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PREFACE BY THE EDITORS.
ON a former occasion we have said, how much we were gratified by the testimonies of approbation, which our Book had received from various quarters; but, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge having recently placed it upon their catalogue, after so decisive a proof of the good opinion of that venerable body, we can have nothing further in point of credit to expect, or even to wish. It is well known, that such a distinction is not to be obtained by partiality, or purchased by bribes; or ever granted without the most deliberate and scrupulous caution.
But the views of the Society might in a great degree be frustrated, if a Book, which appears to them to be well calculated to advance the religion and morals of the community, were not published in a form as much compressed and as little expensive as possible. This then is the object of the present edition, which, being similar in type and size to that popular work" The Family Library," will at the same time not be deficient in neatness and elegance.
PREFACE BY THE AUTHOR.
IT has often occurred to me as something wonderful, that, amongst the vast variety of books, which are to be met with, on the important snbject of Religion, there should still be wanted a manual for the information and direction of the Minister in his daily intercourse with sick persons and other members of his flock. There are indeed plenty of excellent theoretical treatises upon this branch of the Minister's duty; and much also might be learnt from the biography of Clergymen who have been eminently active in their parochial labours. But all this is too general; and consequently it is too often not sufficiently obvious, how to apply such knowledge in our particular practice. What I lament, therefore, and am surprised at, is, that, with the exception of some small pieces of Mr. Mayow's, and two or three accounts of the conversions of profligate men, there should be no book (at least I am not acquainted with any such book) containing the detail of actual
conversations, which have passed between the Minister and his Parishioners, under striking circumstances. No Clergyman, having had the care of a Parish for a considerable period, can possibly have failed of falling into such circumstances; and I, for one, in my earlier days, would have thanked any body, who should have been kind enough to furnish me with the results of his experience. I am confident, from what has happened to myself, that a young Clergyman must be very much at a loss how to conduct himself on trying occasions, and how to take advantage daily of the openings, which may be afforded him, for promoting Religion and right feeling in his Parish; so that he will either do mischief by attempting that to which he is not competent; or, being aware of his own incompetency, he will sit down inactive and idle.
Having been in the habit then, for several years, of remarking this defect of instruction with regard to practical divinity, and the whole business of a ParishPriest; and having myself, meanwhile, been thrown perpetually into the most interesting and awful scenes with my own Parishioners; I determined at length to take up my pen, and to commit to paper, whatever having passed under my personal observation might
be most likely to be useful to others of the same profession. I have now for some time been thus engaged; and it is my intention to proceed so long as I am able, or until I have exhausted the subject. Of this, however, there is very little probability; the subject itself being so comprehensive and copious. My children, therefore, will find amongst my papers, when I am taken from them, some voluminous manuscripts headed with this Preface; and they are at liberty to send them to the press, if the opinion of any judicious friend should concur with their own, that the work deserves publicity. During my life it cannot be permitted to see the light. There is too much in it of my own feelings, and of indirect praise of myself; and also characters and actions are described, and will continue to be so, which would at once be applied to their prototypes, and thus might stir up a flame of animosity amongst us. But, when we are mingled together in the grave, all these things will be forgotten, and the use only will remain to our posterity.
I had no thought, originally, of doing more than assist my younger brethren of the clerical order, who might be appointed to the management of large Parishes, without time or opportunities to prepare