« EelmineJätka »
The want of a History of the Church of Scotland, at once concise and entire, has long been felt. Separate periods have been very fully treated of by several authors, leaving for their successors little to do but to compress the voluminous records which they had collected ; and ample materials exist to fill up the intermediate chasms, and to continue the narrative down to the present times. But as no attempt has hitherto been made to compress the histories of these detached periods, to fill up the intermediate chasms, and to continue the narrative, it is a matter of considerable difficulty for any person who has not much leisure to spend, nor ready access to public libraries, to obtain a connected view of the Church of Scotland throughout its entire history. Several very serious disadvantages have resulted from the want of such a work; a great degree of ignorance has been allowed to prevail respecting the true principles and character of the Church of Scotland; her enemies have availed themselves of this ignorance to misrepresent her past conduct, to calumniate the characters of her Reformers and Martyrs, and to assail her present proceedings, while many of her zealous friends are without the means of vindicating the past and defending the present; and numbers are remaining in a state of neutrality, liable to be misled, who require but accurate information to induce them at once to give their cordial support to the Church of their fathers. Nor can there be a doubt, that many are at present not merely neutral but hostile, who would become her strenuous defenders, if they possessed sufficient knowledge of her past and present history.
Impelled by these considerations, and by the strong persuasion, that by giving to the public a faithful record of the scriptural principles of the Church of Scotland, her sufferings in defence of the Redeemer's Headship and of Gospel truth and purity, and the mental, moral, and religious blessings which she has been instrumental in conferring on the kingdom, I should best aid in her vindication and defence, I have endeavoured to supply the long-felt want of a concise, continuous, and entire History of the Church of Scotland. I have not the presumption to imagine that my work will adequately supply the want. For reasons which seemed to me imperative, I have restricted myself within limits which prevent the possibility of giving more than a tolerably full outline of a subject requiring several volumes to do it justice. Much peculiarly interesting and instructive matter,—both fitted to illustrate great principles, and characteristic of the interior life and private influence of the Presbyterian Church, --has been unavoidably, and very reluctantly, withheld, that the continuity of the main outline might not be broken, nor the general impression weakened, by minute details.
References to authorities have been given in every matter of chief importance, except where these are already well known and universally admitted. It would have been easy to have adduced
very many more; but while a superfluous array of references appears to me to savour of ostentation, and can be of little consequence to the general reader, for whom chiefly this work is intended, it is believed, that those who wish to prosecute their acquaintance with the subject, will find enough to authenticate every statement, and to direct them to sources where more minute details may be obtained. I have preferred to quote the testimony of opponents rather than that of friends, in many instances, as less liable to be disputed ; and when several authorities support the same account, I have given the one most generally known, rather than the rarer, that the reader might