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ENTERED according to Act of Congress, in the year 1841, by
M. W. DODD, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Scuthern District of
NEW-YORK UNIVERSITY PRESS:
The Rev. ABRAHAM C. Baldwin has shown me a work, prepared with much care and labor, which in my opinion will be of great utility-an extensive collection of distinct subjects for the pulpit, arranged under a few general heads for greater convenience.
The design is to aid ministers in selecting interesting and appropriate topics for discussion; by summoning before them in one view, and at small expense, those which lie scattered in many volumes of the published productions of the pulpit. It is a work, which, if I do not greatly mistake, all the licentiates from our Theological Schools, and all our settled Clergymen who are not furnished with extensive libraries, will be ready to take: from which I am sure they will derive benefit far beyond the price which they will have to pay.
ELEAZAR T. FITCH,
The Rev. MR. Baldwin having favoured me with a communication of his plan of a small work for the use of Clergymen, suggesting topics and texts for discourses, I have great pleasure in expressing my opinion in favour of the utility of his design, and of the manner in which he has carried it into execution.
The Plan of the Rev. MR. Baldwin and the manuscript of his work have been exhibited to me, and I take pleasure in being allowed to add my name in commendation to those above given. It should be observed that it is not a book of Skeletons, but of topics on which the mind of the Preacher must be itself exercised, and it is certainly the more valuable on that account. I cheerlully recommend it.
THOMAS E, VERMILYE. In the above we fully concur.
The plan of Mr. Baldwin's book meets my cordial approbation, though I have had but a limited opportunity to examine the execution of it. Judging from the few pages submitted to me, I think it will be a useful publication.
The subscriber feels inclined to favour every thing which is adapted to facilitate the labours of clergymen, especially those of them who are young, and comparatively inexperienced. They, undoubtedly, often lose much time, and are subjected to much perplexity, in the choice of subjects for the Pulpit at once appropriate and sufficiently varied. In this view Mr. Baldwin's publication may be of no small use to those who have few books, and but little experience in the composition of sermons.
The only fear is, that many who use this work, will not content themselves with having a topic suggested by Mr. B.'s book; but will be betrayed, unwarily, by this labour-saving machine, into the habit of resorting too largely to others for help in composition, as well as in the selection of topics ;-a habit so full of mischief, both to preachers and hearers, that it is not easy to find terms sufficiently strong for warning against it. If those who may make use of the proposed publication should have sufficient deeision of character to avoid this evil, they may be greatly accommodated by Mr. Baldwin's work. Such are the impressions which have been made on the mind of the subscriber by a glance at the first printed sheet of the proposed compilation.
SAMUEL MILLER. Princeton, April 30th, 1841,
The design of this book is obvious from its title. There are few clergymen who have not at times found it more difficult to select an interesting and useful subject for a discourse, than to prepare a sermon after a suitable subjeet had been found. To afford timely assistance to his brethren in such circumstances, has been the object of the compiler in preparing the present work.
The plan pursued is different, it is believed, from any thing of the kind hitherto attempted. There have been published at different times, books containing Skeletons, or Outlines of Sermons, for the use of those who are either incompetent, or too indolent to frame a discourse without assistance. But such helps as these, are far worse than useless; they serve to destroy the inventive powers of the preacher, and make of him a complete drone. A clergyman who prepares his discourses by merely filling up plans made by others, ceases to respect himself, and so far as his practice is known, loses the respect of the community; and what is still worse, he will be likely to starve his hearers. Discourses thus composed will want unction,—their several parts, being made up by different minds of diverse habits of thinking and feeling, will be as incongruous as the iron and the clay in Nebuchadnezzar's image. Such books ought to be banished at once from every clergyman's Library, unless a very different use is made of them from that intended by their authors. If a preacher is really unable to prepare a discourse unless the framework is constructed to his hands, it is incumbent on him to pause, and seriously inquire whether he has not mistaken his
calling. If he is too indolent to do it, there is reason to fear that he has mistaken not only his calling, but his own heart.
As this book furnishes nothing but Subjects and Texts, it is believed that, without affording any temptation or even facilities for being indolent, it will often be of essential service to the preacher, by suggesting interesting and important trains of thought which he will carry out independently, and which will be wholly his own. Some of the greatest and happiest efforts of the human mind have owed their origin to a single thought suggested by another mind, or to a striking text of Scripture. The intellectual powers are frequently stimulated to vigorous action upon the mere announcement of an interesting and appropriate theme.
There are here presented nearly three thousand subjects for the pulpit, most of which have been already discussed with much interest and profit by able divines. This latter circumstance, however, does not constitute the least objection to their being discussed again by other minds. Subjects and Texts (but not Skeletons) are common property. A preacher may discourse on a topic which others have canvassed before him with just as much of originality and profit as if he were the first person who made it a theme for the pulpit. There is one consideration in favour of a subject that has been once discussed with interest in the desk, and that is, the preacher may know that his theme has sufficient scope for a sermon, as it has been successfully tested.
The subjects in this volume are arranged, it will be perceived, with reference to convenience, and not to the order in which they should follow each other in a Theological System.