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morality, to which the consequent ignorance of the revealed word of God has given rise. If once the Bible should become again a sealed or neglected book in our own happy country, or if Protestant Christians should be, like their Papal forefathers, content to receive their religion solely from the lips of the priest, instead of each searching for himself the book of God, and "with joy, drawing water out of the wells of salvation," it requires no prophetic vision to foresee, that the peculiar glory of our land will fade, that the pure doctrines of grace will be clouded and concealed, and that "the wood, hay, stubble,” of human inventions, will once more overwhelm the glorious "foundation" of all our hopes, and leave us, as they have at present left "the Eternal City," with more of "the outward and visible signs" of the religion of Christ, and, judging by their fruits, with less of "its inward and spiritual grace," than any other Capital in Europe.
In the present work, the author has selected those chapters, or parts of chapters, which, in his own family readings, have appeared the best adapted for giving to all and each, however young, or however humble, "his portion of meat in due season." To do this, he has endeavoured to take a connected view of those wonderful
truths, of which nothing but the direct inspiration of the Most High could have informed us, and which acquaint us, not only with the mystery of creation, but the still higher mysteries of redemption; of the origin of evil, and the only remedy for evil, which it has pleased God to provide for a fallen and guilty world. He has been careful to omit no link in this great and wondrous chain, to exclude no truth, no doctrine, no precept, necessary to its continuity and strength and beauty; since the chief danger to be apprehended from making selections from the Bible must ever be that of suppressing any of its life-giving truths, which are necessary to "make us wise unto salvation."
Where it has been needful to explain the sense of Scripture, the author has attempted, according to the best of his ability, to do so, without dwelling more than was absolutely necessary upon the difficulty to be solved; for he has frequently remarked, that in young minds, especially, the recollection of a doubt, or an objection, will remain long after its solution is forgotten. His main object has been, however, to seize some striking historical fact, or some spiritual doctrine, or some practical lesson, and to carry it home powerfully to the conscience and the heart.
The chief difficulty that has been always found in family worship, is to arrest the attention, especially of children and servants; to fix their thoughts, for the little portion of time allotted to this great duty, upon the revealed word, and to carry them with us, while speaking or reading any commentary upon it. To do this many little aids may be made use of; one of the most effectual has been found by the author to be, to let each member of the family read a verse, or rather, a period in turn; the exposition coming in at the close of the verses to which it refers. Great attention also must be paid by the head of the family, if he would render social worship interesting, not to lengthen it out, so as to fatigue those who are but little accustomed to apply their minds to such subjects.
All long expositions, long prayers, long sermons, should therefore be carefully avoided, if we desire really to benefit the persons to whom we refer; and we should so manage as to send them away, rather wishing to hear more, than wearied with what they have already heard. Still, however short the period thus employed, the arresting and retaining the attention is a difficulty, and will always be so, where there is not an enlightened mind to appreciate the blessings of such a service, and a renewed and converted heart to
enjoy them. The practical inquiry, therefore, is, under common circumstances, and composed as most of our households are, and we fear, will continue to be, of those that regard the Lord, and those that regard him not, how can we best meet, and, by God's help, overcome this difficulty?
Most of those who have made the experiment, have, we believe, agreed that it is far easier to achieve this desirable end by speaking, though it be but a few words upon the subject, than by reading
even the best and most valuable of our commentaries. To those, especially, of his Christian brethren in the ministry, who by God's help are enabled to make a short and viva voce comment upon the word of God, (and few would fail if they would attempt it in the true spirit of self-renunciation and of prayer,) the author strongly recommends to adopt that method, the advantages of which will soon be sufficiently apparent, in the increased attention of their little circle, and the far deeper interest of their family worship. To those who, whether by sex or by circumstances, are disqualified for this spiritual exercise, the author offers the accompanying work, as, however, at the best, but a very inadequate substitute. For he cannot but acknowledge, that when he sat down to write, he found how totally different in expression what he put upon paper was, from what he had been
in the habit of speaking, with the Bible before him, to his accustomed auditors; and although he continually endeavoured to reassume the speaker, he always found the writer predominate, to the exclusion of much that he would have said, and to the deterioration of what remained.
As, however, he has by ill health been prevented from officiating at these valuable domestic services, he has been compelled to adopt this substitute in his own family, and he is now desirous of offering it for the use of others, with the earnest, heartfelt prayer that it may please the great Head of the Church to acknowledge and bless it, and, through its feeble instrumentality, to cause a very important portion of Holy Writ to be more carefully read, and better understood, and more entirely delighted in, by those who "desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby."
may interest some of the author's many kind and valued friends, and may be admitted as his apology to others, to be informed, that the following pages were written during a long and weary journey in search of improved health, without the accustomed aids that a library would have afforded, and with none of the author's own biographical lectures upon portions of this book, by