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BELIEVING that a sound religious education can be laid on no other basis than an intelligent knowledge of the Bible, and specially an intimate acquaintance with the Life of Christ, I have in the ensuing pages endeavoured to present in a readable form such information as seemed most fitted to lead the young to, and aid them in, the study of the Scriptures, particularly those of the New Testament. The contents will speak for themselves; but I may be excused if I add one or two remarks. My convictions and my feelings have led me to make Jesus Christ the central figure of this manual, as he is the central figure of the Bible. I hope the reader, whatever his age, may have as much pleasure in the perusal of the outline of that Life here offered to him, as I had in drawing it up. That Life makes no pretensions to completeness. It is sketches only that I have here attempted. Should the work meet with acceptance, something more systematic may in time be undertaken; for I may state that I am desirous, should health and strength be given, to prepare one or two other manuals which may supply what appears to me a want, and assist Parents, Ministers, and Teachers, in the most important of all human undertakings, namely, the Religious Education of the Young.
In regard to the outline of the Life of our Lord, I must also observe that, believing as I do that • A Harmony of the accounts supplied by the four evangelists is, in the strict sense of the term Harmony, a result which has hitherto failed to reward the most learned and the most judicious scholars, and doubting whether such a result is within the bounds of possibility, I should be sorry were the connected view here presented to lead any one to attach to my or any other known arrangement of the evangelical materials, an authority which does not belong to it. At
the same time, this sketch may serve to show that in substance the Life of Christ is found in the Gospels. May the spirit and power' of that Life be transfused into the reader's soul!
In preparing this work, I have constantly had in my mind objections put forward against the historical certainty and divine origin of Christianity, and I have drawn forth from the facts passed under review such remarks as they seemed naturally to offer, tending to put the attentive reader in a proper position for attaining the truth. The book, in consequence, contains many considerations which appear to me to combine in vindicating the historical credibility of the Gospel, as well as its divine origin and unsurpassable worth. Of some value in this respect is the Chronology followed in these pages, since it affords a trustworthy line on which may be strung the leading events of the life of our Lord, in a way which, though not free from difficulty, is yet of a nature to prove that the alleged facts were a series of connected realities. Realities of an intellectual, moral, and spiritual kind, realities of the highest order, abound to overflowing in the life of Jesus. These realities are in all instances impressed with two features, the human and the divine. They form the golden link which connects Man with God and the Christian with Christ. They are bonds of intimate union, because bonds of affinity. They are not so much arguments as felt assurances of the divine origin of the Gospel. These, I trust, appear in some prominence in the following pages ; and there are a few which, being of a very striking description, have received special attention, and are earnestly recommended to the reader's notice. The whole book, however, if it is fit for its purpose, ought to speak for Christ; and unless good judges shall determine that it is calculated to encourage a lively and practical, as well as a reasonable faith, I sincerely hope that it will at once sink into oblivion.
As my great aim is to assist the Young in their scriptural studies, so that aim will be promoted in the degree in which parents and tutors lead their pupils to the pages of the Bible itself; and I may not speak in vain if I venture to suggest, that while all the passages referred to should be looked out and carefully read by the scholar, so the portions of the Gospels on which the narrative in the Life of Christ is founded should be consecutively read and studied, as the pupil proceeds page by page
through the book. Nor can the good I contemplate be secured unless the perusal of the book is accompanied by a constant study of suitable Maps,-by reference in every case to a Map, in order to find the places mentioned,– by a never-failing use of a good Dictionary, as a means of teaching the proper import of words,--and by explanations and examinations of such a nature as may adapt the matter to the capacity of the scholar, and fix it in clear and deep impressions indelibly on his mind. These several processes may with younger children need to be carefully repeated. Repetition is indispensable in communicating knowledge. My sense of its value would have been made more manifest than it is in the pages which follow, had I not felt how important it was to avoid length; for, however it may be in other matters, in education, certainly, “a great book is a
I must not commend the reader to God and the word of his grace' (Acts xx. 32) till I have reminded him that, whether for young or old, any course of education is lamentably, not to say fatally deficient, which does not make the culture of the deyotional affections, and the formation and strengthening of Christian principles, an object to be begun at the first and to be continued to the last. May the Great Father of Lights crown your efforts, my fellow-teachers, and mine, with large and growing success! Ours is a happy and a noble task. I offer you my congratulations, and solicit your kind consideration towards this humble effort to promote what appears to me that 'reasonable service' which God demands and which it is man's first duty to pay.
JOHN R. BEARD.