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subject, as to find fault with the better and more exemplary class of clergymen in the Church of England, when he thought their zeal for the establishment blinded them to a sense of justice towards Dissenters; and when he saw them taking their stand against those degrees of reform, which were necessary to remove the most obvious occasions of complaint. And he is of the same opinion still, though he no more doubts the honesty of those excellent men, or their sincere concern for the interests of religion, than he doubts the virtue of the standing order in the state of Connecticut, when they took their stand against the proposal to place all Christian sects on an equal footing. The cases are precisely parallel ; and the same scene is now acting over in England. In the same manner as in Connecticut, both parties will be glad when they are through with it; and it will be seen and admitted on all hands, that they who claim to support only the religion of their own choice, do it with good reason; and that it is better for society to allow this privilege to all.
It is possible, indeed, that in finding fault with those, who have set up the claims of the Church of England against these rights, the author may have indulged in expressions of disrespect for the church itself. It was very natural for an American to do so, when he saw the vices of such an establishment. But though he may have done this incidentally and in a slight degree, the main current and bearing of his strictures on that church have had respect to its character and operations, as a state institution. It must have been seen, that he opens and concludes his chapter on the Church of England, in his “ Four Years in Great Britain," with a disclaimer against being supposed as meddling with the question of Episcopacy. His design in that collection of facts was to show the evils of uniting church and state, that it might serve as a warning to our country, so far as it might be noticed. If any persons may have identified
these evils, or any part of them, with Episcopacy, it is not the author's fault; he has never done it himself. That Episcopacy is the established Church of England, is an accident. Presbyterianism is the established religion of Scotland, and of some parts of the North of Europe. So was it of England under the protectorate of Cromwell. No matter what had been the form of the established religion of Great Britain, in the same circumstances the results must have been substantially the same.
It is not Episcopacy that has induced these evils, but the vicious and impracticable plan of uniting church and state for the benefit of society.
There is an incidental, though important topic, brought under notice in these pages, the treatment of which in this place may also give occasion to arraign the author's consistency, viz.-revivals of religion. It is known, that while in England he wrote and published a book, as an advocate of revivals. By the fifth chapter of the present volume, it might seem, that he has altered his opinion. On one particular point of some importance in the theory of revivals, viz. special effort, he has changed his views; and now believes, that uniform, well ordered, and persevering efforts, to rouse from lethargy on the one hand, and on the other to attemper, guide, and control overheated excitements, is the best economy for the interests of religion and the salvation of souls. Formerly the author did think well of special effort, and has advocated the principle in his English work on American Revivals; but the excess to which it has been carried in this country, and its disastrous consequences, have compelled him to pause, and in that item of opinion to modify his views. In company with the great majority of Presbyterian and Congregational clergymen in this country, the author has always sympathized with that class of revivals, which he undertook to advocate in England; and to this time
he has suffered no change of opinion in this particular.
But it is now placed beyond a doubt before the public, that the great majority of religious excitements in this country, called revivals, have entirely changed their character : they are not what they used to be. In the author's work on this subject, published in London, he took some notice of these new proceedings, and expressed directly and indirectly his anxiety and diffidence in regard to them. Since that time his opinion has ripened to conviction, that they are undesirable and injurious; and of course the peculiarities appertaining to them have in his mind fallen into a corresponding disrespect. His opinion of revivals has not been changed ; it is the mode of originating and conducting them, which extensively prevails, from which he dissents. In the light of this explanation it will be seen, that there is no inconsistency between his present and former views on this great subject, with the singlé exception, already specified, of giving up the principle of special effort. He resigns the opinion in favour of special effort, principally in view of facts belonging to the recent religious history of this country; and believes, that more can be accomplished for the cause of religion by a uniform than a fitful career.
In another work, The Americans, by an American in London, the present author devoted a chapter to the removal of sundry aspersions, which in England had been cast upon the developments of religion in America, as he considered unjustly. He was called upon from the most respectable quarters, and consented. That effort, however, so far as it related to religion, was of the nature of an apology; it was not an attempt to recommend or establish anything ; but to wipe away aspersions. There may be incidental betrayals of opinion ; but it was not an object to declare opinion as to the expediency of the practices, which had been scandalized. It was vir
tually the proof of a negative; that's all ; which, ordinarily is not an easy task. The author is not aware, that there is any ground for the charge of inconsistency in that quarter. He has not, however, taken the trouble of reviewing his own record ; but relies upon a presumption based
upon the object then in view. That an industrious caterer should be able to make an array of things, that have dropped from the author's pen, somewhat at variance with his present views, as brought out in this volume, is very possible. One principal object of these pages is to give reasons for a change of opinion. The author can never deny his own litera scripta, even though it be brought in to neutralize his own antagonist opinions. He has honestly given his reasons for an honest change in his views, in opposition to views formerly entertained with equal honesty; and they must go for what they are worth. He can neither claim, nor solicit any indulgence, but the award of an honest public.
Of one thing the author feels a good degree of confidence ;-That none of his former friends will accuse him of a bad spirit, nor generally, if at all, of a want of fairness. Doubtless he may be open to criticism ; but not to the charge of having gone into the discussion of this subject under the influence of passion, or of feeling. He has simply laid down a comprehensive copy of his own thoughts and reasonings on the question, and delineated the path, from beginning to end, by which he came to the result. As few are led into such trains of reasoning independently of the influence of society, it is quite likely, that many minds will sympathize with the author, if not in all, yet in some of his thoughts. His object in all his statements has been, as far as possible, to keep upon ground that is common, so as to secure assent and conviction without the toil of argument. What everybody sees, they think they know; and if a
book in their hands states what accords with their own observations, it is ordinarily more agreeable than that which is far fetched, and the truth of which is not so manifest at a glance.
The author has adopted and cherishes with great fondness the opinion, that all differences about religion, its doctrines, and economy may be discussed in good temper--without disturbance of personal feeling or public tranquillity ; and if he has not exemplified this innocent spirit, it is not because he has not endeavoured to do it. His own conscience anticipates the award of moderation, at least, whatever may be thought of his reasonings. If anybody shall be able to point out a departure from this rule, it will be to him a subject of regret, and a proof that we “ know not what manner of spirit we are of.” For if he is confident of anything, it has been on this point. Not feeling anxious, it is hardly possible that he should have betrayed anxiety.
The usual train of argument on this subject has been almost entirely omitted, with the exception of the fourth chapter—on the claims of Episcopacy ; and that makes no pretension to an argument in detail, but is merely a comprehensive statement of the current of the author's thoughts on the subject, suggesting rather than presenting proof. The author's main design has been to address himself to the present time and to the present state of the religious public, in such manner and form, and with such developments, as may be appreciated without effort. He has proceeded on the principle, that there are certain things, which the public generally observe, and which, when brought out before them, will obtain a general verdict, that it is even 80 ; and that the public will perceive, that to be felt they only required to be stated.
The pertinency of the last chapter to the general purpose of this volume, may not, perhaps, be so obvious at first sight. But as it was the use made of the prin