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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 þe 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
it were 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 ; aud 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 dispersed 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 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 any 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 shew 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 Manuscripts 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 concerning them. 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 ; 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 sometiines 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 shew 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 sentences. But where there is neither Acrostic nor Parallelism, there may be, and assuredly often is, Versification, if we may credit the similarity of diction, and other marks of discrimination. Nor can we have the least doubt but that this versification consisted in a Rhythm, formed by a determinate number of duly proportioned syllables, proceeding in a regular order, so as to strike the ear with a harmonious cadence. But as the genuine pronunciation of the Hebrew language has been long ago irretrieveably lost, even so far as to leave nothing certain as to the number of syllables in a word, much less as to their quantity or accent, this harmony of cadence of course is to us no more, nor can be of the least assistance in pointing out the just measure of the verse. In those cases therefore, where neither the initial letter, nor the constructive form or