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THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY .106725
ASTOR, LEVOX AND
Entered according to act of Congress in the year 1843, by
GEORGE PUNCHARD, in the Clerk's office of the District Court of Massachusetts.
JOHN PUNCHARD, Esq.
MY AGED AND REVERED PARENT,
WHOSE INSTRUCTIONS AND EXAMPLE FIRST TAUGHT ME THE VALUE
OF THE SYSTEM HERE ADVOCATED-THESE PAGES ARE
RESPECTFULLY AND AFFECTIONATELY
THE DESIGN of this work is, to answer the inquiry, WHAT'IS CONGREGATIONALISM-IN THEORY AND PRACTICE ?
It, accordingly, contains an exposition and discussion of the fundamental PRINCIPLES of the system ; a statement and defence of its more important DOCTRINES respecting church order and discipline; the testimony of ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY, that such, for substance, was the polity of the primitive churches; an enumeration and explanation of the ecclesiastical PRACTICES of Congregationalists; and a development of some of the prominent ADVANTAGES of this system over all others.
No one can be more sensible of the difficulty of executing such a plan, than the writer now is; had he been equally so before he undertook the task, it might have saved his readers and himself the trouble of this preface.
An apology for the work may, perhaps, be found in its history. About three years since, the writer was appointed by the Clerical Association of which he is a member, to prepare a dissertation upon Congregationalism. This he was requested to publish. But, though the result of considerable reading and reflection, it was regarded by
him as too immature to be offered to the public. A renewal of the request of the Association, at their next meeting, induced the author to re-write the essay, and to preach the substance of it to the people of his charge. The unsolicited opinion of intelligent parishioners, who were ignorant of the doings of the Association, led to the belief, that the substance of the discourses might prove acceptable to the denomination generally. A revision was accordingly begun. This revision led to a further examination of authorities, a multiplication of topics, a more extended range of discussion, and ultimately, to the decision to submit this volume to the judgment of the public.
The work has been written, not for the wise, nor for those, exactly, who are simple; but, mainly, for that large class of
the intermediate space between the learned and the ignorant.
The English reader will occasionally find a word or phrase in Latin or Greek; but rarely unaccompanied by a translation; and never, it is believed, in such a position as to break the sense of the sentence.
It is no part of the author's plan to make war on other denominations : yet, he has felt constrained to speak freely, though it is hoped kindly, of those from whom he differs.
That he has fallen into no errors, in a work so abounding in distinct and controverted topics, is, perhaps, more than can be reasonably expected : but, he has certainly used his utmost care to avoid mistakes. The opinions expressed in these pages, may, very possibly, be somewhat modified by further investigation and reflection; but