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TO HER ROYAL HIGHNESS
THE PRINCESS OF WALES.
I Most thankfully acknowledge the condescension of
your Royal Highness in allowing me the honour of laying this work at your feet, and committing it to so august a protection; and humbly beg your favourable acceptance of it, as a most sincere, though inconsiderable, expression of the profoundest duty, and most cordial esteem.
Could I lay open to your Royal Highness all the secret sentiments of my heart, you would read there the most affectionate sense of that gracious Providence which conducted you hither, to instruct and adorn Great Britain by so amiable an example, as well as to bless it with a race of princes descended from the illustrious houses of Brunswick and Saxe-Gotha in so happy an union! Joyfully have I, long since, taken my part with thousands, in congratulating my country and your Royal Highness on this occasion, and acknowledging that wise and paternal care his Majesty hath therein expressed for the happiness of succeeding generations but permit me, Madam, freely to add, that with regard to yourself, I rejoice not so much in this accession to your grandeur, as in the persuasion I have, that you are possessed of a mind so superior to it, as to render it in all its remotest consequences, what greatness is not always to its possessors, safe, honourable, and advantageous. Universal report leaves me no room to doubt, that even in this blooming age you are tenderly sensible of the shining dangers inseparable from
so high a rank; and that it appears to your princely wisdom chiefly desirable, on account of those distinguished advantages which it may give, of approving yourself the faithful servant of God, and the generous friend of the public.
Among the principal of these advantages, your Royal Highness will undoubtedly number the opportunity which this exalted station of life affords you of forming to early sentiments of religion and virtue the opening minds of your royal offspring; those dear pledges of the liberty and happiness of ages yet to come, on whose temper and character, so much of public glory to our nation, so much of private felicity to yet unformed families, will depend. We adore the great Disposer of all events, who hath lodged this important trust in so wise and so pious a hand; and it must argue a very irreligious, or a very careless temper, if any neglect earnestly to pray, that He who hath so graciously assigned it to you, may direct and prosper you in it. While you, Madam, during the tender years which most naturally fall under the care of a mother, are endeavouring to bless these lovely infants with an education like that which you received from the excellent princes your parents, may your Royal Highness, in a success like theirs, receive the joys you have given! May they arise and shine on the whole Protestant world, in the lustre of every royal virtue and every Christian grace, which can render them dear to God and to their country, and, to say all in a word, worthy their relation to the Prince and Princess of Wales, and to all the glorious line of remoter ancestors from which they spring!
I should esteem it one of the greatest blessings of my life, and should be able to relish the thought in the nearest views of death itself, if this humble present which I here offer to your Royal Highness might give you any assistance in these pious cares. If the kings of Israel were required, not only to read the law of Moses all the days of their lives, but to write out a copy of it
with their own hand; it may reasonably be expected, that Christian princes should make the far more glorious gospel of the Son of God their daily study, that it may be their constant guide. And I persuade myself, Madam, that none of the fashionable amusements of the age will seem to you in any degree comparable to that rational and elevated pleasure, which you will find in pointing out to your happy charge, as they grow capable of such instructions, the resplendent example of Jesus, the Prince of heaven, and the King of glory; in tracing the marvellous and edifying circumstances of his life, as here described; and in urging their humble and dutiful regards to that Divine, yet condescending Redeemer; to whom your Royal Highness, with all those amiable virtues which render you the delight and boast of our nation, will thankfully ascribe your own hopes of being finally accepted by God, and sharing the joys of his eternal presence.
These hopes, Madam, are the grand supports of the human mind in those views, from which royalty and empire cannot shelter it. An awful Providence, which we must all long lament, did early write these admonitions to your Royal Highness in the dust of one of the best of Queens. The attention with which her late Majesty studied the sacred oracles, and the evidences of our holy religion, for which, even in her departing moments, she expressed so firm a regard, will, I hope, never be forgotten by any allied to her, or descended from her. Nor am I able, in all the overflowings of the most affectionate gratitude and duty which I now feel, to form a more important wish for that condescending Patroness to whom I am addressing, than (to borrow the words of the Hebrew Monarch) that the testimonies of God may be her delight and her counsellors! And I trust, Madam, that they are so; I trust that, conscious of a heart devoted to God, and supported by a well-grounded confidence in his favour, you are fixing your eyes on a celestial diadem, which shall sparkle with immortal glories, when the kingdoms of this earth
shall be known no more, and all its pageantry shall be passed away like a dream. May you at length, in a very distant moment, have a happy accession to that never-fading crown; and, after having long adorned the highest stations here with that amiable Prince, whose constant and endearing friendship is so much more to your Royal Highness than all the grandeur which can result from your relation to him, may you be both exalted to the superior glories of the heavenly kingdom!
I hope your Royal Highness will please to pardon me, that I have expressed myself with so much warmth and freedom, in a presence I so highly revere: but I should be most unworthy of the name and honour of a Christian Minister, if I were ever ashamed of sentiments like these; and the assiduity with which I have lately been sitting at the feet of my Divine Master, while commenting on these authentic memoirs of his life and history, hath inspired me with a veneration and ardour which it is not easy to repress. I am sensible, Madam, these are unfashionable strains on such an occasion; and it would have been easy to have filled many more pages than these with panegyric, on what I have read of your illustrious ancestors, and what I have heard from multitudes, of the charms of your Royal Highness's person and character; but I imagined that such hints as these were more suitable to that plainness and simplicity which at all times become a servant of Christ; and I flatter myself, that, to a person of your Royal Highness's penetration, they will not seem less expressive of that undissembled esteem and affectionate zeal, with which I am,
Your Royal Highness's
Most faithful, most dutiful,
And most obedient, humble Servant,
I HAVE long been convinced, that if any thing can stop that progress of infidelity and vice, which every wise man beholds with sorrow and fear; that if any thing can allay those animosities, which (unnatural as they are) have so long inflamed us, and pained the heart of every generous Christian; in a word, that if any thing can establish the purity and order, the peace and glory of the church, or spread the triumphs of personal and domestic religion among us, it must be an attentive study of the word of God, and especially of the New Testament; that best of books, which, if read with impartiality and seriousness, under the influences of that blessed Spirit by whom it was inspired, would have the noblest tendency to enlighten and adorn the mind, and not only to touch, but to ani mate and transform the heart.
The station of life in which Divine Providence has placed me, rendered it peculiarly necessary for me to make these sacred oracles my principal study; and having, to my unspeakable delight and advantage, felt much of their energy, I long since determined that it should be the main business of my life as an author to illustrate them, and to lead my fellow-christians into a due regard for them, by endeavouring, in as plain and popular a manner as I could, to display their beauty, their spirit, and their use; and I thankfully acknowledge the goodness of God to me, in giving me health and spirits to finish so considerable a part of my design, though I have so much other business on my hands, and have been obliged to execute this in a much more laborious manner than I at first apprehended would have been requisite.
The title I have given to the work sufficiently explains its original design, which was chiefly to promote family religion, and to render the reading of the New Testament more pleasant and improving to those that wanted the benefit of a learned education, and had not opportunity or inclination to consult a variety of commentators. And I thought it proper still to retain the title of The Family Expositor, even when I had made some alteration in the plan; because that is still the leading view of the greater part of the work. In pursuit of this, I have given a large paraphrase on the sacred text, well knowing that this is the most agreeable and useful manner of explaining it to common readers, who hardly know how to manage annotations, especially when they are to be read to others. The chief objection against this way is, that when a whole verse, and much more when several verses are taken together (as they frequently are,) it requires a great attention, and in some places some considerable penetration, to trace the exact correspondence between the respective clauses of the text and the paraphrase. There are some performances of this kind in our own language, as well as in others, in which such liberties are taken, that I freely confess that, were it not for the initial references, or opposite column, I should not be able to guess from the paraphrase itself, what the scripture was which it pretended to explain. This must undoubtedly give the greatest advantage for disguise and misrepresentation; and where those glosses are read by themselves without the