« AnteriorContinuar »
THE main design of the following book, was to give information to the very many persons in the author's field of labor, whose ideas of the Protestant Episcopal Church have been of the most erroneous, and consequently unfavorable character. Hence, he has endeavored to state the common objections to the Church, as they actually exist, and has confined himself, in answering them, to the kind of argument which he had found most satisfactory in the course of his past experience.
The author is well aware that there are several valuable works in print, admirably adapted to the same end, and the more deserving of encouragement because they are the productions of our own writers. The apology of the late lamented Bishop Hobart, Dr. Bowden's letters to Dr. Miller, Dr. Cooke's excellent Essay, the popular Sermons of Dr. Chapman, the Episcopal Manual of the late pious Dr. Wilmer, are all works of merit, with the usefulness and acceptableness of which, the present volume is neither designed nor expected to interfere. The views of the author, however, are not, in all respects, the same with some of these highly esteemed writers; and the train of reflection which he has presented in the discussion of the nature and powers of the Episcopal office, although familiar to his thoughts and frequently expressed by him in conversation for many years, has not hitherto received
so prominent a place in our publications, as it seems to re
He is also aware that some of his opinions will be found unacceptable to numbers of good and respectable men, as well within as without his own communion, and he knows of no party, to whom, as a whole, he can turn, with the confidence of receiving commendation. His views on the Baptismal office, on Revivals, on the Temperance Society, on Episcopacy, and on sundry important questions discussed in the Dissertation, will be found objectionable to many: to some for one cause, and to some for another; but perhaps to most, for the very common reason, that THEY have always thought differently. Nor will the censure of such judges, either surprise or grieve the author. He has not lived so long without discovering, that the majority of men are too indolent or too prejudiced to re-examine an opinion which they have once adopted and expressed; and, hence, their estimate of other minds, like Swift's playful definition of orthodoxy, turns upon the simple question, Does the writer think as I do? or does he think like those who lead the party to which I choose to belong? If yea -he speaks like an oracle. If nay-there is no truth in him.'
In the face, however, of this danger, the author has conceived it his duty to proceed; not because he is insensible to praise, or regardless of censure, but because the 'Soldiers of Christ' may not be turned aside from the maintenance of his truth, by any suggestion of a personal nature. The subjects on which his ideas may be thought most peculiar, have been under his examination for years, not only with the best attention in his power, but with all the helps he could derive from the learned labors of others. The opinions here presented,
therefore, are not hasty nor crude, nor are they in any respect, new doctrines. But they are results derived, as he conceives, from the Fountain of Truth, approved by the primitive Church, and sustained by the principles of the reformation; and he puts them forth because he believes them to be THE TRUTH, and because he is fully persuaded that the interests of truth are identical with the interests of the Gospel.
But although the ideas expressed in the following pages, are neither new nor hastily adopted by the author, yet he has to acknowledge that they have been somewhat hastily put together :-too hastily for his own satisfaction, and—it may be-for the satisfaction of his friends. His apology rests upon his strong desire,` that the chapters contained in the latter part of the dissertation, and treating on our ecclesiastical judiciary system, might be placed before the Church some months previous to the approaching General Convention, in the hope that some course may there be taken which might save his own diocese the trouble of any particular legislation on the subject, and enable our clergy and our people to arrive at definite conclusions on a class of topics, always of high practical importance to the peace, the order, and the character of the Church, but only felt to be of consequence, unhappily, during those occasional emergencies, which occur but rarely, and do not continue long. Doubtless, this is one reason why the subject has not been fully provided for before. Surely, however, since the Church possesses a constitution and laws, it is high time that all should know, who are the judges, whose official duty it is to construe them. Surely, since we have Governors or Presidents appointed over our dioceses, and justly characterize them as having descended from the original Apostolic platform, it is high time to understand what powers they have
derived from that primitive source, and how they are to be sustained in exercising them. And as these topics involve principles of equal interest to every part of the Church, it seems fit that they should not be asserted in any particular diocese, until the whole Church has had an opportunity of acting, understandingly, upon them.
Separated, as we are, from each other, throughout the wide extent of the United States, and each continually occupied by those daily duties which may not be slighted nor postponed, the author had no method within his reach, more likely to turn the attention of the General Convention to the defects of our ecclesiastical judiciary system, than an early publication of this volume. Let this be accepted as his motive for a measure of haste, which under other circumstances, he would himself have deprecated; although he does not aspire to that class of authorship, which finds a stimulus for protracted labor, in the hope of wide renown, or in the anticipated praises of posterity.
The writer has but one word to add, and that is on the subject of his authorities. He thought it better to confine himself to a few distinguished names in two particular periods-the first, the period of the primitive Church before the Nicene Council -the second, the period connected with, and immediately succeeding the reformation. Irenæus, Tertullian, Cyprian and Eusebius, of the first,-Luther, Melancthon, Calvin, Hooker, Chillingworth, Burnet, &c. of the second, are chiefly cited. The notes were in no instance taken at second hand; and therefore, he considers himself altogether responsible for their entire fidelity: and the originals are added, at the foot of the page, in order that all who prefer it may make their own translation. The limits assigned to the book, which it