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No one can be more fully aware than myself of the serious importance of the subjects embraced in these volumes, and of the extent of capacity required to do them even ordinary justice; still, with all the consciousness which I feel of powers too narrowly circumscribed, I nevertheless cannot but encourage the hope that I have not spent upon those subjects in vain a very long period of severe and anxious labour. This labour has been pursued steadily and earnestly, with a fervent desire to be useful in my vocation; and though I may be far from realizing my whole aim in this respect, I cannot bring myself to anticipate the possibility of entire failure. There is a wide interval betwixt failure and success, and I trust I shall be found to have occupied some portion of this interval, however far I may be from the last desirable extreme, reached indeed by few of the numerous competitors who frequently devote the whole energy of their minds to its attainment.
The field upon which I have entered, though not altogether new, is certainly one that has been comparatively little trodden, and this only by men of profound erudition, who have rendered it almost exclusive ground, and so hedged it round with recondite speculations and philological subtleties as to exclude many who, had it been rendered accessible to them, would have gladly entered upon so rich a domain to enjoy the ripe harvest of its invaluable produce. My desire has therefore been to lay it open to the spiritual enjoyment of the ordinary wayfarer—to make it common property, where every earnest christian may not only behold, but likewise go and gather. I offer this as a work to general readers, though I trust it may be likewise acceptable to the better instructed. I have endeavoured to avoid as much as possible any appearance of dry and recondite inquiry, always repulsive, and indeed utterly barren to minds which have not been severely disciplined in literary investigation : it will however be at once seen that the subjects embraced in these volumes could not be treated in a manner level with the humblest capacity, especially where references are of necessity occasionally made to works of a very elaborate and deeply learned character; still I think it will be found that the matter has been generally kept free from the meshes of those dry theological abstractions, amid the entanglements of which so many pious and ingenuous minds are bewildered, instead of becoming enlightened.
If I have sometimes ventured to differ from the views of profound and acknowledged scholars, I have invariably done so with becoming respect and with a perfect conviction of my own great inferiority ; at the same time with the assurance that a vastly inferior mind may chance to discover what has escaped the penetration of one far more highly gifted.
I may be permitted to remark, as a philosophical truth common to the experience of the most ordinary scrutiny, that great minds are made up of great and little elements, and little minds, on the contrary, of little and great, the first named quality in each respectively predominating ; so that no mind is necessarily or consequentially either exclusively great or exclusively little. The most limited experience will show that little thoughts may occur to a great mind, and great thoughts to a little mind, though the qualities of greatness and of littleness are in an inverse
ratio in each. The mind is a compound agent of strength and feebleness, the latter being doubtless commonly the major quality; it may then happen that I have thrown light upon some passages of the Mosaic Scriptures which our most learned commentators have failed to relieve from the embarrassments of that obscurity under which those Scriptures are acknowledged to lie. The merest clown employed in picking stones in the fields may communicate from his experience, however restricted, to the information of the sage, drawing from the exhaustless treasures of knowledge, though with a feeble hand, his almost viewless mite, and adding it to the vast stores of the philosopher.
It will be found in the ensuing pages that I have generally adhered to the reading of our venerable version, and have maintained with my best endeavours its truly extraordinary and almost undeviating integrity. Upon the whole, I am convinced it will never be surpassed, most probably never equalled; for although here and there, in other versions which have been attempted of particular portions of the Sacred Writings, improvements have been occasionally made, yet, taken completely, they invariably fall short of our authorized translation in the great cardinal qualities of the original-condensation, vigour, and simplicity. .
The object of those pious and eminently learned men, who contributed their aid to perfect that translation of the Holy Scriptures sanctioned by the Church of England, evidently was, to give the original in its greatest possible purity and in its most literal form ; thus, by presenting the naked but robust ideas of the Hebrew, without embellishment, rigidly adhering to their honest desire of preserving the germ and sap, rather than of exhibiting the leaf and blossom, they have frequently, when they were no doubt unconscious of so doing, preserved the poetical structure, at the same time that they have transfused the spirit as well as the sense, though occasionally it may be at the sacrifice of much of the graceful and beautiful efforescence of the natural production: for it must necessarily happen that in a literal transfusion from one language to another, especially from an extremely ancient to an extremely modern one, much of the poetical beauty, where poetry exists, must be marred; and there can be no question that in the splendour of its poetical adornments, our version, admirable and almost perfect as it is, falls infinitely short of the original.
. . If the over-fastidious critic should happen to find in these volumes many errors, false views, doubtful interpretations, misapprehensions of verbal construction, bold assumptions, and what may appear to him barren conclusions,-still I trust he will not be backward to allow me credit for whatever may deserve it, and I cannot but think that he will discover something to commend, for I can hardly persuade myself that honest intentions, directing the patient labours of years, should lead to the production of no good fruit. I can only say, I have desired, I have assiduously endeavoured, to do good, and may God's mercy crown my desires and endeavours with their hoped-for success!