That thick darkness overspread the church after the irruptions of the northern barbarians, and the desolations which they occasioned in the Roman empire, is known and acknowledged. Those conquerors professed the religion of the conquered; but corrupted and spoiled it. Like the new settlers in the kingdom of Ephraim, they feared the Lord and served their own gods. In those corruptions antichristian error and domination originated. The tyranny of opinion became terrible, and long held human minds enslaved. Few had sentiments of their own. The orders of the vatican were received as the mandates of heaven. But at last some discerning and intrepid mortals arose who saw the absurdity and impiety of the reigning superstition, and dared to disclose them to a wondering world! Among those bold reformers, LUTHER, CALVIN, and a few contemporary worthies, hold a distinguished rank. Greatly is the church indebted to them for the light which they diffused, and the reformation which they effected. But still the light was imperfect. Dark shades remained. This particularly appeared in the dogmatism and bigotry of these same reformers, who often prohibited further inquiries, or emendations! They had differed from Rome, but no body must differ from them! As though the infallibility which they denied to another, had been transferred to themselves!

Too many others, and in more enlightened times, have discovered a strand measure of the same spirit.....a spirit which hath damped inquiry and prevented improvement.

Hence, probably, the silence of some expositors on difficult scriptures, and the sameness observable in some others. For the complaint of the poet is not without reason,

"That commentators each dark passage shun, and hold their farthing candle to the fun."

And the sameness which we see in several writers is probably dictated by fear of singularity, and of incurring the charge of heresy. Minds are different. When a dozen expositors interpret a difficult text alike, they must, for some reason, have borrowed from one another.

The writer of the following pages claims no superiority to others, either in genius or learning; but he claims a right to judge for himself in matters of faith, and sense of scripture, and presumes to exercise it -- calling no man master. He hath found the original scriptures, compared with the different translations, to be the best exposition. To these he early had recourse, and in this way formed an opinion of the meaning of sundry difficult passages in the volume of truth. But comparing them afterwards with several expositions, perceived their meaning to have been mistaken, either by those writers, or by himself. As they did not convince him that his constructions were erroneous, he now offers them to the public -- Not as certainly devoid of error -- He knows himself to be fallible -- but as the result of some attention; and as that which he conceives their most probable meaning.

On the prayer of Moses to be blotted out of God's book -- the wish of Paul to be accused from Christ, and the prevalence of infidelity before the coming of the Son of Man, he published a summary of his views, some years ago. By the advice of several respected literary friends, they are now corrected, enlarged and inserted. On the last of these he wrote A.D.1785. Subsequent events tend to confirm him in the sentiments then entertained. Expositors generally consider the prayer of Moses and the wish of St. Paul to stand related as expressions of the same temper, and argue from the one to the other. The author conceives them perfectly foreign to each other, and totally mistaken by every expositor he hath consulted; as also several of the other scriptures on which he hath written.

A hint dropped, some years ago, in conversation, by a respected father,* gave an opening to the writer, relative to one+ of the following subjects, and occasioned his writing upon it. For the rest, he is conscious of having borrowed from no writer, except a few quotations, which are credited in their places. He doth not flatter himself that his co constructions of scripture will be universally received. Nor hath he a desire to dictate to others, or a wish that his own views only should see the light. The press is open to those who are otherwise minded. The author will read with pleasure, the different constructions of the candid and ingenuous. But should strictures of another description appear, they will be viewed with indifference, and treated with neglect.

* Rev. Dr. Cogswell, of Windham + On 2 Samuel xii.13.

Top of Page
Top of Page