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so high a rank; and that it appears to your princely wisdom chiefly desirable, on account of those distinguished advantages which it may give, of approving yourself the faithful servant of God, and the generous friend of the public.
Among the principal of these advantages, your Royal Highness will undoubtedly number the opportunity which this exalted station of life affords you of forming to early sentiments of religion and virtue the opening minds of your royal offspring; those dear pledges of the liberty and happiness of ages yet to come, on whose temper and character, so much of public glory to our nation, so much of private felicity to yet unformed families, will depend. We adore the great Disposer of all events, who hath lodged this important trust in so wise and so pious a hand; and it must argue a very irreligious, or a very careless temper, if any neglect earnestly to pray, that He who hath so graciously assigned it to you, may direct and prosper you in it. While you, Madam, during the tender years which most naturally fall under the care of a mother, are endeavouring to bless these lovely infants with an education like that which you received from the excellent princes pour parents, may your Royal Highness, in a sacęess like theirs, receive the joys you have given ! May they arise and shine on the whole Protestant world, in the lustre of every royal virtue and every Christian grace, which can render them dear to God and to their country, and, to say all in a word, worthy their relation to the Prince and Princess of Wales, and to all the glorious line of remoter ancestors from which they spring!
I should esteem it one of the greatest blessings of my life, and should be able to relish the thought in the nearest views of death itself, if this humble present which I here offer to your Royal Highness might give you any assistance in these pious cares. If the kings of Israel were required, not only to read the law of Moses all the days of their lives, but to write out a copy of it
with their own hand; it may reasonably be expected, that Christian princes should make the far more glorious gospel of the Son of God their daily study, that it may be their constant guide. And I persuade myself, Madam, , that none of the fashionable amusements of the age will seem to you in any degree comparable to that rational and elevated pleasure, which you will find in pointing out to your happy charge, as they grow capable of such instructions, the resplendent example of Jesus, the Prince of heaven, and the King of glory; in tracing the marvellous and edifying circumstances of his life, as here described; and in urging their humble and dutiful regards to that Divine, yet condescending Redeemer ; to whom your Royal Highness, with all those amiable virtues which render you the delight and boast of our nation, will thankfully ascribe your own hopes of being finally accepted by God, and sharing the joys of his eternal presence.
These hopes, Madam, are the grand supports of the human mind in those views, from which royalty and empire cannot shelter it. An awful Providence, which we must all long lament, did early write these admonitions to your Royal Highness in the dust of one of the best of Queens. The attention with which her late Majesty studied the sacred oracles, and the evidences of our holy religion, for which, even in her departing moments, she expressed so firm a regard, will, I hope, never be forgotten by any allied to her, or descended from her. Nor am I able, in all the overflowings of the most affectionate gratitude and duty which I now feel, to form a more important wish for that condescending Patroness to whom I am addressing, than (to borrow the words of the Hebrew Monarch) that the testimonies of God may be her delight and her counsellors! And I trust, Madam, that they are so; I trust that, conscious of a heart devoted to God, and supported by a well-grounded confidence in his favour, you are fixing your eyes on a celestial diadem, which shall sparkle with immortal glories, when the kingdoms of this earth
shall be known no more, and all its pageantry shall be passed away like a dream. May you at length, in a very distant moment, have a happy accession to that never-fading crown; and, after having long adorned the highest stations here with that amiable Prince, whose constant and endearing friendship is so much more to your Royal Highness than all the grandeur which can result from your relation to him, may you be both exalted to the superior glories of the heavenly kingdom !
I hope your Royal Highness will please to pardon me, that I have expressed myself with so much warmth and freedom, in a presence I so highly revere: but I should be most unworthy of the name and honour of a Christian Minister, if I were ever ashamed of sentiments like these ; and the assiduity with which I have lately been sitting at the feet of my Divine Master, while commenting on these authentic memoirs of his life and history, hath inspired me with a veneration and ardour which it is not easy to repress. I am sensible, Madam, these are unfashionable strains on such an occasion; and it would have been easy to have filled many more pages than these with panegyric, on what I have read of your illustrious ancestors, and what I have heard from multitudes, of the charms of your Royal Highness's person and character; but I imagined that such hints as these were more suitable to that plainness and simplicity which at all times become a servant of Christ; and I flatter myself, that, to a person of your Royal Highness's penetration, they will not seem less expressive of that undissembled esteem and affectionate zeal, with which I am,
I have long been convinced, that if any thing can stop that progress of infidelity and vice, which every wise man beholds with sorrow and fear; that is any thing can allay those animosities, which (unnatural as they are) bave so long infamed us, and pained the heart of every generous Christian; in a word, that if any thing can establish the purity and order, the peace and glory of the church, or spread the triumphs of personal and domestic religion among us, it must be an attentive study of the word of God, and especially of the New Testament ; that best of books, which, if read with impartiality and seriousness, under the influences of that blessed Spirit by whom it was inspired, would have the noblest tendency to enlighten and adorn the mind, and not only to touch, but to animate and transform the beart.
The station of life in which Divine Providence has placed me, rendered it peculiarly necessary for me to make these sacred oracles iny principal study; and having, to my unspeakable delight and advantage, felt much of their energy, I long since determined that it should be the main business of my life as an author to illustrate them, and to lead my fellow-christians into a due regard for them, by endeavouring, in as plain and popular a manner as I could, to display their beauty, their spirit, and their use; and I thankfully acknowledge the goodness of God to me, in giving me health and spirits to finish so considerable a part of my design, though I have so much other business on my hands, and bave been obliged to execute this in a much more laborious manner than I at first apprehended would have been requisite.
The title I have given to the work sufficiently explains its original design, which was chiefly to promote family religion, and to render the reading of the New Testament more pleasant and improving to those that wanted the benefit of a learned education, and had not opportunity or inclination to consult a variety of commentators. And I thought it proper still to retain the title of The Family Expositor, even when I had made some alteration in the plan; because that is still the leading view of the greater part of the work. In pursuit of this, I hare giren a large paraphrase on the sacred text, well knowing that this is the most agreeable and useful manner of explaining it to common readers, who hardly know how to manage annotations, especially when they are to be read to otbers. The chief objection against this way is, that when a whole verse, and much more when several verses are taken together (as they frequently are,) it requires a great attention, and in some places some considerable penetration, to trace the exact correspondence between the respective clauses of the text and the paraphrase. There are some performances of this kind in our own language, as well as in others, in which such liberties are taken, that I freely confess that, were it not for the initial references, or opposite column, I should not be able to guess from the paraphrase itself, what the scripture was which it pretended to explain. This must undoubtedly give the greatest advantage for disguise and misrepresentation; and where those glosses are read by themselves without the
scriptures (which I know has been the case in some families,) it is really ex• changing the prophets and apostles for modern divines. To prevent this intolerable evil, I have formed my paraphrase so, that it is impossible to read it without the text, having every where interwoven the words of scripture with it, and carefully distinguished them from the rest by the Italic character: so that every one may immediately see, not only the particular clause to which any explication answers, but also what are the words of the sacred original, and what merely the sense of a fallible man, who is liable, though in the integrity of his heart, to mislead his readers, and dares not attribute to himself the singular glory of having put off every prejudice, even while he would deliberately and knowingly allow rone.
I thought it might be some additional improvement of this work, and some entertainment to the more accurate reader, to give the text in a new versim; which I have accordingly done from the original with all the care I could. There are so few places in which the general sense will appear different from our received translation, that some will perhaps think this an unnecessary trouble: but I can by no means repent it, as it has given me an opportunity of searching more accurately into several beauties of expression which had before escaped me; and of making some alterations, which, though they may not be very ma. terial to the editication of men's souls, inay yet in some degree do a farther honour to scripture; raising some of those ornaments which were before de. pressed; and sufficiently proving that several objections urged against it were entirely of an English growth: ends, which might yet more abundantly be answered by a new version of the Old Testament, which has suffered much more in our translation, as it is natural to suppose it must.
I thought it might also conduce to the usefulness of this exposition to digest the history of the four evangelists into one continued series, or, in other words, to throw it into the order of an harmony. By this means each story and discourse is exhibited with all its concurrent circumstances, as recorded by the sacred penmen; frequent repetitions are prevented; and a multitude of seeming oppositions are so evidently reconciled, as to supersede many objections, and render the very mention of them unnecessary. My reader will hardly imagine the pains that this part of the work has cost me, both in examining the order of the several texts, and collating the different accounts in each, in such a manner, that no one clause in any of the evingelists might be omitted, and yet the several passages to be inserted might make one connected sense, and, without any darge addition, stand in a due grammatical order. I was the more sensible of this labour, as I laid it down for a maxim to myself, when I entered on this work, that I would study as much as possible to inake it an original in all its parts. Accordingly, the first copy of it was drawn up with hardly any other assistance than that of the Greek Testament, which I endeavoured to harmonize, to translate, to paraphrase and to improve, just as if none had ever attempted any thing of that nature before me. Afterwards I was obliged to compare it with what others had done; and, as may easily be supposed, I found in many instances an agreement, and in many others a difference betwixt them and myself. Where we ditfered, I endeavoured impartially to examine the reasons on both sides; and where I have perceived myself indebted to any, for leading me into a more just and beautiful version, explication or disposition, than I had before chosen, I have generally, and, so far as I can recollect, universally, acknowledge ed it; unless where the hint came from some living friend, where such acknowjedgment would not have been agreeable. There are, no doubt, many other instances in which the thoughts that seemed originally my own might be sugo gested by memory, though I knew not from whence they came ; and a thousand more are so obvious, that one would suppose they must occur to every attentive reader, who has any genius and furniture for criticism. To have multi