« 上一頁繼續 »
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1843,
By Harper & Brothers,
General Library System
P R E F A CE.
A THOUGHTFUL man is not only convinced that God has created this world, he is as deeply persuaded that God has a Church in it; that he planted it here, and waters and nourishes it, and exerts in its favour a heavenly influence.
In Revelation we are furnished with a lively emblem of the Church,“ a bush burning with fire, and not consumed."-Exodus, iii., 2. The Church has not, however, sustained the conflict in her own strength, but because the Lord Jesus Christ, the angel of the covenant, has been in the bush, “ either to slack the fire, or to strengthen the bush, and make it incombustible.” The history of the Church is a record of suffering and affliction; she has ever had the cross in her experience; and all who have followed Christ and his apostles have received the Word in much affliction.—1 Thessalonians, i., 4.
The persecutions of God's people were great under the pagan emperors; but still the Church has suffered more from Rome papal than Rome pagan. That idolatrous and apostate communion may truly be said to be drunk with the blood of the saints. We talk, and write, and preach about the reformation from popery, and seem almost to imagine that the beast is destroyed; we forget too commonly the partial character of the Reformation, the imperfect views of the early champions for truth, and the grasp which popery retained in England through the unsanctified alliance of the Church and State.
Very few are thoroughly informed as to the events connected with the struggles for truth in the reigns of the Tudor family. The reformation of Henry the Eighth and the Sixth Edward was certainly a glorious achievement, but can never be regarded as a complete triumph, a perfect work. It was effected by those who only saw men as trees walking, and who just felt that all around them were men still blinder than themselves. Satan, when he cannot destroy a good thing, is content to mar it. Elizabeth was a Protestant but in name; her religion was papistical; all her sympathies were with external pomp and showy ceremony; she regarded religion as a mere matter of state policy, and the Church as an affair to be governed by her will, expressed by parliamentary statutes. To Christ's sceptre she never bowed—the supremacy of his laws she never recognised-of Christ's headship in the government of the Church she never dreamed. A haughty princess and a proud and persecuting prelacy fashioned the Church as it suited their taste and purpose, and they have handed it down to us with so many alterations and additions, that the fishermen of Galilee and the early disciples of Jesus would be unable to recognise it as the “ kingdom not of this world.”
The power and excellence of the Gospel are never seen to greater advantage than in the days of persecution. It is true that God's children are like stars
that shine brightest in the darkest skies; like the chamomile, which, the more it is trodden down, the faster it spreads and grows. The glories of Christianity in England are to be traced in the sufferings of confessors and martyrs in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; and it was under the influence of
; Christian principles, imbibed at this very period, that the Mayflower brought over the band of Pilgrims to Plymouth.
Afflictions and religious persecutions have for a long period been unknown to the happy citizens of these United States, and we have strangely forgotten the times that tried the souls of our fathers.
There is a resurrection in the land at the present time of feelings and principles which were once generally prevalent, and which so eminently distinguished our English ancestry. Now, after a long period of carelessness and inattention to the history of Protestant Nonconformity, the descendants of the Pilgrims have been compelled to fall back upon the history and faith of their fathers, in consequence of the pressing impertinence with which the claims of popery, prelacy, and priestcraft have been urged upon them and their children. God has been building up Zion in all our borders for two hundred years, making our land the praise of the nations; he has granted the quickening influence of his Spirit to the ministrations of thousands of all religious names, who have published the deathless love of his adorable Son; and yet a comparative handful of our fellow-Christians gravely deny that our solemn gatherings make Christian churches; that our pastors and teachers have any authority to speak in His name who has so unequivocally blessed them in their labour; and as for Zion's chief and holiest feast, that they stigmatize as “the blasphemous mockery of a lay sacrament.” We have again to fight the battle for all that we hold dear; but we enter the contest cheered by the undying renown of the names which illustrate the early history of the struggles for religious freedom. It is as fitting and proper for an American to forget or scorn the names of Lexing ton and Bunker Hill, Trenton and Princeton, Hancock and Adams, Washing.ton and Jefferson, as for a New-Englander to be unaffected by the utterance of Smithfield, Lambeth Palace, and the ever-honoured names of Rogers and Ridley, Hooper, Lawrence, Latimer, and their fellow-martyrs. We should never forget that the prison, the scaffold, and the stake were stages in the march of civil and religious liberty which our forefathers had to travel, in order that we might attain our present liberty.
It is quite clear, that in the United States there is a general attention directed to the subject of Church History, partly arising from the almost total apathy which has so long existed, and in a considerable degree owing to the extraordinary movement in the Church of England by that party who regard their amputation from Rome as original sin and actual transgression. I have long wished to see Neal's admirable History of the Puritans in the hands not only of the ministry and students, but all private reading Christians, a growing class in this country; but its very expensive price has been an insuperable barrier to general circulation. Consultation with many of our most influential clergy of all denominations interested has induced me to prepare an edition which shall not only be so cheap as to admit of general use, but shall imbody the valuable information which has been garnered up by the writers of the last century. Since Neal finished his work we have had the writings of Towgood and Toulmin, Wilson and Palmer, Brooks and Conder, Fletcher and Orme, and especially the admirable contributions of Drs. Vaughan and Price. The works alluded to, and very many others, have been faithfully and laboriously consulted in order to enrich this edition. It may have some errors in typography which have escaped my notice, but I can assure the reader that it is the most perfect edition extant, and that I have made scores of corrections from the latest London edition. Not an iota has been altered in the original text of Neal, and every edition of the immortal work has been carefully collated and compared. To the Congregational, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist ministry of the land, I believe these volumes will be welcome, and if our pastors are faithful to their high trust, they will see that they are placed in the hands and houses of their people : should this be the case, we may defy the machinations of Rome, and laugh at the absurdity of apostolical succession.
I anticipate the happiest results from the wide circulation of this History. It will create an interest in favour of the venerable sufferers in behalf of truth. We shall see that the persecuting party, who had also enjoyed a partial escape from anti-Christian despotism, secured their political ascendency only by accidental causes; and we shall see that in these circumstances, the same convictions and feelings which had led all the friends of the Reformation to resist the papal tyranny of Rome, determined the consistent advocates of that reformation to oppose the Protestant tyranny of the Tudors and the Stuarts. They were anxious to attain a greater degree of simplicity and purity in the administration and ritual of the Reformed Church. When, at a subsequent period, an Act of Uniformity was passed, it was not for the sake of vestments and forms that the successors of the Puritans withheld their acquiescence, but because in the principles which led to their adoption by legislative arrangements there was no recognition of personal and social rights; no accordance with the liberty of the Christian dispensation ; no allowance for weak and tender consciences; no desire for a liberal and enlarged comprehension; but a system of arbitrary and capricious enactments, independent both of personal and representative consent, and supported by a usurpation of authority which directly impugned the great principles of the Reformation, and invaded the prerogative of Him who is our 'only Master and Lord ! Not finding a sufficient code for the regulation of their ecclesiastical system in the New Testament, they added an apocryphal book of Leviticus to its canon, and claimed for this appendage of human origin implicit faith and unresisting obedience.” Thus originated Nonconformity. Before our children remove their religious connexions, and, enamoured with a show of pomp and circumstance, embrace a religion which may cause its professor to be greeted in the high places-before they leave the old paths of God's Word, alone sufficient for man's faith, guidance, and salvation-before they barter their birthright for a mess of pottage--let us place in their hands this chronicle of the glorious days of the suffering Churches, and let them know that they are the sons of the men "of whom the world was not worthy,” and whose sufferings for conscience' sake are here monumentally recorded.
JOHN OVERTON CHOULES. August 12, 1843.