« PreviousContinue »
AMONG the numerous and valuable works of Dr. Owen, his · Discourse on the Holy Spirit' claims a principal place : it has been thought by some, · An EPITOME, if not the Master-Piece, of his Writings.' The subject is certainly of the greatest importance ; and it is managed with that depth of judgment, solidity of argument, and fervour of piety which characterize his Theological Performances : but notwithstanding the intrinsic excellence of the work, it is undoubtedly too large, too learned, and too expensive for the generality of serious readers. It is, therefore, rather extraordinary that no Abridgment of it has yet appeared. The Doctrine of the Scriptures concerning the Holy Spirit and his gracious operations in the Church, is so intimately connected with every branch of Gospel Truth, and every part of Christian Experience, that a good discourse upon it must be useful at any time;:hut if we consider how much the divine influences on the human mind are now slighted by some, and ridiculed by others, the re-publication of this admirable, Treatise will appear peculiarly seasonable.
Dr. Owen, like many of his conteniporariés, was a voluminous writer. Prolixity was the fashion of the age. Indeed, his profound learning, penetration, and experience, enabled him to exhaust every subject that he undertook; and it may be observed, that when Divines of that day were excluded from their Pulpits by persecution, and devoted their talents to the Press, the people read with avidity in the Closet, what they were not permitted to hear in the Church. This may
account for the number and bulk of Religious Publications in the last century : but the taste of the present day is not for ponderous. folios. Modern Professors of the Gospel, having very frequent opportunities of hearing it in public, spend, perhaps, too little of their time in retirement: and those who do read, wish to have much in a little.'
The utility of Abridgments, when properly executed, is sufficiently obvious ; and some of the most useful books in every science are of this description.
The late Rev. Mr. Hervey much wished that the writings of our venerable ancestors were reduced to a smaller compass.
In a Letter to a Friend he thus expresses himself: I wish some judicious hand would give us the quintessence of Dr. Owen's Works, each in a size portable both for the pocket and the memory : I really think it would be one of the most substantial acts of service which a Scholar and a Divine could perform for the present age.'
The great disparity between a folio and a duodccimo volume, may probably induce some persons to think, that only a small proportion of the original is retained... This objection would scarcely have been made to an octavo, and the Editor assures the reader, that much more matter is contained in this Abridgment than :is generally found in a volume of that size. The Original is printed with a large type, in a small page ; the Abridgiñent, with a small letter in a full page.
The Author's large and numerous Quotations from the Greek and Latin Fathers are omitted ; many extended digressions are passed over; the sense of many a long and perplexed sentence is carefully preserved in fewer words; and the repetitition of the same sentiment, which sometimes occurred in one long paragraph, is studiously avoided. By these ineans, the substance of this excellent but prolix book is reduced to a moderate size ; but such was the Edi
tor's veneration for the memory of Dr. Owen, as well as his regard to fidelity, that no liberty whatever has been taken with the sense of the Author, nor the least wilful misrepresentation made of his views in a single instance. The method also of the original work remains unaltered.
To render this. Abridgment more complete, the Editor has made some valuable Extracts from other Treatises, composed by Dr. Owen, on those parts of the Work of the Spirit which were not comprized in the folio volume. It seems to be but little known that, copious and excellent as that volume is, it contained but a part of the author's original Plan; for, in his Preface, he thus expresses himself :- These things, with several others of the like nature, falling unavoidably under consideration, have drawn out these Discourses unto a length far beyond my first de. sign; which is also the reason that I have forborne to add to them those other parts of The Work of the Spirit in Prayer,--in Illumination, with respect to the right understanding the Mind of God in the Scriptures, - in the Communication of Spiritual Gifts to the Church,—and in the Consolation of Believers; which must now wait for another opportunity.'
The Editor begs leave to observe, That Dr. Owen afterwards composed a Treatise on each of these important subjects : two of which were published by himself; and two others were published after his death, by the Rev. Nathaniel Mather.
From these four able Discourses, copious Extracts are made in the APPENDIX ;* and the Editor conceives that the Reader will not only judge that they are neces
* Those on Illumination and Spiritual Gifts are now printed and acded to this third edition.
sary to complete a Discourse on the Work of the Spiri but that they form some of the most valuable parts of i
With what judgment and propriety the Editor h performed the difficult task, and whether he has omi ted or altered too much or too little, must be left to th decision of the Public. Many imperfections will pre bably be discerned by a critical eye. However, he hathe satisfaction of reflecting, that he has sincerely endea voured to form a useful work, and that he has put int the hands of many hundreds of serious persons the es sence of a most valuable book, hitherto confined, in grea measure, to the studies of the learned ; and which h humbly hopes will be instrumental of much spiritual in formation, edification, and comfort to the people of God