Jul 24, 2014

A Reflection on Older Commentaries

Contemporary students of the Bible often ignore or disparage older commentators and commentaries. But I try to make them a regular part of my study. While these older works may be bereft of the latest research, they are often rich sources of pastoral wisdom and spiritual depth. As a case in point, note the following words from William Jenkyn's dedication to his exposition of Jude.
"My aim in publishing these Lectures is to advance holiness, and, as far as I could do it, by following the mind of the apostle, to oppose those sins, which if people hate not most, are like to hurt them most; and to advance those duties with which, if people be not most in love, yet in which they are most defective, and thereby most endangered. And now again, I beseech you, that I may testify my unfeigned affection as well by my epistle as my book —labour to keep close to God in a loose age; spend not your time in complaining of the licentiousness of the times, in the mean while setting up a toleration in your own hearts and lives. That private Christian who does not labour to oppose profaneness with a river of tears, would never, if he could, bear it down with a stream of power. Lay the foundation of mortification deep. Reserve no lust from the stroke of Jesus Christ. Take heed of pleasing yourselves in a bare formal profession. Labour to be rooted in Christ. He who is but a visible Christian, may in a short time cease to be so much as visible; he who speaks of Christ but notionally, may in time be won to speak against him. Love not the world. Beware of scandals; take them not where they are, make them not where they are not. The common sin of our times, is to blacken religion, and then to fear and hate it. Despise not the providences of God in the world; they are signs of God's mind, though not of his love. Delight in the public ordinances, and highly esteem faithful ministers; they and religion are commonly blasted together. Shun seducers. Sit down under a minister as well as under a preacher. He who will hear every one, may at length be brought to hear none; and lie who will hear him preach who ought not, may soon be left to learn that which he ought not. Preserve a tender conscience; every step you take fear a snare; read your own hearts in the wickedness of others. Be not slight in closet services; and oft think of God in your shops, for there you think you have least leisure, but sure you have most need to do so. Let your speech be alway with grace, and a word or two of Christ in every company, if possible; and yet not out of form, but feeling."
Jenkyn, William and Jean Daillé, Exposition of the Epistle of Jude and the Epistles to the Philippians and Colossians (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1865), vii.

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