Page images

kept in view,--and the means which have been adopted to attain that end.

The attention of the Author was, not long since, directed by particular circumstances to a close investigation of the principles of the Reformers of the Established Church of England, and of the state of public opinion, relative to certain controverted points of theological inquiry, at the different dates subsequent to the Reformation, which form, as it were, æras in the ecclesiastical history of the kingdom. He was unwilling to remain altogether idle, when the weakest co-operation might be serviceable to the cause of sound religion ; and, that he might not be so, he at first proposed to put together a short harmony of the chief works which he had consulted. He was desirous to impart to others the satisfaction and instruction he had himself received, in observing the perfect unanimity which prevails between those reverend martyrs, by whose judicious, persevering, and well-expended labour, the foundation of the Protestant Church of this country was actually laid,—and their eminently learned and pious followers, who perfected the plan, and raised the goodly superstructure which stands, even to the present day, an object of general veneration and regard to the Christian world. He

was, however, led on insensibly to compare again the principles and opinions of these great and exemplary men with the one unerring standard of Truth, the text of Holy Writ, and with the doctrines inculcated in the admirable Liturgy of the Church of England. With these materials before him, the Author was inclined to enlarge bis original scale ; for he had often found occasion to regret in the course of his own reading, that there was no unexceptionable book, at least not any one with which he was acquainted, that afforded a connected and compendious view of Christian Faith and Practice upon the principles of the English Church, resembling the work put forth by authority in the Church of Scotland, comprehending a Confession of Faith, a larger and a shorter Catechism, directions for public and family worship, and a form of Church Government. Such an one had frequently appeared to him a great desideratum ; and he accordingly determined to devote a period in which his time and thoughts were unoccupied by the cure of souls, and latterly, by any professional engagement, to the endeavour to supply, so far as a private and unaccredited individual might, the deficiency he had seen cause so often to lament. He has employed the time which he was at any rate bound

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

to dedicate to the service of his Divine Master, in pursuing the work which he at length submits to his fellow-Christians of the Church of Enge land, with much distrust of its value, but in humble reliance on the blessing of the Almighty, if it should be found consistent with the saving truths of the Gospel, calculated to uphold the faith in unity of spirit, and in the bond of peace,

and fitted to promote the glory of Him who has been graciously pleased to grant the opportunity requisite for its accomplishment.

The objects which the Author has proposed to himself, he thinks it but candid, and incumbent on him, to state. He is not vain enough to flatter himself, that he has so far succeeded according to his wishes, as to have his labours considered of any great importance to his Clerical' Brethren, he has not the presumption to assume the office of their instructor ; but it is his wish, in the very first place, that his Compendium may not be altogether useless even to them, as a book of reference, in which they may find the substance, he believes, of nearly all that has been said at large upon the various points, to which they must continually allude in the course of their ministerial duties. They will find at once the greater part of the passages of Scripture, relating

to each particular head of doctrine, arranged together ;-they will find all the ecclesiastical authorities which they can require for common pur. poses ;—they will find much, very much, to admire in the forcible simple phraseology of the early Catechists. It, doubtless, will be deemed a character deserving of their approbation, that the language of controversy has been sedulously avoided. Would it were possible to avoid all controverted subjects ! or, rather, that no subjects were controverted, but those which it is impossible to avoid !

It has been a source of no small pain to the Author, in the prosecution of bis work, that he could not, consistently with the very nature of it, divest many of his sections of a dogmatical appearance. The style of all compressed didactic writing must necessarily be dry and unengaging; but those who have themselves experienced the difficulty of avoiding it, will be the most ready to excuse a positive, affirmatory tone upon debateable points, where it is impossible to enter into the many very contradictory arguments, which have involved the study of divinity in so much intricacy and doubt, and have done so much injury to the cause of vital Christianity.

The object of such a work as this, is not to

discuss, but to state, concisely, what the Author believes to be the right interpretation of the Church of England, as it is to be learned from a comparison of her authorized Formulalaries, and the public Writings of her Founders, with the standard of Scripture-to which she desires to be referred. It need scarcely be asserted, that the “ Summary" is in strict accordance with the Author's own view of Doctrines and Morals, as he supposes them to be upheld. by the Church to which he has the happiness to belong : but he solemnly affirms, that he has not knowingly added, warped, or omitted a single syllable for the purpose of countenancing any peculiar opinion of his own, or of opposing those who may differ from him. He has carefully pea rused the works of writers on both sides of many questions which occur in the course of his ena quiry; and has often derived great assistance from those with whom he does not in all things agree. He trusts that he is open to conviction ; and, that if he have not seen reason to change his opinions, his retaining them has not arisen merely from wilful perverseness, or from a prejudiced adherence to any one name or school, rather than another. That his principles should be approved by all his Brethren, he is not san

« PreviousContinue »