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PREFACE.

MOST of the religious discussions of the present time relate mainly to external forms and developments. In our zeal for ecclesiastical matters, we are in some danger of omitting the more weighty matters of law and gospel. Not that the former are without their importance, but that their importance is secondary to the internal and more spiritual doctrines of the Christian religion. These doctrines are the basis of all true piety. No piety can be thoroughly right, that is not founded upon them; neither can any be essentially wrong, that is founded upon them,-whatever be the ecclesiastical organization.

The sovereign remedy for the evils that infest and threaten both church and state, is to be found in the vital doctrines of Christianity. Let these be allowed, from any cause, to pass out of the public mind, and in vain shall we "weary ourselves to find the way" to safety and repose. All experimental religion will soon be lost in the wild frenzies of fanaticism, on the one hand, and the cold formalities of infidelity, on the other; and both church and state will lose their chartered privileges and glories.

The cause of the evils which we suffer in our Zion and our country, at the present time, lies deeper than most imagine. It is the want of that intelligent, deeptoned, experimental piety, which results from early and intimate communion with the Christian doctrines. Let the minds of our children be brought under the power of these doctrines, and all our dearest interests will be ultimately saved ;-let them fail of this, and all will be ultimately lost.

Without meaning to be querulous, or doubting the general progress of the world in wisdom and virtue, we ought to complain a little of the habits in which we are training our children. Much as they read, they do not study, as they ought, books of thorough elemental instruction in the doctrines of Christianity. Their feeble minds are overrun with ten thousand stories, and one phantom after another flits over their dawning imaginations, until every thing like distinct and well defined lines of instruction are nearly effaced. They read too much, and study and think too little. They read for the story, and not for the instruction; for the gratification, and not for the profit. If nine-tenths of the story-books were taken out of their hands, and books requiring to be studied were substituted, a most happy change would soon appear in the character of the rising mind. Not that all light and fancy reading should be dispensed with, but that it should bear a far less proportion to the whole, and be far more select.

Although the press is perpetually teeming with books, there yet seems to be wanting a comprehensive manual of religious instruction, neither so voluminous

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as our tomes of learned theology on the one hand, nor yet a mere dry statement of doctrines on the other-a book at once exhibiting a faithful skeleton of Christian. doctrines and clothing them with something of their appropriate flesh and life to render them effective. Such is the object of this little volume; and should it be realized, in any humble degree, the author will be laid under renewed obligation of gratitude.

These chapters were a series of discourses delivered on successive sabbath mornings in the Bowdoin-street Church, and are published precisely as they were delivered, only substituting chapter for discourse, and removing the text. As Christian truth is addressed to the heart as well as the intellect, it has been thought best, on the whole, to retain the language of appeal and impression somewhat peculiar to the pulpit, instead of reducing the sentiments to the more philosophical and less impressive style of the essay.

Every doctrine here maintained rests for its basis on no human speculations, but on the plain and obvious teachings of the Bible. This is not the place for refined philological disquisitions, much less for noticing the ingenious and forced renderings with which men have attempted to evade these doctrines. A book of instruction from God to men must be in the current language of men, so that the most natural and obvious meaning must be the real meaning. And such, appealing to enlightened common sense, is the import of those scriptures on which we rely for the proof of these doctrines.

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The author was absent while a portion of the book was printed, and a few slight errors escaped the vigilance of the press; the most serious of which is page 343, third line from the top, where we should read views of sin, instead of ruins of sin.

The inspiration of the Scriptures and the Trinity of the Godhead are here assumed, having been discussed by the author in previous works. Hoping that this very humble and imperfect exhibition of very great and perfect truths may assist in guiding some souls into the way of life, the author, with great deference, and with unfeigned gratitude for the favorable reception of previous works, commits it to the Christian public.

H. W.

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