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TO THE YOUNG READER.
My “ Book of the Heart” was intended for readers in general; but the present work is designed for a particular class of young persons. Want of distinct, specific, and appropriate statement and address is a defect in religious books; but it is one which it is more easy to observe than to correct: perhaps the following pages have much of that vagueness which ought to have been avoided. General truths are invaluable : general statements may be correct: but if we would not amuse the mind, but come to the conscience, we must be minute, particular, specific, in what we advance. This is not so easy as
some may suppose. I have done what my talents, time, and circumstances allowed me to do. Candidly pardon, my young reader, all that is wrong; and wisely improve all that is right.
I am truly anxious that you, with this book in your hand, or with a far better, should give a decided and serious consideration to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the spiritual circumstances of Man, in your early years.
Pause at least a few days, and make spiritual things the subject of impartial examination. Youth will not last for ever. Do not suffer it to pass away without some serious thoughts of God, of Christ, of your souls, and of eternity. You are but as the flowers of the field: and the most lovely flowers will soon fade: for,
.... All our pleasure are but children's toys,
Death our delights continually doth sever,
Virtue alone abandoneth us never." So speaks an old English Bard: and if by“Virtue" you understand the whole compass of Christian excellence, his lines are not unworthy of your recollection.
Unhappily, young people in general do not seriously attend to religion. They are captivated with the pleasures and amusements of the present life. Salvation is a neglected subject.-Again, some young persons regard religion, and become a sort of half-way Christians—characters, it is to be feared, far too common among us. They have religion enough to cast around them the lucid halo of a Christian profession, but not enough to make them “Israelites indeed.”—Further, there are some young persons, (and I trust they are a goodly, as well as a lovely, host,) who are, by the mercy and grace of God in Christ Jesus, the Samuels, the
Obadiahs, the Timothies of our world—the lambs of the good Shepherd's flock: and it is of the number of these last that I wish you to be.
My work has not the attractions which it would have had, in the estimation of some, if I had favoured any of the novel notions of our day. Here is nothing to feed a wild imagination; no high views of disputed doctrines, and no ingenious modifications of commonly received doctrines. I dislike reveries, innovations, and those statements of the Gospel which, in fact, only aim at making “the wisdom from above” to quadrate as much as possible with the reasonings of human philosophy, with the preconceptions and prejudices of the human mind ; and which simply amount to this, “ Accommodate the Gospel to our speculations, and we will receive it.” Opposed, as I am, to every thing of this sort, I can only put before you plain truths in a plain way.
As one who in a few years at the farthest must give an account of himself to God, I would bring to your view the balm that is in Gilead—not decorated with flowers; not mingled with human ingredients.
It is of the greatest importance for us to be clear and distinct in our views and apprehensions of revealed truth: for in proportion as we are so, our souls are, so to speak, in that frame, state, and attitude which the God of truth approves, and in which He will be with them, and bless them. Hence the deadly nature of error-deadly, when
wilful; and in all circumstances awfully injurious. Where this subject duly considered, many a dreamer and theorist would pause, before he committed to the public those volumes, which are probably to affect the religious character and the eternal condition of many immortal souls.
You may be rather surprised that I have not, in some part or other of my work, noticed or recommended to you any books. Various reasons have induced me not to do this: but I will here briefly observe, As to the Bible, follow the conduct of the “ blessed man,” as it is described in the second verse of the first Psalm. Next to the Bible, Esteem and study the Book of Common Prayer: there see the true tone and spirit of piety; wise, humble, dignified, and benevolent; decided, but discreet; fervent, but mild and charitable; sober and calm, but not temporising ; elevated, but attainable ; holy, but not morose and rigid; plain and simple, but not flat and insipid. I have enriched my pages with some of its Collects; I look upon them as ingots of the purest gold. I highly value the works of Archbishop Leighton, and those of Bishops Hall, Reynolds, and Hopkins. Many good volumes, both didactic and biographical, might be mentioned: but I leave you to your own taste and to the advice of judicious friends.
Finally, then, whatever you do, and whatever you read, my last and only request is, “REMEMBER