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EXEMPLIFIED IN THE
HISTORY, DOCTRINES, DISCIPLINE,
COMMONLY CALLED “ INDEPENDENT."
BY J. S. BRIGHT.
“ There is not a community, any more than an individual, that is absolutely perfect ;
but perfection ought to be the aim of both.”-DR. GEORGE CAMPBELL.
J. SNOW, 35, PATERNOSTER ROW.
It is usually expected, as a matter of courtesy to the public, that some reasons for the production of a new work should be adduced ; and the following are offered as an explanation of the circumstances which appeared to demand a small manual like the present.
It has been the lot of the writer, during his short ministerial career, to observe among many persons of his own persuasion, a very scanty and imperfect acquaintance with the principles they profess to maintain ; and who, when interrogated respecting some pârticular points involved in their profession, have been unable to reply, except in a very general and unsatisfactory manner. This may have proceeded from want of early instruction : or it may have arisen from one of the distinguishing excellencies of the ministry among dissenters, which mainly presents “ Christ and him crucified,” and touches only occasionally and incidentally upon the minor, though important, matters of church order, and Christian ordinances: or, perhaps, it may be partially traced to the new direction of ministerial energy, and the multiplied calls for exertion, which the ever-growing number of our societies has produced. But whatever may be the cause, it is evidently undesirable to leave the members of our churches exposed to the questions which this busy age places before them, without attempting in every possible way to furnish them with the means of reply. Besides, if this were not the case, it is universally admitted that, as our piety ought to be fervent, so it ought to be intelligent ; and where the reasons for our preference of a religious communion are clearly understood, we shall more steadily and satisfactorily persevere in our attachment to it, and more wisely and zealously attempt its increase.
It has also been suggested, that a small publication of this kind would be suitable to place in the hands of inquiring churchmen, and others, who may be anxious to know something of our history, polity, and religious opinions. As our designs and practices are frequently subject to misrepresentation, and as prejudice always follows in its train, it may be hoped that correct information will weaken its power, and promote a better understanding than now exists.
Much has already been done in the exposition and defence of our principles, by the honourable and successful labours of Drs. Bennett, Payne, Wardlaw, and Vaughan; and the Rev. Messrs. Orme, James, Binney, and many others; and the writer of this small work would gratefully testify the benefit which he has received from their publications, and hopes that this, as an elementary work, may induce his readers to consult their pages for themselves.
The appellation "Independent has been preferred, because it is more generally known, and as it has been long employed, it does not seem advisable to relinquish
its use for the sake of the few and inconsiderable objections to which it is liable. Independents admit that every Christian society which manages its own concerns, is justifiably entitled to the name ; but as they first appropriated it, they seem to possess a prescriptive right to its employment.
It is hoped that the passages of Scripture which have been affixed to the Declaration of Faith and Order, will be found to have been carefully selected ; and the writer trusts, that none of his brethren will find even an unintentional misrepresentation of their views. On many of the topics which are incidentally alluded to, or but generally noticed, there may be a harmless diversity of opinion ; but while this diversity exists in minor matters, it is a subject of devout congratulation that there is an unbroken unanimity of view on the fundamental principles of salvation by faith in Christ. With less of earthly mechanism to secure uniformity than prevails elsewhere, there is more substantial concord among Independents, and other bodies of dissenters, than can be found in any other sections of the church. It may
be remarked, that no notice is taken of the invaluable labours and surprising success of other religious persuasions ; the writer's apology for that omission is, that it did not arise from want of interest in them, but that it did not fall within the range of his design.
Although the writer conceived that such a small manual as this was called for, it was only after frequent