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As the lively Oracles, the Holy Scriptures, are confessedly an immense blessing, and inexhaustible treasure, which the divine wisdom and bounty have adapted to all the purposes of a holy life, directing us to a cure for every disease of the soul, considered both in a moral and theological sense; the displaying the Authority, Use, and Excellency of them, must have a direct tendency, not only to excite our curiosity, but to animate our desire and impatience to be thoroughly acquainted with the contents of them. These, therefore, resemble the “ Leaves of the Tree of life, which were appointed for the healing of the nations," Rev. xxii. 2; and discover that pure fountain, opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. But a sketch or essay on this subject must necessarily exceed the bounds of a preface; nor are there wanting great variety of valuable treatises to exercise the attention of those who shall, with application, pursue this argument. However, we may affirm of the Holy Scriptures, what St. Paul attributes to his own preaching, (Acts xx. 27,) that in them is declared all the counsel of God's will; viz. that instruction in faith, and that regulation in practice, which " is able to make us wise unto salvation, and thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Tim. iii. 15. 17. And indeed the perfection, the fulness, the comprehension of the Holy Scriptures, is truly astonishing. The knowledge most mysterious and profound, is there exhibited to us: the truths most useful and necessary, are there unfolded to us: the precepts most pure and perfective of mankind, (of which the great sectaries of nature, in their four thousand years' improvement, gave us little besides blunders and blotted paper,) are there recommended, nay, and demonstrated
too, as they are exemplified in the conduct of all those who have
Should the following collection be of force to correct or remove any of the forementioned evils, and render the study of the Scriptures less intricate, by gleaning together, as it were into one bundle, the substance of what lies separately, and at a distance in the sacred pages, the author would not think his labour of love misplaced: and he is encouraged, by the concurrence of some learned and judicious divines, to hope for some success; and that, by the blessing of God, it may have a singular tendency to the enlightening of some, and establishing of others in divine truths, when uno
intuitu they see the Scriptures, upon which they are built, and to enable them with ease to confute gainsayers. For here the several texts of Holy Scripture, which lie scattered in the book of God, are collected together, generally in the order as they lie in the Bible: and where any subject is mentioned in the general head, there, for the most part, is to be found all that relates to that matter, immediately following, under particular heads, or subdivisions; to the end that the whole may be presented in one view together: at least, there are references to some other head, where it is placed more properly.
And here note, that not only the passages directly to the subject are inserted, but also such which are any ways argumentative, or enforcing, (whether by examples, the equity of the things, the nature of God, his approbation, promises, or threatening,) or any way illustrating or expounding of it, by whatsoever terms they are expressed: whereof a little use of this treatise will soon give full evidence.
But, to prevent prejudices and mistakes, and give some light into the way and method the author hath taken, he proposeth these two things :
I. To prevent prejudice. Do not make a judgment from reading one or two texts at the beginning of any head: for, possibly, they may not at the first sight appear so pertinent to the matter as others do which follow; they may be only argumentative, and not positive: for the author so placed them on purpose, that they might run in order as they lie in the Bible, that the reader might go to any text of either Testament, without turning backward and forward; and thence it happens sometimes, that Scriptures least to the purpose first occur to view.
Likewise, pass not sentence upon any text under any head, as impertinent to the subject there, until it be seriously weighed : for possibly in so doing, thou mayest discern something in that Scripture which thou never didst observe before, nor mightest have taken notice of, had not the head or subject there turned thy thoughts upon it.
And then the author doubteth not, but that the composure itself, when judiciously considered, will prevent another censure, viz. That it is a needless work, as having been done already by others: this being a performance of another nature than any yet extant, and will be more serviceable in sundry views. For, notwithstanding any other helps, the finding out of apt Scriptures for illustrating or confirming any truth which may be upon our thoughts, has ever been, and still is, a difficult and laborious work; and thence men ofttimes use Scriptures, either not apt, according to the intent of the Holy Ghost; or such, the genuine sense of which is doubted,
And as for the use of concordances herein, each man's memory must record the Scriptures; for they must first occur to his thoughts, then his judgment must fix upon some word therein, under which the text is placed; and it is possible not to hit the right term under which it is; and oftentimes look a long time ere he comes to it, because of the multitude of words there used ; and haply miss it at last too, and be put upon searching under another term. But here we need only turn to the subject inquired after, and, without any such stops, find Scriptures full and apt thereto (by whatsoever terms or phrases they are expressed) occur to our eye at an instant; and, mostly, all that the Scripture affords on that subject.
II. To give some light into the method, and the use of this work.
1. Take notice, that, in Chap. XI. [Of the Failings of God's Children,] the first texts are to prove each person's title to that appellation, then the next following, his failings: and this is done on purpose, that it might appear these are the Failings of God's Children; and so proper to the Head.
2 Note also, That the words in a parenthesis, beginning with (or) are the marginal readings.
3. Some general heads have no particulars following, but the whole placed under that general head. This is so done, either because the texts which the Scripture affords on that subject are
but few, and easily run through; or that the matters are so various, that almost every verse carries a distinct meaning in it, yet still relating to the general head; as in that [The Privileges of the Righteous,] each text is almost a distinct privilege : so in that [Of the Character of Saints,] and some others of like nature. And here to have descended to particular heads, would have been tedious and unnecessary; for the words being there transcribed, the reader may presently inform himself in the whole, and in every particular.
Lastly. A little pains in observing the Table of Contents in the front of the book, which doth contain the general and particular heads, and also the references thereto, directing to chapter and
page, where each lieth, will enable us to discern more of the method and usefulness of the work, than car be well expressed in a short Introduction.
This therefore shall suffice, presuming the work itself will shew its own usefulness and advantage; holding a man to one subject, and yielding variety of matter to enforce it upon the mind, and leave impressions there : when the bare reading a chapter or two, which some use to do as a task, proves not effectual for that end; and searching proves laborious, and often discouraging and fruitless too.