P R E F A C E
[to the second edition]
THE present edition substitutes, for the first part of the
last, a series of essays on the Christian System; and somewhat enlarges on
the second. The continual misrepresentation and misconception of our views
on some very fundamental points of the Christian system seem at the present
crisis, to call for a very definite, clear, and connected view of the great
outlines and elements of the Christian Institution; and more especially with
a reference to a great question, which we anticipate soon to be the all-absorbing
question of Protestant Christendom, viz. - How may schisms cease, and
all Christians unite, harmonise and co-operate in one great community, as
at the beginning?
Things ecclesiastic are moving forward to a new issue. The Christian system
is undergoing an examination in the present day, both as to its evidences
and signification, wholly unprecedented since the days of the grand defection.
Such an age is always an age of extremes: but things will regulate themselves
and settle down on the true foundation. "Many are running to and fro;" and
certainly knowledge is on the increase.
The Christian system, as unfolded in the following essays, would, but for
the special essays on the "Kingdom of Heaven," "Remission of Sins,"
"Regeneration," and "Breaking the Loaf," have been more systematically and
fully developed. Sundry points are but meagrely discussed in the new essays,
because of their recurrence in those elaborate articles which have been so
often published. We have, indeed, aimed first at giving a general view, leaving
the important details on the most disputable points for those essays.
Instead of the "Dialogue on the Holy Spirit," so generally read and so fully
discussed, we have added a few essays on CHURCH
ORDER as a part of the Christian system: thus endeavouring
to give to the book all the chances of being as useful as possible to those
who are desirous of a more perfect understanding of our attainments in Christian
knowledge. We speak for ourselves only; and while we are always willing to
give a declaration of our faith and knowledge of the Christian system, we
firmly protest against dogmatically propounding our own views, or those of
any fallible mortal, as a condition or foundation of church union and
co-operation. While, then, we would, if we could, either with the tongue
or the pen, proclaim all that we believe, and all that we know, to the ends
of the earth, we take the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the
Bible, as the foundation of all Christian union and communion. Those
who do not like this will please show us a more excellent way.
BETHANY, Va., June 13th, 1839.