I now here present thee with an exposition of two of Paul’s epistles, after the pattern (so far its my weakness could reach) held forth by those two reverend brethren, Mr. David Dickson and Mr. George Hutcheson, in their late pieces of this kind upon other parcels of Holy Scripture. The reasons of my undertaking (besides what is held forth in the former epistle) were not any confidence I had to come up to my copy, wherein I doubt not but, as I myself am very conscious, so the intelligent reader will easily perceive that I come far short, and that the superstructure by me is much unanswerable, as to fulness of purpose, accuracy and style of language, to the foundation laid by them: but, first, an apprehension I had, that as the completing of such a work as this upon the whole Scripture, is much wished for by many, and would prove acceptable and profitable to the Church of Christ; so, many of greater abilities and fitness than I for such a task, who did lie by, might be strongly induced to contribute their endeavours towards it, if any essay of mine should be accepted, wherein I bless the Lord, I have not been in a mistake, as may appear by what is sent abroad to the world since the publishing of my former piece, by a reverend brother, my nearest fellow-labourer in the work of the ministry, upon the two epistles of Peter.
And, secondly I was one of those who, some ten years ago, without my knowledge, were pitched upon by some Reverend Brethren of the ministry carrying on this work at which at which time I almost perfected the whole task then allotted for me; but, through some sad accident in those troubled times, all the papers I had written on that subject were destroyed and lost, and so a great part of my time and labour in a manner lost with them; which notwithstanding did not so much discourage me, but the remembrance of what sweetness I tasted in that study, and of the manifold advantage wherewith it did recompense my pains, did make me full seven years after more easy to he wrought upon and persuaded by the earnest desires of others to make a new essay, as being confident from former experience, I myself at least should be no loser by it.
If any shall think this present piece to be of greater length than the former, and some others of this kind are, I hope they will (for satisfaction) consider, that seeing the apostle doth discuss a great and needful controversy in the Epistle to tho Galatians, it requireth time and enlargement to find and follow the thread of an intricate dispute ; and to explain those excellent trials, which the apostle doth so much labour to assert. And as to the Epistle to the Ephesians, it is well known to be so comprehensive (as containing the whole substance of Christian religion in little bulk) that hardly can any man (at least not I) satisfy either himself, or his reader, without enlarging himself somewhat in opening up such a rich treasure and excellent subject.
I know there may he much coincidence of doctrines, which do natively arise from those epistles and from those others In the Phillippians and Colossians ; but, the reader may, for his satisfaction, consider that (besides I have frequently referred him to those places, where such doctrines were formerly raised) seeing the Spirit of God hath thought it necessary to assert truths oftener than once, in several scriptures, for our further confirmation, it should not be thought an idle repetition in a matter to draw out the same conclusion from the same truth.
I do not only hold forth the doctrine and conclusion, which flow naturally from the text; but also couch in some explanations, cautions, reasons, and sometimes some short uses ; for those serve to obviate mistakes about the truth in hand, and to leave some impression of it upon the heart and affections. If any take exception that scriptures are too frequently cited, and think they are hereby retarded from making progress in reading the treatise, they may be pleased to consider, that I cite no scriptures to confirm the doctrines themselves, which, as I conceive, are sufficiently grounded upon, and confirmed from the text, but only the cautions, reasons, and uses of those doctrines, which not being grounded upon the present scripture, I desired none to take off my hand upon trust.
However, if any understand the purpose to be truth, aud grounded upon Scripture, he needeth not stand to seek the particular passage, which is brought to prove it, except he please and judge it couvenient, that he may have some further ground of meditation upou the truth in hand thereby afforded. And now, beloved Christians, let me exbort you all, aud especially you to whom tbe Lord hath carved out such a lot in things worldly that ye have abundance of time and leisure from your other employments, give more of your time to the searching of Scripture, and labour to understaud tbe mind of God concerning your salvation revealed therein. Hereby shall you be preserved from being led aside by Satan’s emissaries, who do err, not knowing the Scriptures, Matt. xxii. 29. Hereby ye are wise unto salvation, and rendered over your strongest lusts, and tho for the most difficult duties, while his Spirit shall make the Scripture unto you for doctrine, for reproof, for for instruction in righteousness, shall make you perfect, thoroughly furnished for good works, 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17. Only to the gaining of those rich advantages by reading Scripture, ye would read, conscientiously, attentively, and do not slight to take what helps you from the labours of others, for attaining increase of solid knowledge and and grace. What human frailties you discern in these works of mine (which doubtless are not a few) pity them, and so much the more pray for me that I may discern and amend them: and be so faithful and free as to advertise them immediately, or by causing others to aquaint me with them, I shall (God willing) be thankful, and endeavour to make the best use I can of their freedom, knowing that such reproofs will not break my head, but be as ointment. The great and gracious God will bless your endeavours for advancing yourselves and your relations in knowledge and grace. So prayeth,
Your servant in the Lord, JAMES FERGUSSON
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