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The Introductory part of this Work consists of Three Discourses on Parable in general. Therein are examined the Characters and Uses of Parable, the Principle of Interpretation, the professed Design of Christ in employing this figurative kind of speech, and the Application of his Parables both immediately to his Ilearers and by inference to all.
The Main Body of the Work consists of a Series of Discourses on particular Parables; which the Author has conducted on an uniform and comprehensive plan. He has endeavoured through the whole to distribute his argument under the following heads:
First, To enquire into the Occasion on which the Parable was spoken, and the Dispositions of the People to whom it was addressed. On this he has laid
a more than ordinary stress, because he regards it as the most unquestionable basis of a correct Interpretation. In the course of this inquiry he has sometimes found opportunities to illustrate some of the shorter Parables, which did not seem to need a separate consideration.
Secondly, To state the Parable in its Literal Sense, to explain the circumstances of the Narrative which bear an allusion to the manners, customs, and opinions of the Jews in our Saviour's days, and, where occasion offers, to enlarge upon it.
Thirdly, To explore the Figurative or Spiritual Sense, and to expound it in its immediate reference to our Saviour's Hearers, and to the special circumstances under which it was
And lastly, To give it a General Application, as a Lesson both of Doctrine and of Practice to the whole Christian World.
As some of the Parables have a close resemblance in their Narrative, as also a near connexion in their Moral, it is not easy to conduct a continued Series of Discourses upon them without occasional recurrences of sentiment and expression. Repetitions of this nature might have passed unnoticed in Sermons delivered separately from the pulpit, though probably they are too conspicuous in their present form. For a defect, which is in some degree attached to the nature of his work, the Author hopes for the candid indulgence of his Readers.
Through all these Discourses he has endeavoured to attain these two prin
cipal objects of preaching, to explain the holy Scriptures to the Understanding, and to apply them to the Heart` and Life. With this intent they have been addressed to Parish Congregations from the Pulpit*, and they are now presented in a fuller form to the notice of the Public.
Should this Volume be favourably received, it may be followed in convenient season by a Second, which will complete the whole design.
Reading, January 1, 1801.
* Some few of these Sermons have been also preached before the University of Oxford.