TO THE GENERAL SYNOD
REFORMED DUTCH CHURCH
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
"Reverend Fathers and Brethren,"
Of the profound respect entertained by you for
the talents and piety of our late venerable Friend
and Father, and of your grateful sense of his many
eminent services to our beloved Church — the solicitude you have expressed, to have prepared and
published a true and full account of his Life and
Character, affords sufficient evidence.
It was, indeed, due to his precious memory, that
the Church, whose ministry he so long adorned as
a star of the first magnitude, and to the promotion
of whose best interests, from the dawn of celestial
light in his soul, until his lamented decease — embracing a period of more than half a century — he
was so warmly, unremittingly, and successfully
devoted, should be furnished with such an account;
and your anxiety, as a Body representing the whole
church, to provide, by an express synodical act,
for perpetuating in this manner the remembrance
of his name, evinces a feeling of pious gratitude,
an ingenuous respect for departed merit — a magnanimity worthy of all commendation. The Christian Public will no doubt view it in this light, and
For the honour you were pleased to confer upon
me, in committing to my hands the preparation of
the Biography, I beg leave to tender you my cordial
thanks. Without any affectation of modesty, I can
say, that I distrusted my own powers to execute
to your satisfaction the work assigned me; and for
some time, feared to undertake it. I felt, however,
that as the appointment had been altogether unsought — nay, had been made without the most remote suspicion on my part, that it was even in
contemplation, I ought not hastily and peremptorily
to decline it. And, when I reflected that your
request remarkably coincided with a similar one,
with which the venerable man saw fit personally to
honour me, in a private interview with him some
years ago — a coincidence perfectly undesigned on
your part, as you knew nothing of the request
alluded to — the call of Providence in the case
appeared too strong I confess, notwithstanding my
fears as to my competency, to be disobeyed. Under the conviction of duty thus produced — encouraged, at the same time, by brethren for whom I
entertain a high respect — and hoping too that the
study of so excellent a character might prove, in
no small degree, beneficial to my own soul, I was
induced, at length, to venture on the undertaking.
I regret that my efforts to obtain materials for
the work have not been more successful; but still,
those supplied by a number of individuals, are considerable in the aggregate, and many of them, of an
important and interesting character. And, I would
here gratefully acknowledge the kindness in particular, of Col. Henry A. Livingston, the Doctors'
son, of Poughkeepsie; of Isaac L. Kip, Esq. of the
City of New York; of Dr. John B. Beck, of the
same city, and of his brother Dr. Theodorick R.
Beck, of the city of Albany, — grandsons of the late
Rev. Dr. Theodorick Romeyn, of Schenectady,
who was, for many years, the intimate friend and
constant correspondent of Dr. Livingston. These
gentlemen very promptly and politely furnished
me with such papers, in their possession respectively, as were calculated to be of any service.
Among those sent by the first named gentleman,
was found a manuscript memoir of his father, of
about fifty or sixty pages letter paper, which the
Doctor had written a few years before he died, and
relating chiefly to the earlier part of his life.
This proved of essential service, and long extracts
from it are presented in the following sketch.
It is well known, that his connexion with the
Dutch Church, from his youth, was such, that a
full memoir of his life must necessarily embrace a
large portion of the history of the Church: and I
freely own that when I commenced the work, it
was my particular wish, if it could be done without
destroying its Biographical character, to incorporate with it, a concise and connected account of the
Church from its rise, until the present time. Upon
reflection, this account seemed indispensable to
give a fair and intelligible view of some matters, in
which the Doctor deeply interested himself as soon
as he entered upon the study of Theology: and
throughout, I have allowed myself no farther scope,
nor have I dilated, upon general facts, any farther
than appeared requisite to a proper illustration oi
the events of his life. In the introduction of matter
of this description, relative to one or two periods,
I was under the necessity of availing myself, to
some extent, of private correspondence; but for
having done so, it is presumed, no other apology
need be pleaded.
The letters which were written by the Doctor
upon important ecclesiastical measures, particularly those of a late date, are given, not so much to
complete the narrative, as to show how far he was
active, and the motives that regulated his conduct.
And it was judged indeed, that his excellence both
in private and public life — that his character as a
Christian minister, as a husband, father, friend -
would be better estimated from his unreserved communications to intimate friends, than from a bare
historical statement of facts.
Numerous other letters, upon a variety of subjects, might have been added, but it was supposed
that an appendix, containing them, would increase
the present volume to an immoderate size. If what
is now submitted shall be esteemed of any value
as a Biography of our departed Friend, and as a
History of the Church; if the portrait it presents
of the venerable man, shall be viewed as upon the
whole, a good likeness; and if what has been related
therein of his virtues and services, shall be productive of any good, or shall contribute, in any degree,
to the cultivation of genuine piety, and excite a
more active zeal in the promotion of the best interests of our beloved Zion, I shall feel that I have
not laboured in vain.
The representation I have given of his worth
will not appear at all extravagant to you who knew
him, and loved him: and to those, who were not
personally acquainted with him, I flatter myself, that
the opinions of eminent divines, out of the connexion with which I have been favoured, and which
will be seen in their place, will show satisfactorily
that that worth has not been too highly estimated.
Having made these introductory remarks, the
work is now offered to the indulgence of the Christian reader.
And, TO YOU, REV. FATHERS AND BRETHREN, at
whose request it has been prepared, I beg permission, with all due respect, to inscribe it, — adding
my fervent prayer, that the GREAT HEAD OF THE
CHURCH, will render it subservient to the advancement of his kingdom, and that he will fill You "with
all the fulness of God."
Your friend and fellow-labourer
in the Gospel of Jesus Christ,
New York, March 25, 1829.