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Is looking back at our long range of Volumes, extending from 1802 to the present time, one satisfaction we enjoy, amidst many discomforts, that whatever, in other respects, be their merits or demerits, they have at least been consistent. We say that we feel satisfaction in this; because being onvinced that the work was based by its projectors and early writers upon the solid foundation of Scripture doctrine, and, subordinately, upon the formularies of our venerated Church, we believe we should have swerved from both, had we gone after new opinions. Of course, we speak of the essentials of truth, allowing a large margin for human frailty and error.
We are still engaged, in the main, in the same labours with our early predecessors; and with perhaps less of difference arising from the altered state of affairs in the Church and the world than would at first sight appear. In taking up their Volume for 1803, we find them stating their wish “that their work should constantly exhibit the important doctrines of the ruined state of man by nature, and of his recovery by Divine grace; of justification by faith, and the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit ; of the unsearchable love of Christ, and of the obligation of every one to live no longer to himself, but to Him who died for him ; and to promote the kingdom of Him who came to establish righteousness and peace on the earth.” They also regretted that, in the discharge of what they considered their bounden duty, they had been “ necessarily led into the thorny path of theological controversy.” They frequently mention that their zealous attachment to our beloved Church, and their adherence to the doctrines of the Anglican Reformation, had not prevented their being denounced by some who assumed the exclusive right to the title of good churchmen; and that their desire to cultivate a candid and friendly spirit towards all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, notwithstanding considerable differences of opinion in matters relating to Church government, and in part to doctrine, had not shielded them from many unjust and bitter attacks from their Dissenting brethren.
In all these particulars we must iterate the language of our predecessors. Attached to the same Church, and on the same grounds ; professing the same doctrines ; urging the same duties; and exposed to similar controversies; we would pray for grace and strength to follow in their steps so far as they followed Christ.
Yet amidst these broad features of resemblance between the state of the church of Christ in 1802 and 1843, there are many striking discrepancies.
In the first place, as repects those who worship not in the Anglican communion, we fear there is (however caused) a less kind spirit than was formerly exhibited towards those within her pale, whom they acknowledge to "hold the Head,” and to be faithful servants of Jesus Christ. Perhaps this altered tone has arisen in part from their having misunderstood the Church principles of these their brethren. They found them uniting with Dissenters—not, indeed, as Dissenters, but as men zealous for “the common salvation"-in promoting
the circulation of the word of God; and rejoicing that, in the mournful deficiency of service in the Established Church, men should rather be taught the path to heaven from non-conformist lips, than perish for lack of knowledge. But they did not calculate upon the strength of the conscientious convictions of their Episcopalian friends ; and hence arose disappointment and displeasure where these prevented union. The religious portion of too many of the laity of our Church were little acquainted with sound Church principles; and hence, when Tractarian notions were pressed upon them, they either yielded to them, or in the recoil swerved from that vigorous and enlightened attachment to the Anglican Church which is quite compatible with a spirit of brotherly charity to those who worship God in spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, though they worship not with us. We occasionally receive letters from some of our old lay readers, inquiring whether, in the course of years, we have not changed the footing upon which we formerly stood towards our Dissenting brethren. Most truly we can say that we have not. We cordially unite with them in the distribution of the word of God; but beyond this our predecessors found the same impediments which we find still. They therefore pleaded for Church-extension ; they assisted in founding the Church Missionary Society; they urged the duty of national education in connection with the Established Church ; they strove earnestly for the revivification of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge ; and of the Prayerbook and Homily Society they were the founders; and they were among the first to advocate the establishment of Episcopacy in our colonies and dependencies ; and we know not that in regard to any one of these objects there has been any discrepancy in our pages during more than forty years. The times indeed have changed; and political and other causes have placed "the Dissenting interest,” as it is called, in a new position; but we see not why, on these accounts, or in order to avoid the unjust charge of being swayed by the prevalence of Tractarian bigotry, we should modify our opinions in relation to the great principles which bind us to the Anglican communion, both as a Church and a National Establishment. In each of these respects we love it better from every year's experience.
Again, while our present position, as to essentials, is the same as that occupied by our predecessors in regard to the controversies within our own pale, many of the details of that relation strikingly vary. We find them lamenting the general apathy which prevailed, as well as the heterodoxy of what was called orthodox doctrine. In our days there is great exertion ; but much of it is deviating into unscriptural tracks: we have not now to do with the cold formality which then mantled over the Church as a stagnant pool ; but with a vigorous, zealous, and plausible system ; a system which has the popular attractions of Rome, defecated (at least at the outset, for it has become more visibly Romish as it has proceeded) from some of the most startling enormities of Popery. But the doctrines mentioned by our predecessors in the words above cited, are opposed now under the Tractarian system in their essential features, as much as they were in a less artificial manner by former controversialists. Justification by faith is not now denied in words, and reprobated, as it then was, and attributed to good works; but by necessary inference this is done, justification by faith being resolved into Baptism, and sanctification being made a second or wrought-out justification. While we have still, as formerly, to contend with the Dissenters from our Church, as a National Estab. lishment, we have further to oppose those who would oppress
the principles of Romanist ecclesiastical tyravny. While we have still to defend
it, as a Church, against those who, as Protestant non-conformists, object to our episcopacy or our offices, we have the new task of withstanding those who wish to give to that episcopacy and those offices a Latin interpretation.
Tractarianism, however, has its phases. Encouraged by success, some of its promoters proceeded to outrage Protestant feeling, and others went off to Rome. Its more moderate disciples being grieved, and its timid adherents shocked, at these inauspicious results, which it required no great sagacity to predict from the beginning, there has of late been a schism in the ranks; and many are beginning to prognosticate that Tractarianism has seen its most palmy days. We fear this prediction is not well-founded; nay, we augr more evil from its specious reforms than from its more offensive features; and we doubt whether the “ Foreign and Colonial Review” may not more essentially promote its real aims than the “ British Critic.” This is not a time for dalliance. Tractarianism is, without doubt, making rapid strides among us; nor ought we to be lulled to a false repose because government patronage and academical authority do not at present foster it.
The Bishop of Ossory complains that the Periodical press has, to a wide extent, abetted these delusions. The fact is undeniable; the solution of it, it is not for us to attempt to offer. Thus much, however, we may say, that the Tractarians, even in their fallings-out among themselves, have acted with zeal and vigour as a party; and neither influence, patronage, nor pecuniary support has been spared to promote the common object. The class of persons called, in reproach, Evangelical (we are speaking of the Established Church) have not enough—if we may use the expression in a good sense--of party among them. They are not united as they ought to be; their very sincerity, tenderness of conscience, and perhaps we may add, sometimes their over keen suspicion of evil, cause them to split on every side. A difference of opinion about a Society, a passage in the Prayer-Book, a chapter of unfulfilled prophecy, or the wording of a document, is often sufficient to prevent cordial co-operation among them, notwithstanding their essential agreement. Their writers have not been duly supported; they are not good masters to literary servants; and least of all, have they given encouragement to the periodical press to exert its giant strength on the side of pure and undefiled religion. They have not presented so powerful a front as they might have done against the Tractarian delusions; and this arises in part from the best of causes, that their time, strength, influence, wealth, and patronage, are expended for the promotion of pastoral and charitable offices: and locally and personally they are right; but for operating generally upon the mind of the people, they are not always so wise in their generation as their opponents. We are not sure that it may not also be too truly added, that there is even among some good men a shrinking from bearing the reproach of the Cross of Christ; and a morbid dread of being accused of party-spirit. Assuredly, among other sins, we have all too much reason to pray and strive to be delivered from “the sins of unfaithfulness.”
Of our own pages for the present year it does not become us to speak. Many of them have been occupied in discussions most distasteful to ourselves, but necessary for the times on which we are cast. Ritual questions, and the like, are among the most jejune of topics; they have neither savour nor spirituality; but if they are perverted to evil, a servant of Christ may be so placed that it is needful for him to correct the mischievous impression; and a periodical miscellany seems an appropriate channel for that purpose. Among other subjects, we have devoted some attention to the ecclesiastical history of our country during the seventeenth century ; not so much however directly, as incidentally, as for instance in the papers now in the hands of our readers on the life of Bishop Patrick, and the State-prayers. The ignorance of some of the younger clergy, and of many of the laity, respecting the changes which came over our Church during that century, was highly favourable to the growth of Tractarianism. The great mass of religious persons knew little of the Anglican Church but at the two extremes of its history; in its first love at the period of the Reformation, and its prostration during the last century. The lives of the Martyrs and Reformers were familiar to them; as was also the lamentable state of the Church as described by Whitfield and Wesley, and as admitted by the Evangelical body (using that term for convenience) from that period up to our own days. But they were unaware of the rise, progress, and decay of that powerful school over which Archbishop Laud presided, and which revived at the Restoration, and merged into the sect of the Non-jurors. Hence, when they were presented with a catena of AngloCatholic divines, they were confounded : the chain seemed to them complete ; they touched every link of it; but it was of very different metal to that which fettered the martyrs to their stakes in Smithfield. As little were they acquainted with the causes of the rise of the antagonist, or Tillotsonian, school, and of the evil results which ensued. These points of our ecclesiastical history, though familiar to our Reverend friends, we have thought might be useful for the general reader.
We lament lest such subjects as we have alluded to may sometimes have excluded more profitable and spiritual lucubrations; though we have endeavoured that these should not be wanting. We would ever keep before our own minds, and the minds of our readers, that discussions upon religion are not religion, any more than the edifice of a church is always a place where true prayer is offered. There is as much difference as between a treatise upon food, and sitting down to a banquet; or between a botanical description of a flower, and being regaled with its fragrance. Our feelings and taste would lead us to say to our readers, “ Look at this violet, and scent it: is it not sweet?” but we have too often the dryer, but, in its place, appropriate and useful, task of adding that the violet is pentandria ; monogynia ; calyx five cleft ; corolla five petalled; anthers cohering; capsule three valved ; leaves cordate; scyons creeping, &c., &c., all which technical jargon is barren and irksome to those who do not wish to study flowers scientifically, but only to delight their eyes with their forms and hues, and to revel in their odours. The two classes of readers must therefore bear with each other, and with us; for rarely do we insert a paper which one man thinks chaffy, that does not happen to suit the taste of another. A good digestion may find food in whatever is not noxious. A man would not look into an Act of Parliament for a Sermon; and yet we know not where a better skeleton of a Sermon on such subjects as we are writing of, could be found than in the preamble of the Act of Uniformity of Charles the Second, which says, that “The mercy, favour, and blessing of Almighty God is in no wise so readily and plentifully poured, as by Common Prayers, due using of the Sacruments, and often preaching of the Gospel, with devotion of the hearers.” We have quoted this, as expressing in few words what we have endeavoured to retain prominently in our present and preceding Volumes; (in which the hand that writes this has written twentyseven annual Prefaces,) being the three great points to be kept in mind as the not to be divided essentials of the Gospel ministry; namely, PRAYER, THE SACRAMENTS; AND THE PREACHING OF THE WORD.