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DIRECTIONS FOR THE PROFITABLE READING OF THE
It may seem strange to some persons, that I should give directions for the performance of an act so well understood as the perusal of a book; and especially the perusal of a book of so simple and elementary a kind as this. But the fact is, that multitudes either do not know, or do not remember at the time, how to read to advantage ; and, therefore, profit but little by what they read. Besides, simple and elementary as is this treatise, it is on a subject of infinite and eternal importance, and is perused in the most critical season of a man's everlasting history; when, in a very peculiar sense, every means of grace,
and this among the rest, will be either “a savour of death unto death, or of life unto life,” to the reader. Tremendous idea! But strictly true.
Reader, whosoever thou art, it is no presumptuous thought of the author, to believe that thou wilt remember the contents of this small treatise, either with pleasure and gratitude in heaven, or with remorse and despair in hell. Can it then be an impertinently officious act, to remind thee how to read with advantage what I have written ?
1. Take it with you into your closet ; I mean your place of retirement for prayer ; for, of course, you have such a place. Prayer is the very soul of all religion, and privacy is the very life of prayer itself. This is a book to be read when you are alone ; when none is near but God and your conscience ; when you are not hindered by the presence of a fellowcreature from the utmost freedom of manner, thought, and feeling ; when, unobserved by any human eye, you could lay down the book, and meditate, or weep, or fall upon your knees to pray, or give vent to your feelings in short and sudden petitions to God. I charge you then to reserve the volume for your private seasons of devotion and thoughtfulness : look not into it in company, except it be the company of a poor trembling and anxious inquirer, like yourself.
2. Read it with deep seriousness. Remember, it speaks to you of God, of eternity, of salvation, of heaven, and of hell. Take it up with something of the awe " that warns you
touch a holy thing." It meets you
solicitude about your soul's welfare ; it meets you fleeing from destruction, escaping for your life, crying out, “ What shall I do to be saved ? ” and proffers its assistance to guide you for refuge to “ the hope set before you in the gospel.” It is itself serious; its author is serious ; it is on a serious subject ; and demands to be read in a most devout and serious mood.
Take it not up lightly, nor read it lightly. If your spirit be not as solemn as usual, do not touch it ; and when
do touch it, command away every other subject, and endeavour to realize the idea that God, salvation, and eternity are before you ; and that you are actually collecting the ingredients of the cup of salvation, or the wormwood and gall to imbitter the cup of damnation.
3. Read it with earnest prayer. It can do you no good, without God's blessing: nothing short of Divine grace can render it the means of instructing your mind, or impressing your heart. It will convey no experimental knowledge, relieve no anxiety, dissipate no doubts, afford neither peace nor sanctification, if God do not give his Holy Spirit: and if you would have the Spirit, you must ask for his influence. If, therefore, you wish it to benefit you, do not read another
you have most fervently, as well as sincerely, prayed to God for his blessing to accompany the perusal. I have earnestly prayed to God to enable me to write it, and if you as earnestly pray to him to enable you to read it, there is thanksgiving in store for us both ; for usually what is begun in prayer, ends in praise.
4. Do not read too much at a time. Books that are intended to instruct and impress, should be read slowly. Most persons read too much at a time. Your object is not merely to read this treatise
through, but to read it so as to profit by it. Food cannot be digested well, if too much be eaten at a time; so neither can knowledge.
4. Meditate on what you read. Meditation bears the same office in the mental constitution, as digestion does in our corporeal system.
The first mental exercise is attention, the next is reflection. would gain a correct notion of an object, we must not only see it, but look at it; and so, also, if we would gain knowledge from books, we must not only see the matters treated of, but look steadily at them. Nothing but meditation can enable us to understand or feel. In reading the scriptures and religious books, we are, or should be, reading for eternity. Salvation depends on knowledge, and knowledge on meditation. At almost every step of our progress through a book which is intended to guide us to salvation, we should pause and ask, “ Do I understand this ?" Our
profiting depends not on the quantity we read, but the quantity we understand. One verse in scripture, if understood and meditated upon, will do us more good than a chapter, or even a book, read through in haste, and without reflection.
6. Read regularly through in order. Do not wander about from one part to another, and in your cagerness to gain relief, pick and cull particular portions, on account of their supposed suitableness to your case.
It is all suitable ; and will be found most so by being taken together and as a whole. A ram