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THESE notes are the substance of catechetical lessons given to the choristers at the Evening Service in St. Mark's College Chapel. Whilst I was preparing them for publication, I continually felt how difficult it is to explain any passage without taking the context and general subject of the whole Epistle into account; and therefore I proceeded to recast the whole, and to prefix an Introduction giving a short history and general view of each of the books from which the Sunday Epistles are taken. The object sought in this has been twofold: first, as a help to the reader in his study of the special passages selected by our Church ; and, secondly, to aid him in his general reading of the New Testament.
One merit I may honestly claim for myself. I have studied each passage with much care and labour; and, whilst I have not neglected such help as the best commentaries afford, I have, I hope, avoided a mere compilation of opinions. Each passage has been studied as a whole, Scripture being compared with Scripture, and I should be deeply disappointed should it seem to any that the various parts were inconsistent with each other ; still more that they were inconsistent with the teaching of the Church of England.
The variations from the received text which are placed in the margin are intended rather for the reader than the teacher. I anticipate no objection to them, even from the most jealous defender of the Authorized Version. Few will probably be found who will deny the beauty of that Version as a whole, no one contends that it is faultless. I have only done what every clergyman does in the pulpit when he finds it necessary ;. namely, told the reader in certain cases how the original would be better rendered than it is. And I hold it a plain duty for every one to do this, who is competent. The words which were written by Apostles and Prophets under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost ought to be interpreted as exactly as may be. There are a few, and only a few cases, where an important question of doctrine is involved in some question of translation; but not one will be found, I am glad to say, in the following pages.
Not one alteration of reading, I believe, will be objected to by any clergyman who may examine the book. And now one word for the unlettered reader.
The Authorized Version was made from the best Greek text which was known at the time (A.D. 1611); but the examination of the manifold manuscripts of the Greek Testament which has since taken place, has led the way to the formation of a better text. The divines who from time to time have given themselves to this pious labour are represented now in England by such men as Dean Alford, Dr. Wordsworth, and Mr. Westcott. It cannot, it is true, be said that these divines have attained perfect unanimity as to the Greek text. But they have done much towards it; and there is no doubt whatever that the text adopted by each of them, is far nearer to the words written by the inspired authors than that which our translators used. Now the errors in our Authorized Version arise from one of two causes. In some cases they translated from an imperfect text, in others they failed to give the strict meaning of the text before them. In the following pages, the words placed in Italics are those for which the marginal reading is substituted. When a word is placed in square brackets in Italics it signifies that it has no equivalent in the Greek, and ought to be omitted. I take the first instance which comes to my hand as I open the book. In p. 144 (7th Sunday after Trinity) the word “have” is placed within brackets because the Greek is “as ye yielded,” and this expresses the Apostle's meaning more clearly than the other. “Ye yielded,” that is, in your former course of life, before you were baptized, and so made Christians.
In one or two cases a word has been supplied as having been omitted by the translators.
It should be mentioned that it was intended at first to place questions after each Epistle as a help to the teacher. But I trust that the increased' quantity of matter will be received as an equivalent for them. It is possible that a little volume of questions may be published hereafter. And so I lay aside what has been a labour of love, with the prayer
that God may vouchsafe His blessing upon it, and make it instrumental to His glory, and the building up of His Church, which is the witness and keeper of His Truth.