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PREFACE

TO THE GENERAL SYNOD
of the
REFORMED DUTCH CHURCH
in the
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 approve it.

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,

        ALEXANDER GUNN.

New York, March 25, 1829.

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