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have long been used to; but since it contains nothing else but the pure word of God, there is reason to hope, that men of all persuasions will be easily prevailed upon to look into it without fear of being misled; and that if any of them should from hence be enabled to discover their mistakes, the authority of what is said will dispose them to yield more willingly to their convictions.
But whatever effect this method may have with such as already fixed in error, those that have not yet taken a wrong bent, will, in all likelihood, find it of some advantage to them in their earliest inquiries into the Christian religion, to take a general view of the whole, in the most simple manner in which it was first delivered to the saints. ' For when they see all the passages of scripture together, which refer to the same subject, they will be in less danger of falling into any of those mistakes, which
are manifestly founded upon single texts considered apart bythenselves : And when they have once truly learned to speak the language of scripture, they will be better enabled to judge of the force of all other expressions, and to discern how far they agree with that unerring standard, the word of God.
It was for their sakes, chiefly that I undertook to draw up this summary account of the doctrines contained in the sacred writ. A.5
ings : which at this time more especially I was encouraged to do, upon a presumption that it might be some way serviceable to those glorious designs, which are now with 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 further 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, w hile the autho rity 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 ob. served 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 proposition, 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 in it.
As I have taken all the care I could to leave out.no text 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 because several of them may be thought to belong as properly to one head as to another : for this reason I have repeated some without any variation; but, commonly, where the same text conies 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 ex pressions 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 inost 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 ap plied 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 are brought to explain, are for more exactness distinguished with this mark.
But whatever faults there may be, either in the choice of some text, 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, stiled, 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. But that book, tho' the product of much pains, and which upon some other accounts may