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The text, in variance with the commonly received translation, he has ventured to correct in a few instances only, where fidelity seemed to require it: And in these cases even, he trusts he has obtruded no fanciful or conjectural alterations. But in the notes, he has freely inserted all emendations warranted by the criticisms of the learned; so that the reader may judge for himself, as to the force or propriety of the proposed corrections.
He is aware, that some serious persons are opposed to all alteratjpns in the commonly received translation of the sacred volume. But it should be considered, that there have been several translations of the Bible in the English language, which succeeded one another, as it was believed the latter were more correct than the former, ones. The translation now in use in England and America, was introduced in 1612. The learning and fidelity of the translators cannot be too highly appreciated. But they were not inspired. Audit will not be doubted, that the researches and criticisms of learned men, since their time, have thrown much light upon difficult passages of Scripture: nor will it be denied, that some terms in the common translation are now obsolete and unintelligible.
The gospels and other books of divine revelation were originally written without any division into chapters and verses, as they now appear. They were, however, early formed into sections, for the purpose of being read in christian churches, as a part of the religious service. The division into chapters was in the thirteenth century; and is generally attributed to a Cardinal of the church of Rome. R. Stephens, who was a great biblical student, and superintended the printing of the Holy Scriptures, is said to have been the author of the division into verses*, in 1551.—These divisions are arbitrary, but generally judicious; and yet in some instances the sense and meaning of the sacred writers would more fully appear by a different arrangement.
The desire of avoiding a large work had much influence in fixing upon the plan, of giving only the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. But in having the volume consist only of those parts of sacred history, it was also considered, that a connected and complete relation would thus be furnished of the Life and Doctrines of our Divine Redeemer; of his Apostles, their labors and^ services ; and of the first establishment and prevalence^ of Christianity, (embracing a period
of about seventy years from the birth of Christ,) which '\ye derive from inspired writers.' 'This," ih&ct, -is the whole authentic .account, of which we know the church was ever possessed, of the Founder and first teachers of our holy religion. Their story ends with the Acts, written by St. Luke. The Epistles, which compose the residue of the sacred volume, are, indeed, highly important, as they elucidate the doctrines of the Gospel, and furnish moral precepts and instructions for individuals and societies. But they are not history. f"
It is not intended to suggest", that any portion of the. sacred writings are unworthy our study and. attention. "All Scripture, given by inspiration, is profitable for doctrine, for. reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness." But it has been common to publish particular parts of Scripture in separate volumes. Thus, the writings of Moses have been published in a distinct form, without the other parts of the Bible. Thus, the Psalms, and the Prophets, the Four Gospels, and the Epistles of St. Paul, have respectively appeared in volumes by themselves, because the Editors had given greater attention to those particular books.—The present vol
ume is offered to the public, upon the consideration, that it contains those books, which .furnish the only true history of the origin and establishment of' our holy religion. And if it shall excite more attention to the sacred Scriptures, "which testify of Jesus Christ," the Messiah, arid "shew unto us the way 6fj salvation," the Editor will have attained the object he has in view, by hazarding its publication. , •
v The books of the sacred writers, who have given us the history of the doctrines and life of Jesus Christ, we denominate the gospels, as they convey "glad tidings" from heaven to men. The author of our holy religion assumed the character of a divine teacher and instructor. He claimed to be the Messiah, long expected by the Hebrew nation, and by whom great spiritual blessings were to be dispensed, and important moral truths were to be revealed. From his history, we learn that he came to enlighten, reform and sanctify the world; that his purpose Was to convert men from error and sin, to truth and virtue; to give assurance of the divine propitiousness and grace, and to reveal a future immortal life.
The expectation of a divine messenger and teacher, about the time of our Savior's birth, was not confined entirely to the Jews, though the predictions in their sacred'books had produced among them a general and more thorough belief of the appearance of such a