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thou risest up; that the generation to come might know them, even the children who should be born, who should arise and declare them to their children, that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments."
The Gospel, which brings life and immortality to light, has also brought down the most awful and the most beautiful forms of moral, no less than of religious, truth, to equalise and bless the humblest station in society; so that the lowliest peasant may look with understanding spirit on the sacred record of all that concerns man's highest destiny. That a knowledge of the rudiments of true religion should, therefore, be placed within the reach, and pressed upon the acceptance, of all, is an object towards which good men must look with hope, and press with ardour. This is the true national boon by which the state should seek to elevate, and gladden, and improve, every one of its children. The discipline of virtue, or else of slavery, can alone restrain the minds and the hands of men from disorder and excess it is for us to choose the better part, and act upon the choice. At a time, then, when so much is done to imbue the minds of the many with every variety of information, except the most important and most useful of any, let it be remembered that all other knowledges, without religion, are
powers indeed, but only powers of mischief; that godliness, with contentment, is great gain, but such knowledge as breeds strife and discontent is only evil, and whoso increaseth it verifies the saying of the Eastern sage, and increaseth sorrow. Even the power of reading is good or evil to the possessor according to its application. If we teach the eye to do the office of the ear, we confer, as it were, a new sense upon the individual taught, but it is our further duty to present to that sense such objects only as it is really desirable the person should be acquainted with; and the best and safest guide, indeed the only one indispensable to man, is the Book of the Revelation of the Will of God, respecting our present conduct and our future destiny.
In this belief, in the hope of furthering this object, the present work has been compiled. It is intended as a manual of elementary religious knowledge. From a conviction that catechetical instruction is indispensable in teaching the principles, or rudiments, of Christianity, the Church Catechism is prefixed. It contains a short and simple body of sound practical divinity, which, if every man and every woman in England really knew, not, indeed, by rote merely, but in their understanding and their heart, England would be a far holier and far happier country than England is. There is yet another reason, from authority,
for prefixing it. The narratives of the Evangelists are evidently addressed to persons not wholly unacquainted with the life and doctrines of Christ. They are avowedly given as sacred records of facts and precepts by which professing Christians are to test and prove the truth and purity of the doctrines in which they have been previously instructed. This method seems as natural and as necessary in teaching now, the time of the primitive church. No sane person, seeking to communicate to another a saving knowledge of the doctrines and requirements of Christianity, would put a Bible into his hands, and bid him puzzle out his religion for himself. Instead of this, he teaches, in the simplest form he can, the great essentials of Christian belief and practice, and then sends him to "search the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things be so." This seems to be the proper and only legitimate use of the Sacred Volume, as a rule of faith, to those who, without attempting to sound the profounder depths of Christianity, seek only to know what things are necessary to everlasting salvation. It is for the use of such persons, and of the young, that this little compilation is principally intended. A thorough knowledge of the Church Catechism being once attained, the scriptural authority for all that it contains will be found in the subsequent part of the book; and
whosoever knows even thus much perfectly, is acquainted with the faith and practice which constitute Christianity.
But even to somewhat more advanced Christians; to those who, following the apostolic precept, have already gone on somewhat farther towards perfection, it is humbly hoped that this work may, under the Divine blessing, be found not quite without some value and advantage. It may refresh their memory, or simplify their knowledge: it may induce them to sift and examine the Gospels themselves more narrowly, to see how the single narrative is woyen out of the four; or, finally, it may sometimes answer yet another and important purpose, which an example will best explain.
The Evangelists all record the superscription which Pilate caused to be written up, over the cross whereon Christ was crucified. But there are verbal differences in their statements of the precise words. This has been a favourite stumbling-block with cavillers. How, say they, could inspired penmen differ in transcribing the written words of an inscription? But how easy and natural is the reconcilement of the alleged discrepancy! We turn to St. Luke's Gospel, or to St. John's, and there we learn that the superscription was written in Greek, and in Latin, and in Hebrew. We know, from internal
evidence, and from the ecclesiastical history of the time, that St. Matthew addressed himself specially to the Hebrews, and composed his Gospel originally in their own tongue; he, therefore, would naturally adopt the Hebrew form of the inscription on the cross. St. Mark, again, wrote chiefly for the instruction of the Roman converts, as St. Luke and St. John did for the Grecian. Combining these familiar facts together, we bring out the simple statement embodied in the following narrative in these words:
"And the writing was in letters of Greek, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE King of THE JEWS; and Latin, THe King of THE JEWS; and Hebrew, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE Jews."
This statement, in which, without adding or changing a syllable, nothing more is done than harmonising the several accounts of the different Evangelists into one continued account, presents no difficulty or seeming contradiction. It is so in many other cases, where any one of the Gospels, taken singly, contains some apparent obscurity or indistinctness. And this should teach us to be patient of the Scriptures, that so we may attain to comfort, and hold fast our hope.
And here it is to be remarked, in the way of general explanation, that the moral precepts of Holy Scripture are often conveyed in terms so seemingly at variance with one another as to