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THE writer of this volume would say, to those who have encouraged, or may patronize its publication, that it is with great diffidence he has entered upon the work. Whether it is what you wished, or expected, you are now to judge. My hope is that God will make it useful. I feel disposed to take only a low place, among my brethren in the ministry, many of whom have yet committed few or none of their productions to the press, and am not conscious of any governing passion for authorship. Hence it may not be improper to give, in a few words, the history of my views, relative to this volume.
I have long believed, that sermons of a distinguishing character, and in a popular dress, having point, and pungency of application, are very much needed in the American churches. Most of the sermons printed are occasional, or if otherwise, being printed singly, and seldom collected into volumes, or extensively circulated, are quite out of reach. They have, on a limited scale, done great good, but most of them, however excellent, are at length consigned to neglect with waste papers.
Many excellent volumes too, have been published, and have edified the churches, and helped mature for heaven a multitude of believers; but which from their occasional, metaphysical, or exclusively doctrinal character, are judged unsuitable to be read in evening-meetings, to which so often, even good men, bring a mind, as well as a body, worn down with fatigue; and need, for their edification, some repast that can hold their powers waking. Discourses adapted to such an occasion, which must often be read badly to a dull audience, must have poured into them, all the novelty, vivacity, force, and pungency possible. The truth should be condensed, and the doctrines exhibited in that practical shape, that shall tend to keep, up through every paragraph, a deep and lively interest,
To supply such a volume, though perhaps a bold attempt, has been my aim; but whether I have attained, or even approached the point, others will now judge. I think there is here a chasm that needs to be filled, and if I should induce some of our ablest clergymen, to employ their talents in accomplishing, what I have attempted, I shall I hope feel myself richly rewarded for the trouble and expense of publishing this volume.
I am prepared to say that a score of volumes, such as I intended this should be, is wanted; and have yet to learn that the churches would not sustain the expense of their publication. And although it is deeply to be regreted, that so many precious volumes, read by the people of God, in days past, and used by the Spirit in fitting them for heaven, have from something obsolete in their language, gone too much out of use, yet as the fact exists, a remedy should be applied. The multitude of books in the market, is no argument against the attempt to furnish the ungodly with the means of alarm, or the people of God, with any help that can be afforded them, in finishing their sanctification. In every other department of learning, new efforts are perpetually made, and every fascination of style and argument employed, to render interesting the art or science that it is feared may languish; and why not carry the same wisdom into the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I have given the volume as great a variety, as was consistent with my original design, and hope no one of the discourses will be found wholly unsuitable for the use intended. The twelfth, though it may seem to have been written exclusively for the benefit of ministers, was in fact designed rather for their people, to aid them in discovering, whether the ministry placed over them be correct, and faithful; and to prepare them to treat tenderly, and aid promptly, by every means in their power, the true ambassador of Christ, in his arduous, and responsible, but pleasant and honourable calling. And the minister of the gospel, often pressed with labour, may wish, in some of his little meetings, to read a sermon to his people, and may find this one not unprofitable to himself or his people.
I sincerely hope, that some of the worthy ministers of New England, whose praise is in the churches, will give the public a few volumes of their sermons, and not leave this department of christian instruction, to be exclusively occupied by posthumous publications, which some worthy friend, with the best motives possible, but under great disadvantages, shall collect from unrevised manuscripts, often with not the best success, either as it regards the reputation of the author, or the usefulness of the book.
I have only to add my wish and my prayer, that the great Head of the church, may bless to all my readers this attempt to build them up in the most holy faith; and to ask their prayers, that my labour may not be in vain in the Lord.
I am, Christian brethren,
Yours affectionately, in the
AMHERST, MASS. JAN. 2, 1826.
DANIEL A. CLARK.
THE CHURCH SAFE.
ISAIAH XLIX. 16.
* I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me."
THE Jewish church, during her captivity, would be led to conceive that God had forsaken, and forgotten her. To effectually remove this impression, God by his prophet appeals to one of the tenderest relationships of life. "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea they may forget, yet will I not forget thee." Thus would he give to Zion, assurance of his unchangeable love. His people should multiply, till the land, where their foes destroyed them, should be too limited for their increased population. Kings and nations should serve them, and do them honour. Zion was dear to him as the apple of his eye. He would engrave her upon the palms of his hands; her walls should be continually before him. In those days, it was the custom to paint upon the palms of the hands such objects as men wished to remember, in allusion to which custom God assures his people, that he had graven Zion upon