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“Christ ought to be the First Friend in every household.”—Zschokke.
THE “Stunden der Andacht" (Devotional Meditations), whence the following essays are taken, is a voluminous work of a practically religious kind, published by the celebrated Swiss statesman and philanthropist, Heinrich Zschokke, in the early part of this century, when political convulsions had shaken society in its foundations. His object was to lift up the courage of the nations of Europe, by replacing faith on its own sure and immoveable basis. This object he thought could be best secured by the rekindling of the domestic altar and the revival of religion at home. With this view he issued every week one of his "Devotional Meditations,” having a direct bearing on some duty of private or social life, as conceived of in the light of Christian “faith, hope, and charity." The aim and tendency of the effort may be learnt from a few words taken from his Preface: “Christ ought to be the First Friend in every household.” Continued for several successive years, and obtaining an immense circulation, the work grew to be a great power in society. After having passed through numerous editions, it is still in demand. Already had two small volumes of extracts appeared in this country, when the demise of the late excellent Prince Consort gave occasion to the appearance in the English tongue of other portions of its ample treasures. The work was a favourite with his Royal Highness. It was the manual of religious instruction read in the royal family circle. As if he had had a presentiment of his early death, the Prince latterly selected for reading some of the meditations which had special relation to “Death and Eternity.” After that sad event the book became more than ever endeared to her Majesty, who solaced herself by making a
selection of the essays she preferred. These, when translated, she first circulated privately, and then allowed them to be given to the public, stating that “they had been selected by one to whom in deep and overwhelming sorrow they had proved a source of comfort and edification."
The liberal, practical, and eminently pious tone of thought, which characterises the volume which has issued from the palace, marks the entire work. That volume is confined to “Death and Eternity.” Its author never sundered death from life, nor eternity from time. With him the two were one-death a momentary pause in man's movement in time on to eternity. The royal volume in consequence needs its antecedent. Accordingly, the present one presents Truth, Duty, and Hope in their Christian aspects, bearings, and issues, especially as seen in the family circle.
Regard to some completeness in the circle of the thought has occasioned the insertion (in a new translation) in this Hand-Book of four of the essays which form part of “The Queen's Volume.”
The Prayers appended to the meditations come from the pen of the Editor, who is also answerable for the selection of the accompanying poetical illustrations.
"Absorbed in thought, I sat one evening in the year 1807 alone in my study. Before me lay a heap of newspapers which had made me sad. It was a time of great general suffering in Europe, and the bewildered nations, panting for consolation, sought it everywhere in a sudden revival of external piety-in masses, processions, pilgrimages, sermons, and revival meetings. Never, as it seemed to me, had the multitudes of the oppressed thirsted more ardently after that strength and peace of soul which religion alone affords; and never, therefore, had they appeared better prepared for return to the inner Holy of Holies of a genuine spiritual Christianity. "Why,' I exclaimed to myself, 'why does
not some voice, mighty as one inspired, utter that call which would now be so blessed to thousands ? And then the thought arose, “Why dost thou not venture, if others will not speak ?' The question startled me, as if it had come from a higher source. That no might as of inspiration was at my command, I knew well, yet was I powerfully attracted by the thought of a new sphere of wide, and, as I hoped, beneficial activity. I knew the nation and its needs. Many a word of mine on other topics and occasions had been heard, and had borne good fruit. But now the task was the re-awakening of religious vitality in the public mind, the development of a real, from the husk of a formal, Christianity. It might be mine to restore the simplicity, the resignation, the lofty mindedness of primitive Christianity to many a now desolate heart. In the silent conflict of thought I weighed the difficulties of my undertaking. It was not easy to become, in the households both of the poor and the rich, the friend and consoler of the doubting and the believing; to satisfy both the inquirer and the believer by force of reasoning and warmth of eloquence. And if a true and active yearning after self-reformation and self-sanctification was to be extensively awakened among various nations, then neither the life and labours of the Redeemer of a redemptionneeding world, nor the immediate revelations of God to the individual conscience, nor the secret movements of the soul within itself, must be neglected as sources of light. Yet, in order not to kindle the jealous hostility of opposing sects and churches, it was necessary either quite to pass over or to touch lightly their disputed points. But then I was a layman. What else was Christ ?
At last I resolved to communicate to the families of Switzerland the religious ideas which had been the result of my experience since childhood.”