« VorigeDoorgaan »
dimensions; I judged that by such an operation neither justice would be done to my subject, nor satisfaction given to the reasonable curiosity of my readers. Even in the largest however of these notices, I trust that I shall not be thought to have protracted the narrative to an undue length; since it has been my endeavour to limit myself in those instances to as narrow a compass as I considered consistent with the purpose of my undertaking.
The REFLEXIONS, which follow the Biographical Notices, are such as have offered themselves to my mind on a contemplation of the character of the individual Saint, or of the incidents in which the sacred history describes him to have been engaged. I hope that the connexion will appear sufficiently obvious: still more, that the two together will be found conducive to the promotion of a sound faith and a correspondent practice.
To this end prayer for the divine grace
is necessary. To the Notices therefore and the Reflexions, COLLECTS are subjoined, with reference to some of the leading topicks which will previously have been submitted to the thoughts of the reader. I have selected prayers from our Liturgy because I know no better; and because I think and feel, that the more thoroughly the contents of that Book are instilled into a Christian's mind, the more highly it will be prized, and the more excellent will be its effects.
The foregoing particulars formed the original plan of my undertaking. In the progress, or rather towards the end of it, a thought occurred, that a metrical sketch of some prominent idea, suggested by the previous narrative or reflexions, might give an interest to the work, and render it more useful by rendering it more agreeable. The little poems at the end of the different articles, if indeed the term be not misapplied to such effusions, were in consequence annexed. If they produce the de
sired effect, it is well: at all events they will occupy but a small portion of the time of the reader, as they occupy but little of the book; being each of them comprised within a few lines, unless it be two or three towards the close of the volume, which have been allowed to extend themselves to perhaps an undue length.
Before I conclude this Preface, I wish to make a remark upon a book, to which I have more than once adverted already, and with regard to which I would anticipate any misapprehension in the minds of my readers. I mean Mr. Nelson's "Companion for the Festivals," which I trust that I shall not be thought desirous of depreciating by the present attempt in a course not altogether dissimilar. Since the time of its publication in 1703, that book has enjoyed a circulation, second perhaps to none but the holy Scriptures and the Book of Common Prayer: and it has done during that period, and probably will continue to do, more good in its generation
than almost any other.
But the "cate
chetical form," into which the Author "chose to throw the whole subject of his papers, hoping thereby they might become more universally instructive," does not contribute to render them more alluring and agreeable his manner also may be deemed somewhat dry, and his style somewhat antiquated, by the more refined, perhaps the fastidious, taste of modern times. And I may be allowed to intimate a doubt, whether in some instances, by the curtailment and abridgment of his materials, he has not diminished the interest of his subject, and withheld from his readers desirable information: and whether in others he has not shewn himself less studious, than might have been wished, of discriminating duly between documents of different authority and value; and thus combined with the best authenticated and most probable history, and placed upon the same apparent footing with it, accounts, uncertain or spurious in their origin, and
in their substance erroneous, or at least open to much question and debate.
But whatever be the merits of Mr. Nelson's work, the greatly increased number of modern readers, as well as the alteration in the taste of the age, may well justify an undertaking, upon the same subject, though after a different manner: the rather as I am inclined to think, that the present undertaking keeps in a great degree clear of Mr. Nelson's, not in manner only, but in the biographical details, and still more in the reflexions. For whilst I have exercised my own judgment in my use of Dr. Cave's work, from which the historical matter in the "Companion for the Festivals" is principally taken, the subsequent researches and observations of Dr. Lardner have opened views, of which the Author of "the Companion" did not enjoy the benefit, but which must be esteemed of great importance towards exhibiting a satisfactory account of the lives of the Apo