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The design of the author.
holy rite. He wished to bear his solemn testimony against the delusive idea, that persons are in a fit state to enter into covenant with Jehovah, before they have exercised true, genuine, evangelical “ repentance towards God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."
This was the original object for which these lectures were composed ; and the hope is cherished, that the end aimed at was in some degree attained. During their delivery, several of the author's friends, in whose judgment he reposed confidence, expressed a wish that this series of lectures might be given to the world. And when the course was finished, the following request was presented, in an official manner, from the wardens and vestry of the church:
“ Having, in connexion with the other members of the congregation, listened with high satisfaction to the series of lectures on confirmation, and believing not only that they embrace just and scriptural views of the requisite qualifications for church membership, but that the happy and diversified illustrations contained in them, drawn from the experience of individual Christians, and the incidents of real life, will, if sent forth into the world, be productive of great good in promoting personal piety and detecting self-delusion, our board have unanimously resolved to request you to permit these lectures to be published for the benefit of your own parish and the church at large.”
The writer, though he has yielded to this request, is fully conscious that these lectures possess no excellence, either in point of style or in originality of thought, to render them worthy of this public appearance. Many of them were written with great haste, amid the constant pressure of multiplied professional engagements.
He can say, therefore, with truth, that it is not with the expectation of earning a literary reputation, but under the humble hope of doing some slight service to Christ, and of improving some immortal soul, that he presumes to publish this volume.
It has often fallen to the lot of the writer to stand before an audience, to proclaim unto them the unsearchable riches of Christ, when he felt oppressed with such conviction of his insufficiency for the proper discharge of the duty, that nothing but the “necessity" he felt “ laid upon him to preach the gospel,” could have induced him to have
- spened his mouth. At such times he has always found
elief in the thought, that it is “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.”
And it is this same thought which emboidens him to spread these pages before the public.
Although the human mind, in its great essential fectures, is the same in every age and under every tims, yet men's trains of thought and modes of tuinking are very much influenced by the objects and circumsiances that lie imme diately around them. As therefore these objects and cir cumstances are continually changing, if truth is made to produce the greatest possible effect upon the human minu, the mode of its presentation must be varied with these continually varying circumstances. Every age and coun try must have books adapted to the existing peculiarities in men's modes of thinking. And this will account for the fact, that modern books are read with vastly more pleasure, and decidedly greater effect, than those possess ing far richer mines of thought, which belong to a by gone age.
This idea is happily expressed by the Bishop of Ken. tucky, in a communication to the author, in alluding to the publication of this volume.
6. The difference between the sermons of a living ministry and the superior printed productions of men of other days, is acknowledged by all. I am strongly inclined to make a like distinction between productions of the living press and even the superior fruits of its early efforts. We must have the freshness and adaptation of recent authors.'
Among the considerations that have led the writer to hope that these pages night in some degree advance the interests of religion, are the accounts which he has received from several sources of the good effect that attended them at the time of their delivery. To illustrate this remark, he will here introduce an extract from a letter, sent a few months since, by a friend to whom that letter was addressed.*
* The substance of four or five of these lectures was delivered in 1829, in the lecture-room of Christ Church, New York. It was at that time that the writer of this letter heard the narrative to which allusion is here made. The lecture referred to is the third in this course.
Letter to a friend.
This extract will present a brief sketch of a religious experience, which it may be well to contemplate in connexion with the views advocated in this volume.
“ After confirmation,” says the writer of this letter to her friend—and here I would add, that she received confirmation, as is evident from another part of her communication, in a state of mind in which no person should receive it, impenitent, unpardoned, and unreconciled to God " after confirmation I remained until I had attained the age of twenty. I then, while still in a dark and impenitent state, went to the holy communion. For the next four years I struggled on, trying to serve the Lord in my own righteousness, when it pleased Him, through affliction and by the preaching of a minister of the cross whom he had sent to our city, to open my eyes to the realities of religion. It was the fear of being lost, and an earnest desire of doing something to secure the favour of God, that induced me to go to the table of the Lord, and partake of the symbols of the Saviour's dying love. I had no just, no adequate view of the nature of sin, or of the depravity of the human heart. God was viewed in no other light than as the judge of the earth. I could not lay my hand upon my heart, and say, it is my delight to do thy will, o my God.'
“ In this way I lived four years, when the Almighty was pleased to awaken me from my delusion. The following occurrence led me to look into my own heart more closely. A young, gay, beautiful girl —a friend of minewas brought down to a bed of sickness and of death. She became alarmed for her soul. Though a minister had called to see her, she received no light or comfort from his visit, and was distressed by the thought of death.
“I was much with her, and often felt convinced it was my duty to talk to her. She thought me a Christian ; and I thought if I were a Christian, I ought not to see her going into eternity without any knowledge of what was before her. I resolved from time to time to begin this important duty, but still did not know how. I often wept in retirement to think that I had not only attended upon a preached gospel from childhood, but was also a professor of religion, and yet could not tell a poor sinner how to escape eternal death. At this time I felt more serious in the house of
God than ever I had done; listened more attentively to his holy word; and heard preaching with a deeper interest. The Spirit of God was evidently moving over the dark chaos of my soul. The necessity of a new birth was deeply impressed upon my mind. For three months there was constantly sounding in my ears, .ye must be born again.'
“ Wherever I went, whatever I did, when I lay down, or rose up, the same solemn voice still rang in my ears, 'ye must be born again.'
“ While under these impressions, I was led to attend upon the preaching of one whom I had lieard several times, but always with dissatisfaction. How strange it is that God did not give me up to the rebellion of my own wicked heart. I cannot enough admire his mercy, and forbearance, and goodness. For when my feet had well nigh slipped, his mercy held me up; yes, it was his mercy that brought me from the paths of darkness and death, to the light of the glorious gospel of Christ. And it was this minister he was pleased to make the messenger of salvation and peace to my soul.
6. The discourse I heard from him at this time was upon confirmation. In one of the illustrations which he introduced, he gave an account of a lady who had given herself up to God in confirmation and the Lord's supper, and had been endeavouring to secure to herself the joys of heaven by her own righteousness. This lady was awakened from her delusion by the instrumentality of a beggar, who replied to some inquiry she proposed to him,
Lady, I fear you are not born of God.' “ This remark, with some others, made a deep impression upon her mind. For a long while the echo seemed ringing in her ears, • I fear you are not born of God.' The occurrence returned again and again to her; she tried to banish it from her thoughts, but it rose with increased vividness before her. She began to suspect the hopes in which she had been resting. She studied her Bible with an earnest desire to find the truth, and soon she began to read it with new views and feelings, and was brought to see herself in the character of a lost sinner; to renounce all righteousness of her own; and seek salvation through the only hope for sinners, Jesus Christ the righteous.
Exercises previous to conversion. “I was much impressed with this lecture. I was made to see that I was indeed lacking; that I was destitute of that faith which justifies the ungodly. I had an overwhelming view of my own sinfulness; and for the first time saw myself in the light of divine truth ; saw that I had merited, and was exposed to God's wrath, and that he might in perfect justice cast me away from his presence, and shut me up for ever in the prison-house of hell. Under what an altered aspect did the divine character now come up before me! I saw that in that character there was not only holiness, justice, and truth, but mercy, forbearance, long suffering, and great goodness. When I reflected that every breath I drew, the food I ate, the clothes I wore, yea, that every comfort I possessed, proceeded from his hands; that his power had created me at first, and preserved me from ten thousand dangers, and I had never given him unreservedly my heart, with all its powers and faculties, I was ready to give up all hope. I felt that I was the chiefest of sinners; that there was hope for every one but me. Still from day to day I unceasingly inquired, • What must I do to be saved ?'
“ When I saw others going to this minister of Christ, and asking him • What must I do to be saved ?' I desired to go too, but dared not. I felt that I was not of his flock, and that I was unworthy of the favour of man, as well as of God. But that arm of mercy that had encircled me all my life long, was still around me. As I continued to ask • what must I do to be saved ?' the Lord brought me to himself with the inquiry. He pointed me to the crucified Jesus, the Saviour who was inviting heavy-laden sinners to come unto him, that they might find rest for their souls.
“ That Saviour received me; took from me my burden; breathed into my soul new life ; enlightened my darkened mind; led me to see something of the wonderful love of God; taught me to love the Bible; and led me to experience that the ways of God are ways of peace, and his service perfect freedom.
“The sacred volume was no longer a sealed book. No! its every page beamed with divine light and knowledge. Prayer became a holy privilege. Its hour was sought with eagerness and delight. The sanctuary now appeared none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven.