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Church has been edified, and by whose example many have been animated, the author can truly say, that he has endeavoured to free himself entirely from partiality."
The Memoir, which the preceding fragment was intended to introduce, was also itself left in an unfinished state. It had been commenced by Mr. John Venn many years before his own death; but, after a few of the first pages had been written, its completion was delayed till his last illness; so that the greater part of it was dictated by him from his death-bed. This circumstance will doubtless increase the interest with which it will be read; and it will also account for any degree of haste or abruptness which may be apparent in the composition. It has now devolved upon one of the third generation to put the finishing hand to the work, and to present it to the public.
I have presumed to incorporate some additional matter with the original Memoir, in order to complete the narrative: but I have distinguished such additions, by including them within angular brackets. I have also given a large collection of letters, which will form the domestic annals of the greater part of my grandfather's life.
It may be expected that I should offer some apology for having thus enlarged my Father's design, and departed still further than he had contemplated from the rule laid down by him in the preceding
fragment. It is hoped, however, not only that the intrinsic excellence of the Letters will justify their publication ; but, also, that they may claim an additional interest, as presenting a lively portrait of one of the earliest Preachers who obtained the name of Evangelical, and who bore a conspicuous part in the revival of religion in this country during the latter part of the eighteenth century.
The following pages exhibit the life and labours, the principles, and temper of mind, of one who has been universally known as a zealous advocate of Evangelical sentiments *.
I will not enter upon any formal description of these sentiments; because I believe that the difference between the Clergy usually denominated Evangelical, and many of their brethren, from whom they are thus distinguished, consists not so much in their systematic statement of doctrines, as in the relative importance which they assign to the particular parts of the Christian System, and in the vital operation of Christian Doctrines upon the heart and conduct. Under this view, I persuade myself that the difference in question will be best understood from the perusal of such a Life as I here present to the reader. .
* I am aware that there is an apparent impropriety in using a term as the exclusive designation of one class, which ought to belong to all the professed Preachers of the Gospel of Christ. I trust that the exclusive application of the term among the Ministers of the Established Church is daily becoming unnecessary and improper. Yet, the most superficial knowledge of the state of religion in this country will shew, that in the early part of the eighteenth century the tone of Christian Doctrine and Practice was lamentably depressed, both in the Church and among the Dissenters; and that about the year 1740 there was a revival of light and energy among some of the Ministers of the Church, which was gradually diffused throughout the land, and has materially raised the tone of religious sentiments even among those who are strangers to the power of godliness. It was natural, therefore, that in the early days of this revival, when the light and energy of a few stood out in bold relief from the surrounding mass, that this exclusive designation should have been generally attributed, assumed, or allowed.
The Character before us stands distinguished from the devout but inefficient profession of orthodox principles which characterized the High Church School in which Mr. Venn was brought up. All his early prepossessions, and the notions which he imbibed from education and filial respect, were in favour of that school-all his worldly hopes of preferment were connected with it: for some time he conscientiously and zealously strove to fulfil his ministry upon that scheme; but he failed to acquire solid peace and satisfaction in his own mind, or to accomplish any great good in the souls of others ; till he had discovered, by diligent study of the Bible, those views which were accompanied with such blessed results to himself and to thousands of his hearers throughout the rest of his life. The accurate description given, in the Memoir, of the steps by which he was gradually led to those views (pp. 17—21) appears to me, in this light, most important, and worthy of attention.
On the other hand, the character here deli
neated is equally distinguished from that exhibited by too many, in former and present times, who have assumed or acquired the name of Evangelical, without any other pretension to that name than the adoption of a doctrinal Shibboleth. The nature of Evangelical Religion is here shewn, in an entire devotion of heart to the Lord Jesus Christ—an evident victory over the world—abounding love and good-will towards men, and the other fruits of the Spirit manifest in the life and conduct; and is thus essentially distinguished from a worldly, self-indulgent, lukewarm, and unsubdued temper of mind, whether cloked under an Evangelical or any other profession of religion.
Another point, which I think the present volume will illustrate, is the Rise and Diffusion of Evangelical Religion in the Established Church during the period over which the succeeding Memoir extends. For we are here furnished with the case of Mr. Venn; and with many incidental notices of the names and labours of his early coadjutors among the Clergy. And I apprehend it may be shewn, that, for the most part, these men derived their views of the Truth directly from the Word of God; that their labours were chiefly devoted to the revival of true religion in the Church; and that those labours were, under God, the main cause of the revival which followed.
I am aware, that a different view of the case is often given ; and that the labours of Mr. Whitfield and the Wesleys are regarded not only as the means of the revival of religion among persons connected with their societies, but also of that which took place among the Clergy. A Preface, and more especially a Preface to a somewhat bulky volume, is not the place for entering at large into a question which may be controverted; but I I may be permitted, perhaps, to point out how far the present volume seems to support the view of this question, which I have ventured to suggest.
The case of Mr. Venn himself is clearly stated in the Memoir, in these words :-“ This change of his sentiments was not to be ascribed to an intercourse with others : it was the steady progress of his mind, in consequence of a faithful and diligent application to the Holy Scriptures, unbiassed by an attachment to human systems. It was not till some years afterwards that he became acquainted with any of those preachers who are usually known by the name of Evangelical; though his own views now agreed with theirs, and were strictly, and in a proper sense, Evangelical ; that is, in conformity with the motives and hopes held out to us in the Gospel of Christ."
Here, let it be observed, is the case of a minister of the Church, engaged in the discharge of his office, whose mind is thus led to the full and cordial reception of these sentiments, by the blessing of God on prayer and the study of the Bible. He next discovered, that the Articles and Liturgy of