« PreviousContinue »
the sentiment that he would be unworthy of the knowledge received, did he not attempt to place it within the reach of such of his countrymen, of different denominations, as have not leisure for literary researches.
In the address prefixed to the first edition of "the Epitome,” it was stated, that the com. mercial spirit of the nation, had been little di. minished by the numerous obstacles which had been opposed to it; that in the year 1810, exports of British produce and manufactures, amounted to upwards of thirty-five millions sterling; and that in making provision for that purpose, tens of thousands of persons, must be so much engaged in manual and mercantile occupations, as to preclude any other object of pursuit requi. ring much time and attention. Principally on ac. count of persons of this description, the plan of the following work was devised.
Leaving uncertain and doubtful hypotheses, to those who have leisure for scientific researches, these volumes aim at simplicity and perspicuity; in order that the information selected and con. reyed in them may not prove a tax on the time, ovey of the most busy; but, on the contrary, may furnish them with a highly interesting gratifoation,
The views of the Compiler in the first instance, were confined to the class of individuals, just defined; but in the prosecution of the design, his views extended to the rising generation; and particularly to the seminaries for their tuition.
The extraordinary and very laudable exertions made for some years past, to provide the means of instruction for the lowest orders of society, by placing the first necessary elements of education within the reach of all, greatly increased the number of persons who could read the Scriptures. Whilst the civilization and improvement of the most abject class of the community, was thus speedily advancing, an Institution sprung up, as if to second these measures, which is perhaps the most remarkable that has been presented to the contemplation of man, in any age of the world; whether we consider the grandeur of its object, the comprehensiveness of its plan, or the rapidity of its progress.
The British and Foreign Bible Society was formed, not only to furnish the Scriptures in the different languages of the Island, to all persons capable of reading them ; but to effect translations of the sacred writings, and diffuse them throughout every habitable region of the globe. The dignity, philanthropy, and active zeal of an Institution, so sublime, is adapted, like the sun in its progress, to enlighten the darkest corners of the world, and to cheer with its benign influence, the most abject of its inhabitants.
Here it may be remarked, that the exertions in India, prior to the establishment of the Bible Society, and in co-operation with that Institution, since it was set on foot, for the translation of the Scriptures into various languages of the East, have been truly extraordinary.
To ascertain the state of the religious education of young persons, in this country of the middle class, the Compiler has taken a view of the provisions made for that purpose, by various societies of Protestant Dissenters. Their institutions being on a smaller scale than that of the Church of En. gland, it was imagined they would admit of a closer, and more individual attention to this important object.
It is well known that most denominations of Christians, have drawn up articles of their faith, to make the world acquainted with their ideas on certain doctrinal points; and by entering into controversial disquisitions, have given proof of their zeal in the support of favourite tenets. Some of them have instituted catechetical means of in- ! ducing their children to commit to memory, the principles of their creed, as well as the most important events recorded in the Old and New
Testaments; and some have superadded memorials of individuals of their persuasion, whose lives and experiences were likely to be instructive.
But few of them, in their collective capacities, appear to have paid so much attention to the interesting subject of religious education, as to take care that those of their societies, who have not the opportunity of academical instruction, should be made acquainted with the history of the Provi. dences of God, as deducible from the wondrous events of sacred writ.
When it is considered that persons of the class just described, form a great proportion of the population of this country, there appears to be much occasion, in schools, for the establishment of a course of reading, that will illustrate the scriptưa ral accounts, of the varied dispensations of Infinite Wisdom and Goodness, throughout succes sive ages. Thus in the moral government of the world, that display of Omnipotence may be evin: ced, by which the wrath, and even the contentions of men, have been made subservient to the graciaous designs of Divine prescience and mercy. A
* To the eredit of Scotland, it ought to be mentioned, that the esta tablishment of a free-school in every parish, is a branch of the ecclesi. astical constitution of the country; and this plan brings the means of instruction within the reach of the poorest; inducing babius of decency, industry and order.
survey thus taken, of the foundations which from age to age, have been laying for the marvellous superstructure of the Gospel, will be likely to promote a confidence in their security and permanency; and those incidents, which by sceptics and infidels have been made an occasion of objection to the Scriptures, may be seen in such a point of view as to confirm and establish the authority of the sacred records.
It might be of considerable service to the finishing of education, were every religious society to furnish a well selected library, to schools taught by persons of their respective persuasion, and to encourage teachers to promote a course of reading, by which their pupils might not only obtain information of the elements of general knowledge, but acquire amiable, awful, and sublime ideas of the Supreme Being. The Bishop of Llandaff justly observes, in his Theological Tracts : “ The dispensations of an All-wise Providence are inten. ded for our contemplation : and it is a singular advantage to form a right understanding of them ; because they will tincture our conceptions of God, and influence our dispositions towards Him. If we judge truly of his works, we shall have delightful and lovely ideas of the workman. His wisdom, his goodness, and truth will conspicuously appear;