« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
sought to write neither as a Congregationalist, nor as a Presbyterian, exclusively; but as the advocate of a free and popular government in the church; and of simplicity in worship, in harmony with the free spirit of the Christian religion. It is enough for the author, if the church is set free from the bondage of a prelatical hierarchy; and trained, by simple and expressive rites, to worship God in spirit and in truth. We heartily wish indeed for all true churchmen a closer conformity to the primitive pattern in government and in worship; but we have no controversy with them on these points, provided we may still be united with them in the higher principles of Christian fellowship and love. The writer has the happiness to number among the members of that communion some of his most cherished friends, to whose sentiments he would be sorry to do violence by any thing that may appear in these pages.
Indeed, the great controversy of the day is not with Protestant Episcopacy, as such ; it is rather with FORMALISM. Formalism wherever seen, by whatever name it is known,—this is the great antagonist principle of spiritual Christianity. Here the church is brought to a crisis, great and fearful in prospect, and momentous, for good or for evil, in its final results. The struggle at issue is between a spiritual and a formal religion ;--a religion which substitutes the outward form for the inward spirit ;-a religion that exalts sacraments, ordinances and rites, into the place of Christ himself; and disguises, under the covering of imposing ceremonials, the great doctrines of the cross of Christ.
The church is at issue with this religion under the forms of high church Prelacy, “Puseyism,' and Popery. The present struggle began in England; but when or where or how it will end, who can tell? Dr. Pusey himself declares that on the issue
hangs the destiny of the church of England.” The Tractarians all avow,-" that two schemes of doctrine, the
Genevan and the Catholic, are probably for the last time struggling within that church.” But the conflict is not confined to England. The signs of the times, every where darkly portentous, presage a similar conflict to the church of Christ universally.
In this eventful crisis we are urgently pressed to a renewed examination of the apostolical and primitive polity of the church, in government and in worship; for under cover of these the warfare of Formalism is now waged. These are the prominent points, both of attack and of defence, to which the eye of the minister, the theological student, and the intelligent Christian of every name, should be strongly turned. Let them fall back on that spiritual Christianity which Christ and his apostles taught. Let them, in doctrine, in discipline, and in worship, entrench themselves within the strongholds of this religion; and here, in calm reliance upon the great Captain of our salvation, let them await the issue of the contest.
Hitherto the great body of the people have been left to gather up information upon this branch of religious knowledge as they could; and the most have been content with a blind acquiescence in the customs of their own church. A due degree of knowledge on this subject is apparently the lot of very few of our leading men, and by no means the property generally of clergymen and theological students.
To what purpose is it now, just to follow the history of the church, century by century, through the recital of her sufferings ? The times are changed, and a corresponding change is required in the study of ecclesiastical history. This is chiefly important, for existing exigencies, to illustrate the usages, the rites, the government of the church, and the perversion of these to promote the ends of bigotry, intolerance, and superstition. Besides, we have seen, for some years past, an influence stealing silently upon the public mind, and alluring many young clergymen from the fold of their fathers; an influence to be counteracted
by a better understanding of our own government and worship. Bishop Griswold stated in 1841, that of “two hundred and eighty persons ordained by him, two hundred and seven came from other denominations." And another bishop says,
" From the most accurate investigation that can be made, I am led to believe, that about three hundved clergymen and licentiates of other denominations, have, within the last thirty years, sought the ministerial commission from the hands of bishops of that church ; and, that at least two-thirds were not originally, by education, Episcopalians, but have come from other folds." These facts afford matter for serious inquiry. These three hundred were not originally Episcopalians. Were they, “ by education,” any thing else? Would they have strayed away in such numbers from their own fold, had they been duly instructed in the principles of that order to which they originally belonged?
The author is deeply sensible of the magnitude and difficulty of the work which he has undertaken; and with no. affected modesty, avows the unfeigned diffidence with which he commends it to the public. Would it were worthier, and better fitted for the great end proposed by it. But he has done what he could, and finds his reward in the consciousness of having labored honestly in a righteous cause, and in the hope of doing something for the promotion of that religious system which shall enable the true worshippers to worship the Father in spirit and in truth. Such a religious system, he believes most firmly must ever find its truest expression in rites of worship few and simple, and in a government administered in every part and every particular by the people ;-in a ritual without a prayer-book; and a church without a bishop.
Andover, February, 1844.