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AN ADVERTISEMENT TO THE READER.
GOOD READER,—It is usual with those that publish books, to premise somewhat by way of excuse and acknowledgment of the unworthiness of what they publish; which, setting aside the modest sense that every man should have of his own endeavours, seemeth not to be without crime; if it be unworthy, the excuse will not make it better or more passable; for this is to adventure upon a crime against conviction, and (if we may allude to a matter so weighty) is somewhat like Pilate's case, who washed his hands, and yet condemned Christ. Usually such professions are but counterfeit; and that praise which men seem to neglect, or beat back at the first hop, they readily take at next rebound, which certainly is a vain and wicked artifice in divine matters; for besides the hypocrisy, there is a disparagement done to the precious truths which they publish, whilst they would seem to weaken the esteem of them, that they may the more plausibly promote their own honour: the best that can be said is, that every man in public would appear in a better dress than common infirmity will allow; and to this work we come not out of choice, but constraint. For my own part (though I know apologies of this nature are little credited), I can freely profess that I had no itch to appear in public, as conceiving my gifts fitter for private edification; and being humbled with the constant burthen of four times a week preaching, what could I do? And if I had a mind to divulge my labours, some will wonder that I made choice of this subject, which was conceived in my very youth, and without the least aim of any further publication than to the auditory that then attended upon it. But it being an entire piece, and being persuaded by the renewed importunity of many gracious ministers and Christians that it might conduce somewhat to public benefit, I was willing to be deaf to all considerations of my own credit and fame. Wherein is that to be accounted of, so one poor soul receive comfort and profit? The Epistle of Jude was with this licensed to the press. But being wearied with this and the constant returns of my other employment, and hearing that another learned brother66Mr Jenkins. intendeth to publish his elaborate meditations on that epistle I shall confine my thoughts to that privacy to which I had intended these, had they not been thus publicly drawn forth. The matter herein 7delivered, will, I conceive, be found holy and useful. If any expression should be found that savoureth not of true piety, or suiteth not with reverence to God, charity to men, or zeal of good works, I do, from my soul, wish it expunged, and shall upon conviction take the next occasion to retract it. I know some are prejudiced against endeavours of this kind, as if nothing could be said but what hath been said already. For my part, I pretend to nothing novel, and though no other things can be said, yet they may be more explained, and with more liveliness of phrase and expression, every truth receiving some savour from the vessel through which it passeth; and yet I may speak it without arrogance, some arguments thou wilt find improved for thy further edification; and therefore I suppose (though there be now some glut) this book may crowd forth in the throng of comments. I confess I have made use of those that have formerly written upon this epistle, and upon others, instigation, that the work might be more complete, more than I at first intended; and yet (I hope) I cannot be said to boast in another man's line of things made ready to our hand,` 2 Cor. x. 16. For thy direction in this work, I do entreat thee to compare the notes with the exposition, especially if thou dost at any time stick at the genuineness of any point. Well, then, so often repeated, is the usual note of the use or practical inference. If the style seem too curt and abrupt, know that I sometimes reserved myself for a sudden inculcation and enlargement. For the great controversy of justification, I have handled it as largely as the epistle would give leave, and the state of the auditory would bear. Had I been aware of some controversies grown since amongst us, I should have said more; yet, take it altogether, enough is said as to my sense, and for vindicating this epistle. If some passages be again repeated, which I suppose will seldom fall out, impute it to the multitude of my employment. I never saw the work altogether, and my thoughts being scattered to so many subjects throughout the week, I could not always so distinctly remember what I had written. In short, if thou receivest any benefit, return me but the relief of thy prayers for an increase of abilities, and a faithful use of them to the Lord's glory, and I shall be abundantly recompensed.8
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