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through, from one end to the other. But in doing this, it will be advisable to begin with the New Testament first, and to read it over most frequently, because it concerns us Christians the most nearly, and explains to us more fully and more clearly the words of eternal life. But after you have once gone regularly through both the Old Testament and the Nei, it may then be most useful, perhaps, to select out of each such passages as lay before you the great fundamental doctrines, and most essential duties, of your Christian profession ; and even amongst these, to dwell the longest on such as express these things in the most awful and striking manner, such as affect and touch you most powerfully, such as make your heart burn within you, and stir up all the pious affections in your soul. But it will be of little use to read, unless at the same time also you reflect ; unless you apply what you read to those great purposes which the Scriptures were meant to promote, the amendment of your faults, the improvement of your hearts, and, the salvation of your souls.
To assist you in this most important and necessary work, is the design of these Lectures;
and in the execution of this design I shall have these four objects principally in view :
First, To explain and illustrate those passages of holy writ, which are in any degree difficult and obscure.
2dly, To point out, as they occur in the sacred writings, the chief leading fundamental principles and doctrines of the Christian religion.
3dly, To confirm and strengthen your făith, by calling your attention to those strong internal marks of the truth and divine authority of the Christian religion, which present themselves to us in almost every page of the Gospel.
4thly, To lay before you the great moral precepts of the Gospel, to press them home upon your consciences and your hearts, and render them effectual to the important ends they were intended to serve; namely, the due government of your passions, the regulation of your conduct, and the attainment of everJasting life.
These are all of them objects of the very last importance; they are worthy the attens tion of every human being; and they will, I think, be better attained by a familiar and
I. practical explanation of the sacred writings, than by any other species of composition whatever.
The plan of instruction adopted by our blessed Lord was unquestionably the very best that could be devised. It was not a regular system of ethics, delivered in a connected series of dry essays and dissertations, like those of the ancient heathen philosophers; but it consisted of familiar discourses, interesting parables, short sententious maxims, and occasional reflections, arising from the common occurrences of life, and the most obvious appearances of nature. All these various modes of instruction are so judiciously blended and mixed together in the history of our Lord's life and conversation, delivered to us in the Gospel (as all the various sorts of pleasing objects are in the unornamented scenes of nature) that they make a much deeper inpression both on the understanding and on the heart, than they could possibly do in any other more artificial form.
An exposition of Scripture, then, must at all times be highly useful and interesting to every sincere disciple of Christ; but must be peculiarly so at the present moment, when so
much pains have been taken to ridicule and revile the sacred writings, to subvert the very foundations of our faith, and to poison the minds of all ranks of people, but especially the middling and the lower classes, by the most impious and blasphemous publications that ever disgraced any Christian country*. To résist these wicked attempts is the duty of every minister of the Gospel ; and as I have strongly exhorted all those who are under my superintendance, to exert themselves with zeal and with vigour in defence of their insulted religion, I think it incumbent on me to take my share in this important contest, and to show that I wish not to throw burthens on others of which I am not willing to bear my full proportion. As long therefore as my health, and the various duties of an extensive and populous diocese, will permit, and the exigencies of the times require such exertions, I propose to continue annually these Lectures. And I shall think it no unbecoming conclusion of my life, if these labours of my declining years should tend in any degree to render the Holy Scriptures more clear and intelligible, more useful and delightful; if they shall confirm the faith, reform the manners, console and revive the hearts of those who hear me; and vindicate the honour of our divine Master from those gross indignities and insults, which have of late been so indecently and impiously thçown on him and his religion.
* About this time, and for some years before, The Age of Reason, and other pestilent writings of the same nature, were disseminated through almost every district of this country with incredible industry.