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Ere indolence impede the search, explored;
It has been my great comfort to have been trained in the way in which it was best for me to go. I have indeed swerved from that way; but never without serious grief. Vanity is garrulous. Ceasing then from myself, I only add, with reference to the who and what' so frequently put, that, whatever are my own demerits, still it is for me to feel, as Cowper felt,
My boast is not that I deduce my birth
From loins enthron'd, and rulers of the earth;
The son of parents passed into the skies!
Accustomed thus early to religion, continually mixing, almost from the cradle, with those who, agreeably to the injunction of an apostle, do not forsake the assemb ling of themselves together,' it would be difficult for me now to recollect the origin of that feeling which has stimulated me to undertake the present publication. It has made part of my life; and it will last me through life. I trust, therefore, that the contents of the present volume will unequivocally demonstrate the mind in which I sat down to my task, and the integrity with which I have so far accomplished it. My wish was to do some good: and the means are such, let me think, as may lead to that
Preachers are stated not to be fair ob
jects of criticism. Why not? Perhaps they are not thought to be fair objects of criticism, and such seems the fact, simply be
cause they are new objects of criticism ;because their preaching never has been, so it never can be, subject to this ordeal. Exempt as they live from written criticism, where exist men, public persons, who, notwithstanding such exemption, feel more from oral criticism? Should the pen spare them, yet when would the tongue spare them? Listen to the conversation of their bearers, Sunday following Sunday, what is it but criticism on preachers? It may be worth while to try to give this taste its right bent.
Self-love does not flatter me into the belief that this series of clerical criticism is without its defects. I found much to do. There was in the highway of letters no way for me. I stopt at each step. It was through the wilderness of literature that my. road lay; and if now I am come out of it, and can look round, I owe this to the cloud by
day and fire by night, which still guide those who wish to walk right. I was led by the way that I knew not.
Surely it will not be my fate to be arraigned for dwelling so much on the eloquence of the pulpit. Religion is alone worthy of eloquence. If there be one thing to loose and fire the tongue of man, it is the WORD of that GOD who taught us, under its impulse, to take no heed what we shall say when we are to speak of the hope of faith. It is then that the speech should be all heart, and the heart all speech. Few are, however, such men. Enough there are of preachers of the good gospel;' but good gospel preachers' are still wanted. The fault is not in them that hear-it is in them that preach.
Accounts of many of the preachers whose names occur in the present volume, it may be right to state, successively appeared, some months since, in the "National
Register.' I state this, not because it is of much moment now, but as it may solve some occasional allusions to men and things and times for it will be found that this series of papers, in which such allusions are met with, is now thoroughly revised, considerably augmented, and, indeed, re-writ ten. Here too is another fact recalled to my mind. Attempts were frequently made, during this period, to seduce and decoy me, and to deter me too, from independence and integrity of writing. It will be seen that such attempts were thus made in vain. Honorable information I shall feel always happy in receiving, and to candid reproof I bow; but here let me strongly protest, once for all, against those who would designedly ensnare me into error, and against those who foolishly think that there are means by which to influence my decisions.