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TO THE FIRST EDITION.
The object of the author, in the following work, is to commend to the consideration of the reader the admirable-simplicity of the government and worship of the primitive church, in opposition to the polity and ceremonials of prelacy.
In the prosecution of this object, he has sought, under the direction of the best guides, to go to the original sources, and first and chiefly to draw from them. On the constitution and government of the church, none have written with greater ability, or with more extensive and searching erudition, than Mosheim, Planck, Neander and Rothe. These have been his principal reliance; and after these a great variety of authors.
If the reader object, that the authorities cited are beyond his reach, or are recorded in a language to him unknown, the writer can only say, that he has endeavored to collect the best authorities, wherever they might be found. When embodied in the pages of the work, they are given in a translation; and, if of special importance, the original is inserted in the margin, for the examination of the scholar.
The work has been prepared with an anxious endeavor to sustain the positions advanced, by references sufficiently copious, pertinent and authoritative ; and yet to guard against an ostentatious affectation in the accumulation of authorities. Several hundred have indeed been entered in these pages; but many more, that have fallen under the eye of the writer, have been rejected. Much labor, of which the reader probably will make
small account, has been expended in an endeavor to authenticate those that are retained, and to give him an explicit direction to them. The work has been written with studied brevity, and a uniform endeavor to make it at once concise, yet complete, and suggestive of principles.
In the prosecution of these labors, the author has received much encouragement and many important suggestions, from friends, whose services he holds in grateful remembrance. For such favors he is particularly indebted to Professor Park, of the Theological Seminary in this place.
Above all, it is the author's grateful duty publicly to express his acknowledgments to Dr. Neander, not only for his Introductory Essay, but for the uniform kindness of his counsels in the preparation of the several parts of this work. The writer can say nothing to add to the reputation of this eminent scholar, distinguished alike for his private virtues, his public services, and his vast and varied erudition. He can only express his obligations for the advantages derived from the contributions and counsels of this great historian, for which the reader, in common with the writer of the following pages, will owe his grateful acknowledgments. For the sentiments here expressed, however, the writer is alone responsible.
The translation of the Introduction was made in Berlin; and after a careful comparison with the original by Dr. Neander, received his unqualified approbation. It is, therefore, to be received as an authentic expression of his sentiments on the several topics to which it relates.
In the preparation of this work, the author has studiously 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, and, as he would hope, for both Congregationalists and Presbyterians, 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. In opposition to the assumptions of prelacy, there is common ground sufficient for all the friends of a popular government in the church of Christ to occupy. In the topics discussed in the following pages they have equal interest, whether they would adopt a purely democratical or a representative form of government as the best means of defending the popular rights of the church. 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 even with them on minor 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 the Episcopal church some of his most cherished friends, to whose sentiments he would be sorry to do violence by anything 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 ;-against a religion which substitutes the outward form for the inward spirit; which 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.
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 of it, “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, everywhere 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 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
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 possessed by very few of our leading men, and is by no means the property generally of clergymen and theological students.
To what purpose is it now merely 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 study 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 and candidates for the ministry 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 deno