INTRODUCTION AND APOLOGY
In reply to many requests from those ministers who in their student days listened to my lectures, I submit a selection to the press. This, however, I cannot do without an apology, for these addresses were not originally prepared for the public eye, and are scarcely presentable for criticism.
My College lectures are colloquial, familiar, full of anecdote, and often humorous: they are purposely made so, to suit the occasion. At the end of the week I meet the students, and find them weary with sterner studies, and I judge it best to be as lively and interesting in my prelections as I well can be. They have had their fill of classics, mathematics, and divinity, and are only in a condition to receive something which will attract and secure their attention, and fire their hearts. Our reverend tutor, Mr. Rogers, compares my Friday work to the sharpening of the pin: the fashioning of the head, the straightening, the laying on of the metal and the polishing have been done during the week, and then the process concludes with an effort to give point and sharpness. To succeed in this the lecturer must not be dull himself, nor demand any great effort from his audience.
I am as much at home with my young brethren as in the bosom of my family, and therefore speak without restraint. Generous minds will take this into account in reading these lectures, and I shall hope that all who favour me with their criticisms will be of that noble order.
Possibly caustic remarks may be made upon my frequent references to myself, my own methods of procedure, and personal reminiscences. These also were intentional. I have purposely given an almost autobiographical tinge to the whole, because my own experience, such as it is, is the most original contribution which I can offer, and, with my own students, quite as weighty as any other within my reach. It would have been impossible for me to quote the experiences of other men if they had not been bold enough to record them, and I make an honest attempt to acknowledge my debt to my greater predecessors by writing down my own. Whether this arises from egotism or not, each reader shall decide according to the sweetness or acidity of his own disposition. A father is excused when he tells his sons his own life-story and finds it the readiest way to enforce his maxims; the old soldier is forgiven when he "shoulders his crutch, and shows how fields were won;" I beg that the licence which tolerates these may, on this occasion, be extended to me.
It would have saved me much labour had I reserved these lectures for re-delivery to new companies of freshmen, and I am conscious of no motive in printing them but that of desiring to keep my counsels alive in the memories of those who heard them years ago, and impressing them upon others who dwell beyond the precincts of our class-room. The age has become intensely practical, and needs a ministry not only orthodox and spiritual, but also natural in utterance, and practically shrewd. Officialism is sick unto death; life is the true heir to success, and is coming to its heritage. Mannerisms, pomposities, and proprieties, once so potent in the religious world, are becoming as obsolete in the reverence of men as those gods of high Olympus for whom in past ages poets tuned their lyres, and sculptors quickened marble into beauty. Truth and life must conquer, and their victory is nearest when they cease to be encumbered with the grave clothes of conventionalism and pretence. It is delicious to put one's foot through the lath and plaster of old affectations, to make room for the granite walls of reality. This has been a main design with me, and may God send success to the effort.
The solemn work with which the Christian ministry concerns itself demands a man's all, and that all at its best. To engage in it half-heartedly is an insult to God and man. Slumber must forsake our eyelids sooner than men shall be allowed to perish. Yet we are all prone to sleep as do others, and students, among the rest, are apt to act the part of the foolish virgins; therefore have I sought to speak out my whole soul, in the hope that I might not create or foster dulness in others. May He in whose hand are the churches and their pastors bless these words to younger brethren in the ministry, and if so I shall count it more than a full reward, and shall gratefully praise the Lord. Should this publication succeed, I hope very soon to issue in similar form a work upon Commenting, containing a full catalogue of Commentaries, and also a second set of lectures. I shall be obliged by any assistance rendered to the sale, for the price is unremunerative, and persons interested in our subjects are not numerous enough to secure a very large circulation; hence it is only by the kind aid of all appreciating friends that I shall be able to publish the rest of the contemplated series.