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in vain go about to interpret their words by the notions of our philosophy, and the doctrines of men delivered in our schools. This is to explain the apostle's meaning, by what they never thought of, whilst they were writing; which is not the way to find their sense, in what they delivered, but our own, and to take up, from their writings, not what they left there for us, but what we bring along with us in ourselves. He that would understand St. Paul right, must understand his terms, in the sense he uses them, and not as they are appropriated by each man's particular philosophy to conceptions that never entered the mind of the apostle. For example, he that shall bring the philosophy now taught and received, to the explaining of spirit, soul, and body, mentioned i Thess. v. 23, will, I fear, hardly reach St. Paul's sense, or represent to himself the notions St. Paul then had in his mind. That is what we should aim at, in reading him, or any other author; and until we, from his words, paints his very ideas and thoughts in our minds, we do not understand him.
In the divisions I have made, I have endeavoured, the best I could, to govern myself by the diversity of matter. But in a writer like St. Paul, it is not so easy always to find precisely, where one subject ends, and another begins. He is full of the matter he treats, and writes with warmth, which usually neglects method, and those partitions and pauses, which men, educated in the schools of rhetoricians, usually observe. Those arts of writings, St. Paul, as well out of design as temper, wholly laid by : the subject he had in hand, and the grounds upon which it stood firm, and by which he enforced it, were what alone he minded ; and without solemnly winding up one argument, and intimating any way, that he began another, let his thoughts, which were fully possessed of the matter, run in one continued train, wherein the parts of his discourse were wove, one into another: so that it is seldom that the scheme of his discourse makes any gap; and therefore, without breaking in upon the connexion of his language, it is hardly possible to separate his discourse, and give a distinct view of his several arguments, in distinct sections.
I am far from pretending infallibility, in the sense I have any where given in my paraphrase, or notes: that would be to erect myself into an apostle ; a presumption of the highest nature in any one, that cannot confirm what he says by miracles. I have, for my own information, sought the true meaning, as far as my poor abilities would reach. And I have unbiassedly embraced, what, upon a fair inquiry, appeared so to me. This I thought my duty and interest, in a matter of so great concernment to me. If I must believe for myself, it is unavoidable, that I must understand for myself. For if I blindly, and with an implicit faith, take the pope's interpretation of the sacred scripture, without examining whether it be Christ's meaning; it is the pope I believe in, and not in Christ; it is his authority I rest upon; it is what he says, I embrace: for what it is Christ says, I neither know nor concern myself. It is the same thing, when I set up any other man in Christ's place, and make him the authentic interpreter of sacred scripture to myself. He may possibly understand the sacred scripture as right as any man: but I shall do well to examine myself
, whether that, wbich I do not know, nay, which (in the way I take) I can never know, can justify me, in making myself his disciple, instead of Jesus Christ's, who of right is alone, and ought to be, my only Lord and Master: and it will be no less sacrilege in me, to substitute to myself any other in his room, to be a prophet to me, than to be my king, or priest.
The same reasons that put me upon doing what I have in these papers done, will exempt me from all suspicion of imposing my interpretation on others. The reasons that led me into the meaning, which prevailed on my mind, are set down with it: as far as they carry light and conviction to any other man's understanding, so far, I hope, my labour may be of some use to him; beyond the evidence it carries with it, I advise him not to follow mine, nor any man's interpretation. We are all men, liable to errours, and infected with them; but have this sure way to preserve ourselves, every one, from danger by them, if, laying aside sloth, carelessness, prejudice, party, and a reverence of men, we betake ourselves, in earnest, to the study of the way to salvation, in those holy writings, wherein God has revealed it from heaven, and proposed it to the world, seeking our religion, where we are sure it is in truth to be found, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things.
PUBLISHER TO THE READER,
THERE is nothing, certainly, of greater encouragement to the peace of the church in general, nor to the direction and edification of all christians in particular, than a right understanding of the holy scripture. This consideration has set so many learned and pious men amongst us, of late years, upon expositions, paraphrases, and notes on the sacred writings, that the author of these hopes the fashion may excuse him from endeavouring to add his mite; believing, that after all that has been been done by those great labourers in the harvest, there may be some gleanings left, whereof he presumes he has an instance, chap. iii. ver. 20. and some other places of this epistle to the Galatians, which he looks upon not to be the hardest of St. Paul's. If he has given a light to any obscure passage, he shall think his pains well employ, ed; if there be nothing else worth notice in him, accept of his good intention.