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TO THE AMERICAN EDITION
In presenting this work to the American public, the publishers believe that they are rendering an important service to the religious community at large, and to theological students in particular. The first edition was published at Edinburgh in 1834, and has already obtained a very extensive circulation in Britain. An estimate may be formed of the value of these Lectures, from the fact of their having received the highest praise of some of the most distinguished theological scholars in Scotland and England; and though expressing in the most decided manner the views of the particular denomination with which their author was connected, (the Presbyterian,) the catholic spirit with which these opinions are maintained, the candour with which others are stated, and the ability with which the common Christianity is illustrated and defended, may be learned from the fact of their being warmly recommended by the leading periodicals of nearly all the Protestant denominations of Britain.
The Lectures of which this work is composed were read by their author to the students attending the Theological Seminary of the United Associate Church, in which he was Professor of Systematic Divinity. They were not prepared for the press; nor is it known that he ever entertained any design of publishing them. The following extract from one of the author's unpublished introductory addresses to his students will give a correct idea of his aim in drawing them up. “You come to this place to hear such an explanation of the doctrines of religion as will furnish you with materials of reflection, and assistance in your private inquiries. Of one thing it may be proper to admonish you ; that you are not to expect to be entertained with things which may be properly called new. To some of you, indeed, many things may be new in this sense, that you have not heard them before; but in general, the subjects
to which your attention is directed, are truths as old as the Bible, which have been topics of discussion from chairs and pulpits from the first ages of our religion. It cannot be supposed that, in a field which has been so often and so carefully surveyed, there is any thing left to be gathered by the persons who shall walk over it again. Our purpose is gained if we are able to impart to the rising race the knowledge which was imparted to ourselves by our predecessors: and the utmost at which we could reasonably aim is to suggest some small matter which has been overlooked; to propose a new argument, or a better statement of an old argument; or, it may be, to throw some light upon a portion of the Scriptures not yet fully understood. In human sciences, discoveries may be made by superior penetration, and more patient inquiry; and their advanced state in the present age is a proof of the success of modern philosophers in the investigation of the secrets of nature. Discoveries might have been made in religion while revelation was in progress, and its light was increasing like that of the morning; but as seventeen centuries have elapsed since it was completed, and during this long interval it has engaged the attention of the wise, the learned, and the pious, there is every probability that we have been anticipated in all our views.”
The Edinburgh edition was published under the superintendence of a son of the author, Andrew Coventry Dick, Esq. The present edition is an exact reprint of the former, and in the course of publication has been under the supervision of one who was formerly a pupil of Dr. Dick, and heard a considerable portion of them read.
The appendix, containing observations on the atonement of Christ, belongs properly to the fifty-eighth lecture; and it was the original design of the American editor to have inserted them in their proper place in the body of the work; but as he was at a loss, upon examination, to determine the precise place in which their author would have wished them to come, he has judged it best to allow them to be pub• lished in their present shape.
In the preparation of the memoir prefixed to the first volume, the
XXXIV. The Decrees of God,
REV. JOHN DICK, D.D.
The subject of the following memoir was the son of the Rev. Alexander Dick, of Aberdeen, Scotland. His father was descended from a very respectable family in the county of Kinross, and connected with the church of Scotland. He pursued his literary course at the University of St. Andrew's, and prepared for the ministry at the Theological Seminary of the Secession Church at Glasgow, then under the care of the Rev. James Fisher. Shortly after his licensure he was installed pastor of a church in Aberdeen. . At the time of his settlement in that city, the spiritual condition of the north of Scotland generally, and of this city in particular, was lamentable indeed. Beside himself, there was not known to be another minister who preached the gospel in its purity in that place or the immediate neighbourhood. Mr. Dick was not distinguished for his extraordinary talents nor his extensive literary attainments; but he was eminent for what is far better-holiness, and devotion to the cause of Christ, for primitive simplicity of character, and unwearied diligence in the duties of his office. “His life,” according to the inscription on his monument, “was a perpetual commentary on the purity of his doctrine.” After labouring in that city successfully for thirtyfour years, he died in 1793, universally lamented. His memory, as the writer of this memoir can testify, is still precious in Aberdeen.
His eldest son, John Dick, was born in Aberdeen, on the 10th of October, 1764. Mrs. Dick, who possessed a remarkably vigorous and well-cultivated mind, and who seems to have been fully aware of the extent of maternal influence and responsibility, watched with much anxiety the progress of his early education. And if the excellence of the scholar is any proof of the qualifications of the teacher, we may be certain that his education could not have been committed to better