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To supply such a volume, though perhaps a bold attempt, has been my aim; but whether I have attained, or even approached the point, others will now judge. I think there is here a chasm that needs to be filled, and if I should induce some of our ablest clergymen, to employ their talents in accomplishing, what I have attempted, I shall I hope feel myself richly rewarded for the trouble and expense of publishing this volume.
I am prepared to say that a score of volumes, such as I intended this should be, is wanted; and have yet to learn that the churches would not sustain the expense of their publication. And although it is deeply to be regreted, that so many precious volumes, read by the people of God, in days past, and used by the Spirit in fitting them for heaven, have from something obsolete in their language, gone too much out of use, yet as the fact exists, a remedy should be applied. The multitude of books in the market, is no argument against the attempt to furnish the ungodly with the means of alarm, or the people of God, with any help that can be afforded them, in finishing their sanctification. In every other department of learning, new efforts are perpetually made, and every fascination of style and argument employed, to render interesting the art or science that it is feared may languish ; and why not carry the same wisdom into the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I have given the volume as great a variety, as was consistent with my original design, and hope no one of the discourses will be found wholly unsuitable for the use intended. The twelfth, though it may seem to have been written exclusively for the benefit of ministers, was in fact designed rather for their people, to aid them in discovering, whether the ministry placed over them be correct, and faithful ; and to prepare them to treat tenderly, and aid promptly, by every means in their power, the true ambassador of Christ, in his arduous, and responsible, but pleasant and honourable calling. And the minister of the gospel, often pressed with labour, may wish, in some of his little meetings, to read a sermon to his people, and may find this one not unprofitable to himself or his people.
I sincerely hope, that some of the worthy ministers of New England, whose praise is in the churches, will give the public a few volumes of their sermons, and not leave this department of christian instruction, to be exclusively oecupied by posthumous publications, which some worthy friend, with the best motives possible, but under great disadvantages, shall collect from unrevised manuscripts, often with not the best success, either as it regards the reputation of the author, or the usefulness of the book.
I have only to add my wish and my prayer, that the great Head of the church, may bless to all my readers this attempt to build them up in the most holy faith ; and to ask their prayers, that my labour
not be in vain in the Lord.
Bonds of the Gospel,
DANIEL A. CLARK, AMHERST, Mass. Jan. 2, 1826.
THE CHURCH SAFE.
ISAIAH XLIX. 16.
“I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands ; thy walls
are continually before me.” The Jewish church, during her captivity, would be led to conceive that God had forsaken, and forgotten her. To effectually remove this impression, God by his prophet appeals to one of the tenderest relationships of life. 66 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” Thus would he give to Zion, assurance of his unchangeable love. His people should multiply, till the land, where their foes destroyed them, should be too limited for their increased population. Kings and nations should serve them, and do them honour. Zion was dear to him as the apple of his eye. He would engrave her upon the palms of his hands; her walls should be continually before him.
In those days, it was the custom to paint upon the palms of the hands such objects as men wished to remember, in allusion to which custom God assures his people, that he had graven Zion upon
the palms of his hands. Thus should her walls be continually before him ; he would not forget her a moment, nor suffer any foe to injure her. We have here a broad and sacred pledge, to be kept in mind by the people of God in all ages, and plead in their prayers, that he will foster and bless his church, and will employ his vigilence and his power to secure her safety, and advance her honours.
Thus is The church safe, and, the people of God need have no apprehensions, nor weep a tear, but over their own transgressions, and the miseries of that multitude, who will not be persuaded to take sanctuary in her bosom. I shall argue the safety of the church, from the firmness and stability of the divine operations, From what God has already done for his church, What he is now doing, and What he has promised to do.
I. We assure ourselves, that the church is safe, From the firmness and stability of the divine operations. I now refer, not merely to the unchangeableness of God, which will lead him to pursue for ever that plan which his infinite wisdom devised; for that plan lies concealed from us ; but to that uniform and steady course with which he has pursued every enterprise which his hands have begun. That he is of the same mind, and that none can turn him, is a thought full of comfort; but that he has finished every work which he took in hand, is a fact, which intelligences have witnessed, and one on which we may found our richest expectations.