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To the following named RULING ELDERs, in different congregations of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America : Hon. Joseph C. HoRNBLower, LL.D. Ex-Chief justice of
the State of New Jersey,
Fisher. Howe, Esq. do. do.
HoNoreD AND BELovED BRETHREN :
Permit the liberty taken by no unfriendly pen, in this array of your names in the portico of my humble building; even if it should prove that the vestibule is better than the edifice, to which it ought to be only a fitting introduction.
My estimate of you as Christians, and as officers in the Church of Christ, is such as to account for the distinction, I hope not inglorious, which I have spontaneously, and without all knowledge of your own, ventured to award you.
This volume I inscribe to you, but dedicate it to God and
(5 ESTIMATION.—A JURY.
our country; respecting and esteeming you too much to flatter you, and myself too much to be self-degraded by the attempt. But what is here said will be more acceptable as the fruit of brotherly kindness, saluting you as Americans, as Presbyterians, as ecclesiastical officers in my own beloved Church, as fellow-Christians, and as personal friends, honored and beloved. All the favor I ask of you is, to give my work a fair perusal; and, if you think it of any value, be its friends, its patrons, if you please, only so far as a sense of duty, and the pleasure of a good conscience, will allow. Be as lenient as you can toward its imperfections and its faults. More I dare not ask or desire—unless it be the boon of your prayers to God for me, that in all I do, in these residuary terms of an extended public life, and in this present enterprise, I may be favored with the incomparable good of his own benediction, however greatly, very greatly, undeserved In this impanneling of a jury—not a coroner's—in the matter, the number twelve was reached without any particular design—certainly with no reference to the twelve patriarchs, or the twelve apostles; nor to the twice twelve Presbyters, sitting on as many subordinate thrones, round about THE THRONE, clothed in white raiment, and having on their heads crowns of gold. Other dozens, single and double, recur to my thoughts, by the wonderful law of suggestion or association ; but I dismiss them as useless to my purpose, and say, that, viewing you as the honorable representatives of that general class of my countrymen for whom more especially this is written, I commend the production to your favor, as well as your notice; in the full persuasion that if, in the main, it wins the approval of such a BENCH of RULING ELDERs in the Church, the writer may be much consoled with the hope that its mission and its ministry, in other spheres of our social and even of our national community, may hereafter prove both acceptable and beneficial.
SELECTION-LEVITY OF READERS. 7
In the preparation of these INTERVIEws I have taken some liberties, and, at the same time, have observed certain necessary restraints. While not always the order, and seldom the exact phrases and style of conversation, could be reproduced or remembered, I have endeavored to violate no rule of substantial truth and justice, in the use of my own method, and the costume of my own thoughts, for the most part. Many items and topics are intentionally omitted, as less proper or useful for the public eye. Possibly it were wiser to have omitted more. Of those inserted, I have chiefly regarded usefulness, and aimed to select the best for my purpose, and to treat them in some historical or natural order ; but to care for substance and principle, more than for form and show. Much on this plan, we know, are written the inspired biographies of the Savior, the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John ; and also the Acts of the Apostles. The parables of the Savior are of their own class, as apologues, designed to give instruction, without any pretension to historical authenticity. Where I have given nearly or quite the very words of a speaker, in some express relation or place, the reader will probably be able to identify it, from its emphatic nature and its attending circumstances. That the age is given to superficial reading, or rather to pleasure without reading at all, and still less to thinking, were this possible, is generally too obvious for any thing but lamentation and epitaph It may be a reason, however, with them that write for the public, why one should aim to take their attention, et utile cum dulci miscere, with the things that interest and amuse, especially if in this way he may hope ultimately to profit them. Reading, and thinking, and praying, in combination, seem indeed to be less characteristic even of the good, in our day, than of the fathers of the previous age or century. The liberties taken in these writings, describing the INTER
8 A POSSIBILITY-MOTIVES.
views to which they refer, are chiefly in the way of amplification, without perversion, or misrepresentation of facts, sentiments, or characters. Here the writer has to do also with the reader: to prepare his mind gradually and duly to comprehend the narrative, as well as to come to just conclusions respecting it; and in all, to set the parts in due array and sequence, for the proper symmetry and effect of the work. The selections made, from many, are in obedience at once to the counsels of judicious friends, and to my own judgment in respect to what is interesting and useful. I at first intended to give at large my two interviews with the late eccentric and original Edward Irving, of London ; one with a wealthy and learned Jew, of the house of Rothschild, in Germany; one with an intelligent and polished foreigner, a Romanist, in a stage-coach, before steam-travel existed between New York and Philadelphia; one in a rail-car in Western Pennsylvania, with a self-confident and skeptical merchant of Philadelphia, supported by a Jesuit priest of Rome; and several with men who consulted me on the most interesting topic of all human inquiry—What must I do to be saved 2 But of these it may here only be said, that the present volume would be sufficiently large without them ; and also that, if the present is well received, and life and health are spared, another volume may be hereafter prepared for the public. While the forms and the laws of social intercourse are not to be violated at random, yet there is an excess of etiquette sometimes imposed, at the expense of honesty, to which a Christian must refuse subserviency. In any writing on the subject of religion, if the author ought to remember that thou God seest me, so should he deal honestly with his readers, and have the testimony of his conscience for his rejoicing, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of GOD, he has his conversation in the world, and more abundantly toward them. I may here remind myself, at least, that there is no reason or sense in at