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Of the Italic Version

Vulgate

Syriac Version

Armenian Version

Ethiopic, Arabic and Persian Versions
Gothic and Anglo Saxon Versions

Modern Latin Version of the New Testament
Of Erasmus

Arian Montanus, and the Zurich Versions
Robert Stephens, the King's Printer, and Castalio's Version

- Theodorus Beza

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God having been pleased to make use of the previous the ministry of men, in revealing to us his knowledge of will, and transmitting to posterity the divine several things oracles ; a general knowledge, at least, of to the underseveral previous articles is absolutely neces- standing the sary for a right understanding of the holy scriptures. scriptures. We must know, for instance, the time and country the sacred penmen lived in ; their language and character ; the religion, manners, customs, and usages of the people with whom they conversed; and many other particulars, taken notice of hereafter.

Though there be this material difference between the sacred writings, and all others, of what character soever, that the first having been inspired by the Spirit of God, their authority is divine, and consequently infallible, beyond all contradiction, as well as beyond all parallel and comparison ; yet in explaining both sacred and profane authors, the same rules of common sense must be observed : we must have recourse to study and meditation, we must call in the help of history, chronology, geography, and languages ; in a word, of what the

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learned term criticism, or the art of judging of authors and their works, and of arriving at the true sense of them. This method is absolutely necessary for the understanding both the Old and New Testament; but then there is this difference between them, that the New having succeeded the Old, and been, as it were, the accomplishment of it, the sacred writers of the former have borrowed the language of the latter, have perpetually alluded to it, and applied the predictions to the events of their own times, in imitation of their Divine Master, who always referred back to that source. So that in order rightly to understand and explain the New Testament, one ought to be well read in the Old, and have a true notion of the state of things in the days of the Evangelists and Apostles,

These are the reasons that have induced us to compose this discourse, as an Introduction to the Reading of the New Testament. It is indeed true, that all things necessary to salvation are clearly and plainly revealed, and therefore such persons as have neither the leizure nor opportunity of improving themselves in such parts of learning as are before mentioned, have yet this comfort and satisfaction, that they may easily find and discover all saving truths without much study and application; as, on the other hand, they are entirely without excuse, if they neglect to search the scriptures on pretence of ignorance or inability. However, it must be owned, when we come to a close and thorough examination of the holy scriptures, we shall, unless furnished with the knowledge of the particulars above-mentioned, be continually liable to mistakes, imagine we understand what we have no notion of, or, at best, but a very imperfect one, and find ourselves puzzled and put to a stand at every turn. For want of these helps, the scriptures are frequently ill understood, and ill explained. Some put abstracted and metaphysical senses on pas sages that contain plain and simple truths, and expressed in common terms. Others having learnt a system of

divinity, instead of explaining scripture by scripture, by considering the context and parallel places, wrest the word of God to their pre-conceived opinions.

Others again, having regard only to the modern languages, customs, and manners, cannot but mistake the meaning of the inspired writers, for want (if I may so say) of conveying themselves back to the time when, and country where, the sacred penmen wrote.

Hence it comes to pass, that the holy scriptures, and the christian religion, are so disfigured, as hardly now to be known in the schools and seminaries of learning ; where the heads of young students are filled with a thousand chimerical notions, entirely unheard of by the Evangelists. In order to remedy these inconveniences, we shall endeavour to give a general knowledge of what is necessary for the more profitable reading the holy scriptures, especially the New Testament.

was to be

1. As God designed, and had accordingly revealed The Gospel it to the world by his prophets, that the preached to

gospel should be preached to the Jews first; the Jews first, so was it natural, and even necessary for and by Jews. Jesus Christ to choose at first Disciples or Apostles out of the Jewish nation and religion. It was moreover requisite that they should be mean and illiterate persons, not only for the greater manifestation of God's glory, but because of that spirit of pride and incredulity, which reigned among the rich and powerful, and rendered the precepts of the gospel odious in their eyes, as they were inconsistent with their prejudices and passions. But though the Apostles were mean and illiterate, it must not from thence be concluded, that they were entirely destitute of learning and judgment, or of such improvements as were necessary to qualify them for the discharge of their glorious function. Though their discourses are commonly expressed in a

(a) Isai. ii. John iv. Acts xiii. 46.

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