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world stood in expectation of seeing some official visitation of censure on such manifest treachery, or some vindication, by those in authority, of the cause of truth ; but they looked in vain. The only thing which they saw was every effort made, by the cheapening of editions, to push this pestiferous work into every nook and corner of the land, and to extinguish the truth by an overwhelming deluge of error.
When, however, it was found that waiting was vain, either because of the impotence of those in authority, or of their unwillingness to act, some feeble voices were raised, and a decided effort made, by a few earnest men, to bring the matter to a legal issue. The result is known. Conscious of the absolutely - defenceless nature of his position, and of his own entire abjuration of Protestant truth, the Archdeacon of the East Riding pronounced his own sentence, acknowledged his doctrines to be purely those of Rome, and betook himself to the communion of that Church, whose creed he had adopted and taught, more or less, years before.
It is a matter of notoriety, that not a few of the clergy, among the younger especially, have adopted the views of Archdeacon Wilberforce, and unhesitatingly preach them from their pulpits. These, from their comparative obscurity, have, hitherto, for the most part, passed unnoticed; but the case of Archdeacon Denison, who has adopted expressly the views propounded by his brother Archdeacon, is now before the Church and the world, and will probably bring the questions involved to a legal issue.
In reviewing the positions assumed by Mr. Wilberforce, and now adopted by Archdeacon Denison, I have sought rather that confutation should come from the authorities adduced for that purpose, than from any reasoning of my own. On this ground it is that I have quoted largely; and not on this ground only but that every reader might be enabled to feel satisfied that he had the true views of the writers referred to, which, by short and dovetailed extracts, can never be the case. I must confess, that with regard to the testimony of the ancient Church, my own opinion has been changed by this enquiry. I had not before so thorough a conviction, as now I have, that Popery can lay no claim to its authority. The strongest expressions used are generally either explained or limited by the Fathers who use them, while the peculiar doctrines of Rome are sought for in their writings in vain ; statements are found which could never have been made, had the peculiarities of Trent's teaching been known to the early Church. I rise from the labour which has necessarily attended this investigation, thankful to that good Providence which has preserved to our day the valuable records of the primitive Christian Church.
In the examination into, and comparison of, the several Protestant Confessions, an agreeable surprise has also been the result, in witnessing their general agreement and scriptural character. I find these confessions, on the subject of our enquiry, as far removed from Socinian coldness and emptiness, as from the superstitious and unmeaning awe and meretricious pomp of Popery. In protesting against the subtractions of the one and the additions of the other, I find these confessions all but unanimous. Theirs is no uncertain or discordant sound ; but the constant reproach which is sought to be cast upon the various bodies of Protestant Christians, on account of their differences, is found to be more imaginary than real. It is only a pity that these bodies do not more consider the important and essential points in which they agree, rather than the minor ones in which they differ, and so present a more compact and resolute front to the common enemy. Rome, if ever she gains a triumph over Protestant truth, can only do so by dividing before she conquers.
As an appendix, I have given the “Book of Ratram (or Bertram) on the Eucharist,” which has providentially escaped the ravages of time, and the more fatal hands of the emissaries of the Pope, as well as some exceedingly valuable Saxon remains
all of which are directly opposed to the doctrine of a corporeal presence. Following these will be found a few original notes and extracts from authors not in the hands of every one. It is hoped that these will be considered valuable and important for the purpose for which they are given.
I should have been glad had I been enabled to give all the passages which are quoted or referred to in their original, but this would have swelled out the volume to a much larger size and price.
As it is, the more important are given in their original form and language, and will enable those who desire it to see that the sense of their authors is faithfully given. It seems to some perfectly unaccountable how any man, brought up as a Protestant, with a liberal education and the Bible in his hands, can renounce his religion and embrace Romanism, and there is, unquestionably, very much in it to astonish. But it too often happens, with even the Bible itself, that it is perverted to the support of preconceived opinions, rather than examined for the truths which it teaches. It seems to me to be by such a process that men are led astray. They neither examine Scripture nor consult the early writers of the Christian Church with the feeling that the one is supreme, and the other useful in the teaching of truth, resolved to submit to the latter wherever they find it; but having embraced principles, according to taste and feeling, they then ransack the pages of inspired and uninspired antiquity to find support for their preconceived views. It can be little matter of surprise if such persons be given up to "strong delusions," and to the belief of lies, when they search through even the charter of their salvation for means of arriving at victory, not at truth.
In conclusion, I have only to apologise for whatever defects may be detected in this volume, either in matter or style, by alleging, in extenuation, the daily demands of a laborious occu pation. The work which the reader has in his hand does not pretend to much. It is more of a compilation than of an original essay, which seeks to let the persons introduced speak for themselves. It is not often that either the clergy or the laity have . opportunities, ability, and leisure for lengthened investigations into the writings of Christian antiquity; and it is only in an abbreviated form that the results of more favoured scholars can be made available for the many. The sources whence my information has been derived are generally indicated in the proper place; and to the authors, whose works are quoted, I must refer those who wish further to pursue their enquiries.
In one word — may it please God to grant that this feeble effort may be of some little service to the truth in the present crisis of the Church. The ecclesiastical horizon is certainly full of ominous forebodings of storm, and it may please Him who has so long blessed us with light, to punish our unworthy use of it, by remoring our candlestick out of its place. Our only hope for the averting of such a calamity must be in the blessing of God upon the efforts and upon the prayers of His faithful people. It can scarcely be doubted but that, if they are unremitting in both, the divine favour will be vouchsafed, and that speedily. The labour and prayer are from below, the blessing and power are from above; the benefit is ours -- the glory is God's.