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pain to engage in any controversy, even in self defence, which tends to produce even temporary alienation among those who ought to be united by the bonds of our common hope.
But when Episcopalians belong to that part of their denomination-a very small part, as I hope and trust—who not only believe that prelacy is a divine institution, but that every other form of ecclesiastical government must be rejected as rebellion against God : when they persuade themselves, not only that the human invention which they embrace, is truth, but that nothing else can be truth ; that where there is no ministry episcopally ordained, there is no church at all, no miņistry, no valid ordinances, no people in covenant with God, and, of course, no warranted hope of divine mercy through our Lord Jesus Christ; when, as a native and necessary consequence of these opinions, they consider it as unlawful to indulge in any religious intercourse with non-episcopalians ; and regard it as an act of fidelity to Christ to stand aloof from all who do not belong to their own body, however pious their spirit and exemplary their lives; nay, however manifestly, in all other respects, they may bear his image, and do his will; when they think it incumbent upon them to decline every act which would imply acknowledging as brethren in Christ the most devout and heavenly-minded Christians who do not stand in their particular line of fancied ecclesiastical genealogy; and to refuse all communion and cooperation with them, even in the most hallowed work of Christian benevolence; and, further, when they think it a duty to take every opportunity, in public and private, to denounce non-episcopalians as aliens from Christ, and call upon them to renounce their principles, and attach themselves to their sect, under the heaviest penalties ; I say, when Episcopalians take this ground, it is difficult to tell wherein their principle differs from the corresponding principle of the papists. They evidently take a stand hos
tile both to the letter and spirit of the Bible. They advance claims alike presumptuous, unreasonable, and mischievous. They teach doctrines which have an obvious tendency to place an outward ceremonial above the “ weightier matters of the law;" and to turn away the minds of men from the vital spirit of our holy religion, to “ fable and endless genealogies, which minister questions rather than godly edifying.” In short, they contend for principles, the tendency, of which is to beget narrow views, sectarian pride, and blind superstition ; and to bring back the darkness and the thraldom of those ages when fallible mortals undertook to be the vicars of Christ upon earth, and to make their followers believe, that they held in their hands the spiritual rights, and the immortal hopes of their fellow men.
I rejoice, my respected brethren, that Presbyterians have never been chargeable with attempting to maintain opinions so unscriptural and pernicious. I rejoice that our ecclesiastical formularies, as well as our private sentiments, are, universally, alien from such unfounded claims. It gives me pleasure to know, that we have never un-churched other denominations; never denied the validity of their ordinances; never consigned them to the uncovenanted mercies of God; never stood aloof from any churches which we considered as holding the fundamental doctrines of our common salvation; but have long been in the constant habit of recognizing as brethren in Christ, and holding communion with, all denominations who manifest any practical regard to the precious truth, and the holy living, which the Bible represents as essential to the Christian character. To this state
Those who desire to see the ground on which this exhibition of high church doctrine rests, are referred not only to the statements in the following letters ; but also to the various episcopal publications circulating in every part of the United States, both practical and controversial, which, by eitheropen avowal, or unavoidable inference, will fully sustain all that is here advanced.
ment, I am not aware, at present, of a single exception. I know, indeed, that we are often stigmatized as an austere and bigoted denomination. But this has never been owing to our denying the church character of any of our neighbouring sisters; but to our contending for what we deem the peculiar and fundamental doctrines of the gospel, and endeavouring to enforce, in our communion, that purity of life, and that abstraction from the fashionable pleasures of the world, which some other denominations do not so carefully discountenance. The truth is, Presbyterians, as such, have so little of the spirit of sect; are so ready to join with all Christian churches in carrying on any enterprize of piety and benevolence; so ready to take to their bosoms all, of every sect or name, who manifest the spirit of Christ; and so little disposed to question the standing of any ecclesiastical body, on account of its external organization, or to contend about church government at all, that they have scarcely enough of the sectarian spirit to defend themselves. It gives me unspeakable pleasure to contemplate this feature in our character as a church. It forms one among the numerous evidences that we walk in the footsteps of the primitive believers ; that we have imbibed something of the spirit of Him, who, when one of his disciples said, “ Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and
we forbade him, because he followeth not with us ;” replied, “Forbid him not, for he that is not against us is for us ;'' —the spirit of that holy Apostle, who could say, “ Some, indeed, preach Christ even of envy and strife, “ and some also of good will. What then? notwithstand“ing every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is “preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice."
But, although Presbyterians will not yield to any other class of professing Christians whatever, in liberality to other denominations; yet when their principles are assailed, there are limits beyond which they consider silence as inconsistent with duty. When they are denounced as “ aliens
from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant of promise;" when they are declared, as Presbyterians, to be no church of Christ, to have no ministry, no sacraments, no warranted hope in the mercy of God; when every attempt either to dispense or receive ordinances by Presbyterian hands, is pronounced an act of rebellion against the Head of the Church ; when we are even represented as in a worse condition than the heathen, because equally out of God's covenant, and resisting greater light than they ; surely it cannot be wrong to say a word in defence of our principles ; surely it cannot be criminal to “give an answer to any one that asketh a reason of the “ hope that is in us, provided we do it with meekness and “ fear.” Placing out of view all regard to our own reputation, as a Church, fidelity to our Master in heaven, as well as fidelity to those who look to us for instruction, undoubtedly requires, that we show, if it be in our power, that “we “ have not followed cunningly devised fables,” but can appeal to the law and the testimony" for all that we teach the people.
Allow me, then, my christian friends, before you enter on the perusal of the following Letters, to state, with brevity, in this preliminary address, a few considerations, intended to show why those high and exclusive claims which our Episcopal neighbours are in the habit of urging with a zeal and confidence worthy of a better cause, ought to be, and must be rejected. And,
I. We cannot find the least warrant for any such exclusive claims, IN THE WORD OF GOD. If Prelacy had been a divine institution, and especially, if it had been regarded by the inspired writers as the fundamental and essential matter which modern high-churchmen represent it,could they have been silent respecting it? Can it be imagined that they would have left the subject in obscurity or doubt? When they had occasion to speak so frequently concerning the christian character and hope; concerning
the church, its nature, foundation, Head, laws, ministers and interests; it is truly marvellous that they should be explicit on every other point than precisely that which jure divino prelatists consider as the most vital and important of all! Yet is not this manifestly the case, the friends of the claim in question themselves being judges? Have they not been constrained a thousand times to confess, that this claim is no where distinctly presented or maintained in the New Testament? When the inspired writers undertake to tell us what those things are which professing Christians ought sacredly to regard, in order to make good their appropriate character, on what points do they dwell ? Do they insist on a particular line of ecclesiastical succession, or represent every thing, or, indeed, any thing, as depending on a certain form of official investiture? Do they tell the humble inquirer after the way of holiness and salvation, that he must be careful, first of all, that he receives the sacraments from duly authorized hands; and that, whatever he does, he must be found in communion with some bishop, who holds his office by regular descent ? Is there a syllable which has the most distant resemblance to such counsel ? Assuredly there is not. No; the points every where insisted on, as manifesting that the character and the hopes of men are “ such as becometh the gospel,” are genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, love to God and man, and habitually endeavouring to imbibe the spirit, to imitate the example, and to obey the commands of the Redeemer. The directions given are every where such as the following : “ He that believeth on “the Son of God hath everlasting life, and shall not come “ into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life ; 6 but he that believeth not on the Son of God shall not see “ life, but the wrath of God abideth on him. There is,
therefore, now no condemnation to them that are in “ Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the “spirit. If ye love me, keep my commandments; for he