Introduction by Byron Sunderland, Chaplain to the United States Senate During the Civil War.
It is sadly true that a very large proportion of the population are strangers to the genuine spirit of the Christian religion, and almost, if not altogether, unacquainted even with the history of its facts and the extent of its influence in the land of our inheritance. The standing complaint of human degeneracy remains against us. Causes have been operating—and of late years with fearful rapidity and strength—to produce a state of moral obliquity and practical atheism among us, appalling in magnitude and of alarming consequence. It has become of late quite customary to sneer at the puritanism of our fathers and to speak with contempt of the severity of their manners and the bigotry of their faith. This impious treatment, by the present corruptors of society, of a generation of men whose lofty principles and illustrious virtues they seem utterly unable to comprehend, is well adapted not only to arouse the deepest indignation but also to excite the most lively concern.
No man can observe the conditions of society in our country, and, the obvious impulses of human conduct, without feeling that the perils against which the fathers warned us, and which have been so faithfully and constantly pointed out by the ministers of religion, have, notwithstanding, increased at a fearful rate, without seeing that the most alarming departures from the standard of individual rectitude and social integrity have occurred among us within the century that is past.