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the nation? But has ignorance been more than a match for knowledge, and sagacity, and frequent occupation? Or has mere poverty risen up, and overwhelmed wealth and habitual ease? If not, then it appears as if only one question remained, Has the evil descended? So it should seem.
With regard to all ranks, it should never be forgotten, not only that the law of Heaven is one; but that the guilt of the superior class, must ever exceed that of the inferior. On this point, I am aware that one of our best Poets has been considered, by a few individuals, as occasionally too fastidious and severe ; but whatever severity there may seem, to some ears, in the following lines, it will be found on reflection, I am persuaded, only in the truth which they express:
"The course of human things, from good to ill,
From ill to worse, is fatal, never fails.
Increase of power begets increase of wealth; Wealth luxury, and luxury excess : Excess, the scrofulous and itchy plague That seizes first the opulent, descends To the next rank contagious, and in time Taints downward all the graduated scale Of order, from the chariot to the plough.' The reader may perhaps now imagine, that, in such a case, the account must come to a close, and that one is shut up to the absolute necessity of merely saying-" There is no hope; no!” But I am far, very far indeed, from either thinking or saying this. Look over the state of the Jewish nation, at the moment when the Messiah appeared among them. One remedy then, after all, there is, as far as a remedy can
prolong the existence of a nation, or preserve it from decline. No doubt, to some, the mortifying thought will immediately occur, that this remedy is not of human invention, nor is there in it any thing to gratify the vanity, or secure the applause, of a single human being! For the application of this remedy, too, no substitutes can be found; the most opulent and the humblest peasant being here invited to a subject equally incumbent upon both. So far, however, as the present writer is concerned, he must now refer to what follows, and leave the whole to the impartial reflections of his reader.
At the same time, he owes it to himself to state, that no individual can ever be more sensible than he is, of the imperfections which may perhaps be detected in every following section. In sincerity he says this, from a deep and abiding impression of the vital importance of the subject; its importance to man individually; to the well-being or moral health of families, in any nation, whatever be its form of political government; and to the best interests of the kingdom of God, now on its way to that purity and peace which assuredly await it, before time shall end. But were any man to delay, under such an impression, till he accomplished what might please himself, this very vanity might prevent him from being of the least service to the community. So far, therefore, from deprecating what has been called the severity of criticism, should any individual take the trouble to point out any mistake into which he has fallen, the Author will regard this as an evidence of interest in the subject itself; and if ever a second edition is called
for, and the writer is alive, he will not fail to avail himself of any such remarks.
There is one passage of Sacred Writ, the last verse of the Old Testament, to which frequent reference is made. Though fully aware of different interpretations which have been put upon it, and the difficulty which some have expressed in regard to the precise import of the terms, Fathers' and 'Children,' after due consideration, the writer continued to abide by the meaning, which the words themselves express with great beauty and simplicity. This, it should be remembered, was a prophecy; and when the reader comes to peruse the proof of its fulfilment, he will, I presume, see no obscurity whatever, in the prophecy itself.
There are a very few quotations, perhaps three or four, in the following pages, where the name of the author is not mentioned, merely because, in one case, it seemed inexpedient on several accounts, and in another, unnecessary to refer to the volumes from whence they were taken. All the others are acknowledged in their respective places.
Written, as the volume has been, not only amidst innumerable interruptions, but in the depth of longprotracted domestic affliction, accompanied by bereavements repeated and severe, partly to preserve the mind from undue excess, in pondering over scenes and sources of enjoyment never to return, I am persuaded, that to all those who have felt sorrow,' and to whom sorrow is a sacred thing,' it will be no matter of surprise, should they meet with some imperfections, or the repetition of a similar idea. As
to the subject itself, with the exception of only one, which he will not mention here, a more important one, and one more necessary to the vital interests of his native country, at the present moment, the writer is not able to conceive; and though placed in circumstances in some respects unfriendly to composition, he felt it incumbent upon him, if he could, to engage the ear, as well as the deliberate attention of Parents and the Heads of Families; more especially those Families where the Children are yet in infancy. The young and rising generation have also been kept in view throughout, so as, if possible, to interest the minds of those, who will become the parents of a future age.
In the meanwhile, could I but hope to reach the ear of Parents, whether in cities or in the country, whether in Great Britain, or in Ireland in whose welfare the writer has long felt so deep an interest, perhaps a perusal of the following pages might be of some service to them, and, as a consequence, to their Children; and though, at first sight, it may not appear, let them observe whether the subject here presented before their view, besides more important benefits, does not furnish one antidote, to the mistake or mere profession of Christianity, as well as to reckless, not to say unjust, commercial speculation.
EDINBURGH, 28th June, 1826.