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THE REVEREND JAMES MARTINEAU.
MY DEAR FRIEND, —
Had I the hope of producing a Work more worthy your acceptance, I might postpone the gratification of joining your name with mine upon this page. As it is, I at least take the first opportunity of offering you this expression of gratitude and friendship; and in making even this book my tribute to you, I try to feel that there is some fitness, perhaps I should rather say that I am enabled to do so with the more courage,
inasmuch as, among living men, I know no one who will receive with readier welcome, or view with more generous indulgence, the humblest Work that aims to exhibit spiritual Christianity, as God's provision for the deep and glorifying Wants, that arise out of the inherent religiousness of Human Nature.
JOHN HAMILTON THOM.
OAKFIELD, Liverpool, April 14th, 1851.
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 Eng. land 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 Chap