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thren!” How vast the disproportion between profession and reality, in all the churches of Christ! The offence of the cross,' as regards either the preaching of Christ crucified, or attendance on the ministry of such as preach him, has nearly ceased :' and to talk in the language of the Gospel, and associate with the religious, and approve, at 'least, of their benevolent doings, is to be fashionable rather than to be persecuted.
Then, how deplorably do discord and contention prevail among the professed disciples of one Lord; because, on some minor topics of opinion, they differ in sentiment ! In England and Scotland, within the last half dozen
has not this state of things grown up, with an almost incredible rapidity, into a fearful magnitude ? A fiery ordeal all profess to believe to be at no great distance; but, instead of growing unity, the result of predominating love, there are increasing “schisms' and divisions among the members of the body of Christ ; and intolerance seems strong, often, in proportion to the comparative insignificance of the topics that produce diversities of judgment.
Still further, is there not a growing rage for novelties, to minister to a morbid love of excitement ? Is not the mental constitution of many so diseased, that it requires the action of continual stimulants ? And in the habitual indulgence of such a spirit, has not all concern for the salvation of perishing multitudes,
that meet the eye at every turn, been suffered to expire ?
The writer is not one of those who can discover nothing but what is evil in the general church at the present day; nor does he love to dwell on the less fascinating features of her members; nor is he a gloomy alarmist, who can foresee nothing but desolation and
But with fervent thanksgivings to God, for, what He has done and is doing for His church, and in full faith of the certain bestowment of all that He has promised, he would hold up existing evils to the view of the Brethren, that they may be excited to humiliation, watchfulness, and prayer.
It has been thought that it might, through the blessing of God, aid in effecting this object, were the attention of Christians directed to their essential oneness in all the grand characteristics of their common Christianity; and to the views of those who, in these countries, have been instrumental in the plantation and establishment among us of the Gospel, with its privileges and blessings. Their views of divine truth were essentially the same with those of the servants of God in every preceding period : for, while error is multiform and variable, truth is one and immutable. 66 Thus saith the Lord, stand
and ask for the old paths, where is the good way: and walk therein, and ye
shall find rest for
With this design the following little work has been undertaken. It consists of the summaries of faith and practice, originally framed by those who were instrumental, under God, in giving to these lands all that is valuable in their religious,—and even their civil privileges; and which are still held by the great body of professed believers. That, in all their leading outlines, they are founded upon the apostles and prophets,' will be obvious from a careful and candid examination of the passages of Scripture appended as proofs of the statements they contain. That they are in substance the same with those formulas employed by the churches immediately subsequent to the Apostolic age, and prior to the rise of “the great apostacy”—for asserting the truth and condemning error, might be easily shown. And when the glorious Reformation took place, and, to use the language of Milton,-“ Then was the sacred Bible sought out of the dusty corners where profane falsehood and neglect had thrown it, the schools opened, divine and human learning raked out of the embers of forgotten tongues, the princes and cities trooping apace to the new-erected banner of salvation; the martyrs, with the unresistible might of weakness, shaking the powers of darkness, and scorning the fiery rage of the old red dragon ;"_when Luther, and the rest of the glorious band of his coadjutors and followers, swept away the errors and superstitions wherewith
the fair face of the church had been covered and deformed, and adopted the plan which had been employed before, for exhibiting truth and condemning error, that both might be contrasted with the infallible oracles of God, by publishing the Augsburg, Hel-. vetic, and other « Confessions”.
-as theirs were in substance identical with those of the church in her purest times, so are these which follow, in all vital points, the same with theirs. No infallibility, nor even authority, is claimed for them on account of the men who compiled them,-however learned, eminent, and holy many of them were: they would, themselves, have been the very first to disclaim all such pretensions, and to say, “ Be ye followers of us,” in so far as we are of Christ." “ To the law and to the testimony." But to every sober-minded Christian it must be satisfactory to find that, amid all the changes in outward circumstances, and all the varieties of forms and rites-in every age the faith and the practice of the church has been identical ; and it must teach such persons to cling to and contend for these, instead of attaching undue importance to modes and opinions that have been constantly varying.
The practice of exhibiting what the church has conceived to be the truth, and condemning the errors which, from time to time, were broached and propagated by its enemies, has been adopted from the be
ginning; and still prevails. With the view of showing, still further, the harmony which exists among those who “hold the Head," even under the most diverse forms of ecclesiastical polity, to the more anciently published creeds adopted in these countries, is added “ The Declaration of the Congregational Churches.”
That “ Confessions,” like other things, may be abused on the one hand, by being enforced upon unwilling consciences by the fear of loss or the hope of emolument--and on the other adopted, hypocritically, from sinister designs, by unprincipled individuals
-is at once admitted; but that, when properly used, they are important and warrantable, is by the common practice of all the orthodox churches admitted and sanctioned. They evince the sense in which Scripture is understood --exhibit the union of the friends of truth, in the assertion of its principles and testifying against corruptions--and lay the foundation for harmony, in the “ walking together” of those who are thus “ agreed."
The only body of professed Christians that refuse to publish a statement of their belief is that of the self-named Unitarians ; but as theirs is rather a system of not believing than of faith, and as almost every variety of error may be found to nestle under the shelter of the generic name, the exception is, perhaps, the less to be either wondered at or regretted.