« PreviousContinue »
called a Family Bible, is not, after all, a family book, in the sense of a manual from which a father or master may read and expound to his domestic circle. From its very form, it is rather calculated for reference in solitary study; and is, in fact, more frequently consulted by the members of a family individually, than used as the family lecture-book.
Such at least has been the result of my own observation; and to provide the sort of book which in this point of view is needed, is accordingly one object which I have contemplated. The following work is, in substance and in form, a series of Readings from the New Testament, such as it has probably been required of many, besides clergymen and catechists, to give, either continuously, or on some occasional need: and if its publication shall facilitate the performance of this duty for any so circumstanced, a very important purpose will have been accomplished.
To have attempted to render such a book alike suited, without change, to the various capacities of all missionary congregations, as well as of all the members of a family party, composed as it often is of adults, juniors, and mere children, of the educated and the ignorant, would have been plainly fruitless. My plan has been, to abstain from all such comment (except in a few short notes) as it would require acquaintance with the original Greek to understand; without always supposing those addressed to be entire strangers to a liberal education. It is the catechist's and family man's lecture-book; and they will, it is hoped, always find the matter disposed of, in a form very easy to be transferred, if needful, to homelier language, and otherwise levelled to the understandings of the weak and ignorant.
Occasional deviation from the manual is indeed an exercise, which I should be as unwilling to prevent, if it were practicable, in the family lecturer's case, as in the catechist's.
It is a part of his duty, which may and ought to be rendered easy, but never superseded. Christianity is thoroughly a social religion; and for one who is reading the Bible for the benefit of a circle of friends to give a social character to his task, he must occasionally say something that is his own; he must vary or follow up the remarks of his manual, and express his assent or dissent to the views which it suggests. He must do more-he must encourage and invite others to contribute their share of remark, to ask for further explanation of what is not understood, and freely to communicate their own suggestions and impressions.
The practice is immensely important. This religious intercourse is not only, it should be remembered, the discharge of a duty which each individual owes to God; but is a principle of domestic union, which divine goodness has superadded to the ties of nature and of worldly pursuit; and has added, we may
hope, for the express purpose of uniting a family as such for ever. When the ordinary course of society, not to mention the ruder mischances of fortune, has dispersed, after a few years of union, the party which assembled round the father's fire side, what is the natural fate of early affection, kindred pursuits, and all that mingles in the spell of home? If as children of this world only we have been united, the bond of union may be more or less delightful, may be more or less lasting, but it must yield to this world's decaying influence. Do we wish to rivet it for ever? Do we wish to carry it on to a period, when we shall be "as the angels which are in heaven?" We must begin, in an earthly home, the intercourse of angels; and, by exercising together a common faith and a common hope, prepare to enjoy together a common heaven.