Imagens das páginas
[blocks in formation]

Art. I.-1. History of the Society for Propagating the Gos

pel in Foreign Parts By H. HUMPHREY, D. D. 8vo. London, 1730. 2. Historical Account of the Protestant Episcopal Church in

South Carolina. By Rev. F. Dalcho, M. D. 8vo. Charleston, 1820. 3. Memoirs of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the U. S.

By Rt. Rev. W. WHITE, D. D. 8vo. New York, 1836. 4. Contributions to the Ecclesiastical History of the U. S.

By F. L. Hawks, D. D. ; Virginia. 8vo. Ñ. York, 1836. 5.

; Maryland. 8vo. N. York, 1839. 6. Historical Notices of the Missions of the Church of Eng.

land in the North American Colonies, previous to the Independence of the United States ; chiefly from MS. documents of the Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts. By Rev. Ernest Hawkins, B. D. 8vo. Pp. 448. London,

1845. 7. A History of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America.

By [Rt. Rev.] Samuel (WILBERFORCE,] Lord Bishop of

Oxford. 12mo. pp. 462. London, 1846. 8. Annals of the Diocese of New York, Pennsylvania, South

Carolina, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Spirit of Missions, Vols. IX, X. VOL. 1.-NO. I.


Whoever attempts to write the History of the Church, in whole, or in part, enters upon an undertaking beset with peculiar difficulties, and demanding qualifications of a high and peculiar character. These difficulties are of two classes, relating (1,) to the thing to be done, (2,) to the mode of doing it. Those difficulties which come under the first head, arise mainly from our imperfect views of the Church itself; those under the second, from the difficulty of collecting and arranging the materials requisite for the work. That the historian must understand his subject, before he can describe it, is so plain a proposition, that we marvel it should ever have been lost sight of. "Yet nothing can be more evident to the reader of Church history, than the fact, so obvious in most works on the subject, that the writers had no clear and distinct conception of the true nature of the work they had undertaken, or rather should have undertaken. Many of them seem not, even to have conceived the idea, that “the kingdom of heaven is like leaven hid in two measures of meal until the whole should be leavened.” Instead of looking upon the Church as a living, organic body, animated by a living spirit, which not only pervades the body itself, but extends to all its members, in and by which they live, and move, and have their spiritual being; they have regarded it rather as an accidental aggregation of spiritual atoms, bound together by no common law of life, but made one through the power of some elective affinity. Writers of this description, have no idea of any such thing as Life in the Church. They may have piety and learning, and may describe with truth and beauty the influence and effect of them upon others; they may detail with accuracy the working of the parts of the system, and yet fail of giving any proper account of it, as a whole. And this, because they do not understand the first principles of that body which they are attempting to describe. Unless, therefore, the historian has a true view of the Church, the foundation upon which he builds his history, will necessarily be imperfect or false ; and consequently, all his conclusions more or less erro

Now the idea which we have a right to expect in every Church historian, is that, which conceives of the Church, not merely as an external and outward institution founded by Christ; but as something proceeding forth from His loins, animated by His Spirit, the medium by which His Life is conveyed to its members, the continuation of the earthly human life of the Redeemer, in His three-fold office of Prophet, Priest, and King. In the language of Hooker, he must con



ceive of it as something " framed out of the flesh, the very wounded and bleeding side of the Son of Man, true native extract from His own body.”. This body, too, must be looked upon as both visible and invisible, as being external and internal, as having a divine and human, an earthly and a heavenly nature, through which alone, the revelation of God in Christ becomes effective in the history of the world. It is through this body that Christ calls men to Himself, in order that He may impart to them of Himself,-extending the external and visible in the world, the internal and spiritual in the man. Every act, therefore, by which the Church is propagated in the world, or religion is advanced in the hearts of men, belongs to the history of the Church; and it is tracing the origin, dependence, and influence of these acts, which constitutes the duty of the Church historian. Comparatively speaking, it is not the Anatomy of this body alone, nor yet its Psychology alone, nor yet descriptions of particular members, or special senses alone, that constitute the history of that spiritual body—the Church; but it is, so to speak, its Physiology, including all these various branches of its science, and all the particular departments of study growing out of them.

That the duties here devolved upon the historian, are, indeed, difficult, will be obvious to all. So to apprehend that deep and mysterious relation which Christ bears to the world in general, and the Christian in particular, as shall enable us to see Christianity in Christ, and the development of His Life in the history of the Church; so to comprehend that complex system of divine government and operation, which mingles the divine with the human, guiding, directing, and renewing the freedom of the one, through the sovereign power of the other, as shall enable us to see the co-workings of God and man, is a task set around with the greatest difficulties. And finally, so to describe all the various acts and influences which belong to this subject, as not to substitute our imperfect knowledge, or false logic, for the infallible rule of God's dealings with His children, requires clearness of intellectual and spiritual perception, combined with accurate discrimination and soundness of judgment.

The true idea of Church history is that which conceives of things as they are, which sees them as they appear in the sight of God, -and looks upon them as we shall hereafter look upon them, when eternity shall be spread before us in all its vastness and incomprehensibility. This alone is true Church history. Every thing short of it, is more or less imperfect,more or less false and one-sided. Hence the necessity of col

lecting, arranging, and comparing facts,-of studying character, -of inquiring after motives-of knowing the history of individuals, of parishes, of Dioceses, of States, of kingdoms, of nations. He, therefore, who gives to the world the biography of one true Christian man, or writes the history of a single parish, is as truly a writer of Church history, as he who writes the history of centuries, sometimes more truly so. The larger histories are often imperfect and erroneous, through the inattention of the author to the lesser events in the Church's history,-more frequently, however, through his inability to ascertain the truth in regard to first beginnings. We wish to know when, and where, and under what circumstances the Church was planted in any particular place, what was the personal character and history of the first missionaries, what their labors, privations, and success. The history of individuals and parishes, must, therefore, be written first,—that of Dioceses afterwards; and that of the Church last of all, and not until the others are complete. The first furnish the materials from which the last must be derived.

It results, therefore, from the very nature of the case, that parochial and missionary annals, must ever be of prime importance, and in a new country like ours especially so, as furnishing materials for the history of the Church. On this subject, neither the Church, nor the clergy, are sufficiently awake. It is absolutely amazing to see what a degree of ignorance prevails in many parishes of a single century, concerning their own origin and history and often the indifference manifested on the subject, as though these were not things of sufficient importance to be regarded. The preservation of the reports made by the early missionaries in this country, is, therefore, a providential circumstance of great interest, supplying many important deficiencies which must otherwise have existed in our parochial annals, and the publication of them, is a benefit and a blessing to the historian. Mr. Hawkins, therefore, is deserving of the thanks of all who have any interest in knowing the history of God's dealings with his people, as well for the publication of valuable original documents preserved in the archives of the Venerable Society, of which he has the honor to be the Secretary, as for the able and interesting manner in which they have been edited. In a Church so recently planted as ours, under circumstances so favorable to the preservation of its history, there ought to be materials for a complete account of all important particulars connected with it. But whoever attempts to write the history of a single parish even, much more of a Diocese,

will soon be made painfully sensible of the deficiencies in this particular. Let the inquiry be made concerning any parish of half a century's standing, whose history has not already been written,—by whom the Church was first planted in that place,—what were the circumstances which led to it,—what had been the previous position and training of the individual through whose instrumentality it was planted,—and the difficulties which surround the path of the historian will become at once apparent. The importance of this may not be obvious to all,—and does not, indeed, seem to be obvious to many who attempt the writing of history. And yet, without this knowledge, history can never be rendered complete or certain.

We may illustrate the necessity and advantage of a minute and accurate acquaintance with what are generally considered the lesser events, by a case in point. Episcopacy was introduced into some of the North American Colonies, and became the prevailing religion more than a century before its introduction into Connecticut. It was the established religion of Virginia, -the prevailing religion of Maryland and South Carolina, and had obtained a permanent foothold in New York, Boston, Providence, Philadelphia, and many other places, before any attempt was made to introduce it into Connecticut. This being the fact, a superficial writer might naturally infer, that the Episcopal Church was introduced into this colony, through the agency of Churchmen in the surrounding colonies. And when he went further, and found that a parish was formed at Stratford, as early as 1708, through the aid and influence of Churchmen in New York, he would regard his inference as absolute and certain. And yet, notwithstanding all the apparent probabilities of the case, such a conclusion would be unfounded. It is true that there was a parish at Stratford, but it is also true, that the members of it were driven away and dispersed by the opposition and persecutions of the Puritans.

Passing by these more obvious facts, we must turn our attention to another quarter. In the town of Guilford, in the same colony, resides a pious layman, still clinging to the Church of his first affection, and notwithstanding the bigotry and intolerance of Puritan rule, revering and using the Prayer Book. Among the neighbors of this man, is a promising youth of sixteen, whose attention is attracted by these circumstances, and who eventually becomes acquainted with, and attached to the Prayer Book. He graduates from College, enters the Congregational ministry, and is admired for his abilities, and especially for his gifts in prayer. At this

« AnteriorContinuar »