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THE TRUE CHURCH
VIEWED IN CONTRAST WITH
BY THOMAS FINCH.
AUTHOR OP “THE ASSUMPTIONS OF THE CLERGY CALMLY REFUTED;"
A SUMMARY OF CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES;" &c. &c.
Contra rationem sit nemo sobrius, contra Scripturam, nemo Christianus.
J. M. MULLINGER, BISHOPS STORTFORD.
THE comparative inerits and demerits of the established church, the voluntary system, and congregational independency, are but slightly referred to in the following pages. On these topics there is no deficiency of standard works, while the smaller ones are innumerable. But the writer proposed to take a general view of the constitution and spirit of the true church of Christ according to the New Testament, in contrast with the antichristian character and tendency of certain highchurch principles, now so zealously avowed and maintained. These principles, or rather assumptions, have been always held by a powerful and leading party in the Anglican church, to the regret of liberal churchmen, as well as to the annoyance of non-conformists. But of late they have been more prominently put forth and extensively propagated, in a bolder and more systematic form, by the writers of the Oxford Tracts and their disciples. And as Dr. Pusey, though assisted by Messrs. Newman, KEBLE, and other gentlemen of high repútation for piety and learning, has taken the lead in advocating these doctrines, they are now commonly known by the conventional name of Puseyism; and in that sense alone, to avoid circumlocution, and not in the slightest degree as a term of reproach, has the writer used it in the following pages.
But in making this attempt the author may perhaps be charged with the temerity of undertaking a work beyond his strength. For so humble an individual to denounce as antichristian a system which many of the established clergy strenuously support, and which can appeal to the University of Oxford as its birth-place and stronghold, does indeed appear presumptuous, and he is sorry it has not fallen into abler hands. It was not, however, undertaken spontaneously, but in a manner forced upon him by some clerical neighbours. He has no particular relish for controversy, nor any wish to assume the attitude of an assailant towards persons of other persuasions. Though a dissenter from conviction, he has always been disposed to think favourably of the established church; to extenuate rather than magnify its abuses ; to enjoy communion with its ministers whenever practicable; and to live peaceably with all men. But the annoyance received by himself and friends from the abettors of this semi-papal high-churchism; their aggressive, uncharitable, and insulting movements towards the ministers and members of dissenting churches, springing doubtless from a misguided conscience ; and the manifest tendency of the system to facilitate the return of popery, have compelled him to think and write on the subject.
Under similar circumstances the author was induced to prepare his former pamphlet, entitled “The Assumptions of the Clergy, as the only authorized Ministers of Christ, calmly refuted ;” beyond which he had no intention to proceed. But although no attempt has been made to invalidate that refutation, the same groundless and insulting pretensions continue to be repeated and enlarged upon with as much effrontery as ever. The poor in particular are told, with all imaginable solemnity and assurance, in the very language and spirit of an ignorant and devoted papist, as though it was so written in the word of God, or declared by an oracle from heaven, “that the established church is the only true church of Christ in these realms, and that all who attend other ministers, do so at the peril of their souls." The writer was therefore urged to prepare a sequel to the former work, that he might unmask these vain pretensions in favour of the church, as well as the assumptions of its clergy; the execution of which has insensibly extended far beyond his original design.
To those who have taken only a partial view of the
Puseyite dogmas, or are favourably disposed towards them, some of his statements and strictures may possibly appear rather exaggerated, or too severe. But he is not conscious of having misrepresented either the doctrines themselves, or their tendency ; though he may have described them in terms less attenuated than the advocates would choose, or inferred consequences which they may deny. And should they even feel shocked at the portraiture here delineated, as the Syrian nobleman did when the prophet foretold his future course, he must still affirm that, if the system were fully developed and matured, and its practical consequences ascertained, none of its features would be found untrue, or too deeply coloured.
If, however, he has used any expressions respecting the parties themselves, which truth and candour do not approve, he would wish them to be expunged. He can easily distinguish between an erroneous system and its disciples, and respect the one, while he condemns the other: nor would he for a moment sanction the unfairness of censuring a whole community for the errors of a part. He would therefore apologize to liberal and enlightened members of the esestablished church, whether lay or clerical, if, in avoiding circumlocution, he has sometimes used that and similar phrases as though they were synonymous with Puseyism, or has spoken of the latter and its votaries as identical with the church or the clergy. To Roman catholics likewise the same apology may be due. While history compels him to speak of popery in terms of unqualified reprobation and abhorrence, he can easily imagine that many truly good men, whose spirit and conduct would be no dishonour to the purest church, may think it their duty to remain in communion with the church of Rome, although they see and lament, and personally renounce, its greatest errors. For if in the worst period of the Old Testament history, “ the Lord had reserved unto himself seven thousand men in Israel, who had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal ;" may we not charitably hope such is the case even now in the most corrupt part of christendom ? It is, therefore, the writer's best desire, that this humble attempt may, by the divine