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The following Sermons were not transcribed with any view to a publication in this country. In the year 1773, I was desired by a gentleman in Scotland to transcribe a number of the author’s sermons on some of the most plain, practical, and experimental subjects, that they might be printed there. The reader will hence see, that it was not the design to pick out the most curious and elaborate discourses, but those of a different stamp. Among the very numerous discourses on practical and experimental subjects out of which I was to choose, it was no easy task to determine which to publish and which to omit. And different persons would no doubt in this case judge differently. Many sermons equally worthy of the light as these, were omitted, and perhaps some that were more worthy: yet it is hoped that the public will judge these not unworthy of their acceptance and attention.
The reader cannot be insensible of the disadvantages attending all posthumous works, especially sermons, which are generally prepared only for the next sabbath, and for a particular congregation, and often in great haste, and amidst many avocations. Yet if in these sermons he shall find the most important truths exhibited, and pressed home on the conscience with that pungency which tends to awaken, convince, humble, and edify; if he shall find that serious strain of piety which, in spite of himself, forces upon him a serious frame of mind; if in the perusal he cannot but be ashamed and alarmed at himself, and in some measure feel the reality and weight of eternal things; if at least he, like Agrippa, shall be almost persuaded to be a Christian;—I presume he will not grudge the time requisite to peruse what is now offered him. These, if I mistake not, are the great ends to be aimed at in all sermons, whether preached or printed, and are ends which can never be accomplished by those modern fashionable discourses which are delivered under the name of sermons, but really are mere harangues on such moral subjects as have been much better handled by Cicero, Seneca, or the Spectator, and contain very little more of the gospel than is to be found in the heathen philosophers. That the important ends now mentioned may be indeed accomplished by this publication to every reader is the sincere desire of the public’s humble servant,
New-Haven, Dec. 21, 1779.
N. B. The reader will observe some sermons not dated. Those I suppose were written before the year 1733, when the author was thirty years of age; as in that year he began to date his sermons, and all written after that appear to be dated.
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