« ForrigeFortsett »
never better pleased, as one observes, than when they peruse a book “brief, gaudy, and superficial.” The difference between the taste of the last and present age, in this respect, is very striking. As a specimen of the former, we might mention, beside the work under immediate notice, “CARYL on Job;" and as a portrait of the latter, the following remarks of a shrewd anonymous observer, “Μεγα βιβλιον μεγα κακον, αgreat boole is a great evil,” is a maxim which was perhaps never more universally assented to than at present. With all the fondness for reading, now so observable in every class of the community, few are to be met with who will enter on laborious discussions, or peruse voluminous performances. Unambitious of possessing those genuine pearls of science, which must be sought by diving to the bottom of the ocean which produces them, the generality of readers content themselves with the shells that are to be gathered from its sands and its shallows. Many writers now employ themselves în dealing out learning, as innkeepers do their liqours, in “small quantities. This is satyrical
On the other hand, the art of reducing the bulk of books, when it avoids the fault of being superficial and desultory, is not to be condemned. If a large work, abounding with excellent thoughts, and a truly evangelical spirit, a work comparatively but little known, too dear for the pockets, too voluminous for the courage and patience, and too unfashionable for the taste of the generality of religious readers; if, I say, such a work may be fairly compressed into about one third of the original size, and exhibited in a form more modern, perspicuous, and correct; it may be presumed that such a present might not be unacceptable, but received with gladness by the religious public, as calculated to promote the real interest of evangelical piety. Such is the design of this publication. “The world,” says an ingenious writer, “becomes every day more and more convinced of the utility of abridgments. For so great is the increase of all kinds of knowledge, that the human mind finds herself incapable of taking in the whole; and becomes sensible of the necessity of being
assisted in her choice of essential and valuable things. Hence the Cyclopædias and Encyclopædias, for which modern times are noted, and with which the more enlightened countries, in point of science and arts, abound; which yet are only abridgments of voluminous, inconvenient, or inaccessible works. And though the public is often grossly imposed upon by pompous titles prefixed to superficial contents, yet the very attempt to impose is a presumptive argument that such a plan well executed is valuable. To which we may add, that the method of publishing large and valuable works abridged, tends perhaps to avoid what might be thought a growing evil_the multiplication of modern authors, who but barely stand on the list of mediocrity; while the most valuable sentiments obtain a fresh and more vigorous circulation.
But as the author just mentioned farther observes, “The same cause makes a good abridgment very difficult to compile. To omit nothing which is essential, and to insert nothing which is superfluous, requires a thorough knowledge of the subject, and a great discernment; for to reduce much into little, is far more difficult than to enlarge little into much.”+ And, indeed, the task becomes more difficult in proportion as the bulk of the original is reduced in the abridgment. The difficulty lies, in avoiding on the one hand, a mere extract, which deserves not the name of an abridgment; and, on the other, the injudicious crowding of too many ideas into a small compass, which instead of enlightening dazzle the mind, appearing like a number of sparks in the midst of smoke, rather than a bright and pleasant flame; instead of engaging distracts, and instead of alluring fatigues the attention. In such a case the affections, which ought to be consulted by every writer who expects to profit by pleasing (and he must have an extraordinary invention, and no small share of assurance, who expects to profit by any other way) are prevented from operating, they have no room to play, their elasticity and expansive force are either weakened or destroyed. * FORMEY's Ecclesiastical History. Preface. + Ut supra.
such a work as the ensuing exposition. I have, therefore, attempted to avoid both extremes, by adopting a reconciling medium. He who is regardless of the heads and divisions, may pass on, as a traveller who is regardless of the mile-stones on his road, without any inconvenience; while another, who is more observant, is gratified by marking his progress. The judicious and inquisitive will be pleased, I presume, with having the contents of each discourse at the head of it, as a curious traveller is pleased with viewing a well proportioned map of a road which he has not travelled. And through the use of sections, that serve as marks and distances on a map, any head of discussion may be found out with a glance, with the general design and connexion of the whole.
After all, my principal endeavor has been, as undoubtedly it ought to have been, to preserve as much as possible the excellent spirit and unction of the original; that no part of its light or heat be lost, but rather collected, and, as it were, brought into a focus. To succeed in such a design effectually, requires no small preparation. I am convinced, that nothing short of a just, consistent, and comprehensive acquaintance with the gospel; a disinterested and earnest regard to the glory of God; a fervent love to the Redeemer, and the souls of men for his sake; the continual teaching and influences of the Spirit of all grace; a most steady faith in the Divine promises; deep humility and diligent attention in learning the whole revealed will of God; the spirit of prayer and sublime devotion; an experimental foretaste of heavenly bliss and glory; with a delightful mixture of patient hope, submissive longing after the end of faith, and an unwearied prosecution of that end in the use of appointed means: nothing but these qualifications appear necessary to keep pace, if I may so express myself, with the spirit and unction of Dr. OWEN. Alas! how short am I of such a stature! However, according to the talent and measure of faith received, the Lord be praised, it is my sincere desire to serve the best interests of immortal souls, to edify the body of Christ in knowledge and faith, holy love and cbedience, as
the instituted preparatives to the promised everlasting rest and glory.
It has been well observed, that "sentiments of esteem "and veneration, combining with natural curiosity, “prompt us to inquire into the history of those men by “whose writings we have been improved in wisdom "and virtue.” Therefore, the prefixing an account of the most memorable particulars in the life and character of Dr. OWEN, will no doubt be acceptable to all intelligent and inquisitive readers of this performance. Though the Editor has availed himself of other sources and hints, which he thought unnecessary to refer to, yet, in comparison, he has done little more than abridge the memoirs already drawn up, prefixed to the Doctor's posthumous sermons and tracts; reduced them to a method a little more distinct and perspicuous, with the addition of a few obvious reflections, which'he thought had a tendency to diversify, to enliven, and to improve the narrative.
I have only to add, that from a conviction of the utility of an abridged edition of Dr. OWEN "on the “Hebrews,” with the “preliminary dissertations,” I have had the work in contemplation for some years, and I bless the God of all grace for the pleasure and improvement the undertaking has been the means of affording me; that after I had made some progress therein, with a view to publish it by subscription, I was applied to by the publisher of the Evangelical Library about its being sent into the world through the medium of that repository of valuable and scarce divinity. And I own I was not averse to send it abroad in company with that venerable band of worthies, who, though dead, it is hoped will yet speak, with increasing force, not only to the present, but also to future generations. But, like the other publications in the Evangelical Library, the present work stands entirely detached from all preceding or future volumes, by the judicious mode adopted by the publisher of having double title pages.
This performance is now launched into the world, with earnest prayer to the God of all grace: that both it and every other of the same tendency, may be abundantly owned by him as a means of grace and salvation.