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The discourses which compose the present volume were the weekly productions of the author for the instruction of his own people. Many of them were written under the languor and depression incident to declining health, and all of them, amidst the various duties and interruptions attendant on the ministerial office.
The candid reader will, it is hoped, be disposed rather to acknowledge their merits, than to dwell upon their defects; rather to profit by the instruction which they convey, and the truths which they exhibit, than to scan them with the eye of criticism. With a view chiefly to gratify the friends of the author, these sermons have been selected for the press; not without the hope that they may be attended with the divine blessing, and that the fervent and affectionate remonstrances, the forcible arguments, the tender solicitude of the preacher, may yet find their way to the hearts of some, upon whom his personal ministry made only a transient impression. To the people who long sat beneath the sound of his voice, as well as to those on whose altars the light of his genius and his piety shed but a momentary
lustre, to all who have heard these discourses, it will, no doubt, enhance their value, to know that they appear almost precisely as they were delivered. Of far the greater number this is literally true. In a few instances a passage which has been thought less suitable for the press than for the pulpit, has been omitted—and twice, or thrice, where the writer has not expressed himself with his usual clearness, a sentence has been extracted from his other sermons, and introduced, to illustrate his meaning. This is the amount of the alterations which they have undergone. The subscribers will perceive, that, to the four hundred pages promised in the proposals, nearly twenty have been added to the sermons, and a memoir of the author has been prefixed, which it is believed will render the volume more interesting, and for which they are indebted, to the able pen of the distinguished advocate of the Bible in the South.* This gentleman, with that liberality of sentiment which he commends in another-overstepping the narrow limits of sectarian feeling, has paid this brief but honourable and disinterested tribute to departed worth.
* Mr. Grimke.
REV. WILLIAM ASHMEAD.
The death of a faithful servant, though intrusted only with matters of small moment, and of temporal concern, is an afflicting circumstance. However humble his capacity for usefulness, however narrow the sphere of his influence, his fellow servants who knew his fidelity, and all who were blessed in his labours, cannot fail to lament his departure. His living example of zeal and diligence is gone for ever; though he leaves behind him the memory of his virtues, to guide and encourage others. If we ascend from the private to the public station, from ordinary minds to distinguished talents, from limited information to extensive knowledge, we look upon the decease of such a servant, with deeper emotions of sorrow. And if human experience had not repeatedly testified how little the most distinguished public servant is missed, and how speedily and effectually his place is supplied, we should often be overwhelmed with despair, rather than with grief, at our loss. But even in the affairs of this world, we are not permitted to feel aught of despair; though, for a season, we know not who shall be found worthy to fill the vacant seats of departed greatness and goodness. In the course of a few years, however, the spacious circle in the forest, where the monarch-tree had stood, is filled up by degrees, and another reigns in its place.
Such are the reflections which spring up in the mind, when we contemplate the death of him who has been a faithful servant, even to his fellow, men. But, when we turn from such a one, and consider the decease of a faithful servant of God himself, how much more gratifying and consolatory are our reflections! His labours, indeed, are at an end; but they were those of trial and pain, of disappointment and sorrow. The enjoyments of his earthly station,
have passed away; but they were frail and imperfect, and exposed to anxiety, sickness, and grief. His walk of usefulness is to be trodden no more for ever; but then it was a pathway beset by tempo tations and discouragements. The powers of his mind are no more to be employed, nor the affections of his heart to be poured forth in the service of his brethren; but the blindness, and errors, and solicitudes, of the studious and benevolent have vanished for ever. How glorious the change, from the valley of the shadow of death, to a world of unfading light and of everlasting life; from tears, and grief, and pain, to the happiness of heaven; from this body, the seat of disease and corruption, to the condition of glorified spirits; from the society of men, degraded by crimes and vices, and darkened by selfishness, ignorance, and pride, to the company of the spirits of the just made perfect, and to the city of the living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem! There is this remarkable difference also, between the death of the servants of God, and that of the servants of man: the former depart at the bidding of the Master, whom they had preached on earth, to honour and worship him in heaven. The same Master transfers them from one department of usefulness, enjoyment, and duty, to another of a character incomparably superior, in its rewards and happiness. He, who had allotted to them a portion of his vineyard here, calls them away, as best suits his gracious purposes, at the first or the third, at the ninth or the twelfth hour. And let him call when he will, whether from sickness or health, from mourning or joy, from temptation or triumph, from the love of friends or the persecution of enemies, they depart full of resignation, humility, and confidence; for they know that all is for the best, as to themselves and their families, as to the social circle and the sphere of their pastoral labours.
In such a spirit, departed the Rev. William Ashmead, late Pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church, in the city of Charleston. A sketch of the life and death of such a minister of the gospel, is due to that congregation who had called him to be their shepherd; to the community who were to have shared in the blessings of his talents, learning, and piety, of his influence and example, and to the social and domestic circles, which have losi in him the hus. band, father, friend.
The Rev. William Ashmead was the son of William and Margaret Ashmead, residents of Philadelphia. Captain Ashmead, his grandfather, seems to have possessed a taste for literature