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Having completed the first volume of the Gospel Visitant, the Publishers embrace this opportunity to present their sincere respects and grateful acknowledgements to their many Agents and Patrons, who have much encouraged this work by giving them their assistance and liberal support.
The increasing number of Subscribers (notwithstanding the discontinuance of some) is in evidence that the work has hitherto met with public approbatior. There are yet many things, which we conceive to be of great importance to the christian world, and especially to the humble believer in the doctrine of universal grace, which we wish to lay before the public, and which we conceive may be done as well, or better, in this way, than in any other. The encouragement hitherto given to this work, has equalled, if not exceeded, our most sanguine expectations; and we hope, in addition to our other labors, still to be useful in this way. This publication, in many parts of the country, may supply, in some measure, the lack of preaching; for perhaps it is as true now, comparatively, as it ever was, that," the harvest is great, but faithful laborers are few." We hear of new societies, springing up in the faith, in various parts; and it is presumed that there never was a greater call for preachers, who dare to face an unbelieving world and proclaim the unbounded grace of God to the chief of sinners, than at this time. We would therefore suggest to our many societies, and individuals in the faith, who are not blest with the privilege of hearing that gospel which hath been declared by a voice from heaven to be good tidings of great joy unto all people regularly preached among them, the propriety of meeting together on the first day of the week, at some convenient place, to read the holy scriptures, which are able to make every one wise unto salvation, to exercise such gifts as may be present, in singing, praying, exhortation, or expounding the word; and, for the want of public gifts, to read the Gospel Visitant, and such other books as may tend to instruction and edification. Such meetings, with the blessing of God, may be rendered very useful, and perhaps be the means of bringing forward many promising youth to labor in the vineyard of the great HUSBANDMAN, whose vine is CHRIST, and the branches, ALL
IN presenting to our readers the first Number of this Pe riodical Work, the Publishers consider it a duty to offer to its generous Patrons in particular, and to all in general who may be disposed to give it a candid perusal, a concise account of the origin, and contemplated objects of such a publication.
A few months since, a few of the Brethren in the belief and Ministry of the Gospel of reconciliation, who are members of the "General Convention of the four New-England States and others," conceived, that in addition to the Annual Meeting of that body, some improvement might be gained by more frequent interviews, although the number should be but small. They accordingly met in Conference at Gloucester, Cape-Ann, in the month of January last. At that meeting, it was agreed, that a Conference of the Brethren in the Ministry, be holden Quarterly, at such places as may appear most proper and convenient. A standing Moderator and Clerk were chosen, either or both of whose places, in case of absence, is to be supplied by others, elected pro tem. The business of this conference. originally embraced conversation upon Moral and Religious subjects. In addition to this, the spirit of free enquiry suggested a plan, some useful effects of which, we hope may be realized. The various brethren of the conference have the liberty of proposing questions upon any moral or divine subject. These questions are coramitted to other members, to be by them, answered in writing. These productions are to be read at the succeeding meeting; and if they meet the appro bation of the brethren assembled, are lodged with the Clerk.
These are the outlines of a plan, which has since been enlarged and improved. It has been concluded to publish by
subscription in Quarterly Numbers, the several questions proposed, as before mentioned, with the answers which are given ; but this will not be done to the exclusion of other important matter. in different forms. And though what is contained in the "GOSPEL VISITANT," will be chiefly original, yet we shall occasionally insert extracts from those writers who have labored for the instruction and improvement of man. Where the milder. virtues of Christianity, Candor, Charity and Benevolence distinguish the page of an author, we may safely quote his observations, and without hesitation follow where reason leads ; nor need we forbid our readers this gratification, because as to the circumstance of name or sect, such a writer "followeth not with us."
The objects contemplated, though not vast in number, are still, as is concieved, of the highest importance. The diffusion of light, the promotion of knowledge, the public recommenda tion and progress of virtue, piety and religion, are, acknowlegedly, matters of the first consideration. We may indeed be asked, "and who is sufficient for these things?" We may hear our own incompetency suggested, in terms, which even vanity itself would not choose to deny ; but it is still true, that discussion is favorable to the objects which reason contemplates. Truth is the result of comparison; and if there ever was a time when a comparison of systems and theories, all claiming to be measured by one standard, were necessary, the present is, unquestionably, such a period.
To us it appears evident, that nothing but the truth can reconcile the present divisions, which unhappily prevail in the Christian world; and that a candid and fair investigation of received opinions, must gradually tend to the attainment of that object. It need not be urged, that it is impossible that this brief Periodical publication should embrace any new truth. The same observation will apply with equal propriety to the Panoplist, the Christian Observer, and the multitude of Magazines, devoted to the diffusion of moral and religious know. ledge. These works abound in the present day. And though we shall not take upon us, to discuss their relative merits, nor argue their general utility nor inutility; still there is one observation, which reason prompts us to make; viz. we possess the privilege, in common with our fellow christians, of presenting to a candid public, our views of things, relating to the kingdom of God; and in the exercise of this privilege, we contemplate some good effect. If the system we profess, be founded upon reason and revelation; if it embraces the good and happiness of man, then let its principles be disseminated.
But if upon trial and comparison, it appears that no such advantages attach to the doctrine for which we contend, then let it be exposed in its own deformity; the world can lose nothing by its exposure.
In making these reflections, we must not be understood to carry the idea, that this Pamphlet is to form a complete system of the doctrine in which we believe; but we trust it will posBess some advantages above a large treatise. In works of a periodical nature, a kind of familiarity in style is generally adopted, which is always beneficial. And where the reader has had an opportunity to consult larger volumes upon a system, the parts of which are afterwards exhibited in a seperate view, and in detached and concise portions, it will greatly assist him in establishing in his own mind, the several relations of those parts to each other, and in a more minute classification of his ideas.
Whatever, in our apprehension, has a tendency to virtue, piety, and pure and undefiled religion, in a word, whatever may have an effect, to exhibit divine truth, as altogether lovely, shall from time to time, as we have needed assistance granted us, be faithfully represented in these pages. The body of the work will be devoted to essays and arguments, on those subjects, which we believe are of primary importance in the various walks of the christian life. A department will be allotted to poetry. We shall perhaps be sparing of anecdote, though eccasionally it may gain a place. Ordinations, installations, and general accounts of public conventional proceedings, will occupy a part; and in addition, such obituary notice, as is usual, in similar publications. In this form, we submit our labors to the consideration of the candid, liberal and enlightened.
ANSWER TO THE QUESTION—WHAT PROFESSION OF FAITH, &c.
QUESTION. What Profession of Faith, do the Scriptures teach us was set forth and required by Christ and his Apostles, the belief of which, constituted a believer in the faith of the Apostolic Churches?
In the discussion of the subjects embraced in this query, we shall study simplicity, and aim at instruction and improvement. It is necessary to premise that the views which have been taken of this question are as different as those upon any theological point. And the various contradictory theories which have
been raised, have rather contributed to the exercise of the
Though we cannot promise ourselves the full attainment of an object, at once so high, so important and so extensive, as the deliverance of the mind from the power of false and incongruous systems; yet we believe something may be done, which may not be altoge her ineffectual. Comparison of opposite things is favorable to the discovery of truth. Our readers are assured that we aim at such an advantage. Our efforts may be feeble, but we are conscious that the exertions made, are honestly directed; and we rest in confidence upon the noble simplicity of the Gospel, and the active, enlightened reason of man, for the fruits and consequences of our labours.
In discussing the question proposed, we shall adopt the following method,
I. Set forth the Christian profession of faith, in one simple proposition, differently expressed in the New Testament.
II. Consider the evidences, on which this profession of faith will rest.
III. Exhibit the propriety and necessity of simplicity and unity, in the profession of the Christian faith.
1. The simple proposition, the belief of which constituted a believer, in the faith of the Apostolic Churches, is thus expres
sent not h 4de world The necessi the Son op, viz. all their inced of th ared to rec