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PREFACE TO FIRST EDITION.
A FEW months after Mr. Robertson had entered on his ministry at Trinity Chapel, Brighton, he announced his intention of taking one of the Books of Scripture as the subject of Expository Lectures for the Sunday afternoons. This form of address, he said, gave him greater freedom, both in subject and style, than that of the sermon, with its critical or historical division of some text arbitrarily taken as a prefix. He intended, therefore, to devote each Sunday morning to the sermon; and in the afternoon to go regularly through each chapter of the Book selected, including in his exposition all the topics contained therein.
On this plan he commenced with the First Book of Samuel. In the exposition of this Book, many subjects came under review which would not have found a place in an ordinary sermon. He was expounding Hebrew national life, and, incidentally, the experiences of particular individuals of that nation,-in all of which he discerned lessons for the English nation, and for the men and women who sat before him. Thus it occurred that topics of national policy, so far as bearing on individuals,—questions of social life—of morals, as they are connected with every-day life, arose naturally, and were treated with unshrinking faithful
The period (1848) was of great political and social excitement, and these Lectures may emphatically be said to have been “preaching to the times."
Some people were startled at the introduction of what
they called “secular subjects” into the pulpit; but the Lecturer, in all his ministrations, refused to recognize the distinction so drawn. He said that the whole life of a Christian was sacred,—that common every-day duties, whether of a trade or a profession, or the minuter details of a woman's household life, were the arenas in which trial and temptation arose; and that, therefore, it became the Christian minister's duty to enter into this familiar working life with his people, and help them to understand its meaning, its trials, and its compensations.
It were perhaps out of place here to say how greatly the congregation valued this mode of teaching, although it may be properly observed that it was at this period that his marvellous influence with the Working Classes commenced.
Subsequently, Mr. Robertson selected the Acts of the Apostles, and the Book of Genesis, for his afternoon expositions; after which he commenced those Lectures on the Epistles to the Corinthians, of which this volume is but a very imperfect transcript. The Epistles to the Corinthians were selected by him, because they afforded the largest scope for the consideration of a great variety of questions in Christian casuistry, which he thought it important to be rightly understood. It will be seen that these Lectures were generally expository of the whole range of Christian principles. They are less a scheme of doctrine than Mr. Robertson's view of St. Paul's ideas on all the subjects included in his Epistles to the Church at Corinth.
They were the fruit of much study and preparation, and, from examination of his papers,
it Mr. Robertson prepared very full notes of all the leading divisions in most of these Lectures, while of the
minor divisions a single word was often all that was written down to guide his thought. Occasionally, at the request of some friends, he wrote his lecture out after its delivery; and these, with short-hand notes of others, taken by different people, and which have been carefully collated with his own manuscript notes, have been the materials from which this volume has been arranged. It is therefore, necessarily, somewhat fragmentary in its character. Mr. Robertson's custom was to preach from forty to fifty minutes, with a clear, unbroken delivery, in which there was no hesitation or tautology. Hence it will be evident, from the quantity of matter contained in each of these printed Lectures, that a considerable portion of the spoken Lecture has not been given : and this will explain the brevity of some of the discourses, and the apparent incompleteness with which many of the topics are treated.
A few sermons on different texts in the Epistles to the Corinthians have already appeared in the three volumes of Mr. Robertson's Sermons; but it has been considered best to include them in this volume (although they did not form part of the series), in order that the Lecturer's view of the Epistles might so be rendered more complete.
Mr. Robertson had preached in the morning on the Parable of the Barren Fig-tree with an earnestness and solemnity which now seem to have been prophetic. In the afternoon he concluded, in the same spirit, this Series of Lectures with the text: “Finally, brethren, farewell”
: (2 Cor. xiii. 11); and his voice was never afterwards heard from the pulpit of Trinity Chapel.
Nov. 15, 1859.