« PreviousContinue »
prepared by a prominent clergyman for the public press, and numerous friendly tongues had already diffused the intelligence far and wide, not merely exciting a certain measure of natural anticipation, but, as the author would fain believe, drawing forth, from many a Christian heart, an offering of gratitude to God for another testimony against error, and a prayer in behalf of the humble instrument by whom it should be given.
It was at this stage of the matter, that the bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in the diocese of Pennsylvania, thought fit to address a letter to the author, earnestly and urgently requesting the abandonment of the whole design.
Of this very singular act, there is no desire, on the author's part, to speak unkindly. He has indeed, both in his written answer to the bishop, and in his intercourse with others, denied, as he still denies, the right and the expediency of the interference. But he yielded to it, for the sake of his brethren of the clergy, whose prompt and generous conduct on the occasion well deserved, that he should make any sacrifice of his personal feelings, rather than be the means of raising the slightest dissatisfaction between them and their diocesan. And he takes this opportunity to record his conviction, in the most explicit terms, that while he considers the course of his respected colleague as being a manifest error in every possible aspect of the question, yet he doubts not that it was dictated by the purest motives, and intended for the best.
The immediate effect, however, was the expression of a general and strong desire, that the lectures, intended to have been preached, should at least be published without delay. With this desire, after some reflection, the author thought it his duty to comply; although he would have preferred, so far as he was
personally concerned, to have occupied some months in preparing an improved copy for the press; with the addition, (according to his custom in his other humble publications) of the original notes, referred to as authority, and of a supplementary lecture or two upon the subject of justification by faith, as contradistinguished from the Tridentine doctrine.
Such being, briefly, the simple history of the present work, the author can only say, that he has done what he could, under the circumstances, to render his references satisfactory. For many of the passages, especially those taken from the ancient fathers, he has cited his former book on the Church of Rome, because it is more accessible than the originals themselves, and contains copious extracts from them, made with care and accuracy. For others, he has referred to a very useful English work, Finch on the Roman controversy, which ought to be, if it is not, in general circulation. And he has made several quotations from the admirable Letters of Dr. Philpots to Butler, worthy, in every respect, of the reputation which the distinguished writer has long enjoyed, as bishop of Exeter. But for the substantial truth and correctness of the whole, the author considers himself directly responsible; and stands prepared to defend the ground which he has occupied in any form of equal controversy, excepting always the utterly inconclusive and objectionable one of newspaper discussion.
On the propriety, the expediency, the right, and—more than all—the solemn duty of defending the principles of the Reformation against the constant assaults of the Church of Rome, the author feels quite persuaded that there can be, amongst Protestant Christians, but one opinion. The legitimate modes of performing this duty, so far as the ministry of our Church are concerned, are three: by public disputation, by the pulpit,
and by the press. BY THESE, THE TRUTH WAS ESTABLISHED. By these, the same truth must be maintained. And woe be to the Church, if the fear of excitement, or the apprehension of consequences, directly or indirectly, should ever be allowed to silence the tongue of the advocate, who seeks, in the old and regular forms of ministerial action, with sufficient preparation and in a Christian spirit, to discharge his share of this sacred responsibility.
Whether the author has erred in supposing himself called to labour in this trying and ungrateful department of the ministerial office; whether the zealous studies of eighteen years have failed to qualify him in any reasonable measure for the task, and whether he was altogether mistaken in the idea, that the following course of lectures, under the divine blessing, might have borne a useful testimony on behalf of our Protestant truth against Roman error, especially adapted to these times, are all questions which he willingly submits to the judgment of his brethren. Should that judgment be against him, he will pray for the grace of resignation, and endeavour to obey the Saviour's precept: Go, and sin no MORE.