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nnto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it—Why dost thou judge thy brother? Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ"
—Such was the Prospectus by which the Author announced the work he had undertaken. The circulation of the proposals occasioned from his friends a variety of hints concerning the plan. Some of these could not be regarded, but others have led to a little deviation from the original sketch—in two cases—The one respects the style; the other the length.
With regard to the former it was suggested—that in families where discourses of this kind were likely to be read, there were often Youths of both sexes, of some education and improvement—that these formed a very important part of the object of such a publication—and therefore that the eye should not be too exclusively fixed on servants and children. In consequence of this, the Author has frequendy paid a little more attention to the composition.
With regard to the other it was observed—that between an hour, and the time proposed, there were many intermediate degrees—and that those who had been accustomed to read discourses of the former length, would find the latter too disproportionately short The Author has therefore rendered some of these exercises a little longer: but as far as he can judge, none of them even now will take up more than thirty minutes. This circumstance has rather reduced the number of addresses.
After all, the Author scarcely knows whether the alterations are improvements. He has found, that if in the multitude of counsellors there is safety, there is also perplexity. The work has been finished in a short space of time, under frequent indispositions and many interruptions. It might have been much better executed. But all human productions are susceptible of endless improvement; and were an author to wait till his own mind is completely satisfied, he may linger in idle hope, till death—every moment hastening on—deprives him of all opportunity to serve his generation. The grand point at which we should aim is—to work while it is called to-day, knowing that the night cometh, wherein no man can work—and to gain from the Master the sentence with which he defended and applauded Mary —"Let her alone—She hath done what she could."
The Author has not placed the discourses according to any principle of arrangement; but the Index will enable the reader to find the subject suited to any particular purpose.
After publishing the prospectus, a much esteemed friend sent the Author the following reflections, which he had never seen before. They are extracted from the Monthly Review for May 1800. In noticing " Family Sermons, by the Rev. E. Whitaker, Canterbury, 3 vols.," the writer observes,
"Prepossessed by the title of this work, we commenced our perusal of it with the flattering expectation of finding what has indeed been long wanted ; viz. a set of sermons particularly calculated for the use of families; such as are proper for parents and masters to read on Sunday evenings to their children and servants. It is astonishing that amidst the torrent of sermons continually issuing from the press, there should scarcely be found any which answer this description: but our clergy do not sufficiently consider that compositions calculated for the pulpit are not always adapted for the purposes above specified. In our opinion Family Sermons ought to be short, plain, pious, and practical. They should not tire by length, nor perplex by profundity. The plain truths of the Christian religion, the social and personal virtues, should be their subjects, and these should be treated with a view to practical application, rather than to learned explanation.
"Our modern sermons are considerably shorter than those of the last age, but they are still too long for domestic use. Children and servants are soon tired of listening to admonitions; and when languor prevails, the mind ceases to be in a proper state to receive instruction. Above all things, therefore, he who composes Family Sermons should avoid prolixity and dry argumentation. He should endeavour to put himself in the situation of a sensible and well-disposed master of a
family, who wishes to embrace the opportunity afforded on the Sunday evening of inculcating on those under his care and authority the lessons of religion and virtue. Such a man, in making such an attempt, would select no subject of controversy, would discover no desire of display, but would strive, with all brevity, affectionately and piously to address their plain understandings, consciences, and feelings."
The Author has inserted this extract because there is such a remarkable coincidence of reflection, and because by such an authority he would strengthen his own opinion. He apprehends there is only one article in which the work now introduced will be found to differ from the -plan recommended above. And it is this: He has brought forward, sometimes more fully and distinctly, and oftener still by connexion and implication, subjects which the conductors of this celebrated Review may consider as too much partaking of the controversial, and speculative, and which they would entirely exclude from such a performance. But the Author is satisfied not only of the truth, but of the importance of these doctrines: he has seen their beneficial influence practically exemplified; and he is persuaded the inculcation of them is necessary to ministerial usefulness. And as he has written from conviction, and has delivered himself without censoriousness, he expects from impartiality the same candour with which, notwithstanding difference of sentiment, his former works have been received.
The Discourse on " Death" was occasioned by the dissolution of the Rev. William Rowe, pastor of the Baptist Church in Weymouth. Though not of the Author's own denomination, he considered him equally entitled to affection and esteem; and dying at Bath, he was led to notice the event His bereaved widow, and some of bis relations and friends who were present, earnestly requested (as they understood the Author was publishing) that he would permit the Discourse to stand in the Volume, omitting what was said of the character and experience of the amiable and excellent individual. To comply with the desire afforded him pleasure.
The last Discourse is the usual length of pulpit addresses. The insertion of this the Author wishes to be considered as a small token of his respect for a female friend,* at whose application it was preached a second time; when it was secured by a professional short-hand writer. It is published with scarcely an alteration.
Percy Place; June, 1805.
* The loily of Samuel Milk, Esq. Finnbury-nquare.
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The throne or Grace Heb. iv. 16 49
Seunmer and Harvest Prov. x. 5 52
Natbanael John 1.46—50... ..64
The characters of Sin Romans vl. 21 G