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compiler, or of the volume itself, except what may be indicated by its title.
Such short daily readings as this book contains, have always been much valued by Christians. They have found them, like the Divine Word which they profess to illustrate, to be “profitable for doctrine, reproof, conviction, and instruction in righteousness.” The words may be few, yet if they are well chosen ; the sentence may be brief, yet if it is weighty; holy impressions may thereby be made on the heart, and an effect produced, which may last and tell for ever upon the spiritual life. There are sights in nature which having suddenly photographed themselves upon the memory, become pictures within the soul, to delight the fancy as long as time lasts. It may be a gleam of sunshine revealing an Alpine peak like an alabaster throne amidst the clouds; or the light of sunset, which having left the valley, is still reflected in resplendent tints of ruby and amethyst from the aiguilles and icy pinnacles of the upper mountain-world:
-orit may be a more common scene,
such as a group of ferns and wild flowers, with rocks and heather, by the margin of a lovely Highland stream ; yet these, and a thousand other pictures of glory or of beauty from God's fair world, though beheld but for a moment, remain for ever a presence to "the inner eye.” It is thus that the smallest trifles may excite the most vivid emotions :
“A subtile swell which Spring unbinds,-
But much more influential,-of incomparably greater importance,-is the presence of one good thought or great spiritual truth brought home to the memory and conscience. There are times indeed when the words are heard, while the truth which they express is not realized; when it seems to lie on the spirit, but does not enter into, possess it, and become a part of itself. But there are other times, when the very same truth, long known and long familiar, but dead is suddenly quickened into life, and thenceforward becomes an holy and lasting power within the soul. The soul did not seem prepared to receive it sooner. The soil was not in a state to receive the seed. That “fulness of time” had not yet arrived when this particular truth could be appreciated. But how often and how suddenly does a sharp affliction or great temptation, some brooding anxiety or peculiar perplexity, prepare us to accept to-day with deepest thankfulness a word of spiritual comfort or direction, which yesterday would have been rejected with indifference! The short sentence which was then considered useless, now becomes invaluable, and saves the life, like one of those trifles in the soldier's dress, which deflects a ball from its path to his heart. It is in seasons like these critical moments in our history, which any day may produce, and any year multiply, that the “Word spoken in season” is felt to be so “good,” and to be as a very message to us from the living God.
The readers of the life of Edward Irving, for example, will remember the lasting effects produced in the spiritual history of a poor sick lad, to whom, during the few seconds given him before starting by coach at early morn, he uttered these words only, “God loves you !” One of the noblest men, and most distinguished Preachers on the Continent, dead, stated that the current of his life had been turned into a new direction, by a remark made to him in the streets of Naples by a Christian layman, who still lives. I have at this moment a very vivid and grateful remembrance of a few words spoken and heard in peculiar circumstances, many years ago, in a small town in South Germany. I was watching, long past mid-night, beside the dying bed of a beloved friend. It was the depth of winter. Without, the snow was falling softly, with ever and anon low wailing sounds from the frosty winds. Within, there was much to perplex and to cast down. Suddenly, above the wind, arose the cry of the German watchman, who-after an old custom which lingers only in remote localities—announced the hours in a musical cadence, in a rude rhyme expressing some Christian truth. On this occasion (about three in the morning) it was a cry to put our trust “in the Divine Three;" for after the darkest night there came the break of day. I thanked God, and took courage.
I pray that many souls may thus derive strength and comfort from this little book, read in their hours of daily devotions, or in those moments of quiet which the busiest may secure, when journeying by sea or land, or amidst the stir and turmoil of the great city. This I know to be the one desire of my much respected friend who has collected the extracts here published.
NORMAN MACLEOD, D.D.
Glasgow, Dec. 24th, 1862.