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I have not said this, with any view of evading the censures to which, with the fairest criticism, the following pages will, I am quite aware, be justly liable, but only to protect them from the gratuitous injury of being tried by too high a standard. I offer them as little more than a sketch-exhibiting the general outline and prominent features of the historical development of the religious life of England. I make no pretension to deep and original research. The facts recited or alluded to, are such as are familiar to every student of our national history. What I here present of my own, is simply the conception of those facts—the relation I have ventured to establish between them—the principles to which I have thought they might be referred--and the inferences which they have seemed to me to yield. I have wished to find out, if I could, the meaning of our religious history. Whether I have in any degree succeeded, the reader will judge. I may, however, state, that I have endeavoured to take my facts from the most authentic sources accessible to me, and that the authorities immediately quoted, are those which I have either read or consulted myself.
Our practical English mind-so different from that of our French and German neighbours concentrates its interest on the present. It will very probably be asked, "Why lead back our thoughts to the disputes and struggles of our forefathers? We live in an age of light, and may be pardoned, if we wish to forget the history of their prejudice and absurdity.' But is it all prejudice and absurdity, which the religious history of the past reveals to us? There is a wisdom and a virtue, which comes and goes with the fleeting generations of men, and which in its everchanging manifestations, shaped though it be by the influences of the age, it is always instructive and delightful to contemplate. We may be -I believe we are in a course of progressive advancement; but the present is the daughter of the past
“ Matre pulchra filia pulchrior" —
and only as the present comprehends and wisely reverences that filial relationship, will she become the mother of a still more beauteous future.
The fanaticism which disowns the past is not less ridiculous than the superstition of the anti
quary, which blindly worships it. thoughtful mind, desirous to apprehend the great idea of providence, takes a wide retrospect of the past, that it may embrace the connexion of ages, and discern their subordination to a common plan. Nothing has more contributed to keep up a narrow party feeling, than the limited field of vision on which the mental gaze has been usually fixed. The relations of different religious bodies to each other the controversies between themthe peculiarities of doctrine and practice distinguishing them-acquire an undue and absorbing importance, that excludes the light of true wis. dom, from their being looked upon, as distinctions founded in the unchangeable nature of things, rather than as historical results—not without a relative value for the individual, and fit subjects for conscientious reflection and comparison-but of which the real nature and significance are only to be understood by reference to the circumstances in which they originated. The revival of & more historical view of the mutual relationship of different churches, seasoned with a spirit of philosophical generalisation-offers the fairest prospect of extricating our national mind from that abyss of hopeless sectarianism, in which our religion and our literature seem at times to be in danger of being for ever engulphed.
No history has yet appeared—so far as I know of the general progress and development of our religious life up to the present day. To accomplish such a work adequately, would demand far higher qualifications than I can bring to it. What I here present, must be understood rather as an expression of my wish to see such a work competently undertaken, than as indicating the unpardonable presumption of attempting it myself. But a very defective work, if it does not wholly miss its object, may sometimes help to put the general mind in action, and prove the incentive to works greatly surpassing itself. If any such effect shall follow the issue of this volumeif any of the young minds, full of energy and intelligence, now rising into life, shall be induced to take up the subject, here faintly traced out, and to investigate it with the advantage of more leisure, knowledge, and ability-I shall have the satisfaction of feeling that I have not written in vain; and my volume, having done its work, may then resign the place, which it has held for a
season, to a worthier occupant-pass away, and be forgotten.
The Notes, in which I wished to open a few sources of information to persons desirous of pursuing the subject farther, and to unfold and illustrate more at length some points but slightly indicated in the text-have swelled out uncon. sciously beyond the space which they ought to have filled.
I have to acknowledge my obligation to different parties, but especially to my friend, the Rev. R. Wallace, Professor of Theology in the Manchester New College, for the loan of some works which I could not readily have procured from any other quarter.
J. J. T. June 28, 1845.