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The author of the following work has made it a frequent practice, in the course of his ministry, to select for the subject of his public discourses, a large portion of Scripture, a number of chapters in a book, a whole book, or Epistle, going through it, paragraph by paragraph, in order. From this method of preaching he has contemplated these two advantages :--The preacher will thus be led to treat on some subjects, which, in the ordinary way of selection, might be overlooked ; and he will exhibit the connected train of reasoning which runs through the book, and thus will lead his hearers to observe the connection and argumentation of Scripture in their private reading.
Among the books selected for the subjects of a series of discourses, that entitled “The Epistle to the Ephesians,” is one. Whether this Epistle was originally written to the Ephesians, as is generally supposed; or written to the Laodiceans, and from them conveyed, by copy, to the Ephesians, as some have conjectured, is a question, not necessary here to be discussed ; for on the decision of this question neither the genuineness, nor usefulness of the Epistle will depend. The reasons for the former opinion will be found in Hammond, Whitby, and other commentators ; the reasons for the latter may be seen in Paley's Horæ Paulinæ.
This Epistle is more replete with sentiment, and enriched with a greater variety of matter, than Paul's other Epistles, and, perhaps, than any other book in the sacred volume. It is a compendium of the gospel. In discoursing upon it, the author of the ensuing sermons, has observed its order, attended to its connection, elucidated from Scripture, especially from Paul's other writings, the passages which seemed
obscure, noticed every subject which it presented to him, and treated the whole in a familiar and practical manner, that the work might be adapted to every capacity, and to general usefulness.
He will not call this a complete body of divinity ; for it is not cast into a systematic form, nor does it contain every subject, which might be expected in a complete system. But most of the subjects, which peculiarly belong to the Christian scheme, as distinct from natural religion, are here stated and explained, if not in the systematic order, yet in the order in which the Apostle has placed them.
Some subjects, on which the author has before published his sentiments, as baptism, the church, and the discrimination between true and false teachers, are here passed over in a summary way, lest this work should be too voluminous; and it is probable that of those, who have not condescended to read his former publications, few will think this worthy of their perusal.
The prevalence of infidelity, in the present day, suggested the propriety of prefixing to this work, a preliminary discourse on the Divine Authority of the Gospel, and particularly on the genuineness and authenticity of the writings ascribed to St. Paul.
This work, which was, in a course of Sermons, laid before the people to whom the author stands immediately related, is now humbly presented to the public, with his ardent wishes and prayers, that the blessing of God may accompany it.