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Having made these concessions, it may now be permitted me to state, that in some particulars of minor importance I have differed from all the commentators in my possession: not indeed in respect to circumstances in which they generally agree; but in some of those in which they differ from each other. Where, however, I have been constrained to do this, it has not been for the sake of differing, nor for the pleasure of wandering into eccentricity; but merely from a necessity of harmonizing the whole exposition, and of rendering it satisfactory to my own mind. It is now no small gratification to me to state, that I commit this volume to the press, under the firm conviction and persuasion that, in respect to its general outline, it contains a true interpretation of this sublime and mysterious Book of Scripture. As a comment on this part of the inspired word of God, I flatter myself it is as well suited to general readers, and to young students in theology, as any volume that has yet appeared on the subject.
When the proposals of this work were first made public, the book was intended to comprise fortyfour Lectures as they were delivered from the pulpit. But on farther consideration, in addition to the difficulty there would have been of printing them entire in one volume, it was judged that it would be on the whole an advantage to give the book the form of an exposition. The work, therefore, has been divided into PARTS, and subdivided into SECTIONS ; and, instead of the usual Inferences and Applications which were appended to the Lectures, a page (more or less) of Reflections has been added to many of the Sections, as an abridgment of the more enlarged Improvements adapted to the pulpit.
It may be proper here to state, that in the exposition of this inspired Book, on the subject of Popery, I have taken the same ground with the Reformers in general, and with those modern writers who occupy the same stand. With the great body of Protestant
duals, who take more liberal views of the subject, are no longer Papists. They dissent in an essential point from the infallible Church*..*
- I have considered it necessary thus fully to state my sentiments on this subject, in order to show that, although true Protestantism contemplates Popery with the same view in which it will be exhibited in the body of this work, it nevertheless does not uncharitably consign all the individuals within its communion to perdition. Like the Scripture, which it makes the rule of its faith and practice, it judges and condemns the church of Rome; but, unlike Popery, it does not enter into the judgment-seat, and pronounce sentence of condemnation upon its individual members. Possessing the charity which hopeth all things, it believes that those who receive Jesus Christ as their Saviour, Prophet, Priest, and
• As this is a subject on which every one who is desirous of understanding the controversy between Popery and Protestantism ought to form correct ideas, perhaps I may be forgiven for illustrating it by facts, though it may possibly expose me to the charge of egotism. Some years ago I was in the habit of frequent intercourse with several emigrant French priests. In my conversation with one of them, who subsequently held an eminent situation in a Roman Catholic college, our discourse turned on the salvability of individuals without the pale of the Romish church. My opponent, for such in this point he was, strenuously argued on the negative side of the question. In order to bring his views to a practical bearing, and to try how far personal feelings might be a barrier to his creed, I remarked, “ Then you consign me among the other heretics to eternal “ damnation ?" The substance of the firm and consistent reply was, “ I can make no exceptions: there is no salvation out of the Ca“ tholic church." My antagonist, it will be seen, was a genuine son of Rome, a true Papist, who was neither afraid nor ashamed to maintain the doctrine of that anticatholic and antichristian church of which he was a consistent and a zealous minister. Were it necessary, I might contrast this intolerant bigotry of the Romish church and its true and faithful members, with a liberality and candour consistent with the temper and spirit of genuine Christianity; but those who exercise such a disposition of mind, though they may be Catholics in the legitimate sense of the term, cannot be denominated Papists. They are dissenters from the popish church, notwithstanding their continuance within its pale.
I beg now to return my most sincere and grateful thanks to the numerous and highly respectable Subscribers, who have done me the favour and honour of permitting their names to be prefixed to this publication. My acknowledgments, however, are still more particularly due to those who have not only obliged me with their own names, but, by their influence, have been the means of procuring for me those of many others. It would not be gratifying to them, nor easy for myself, to notice here my sense of obligation to them individually. I cannot, however, resist my inclination particularly to mention the beloved relative of the Poet of Olney and Weston. The Rev. Dr. Johnson, to whom I sent a copy of the Prospectus of this work, in writing to desire me to consider him as a subscriber, informed me that, though he was at present in circumstances which kept him constantly employed, he might nevertheless have it in his power to procure me a few others. This modest and unsolicited pledge was redeemed by sending me immediately from himself, or through his respectable connexions, names for more than two hundred copies. Should my valuable and retiring friend be displeased with this public notice of his good offices, I must beg him to charge the fault to the locality of my situation, and to a desire of placing myself in a connexion, however remote, with the name of his revered relation CowPER.
It would have afforded me satisfaction, if this book, in respect to the abilities of the author, had been more worthy of the patronage with which it has been unexpectedly honoured. With regard to the matter contained in it, I make no apologies. The volume is full of interesting and momentous truth. It contains a comment, which, I trust, will be found to give a sober and fair exposition of the sacred text; agreeably to the analogy of faith, the general doctrines of Scripture, and the facts and events of history.
It is my earnest prayer, that “the Author of “every good and perfect gift” may grant his bless ing to this volume, so that it may promote the spiritual benefit of those who have subscribed to its publication, and of its readers in general. This is my earnest and chief desire. My labour in writing it, has already been more than repaid in the delivery of those Lectures which contained the materials of the book, and in the sensations which have been awakened in my mind by letters from my former connexions, my present friends, and others, who, though personally unknown to me, have a high claim on my esteem and respect.
OLNEY, May 1821. 8