Page:An Exposition of the Old and New Testament (1828) vol 1.djvu/43

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iii
THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE.

image of his unity in the wonderful harmony and symmetry of all its parts; the image of his holiness in the unspotted purity of its precepts; and the image of his goodness in the manifest tendency of the whole to the welfare and happiness of mankind in both worlds; in short, it is a work that fathers itself.

And as atheists, so deists, notwithstanding their vain-glorious pretensions to reason, as if wisdom must die with them, run themselves upon the grossest and most dishonourable absurdities imaginable; for if the scriptures be not the word of God, then there is no divine revelation now in the world, no discovery at all of God's mind concerning our duty and happiness: so that let a man be ever so desirous and solicitous to do his Maker's will, he must, without remedy, perish in the ignorance of it, since there is no book but this, that will undertake to tell him what it is; a consequence which can by no means be reconciled to the idea we have of the Divine goodness. And (which is no less an absurdity) if the scriptures be not really a divine revelation, they are certainly as great a cheat as ever was put upon the world: but we have no reason to think them so; for bad men would never write so good a book, nor would Satan have so little subtlety as to help to cast out Satan; and good men would never do so wicked a thing as to counterfeit the broad seal of Heaven, and to affix it to a patent of their own framing, though in itself ever so just. No, These are not the words of him that hath a devil.

IV. That the scriptures of the Old and New Testament were purposely designed for our learning. They might have been a divine revelation to those into whose hands they were first put, and yet we, at this distance, have been no way concerned in them; but it is certain that they were intended to be of universal and perpetual use and obligation to all persons, in all places, and all ages, that have the knowledge of them, even unto us upon whom the ends of the world are come, Rom. 15. 4. Though we are not under the law as a covenant of innocency, for then, being guilty, we should unavoidably perish under its curse; yet it is not therefore an antiquated statute, but a standing declaration of the will of God concerning good and evil, sin and duty, and its obligation to obedience is in as full force and virtue as ever: and unto us is the gospel of the ceremonial law preached, as well as unto them to whom it was first delivered, and much more plainly, Heb. 4. 2. The histories of the Old Testament were written for our admonition and direction, (1 Cor. 10. 11.) and not barely for the information and entertainment of the curious. The prophets, though long since dead, prophesy again by their writings, before peoples and nations; (Heb. 12. 5.) and Solomon's exhortation speaketh unto us as unto sons.

The subject of the holy scripture is universal and perpetual, and therefore of common concern. It is intended, 1. To revive the universal and perpetual law of nature, the very remains of which (or ruins rather) in natural conscience, give us hints that we must look somewhere else for a fairer copy. 2. To reveal the universal and perpetual law of grace, which God's common beneficence to the children of men, such as puts them into a better state than that of devils, gives us some ground to expect The divine authority likewise, which in this book commands our belief and obedience, is universal and perpetual, and knows no limits, either of time or place; it follows, therefore, that every nation and every age, to which these sacred writings are transmitted, are bound to receive them with the same veneration and pious regard that they commanded at their first entrance.

Though God hath, in these last days, spoken to us by his Son, yet we are not therefore to think that what he spake at sundry times and in divers manners to the fathers, (Heb. 1. 1.) is of no use to us, or that the Old Testament is an almanack out of date; no, we are built upon the foundation of the prophets, as well as of the apostles, Christ himself being the Comer-stone, (Eph. 2. 20. ) in whom both these sides of this blessed building meet and are united: they were those ancient records of the Jewish church, which Christ and his apostles so oft referred to, so oft appealed to, and commanded us to search and to take heed to. The preachers of the gospel, like Jehoshaphat's judges, wherever they went, had this book of the law with them, and found it a great advantage to them to speak to them that knew the law, Rom. 7. 1. That celebrated translation of the Old Testament in the Greek tongue by the Seventy, between two and three hundred years before the birth of Christ, was to the nations a happy preparative for the entertainment of the gospel, by spreading the knowledge of the law: for as the New Testament expounds and completes the Old, and thereby makes it more serviceable to us now than it was to the Jewish church; so the Old Testament confirms and illustrates the New, and shows us Jesus Christ, the same yesterday that he is to-day, and will be for ever.

V. That the holy scriptures were not only designed for our learning, but are the settled standing rule of our faith and practice, by which we must be governed now and judged shortly: it is not only a book