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IN EIGHT VOLUMES.
FIFTEEN SERMONS ON VARI- SUBJECTS, DOCTRINAL AND
PREFACE OF THE EDITOR.
As the two following volumes consist wholly of sermons, it may be proper to introduce them with a few prefatory remarks.
It was the original design of the EDITOR, as stated in the Proposals, to bring into this collection of President EDWARDS'S Works, every thing which had come before the public from his pen. It was beside his hope, to be able to add something from his manuscripts which had never before been published. All this, it was thought, might be comprised within the limits of eight octavo volumes, of five hundred pages or upwards each. This calculation was not founded upon a minute estimate, nor had it the sanction of experience. It was general; and appears, as we have progressed in the work, to be inadequate. It would require at least another volume to fulfil the original design; notwithstanding the type is smaller than that which at first it was proposed to use. For this error in estimate, the EDITOR is willing as much blame should attach to him as it deserves. At the same time he is consoled with the reflection, that, as no injury was designed, none actually accrues, to his subscribers. The volumes, as they are given, are really worth more, by considerable, than the Proposals warranted them to expect.
As the times were uncommonly difficult, and the subscription so small as scarcely to justify a proceeding with the work, it was thought, on the whole, not advisable to add another volume. This judgment met the entire acquiescence of several respectable gentlemen, particularly friendly to Mr. EDWARDS's Writings, who were consulted on the subject. If however the subscribers are desirous to have the work go to the complete extent, at first in
tended, and, for the sake of it, are willing to be at an expense proportionate to that at which the eight volumes come to them; and will signify it, a supplementary volume shall be added.
Except the Sermon delivered at Newhaven 1741, upon the distinguishing marks of a work of the Spirit of God; 1 John iv. 1, the leading thoughts of which, more maturely digested and with fuller illustrations, are brought into view in the piece which Mr. EDWARDS afterwards published, and which the reader has had before him in the third volume, entitled, Thoughts on the Revival of Religion in Newengland; nothing is omitted but what is posthumous, and never had the finishing hand of the au thor. And, if comparison is to be indulged among works so generally excellent, that which is omitted, either because the subject had been already discussed in some form before, or because in some respect more imperfect than it could have gone from the hand of the author, if it had by him been prepared for the press, has probably the least claim to an honorable preservation.
The Sermons which are put into these two volumes may be considered as a liberal selection. They give a fair specimen of Mr. EDWARDS's talents and manner, as a composer of sermons. In them we are not to look for brilliancy of conception or polished periods. That splendid eloquence, without which the fastidiousness of modern taste is scarce ever satisfied, was altogether beneath Mr. EDWARDS's care. He had too high a sense of the worth of simple, unadorned truth, to think he could have any valuable recommendations from dress. He preached to a plain auditory, and his principal aim was to be understood. He wished to reach the consciences and hearts of his hearers; not to play with their imaginations. The Sermons have therefore a particular character, and we venture to say the best character. Embellishment, sparingly bestowed, might heighten, but could not materially add to their value. They correspond with the sim ple, unadorned manner of Him, who spake as never man spake. They exhibit a mind singularly spiritual and heavenly; so deeply conversant with objects of faith as almost to forget it had any temporal concerns. They are grave and solemn. They descend to particulars, and survey the whole ground of duty and of guilt. They pursue the sinner into all his lurking places, and lay before
kim the only foundation on which his hope can warrantably rest. While the most popular modern sermons entirely fail of the prop er object of Gospel preaching, these most successfully obtain it. The reader is compelled to think; and e feels evidence. Obli gation arrests him, with a sensibility of which he was never conscious before, and he realizes, with astonishment at his past stupidity, the awful and everlasting scenes which await him. Fearfulness surprizes the hypocrite, and the sincere Christian only is comforted.
The Sermons are not divided as they were in the preaching of them, and as they have appeared in former publications. It was thought best to put all those together which were drawn from one text, so that they may stand in the form of a single continued discourse. If the reader wishes to make a pause, he will meet with no difficulty in finding the proper place for it.
The doctrine of justification by faith alone is handled, in the first sermon, with the care and ingenuity which mark all the writings of this great divine. Yet he was not infallible. And the statement which he gives of this doctrine, though in the main certainly correct, should not be received in every part of it with implicit credit. It deserves to be considered carefully whether the believer, besides receiving the complete remission of his sins, can be a subject imputatively of such an obedience to the law as exactly meets its demands, and as entitles him in justice to glory. It is a serious question whether such obedience and forgiveness are reconcileable, as meeting in the same person. The views which the author sometimes gives of the propriety and necessity of the sinner's strivings, while impenitent, to obtain converting grace, are probably to be admitted also with some diffidence.
WORCESTER, MARCH, 1809..