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A Protestant Episcopalian, not merely from the prejudices of early education, but from the deliberate examination and conviction of his riper years, it is not improbable that the author's affection for the faith of his fathers may sometimes be seen. Of the peculiarities of his creed, he will here only say, that he has not sought unnecessarily to obtrude them; and as little has he endeavoured to keep them out of sight. It may be (for he claims no exemption from the infirmities of human nature) that, however anxious to eradicate prejudice, he has not always succeeded in the effort to do so; he has, however, endeavoured to speak of that church, which he does not hesitate to say he loves best, with an impartiality too proud to cover up its faults, and an honesty too stern to hide its delinquencies. That church has sometimes erred, and the author has said so. If he knows his own heart, he never had in view, in his work, an object so contemptible as that of writing eulogy under the guise of history. His wish has been to tell the truth as far as he could discover it; and if in doing this, a blow fell, it mattered but little to him where it alighted. But he owes it to himself to add, that he has uniformly spoken of other religious denominations with respect; for he freely owns that the love of his own religious system does not, to his mind, impose upon him the necessity of haling either the persons or the creeds of others. He may lament what he deems their mistakes, and yet hopes to be pardoned, should he doubt whether insult be their best corrective. He would rather burn his book than wilfully inflict a wanton injury upon the personal feelings of any sincere Christian : and if he has incautiously so done in
these pages, he here humbly begs forgiveness of God and of the injured.
A word more as to his plan. The present volume is an experiment. Should it succeed, and the life of the writer be prolonged, it will be followed by others; for there are materials on hand to furnish a volume for each of the older diocesses. Indeed, with respect to some of them, the story is partly written ; whether it will ever be published, depends less upon the author than upon others. Another motive for sending forth this volume now, is to be found in the fact, that it has recently been made the duty of the author, by the church to which he belongs, to collect and preserve all that he can, tending to illustrate any portion of its history. He has, therefore, hoped that by bringing before his brethren a specimen, exhibiting the nature of the task in which he is engaged, some among them may be induced to furnish information, and thus contribute materials for future volumes.
He need not add, that for all such aid he will feel most grateful. Should he thereby procure nothing more than copies of the early journals of the several diocesses, a work of some importance will be accomplished. Very few, if any, complete sets of diocesan convention journals are now in existence; the author, therefore, considers the appendix, containing the records of the Virginia church, (which he has here reprinted, at the request of many of his brethren,) as not the least useful part of this book. The Episcopalian of Virginia, has in the volume all that industrious research was able to collect concerning the history of his own church. Should another edition ever be called for, the kindness of his Virginia brethren may enable the author to make a book more worthy of their acceptance.
In conclusion, the author would remark that his labours in preparing this book, have shown him that the materials are more ample than they are generally supposed to be, for the history of all the leading religious denominations in the United States. Something has, indeed, been done for American ecclesiastical history, but more remains to be accomplished ; and, therefore, he would respectfully suggest to his fellow Christians of other denominations, the propriety of preserving their several histories, without which the book of our national story must always be incomplete.*
* The principal works upon the subject are as follows: Among the
Baptists.—Benedict's History of the Baptists; Semple's History of the Virginia Baplists; Backus's Church History of New-England; and the late Memoir of Roger Williams, by Professor Knowles.
METHODISTS.—The Journals of Mr. Asbury and Dr. Coke; the several Lives of Messrs. Wesley and Coke, with the minutes of conferences.
PRESBYTERIANS AND CONGREGATIONalists.-Fragments of the history of these denominations are to be found in several books. The minutes of many of the presbyteries are believed to be perfect, and probably those of the synods
The late Ebenezer Hazard, Esq., who was well qualified for the task, commenced, with the sanction of the Presbyterian church, the collection of materials for a history of that denomination, but it was not completed, nor is there any regular history of the Presbyterians in the United States. The materials however are abundant. The ecclesiastical history of Massachusetts is to be found among the valuable papers published by the Massachusetts Historical Society; an institution, whose example is worthy of imitation.
Reformed Dutch.— The author knows of but little in print touching this denomination, except in the periodical publications which belong to it.
Protestant Episcopal.—There is nothing in print, with the exception of Bishop White's Memoirs, (a new edition of which is now in press,) and the Journals of the General and Diocesan Conventions.
If the effort now respectfully submitted to the public, and especially to the Episcopal community, should serve in the humble office of a guide, to direct the researches of some future historian; if it should contribute to strengthen the attachment of but one man who already loves the church, or to soften the hostility of one who does not, the author will feel that he has not laboured in vain : for his book is the offering of filial affection to that church, in the communion of which he has, through life, found his best comfort, and in the bosom of which he trusts to enjoy, in death, a Christian's consolation.
New-York, December, 1835.