Page:An Exposition of the Old and New Testament (1828) vol 6.djvu/290

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THE


PREFACE


TO


THE EPISTLES





AFTER much expectation, and many inquiries, the last volume of the late reverend Mr. Henry's Exposition now appears in the world. The common disadvantages that attend posthumous productions, Will doubtless be discerned in this; but we hope, though there are diversities of gifts, there will be found to be the same spirit. Some of the relations and hearers of that excellent person have been at the pains of transcribing the notes they took, in short-hand of this part of the holy scripture, when expounded by him in his family, or in the congregation; they have furnished us with very good materials for the finishing this great work; and we doubt not, but that the ministers who have been concerned in it, have made the use of those assistances, which may entitle this composure to the honour of Mr. Henry's name; and if so, they can very willingly conceal their own.

The New Testament may be very properly divided into two parts, the one Historical, the other Epistolary. It is the exposition of the latter we now recommend; and shall offer some thoughts of the epistolary way of writing in general, and then proceed to observe the divine authority of these epistles, together with the style, matter, method, and design of them; leaving what might be said concerning the several inspired penmen to the prefaces appertaining to the particular epistles.

As to the Epistolary way of writing, it may be sufficient to observe, it has usually three properties. It may in some things be more difficult to be understood, but then it is very profitable and very pleasant: these will be found to be the properties of these sacred letters. We shall meet with things not easy to be understood, especially in some parts of them, where we cannot so well discover the particular occasions on which they were written, or the questions or matters of fact to which they refer: but this is abundantly compensated by the profit which will accrue to those that read them with due attention; they will find the strongest reasoning, the most moving expostulations, and warm and pressing exhortations, mixed with seasonable cautions and reproofs, which are all admirably fitted to impress the mind with suitable sentiments and affections. And how much solid pleasure and delight must this afford to persons of a serious and religious spirit, especially when they wisely and faithfully apply to themselves what they find to suit their case! Thus they will appear to be as truly written to them as if their names were superscribed on them. It is natural for us to be very much pleased in perusing a wise and kind letter, full of instruction and comfort, sent unto us by an absent friend: how then should we prize this part of holy scripture, when we consider herein that our God and Saviour has written these letters to us, in which we have the great things of his law and gospel, the things that belong to our peace! By these means not only the holy apostles, being dead, yet speak, but the Lord of the prophets and apostles continues to speak and write to us; and while we read them with proper affections, and follow them with suitable petitions and thanksgiving, a blessed correspondence and intercourse will be kept up between heaven and us, while we are yet sojourners in thc earth.

But it is the divine inspiration and authority of these epistles we are especially concerned to know; and it is of the last importance, that in this our minds be fully established. And we have strong and clear evidence, that these epistles were written by the apostles of our Lord Jesus, and that they (as the prophets of the Old Testament) spake and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. These epistles have in all ages of the church been received by christians as a part of those holy scriptures that are given by inspiration of God, and are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, and are able to make us wise to salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ; they are part of that perpetual, universal rule of faith and life, which contains doctrines and revelations we are bound to believe with a divine faith, as coming from the God of truth, and duties to be practised by us in obedience to the will of God, acknowledging that the things written therein are the commandments of God, 1 Cor. 14. 37. And for the same reasons that lead us to acknowledge the other parts of the Bible to be the word of God, we must own these to be so too.

If there be good reason (as indeed there is) to believe that the books of Moses were written by inspiration of God, there is the same reason to believe that the writings of the prophets were also from God; because the law and the prophets speak the same things, and such things as none but the Holy Ghost could teach: and if we must with a divine faith believe the Old Testament to be a revelation from God, we cannot with any good reason question the divine authority of the New, when we consider how exactly the histories of the one agree with the prophecies of the other, and how the dark types and shadows of the law are illustrated and accomplished in the gospel.

Nor can any person who pretends to believe the divine authority of the historical part of the New Testament, containing the Gospels and the Acts, with good reason question the equal authority of the epistolary part; for the subject-matter of all these epistles, as well as of the sermons of the apostles, is the word of God, (Rom. 10. 17. 1 Thess. 2. 13. Col. 1. 25.) and the gospel of God, (Rom. 15. 16. 2 Cor. 11. 7.) and the gospel of Christ, 2 Cor. 2. 12.

We are built upon the foundation of the apostles end prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief Corner-stone; and as Moses wrote of Christ, so did all the prophets, for the Spirit of Christ in them did testify of him. And the apostles confirmed what Christ himself began to teach, God also bearing them