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PAS'roR OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, BALLSTON, N. Y.
SARATOGA SPRINGS :
rRINTED AND publishED BY G. M. DAvtson. -
JNorthern District of New-York, to wit : BE IT REMEMBERED, That on the thirteenth day of February, in the forty-eighth year of the In(L. S.) dependence of the United States of America, A. D. 1824, G. M. Davison, of the said District, has deposited in this office the title of a Book, the right whereof he claims as proprietor, in the words following, to wit: “Truth without Controversy: a series of Toctrinal Lectures, intended principally for Young Professors of Religion. By R. Smith, A. M. Pastor of the Presbyterian Church, Ballston, N. Y.” In conformity to the act of the Congress of the United States, entitled “An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned;” and also, to the act, entitled “An act suplementary to an act, entitled “An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies during the times therein mentioned, and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of Designing, Engraving, and Etching historical and other prints.” RICHARD R. LANSING, Clerk of the Northern District of New-York.
Soon after the great revival, with which it pleased God to visit this region in 1820, a venerable father in the ministry made me the following remark : “You also, I understand, have had a great gathering; and now, my young friend, if, in your whole life, you shall be the means of building up and establishing in the faith those whom God has given you, you will have done a great service.”
I have thought much of this remark. Without ceasing to labour for new revivals, the pastor who has been blessed with the gathering of numerous hopeful converts at one season, ought never to imagine he labours in vain, while those converts remain to be instructed and sanctified ; and where, as in maost instances, they consist principally of young people, the difficulty, as well as the desireableness of establishing them in the faith, will daily enlarge his views of the importance of this labour.
We early turned our attention, therefore, to the claims of our numerous young professors; but difficulties occurred in adopting a mode of instruction, suitable to their condition. In a country congrega
tion, Bible ** be maintained more than *- i.
a few months in the year; and for that portion, who
were able to attend, we found the want of a suitable ``
help to the study of the sacred oracles. M’Dowel's Questions were evidently intended for children rather than young professors ; and it is no disparagement to the excellency of most of our books of doctrinal instruction to say, that neither their size or style of teaching controverted truths, do very much recommend them to young professors of religion. We have commonly conducted our Bible classes, therefore, simply with the use of the sacred volume —drawing out and establishing such doctrines and duties as the lessons seemed fairly to teach, in our own language; and this has led, eventually, to a course of lectures on the same subjects, and with the same object. At first it was only expected that the pupils would take notes of the leading proofs and arguments, with a view to rehearsing them in our classes : the repeated request of this part of my charge, at length induced me to consent that the lectures should be put into a printed form; and subsequently to the issuing of the first proposals, they were enlarged, at the suggestion of an intelligent friend, to their present number and dimensions. The style of these discourses is more formal than it would have been, had not the writer been anxious
to supply a useful reference to scripture on essential points of doctrine ; and sensible, at the same time, that, though firmly believing what is asserted, he might be mistaken, he would therefore speak with caution. He could never satisfy himself, moreover, that the mere discussion of a doctrine, however important, could answer all the objects of preaching; and the lectures have, in consequence, closed more or less in the style of exhortation. But the feature most aimed at in the forming of these discourses, has been simply the affirmative method of argument. This plan was attended with difficulties; but it has been pursued, both from the conviction that many, not belonging to us in denomination, ought not to be wounded in their feelings, by a zeal for non-essential points of difference ; and that, were our object what it is not, to win a dissenting brother, there is the least of all encouragement in assailing him with controversy, Truth is self-balanced ; and the world need not, every day, be told what is opposed to it. It is believed, therefore, nothing will be found in these discourses to offend any denomination of evangelical christians; and should they be read by any whose essential difference of views do not assign them to this class, the affirmative plan of our argument will still leave that assignment to themselves.