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P R E F A C,E.
prevailed in many schools and families, of either suffering the Scriptures to be read by children in a promiscuous manner, or totally neglected, may be justly regarded as principal causes of the profaneness and libertinism of the age ; for (as an excellent author observes *) “ as soon as we lay aside the Sacred Writings, which are the only infallible guide of faith and practice, we must of necessity go wrong.-Our all-wise CREATOR would not have given them to us, if He had not known that we had need of their assistance ;” therefore, it is presumptuous to suppose we can educate youth properly without them; and it may justly be considered as an irreverent act, to make use of God's HOLY WORD with no farther end in view than the improvement of pupils in the art of reading.
Since it has pleased God of His infinite compassion to bless us with a book whose Divine contents are va. riously adapted to all ages and conditions of mankind; it is certainly the indispensable duty of parents and teachers to draw the attention of children to it as soon as possible.—Every part of early instruction ought to be held in subordination to the study of Religion.To excite in the minds of young children a desire of being made acquainted with the SCRIPTURES ought doubtless to be our first care, instead of making classical learning and accomplishments the only objects, as is too frequently the case; and as they advance in years, our next endeavour should be to instruct youth how to * See preface to Ostervald's Arguments. A 4
form their judgment, and settle their opinions by the ORACLES of Divine WISDOM. The neglecting to do 80 is a capital and fatal error.
It would be a very proper and pleasing exercise to young students, were they taught to examine the sentiments of such heathen authors as are usually put into their hands by the precepts of the gospel. -To compare the doctrines of our SAVIOUR and His Apostles with the systems of the most admired sages of antiquity.-To consider how far the examples of heroism and virtue, recorded in profáne history, are worthy of the imitation of Christians.
To understand what it has pleased the ALMIGHTY GOVERNOR to reveal concerning the wonderful dispensations of His providence in respect to nations and individuals and to form a proper estimate of the rea, wards of piety and righteousness held out by Christianity, when contrasted with the imperfect notions entertained on these important subjects by the most enlightened anong the heathen.
Were' à method of this kind pursued, I am confis dent it would be attended with the most beneficial effects ; youth would not be liable, as they now, are to imbibe heathen principles-their passions would be kept in due subjection--their conduct would most likely reflect honour on their instructors, and be productive of lasting happiness to themselves, and all with whom they are connected. They would be armed against the dangerous allurements of this world, and solicitous to prepare themselves for a better.
It must however be acknowledged, that these pura poses cannot be effectually answered merely by putting the Bible into the hands of young persons, without giving them proper directions for the perusal of it. Great care is required in selecting for them such parts of the Sacred Writings as are suited to the progressive
improvement of youth; and it was my experience of the inconveniences attending an indiscriminate use of the SCRIPTURES; when educating my own children, that first suggested to me the design of collecting together the historical parts, and writing an easy comment on them. In executing this plan I found, that without having recourse to the prophetic writings my work would be very imperfect, as the Prophets are, in many instances, the only Historians, and I fortunately met with a hint in the preface to Dr. Gregory Sharpe's second argument in defence of Christianity, which was very serviceable in pointing out the method, which is here adopted, of transposing chapters and verses, in order to make the historical and prophetical books explain each other. by the mere force of series and connexion.
A completo arrangement of the SCRIPTURES in this way is not practicable, because the times in which some of the SACRED ORACLES: were written cannot be exactly ascertained; neither will it be possible to understand others, till the consummation of all things shall have brought to pass the events, to which they will then be found to relate : however, it must, in the mean time, be very satisfactory, and a great confirmation of the truth of the inspired writings, to observe the completion of such numerous predictions, as an ata tentive mind will easily perceive, even in the circumscribed limits of the following volumes. There appears to
me one very material inducement for a more particular attention to the Prophecies than it is usual for the generality of Christians to give ; which is, that they alone unfold the councils of Divine wisdom in respect to NATIONS : and explain for what causes God ipflicts national judgments, and on what
conditions He averts them--particulars which it is the
Tament, in general, is frequently neglected, even by