« PrécédentContinuer »
scription of learners, a Bible class was formed, * which met weekly in the pastor's study. The exercises of this class were introduced by an examination on the catechism, which they were required to repeat throughout; to this succeeded the recitation of their Bible lesson, accompanied by explanations from the pastor, and the answering of such questions as any member of the class was disposed to propose to him—A short address and a prayer closed the whole.
The Catechumens thus instructed, soon, of course, reached the years of maturity ; finished their education, which, in many instances, was of a very liberal kind; and were preparing to enter on business for themselves, and to become heads of families. It then occurred to the author, that he might render an additional service to these youth, as important, probably, as any he had previously performed. This service consisted in addressing to them the lectures which are now presented to the publick. They were delivered to young persons, male and female, who had already been instructed in religion, and the most of whom had been considerably improved by reading and study. They were therefore no longer children. They rather formed an audience more than ordinarily capable of fully understanding the lectures which compose the present volume. The audience, indeed, soon became pretty large and promiscuous; for the lectures were delivered in a church, the doors of which were freely opened to all, and many, of various ages and characters, resorted to it; some through curiosity, and some from a real and deep interest which they took in the subjects discussed. Still, the lectures were addressed exclusively to the youth, who occupied
This was about eight-and-thirty years ago.
seats by themselves, immediately before the speaker: and he did not scruple to use a freedom and tenderness of language; to assume, occasionally, the tone of parental authority; to refer, frequently, to the years, the prospects, the passions, and the temptations, of those who are in the morning of life; to mingle reflections and remarks with his reasoning; to make numerous appeals to the heart and conscience; and to conclude his lectures with more of practical application, than would have been proper, in doctrinal discussions intended for persons of a different description.
The foregoing statement will serve to inform the reader why the lectures in this volume are such as he will find them. They are not compositions originally intended for the press, but discourses prepared to be spoken to a collection of youth, peculiarly dear to the speaker; for whose spiritual instruction and direction he was responsible; and for whose eternal wellbeing he was deeply solicitous. The whole style and manner of the lectures took their complexion from these circumstances; and the author felt bound to sacrifice every interfering consideration to the edification of his youthful hearers; and to introduce any thing which he thought likely to promote it. He especially endeavoured to give the answers, in the excellent catechism which he expounded, a bearing on the popular and pernicious errors of the time and place in which his lectures were delivered, with a view to guard his juvenile auditory against being misled and corrupted.
As to the publication of these lectures, the author can truly say that he has had much hesitation. When they were delivered, he had evidence enough that they were popular, and in a measure useful. But he doubted whether they were calculated to be either acceptable or beneficial, if committed to the press
unless they should undergo such alterations as he had neither time nor inclination to make.
He tried the experiment of publishing the first of the series in the Christian Advocate, with a distinct intimation, that it implied no pledge that even a second would be added. The lecture published appeared to be well received; and not only has the insertion of the entire series in that miscellany been considered by many as adding value to the work, but the author has been earnestly requested by his friends, in various parts of the country, to publish the whole, as he now does, in a separate volume.
In preparing these lectures for a re-publication, numerous slight corrections, one or two transpositions of parts, and a few retrenchments, have been made; but nothing has been done to change the general cast of the composition, or to alter a sin-: gle feature of the doctrine taught. Indeed, the author has been tempted to flatter himself, from the favourable reception his humble labours have met with, that the manner in which he has treated the subjects discussed is better adapted to popular use, than one more formally systematick, or more purely argumentative. It had been easy to change or omit a few sentences, which refer to circumstances peculiar to the audience addressed. But these sentences serve to sustain the general character of the lectures, and they in no degree interfere with the scope of the discourse. They have, therefore, for the most part, been permitted to stand as they were originally penned and uttered.
The author hopes it will be found, by the attentive reader of this small volume, that the radical principles and distinguishing doctrines of evangelical truth, as exhibited in the Calvinistick system, are as fully set forth, defended, and illustrated, as
could reasonably be expected, in the limits to which he was confined. He is aware, indeed, that short as his lectures are, they contain a measure of repetition ; yet he hopes it is not much larger than will be found really useful. It scarcely needs to be remarked, that the same texts of scripture are often pertinent, and even the most pertinent, to prove several different points of doctrine; that the same inferences, or consequences, too, may follow from several premises or positions; and that the same application or appeal may, and frequently ought to be made, from various leading truths of Holy Scripture. Unnecessary repetition ought certainly to be avoided, and when that which is allowable is admitted, the phraseology may often be varied. But to exclude all repetition, would frequently deprive an address of much of its spirit, and the hearer of much that would have been best calculated to further his edification. Sometimes it saves the hearer or reader the time and trouble of making a reference for himself; and sometimes it is really necessary, to place in immediate view the ground of an argument or deduction, that the truth may strike with the greater force.
It has been gratifying to the author to learn, that several teachers of Sabbath schools in the Presbyterian church, have had recourse to his lectures, as they appear in the Christian Advocate, to enable them to explain to their pupils, with ease and advantage, the answers to the questions in their Shorter Catechism. He regards this as an honour done to his work, and desires to be thankful to God that his labours, from this circumstance, promise to become more extensively useful than he had ventured to anticipate. The present volume will render a recurrence to the needed aid, far easier and more expeditious, than when it was to be searched for in a monthly miscellany. In this connexion, let the author be permitted to say, that while he yields to none in the estimate which he makes of the high value of Sabbath schools, and of the knowledge of the sacred Scriptures imparted to children and youth in these institutions, and in Bible classes, he has ever been of the opinionand his own 'practice has uniformly accorded with that opinion—that a thorough acquaintance with the Shorter Catechism should form an indispensable part of the system. It is of more importance than can easily be told, that the doctrines and duties taught in the sacred volume should be digested, and reduced to system in the minds of youth: and for this purpose, nothing can be better adapted than the Shorter Catechism, if it be suitably explained and correctly understood.
It will probably be asked, why the author has published lectures on a part only of the Catechism-why he has not extended them to the whole, and given the entire system at once? The short and plain answer to this inquiry is, that the author has not yet prepared the whole of his lectures on the remaining part of the Catechism—They are in a train of preparation, and some of them have been already published in the Christian Advocate, but the series is not yet completed. In that Miscellany, if life and health be continued, it is proposed to insert the remainder, and then to publish them connectedly in a second volume. All the lectures to which this preface is prefixed were actually delivered, as has been stated, to the youth of the author's pastoral charge.* None of the others have been, nor probably will ever be, delivered orally; although it is in
* The author's call to the presidency of the College of New Jersey, prevented the continuance of his lectures on the Catechism, till he had gone through the whole. Since his return to Philadelphia, he has, at the urgent request of some of those who first heard them, repeated in publick, the most of those which compose the present volume.