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PREFACE

TO THE FIRST AMERICAN EDITION.

IN presenting the following pages to the notice of the American churches, it is necessary to offer some remarks.

During the few past years, God has graciously poured out his Huly Spirit upon various regions of our country. Zion has broken forth on the right hand and upon the left, and has received a vast accession of converts from those who were once aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. The church has gazed upon her new-born children with delight, and inquired, “As for these, whence did they come?” They are recruits from the world, they are deserters from the army of the prince of the powers of darkness, they have sworn allegiance to another Sovereign, one Jesus. They have identified themselves with his cause, they are the subjects of his kingdom, they have become strangers upon the earth, that they may be citizens in heaven, and they seek that better country. It has been frequently lamented, that there was no work

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Church Fellowship, which could be put into the hands of church members, and especially of our youthful brethren and sisters, ernbodying under separate heads those scriptural instructions which lie dispersed through the Sacred Volume. I have frequently heard the complaint from ministers, “O that we had a directory for our members, that all our churches and all our brethren might be one in discipline and feeling, as well as in doctrine and practice.” And since my engagement in pastoral labours, and more especially when lately called to receive a large number of young and inexperienced persons to the fellowship of the church, I have felt that a Church Member's Guide was a desideratum. After a careful examination of rious works on this subject, which are in circulation in the English churches, I am persuaded that I can render no greater benefit to the Christian church, than by presenting to its attentive regard, the treatise entitled, “ Christian Fellowship, or The Church Member's Guide,” by the Rev. J. A. James of Birmingham. On a careful perusal of the English edition, I was convinced, that though admirably adapted to the state of the British churches, yet it required considerable alteration to render it extensively useful in our western churches, which have so happily come up from the bondage of National Establishment, passed through the wilderness of persecution,

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and are planted in this thrice happy land, where government does all for religion which she asks, wishes, or wants; and that is,-lets her alone.

Mr. James has displayed singular ability in his defence of the churches which have dissented from the National Establishment; and it is gratifying to see so able a champion, wielding such powerful weapons, with so fearless a temper, in a cause so good and holy as that of Protestant Nonconformity. But the existing relation of Episcopacy and dissent in England, which fully justify Mr. James in carrying his remarks on Law Establishments throughout the volume, having no place among us, it is desirable and indeed necessary, that all passages of reference to these subjects should be expunged. I may be exposed to the cavils of a few who would blame me for altering an author's work, adding to or diminishing from it; but I find all the shelter that I need from such censure, in the opening remark of Mr. James' Preface: “The chief value of a book consists in its utility." The entire civil and religious liberty which we enjoy in this country, has produced habits and sentiments very dissimilar to those which are the result of a different state of society in our fatherland.

Bearing this fact in view, I have omitted many expressions, left out whole lines and paragraphs, and in some instances altered words, when satisfied that “ utility” required such a course.

I have pleasure in the belief, that the excellent author would sanction the task which I have assumed; and that to promote the increased service of his work in the cause of Christ, he would permit its accommodation to a meridian very different from that in which its circulation was primarily designed.

May the Head of the church smile on this effort to advauce the purity and happiness of that body which he purchased with his own blood; and may this work serve to render the members of the church, a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

J. 0, CHOULES Newport, R. I, March 30, 1829,

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PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION,

Being called upon to furnish a third edition of this work, the Editor would express his satisfaction at perceiving the interest which it has excited among the friends of Zion. He believes the present edition will appear to be materially improved by the opportunity he has had of correcting and enlarging its contents from the fourth London edition,

Newport, R. I. Dec, 10, 1829.

PREFACE

TO THE FIRST ENGLISH EDITION.

The chief value of a book consists in its utility. We may be surprised by what is original, amused by what is entertaining, and dazzled by by what is splendid; but we can be benefitted only by what is good. To discover new territories in the world of thought, is an effort of genius to which few can aspire. Every sailor cannot be a Columbus; but the labours of the pilot are not to be despised, because they are restricted tu the humbler task of conducting the voyager through seas and shoals long known to geography : at any rate, he has facilitated the pursuits of eso tablished trade, if he have not opened new fields for the exploits of commercial enterprise. Such are the pretensions of the author in the following treatise; he aspires to no loftier character than a guide through channels which, although intricate, are certainly not new.

The author has treated the subject of church government, more in a practical than in a controversial manner. Numerous are the votive of. ferings which already hang around this compartment of the temple of truth; but they are too generally composed of, or attended with, a chaplet of thorns. In this treatise, the author has endeavoured to sacrifice at the same time, to both truth and love, whose altars should ever be near each other. He has endeavoured to state his own opinions with clearness and boldness, but at the same time, without dogmatism or asperity. His aim has been rather to regulate the spiritual police of our Zion, than either professedly to strengthen its bulwarks, or to increase its means of spiritual conquest: assured that it is most mighty, when it is most holy and peaceful; and that love and purity render our churches “ bright as the sun, fair as the moon, and terrible as an army with banners."

As the form of church government bere exhibited, so far as human direction is concerned, allows of a considerable share of popular influence, the author has adopted two general principles, to which he has given great prominence in the following pages; and these are, the absolute impropriety of a few rich men attempting to lord it over God's heritage, and the equal impropriety on the part of those who are young, or immature in knowledge and experience, practically asserting their claim to equal rights, upon every occasion, in a vehement, contentious manner. In all societies, there necessarily must be some individuals, of greater influence than the rest ; but this influence should ever be the result of character and usefulness, rather than of station; and should be most cheerfully conceded by others, but never forcibly taken by them. selves.

If the author had been acquainted with any treatise on this subject, in which the principles here laid down and illustrated, had been suficiently developed, he would have spared himself the trouble of this production. The little tract of Dr. Owen's, entitled “ Eschol,” the addresses of Dr. Harris, and Mr. Hacket, and the Catechism of Mr. Miller, are exceedingly excellent; and the only fault belonging to them, which the author has any hope of correcting in his book, is their brevity. The compendium of the late Rev. Daniel Turner, of Abingdon, is very useful as a skeleton; but a mere unclothed synopsis of principles, unaccompanied by much illustration, is not sufficiently attractive for ordinary readers, who need not only to be informed what is their duty, but allured to its performance. Mr. Inne's Sketches of Human Nature are judicious to admiration, and have furnished many valuable remarks to enrich the following work; but do not su directly and comprehensively treat on the subject of church government, as to render this volume unnecessary.

As the author not only renounces all claim to infallibility, but is sorrowfully conscious of liability to error; and as he is anxious to render this little work as useful as possible, he will be must happy, in case of its coming to a second edition, to avail himself of the hints of his brethren, and the remarks of friendly critics, in order to render it more worthy of public esteem, and more adapted to general usefulness. It is more than probable that on such a subject his views will be opposed by some; and the moment they are shown to be opposed to the Scripture, he will abandon them himself, and thank the man who has convinced him of his error.

Edgbaston, June 15, 1822.

PREFACE TO THE SECOND LONDON EDITION.

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THE author of the following work cannot but feel gratified at the reception which it has experienced from the religious public, of which a flattering proof is afforded to him, by the circumstance of a second edition having been called for within three months after the publication of the first.

This edition has been, the author hopes, somewhat improved by the aid of both public and private criticism.

Edgbaston, Nov. 5, 1822.

PREFACE

TO THE THIRD LONDON EDITION.

ANOTHER edition of this work having been long called for, it is deemed expedient to publish it in a cheaper forn—an alteration which has its advantage in rendering the book more portable as a pocket companion.

Dec. 31, 1828.

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