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RT. REV. THOMAS H. VAIL, D.D., LL.D.
“There is one Body." Ephesians 4: 4.
Lactantius. Inst. Div., L. iv. ad fin.
ENTERED, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1878, by
D. APPLETON & COMPANY, In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
Much has been said and published, of late years, on the subject of Christian Union—not enough to accomplish it, but enough to show that the minds of Christians are open to the inconveniences and dangers of sectarian divisions, and that their hearts are longing for some closer and happier communion than is allowed by the present divided state of the Christian Church. The many proofs presented daily, that Christians desire to be united, are encouraging to our hopes; while, at the same time, there is discouragement in the fact that the public mind seems to have settled down despondingly under the impression that no feasible plan can be proposed for the accomplishment of its desire.
The writer thinks that a capital mistake has been committed in the course of inquiry which has been generally pursued on this subject. He thinks that, instead of endeavoring to strike out an entirely new system of ecclesiastical unity, the proper and only feasible course is to select, for the purpose of uniting within it,
* To the first edition, published in 1841.
some system already established and which realizes most nearly the idea of a Comprehensive Church, and, if it be not in every respect perfect, to improve it, if it will allow improvement, into perfection. It may be there is such a system among us—a system whose structure is capable of any modification, and in whose organization are instrumentalities by which it may be shaped into any form, which the majority of the Christians in our country may desire. We believe there is such a system among us.
The writer, although a member and minister of the Protestant Episcopal Church, feels a sincere affection for all his Christian brethren of every name, who, being partakers of the “one baptism," are fellow-members with him of the Holy Catholic Church,” and who, by their faith and love, have entered into “the communion of saints ;” and the prayer of his heart is: “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." Yet he believes that, in our day, there is a very manifest and sad departure from Scriptural unity, and that it is the duty of those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity” to return, if possible, to a consistency with the Scriptural precepts. We all realize the dissensions of Christ's Church, and suffer from them. If we can, let us remedy them.
After an examination of the ecclesiastical systems of various denominations, and a careful investigation of
the theory of his own Church, with a particular reference to the practicability of Christian and ecclesiastical unity, the writer ventures to suggest the remedy alluded to. He does so with a confidence in the sympathies of his Christian brethren; for they will approve his design. There ought to be more confidence between the members of the Lord's family, more of mutual and unreserved inquiry on the mode of effecting unity. The large deliberative bodies, which represent the intellectual and moral strength of the different denominations, ought to confer, and to correspond with each other on this subject, which respects certainly one of the most important present duties of the Church. The writer would be glad to see the highest Conventions of his own Church exhibiting first this example of Christian confidence, and even addressing memorials on the subject to the members and the representative assemblies of other denominations. For it is true that the Divine idea of the real liberality and largeness of the Church of Christ, as to its terms of communion, and of the allowable diversities of opinions and practices within its one fold, is very indistinctly realized by the disciples of the Lord to-day.
It has been the lot of the writer to mingle much with intelligent Christians of different and opposing names; and from his intercourse with them, as well as with the members of his own Church, he believes there