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THIS work has been undertaken by the advice, and carried on under the superintendance, of a learned and well-known clergyman of the Church of England. He thought it very desirable that some one should put into such simple words as could be easily understood by the uneducated, the substance of those comments on scripture which are to be found in many excellent works, in themselves too learned and too bulky for such readers. He thought that a lady who had lived much with her children, and had some experience in cottage-visiting, was better qualified for such a work than a classically-educated man, who would find it more difficult to translate his ideas into perfectly simple words. He confided the work to me, and I have executed it to the best of my power, freely taking from every author I knew, who had explained and enforced the gospel of Christ. Jeremy Taylor, Scott, Matthew Henry, Fleetwood, Leighton, Milner, Trench, Olshausen, and Robinson's Biblical Researches, and many others, have furnished the substance of this Simple Commentary; to which have been added those domestic illustrations which experience has shewn make difficult truths to be easily understood and long remembered. This also was by the advice of the projector of the work, who at the
same time wished me, as much as possible, to convey a vivid interest to what is but too often heard as an often-told tale, by giving some description of the scenes in which the earthly life of our Lord was passed. This was a hard task, and I wish I could have found words that would have given to others the beautiful pictures with which such reading filled my own mind; but this I have not been able to do: I can but refer others to the books I have mentioned. They will find in them a rich treasury. I need not say that every grace of style has been sacrificed to the necessity of being perfectly clear, and easy to be understood. The hope that these "Bible Readings" may, by the goodness of God, be so blessed by Him as to bring the life and death of His dear Son our Lord, home to the understanding of some of His uneducated children, has made the labour of this work as delightful as it is interesting. And I commit it in faith to Him who can do great things by the simplest means.
That I do all that in me lies to forward the purpose for which this book is written, I venture to address a few lines to the ladies of those families in which this Simple Commentary may be adopted for family reading. To each of them I would say, if she would once in the week question her younger maidservants in the manner indicated at the end of the volume, she will find that the reading at morning prayers will be no longer what it too usually is, a mere roll-call of her domestics, but that it will be remembered and understood with a thankful appreciation both of its meaning and of her kindness.
I received a lesson on this subject some years ago, which I
trust I shall never forget. We were residing for a short time in the neighbourhood of one of our English watering-places, and it was not long before some of our poor neighbours became known to us. Among other cottages on the common where our house stood, one was pointed out to us as a place to avoid. The reputation of the women, a mother and her daughters, who lived there, was such, that we felt it would be altogether improper to enter it.
For many weeks we past the cottage with feelings of fear, pity, and disgust.
One day, it was told me that in it there was a young girl dying. This made a sad impression. To be dying in such a place was, in all probability, to be in want of all things. We determined to let the clergyman of the parish know, and also that I should myself go immediately. I was much alarmed at the idea, but no time was to be lost.
At the entrance of the cottage I met the mother, who seemed at once to understand why I came; for, without a word, she opened the door of the room where her daughter lay, reclining in an arm-chair, propped up with pillows. How different from what I expected! her countenance indeed shewed both suffering and sorrow; but there was a holy peace, a gentle composure there, that could have no source but one. The modest neatness of her whole appearance was in striking contrast to every person and every thing around her. I was so much surprized, that I scarcely knew how to express my desire to help her. She thanked me with much feeling, and said she would be very grateful if I would sometimes visit her during the short time that remained to her; but she added, "I need nothing. The kindness of God has given me more than I