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king incidents, lively descriptions and characters. Two classes of scriptures would furnish perhaps the best foundations for these exercises. First, the historical, which holds forth the duties of religion in examples and instances. And secondly, the figurative, which explains divine things by resemblance. There is no better method of gaining the attention and of impressing the minds of children and common people, than teaching by comparison, or illustrating spiritual things by natural. It is needless to observe how much our Saviour's discourses abound with such allusions. Witness the prodigal son, the strayed sheep, the mustard seed, the leaven, the lilies--all this made its way directly to the heart; it was impossible ever to forget it; his followers • hung upon his lips : children cried, Hosanna, and the common people heard him gladly.
In compliance, both with his own conviction, and the repeated solicitations of others, the author has ventured to undertake the present work. He does not affirm, however, that what he has done perfectly comes up to his wishes, or corresponds with the plan he has suggested. He found that it was easier to censure than to amend; to judge than to execute. But this he professes : he has attempted to be simple without being coarse, and to be intelligible to the illiterate without proving disgustful to the wise. He has laboured to unite perspicuity with brevity, and in the small compass allowed him, to introduce a subject, and secure an effect. Frequently unable in a few pages to do justice to the various parts of a scripure, he has endeavoured to seize some one prominent view of it, and to turn it into a source of consolation, a motive to holiness, a help to devotion. His aim has been to show that faith is not a notion, but a principle; and to bring down religion from airy speculations into common life, that our piety may not be periodical, but keep us in the fear of the Lord all the day long. He wished to make Christianity to appear lovely in its spirit, reasonable in its commands, rich in its motives and resources, and beyond expression kind and tender in its promises.
The wish of the author to engage particularly the attention of servants and children will frequently appear in his manner. For such adaptations he makes no apology. Though he does not wish to indulge a bad taste, he would ever remember that a preacher ought to have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way. That which is too smooth easily slides off the memory; and that which is lost in the act of hearing will do little good. It is desirable to get something that will strike and abide; something that, recurring again and again, will employ the thoughts and the tongue: and is this cannot be accomplished, in certain instances, but by modes of address which perhaps are not so classically justifiable-should not a minister prefer utility to fame? Paul, in his noble energy, adds the comparative degree to the superlative, and calls himself less than the least of all saints. He invented new words, and used quaint ones. He
" I have made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means gain some.” If a child run away and become profligate, a good father would be anxious to have him reclaimed, and if a person should go to him
" I think I could prevail upon your son to abandon his unhappy course of living”—would such a father say, “O try, but see to it that you conform perfectly to every rule of good speaking :" or should he return and announce his successwould the father deem it worth while to ask, “Did you dispose your arguments quite logically, or make use of no obsolete term, no trite phrase ?” “ He that winneth souls is wise.” Yea more: “If a man err from the truth, and one convert him, let him know that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his ways shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins ?” What a recompense !
The circumstances of families are perpetually varying, and what is suitable seldom fails to impress. It was not possible, however, to accommodate a lecture to every supposable case ; but the author has endeavoured to introduce a comprehensive variety, and hopes something will be found pertinent to all the more common and interesting occurrences.
He has more than once noticed events of an afflictive nature; the heart is then soft and serious. He has improved the various seasons of the year. He has also provided subjects which are adapted to all the greater festivals. Members of the established church may read these on the appropriated days, while Dissenters can surely have no objection to read at some time or other a few reflections on the birth or ascension of Christ. « One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike : let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.-Why
dost thou judge thy brother? Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother ? For we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ.”
Such was the prospectus by which the author, now nearly a year ago, announced the work he had undertaken. The circulation of the proposals occasioned from his friends a variety of hints concerning the plan. Some of these could not be regarded-but others have led to a little deviation from the original sketch-in two cases- - The one respects the style; the other the length.
With regard to the former, it was suggestedthat in families where discourses of this kind were likely to be read, there were often youths of both sexes, of some education and improvement—that these formed a very important part of the object of such a publication—and therefore that the eye should not be too exclusively fixed on servants and children. In consequence of this, the author has paid a little more attention to the composition.
With regard to the other, it was observed—that between an hour, and the time proposed, there were many intermediate degrees—and that those who had been accustomed to read discourses of the former length, would find the latter too disproportionably short. The author has therefore rendered some of these exercises a little longer, but as far as he can judge, none of them even now, will take up more than twenty minutes. This circumstance has rather reduced the number of
After all, the author scarcely knows whether the alterations are improvements.
He has found that if in the multitude of counsellors, there is
safety, there is also perplexity. The work has been finished in a short space of time, under frequent indispositions, and many interruptions. It might have been much better executed. But all human productions are susceptible of endless improvement; and were an author to wait till his own mind is completely satisfied, he may linger in idle hope, till death-every moment hastening 011deprives him of all opportunity to serve his generation. The grand point at which we should aim is—to “work while it is called to-day, knowing that the night cometh, wherein no man can work”—and to gain from the Master, the sentence with which he defended and applauded Mary-Let her alone—She hath done what she could.
The author has not placed the discourses according to any principle of arrangement; but the index will enable the reader to find the subject suited to any particular purpose.
After publishing the prospectus, a much esteemed friend sent the author the following reflections, which he is persuaded he had never seen before. They are extracted from the Monthly Review, for May, 1800. In noticing "Family Sermons, by the Rev. E. Whitaker, Canterbury, three vols:” the writer observes,
Prepossessed by the title of this work, we commenced our perusal of it with the flattering expectation of finding, what has indeed been long wanted ; viz. a set of sermons particularly calculated for the use of families; or such as are proper for parents and masters to read on Sunday evenings to their children and servants. It is astonishing that amidst the torrent of sermons continually issuing from the press, there should scarcely