Dr. Bangs was repeatedly advised in his latter years, by his official and other associates, that a record of his life would be important for his Church, if not for himself; and that he should not fail to leave, at his death, such notes of the momentous ecclesiastical measures in which he had shared as might aid in their historical illustration. When it was made known to me, soon after his decease, that he had committed to me his papers for a task so important and delicate, I felt no little reluctance to undertake it; for though an author is held responsible for the interest of his book, yet in biography its interest must depend more on its subject than on its writer; and I supposed that the life of my venerated friend had been so absorbed in purely ecclesiastical labors, that however interesting its official events might be in the history of his denomination, it could afford but comparatively few incidents of biographic and popular entertainment. I was agreeably surprised, however, in examining his abundant manuscripts, to find that they abound in personal and characteristic facts; that the early years of his public life were spent amid frontier scenes of extraordinary interest; that his vigorous manhood, for nearly half a century, was identified with the most popular, as well as most momentous measures and events of his Church; and that his declining years, singularly prolonged and serene, presented the picture of an evening of life, enviable alike to the philosopher and the Christian. I have seldom, indeed, met with a biographical study more entertaining or profitable to me personally; presenting a more effective, a more symmetrical, or a more complete life. If the narrative I have drawn from these materials fails to make a similar impression on its readers, I must acknowledge that the failure is chargeable on the author rather than the subject. I feel assured, nevertheless, that no defects of literary execution can essentially impair the rich lessons of spiritual life and consolation which are cited from the original manuscripts.
By the license of the title of the book, as the "Life and Times" of my subject, I have introduced into the narrative many of his contemporaries, who were more or less associated with him in public life; but the volume will still be found very deficient in this respect. Repeated requests, through the public press, for letters and other materials from his old associates or their families, have been but slightly successful. Should there be hereafter an opportunity to repair this defect, I shall be happy to avail myself of it. I would also invite corrections of any errors of facts, especially of dates. No small amount of my facts is historical, and it is important for the history of Methodism that it should be accurate. An erratum has escaped my attention on page 70, where Embury is mentioned as leaving Ireland in 1765. The date should be 1760. The former is the date given by Dr. Bangs and most of our other historians. I have long been convinced that it is wrong. It has been corrected in this volume, but not till after many sheets were printed.