A slight glance at the contents of this volume will convey an idea of its character and design. It is intended to be, not so much a systematic treatise of theology, as the companion, in his hours of devotional, meditative retirement, of the experienced and spiritual Christian. The truths which it contains, and the style in which they are presented, are perhaps more adapted to those peculiar seasons in the Christian experience of the believer, in which profound discussion and labored thought would not only be distasteful, but out of place. Bearing with him the volume in his sequestered walks with God, or making it the sharer of his temporary seclusion from the active engagements of life, the "precious things of God" which it unfolds may serve to shed the perfume and the luster of Jesus' name and work around his lone and pensive path—cheering solitude, soothing grief, and dissolving doubt, depression, and gloom. Many and costly are the precious things of God not enumerated in this work; blessed are they who, from the volume of their personal and spiritual experience, can complete the catalogue, and supply the Author's lack. These pages address themselves pointedly and strongly to that essential principle of vital religion—the experimental. We really know as much of the gospel of Christ, and of the Christ of the gospel, as by the power of the Holy Spirit we have the experience of it in our souls. All other acquaintance with Divine truth must be regarded as merely intellectual, theoretical, speculative, and of little worth. But, to apprehend, in some measure, the value, the glory, and the preciousness of the Lord Jesus, and, as a consequence, to esteem Him above all good, to reflect His image, to labor in His service, and to be found preparing and waiting for the happy moment described with such exquisite beauty by Doddridge, and as he only could portray it,—
"That blessed interview, how sweet!
To fall transported at His feet;
Raised in His arms, to see His face
Through the full beamings of His grace!"
—this, this is spiritual LIFE. And, compared with the heart-experience of this, when we take a close, realizing survey of eternity, all other subjects of study and employments of time appear but solemn trifling with our destiny.
The Author regrets, that to the discussion of themes so transcendently important and precious he should have brought so much human feebleness and infirmity. His work, planned amid the happy tranquility and repose of a long and warmly-attached pastorate, and finished amid the scenes of anxiety, excitement, and toil incident to a new and more extended sphere of ministerial labor, has necessarily been exposed to much that was unfavorable to that matured thought, careful composition, and literary finish which he considers efforts of this kind should possess. His hope, however, is, that, imperfect as is his production, the Divine Spirit may yet deign to bless it to the saving of precious souls, give it acceptance with the Church of Christ, and use it for the advancement of the cause of God and truth in the world,—and the glory shall be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, three Persons in the One God, world without end. Amen.
Bath, September 1859