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his own conscience, and inflicts on the church herself, wounds, to which she has rendered herself more liable, because, by losing her native charity and unity, she has been deprived of her power to disarm her foes. If no small leaven of sceptical indifference to all that is peculiar in Christianity, is still found silently working in the minds of many men of science-if some are still disposed to identify earnest religion with bigotry, narrow-mindedness, party feeling, or self-interest, are there none to share with them in the blame?
It is true, indeed, that the principles in which they glory, as forming the basis of our moderni advances in the knowledge of nature, might well lead them to search for truth, independently, without allowing their inquiries to be arrested by the inconsistencies of its professed friends. And can any man of disciplined understanding read Bishop Butler's immortal contribution to Christianity, and say that he is certain that the dis. tinguishing doctrines of the Gospel are not true? Can he rise from the pages of Lardner, or Paley, and not be convinced that Christianity is an historical fact, ancient as the era which bears its name? Can he diligently peruıse the New Testament itself, with devout prayer to the Creator for
guidance into truth, if it be there'-and not hear a voice speaking to his conscience? Yet how greatly have the unhappy dissensions of Chris
tians tended to impress him with the false idea, that, of all things, religion, as distinguished from mere morality, is the most uncertain !-But it would be an endless task to attempt to trace the deplorable effects, which have been connected with the odium that has been cast on Christianity, by the inveterate Schisms of the church ! On the other hand, there
many, who, though they would not, perhaps, regard an argument on 'Schismas, necessarily, a mere quibble in metaphysical theology, or a useless
a contest about words—may, nevertheless, deem it quite superfluous. The nature and the bearings of this offence (for all Christians allow it to be such) may seem already to have been so completely settled, that our conclusions on the subject, so far from requiring any further examination, may rather be viewed as meriting a place among the fundamental axioms of faith. So has always thought the Romish church. So thought the Presbyterians of the Commonwealth — the
Episcopalians of the Restoration—the Congregational settlers of New England. So have thought other christian denominations. Now since each of these parties differed in their practical estimate of Schism, in such a way as that all could not have been in the right, the question is—who were in the wrong?-or were all in the wrong? It has been the author's aim, in the following chapters,
to inquire into this subject; and he thinks that the general view which has been taken, if impartially examined in the light of Holy SCRIPTURE > will be found to have some truth in it.
Whatever judgment may be formed respecting the nature of Schism, and the parties who may be regarded as most guilty of it; no one who keeps a watchful eye on the movements of society, will for a moment doubt that the subject is such, as to have acquired a growing importance with the advance of our own times: being connected with a conflict of opinions--sometimes occasional and desultory, sometimes thickening and becoming more general--which seems destined to be somewhat more than a passing occurrence in the history of religion; and to have a momentous bearing on the relations which religion is to sustain to the social compact, in future ages.
The close of the last century, and the early part of the present, were marked by the pouring out of awful 'vials' of slaughter and desolation on the Roman earth. Events, such as had previously been wont to occur, singly, at the interval of ages, became only so many scenes, rapidly succeeding each other, in one stupendous political drama, of a quarter of a century-till a great part of Europe was bestrewed with the wrecks of the ancient thrones, and those which
were not overthrown were made to vibrate to their foundations; so that the hearts of all men ' failed them for fear.' Those days are, happily, past; and no general European war has, since, stood in the way of social improvements. Our own beloved country, among other nations, soon began to benefit by the merciful cessation of that appalling storm. It cannot be doubted that much progress has been made, during the last twenty years, in respect to all the great elements on which human happiness permanently depends. Religion, especially, has been a gainer; and, at this moment, unprecedented efforts are made to cause it to penetrate into all the recesses of society.
But it is deeply to be regretted that the visible unity of Christians, as such, independently of their distinguishing peculiarities, is far from having made satisfactory progress. Of late years, especially, the breach between members of the Established Church and Dissenters, has evidently widened. The clashing claims made by these parties, have been brought more into actual collision than heretofore. The revival, too, of the doctrine of 'Apostolical Descent' in the Church of England, has tended to give to the mutually alienated feelings, on both sides, the stability of principle. The same cause has also produced a new Schism within the Establishment itself. It is evident that the lamentable wounds
under which Christianity is suffering from the discord and the dissensions of its professors, cannot be effectually healed but by a devout recurrence to first principles. Ecclesiastical history, properly estimated, no doubt has its use; but the final and only authoritative appeal, must be' to the law and to the testimony' of Scripture. This the author has sought to consult, not in the spirit of a partisan, but as an inquirer after truth. How far he may have succeeded, must be left with others to determine.
It appeared to him, that some examination of the doctrine of a divine right' for the form of
' church-government, as it has been held by the advocates of different systems, but especially of Episcopacy, was essential to a just conception of the nature of Schism. If the details of any one form be exclusively appointed by divine injunction, all departure from these details must be a rejection of revealed truth; and ought to be regarded as on a level with the denial of those grand fundamental points, in which the churches of the Reformation are agreed. But in the author's humble judgment, no precise and unalterable model of the church is laid down in the New Testament. Principles, and general outlines, are unquestionably given; and these he has endeavoured, in the course of the inquiry, as will be seen, to point out and illustrate.
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