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When I say “ continual use,” you will perceive I am venturesome enough to suppose that this Book, which is chiefly a compilation from standard authors, will not altogether share the fate of very many publications of the day ;—be just glanced at, and then thrown aside. Judging from the importance of the two-fold subject here treated of, and from the value of the principal part of my materials, I can almost hope that it will out-live some of its fugitive contemporaries ; that you will give it an abiding residence upon the table, or shelf, nearest you; that you will often ponder, with care, a few of its most favourite pages; in short, that it will be to you, what it calls itself, a Manual.
Upon two such subjects, the importance of which is coeval with the existence of mankind, it seemed next to impossible for me to say any thing original. My desire, therefore, in making this little compilation, has been, that you should learn, as I have myself delighted to learn, from some of the wisest among the sons of men ;—and their lessons, I feel, could not be better expressed than in their own language.
Yet neither do I wish, by thus offering Extracts and Abbreviations, to entice you away from consult. ing their original and entire works. You have here, indeed, some of the sentiments and models best calculated to impress upon the heart the value of Time, and the blessing of a well-ordered Temper. But, fully to appreciate the characters and the excellent reflections of the different authors cited, it would be advisable for you to read their lives throughout, together with some of their writings. Perhaps these brief specimens may stimulate your inclination to do so: but when you shall have fully satiated your minds with these longer works, and when growing occupations shall begin to engross your time, you may still, afterwards, return with an increased relish to these selected portions; the value of which you will the better understand, from having surveyed their Lives and Writings on a larger scale. They will thus serve you to begin with in early youth, and to recur to in later life.
That you will thus return, I venture to predict for you; because my own experience has so led me, during a period of more than twenty years. After reading several of the writings alluded to, my mind now often reposes on these brief Extracts ; feeling more than ever their practical use, as calculated to leave a permanently healthful and pleasing influence upon the heart.
It may be desirable that I should cursorily touch on the different selections here set before you; explaining the tendency of each, and giving some idea why each portion was offered.
First of all, you will not fail to remark, that, in the opening section, precedence is given to passages selected from the Holy SCRIPTURES ; for there the truest rules are found, and yet the simplest. There, too, are the strongest exhibitions of character, both for illustration and for contrast, to imitate or to shun ; teaching the great duties of redeeming the Time, and of controlling, purifying and invigorating the Temper.
Some occasional Remarks are added to a few of the selected Verses. Excepting whatever is acknowledged as coming from other sources, I am answerable for these reflections; which I beg you to consider as the flowing forth of my heart towards yours; expressing what I have felt to be useful in my own experience, and what, therefore, I imagine may be profitable to you for your thoughts and words and actions.
As your real friend, I would earnestly entreat you to make this Best of Books, whole and entire, your inseparable counsellor and guide through life. Read it, comparing passage with passage, character with
character: pray over it: seek for grace, to enable you to apply it to your own case. Let no idle jest, no profane example, ever pluck from your heart this rooted conviction—that, when Time itself is ended, and when the real Temper of your inmost soul comes to be tried at the bar of Eternal Truth, you will then feel solid peace from having made a constant and faithful use of the Bible. Adopt the words of the devout Psalmist—Thy testimonies are my delight, and my MEN OP COUNSEL. Thy testimonies have I chosen, as mine heritage for ever: and why? They are THE VERY JOY OF MY HEART.
After these passages from the Inspired Volume, you will see brought to your notice one of the greatest and humblest characters in our Protestant history, RICHARD HOOKER. He comes first in the order of time; according to which all the selections are arranged: but he might, on other accounts, be deemed worthy to stand foremost. Not to speak of his vast erudition in ecclesiastical subjects, that which makes him for ever worthy to be studied and imitated is, his temper in conducting controversies. He was, truly, the Meek Controversialist : qualities were combined in him, which are generally supposed to be contrary to each other. But this rare union arose from the
great grace, the good education, and various discipline, which he received.
His Master "carried him through every class in the school of divine wisdom. He was, as a youth, inured to outward hardships ; trained to the most exact conscientiousness, and disciplined in regular close collegiate studies. In his domestic and private life, he was most grievously harassed, yet marvellously befriended : in his view of Church Controversies, he ingenuously confesses himself persuaded of the piety and sincerity of his opponents. Moreover, as a Controversialist, he was largely acquainted with all divine and human knowledge, bearing upon his subject: he did not write from theory or conjecture, but from a large acquaintance with the lights of Revelation, the maxims of Philosophy, and the experiments of History. He is therefore styled, the “ Judicious” Hooker: and if any one should grudge him so eminent a title, yet all may justly be emulous of his sanctity and meekness.
From the Essays of Lord Bacon you have much to learn. They will not, however, generally speaking, be fully intelligible, nor duly appreciated, in very early life ; but, subsequently, you will discover in them more wisdom, the more they are perused. Specimens are given, touching upon both the subjects of