Page images


I warn off scholars, and deep students of the Scriptures, from these pages. They are designed for the unlearned; for those whose only qualification for the reception of religious Truth is in the desire, that spiritual Things may by them be spiritually discerned ; and who seek and worship Truth, as they worship and seek after God, with a hunger and thirst for Realities, and with a Love that casts out Fear. For such I think something, indeed much, needs yet to be done, to bring them into any actual communion with the mind and spirit of St. Paul.

This work will not serve for all the purposes of a Commentary. It does not attempt to solve every difficulty of expression; nor even to notice all the accidental views, the investiture of circumstance and tradition, which were clearly not inherent in the soul of Paul, nor essential to his conception of the spirit of Life in Christ Jesus. I have not indeed avoided these matters when they lay in my way;


much less have I tried to conceal that such things are; or sought to make St. Paul think like a modern, and write to the Corinthians, in the first century of Christianity, as one sometimes, with longing, conceives of a Prophet and Apostle speaking to England and Englishmen in the nineteenth. But I have not gone far, nor frequently, out of my direct way for the sake of matters of mere antiquarian interest, that have no permanent relation to the human Soul, or to Christian Truth. What I undertake to exhibit is the strong, clear current of spiritual Thought in the Apostle's mind, not all the immaterial elements it may have held in solution, or mechanically carried in its course.

And in these days of so much negative and destructive inquiry into the foundations and history of Religion, whilst I recognize the Holiness of such labors, and, whatever be their conclusions, honor all reverential laborers, as heartily as I revolt from the indecent bravado which sets aside all that, in all Ages, the human Soul has proclaimed and trusted of the God who inspires it, as nothing worth in the view of a flippant Dogmatism that, with heartless levity, throws down sacred things to make a pile for self-display; whilst in this age of idolatry, and of unspiritual gods, of bondage to the letter and to forms, I admit the indispensable necessity of showing plainly that we have the heavenly treasure only in earthen vessels, - I think there is at least equal need, just at present, of showing, lovingly and reverently, the imperishable Truth which these earthly vessels convey, — that it is at least as important, just now, for the best interests of religious Man, to save the kernel, as to withdraw the husk. For all those who have free souls, and are willing to be taught, the destructive work has been sufficiently done: the more difficult task remains. I believe that in these Epistles St. Paul proclaims some views of Religion, not yet recognized as his, “the excellency of whose power” is still of God, inasmuch as, through the divine attraction of spiritual Realities, of a living Word, a human Impersonation of His own moral glory, they transcend the perishing letter of Form and Speculation, and draw the Soul into direct communion with God Himself.

The several Sections of this work are so closely founded on the Scripture they embrace, in many cases are so interwoven with the Apostle's own language, that they will not be fully intelligible in themselves, nor in their transitions of topic, and much less as an elucidation of St. Paul, unless the reader is freshly familiar with his expressions and order of thought, in the portions of the Epistles to which they relate. These Chapters, or portions of Chapters, I have prefixed to each Section; and I would say here, that those who will not first carefully read these Chapters, had better lay down the book at once. It will not aid them; and they will do it injustice : they will not be in a position to estimate it aright. A mechanical imperfection in the execution of the Book, not discovered till too late, — the want of minute marginal references to the passages of St. Paul from which each paragraph is derived, — has perhaps this advantage, that it renders indispensable a previous and independent study of the whole Scriptural Text of each Section. I found it unavoidable to introduce some revisions of the Authorized Version. In this difficult task I have consulted with inuch benefit the Translations of the late Mr. Edgar Taylor, and of Mr. Sharpe.

As some of the elucidations I have attempted of the spirit and purport of St. Paul, through examples of their permanent application and significance, may seem to place me in the position of a Censor and Reprover in relation to some existing controversies, and some immediate, but passing, interests, I wish to state that the work was written nine years ago, in the service of my Congregation, and is now published, unchanged.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »