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LEY, Rector of St. Peter's Church, Albany. The letters signed "An Episcopalian," on the subject of a pamphlet generally ascribed to a distinguished Clergyman of the Episcopal Church, which the author of Miscellanies supposed favourable to his sentiments, were written by the author of that pamphlet; and the short pieces signed "Detector" and "Vindex" were written by the author of those books which the author of Miscellanies made the pretext of his attack on the Episcopal Church.
The author of those books can most conscientiously declare, that, in the passages which have been deemed offensive, his sole object was to contribute his humble efforts to diffuse, among those of his own communion, a knowledge of the principles of their Church. It never occurred to him that this exercise of an acknowledged right, and, as he conceived, of an important duty, in books addressed to Episcopalians, and designed for their use, would be the cause of offence to others, and give rise to a news, paper attack upon the Episcopal Church. The attention of many persons has now, however, been awakened to the subject of the constitution of the Christian Church; and in order to enable them seriously to investigate the subject, it has been deemed adviseable to collect and to publish all the pieces which appeared, on both sides of this question, in the Albany Centinel. The author of Miscellanies has, with great industry, collected together all the arguments against Episcopacy. He has indeed dealt largely in assertions. These, of course, could not be exposed and refute in as concise a manner as they were made. And as the printers became at length extremely averse to publishing on the subject, the advocates of Episcopacy were compelled to pass by, without particular notice,
several of the assertions of the author of Miscellanies. These are principally the subjects of the additional notes and remarks added to this volume by the Editor.
Some persons, who condemn, at all times, religious controversy, may be of opinion, that this controversy should have been left to perish with the newspapers of the day in which it appeared. But these persons are entreated to remember, that controversy often unavoidably results from the discharge of the duty explicitly urged in Holy Writ, to "contend earnestly for the faith." The here. sies and schisms that prevail in the Church arise not from the imperfection of the sacred volume, but from the frailty and corruption of human nature; and they even powerfully corroborate the divine origin of those Scriptures, which predict their rise and prevalence. Steadfastly to oppose them, however, must certainly be the obvious duty of every friend to the purity and success of divine truth. And no one who considers that every Christian Minister must be "called of God as was Aaron," must be vested with a divine commission; no one who consi ders that some mode must have been originally esta blished for perpetuating, agreeably to the promise of the divine Head of the Church, the ministerial authority, "alway, even to the end of the world;" no one who considers how great stress is laid by our Saviour and his Apostles on Church unity; no one who considers how much the divisions that distract Christians obstruct the diffusion of divine truth, will hesitate to declare, that every inquiry on the subject of the mode of deriving from the Head of the Church the ministerial commission; and every inquiry concerning the principles of that Christian unity, which preserved the glory and purity of the
primitive Church, and is still necessary for the same important object, is of primary and essential importance. Hence too it becomes the duty of every Christian seriously to inquire where are the true Priesthood, and the valid ordinances of the Church; and hence the present publication, which furnishes a view of the arguments on these important topics, may be justified.*
The present publication is rendered necessary on another account. A periodical work, entitled, "The Christian's Magazine," has been for some time announced. This will be conducted by the united talents of the repectable body of anti-Episcopal Clergy in the city of NewYork. And it is ascertained that they have been, for a long time, preparing to expose, in this Miscellany, what they consider the erroneous tenets of Episcopalians on the constitution of the Christian Church. With a knowledge of this circumstance, it would be a dereliction of duty in those who believe Episcopacy was the originally and divinely constituted mode of conveying and perpetuating the ministerial commission, to remain inactive. In the present publication, the arguments for and against Episcopacy are presented to the reader; and he has thus a fair opportunity of judging of the merits of this important question.
* Potter on Church Government, and the tracts on the same subject in the Scholar Armed, viz. Leslie on the Qualifications to administer the Sacraments, and Law's three Letters to the Bishop of Bangor, contain the substance of the arguments in favour of Episcopacy. The anti-Episcopal arguments are stated by Sir Peter King, in his Inquiry concerning the Constitution, &c. of the Primitive Church, and by the late Dr. Campbell, in his Ecclesiastical Lectures. The former book was answered, it is said, to the conviction of Sir Peter King himself, by Slater, in his Original Draught of the Primitive Church; and the latter book by Bishop Skinner of Aberdeen, in his Primitive Truth and Order Vindicated.
The imputation of uncharitableness and bigotry, liberally applied to the advocates of Episcopacy, is disclaimed as equally ungenerous and unjust. The same imputation has always been urged, by the opponents of the truths of Revelation, against the advocates of these truths. It has pleased God to make his Church the channel of his covenanted mercies to the world. Christians, universally, for fifteen centuries, considered the Priesthood, in the orders of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, as one of the essential characteristics of the Church; and considered the reception of the ordinances administered by this Priesthood as the divinely appointed mode of entering into covenant with God. But though the institutions of the Almighty are indispensably binding upon men, he is not himself restricted by them. Every benevolent heart, therefore, ardently cherishes the delightful belief, that mercy will at length be extended to all who humbly and earnestly seek to know and to do the will of their heavenly Master. In the sincerity of his soul, the writer can adopt and cherish the sentiments avowed by a dis tinguished Prelate; who still honours and promotes by his erudition and talents, the cause of science and religion; and who, for his zealous defence of primitive faith and order, has been frequently branded with the charges of intolerance and bigotry.*
"THOUGH TRUTH IN THESE CONTROVERSIES CAN BE ONLY ON ONE SIDE; HE WILL INDULGE, AND HE WILL AVOW, THE CHARITABLE OPINION THAT SINCERITY MAY BE ON BOTH. AND HE WILL ENJOY THE REFLECTION,
Bishop Horsley. See his Charge to his Clergy, while Archdeacon of St. Alban's, in defence of the divinity of Christ, against Dr. Priestley.
THAT, BY AN EQUAL SINCERITY, THROUGH THE POWER OF THAT BLOOD WHICH WAS SHED EQUALLY FOR ALL, BOTH PARTIES MAY AT LENGTH FIND EQUAL MERCY. IN THE TRANSPORT OF THIS HOLY HOPE, HE WILL ANTICIPATE THAT GLORIOUS CONSUMMATION, WHEN FAITH SHALL BE ABSORBED IN KNOWLEDGE, AND The fire of CONTROVERSY FOR EVER QUENCHED. WHEN THE SAME GENEROUS ZEAL FOR GOD AND TRUTH, WHICH TOO OFTEN, IN THIS WORLD OF FOLLY AND CONFUSION, SETS THOSE AT WIDEST VARIANCE WHOM THE SIMILITUDE OF VIRTUOUS FEELINGS SHOULD THE MOST UNITE, SHALL BE THE CEMENT OF AN INDISSOLUBLE FRIENDSHIP; WHEN THE INNUMERABLË MULTITUDE OF ALL NATIONS, KINDREDS, AND PEOPLE, (WHY SHOULD I NOT ADD OF ALL SECTS AND PARTIES?) ASSEMBLED ROUND THE THRONE, SHALL, LIKE THE FIRST CHRISTIANS, BE OF ONE SOUL, AND ONE MIND; GIVING PRAISE WITH ONE CONSENT TO HIM THAT SITTETH ON THE THRONE, AND TO THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN TO REDEEM THEM BY HIS BLOOD."
New-York, February, 1806.
J. H. HOBART.