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THE Reverend Author of the following work having departed this life just before the emission of it from the press; the Editor is under the necessity of presenting it to the world in his own name: which he does with the greater confidence, on account of its having undergone the review of the Author's most deliberate judgment, and the most careful correction of his pen, during the illness which endled in his dissolution.
As no pains have been spared by the Editor, to justify the confidence reposed in him, he seems entitled to avail himself of the evidences which remain of the high reputation attached to the contents of these volumes during the Author's life. For although, in that long space of time, the active part of which was upwards of fifty years, many of the present generation in the different parts of the United States, have been witnesses of the excellency of his instructions from the pulpit, and to a very great proportion
of them his celebrity in this and in other respects must have been a familiar fact; yet it is evident, thrat the public opinion will be the most conspicuously apparent in the uncontradicted documents which have been long before the world; and which may be considered as pledges of the immortality of the present work.
With a view to those evidences, it will be proper to take notice, that some of the following sermons were published in England, in two editions, in the years 1759, and 1762; with the “ Letter to a Clergyman,” and a Plan of Education under the name of " An Idea of the College of Mirania,” now published in the first volume of this work.
The sermons published in England will be distinguished to the reader, by the eloquence and the patriotism arising out of the then recent circumstances and transactions in the war between GreatBritain and France: a war that threatened the existence of the British colonies, now the United States. It is necessary to look back to the crisis then existing, for an explanation of some expressions, which might otherwise seem to i dicate intolerance in religious matters. All who knew the Author can bear witness, that, however attached on conviction to the church of which he was a minister, he wished well to the preaching of the gospel under whatever
name: and accordingly, the expressions alluded to ought not in reason to be understood of religious opinions, any further than as they were connected with arbitrary domination and made subservient to its views. It is to the two editions mentioned, that the testimonies from British publications of that remote period refer.
Next to those testimonies, there will be inserted an extract from a letter of the late Dr. Franklin, relative to the “ Idea of the College of Mirania:” a letter, which must have been highly gratifying to our Author, at that early period of his life; and probably contributed to the “ zeal bordering on enthusiasm," as he has himself called it in one of his publications, with which he devoted himself to the dissemination of science; and particularly to the carrying into effect of his own plan of a liberal education in the tract alluded to. It may seem hardly necessary to mention, for the information of the present generation, that he continued to an advanced age in the duties of philosophical instruction, and in labours for the erecting and endowing of literary institutions. Of his ability in the former, there are monuments in some of the most distinguished ornaments of this age and country: and of his success in the latter, some proofs are still visible, in the endow. ments which have survived him.
Between the times of the publications above referred to, and the period to be hereafter mentioned, several of the ensuing sermons and of the other public addresses appeared from the press in a detached form. They had been composed and delivered on occasions which excited general attention; and the publishing of them was in consequence of the applause with which they were received, and of subsequent solicitation.
In the year 1789, the Author contemplated an edition of such of his sermons, as he judged the most worthy of the public eye: a design which was suspended from time to time, by a multiplicity of engagements. With that view, however, he submitted his proposals to the general convention of the Protestant Episcopal church, at their session in this city, in the summer of the aforesaid year : and on this was grounded the act of that body, which will be inserted below, in approbation of the design. Although the suspension of it was a disappointment to many, and solicitations have been continually made for a fulfilment of the excited expectations; yet the Editor flatters himself, that the work, as now at last appearing, will have an advantage over the projected work, in those excellent discourses which stand between numbers four and twelve, inclusive. And here it will not be improper to mention that, in ad
dition to the circumstances of solemnity indicated in the titles and in the bodies of these discourses, there were others in the domestic situation of the Author, which impressed his mind, interested his feelings, and, no doubt, heightened the sentiment and the eloquence of his compositions. Not long before this period, he had lost a soh, just risen to manhood; on whose natural and acquired accomplishments he had founded the most sanguine hopes; and a married daughter, who was every way worthy of his affections: and during the epidemic sickness to which the sermons relate, one of its many victims was the companion of his life and mother of his children; a woman adorned by a cultivated understanding, by agreeable manners, and by the discharge of her domestic duties. At a time of general mourning, himself being in a signal measure interested in the occasion of it, his mind, to use his own words in a document now before the editor, “ was carried forward to the consummation of earthly, and the final establishment of heavenly things.” These circumstances may be supposed to have enhanced the merit of his compositions; as they undoubtedly rendered them the more interesting to his hearers.
To proceed to the testimonies: The authors of the Critical Review for August 1759, express themselves as follows: