PRINTED BY PACKARD AND VAN BENTHUYSEN
Albany, May 15, 1833
To Rev. HORATIO POTTER,
The undersigned committee, in behalf of the wardens and vestry of St. Peter's church, and in conformity to a resolution unanimously adopted by them, respectfully request a copy of your sermon, preached the day following your institution as rector of that church. In the hope that you may he induced to comply with this request, the result of a conviction on our part that the publication of the sermon will contribute to the best interests of the church, and of this Parish,
We are, with great regard,
Your ob't serv'ts,
JOHN A. DIX,
PH. S. VAN RENSSELAER.
Albany, May 17, 1833
I have received your communication of the 15th inst. requesting a copy of my introductory sermon for publication. Written during a period of ill health, and intended as a simple expression of the feelings and views with which I was about to enter upon the discharge of my responsible duties, it certainly was not designed for the press. But I yield with cheerfulness to the wishes of the wardens and vestry, and place the discourse at your disposal, with fervent prayer that the dew of the Divine blessing may descend continually upon both minister and people.
Your affectionate friend,
E. Croswell, John A. Dix, Philip S. Van Rensselaer, Esquires,
Committee in behalf of the Wardens and Vestry of St. Peter's Church
As I look around upon the audience before me, and consider the circumstances under which I appear in this place, I feel a degree of solicitude which nothing but implicit trust in the Providence of God prevents from becoming insupportable. Withdrawn from the tranquil retirement of a college, from the calm pursuits of science, and from the discharge of duties which habit had rendered easy and familiar, I find myself about to engage in an enterprise involving interests incapable of being estimated, and attended with difficulties and responsibili-ties that fill my mind with apprehension. I see before me an assembly of rational beings, who have just commenced an eternal existence. I cannot but remember that they will soon pass on to that unchangeable rank in the moral universe for which their spiritual improvement shall have qualified them; and that of some of [3/4] them, it is not too much to say that the ques-tion of their everlasting weal or woe may, under God, depend upon the influence of my ministry. Unknown as I am to most of them, it is natural for me to ask myself the question, at this so-lemn moment, "How will they receive my ef-forts to serve them? What reception will they give to my earnest endeavors to assuage their sorrows--to multiply their joys, and to assist them in preparing for future glory and felicity? Will they encourage me in the energetic and faithful performance of my duty? Will they welcome the voice of consolation and affec-tionate remonstrance? Will they smile upon my attempts to make religion a prominent topic in my intercourse with them; and will my la-bors, my trials, my anxieties, be cheered by the delightful assurance that I have their sympathy and their prayers? Shall I never be compelled, in the bitterness of my disappointment, to ex-claim with the Prophet, 'All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people!' Or in the pathetic language of the Psalmist, 'Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law!' "
I find myself, too, about to occupy an im-portant station in a city, which, from a pe-culiarly commanding position, sends out its influence for good or for evil, to the remotest parts of this great State; and I may add, to the [4/5] most distant portions of this mighty Union. I behold, here, a fountain from which may flow out streams that shall make glad this crowded and busy capital, and contribute to fertilize all this fair land. I see, in the circumstances of this church, besides all the ordinary advantages, the means under God of doing much to impress our public functionaries with a conviction of the reality and the value of our holy religion--of arresting the attention, and touching the heart of the stranger and sojourner--of send-ing the traveller on his way with a stronger sense of his duties, or rejoicing with livelier gratitude over the rich consolations and glo-rious hopes of the gospel. But then the solemn thought presents itself, "How shall we, this congregation and its pastor, be able to dis-charge our high and responsible duties? Shall we let our light so shine before men, that they may see our good works, and glorify our Fa-ther who is in Heaven? Shall we render our example and our influence worthy of the station we occupy--worthy of the cause in which we are engaged--worthy of that blessed Saviour who has purchased us with his own blood?"
You will readily believe that the solicitude which I have expressed, has respect to some-thing more valuable than reputation--to some-thing more important even than mere success in drawing together and holding united a large congregation; or, to say all in one word, to [5/6] something more durable than "things that pe-rish in the using." Myself a dying man, called by dying men to address a dying world, I can think only of the account which I shall soon be required to render of my ministry at the bar of God--of the devoted service which I owe to him who loved me and gave himself for me--of the tremendous amount of happiness or of misery in time and eternity which depends, di-rectly or indirectly, upon the zeal, the discre-tion, the fidelity with which I shall perform my duty, and upon the manner in which I shall be sustained and encouraged by the people of my charge! Yes, my brethren, it is the awful na-ture of the trust which I have ventured to ac-cept, that makes me tremble; and I should want the courage to retain it, did I not remember that He who commissioned me to undertake so great a work, has promised to be with me in all my labors, and to give me his Holy Spirit to be my Comforter and my Guide! Did I not remember, too, that the truths which I am commanded to proclaim, are saving truths--truths which were revealed for the salvation of the world, and which, if faithfully and affectionately exhibited, will infallibly draw down a blessing from on High. I hasten then to call your attention to these truths, to proclaim which in the Temple of the Most High, and in private intercourse-- in the chamber of affliction, and in the dwell-ings of health and of cheerfulness--in the house [6/7] and by the wayside--in season and out of sea-son,--will be the great business of my ministry.
"We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus, the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." The great Apostle of the Gen-tiles addresses the Epistle from which these words are taken, to the Christian converts at Corinth, a city familiar with the appearance of philosophers who taught in their own name, and to establish their own credit and authority. In contradistinction to these wise men, as well as in opposition to those false teachers of Chris-tianity, who, to serve their own purposes, mis-represented the gospel plan of salvation, he makes the emphatic declaration in the text, "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus, the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." We are not proclaiming a new system of human philosophy, which is to bear our name and perpetuate our memory. We are not laboring to build up a new sect in religion, which shall acknowledge our authority and call us master! We do not address you with the design of exciting a vain admiration of our elo-quence, our gift of tongues, and our power of performing miracles. No! We proclaim Christ Jesus, the Lord--Christ, the Saviour and Deli-verer! the Lord of Heaven and Earth, who created and governs the universe, and who can save to the uttermost all who come to God by Him!
 I need not tell you, my brethren, that to proclaim Christ Jesus, the Lord, is to proclaim that entire system of truth of which His death is the corner stone. It is to proclaim that Ho-liness and Justice and Compassion which are reflected with so much lustre from the Cross!--that guilt, the stain of which the blood of Calvary only could wash out!--that death of sin from which the Son of God only could raise us up! It is to display those blessings which He came to purchase for us--to enforce those precepts which He left us--to explain those duties which He enjoined upon us--to point out the means by which we may avail ourselves of His sacrifice, and by which we may advance from one degree of Christian attainment to another, till we are prepared to appear in the presence of God, and to participate in the en-joyment of that holy society which surrounds His throne!
This it is to proclaim Christ Jesus, the Lord; and as your servant for Jesus' sake,--laboring for you in obedience to His command, and to promote the accomplishment of his benevolent designs towards you, these are the topics which it will be my duty to urge upon your attention. In my public ministrations, I shall labor, in humble dependence upon that Divine Spirit whose office it is to guide us into all truth--to present them in every variety of form and man-ner--to exhibit them in all their different rela-tions [8/9] and connections--to hold them up in every light in which they are capable of being presented--to bring to their explanation and illustration whatever can be drawn from the word of God, or from the results of observation and experience. I shall endeavor to address what I have to say, directly to the heart and the conscience. I am not commissioned to gratify an idle curiosity--or to pamper an ap-petite for controversy and speculation--or to discuss questions which lie beyond the reach of the human faculties. I am commissioned to proclaim the great truths of the gospel, which were not revealed to perplex and confound the world, but to purify and to save it!
But as your servant for Jesus' sake, it must be my care to preach Christ Jesus, the Lord, in private as well as in public. And here, my brethren, it will be my earnest desire to appear among you as an affectionate confidential friend--to be received into your families, not as a stranger who comes with cold ceremony to discharge an official duty, but as a man of like feelings with yourselves, who, as your pastor, is deeply interested in whatever concerns your happiness, glad to sympathise with you in all your vicissitudes--to weep with those that weep, and to rejoice with those that do rejoice. In times of affliction, which come sooner or later to all, you will ever find me ready to min-gle my prayers and my tears with yours; and [9/10] in seasons of joy, I shall contemplate your happiness with sincere pleasure, and I trust you will not think me intrusive if I venture to direct your attention to the fountain from whence all your blessings flow. To those, of whatever age or condition, who may be desirous of applying to me for religious advice and instruction--who are in search of that peace which the world cannot give, and which they will one day find the world cannot take away--to such, I know not how to express the satisfaction, the com-fort, the gratitude with which I should meet them. I would rather enter the meanest hovel in your city, to answer the sincere, humble in-quiry, "What shall I do to be saved?" than sit an honored guest around the table of the rich or the great; and surely, if the herald of the Cross cherishes one feeling in common with the angels in Heaven, it is that which prompts them both alike to rejoice over the repentance of a single sinner. Miserable, indeed! wretch-ed beyond conception, must be the state of that Christian minister, who, in the wise but in-scrutable Providence of God, is doomed to labor on from week to week, and from month to month, without being permitted to know that the seed which he has sown has taken root in a single heart. Come to me, then, my bre-thren, or send to me, with perfect freedom--perfect confidence. You can confer upon me no greater favor--procure me no greater happiness, [10/11] than that of displaying, with all tenderness and fidelity, to some contrite, humble soul, the unsearchable riches of Christ.
To those, if there shall be any such, who, in the course of my ministry, may be disposed to think that my zeal and urgency in enforcing the great truths of the gospel are unreasona-ble, I would most respectfully suggest, not only that I am fearfully responsible, but also that I am constantly passing through scenes which keep death, judgment and eternity ever before me, and force upon me the conviction that no-thing is so valuable as the soul--nothing so important as religion! While you are occupied with the business or with the pleasures of the world, I am called to converse with the sick, to pray with the dying, to console the afflicted, to direct and encourage the anxious penitent. I stand upon the confines of two worlds; and before that fearful gate of death, towards which my people are pressing, lie crowded together the sick and the dying, attended by weeping friends and relatives. I see one expiring in spiritual darkness, incapable of perceiving his need of a Saviour. I see another assailed by the terrors of a guilty conscience, the eyes of his understanding opened to discover that he is without God and without hope, but with only time to tremble and to die. I see a third ex-pending his latest breath in adoring his Re-deemer, in consoling his afflicted friends, and [11/12] in exhorting them to place their confidence where his is placed. And in that crowd of mourners, I see some wringing their hands and rending their garments, or calmly resigning themselves to despair; while others, looking calmly up to Heaven, with a smile of inexpres-sible triumph, exclaim, "It is the Lord, let Him do whatsoever seemeth good unto Him." "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him!" From this awful scene, I come forth to admo-nish my charge--to remind you of your obli-gations to God--of the necessity of being re-conciled to Him--of the importance of being prepared to appear in His presence--of the consolations and hopes of the Christian--and above all, to warn you of the danger of delay in a world where every thing is so uncertain and so perishable. I must be strangely con-stituted indeed, I must be singularly inattentive to what is constantly passing under my own eyes, not to feel myself compelled to address you with all the energy of which I am capable. "Knowing the terror of the Lord, we per-suade men. Whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God; or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constrain-eth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all, that they which live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them and rose again." God having re-conciled [12/13] us to Himself by Jesus Christ, hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their tres-passes unto them, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." My brethren, if we would dis-charge our duty as ambassadors for Christ, commissioned to address a race circumstanced as ours is, we must speak affectionately, but still we must speak boldly and earnestly!
But, my brethren, if I am an ambassador of God--if I have come to propose from this place terms of peace and reconciliation--to persuade you to accept the overtures of mercy--to as-sure you of the love of your offended sovereign, and to point out the means by which you may be restored to His favor--it must be remembered that I appear here on your invitation--an invita-tion which, if it means any thing, means that you are willing to be reconciled--anxious to return to your allegiance, and to be instructed in the methods by which you may regain the blessings and privileges of loyal subjects! To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgive-nesses indeed, though we have rebelled against [13/14] Him; but it would be trifling with this good-ness and forbearance, to send for a minister of reconciliation, without any design of being re-conciled. May I not then indulge the hope, that as you are entering into a new relation, you will take this opportunity of forming, in humble dependence upon Divine Grace, new resolutions of devoting your lives to the cultiva-tion of those dispositions and affections which will render you meet for the presence of God and the converse of angels! May I not hope that you will open your minds to new views of the importance of personal religion--that you will see in the services of this sacred temple, something more than a mere ceremony--that you will listen to the arguments and appeals which may be addressed to you from this place, not as things thrown out at random, and spoken merely because something must be said, but as reflections solemnly and deliberately addressed to you as thinking beings, and claiming your most serious, most devout attention? May I not flatter myself with the delightful thought, that in future years, many of you will be able to look back to this period as to the commence-ment of a new and happy era, and to say of religion, from a most blessed experience, "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace!"
Should Providence spare my life, and main-tain my present relation to you, what revolu-tions, [14/15] what scenes of enjoyment and of suffer-ing, must I not expect to witness among you in the course of a few years! You have no shield, my brethren, that will enable you to ward off the arrows of the dread destroyer; and in the Providence of God, I shall doubtless be called upon to sympathise with many an afflicted household--to offer the consolations of our holy religion to many a bereaved parent and husband and child. Scarcely a family in all this congregation that I shall not see ar-rayed sooner or later in the habiliments of mourning; and in what words shall I express the awful thought--the mouldering remains of many in this assembly I shall accompany to the grave, and commit to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust! As your servant for Jesus' sake, let me entreat you to look up to Him who is the resurrection and the life--who has robbed death of his sting--who has divested the grave of its terrors, and pro-claimed for our consolation, "He that believ-eth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live !"
Finally, my brethren, I present myself before you today as your spiritual pastor--as your servant for Jesus' sake! Looking up to the Supreme Head of the Church for strength, I consecrate myself henceforth to the great work of proclaiming unto you Christ Jesus the Lord. I desire to devote my days and nights to prayer, [15/16] to meditation, to comforting the sick, the af-flicted and the needy. To you shall be offer-ed my first morning aspirations--my earliest thoughts; and the last desire that I breathe toward Heaven as I lay my head upon my pil-low, shall be for your happiness in time and in eternity. I am just entering upon the active duties of a profession which I believe to be, beyond all others, laborious and wasting. I bring to it no great physical strength; but I have counted the cost--I have taken the step deliberately, and if I am not utterly deceived in the state of my own feelings, I have not an anxious thought for myself, except so far as concerns the faithful performance of my duty. Give me, then, my brethren, I entreat you, your sympathy, your hearty support, and above all your fervent prayers. Remember me in your petitions before the Throne of Grace. Pray for your pastor, that his mind may be more and more enlightened with the light of the everlast-ing gospel--that his views may be enlarged and improved--that his affections may be purified and elevated--that he may so prepare and make ready the way of the Lord Jesus Christ, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at his second coming to judge the world, we may be found an ac-ceptable people in His sight, who liveth and reigneth with the Father, and the Holy Spirit; ever one God, world without end. AMEN.