« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
WITH A BRIEF. His song OF THE DENOMINATION.
BY JOHN MitchELL,
“Beholding your Order and the steadfastness of your Faith in
o Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1838, by | J. H. BUTLER, in the Clerk's office of the District Court
of Massachusetts District.
About three years since, the author published, at New Haven, a volume on the principles and practice of the Congregational Churches; which was favorably reviewed by a number of our theological quarterlies, and was generally approved of, it is believed, as a correct exhibition of the subject. He has often been desired to have it re-printed, with a more full discussion of some of its topics, and the introduction of others which he had omitted. The present volume is a partial re-print of that ; and might be published as a revised edition. But so thorough has been the revision, and so considerable is the amount of new matter introduced, that it is thought proper to publish it as a new work. A new title has been given it more descriptive of its present design and contents.
It is hoped that this volume may be a useful guide to church members and an acceptable auxiliary to pastors. While it is very desirable that our churches and congregations should be well informed respecting the principles and usages of their own excellent system, there is not, so far as I know, any treatise written expressly for them, and adapted to popular use,_ at least none so full and particular as to render this superfluous. Nor is it possible, perhaps, that their pastors should, amid their many la
bors, give as much instruction as is desira
ble on the topics here discussed. Some of these topics are, moreover, of so delicate and personal a nature, that, however important they may be, few pastors will choose to discuss them in their pulpits.
I do not suppose that church order, which is the leading, though not the sole topic of this volume, is the most important thing in religion: but neither is it the least important. It certainly is not unimportant. Churches were instituted by Christ for particular purposes; to wit, the edification of the members, and the efficient propagation of religion in the world; and it is obvious that the manner of their constitution, that is, their polity, must have much to do with their adaptedness to the ends in view; and of course, that it can never be otherwise than an important subject to be studied and known. I cannot but think it has been too much neglected by us. Our fathers sought truth on this subject with the same conscientiousness and care, as they sought the mind of Christ on other subjects. They sought it at the expense of persecution and exile; and having, with unwearied pains, found it, they rejoiced in it. It was to them “like unto a treasure hid in a field; the which, when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” In that age of ecclesiastical confusion, and of turning back towards popery, they professed that “they looked upon the discovery and settlement of the Congregational way, as the boon, the gratuity, the largess of divine bounty, which the Lord graciously bestowed on his people that followed him into the wilderness.” But we, their descendants, so far from entering into their studies, are almost content to be ignorant of the very results of them, furnished to our hands. Is it not true that not a few of our ministers do not inform themselves even, much less acquaint their people, thoroughly, with the principles and grounds of our ecclesiastical system 7 And does it not hence arise,