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THE CHRISTIAN READER,
I CANNOT be so weak, as not to presuppose, that so great and bold a work must needs undergo variety of constructions. There will not want some, I doubt not, who will be of opinion, that this labour might have been better spared; as thinking the Scriptures to lie already too open to vulgar hands; with whom it is not now seasonable to argue that beaten question, concerning the expedience of the free al lowance of God's Book to laic readers; wherein the Church of England, our dear and blessed mother, hath sufficiently declared her judgment, besides words, by her ingenuous practice. Only, therefore, taking this liberty for granted, I shall easily from hence evince' the usefulness of some such plain and orthodox explication. For, since the Scriptures are, through the liberal blessing of God, promiscuously allowed to all hands, I ask, whether it be not much better they should be put into the way of being rightly understood by the simplest, than to lie under the danger of an ignorant misconstruction. Neither do I hereby endeavour to make them more common, but better conceived; that, where the letter is in use, the sense may not be mistaken. The inconveniences, that are pretended to have followed upon the open and free permission of Scriptures in vulgar languages, have sensibly arisen from the misunderstanding of them. Remove that peril; and the frequence and universality of them can be no other, than a blessing. This service I have here endeavoured to perform; having commonly, in the passages of this work, trod in the steps, as I have judged, of the best interpretations; and seldom when, gone alone. Neither do I offer to obtrude these my explications upon any reader, as magisterial and peremptory. Who am I, that I should take upon me to govern, and command other men's thoughts? but modestly and humbly propound them to God's Church, as probable helps to weaker judgments: leaving my reader free, in the mean time, if
my sense satisfy not, to his own further disquisition: only, since all men have not choice of commenters, nor leisure to compare them, nor skill to judge of the fairest sense, I have undertaken this pains for the ease and advantage of my plain reader, to cull out and commend unto him, the most safe and likely interpretations. In the historical part, he shall need little help; in the poetical, or sapiential, more ; in the prophetical, most of all, in many passages whereof, every line is a riddle. I should be vain to brag of my fidelity herein; as who have not knowingly omitted any clause, wherein there seemed to be any shew of difficulty; nor clogged the volume with glosses, that I conceived unnecessary.
Some, perhaps, will imagine it might have been much better, to have taken the whole text before me, than to have thus selected some noted periods of harder construction ;, who may be pleased to consider, how much vastness might so have accrued to this labour, and how little use. To paraphrase easy texts, had been to set up a candle before the sun; and to publish the whole text, with a partial explication, if leave might possibly have been obtained for so bold a project, had been to raise the bulk, and to lose the vigour and benefit of the work: since there be some historical books of Scripture, wherein there is very little use of any paraphrase; and some, as those of the Chronicles, wherein there is none at all. Herein, therefore, I have done that, which I judged to avail most to the use and profit of my Christian reader; whom I must suppose furnished with a Bible at home, and willing to help his understanding in places of more obscurity.
To foremention the particularities of that benefit, which may arise to God's Church, in the use of so plain an enarration of the meaning of his Holy Spirit, were both to distrust the judgment of others, and to seem to set forth the glory of my own endeavours; the infirmities whereof, if they may receive pardon from God and my superiors, and amendment from more able hands, to whose aid and correction I do humbly submit myself and them, it shall be the utmost of my aim and ambition.
That good God, who hath so graciously enabled me, notwithstanding the throng of other occasions, to go through with this well-meant work, bless it to the behoof of his Church, and the glory of his own Name. Amen.
THE WHOLE DIVINE SCRIPTURE.
I. 1 IN the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. In the beginning of time, God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, made, of nothing, the whole great and goodly frame of the world; both the heaven and the earth, and the other elements, with all the furniture and inhabitants of them all.
I. 2 And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. Yet, not all together, and at once, nor in this perfect form, at first, wherein we now see them; but by leisure and degrees; for both the earth and elements, in their first being, were a rude and confused heap, by him newly created without any matter preceding, or without any fashionable shape at all; it being not distinguished, fashioned, beautified, as afterward: neither had this vast mass of water and earth intermingled, as yet any light, either for distinction or ornament; but even in this their confusion, the Holy Spirit, the preserver of all creatures, upheld, cherished, and gave fit succour to this imperfect beginning of all things.
I. 3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. Then God willed, and in this point brought his eternal decree to execution, that there should be light; not of the sun or stars, which were not yet created; but a common brightness only, to distinguish the time, and to remedy that former confused darkness: and it was accordingly made.
I. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.
And God approved this light, by him created, to be of excellent and necessary use; and established it, by his allowance, as fit to continue, and to be interchanged with darkness.
I. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God set to either of them their due times and courses; appointing that the light should serve for day, darkness for night, and that man afterwards should so call them; and so was the first natural day, consisting of evening and morning, fully finished.
1. 6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
Then God willed, that there should be a large, clear, airy distance, betwixt those upper waters, which are gathered into clouds, and these below.
I. 7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
Therefore, God caused this large extent of air, to spread itself high and wide; and thereby made a separation, betwixt those airy, and these lower earthly waters: and it was done.
I. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
And this dilated air, as also that above, he taught man, after, to call Heaven; and established the due use and course thereof; and thus was the second natural day, consisting of evening and morning, finished.
I. 9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it
Further, God willed that these lower waters should be gathered into one common place of receipt; and that the dry land, which was till now covered over therewith, should appear: and it was so done.
I. 10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
And God taught to call this dry land, according to the nature of it, Earth; and the common receptacle of waters, Seas and God allowed this second day's work also, as of necessary and excellent use for his purposed creatures.
I. 11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
Then God willed, that, by his immediate power, even before the sun was created, the earth should bring forth all manner of vegetables; both those that do voluntarily sprout up, and those which do since require the art and labour of man: all buds, blossoms, herbs, trees, which both may and do bear fruit according to their kind; and whose fruit by his appointment containeth in it the seed of their own kinds: and it was so done.
I. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
And the earth brought forth, as God commanded her, all manner of vegetables, in very great variety, according to the several kinds; both of herbs that yield their own seed as the means of their future increase, and all trees that bear fruit, and whose fruit by his appointment containeth in it the seed of their own kind: ånd God allowed them as of necessary and excellent use, and established the benefits thereof to his future creatures.
I. 13 And the evening and the morning were the third day. And thus was the third natural day, consisting of morning and evening, also finished.
I. 14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
And God further willed, that, in the highest part of the air, which we call heaven, there should be made the stars, which are so many glorious lights, in the firmament; partly, to make a perpetual and constant division betwixt day and night; and partly, to be certain and natural signs for man's direction, in his course of judgment and practice, for sowing, planting, sailing, and such other common affairs; and partly, to make a distinction of seasons: summer, winter, spring, harvest, autumn, years, months, weeks, days, hours:
I. 15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
Lastly, which is their chiefest use, he willed that they should serve to give lively heat and light, from those high places wherein he set them, to his creatures here upon earth: and it was so done.
I. 16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
And now God made, amongst the rest, two great lights greater than the rest, not in body but in glory; the greater, to rule the day; to which purpose, he gathered into it all that light, which hitherto was diffused through the air: the lesser, together with the other smaller stars, to rule the night.
I. 17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
Thus God, I say, made these heavenly lights, and placed them in the highest part of the air, that they might the better give light to the earth;
I. 18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
And that they might interchangeably govern the day and night, and distinguish the light from the darkness, the dawning and twilight from the clear day: and God allowed them, as of excellent and necessary use for his other creatures.
I. 19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day. So the fourth natural day, consisting of morning and evening, was fully finished.
I. 20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly,