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LHE Author was led to the subject of the following Treatise, in the discharge of his Ministerial Duty, by considering how very few in this vast Metropolis, and throughout this favoured Country, habitually hear the Word, though preached in the very midst of them, in comparison of those who greatly, or altogether neglect that duty; and how very few, even of habitual hearers, fully improve what they hear to their spiritual edification.
There is among multitudes both of rich and poor in this Country, through their wilful neglect, nearly as great a famine of hearing the Word as though they had been born in a Heathen Land ; with the awful aggravation of guilt, that they live in a Country to which God has in this day given a full share of Scriptural Truth.
The Author does not expect to remedy, on a large scale, the evil which he, ‘in common with many, deplores : but if he can afford a little help, and stir up a few only to individual and practical reformation, it will be worth all his efforts. And if he can excite Christians more fervently to pray for the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit, far more extensive benefit may arise, even from this attempt, than can easily be anticipated.
But the actual state of things should be fully known. It appeared from the Rev. Dr. Yates's able Pamphlet, “ The Church in Danger," published in 1815, that there were, at that time, IN LONDON AND ITS IMMEDIATE NEIGHBOURHOOD, that is, within eight miles of St. Panl's Cathedral, NINE HUNDRED AND FORTY-SIX THOUSAND PERSONS without any accommodation in a Parish Church, or any beneficial knowledge of a Parish Minister; without any participation in the devotions and instruction of our Liturgy, and therefore probably without any regard or attachment to the Established Church. Dr. Yates says, “ The number of Christians dissenting from the Establishment will not be found materially to affect the present argument, as it bears a very small proportion to the aggregate just stated."
Active measures have, indeed, been lately taken for building many new Churches; yet such has been the increase of the population of the Metro. polis and its vicinity since the period above mentioned, that probably the result of a similar enquiry would still shew nearly the same affecting state of things ; especially if it be farther considered that few of the churches are filled in the proportioti assumed by Dr. Yates in his several eateulations.
It was well observed by this writer, “ Such a mine of Heathenism, and consequent profligacy and danger, under the very meridian (as it is supposed) of Christian Illumination, and accumulated around the very centre of British Prosperity, Liberty, and Civilization, cannot be contemplated without térror by any real and rational friend of our Established Government, in Church and State, and is surely sufficient to awaken the anxious attention of every true Patriot, every enlightened Statesman, every sincere advocate of suffering humanity, and every: intelligent and faithful Christián."
Nor is this state of things confined merely to the Metropolis : it is, in a great measure, true of most parts of the Country, that but a small proportion attend the ministry of the Word; and more particularly in places where there has been a rapid increase
of the population, without corresponding means being provided for their instruction. Dr. Chalmers, answering objections about Sabbath Schools, says, “ Many of the objections proceed on an ignorance of the actual state of a crowded society; it not being sufficiently known how utterly alienated the great majority of our young are from all Christian opportunities; and that there is an unobserved Heathenisí among us which stands as much in need of being aggressively entered upon from without, as the Heathenism of antiquity stood in need of Apostles. Such is the lack of Churches, and such is the dreary and unprovided extent of our City Parishes, that the majority of our people may be said to live in a state of excommunication from all the privileges of a Christian Land.” .
Such a state of things calls for the sympathy and demands the exertion of all who have at heart the welfare of our Country, and the advancement of real religion. Nor need we be discouraged: it is an indication of a reviving state of the Church among us, that these evils have been openly exposed, and that steps are taking to remedy them. Is not this one fruit, at least in part, of Missionary Exertions? While Christians are beginning to feel for the distant Heathen, this very, feeling has a salutary reaction, in leading them to care still more for those who are living as Heathens in their own Country. May it please Almighty God to grant that the building of fresh Churches may lead many to enquire into the duty of attending those Churches! Happy will the Author be, if this Volume be made useful in affording such persons seasonable information, or in bringing those who have hitherto carelessly or inconstantly attended Public Worsbip to a regular and devout attendance: much will be rejoice, if any of his Brethren in the Ministry shall find this publication in any measure assist them in
exciting an increased attention to those public means of grace; without a due regard to which religion never flourishes, and the full attendance on which is one of the tokens of its real prosperity.
It may be desirable to add a few remarks on different parts of the work now submitted to the reader.
Names of distinction among Christians have been, as much as practicable, avoided. When brought. forward to support or oppose classes of men, without any other evidence or argument than the mere name, in the best view they merely assert the individual's opinion that his own sentiments are correct: but as they are often used, they infer either an unfounded pretenee to infallibility; or a rocommendation of implicit faith in human authority; or a dogmatical discouragement of all scriptural enquiry and investigation. '
The second chapter might easily have been enlarged to a considerable extent, but this would have too much increased the bulk of this volume..
The Author has felt the extreme delicacy and difficulty of some of the points discussed in the latter part of the Sixth Chapter ; but, knowing how much the minds of many pious individuals are exercised oħ that subject, he did not feel at liberty to declinë stating the views, which, after the best consideration that he could give the subject, he had adopted. " It is too true," as a friend has remarked to him, " that many Clergymen do not so minister as to fulfil what the Church and their duty require from them: but false doctrine, and dead formality and a worldly spirit, are less and less, blessed be God, disgracing the Clergy; and where these things so prevail as to render their ministratións of little warth, there are subsidiary means of edification, quite consistent with the discipline of the Church, to which recourse may be had, while waiting and praying for better times.”
“The leaven of truth and zeal, is spreading extensively through the Church: many of her ministers and other members who may not yet enter fully into ber evangelical doctrines, nor yet rise as she requires them above the world, are seriously labouring to do good; and if some of these have unhappily imbibed unfavourable views of the most zealous and consistent members of their own communion, it only furnishes a strong additional motive to those looked at with unfounded suspicion, conscientiously to avoid every thing which may be justly objectionable. The truly religious members of the Church are; happily, under all their shades of difference and their past feelings of mutual disaffection, making gradual approaches to one another; and ncthing will tend more, through the blessing of God, to accelerate their union, or to make the Church the bulwark and glory of the Empire, than a conscientious adherence, in that devout and heavenly spirit which she requires, in all her members, to her discipline and her ordinances.”
There is great danger of self-wisdom, selfexaltation, divisions, and many other evils creeping in under the pretext of purer religion. The Author has known cases where the young, with new and lively impressions of the reality and magnitude of true religion, have left pious parents to go alone to the Church, while they have gone elsewhere as a matter of conscience and separation from the world. There may be more real conscience in going with their parents: there may be no separation from the spirit of the world, though a man constantly attends where the truth is faithfully preached.
The Author has, he hopes, sufficiently guarded his statements from disrespect towards other bodies of Christians. He is far from such a feeling, and