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“ A SERIES of Pulpit Discourses on the obvious subject-matter of Scripture,” says Dr. Chalmers, “is of a different character from those critical and expository works, the object of which is to ascert in the meaning—even of the more obscure and controverted, as well as of the clearest passages.” It contains no discussions of the genuineness, canonical authority, and collateral particulars of the text which it expounds-no lists of references to ancient Manuscripts, Versions, and Editions of the sacred word-no tedious citations of the hard names and opinions of the Fathers--no long quotations from the polluted pages of heathen authors-and no unsightly parnde of dead and foreign languages. And whilst it thus avoids on the one hand what the popular reader looks upon as redundant, it is equally removed from that unjustifiable wresting and misapplication of the inspired sentiment so often connected with the ordinary mode of sermonizing on the other.
Various circumstances conduced to impress the writer with the belief, that the analytic exhibition from the pulpit of the contents of entire books or epistles of the holy canon, together with occasional selections of themes and texts from different portions of the Bible, would afford advantages for both preacher and people not otherwise to be enjoyed. With the view of testing this opinion, he entered upon the design of preaching a course of Popular Lectures on Paul's Ep stle 10 the Hebrews. The result has been to confirm his original belief. The frequently expressed wishes of many who heard, and of others who read these performances, to have them in a more permanent form, have induced him, in the hope that they may be of service to the church at large, to give them to the world. The reader will find very few, and those very slight alterations in the style and form in which they were originally delivered to the congregation.
The object of the author has been, to illustrate the design and the practical bearings of the Apostle's argument, as fully as the circumstances would permit, and so clearly that all may understand. How far he has succeeded in this, the candid reader is to decide.
If learned criticism be desired, it will not be found in these pages. This belongs to a different department of exposition ; and so far as the
letter to the Hebrews is concerned, has already been most ably gone over.
The Biblical critic, somewhat like the engineer, by the guidance of certain settled laws marks out the boundaries, and draws the fixed lines of the sacred meaning. But the business of the writer of the following Lectures has been more like that of the geographer; viz. to describe the scenery which lies within these limits—to point out the altitudes and depressions--to trace the courses of streams, the extent of seas, and the ranges of mountains—and to exhibit the entire territory clothed in all its richness, luxuriance and variety.
In difficult places the clearest and most satisfactory renderings of commentators have been adopted, without burdening patience with the history and authority of each particular opinion. On some occasions it has been thought indispensable to the preservation of that beautiful unity which runs through the whole epistle, to differ from the views of distinguished authors. Where such has been the case, only the conclusions have been introduced, whilst the more intricate and philological inquiries which led to them have been left out of sight.
Feeling no little diffidence in venturing before the world in so important and responsible a character, the author asks to be treated kindly in case he should in any instance have written what might be regarded as reason for offense to any of his brethren, as no one will be more prompt to rectify any inaccuracies of sentiment or style which enlightened candor may point out.
And may the Holy Trinity, own and bless this humble attempt to augment the triumphs of the Gospel. And unto the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, shall be ascribed all the praise forever and ever. Amen.
September, A. D. 1846.
EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE
H E B R E W S.
THE SUPERIOR EXCELLENCE OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST.
Hebrews i. 1, 2.-God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time
past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken uuto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.
Among the many extraordinary personages who have made their appearance at different times in the christian church, the apostle Paul is doubtless to be ranked as the most illustrious. Honorable in his origin, endowed with the highest order of intellect and the most daring energy of character, educated in every department of knowledge, and sanctified and animated by the Spirit of God, he was unquestionably the greatest champion of Truth that has ever figured upon the theatre of time. This is plain, whether we consider the greatness of the foes whom he opposed, or the glory of the victories which he won. Called in the order of Providence to be an apostle of Jesus, it fell to his lot to lead in the battle against principalities and against powers—the Sanhedrim of the Jews, the Areopagus of Athens, and the Forum of Rome. Festus, and Agrippa, and Felix, and Cæsar, were authorities with whom he contended. As to his achievements, he traversed seas and lands subduing islands, cities, and nations unto the dominion of Christ. He gave a Savior and a King to Macedonia, to Galatia, to Ephesus, to Laodicea, to Iconium, to Lystra, and to Collosse. The graces of the
Parthenon, and the splendors of Diana's temple were all made to blush and fade before his pure denunciations. Rome at his approach threw down ber idols and acknowledged his cause. He dethroned the gods and goddesses of Greece, and planted the cross amid the glory of its renowned metropolis. And in the greatness of his triumph he even pushed his victories south to Ethiopia, and north as tradition says, to the remote isle of Britain.
Nor am I aware that Paul anywhere manifests more of his great-. ness, or evinces more fervor in the prosecution of his apostleship, than in his epistle to the Hebrews. Burning with an agony of anxiety for the good of his national kindred, he here puts forth his strength like Sampson in the temple of Dagon. Argument after argument, appeal after appeal, and flash after flash, here pour upon the reader in a stream of fiery eloquence which bears him along with a resistless impulse to the foot of the cross. The learned Dr. Clarke has said, (and I cannot better express my own opinion on this point than by quoting his language,) “All the doctrines of the Gospel are, in it, embodied, illustrated, and enforced, in a manner the most lucid; by references and examples the most striking and illustrious; and by arguments the most cogent and convincing. It is an epitome of the dispensations of God to man, from the foundation of the world to the Advent of Christ. It is not only the sum of the Gospel; but the sum and completion of the law, of which it is also a beautiful and luminous comment. Never were premises more clearly stated; never was an argument handled in a more masterly manner; and never was a conclusion more legitimately and satisfactorily brought forth. The matter is everywhere the most interesting; the manner is throughout the most engaging; and the language is the most beautifully adapted to the whole ; everywhere appropriate, always nervous and energetic; dignified as is the subject, pure and elegant as that of the most accomplished Grecian orators; and harmonious and diversified as the music of the spheres."
The circumstances and feelings under which it was written, constitute it a message of peculiar importance and solemnity. It was addressed to God's ancient, highly favored, but unfortunate people as the last word of gracious warning, and as the final appeal to the house of Israel to repent of their accumulated guilt and embrace their despised King. Jerusalemn had well nigh filled up the cup of her iniquity. She had killed her prophets and stoned them that