« PreviousContinue »
TO THE READER.
A Few prefatory words on the object of this little treatise, and on the spirit and method in which it is meant to be perused, may, it is hoped, enable the Reader to profit more by it than he otherwise would do, while at the same time it may serve to avert certain criticisms, to which the writer cannot but feel that, as a piece of religious literature, his work is justly exposed.
My “Thoughts on Personal Religion” have met with some success (more, I imagine, because so many are now-a-days craving for help and guidance in the matter of personal religion, than on account of any merit or originality in the “Thoughts”); and I have received assurances from trustworthy quarters that the book has been made useful (under God's blessing) to many. Between such persons and myself
feel that a sort of bond has been established, to the obligations of which I desire to be faithful. Our paths in life may never have crossed,—nay, we may be very remote from one another (for the book has been kindly and warmly”. received on the other side of the Atlantic); but they have been pleased to acknowledge themselves as helped by me in the most vitally important of all human concerns ; and the acknowledgment has made me almost regard them as if they were my flock, and I their pastor. So I am minded to try to lead them on a little farther, and to rivet the impressions already made upon them, partly by presenting former topics in new lights, partly by guiding them to fields of thought a little less elementary.
It is obvious that this design will lay me open occasionally to the charge of repeating myself. I fully admit such a charge, and am prepared to justify myself under it. Although I have never consciously quoted from myself, I doubt not that many passages will be found in this work, bearing a close resemblance (in style as well as sentiment) to others which occur in its predecessor. Must it not of necessity be so in all books whose scope is to inculcate practical righteousness? Even inspired Apostles were not ashamed of reiterating their exhortations ;—nay, they regarded their doing so as the security of their disciples; “To write “the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, “but for you it is safe.” And St. Peter, in urging upon the faithful that growth in grace, that “going on from strength to strength,” whereby alone an “abundant
entrance” should “be ministered unto them into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus “ Christ,” expressly says that they needed continual reminding of the necessity of this progress and growth; “Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always *in remembrance of these things; though ye know "them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, “I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to “stir you up, by putting you in remembrance.” Within certain limits nothing new can be said (or ought to be demanded) in religious exhortations. All that can be done here in the matter of originality is, that the old truth should be presented in a new light, and (which is of even more importance than newness of aspect) pressed home upon the conscience of the learner with a fresh interest in the mind, and a fresh glow in the heart, of the teacher.
Nor can I think that those readers for whom chiefly this volume is designed, will resent its occasionally speaking in accents with which they are more or less familiar. A man who reads for devotion is not apt to be scandalized by having old truths pressed upon him. It is he only who reads for curiosity, or to amuse his mind with speculative questions, who is impatient of what he has heard before. And this work is designed not so much as a theological treatise (for the composition of which its writer is by no means furnished, and in which character, therefore, it might be found grievously
defective) as to be a help to earnest strivers in the spiritual life. It is true that, in parts of it, I have found myself led into an analysis of human motives, and an investigation of human nature, which might seem at first sight to belong rather to the theory than the practice of religion ; but this is because I perceive such analysis and investigation really necessary to the satisfactory adjustment of some practical question which has arisen, not because I have for a moment forgotten that I am engaged in endeavouring to direct souls, and to bring myself and others to an experimental knowledge of God.
And let me ask you, Reader, in this connexion, to regard the book as a book of devotion, and to read it in a method accordant with that view of it. It is offered to you simply as a help in the spiritual life; accept it as such. Do with it as you have done with the many better books of the same character, which from time to time have fallen into your hands. Read it in order, a little at a time, and exercise your
the argument, that you may imbibe whatever may be sound and spiritual in it, and reject whatsoever may be not in accordance with Holy Scripture and the mind of the Universal Church.
And oh ! dear soul, created in God's Image, and ransomed with His Blood, whom it has been my desire to serve and help by these instructions, if they shall at any times approve themselves to thee as serviceable and