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WHEN any new Work is submitted to the notice of the Public, it seems to be justly expected, that the Author (more particularly if he be unknown in the literary world) should preface it by some short account of the nature of his undertaking, and the objects he has in view.
On the present occasion little need be said. The Work which now solicits the indulgence of the Reader has no claim to the charms of novelty, and even should its success far exceed the writer's very limited expectation, can aspire to no merit beyond that of humble usefulness.
It originated in a wish to be professionally and profitably engaged, and has contributed
to fill up the leisure hours of the writer, in the most agreeable manner, for he had the satisfaction of hoping such an employment of his time might possibly benefit others.
To avoid however the charge of presumption in thus endeavouring to instruct others, he does not scruple to confess that throughout the work he has been himself a learner.
It was undertaken in accordance with the principles he has ever been taught to cherish:—that a clergyman, when he takes upon himself the sacred duties of the ministry, becomes thereby pledged to devote his time, his thoughts, his best exertions, to promote, by every means within his power, the great cause of Christianity, and the welfare of the establishment to which he belongs; and that he who sleeps at his post commits sin.
To most Clergymen ample opportunities are afforded of fulfilling these important duties, by having entrusted to them, either in the capacity of Incumbent or Curate, the charge of a Christian flock. And where the parish is large and populous, no avocation can bring with it more engrossing cares.
In such cases the salvation of the immortal souls of thousands of their brethren
may depend upon them. How awful the thought! How awakening the responsibility!
Some few however there are to whom this observation does not apply. They are among the Clergy attached to our colleges and cathedrals. For them consequently a different line of duty seems to be chalked out. But though different, not less important and efficacious in advancing the great cause of truth, and promoting the eternal welfare of mankind.
It is theirs to devote their leisure hours to the study of the Sacred Volume, with the purpose of acquiring a critical knowledge of its contents, so that they may be prepared, on all proper occasions, to justify the doctrines and the discipline of the reformed Protestant Church, and thus to defend the
citadel of our common faith against attacks either from within, or from without.
Unhappily the sterling works on divinity of the last and preceding ages are less and less generally read, on account probably of their antiquated style and manner. It has, therefore, become necessary that the public should be supplied with a continual succession of fresh religious works, just as with books of every other description. And they to whom time and opportunity are given, surely are the persons who should endeavour to supply the want, and provide food for the religious mind, either by extending the bounds of our knowledge by original enquiries; or by drawing supplies from the rich streams of ancient learning, such as the works of our forefathers have abundantly supplied, adapting what is thence derived to the taste of the times, in the form of republications, abridgments, or commentaries.
So plentiful indeed are the stores which the labour of former ages has collected, that to find out any subject really new and un