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by John Lightfoot
Exercitations upon the Gospel of St. John
To the Right Honourable
Sir Orlando Bridegeman;
Knight and Baronet;
Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England,
One of His Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy-Council.
Let me bespeak you in the words of Orosius to St. Austin: "I have obeyed your commands (my most honoured lord); I wish I could say, to as much purpose as I have done it willingly: but I satisfy myself with the bare testimony of my obedience, wherein my will and endeavour is at least seen."
Such is your lordship’s value for the Holy Scriptures, such hath been your care to promote and encourage the explication of them for the benefit of others, that you have not disdained my poor endeavours of this kind; animating me to a progress in what I have begun, not only with bare entreaties, but with the additions of your lordship’s counsel, assistance, patronage, and bounty.
I should be the most stupid amongst men, if such kind and benign encouragements should not inflame me to attempt something, wherein at least I may give your lordship some specimen, not only of my obedience, but gratitude.
I confess myself, by I know not what kind of genius, warmly carried out towards these kind of studies, than which nothing can to me be more delightsome and satisfactory. But when it pleases your lordship both to add such sails to my little vessel, and also fill those sails with such gales of your favour, I still the more pleasingly engage myself, having not only the conscience of my own duty, but an ambition of serving your lordship, and approving myself grateful to quicken me to it.
Under your lordship’s wings, do these worthless labours of mine adventure abroad; alas! How much below your patronage, short of your worth, and indeed of my own undertaking; the thin and slender product of a plentiful watering, aiming at great things but trifling in the performance.
I took, I confess, a high flight, when I attempted the explication of this evangelist; but how weak and languid I have proved, (besides that the thing itself speaks sufficiently,) there shall be none readier to accuse, than I to condemn myself. Let then the reader spare his censure, for I will load myself with a shameful acknowledgment, that I have adventured in things too high for me: and when he sees this, perhaps he will forgive me undertaking so difficult a task, wherein my design hath been only to be useful: nay, perhaps pity me if I cannot indeed attain at what I would. But if he will neither forgive nor pity, but still carp and censure me, let him make the experiment upon this evangelist himself; and see if he also may not step as short as I have done.
My lord, I have this comfort however, that I have not been idle: I had rather puzzle myself with hard and knotty inquiries, than wear out my time in either doing nothing or trivially. Nor can I reproach myself that I have made this research into this sacred volume through unwarrantable curiosity, but out of humble sincere zeal of mind, both to learn what I can myself, and teach others; offering, I hope, nothing that is noxious, and sometimes that that may profit.
But, my lord, that which is my principal encouragement is, the patronage and candour of so great a man, who I cannot but hope will accept this small trifling gift with a gentle and easy aspect, from the frequent experiment I have already made. But I must recall that rash word gift, when all that I can offer to your lordship is absolute debt: and alas! How poor a paymaster does your lordship find of me! A few sorry scribblings for great and substantial kindnesses not to be reckoned up. Yet such they are, that bring along with them all the returns of thanks that I am able to make. And since I have nothing else, may the great God of heaven, of his infinite goodness and bounty, reward you with all manner of felicity, temporal and eternal: which he from his heart wishes and makes it his daily prayer, who is,
Your Lordship’s most humble,
most obliged, and faithful servant,
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30