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and ability; and not invent any empty excuses, proceeding from idleness or a fear of hurting his worldly interest, for wrapping his talent in a napkin, and rendering it perfectly useless.
Note.—This Preface was written several years ago ; and I see no reason for altering any of the remarks I then made in it. Even at home, though the Bible is everywhere circulated, our moral state is not what it ought to be, with such a religious treasure in our possession. The most finished timepiece, beautifully enamelled, and set in the most valuable diamonds, is of little use, without hands on its dial-plate;and if it is not kept clean and properly regulated, it will often shew a wrong hour, and mislead. The industrious workman has but a few hours to spare for recruiting his strength. He is obliged to husband and divide his time with care and accuracy; and always considers himself fortunate, if he is able, out of his earnings, to purchase a watch, which he looks upon as a friend and companion, ready to give him immediate and honest counsel and
direction whenever he is consulted. In like manner, the poor man, when he looks for the directions that will lead him to everlasting life, should be able to find them, without waste of time, in the plain doctrinal language of the prophets, and in the saving words of the Son of God. Mosheim
says, “ The improvement which proceeded from the restoration of letters and philosophy in the sixteenth century, extended not only to the method of conveying theological instruction, but purified moreover the science of theology itself. For the true nature, genius, and design of the Christian religion, which even the most learned and pious doctors of antiquity had but imperfectly comprehended, were now unfolded with evidence and precision, and drawn, like truth, from an abyss in which they had hitherto lain too much concealed.” *
Will it be too bold to assert, that Christianity may be taught, in a clearer and more intelligible manner, in the nineteenth than in the sixteenth century? Improved by education, are not men's minds better recipients for divine truth now, than at that period ?—or, are ignorance and slavish fear the best soils for the seeds of religion?
The Jewish lawgiver ordered his countrymen, that they might the better understand and recollect them, to write the “ commandments of God on the door-posts of their houses, and upon their gates.”+ A "greater” than Moses told an inquiring young man, to keep the command“ments, if he would see life.” A greater judge of the time the generality of people would have for religious reading and research, than Moses, told his disciples, when they offered their prayers to their heavenly Father, “not to use “ vain repetitions, as the heathens did ;-—- for they think,” said he, “ that they shall be heard for their much speaking: “be not ye therefore like unto them.”* Our Lord then immediately gave them his beautiful prayer,-never equalled for containing so much matter in such a few short sentences. This prayer, and his answer to the person inquiring what he must do “ to be saved," seem to prove, that the sum and substance of true religion may be laid before men in selections from the Holy Scriptures, suited to their capacities and humble situations in life, without injuring the Bible, or offending the universal Lord of all things.
* Vol. iii. p. 416.
+ Deut. xi. 20.