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great zeal and success carrying on for the better educating Christian youth in the principles of their most holy religion, and for propagating a true knowledge of the Gospel among those that have not yet received the glad tidings of salvation through CHRIST: which designs I am not only particularly obliged, but with the whole weight of my judgment and inclination led to promote to the utmost of my power.
It were likewise farther to be wished, that the professed enemies of Revealed Religion would take some such way as this, of considering it all at once, in the full extent and simplicity of it, before they conclude any part of it to be either false or absurd. For by so doing they would soon find, that all the objections they make to Divine Revelation are levelled only against some particular opinions, falsely vented by private men as the Word of God; and that no one Christian doctrine can be disproved, while the authority of the Scriptures is preserved; which hath not yet suffered any thing by all their attempts.
After this short account of the reasons that induced me to enter upon the following work, I have these few things to acquaint my reader with, concerning the method observed in the performance of it.
The language (as I have said before), is all taken out of Scripture; there being no more of my own mixed with it, than just what was necessary for connection : and this is every where distinguished by a different character, excepting only some small variations in the person, tense, or the like; such as were requisite to express that, by way of pro
position, which the Scripture had delivered in some other form.
All the texts made use of are (as it appears upon the first view) disposed under general heads. But for the better avoiding too great a number of subdivisions, and at the same time to preserve the clearness aimed at by them, instead of new titles, I have made several breaks under each head, which seemed to me to answer the same end an easier way. I have endeavoured likewise so to range the particular texts under every division, as they might follow one another in the most natural order they were capable of, without making a continued discourse; which, considering that this is a collection of principles and laws, would have carried less weight and solemnity with it.
As I have taken all the care I could to leave out no texts relating to any of my heads, which might be supposed to add any force or light to those I have retained, so have I avoided as much as conveniently I could, the repetition of the same texts. But be. cause several of them may be thought to belong as properly to one head as another; for this reason I have repeated some without any variation; but, commonly, where the same text comes over again, it is placed in a different view; what was delivered absolutely as a matter of faith or duty in one place, being brought in as a proof or reason of something else in another.
Under some heads I have put several texts, which seem to be only equivalent expressions of the same thing; but some of them, upon examination, will be found to be more distinct, and some more emphatical than others, or at least the variety itself
will serve to imprint what is said more strongly upon us; and in this I have followed the manner of the Sacred Writers.
As to the sense and meaning of all the passages of Scripture here brought together; it will easily appear from the disposition which I have made of them, that I have constantly had a regard to that interpretation of the words which is most generally allowed, and which they seem most naturally to bear in the common translation now used in our Bibles; which I have all along preserved, excepting only two or three places in the Psalms, where I thought the old translation, still kept in the public service of the Church, more full and expressive. I have indeed taken the liberty of applying some texts, by way of illustration, in somewhat a different sense than what was originally intended by them; but then it is always in such a sense as is agreeable to the doctrine of Scripture in other places; and the subjects they are applied to are such, as either admit of no dispute, or are sufficiently proved by plainer texts before. And even these texts, which do not by an easy inference prove that they are brought to explain, are for more exactness distinguished by this mark 1.
But whatever faults there may be, either in the choice of some texts, or the disposition of the whole performance, they will, I hope, be excused upon the account of the great difficulty of such a work as this is; in the composing of which I had no manner of help from any body that had gone before me. The only offer at such a design, that I have met with, is a book printed in quarto, 1676, styled, The Scripture Sufficiency, &c. which I hoped, would have superseded my labour, or at least made it much easier, by giving me a good foundation to build upon.
which, upon some other accounts, may probably have its use, was of so little service to me, by reason of the great difference of the author's method, that I found it less trouble to take all my materials immediately out of the Bible itself, than out of that book; and thither I went directly for them.
If it shall please God, that the collection I have made from thence should any way contribute to give persons a right understanding of the Christian Religion, I shall think the pains I have taken in it very well bestowed. And if the work be esteemed useful, I shall be very well content to have it pass under no other character.