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THE RIGHT REVEREND AND HONOURABLE
LORD BISHOP OF SARUM,
AND CHANCELLOR OF THE MOST NOBLE ORDER OF
HONOURED long ago by your friendship, and distinguished of late, among the first, by your voluntary and unsolicited patronage, it would ill become me to appear in public without paying you my tribute of gratitude, and expressing my warmest acknowledgments for favours, rendered doubly obligatory by the mode of conferring them. But there will appear a peculiar propriety in the introduction of ship's name at the head of this work, when it is known that it was you who first prompted the author to undertake, and afterwards encouraged him, perhaps too justly diffident of his own abilities, to persevere in it.
If, therefore, there should be found any thing useful or valuable in these sheets, it must all be placed to the account of your unwearied zeal in recommending and enforcing, upon principle, the cultivation of sacred literature. It would be arrogance
in me to imagine, that my weak voice could have any influence in guiding the public applause. But the world will daily receive the most substantial proofs, that your Lordship comes not behind the most illustrious of your predecessors in any of the qualifications which constitute or adorn the character of a truly Christian Bishop. That you may long live to signalize those virtues, which must necessarily tend to advance the credit of our most holy religion, confirm the happiness of your diocese, and greatly endear you both to God and man, is the unfeigned and ardent prayer of,
and most devoted servant,
When it was first proposed to me to revise the text of Jeremiah, and to attempt a new translation of it, with notes and illustrations, after the manner of the Bishop of London's Isaiah, it appeared to me a matter of so much difficulty and importance, as justly to merit the most mature deliberation. Though sincerely disposed to pay all due deference to the authority of my friends, and earnestly desirous, at a time when I had no immediate call in the line of my profession, to find myself engaged in some worthy occupation, whereby I might have a chance of promoting the glory of God, and the spiritual good of mankind; it could not but occur to me, that, in following the plan of an author of such distinguished eminence, from a disparity of talents a most mortifying disparity might reasonably be apprehended in the execution. On the other hand, it seemed much to be regretted, that a design of such singular utility, and for which such ample materials had been lately provided, should at once be relinquished and laid aside. The learned and venerable Prelate, with whom it began, it was but too well known, had neither leisure nor health to prosecute it farther. And were it necessary to wait till another of equal qualifications should take it up, possible that many generations might elapse before the world might enjoy the wished-for satisfaction. But from inferior abilities some, , at least, though not equal, benefit might arise ; and this in particular, that, whilst the thoughts and attention of mankind were turned upon the subject, the discussion of such errors and mistakes as would be committed might gradually tend to an elucidation and discovery of the truth. And, therefore, upon these principles, when I found no other person likely to stand forth, I determined, at
length, to comply with what had been recommended to me ; trusting to the candour of the public, which I had heretofore experienced ; and claiming no other indulgence, than, out of regard to my good intentions, to have my faults animadverted on with that gentleness and benignity which every liberal-minded person will be inclined to exercise towards others, because he must naturally wish to be so treated himself.
In regard, then, to the general design of this work, and the mode of its execution, I shall easily be dispensed with from entering into any minute detail, considering how fully it has been set forth and explained at large in the Bishop of London's Preliminary Dissertation. I have not had the vanity to think I could improve upon his plan ; my aim has been to keep it constantly in view, and to follow it as closely, and with such success, as I could. It is obvious how much benefit I must have derived from having travelled under the directions of so excellent a guide ; from having found the principles and rules of sacred criticism so precisely laid down and marked out for my observance; and from having seen them so judiciously applied and reduced to practice. With my acknowledgments on this score, I ought, perhaps, to offer an apology to his Lordship, for the freedom of my comments on some few of his particular criticisms. But as I am sure he will readily acquit me of disrespectful motive, so I am persuaded he would look upon it as an undue and undesirable act of complaisance, were I, in deference to his authority, induced to suppress what appeared to me, at least with some show of reason, to place any passage of holy Scripture in a clearer or better point of view.
As concerning the present defective state of the Hebrew text, the various kinds of mistakes that have found their way into it, and the ordinary sources of its corruption ; the probability of rectifying many of those mistakes by the help of ancient versions and manuscripts ; the history of those versions, and their absolute or comparative value ; the number of mariuscripts which have been lately collated, and the antiquity, character, and authority of them respectively ;all these points have been so thoroughly examined, and represented with so much learning, skill, and precision, in the before-mentioned Preliminary Dissertation of the Bishop of London, and in Dr. Kennicott's General Dissertation prefixed to his edition of the Hebrew Bible with the collations, that I have nothing new to offer
The reader who is desirous of entering into these matters with a clear and comprehensive view, cannot do better than consult those authors in the places referred to. He will thence be enabled to form just and reasonable expectations of what may be done by a proper use of the means above specified ; and to judge, whether they have been duly and advantageously applied in the present performance towards restoring the text of Jeremiah. But he will also perceive, what he will undoubtedly find cause to lament, that cases, after all, will sometimes happen beyond the reach of any such assistance; mistakes of so early a date, as to be prior to any version or ms., either now known, or hereafter likely to fall into our hands. On those occasions we can have no resource but in conjectural criticism ; a ground which requires to be trod with the nicest circumspection, lest haply we should be led astray into the wild rovings of a luxuriant fancy. But in cases otherwise desperate, there is no reason why a remedy of this kind should not be tried, provided only that it be administered with all the prudence and caution that is requisite. On the contrary, I am persuaded, that we shall sometimes find instances of conjectural emendations so judiciously made, and so well supported by indirect, at least, and circumstantial evidence, as to work a conviction of their truth not inferior to that which would arise from their having been found in copies of the best note and most approved authority.
In discharging the office of a translator, I have not only endeavoured faithfully to represent the general sense of the original, but also to express each word and phrase by a corresponding one, as far as the genius of the two languages would admit; and where necessity obliged me to vary a phrase, I have usually subjoined in a note the literal rendering, in order to show the equivalence of that which was substituted in its stead. At the same time, hoping by all these means to bring the reader to a better acquaintance with the author's manner, I have been no less attentive to imitate, as far as possible, the structure and conformation of the sentences, more especially in the poetical parts of the book, where so much seems to depend upon it. But in the metrical division of the lines or verses, I fear I cannot always claim the merit of being exactly right. In some instances the case is clear, and capable of being ascertained with the greatest precision ; as in the acrostic or alphabetical poems, and wherever there is a plain and evident parallelism in the construction of the