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THE REV. EDWARD BICKERSTETH.
SECRETARY TO THE CHURCH MISSIONARY SOCIETY.
To improve a community of natural men, united for the common advantages of social life, into a Communion of Saints, enjoying the privileges, discharging the duties, and encouraging the hopes of the Gospel-is the highest object at which both the Statesman and Divine can aim, though they should live in the most refined condition of society upon earth.
It is with this view, I conceive, that the State has instituted our Ecclesiastical Establishment; and that it expects all-both Divine and Layman to concur in advancing the kingdom of “ the Christ of God,” as the highest possible attainment that can make the subjects of the realm truly happy whether here or hereafter.
This kingdom of Christ is a spiritual kingdom; and does not proceed from any native moral power or goodness of man whatever: it is founded on the assumption of man's utter worthlessness and sinfulness before God: it is eminently the kingdom of PROMISE-a kingdom of mere mercy, and love, and grace, and peace.
On this principle, I conceive, in perfect consistency with the genuine Gospel of Christ, the Established Church of these realms is built. It is assumed that every child introduced into her communion, is introduced in virtue of the PROMISE made to the children of believers : on this ground the Parents and Sponsors present the Child ; on this ground the Church receives the Child into “the Communion of Saints ;” and on this ground she commits the responsibility of educating the Child to the Sponsors, as interested in all the privileges of the PROMISE. On this ground she instructs him in her Catechism ; on this she prepares him to be Confirmed by the Bishop; on this he is interested in every subsequent formulary, and throughout all her Liturgy; and on this ground she takes her leave of him, in the last act of kindness, she can pay him in this world, when she gives “hearty thanks ” to God, “ for that it hath pleased ” him “to deliver this our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world.”
The above statement is the argument of the present volume.
It is the mode of blessing mankind revealed in the Bible-salvation by PROMISE : and it is the mode ESTABLISHED by the Legislature of the land, consistently with the Bible, of making every subject a to
himself, his neighbour, his country, and an honour to his God. Let the education of our children be conducted on this principle, as it is carried into practice by our Church in her Baptismal Service, and its two kindred formularies, the Catechism and Confirmation Service. We may then hope that as faith pleads and acts on the PROMISE, God will bless his own mode of ameliorating the human character, and that our population shall not be, a community of mere natural men, but a Communion of the Saints of God.
May the blessing of God smile on this weak effort to glorify his grace, and may every Reader say, Amen.