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Preface to the first Edition.
N epistolary correspondence commenced between
the Rev. Mr. Samuel Davies and myself, in the year 1752, and was continued till the time of his decease.
When I began the intercourse with him, I could not entertain any very probable hopes that we should ever have an interview in our world, but Mr. Davies's visit to Great Britain, in the year 1753, with that venerable man the Rev. Mr. Gilbert Tennent, of Philadelphia, to solicit benefactions for the college of New-Jersey, gave me a pleasure beyond all reasonable expectation; and the friendship which was kindled at the distance of several thousand miles from each other, was increased by free and frequent converses during the time, almost a year, of Mr. Davies's residence on this side the Atlantic.
After his departure from our country to America, I received several letters from Mr. Davies, and had the honour of being numbered among his particular friends, to whom he communicated the very secrets of his bosom.
In a letter, dated September 12, 1757, Mr. Davies (at that juncture scarce recovered from a violent and dangerous fever) thus writes to me: " I want to live “ after I am dead, not in name, but in public useful“ ness: I was therefore about to order in my will that “all my notes, which are tolerably full, might be sent “to you to correct and publish such of them as you
might judge conducive to the public good. Pray, “ what do you think of the project, if the like occasion “ should return while you are among mortals ?"
What answer I gave to my friend's proposal I cannot exactly recollect, but I am persuaded that my afB
fection to him would not permit me to put a negative upon his request.
On the 4th of February, 1761, this excellent man was by a violent fever removed from our world : and, though he died universally lamented, yet, as he had an uncommon interest in my affection while living, fo his decease opened the springs of the most afflicting sorrow in my breast, and perhaps I may truly apply, with a little variation, the words of the Poet,
Multis ille flebilis occidit,
HORAT. Od. Lib. I. Od. 24. But, though the prophet is ascended, his mantle is left behind. A very considerable number of his SERMONS has been transmitted to me, and thence I have selected what were sufficient to compose the ensuing volumes.
As the Sermons which I now lay before the public were Mr. Davies's usual popular discourses, it may naturally be supposed that they required patient and accurate revisal in order to their publication; and that the Editor, if he would discharge his duty as he ought, must find himself under the necessity of making some occasional alterations and amendments as to the language, and especially of adjusting the pointing. These liberties I have taken, and have endeavoured to execute my trust in the same manner which I have reason to think Mr. Davies, if he had been living, would have approved and commended; and in which I should wish my own Sermons, should I leave any behind me worthy of the public view, might be corrected and sent into the world.
They who knew and heard Mr. Davies will need no further proof than the perusal of the discourses themselves that they are the real productions of the author to whom they are ascribed. The sun fhews himself to be the sun by the very beams with which he irradiates and enlivens mankind, and is easily distinguished from other luminaries by his surpassing lustre.
The Sermons I have chosen for publication strictly answer the Advertisement in the Proposals for printing them; namely, Sermons on the most USEFUL and IMPORTANT Subje&ts, adapted to the Family and Closet. The reader will meet with no discourses in these volumes but what are calculated for general use, or such as relate to the common conditions, duties, and interests of mankind in one form or another; and in how many of them has both the Saint and the Sinner a partion of meat provided for him? May it prove a portion in due season! and may both the one and the other rise from the sacred feast divinely. strengthened and blefled!
Amidft an attention to the very numerous and important duties of my several departments in life, the additional weight of a due preparation of Three Volumes of pofthumous discourses for the eye of the public, and of the careful reviews of the proof-lheets as they came from the press, has taken up no small portion of my time, and been no inconsiderable accession to my constant labours; but I have most cheerfully deyoted both my hours and my toils to the very valuable purposes--of fulfilling the desires of my dear friend Mr. Davies, which I own have a kind of irresistible power over me;-of contributing, as I would hope, to the spiritual benefit of my fellow-heirs of immortality, by putting into their hands a collection of very pious and useful Sermons ;---and, of assisting and comforting the mournful widow and orphans of a friend who was as dear to me as a brother.
I take the liberty of returning thanks, in the name of Mrs. Davies, (for to her only the profits of the publication shall be applied) to the numerous SUBSCRIBERS to the work; and I hope they will find themselves amply recompenced for their benevolence to the widow and fatherless, by the sacred advantage and pleasure they and their families will receive in the perufal of these discourses; in which piety and genius seem to have vied with each other which fhould excel, and triumph in the superior glory. .
Notwithstanding all the time and pains the present work has cost me, and the strong sense I have that a like proportion of both would be required in the execution of a like undertaking, yet I beg leave to assure the public, that, as I have a large number of Mr. Davies's manuscript Sermons still in my hands, I shall be ready (health being continued to me) to revise and publish the Author's
remaining discourses, whenever there shall be an encouraging prospect of benefit to Mrs. Davies, or her orphans, by a fresh publication. As to viht, or relieve, the fatherless and the widow in their affli&tion* is an essential branch of christian duty, so it is a duty I trust will never be wanting, whenever an opportunity offers for exemplifying it, from my first regards and practice.
Mr. Davies annexed to some of his Sermons Hymn's of his own composition. Had this been uniformly the case they might have accompanied his Discourses to the press, but as it is not, I have omitted them; but, if death or incapacity prevent not my design, I intend hereafter to collect what Hymns of his have fallen into my hands, and publish them together with some of
my own on the like occasions.
I have prefixed to these Volumes a Sermon upon the death of our Author by that excellent man the Rev. Dr. Samual Finley, Mr. Davies's fucceffor to the presidency of New Jersey College: I have also re-published the Discourse I preached to my people the next Lord's day after I received the distressing news of Mr. Davies's decease; and have ventured to add an Elegiac Poem to the memory
dear friend; in which if the reader finds not a vein of poesy worthy of the subject, yet he will not, I presume, be displeased at the efforts, however languid and inadequate, of bereaved mourning friendship to do honour to the character of a person fo amiable and deserving.
The idea I have given of our Author in my Sermon, and particularly in my Poem, and above all, the
just just and lively, the strong and elegant picture which Dr. Finley has exhibited of him in his discourse upon his death, render it unnecessary to enlarge this Preface with an account of Mr. Davies's merit and accomplishments ; I shall therefore only add, that I most sincerely wish that young ministers more especially would peruse these Volumes with the deepest attention and seriousness, and endeavour, in conjunction with earnest prayer for divine illumination and assistance, to form their discourses according to the model of our Author; in which, if I mistake not, a critical Scrutiny into the sacred Texts which he chooses for his subjects, a natural Eduction and clear Representation of their genuine meaning, an elaborate and satisfactory Proof of the various heads of doctrine, a steady Prosecution of his point, together with an easy and plain, but yet strong and pertinent Enlargement, and a free, animated, and powerful Application and Improvement, wonderfully adapted to awaken the consciences, and strike the hearts of both faints and finners, mingle the various excellencies of learning, judgment, eloquence, piety, and seraphic zeal, in one uncommon glory; not unlike the beams of the sun collected by a burning glass, that at once shine with a most dazzling brightness, and set fire, wherever the blaze is directed, to objects susceptive of their celestial influence, and a transformation into their own nature,
* James, i. 27.