected by Houbigant, H. Michaelis, Kennicott, and De Rossi, and to the best editions of the Septuagint and Vulgate, which are the earliest translations of the Hebrew Text which have
reached our times.
Nor have I been satisfied with these collections of Various Readings; I have examined and collated several ancient Hebrew MSS which preceding scholars had never seen, with many ancient MSS. of the Vulgate equally unknown to bibli. cal critics. This work required much time and great pains, and necessarily occasioned much delay and no wonder, When I have often, on my plan, been obliged to employ as much time in visiting many sources and sailing down their streams, in order to ascertain a genuine reading or fix the sense of a disputed verse, as would have been sufficient for Bome of my contemporaries to pass whole sheets of their work through the press. Had I not followed this method, which to me appeared absolutely necessary, I should have completed my Work, such as it would have been, in less than one half
of the time.
These previous Readings, Collations, and Translations, profaced an immense number of Notes and Observations on all parts of the Old Testament; which, by the advice and entreaty of several learned and judicious friends, I was induced to extend in the form of a perpetual comment on every Book in the Bible. This being ultimately revised and completed as far as the Book of Judges, which formed, in my purpose, the boundary of my proceedings on the Hebrew Scriptures, I was mduced to commit it to press.
Though my friends in general wished me to go forward with the Old Testament; yet, as several of them were apprehensive, from the then infirm state of my health, that I might Dat live long enough to finish the whole, they advised me Krongly to omit for the present the Old Testament, and begin th the New. This was in conformity with my own feel. on the subject; having wished simply to add the four Gupels and Acts of the Apostles to the five Books of Moses and the Books of Joshua and Judges; as these two parcels of Divine revelation, carefully illustrated, would give a full Vice of the origin and final settlement of the church of the Old Catenant, and the commencement and completion of that of the New. And thus I proceeded.
After having literally translated every word of the New Testament, that last best gift of God to man; comparing the whole with all the ancient Versions, and the most important of the modera; collating all with the Various Readings colried by Stephens, Courcel, Fell, Gherard of Maestricht,
Bengel, Mill, Wetstein, and Griesbach; actually examining many MSS., either cursorily or not at all examined by them; illustrating the whole by quotations from ancient anthors, Rabbinical, Grecian, Roman, and Asiatic; I exceeded my previous design, and brought down the Work to the end of the Apocalypse; and passed the whole through the press.
I should mention here a previous work, (without which any man must be ill qualified to undertake the illustration of the New Testament,) viz. a careful examination of the Septuagint. In this the phraseology of the New Testament is contained, and from this the import of that phraseology is alone to be derived. This I read carefully over to the end of the Book of Psalms, in the edition of Dr. Grabe, from the Coder Alexandrinus; collating it occasionally with editions taken from the Vatican MS., and particularly that printed by Field, at Cambridge, 1665, 18mo. with the Parcnetic Preface of the learned Bishop Pearson. Without this previous work, who did ever yet properly comprehend the idiom and phrase ology of the Greek Testament? Now, all these are parts of my labour which common readers cannot conceive; and which none can properly appreciate, as to the pains, dithculty, and time which must be expended, who have not themselves trodden this almost unfrequented path.
When the New Testament was thus prepared and finished at press, I was induced, though with great reluctance, to recommence the Old. I was already nearly worn down by my previous work, connected with other works and duties which I could not omit; and though I had gone through the most important parts of the Sacred Records, yet I could easily resee that I had an ocean of difficulties to wade through in those parts that remained. The Historical Books alone, in their chronology, arrangement of facts, concise and often obscure phraseology, presented not a few:-the books of Solomon, and those of the Major and Minor Prophets, a multitude. Notwithstanding all these, I hope I may say, that having obtained help of God, I am come with some success, to the conclusion; having aimed at nothing throughout the whole but the glory of God, and the good of men.
But still something remains to be said concerning the modus operandi, or particular plan of proceeding. In prosecu ting this work I was led to attend, in the first instance, more to words than to things, in order to find their true ideal meaning; together with those different shades of acceptation to which they became subject, either in the circumstances of the speakers and those who were addressed, or in their application to matters which use, peculiarity of place and situation, and the lapse of time, had produced. It was my invari able plan to ascertain first, the literal meaning of every word and phrase; and where there was a spiritual meaning, or reference, to see how it was founded on the literal sense. He who assumes his spiritual meanings first, is never likely to interpret the words of God either to his own credit or to the profit of his readers; but in this track commentator has fol lowed commentator, so that, in many cases, instead of a careful display of God's words and the objects of His providence and mercy, we have tissues of strange doctrines, human creeds, and confessions of faith. As I have said in another place, I speak not against compilations of this kind; but let them be founded on the words of God, first properly understood.
As I proceeded in my work I met with other difficulties. I soon perceived an almost continual reference to the Litera ture, Arts, and Sciences, of the Ancient World, and of the Asiatic nations in particular; and was therefore obliged to make these my particular study, having found a thousand passages which I could neither illustrate nor explain, without some general knowledge at least of their jurisprudence, astronomy, architecture, chemistry, chirurgery, medicine, metal lurgy, pneumatics, &c. with their military tactics, and the arts and trades (as well ornamental as necessary) which are carried on in common life.
In the course of all this labour I have also paid particular at tention to those facts mentioned in the Sacred Writings, which have been the subjects of animadversion or ridicule by free-thinkers and infidels of all classes and in all times; and I hope I may say that no such passage is either designedly passed by or superficially considered; that the strongest ob Jections are fairly produced and met;-that all such parts of these Divine writings are, in consequence, exhibited in their own lustre ;--and, that the truth of the doctrine of our salvation has had as many triumphs as it has had attacks from the