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biz the doctrines, precepts and spirit of our religion, as are suited to
inform the understanding and to regulate the heart and life of the common people, and particularly the young. Such of us, as may feel ourselves competent to contribute to this object either money or the labours of the pen, will not be backward, I am
persuaded, to render either or both, as we may be able, in aid of 2 this good work. And such of us, as may feel ourselves excused
by our circumstances from contributing either the contents of our purses or our minds, may at least lend our aid in promoting the circulation of the tracts and books furnished to our hands. Much good has been done, and much more may be done in this way. Besides that of the Publishing Fund, there are other associations, as is well known to my brethren, whose put?cations are of a similar character, and have in view the promotion of the same general object. The more numerous publications of the kind become, and the more widely and generally they are diffused, and the more rational and instructive and interesting their contents, the sooner will they succeed, we may hope, in consigning to neglect and oblivion the sectarian tracts and treatises, with which the world has been well nigh filled by the multiplied and multiplying orthodox societies and their zealous, indefatigable agents.
In addition to these occasional publications, may it not be expedient, by and by, to try the experiment of a periodical paper, devoted exclusively to the instruction of the young, containing matter of a religious and moral character, and in a form suited to attract the attention to inform the understanding, and to mould the dispositions of its youthful readers to the genuine temper and spirit of the gospel ? But the means which, I conceive, would
prove the most effectual of any that bas yet been tried or named, and which it is most desirable that measures should be taken to provide, as soon as may be, is a faithful translation of the New Testament from the corrected text of Griesbach, accompanied with notes and a commentary giving a clear and concise explanation of all difficult or obscure passages, according to the most approved interpretations of the most able, enlightened and judicious critics of the age. Such a work, furnished in a cheap and, as far as may be consistent with accuracy and completeness, popular form would contribute more to promote, both in the young and mature, " adequate views of the nature and importance of true christianity" than all that has yet been delivered from the pulpit, or sent abroad from the press. Lucid and rational exposition of the meaning of the christian records,--of every chapter and phrase, which needs such exposition, is precisely the thing, that is waated to counteract the effect of Scott's Family Bible, which
is breeding up young Calvinists in every family, in which it is daily read, morning and evening throughout our country, and in many families it is read, only because another of the descriptioni to which I refer, is not to be obtained. Until such a publication is provided and is attainable by all, who wish to understand what they read in the christian scriptures, it seems to me, we are pro. secuting our work at great disadvantage. The cause, which we have at heart, demands such a work of its friends. If we deem it an object of paramount importance to refute and reject the erroneous interpretations, which have been so long fastened upon the sacred records of our faith and hopes by ignorance, imposture, or bigotry, it becomes us to supply their place with such as are rational, consistent, and true. Let us not expose our. selves to the charge of having attempted to demolish a venerable pile, which, however dark and gloomy and uncomfortable, has served for shelter to many generations, without having provided another instead of it, which, at the same time that it is better lighted, more cheerful, of more majestic grandeur and simplicity, of more beautiful proportion and symmetry, is erected upon a surer foundation, and will afford equal security and shelter to all, who shall flee to it for refuge. According to the opportunities, the ability and the grace that may be given to each of us, let us, my brethren, faithfully contribute our proportion of thought and exertion, of providence, and cooperation to promote in the generation, that is coming forward to take our place, a pure faith, an enlightened piety, enlarged views, a catholic spirit, unspotted manners, a life of active virtue, of practical godliness. And however limited the effect of our labours may be, let it appear, when we are gone, that what we did effect was in aid and not in hindrance of the best of causes, the advancement of christian knowledge and piety, the promotion of human improvement and salvation.
FAMILIARITY WITH SCRIPTURE.
PARADOXICAL as it may seem, our very familiarity with scripture, and the frequency with which we read it, is one of the prineipal reasons, why we do not understand it any better. The Bible is put into our hands, as soon as we can read ; it is used as a class-book in our schools, (we cannot but think injudiciously,) and is read continually in families, at least in those that make any pretensions to religion. The consequence is, that we become familiar with the phraseology of scripture long before we havé
aitained an age, when it is to be expected, that we should read any book understandingly. Our first knowledge of scripture, therefore, is merely a kuowledge by rote-an acquaintance with the words without any apprehension of their meaning, or any regard to their meaning. Of course when these words recur to us, afterwards, they suggest no ideas, having never been associated with any in our minds.
I know, that when we are familiar with the language of any book, we are very apt to suppose, that we are equally familiar with its meaning; but this by no means necessarily follows. On the contrary, our familiarity with the language and phraseology of a book often leads us to overlook its meaning. For when we read a book for the first time, the very circumstance, that the language is not familiar, compels us to pay an attention to the reading of it, which makes it impossible, that we should not keep up, in some degree at least, the train of thought. But when we bave become familiar with the language of the book, this attention is not necessary and is not paid. The language suggests itself mechanically, and the ideas are but little thought of. This is the way in which the Bible is too often read; so that I am persuaded, if we were not so familiar with its language, or, in other words, if the reading of it were not so easy to us, we should read it more understandingly, and to greater profit.
A little observation must convince every one, that men's real knowledge of scripture is not in proportion to their acquaintance with its phraseology. How often do we meet with persons, whose heads are full of texts of scripture, who are continually applying these texts,- applying them, too, commonly, with correctness, and sometimes with great appositeness, who yet do not consider the meaning of the texts they thus use, and much less the general scope of the passages in which they are found ? They use these familiar texts, just as we hear men use familiar expressions in common conversation-expressions of courtesy and general regard—without consideriug their meaning, at the time, or even knowing what they mean, but only knowing that they mean something, and that they are expressions, which custom has made it proper to introduce on such and such occasions. I am confident, that those, who are the readiest to quote scripture, are not always the wisest to understand it. Their knowledge of scripture extends to the language of scripture, but no further, and no deeper.
The preceding remarks lay open the true cause, why so many well-disposed christians regularly read their chapter in the Bible, and can perhaps repeat it afterwards from memory, without, however, having a single idea pass through their minds during
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the whole process. It is all done by rote. And if the very same chapter were subsequently read to them by another person in a pointed and forcible manner, it would seem to them as altogether new; and if they were themselves to read it in another translation, though conveying precisely the same ideas, it would sound to them as another gospel. So much are men carried away by words.
Here, too, we find the reasons, why men who change their opinions from those in which they had been educated, commonly boast of having their eyes opened to understand the scriptures, thitherto a sealed book to them. The fact is simply this. In consequence of changing their opinions they are led to think, and discriminate, and search the scriptures with a view to sipport the opinions, which they have just adopted; and in reading the Bible, therefore, they do make it a point to affix some meaning to what they read, right or wrong, which is more than they ever did before, and they, therefore, call it-having their eyes opened to understand the scriptures,
From what has been said, and from what might be said under this head, I am convinced that much of the vagueness and confusion in the minds of men respecting the real import of scripture is owing to the frequency with which they read it, and to their familiarity with its peculiar phraseology: and if it could be so, that a man should never see a Bible until he was twenty years old, and then come to the reading of it without any notion of its contents, and, therefore, without any prepossessions, I do firmly believe, that from one careful perusal of it he would acquire a clearer and better understanding of the book, than is usually attained at that age, though the book may have been read, at least the most important parts of it, several times. Let me not, however, be understood to object against a frequent reading of the Scriptures, or against their being put very early into the hands of children. Many very important benefits result from this, I know, far more than sufficient to counterbalance any evils, that may grow out of it. But I do wish that Christians may be apprised of the danger there is, that their very familiarity with the language of scripture, may lead them to read it without any regard to its sense and meaning.
WHAT IS THE CHARACTER OF THE METHODISTS CAMP-MEET.
INGS, AND HOW DO YOU ACCOUNT FOR THE EFFECTS THERE PRODUCED?
Among the peculiar regulations, which have been adopted by the methodists, for keeping alive and propagating their faith, we
may consider their practice of field-preaching as one of the most efficient, as well as most characteristic. It was resorted to by the first founders of the sect; and became in their hands a powerful engine for producing that vast religious movement, which they effected. Their excesses in devotion, and extravagances with regard to the new birth, had excluded them from preaching in the regular churches. This circumstance, as well as the immense multitudes, that flocked to hear them, more numerous than any church could contain, first compelled them to take the field. Such is the origin of the Methodists' camp.meetings; and though commenced from necessity, they were afterwards continued as means for producing revivals, and became, at length, an important part of their system.
The effects which are produced at these meetings form one of the most remarkable traits of methodism, and are worthy to be carefully examined as curious phenomena illustrating interesting principles of our nature. The first founders of this sect were not only enthusiasts themselves, but the cause of still greater enthusiasm in others. They produced upon susceptible subjects a physical affection or bodily disease, peculiar, and highly infectious; which, both by those who excited and those who experienced it, was believed to be part of the process of regeneration, and, therefore, the work of God. The first subjects, hav. ing no example to encourage them, naturally suppressed their feelings, as much as they could ; they fell
, however, into convulsive motions, and could not refrain from uttering cries. These extravagances at first gave offence, and occasioned some dispute in the Society ; but being, at length, unanimously declared to be the work of grace, the people were led to throw off all restraint, and to abandon themselves without reserve to their mixed sensations. The consequences were such as might have been anticipated. Scenes of the wildest vociferation and fanatacism frequently ensued, and the voice of the preacher was sometimes lost amid the groans and shrieks of his suffering and raving auditors; while the ground was strewed with bodies in a state of convulsion or insensibility, • While preaching at Bristol,' says Wesley, some of the brethren present called upon God to confirm his word. Suddenly, a young man sunk to the ground, trembling exceedingly at the presence of his power. Others cried out with a loud and bitter cry. One, and another, and another were struck to the earth. They dropped on every side as thunderstruck.' On another occasion he says “the Lord made bare bis arm. Some fell down, and there remained no strength in them; others exceedingly trembled and quaked. Some were torn with convulsions, so violently that several men