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the large editions of such works, continually issuing from the press, clearly indicate that such feelings are still on the increase.
Indeed, it may be generally observed, that the healthy state of the public mind, in its lively cravings for the heavenly food, may be safely estimated by the standard of the attractive impulse in this respect.
To pass by many, who might be easily mentioned, as having been honoured by God and made useful in their generation, and who will ever be regarded with the highest veneration on account of their devoted labours; it might be truly affirmed that, through the works of Matthew Henry and Thomas Scott (names which, in the Church of Christ, will be held in everlasting remembrance), thousands, under God, have been daily blessed in the use and improvement of the Sacred Word; and that thousands still continue to derive their daily strength and peace, in subordination to the Divine Word and will, from those invaluable resources.
Still, however, the conviction may not be denied, that the existence of a vacuum is felt even here. Unrivalled as those Commentators undoubtedly are, and, perhaps, ever will be, they do not meet all the wants which they intended to supply; and the necessity is especially felt in the very point to which they were more immediately directed.
A Family Bible ought to be adapted for family use. The study holds a special province: the pulpit one that is still higher. But, when they are all blended together in one, some department or other will feel the consequence.
With all their inimitable excellences, those princely authors are considered, by many competent judges, as more suited to the privacy of the study, or the retirement of the closet, than for the associated duties of the family circle, where all are not divines; and where, whatever may be read or spoken, every word should be to the point, and level to the common or mingled capacity, if we would find our daily worship to be a means of obtaining daily blessings.
Beyond all doubt, the above-mentioned Commentaries are used in thousands of families with pleasure and profit.
The Author of this work himself had the privilege of doing so for a great many years; and he has abundant cause to praise God that ever such treasures came into his hands.
But, at the same time, he feels compelled to observe, that there are only certain portions of those works which may be thus used; and those portions must be carefully selected, either at the moment, or by previous examination, so as to meet the time usually devoted to daily worship.
As all persons, however, have not leisure for that purpose, and as it frequently happens that the parts selected are not always of a continuous character (and so, consequently, large portions of the Word read pass off without any observation or improvement); it certainly does appear, that a work, purposely written and specially
designed for the domestic circle, has hitherto been wanting in the range of our Biblical literature.
The many selections which have, from time to time, been made from the Commentaries of Henry and Scott, with the view of supplying that need, and the feeling which still exists that nothing has yet been written to answer the desired purpose, only serve to prove the truth of these remarks.
For a great length of time, this conviction deeply affected the Author's mind; and it was this feeling, increasing day by day, and year by year, which led, after many inquiries, much thought, and many prayers for Divine direction and assistance, first, to the commencement, and then to the completion, of The Domestic Commentary which is now presented to the Christian public; and which he humbly desires to dedicate to the Divine honour and glory.
And if, through the Divine mercy, the Author may be allowed to feel some grateful satisfaction, in being permitted to view the result of that conviction in the production of an entirely new Commentary on the whole Word of God, as contained in the Old and New Testament; a work as novel in its character, as useful in its design; he desires to render all praise to whom all the glory is due.
The design, therefore, of this work is, not to depreciate or supersede the labours of others, in any degree; but simply to supply a want. It is intended to give a short Commentary on the Word of God for the special purpose of domestic worship. It is designed to furnish every private individual, and every head of a family, with a series of short practical addresses on every chapter throughout the Sacred Volume, in a compendious form; occupying, perhaps, from five to ten minutes in the reading, for personal or domestic use, as the case may be. And it is intended, moreover, to give these addresses in a manner divested of that formal arrangement of accumulated criticisms and explanatory notes, which generally encumber the pages, and sometimes alarm and perplex the mind, in works of this description.
There are, indeed, many other ways in which this work may be made extensively useful; such as, for example, in the pastoral visit, the cottage lecture, the scripture reader's path, the sick chamber, and at the dying bed ; where a word spoken in due season, when a chapter has been read, may not be lost.
In carrying out the object above stated, it is hoped the execution will be found to accord with the design. Plainness and simplicity are the leading characteristics of these remarks. The Author has written just as he would have spoken, were a family assembled before him for daily worship, and as he has been accustomed to speak for many years in his public ministrations : and, indeed, throughout the whole of the work, this social gathering is assumed to be
present; which will account for the easy and affectionate manner in which each address is given, and may possibly commend his labours to the approbation of those for whose especial benefit the whole is designed.
Or, should it be supposed, that in some instances he has departed from the rule of simplicity, he begs to remark how difficult it is, at all times, to clothe the majesty of Divine truth in a simple dress; that, in the family circle, as well as in the public congregation, there are various degrees of mental capacity; and that the master and visitor must each have their portion, as well as the servant.
With regard to the doctrinal spirit pervading these comments, when it is observed, that the Author's aim has been to give a faithful utterance to the
pure Word of God; and that the utterance, so given, is in accordance with the theological views of Henry and Scott, the two great master-minds of this order ; he hopes he will have stated enough to ensure the confidence of the Christian public.
All the grand leading truths of the Gospel, which form the basis and ensure the blessings of the Christian faith ; such as, the fallen and lost condition of man, as a sinner, both by nature and practice, before God; the utter inutility of any works of ours to procure, by way of merit, pardon and peace; redemption by the precious blood of Christ; justification solely through faith in His imputed righteousness; salvation only through faith in his name; together with the absolute necessity, and the unfailing efficacy of the Spirit's work in the heart, in the sinner's regeneration, conversion, and sanctification ; and all these, and all other mercies, flowing from the rich and unmerited grace of God freely and undeservedly bestowed, will be found distinctly inculcated, as by occasion called forth, throughout these pages.
As these most blessed doctrines stand conspicuously revealed in every part of the Sacred Volume, and form the grand key by which all its revealed mysteries are made plain ; so must they equally pervade every faithful exposition of that Word.
Where these most important doctrines are wanting, nothing can be beneficially spoken or written, or effectually done. Where they are vitiated by the intermixture of man's works, and human inventions, nothing but an empty form, or a confused mass of superstitious ceremonies, degrading to the intellect and ruinous to the soul, will be the result. Where they take possession of the heart, and actuate the immortal spirit in its high and holy aspirations, a sure basis will be laid, and a solid superstructure will be reared, whose endurance will last for ever; and on which may be inscribed by all the heirs of heaven, “To the praise of the glory of his grace.” (Eph. i. 6.)
In pursuing such glorious objects as these, the Author's aim has been instruction, and not controversy. His desire is to edify, and not perplex ;
and, at the same time, to furnish every person, who is desirous of appreciating the way of life through Jesus Christ, with the means of reading the Divine Word with pleasure and advantage, both to himself and others. And, if it may be satisfactory to the reader to be informed of the fact, he embraces this opportunity of stating, that the results arising from more than thirty years' experience in the work of the ministry, and the life of faith, have been brought to bear upon the execution of the whole.
Nothing, therefore, of a controversial character has been introduced. Where truth prevails, controversy ends. The Word of God speaks for itself; and the subject matter of each chapter is the best foundation for all remark. Giving free scope to the Divine testimony, error will vanish away; and every doctrine, and
every promise and precept of the Gospel, will stand forth in its sacred authority, and find its proper place, without confusion or restraint.
The Author's aim has been to ascribe all authority to the throne of Divine Truth; and all decision, respecting the claims of that Divine Truth, to that Infinite Mind which can never err, and to that Almighty hand which, guided by infinite rectitude, can never give a wrong inclination to the preponderating scale.
Nor is the Author aware that, while steadily upholding the spotless purity of revealed truth, he has designedly written one sentence contrary to the spirit of the great law of Christian love.
One peculiar feature, in the character and order of this work, consists in the simple method of its execution. While some Commentators generally give a running exposition, without any remarks at the end of the chapter, as Henry; and others, the exposition first, and then the practical observations at the close, as Scott. In the present instance, the Author has thrown all his remarks together at the end of the chapter in a practical form, and reduced them to as small a compass as possible for the general use.
As such a work has long been considered a desirable acquisition for domestic worship; and as the necessity is still felt more and more every day, even by the various attempts which have been made, by way of selections from both of those eminent Commentators, to supply the defect ; the Author is not without hope, that it may please God to give his gracious blessing to what he has written, and make it a means, in conjunction with others, of rendering our domestic assemblies scenes of sacred intelligence and holy worship; of guiding immortal beings, however humble, in the way of peace; and of building up his beloved people in their most holy faith.
He begs permission, however, at the same time, to drop one short hint. Let no one forget what is the real character of this work ; lest, by expecting too much, he neglect to profit by what is really prepared for his use.
To give a full expression to the whole substance of the Sacred Volume, is not the aim of these pages. No one is able to accomplish such a task. Were all who have ever breathed on earth, or who have been brought to glory in heaven, to undertake such a performance; however deeply they were enabled to penetrate the plain statements or the hidden mysteries of God's inspired Word; however devotedly they gave themselves to the work, or perseveringly excelled therein; still, after all, that Word would remain, what it ever was and ever will be, the unsearchable testimony of the grace of Christ; the unfathomable depths of divine wisdom and love; the inexhaustible treasury of pardoning mercy and grace. None would be able to scan all the heights; or fathom all the depths; or measure all the length and breadth of that divinely inspired, that holy and most blessed Word, which is able to make us wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing but the highest happiness of the heavenly world, and the full blaze of eternal glory, will be the perfect exponent of that sacred testimony of redeeming love.
If the mind feels overwhelmed by this contemplation, still let it delight to dwell upon this inestimable provision. Let us feed upon this heavenly manna more and more. Let us delight ourselves daily therein. Let us be thankful for that measure of wisdom and grace, however small it may be, which the Lord may be pleased to give us; and seek to impart the matchless benefit to others. Thus we may be useful in our day; we may be helpful to others; and set forward the glory of God and the salvation of men.
But who is sufficient for these things ? Who could venture to enter upon such a work, without praying for grace to teach and to guide him? Who can lay down his pen at the close of his labours, without crying for mercy to pardon and to bless him ?
Dear reader, may that grace and that mercy be largely communicated to you and to the writer, and to all who may ever read these pages, whether in the closet, the family, or elsewhere; both for our present peace and comfort ; and for our everlasting joy and felicity, through Jesus Christ our Lord ! Amen and Amen.
Your servant in Jesus Christ,