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IT was not my intention, when I translated the first four volumes of Mr. Saurin's sermons, to add any more: but, willing to contribute my mite toward the pleasure and edification of such as having read the four desired a fifth, I took an opportunity, and added this fifth volume to a second edition of the four first. There is no alteration worth mentioning in the four, except that the editor thinking the fourth too thin, I have given him a dissertation on the supposed madness of David at the court of Achish, translated from the French of Mr. Dumont, which he has added to increase the size of that volume, following, however, his own ideas in this and not mine.
Saurin's sermons, in the original, are twelve octavo volumes, eleven of which are miscellaneous, and one contains a regular train of sermons for Lent, and is the only set of sermons among the whole. The four English volumes are composed of a selection of sermons from the whole with a view to a kind of order, the first being intended to convey proper ideas of the true character of God, the second to establish revelation, and so on: but this volume is miscellaneous, and contains fourteen sermons on various subjects. For my part, almost all the sermons of our author are of equal value in my eye, and each seems to me to have a beauty peculiar to itself, and supe
rior in its kind: but when I speak thus I wish to be understood.
It is not to be imagined, that a translator adopts all the sentiments of his author. To approve of a man's religious views in general is a reason sufficient to engage a person to translate, and it would be needless, if not arrogant, to enter a protest in a note against every word in which the author differed from the translator. In general, I think Saurin is one of the first of modern preachers: and his sermons, the whole construction of them, worth the attention of any teacher of Christianity, who wishes to excel in his way but there are many articles taken separately in which my ideas differ entirely from those of Mr. Saurin, both in doctrine, rites, discipline, and other circumstances.
For example, our author speaks a language concerning the rites of christianity, which I do not profess to understand. All he says of infant baptism appears to me erroneous, for I think infant baptism an innovation. When he speaks of the Lord's supper, and talks of a holy table, consecration, august symbols, and sublime mysteries of the sacrament, I confess, my approbation pauses, and I feel the exercise of my understanding suspended, or rather diverted from the preacher to what I suspect the sources of his mistakes. The Lord's supper is a commemoration of the most important of all events to us, the death of Christ; but I know of no mystery in it, and the primitive church knew of none; mystery and transubstantiation rose together, and together should have expired. August symbols may seem
bombast to us, but such epithets ought to pass with impunity among the gay and ever exuberant sons of France.
Again, in regard to church discipline, our author sometimes addresses civil magistrates to suppress scandalous books of divinity, and exhorts them to protect the church, and to furnish it with sound and able pastors: but, when I translate such passages, I recollect Mr. Saurin was a presbyterian, a friend to establishments, with toleration however, and in his system of church discipline the civil magistrate is to take order as some divines have sublimely expressed it. My ideas of the absolute freedom of the press, and the independent right of every Christian society to elect its own officers, and to judge for itself in every possible case of religion, oblige me on this subject also to differ from our author.
Further, Mr. Saurin, in his addresses to ministers speaks of them in a style much too high for my notions. I think, all Christians are brethren, and that any man, who understands the Christian religion himself, may teach it to one other man, or to two other men, or to two hundred, or to two thousand, if they think proper to invite him to do so; and I suppose what they call ordination not necessary to the exercise of his abilities: much less do I think that there is a secret something, call it Holy Ghost, or what else you please, that passes from the hand of a clerical ordainer to the whole essence of the ordained, conveying validity, power, indelible character, and so to speak, creation to his ministry. Mr. Saurin's colleagues are Levites holy to the Lord, ambas
sadors of the King of kings, administrators of the new covenant, who have written on their foreheads holiness to the Lord, and on their breasts the names of the children of Israel! In the writings of Moses all this is history in the sermons of Mr. Saurin all this is oratory in my creed all this is nonentity.
It signifies so little to the world what such an obscure man as I believe and approve, that I never thought to remark any of these articles in translating and prefacing the first four volumes: but lest I should seem, while I am propagating truth, to countenance error, I thought it necessary to make this remark. Indeed, I have always flattered myself for differing from Saurin; for I took it for probable evidence that I had the virtue to think for myself, even in the presence of the man in the world the most likely to seduce me. Had I a human oracle in religion, perhaps Saurin would be the man: but one is our master, even Christ.
Notwithstanding these objections I honor this man for his great abilities; much more for the holy use he made of them in teaching the Christian religion; and also for the seal, which it pleased God to set to his ministry; for he was, in the account of a great number of his brethren, a chosen vessel unto the Lord, filled with an excellent treasure of the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and his ministry was attended with abundant success. As I have been speaking of what I judge his defects, it is but fair to add a few words of what I account his excellencies.