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Ir it must be admitted that the Church of England is not rich in Missionary annals, there can be no difficulty in accounting for the deficiency.
For more than a century after the Reformation, our Church was so much engaged in maintaining its position against the pretensions and intrigues of Rome, as to have little opportunity for making aggressions on Heathenism. Then came the Civil War, in which the National Church itself was put under an interdict; and when this tyranny was overpast, a flood of licentiousness came in with the Restoration; and the shock which was thus given to religion by a reaction from the austerity of one period to the excesses of another, may serve to account for that spirit of indifference so general in this country at the period of the Revolution, a spirit which continued to prevail, more or less, till the commencement of the present century. These were serious obstacles in the way of Missionary enterprise. Nevertheless, the Church was not unmindful of her duty in this partib
cular. At the very commencement of the eighteenth century, a Society was organised for the purpose of providing the ministrations of religion for our countrymen in the Colonies, and of bringing the surrounding Heathen to a knowledge of the truth. Through this Society, incorporated by Royal Charter, and directed by the whole body of Bishops, the Church, for nearly one hundred and fifty years, has conducted one main part of its Missionary operations. The principal field of those operations during the last century were the North American Colonies (with the exception of Virginia and Maryland, where the Church was endowed); and the design of the present Volume is to give a general outline of the rise and progress of the Church in those parts. It has no pretension to the character of a complete history: that is reserved for an abler hand; and those who are anxious for further information than is to be found in the vigorous and animated sketch of the Bishop of Oxford,' may be confidently referred to the larger work which has been promised the world, by one whose name will secure it attention, and whose qualifications for the undertaking are evidenced by the extensive and accurate research which mark the Volume already published. 2
Still the details here supplied may not be without
1 History of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America, by Samuel Wilberforce.
2 History of the Church of England in the Colonies and Foreign Dependencies of the British Empire, by the Rev. James S. M. Anderson, M.A. London, 1845.
their use or interest; for they supply lessons both of warning and instruction. They warn us of the guilt and danger of allowing new Settlements to be planted without any adequate provision for their spiritual wants; and they teach us that the fellowship of the Church is the strongest tie between the Mother Country and her Colonies. At all events, they will not have been collected in vain, if they direct the attention of any to the exceeding importance of laying well the foundation of future empires, by basing it on the unchanging principles of Christian faith and holiness.
Such principles, deeply impressed upon the minds of the first Colonists in a new country, will be transmitted to successive generations; and it is only necessary to remember how rapidly population increases in a young Settlement, to give to this consideration all the weight that it deserves.
At the time when the Church established its first Mission on the shores of New England in 1702, the total population of the North American Colonies may be computed at 250,000-at the Declaration of Independence it was about 3,000,000-it amounts now to 17,000,000; and should the same ratio of increase continue (of which there seems no reason to doubt) it will, in one more century, be between two and three hundred millions, who will all, more or less, bear the impression which has been stamped upon them by their fathers, the founders of the several Colonies.
1 See page 23.
Whatever be cast into the soil of a new country, be it good seed or tares, will take root, and spring up with an abundant harvest; and this is a truth which no country was ever so bound to understand and act upon as England. Our Colonies in every part of the world are fast growing into great nations; and upon ourselves the Church and realm of England-it depends to mould their institutions, and fix their principles. Happily the members of our Church are daily becoming more alive to this great responsibility. They see, in the diffusion of our language, the extension of our commerce, the vastness of our Colonial empire, and the wonderful facilities for reaching the most distant parts of it, a Providential call to avail themselves of such unexampled opportunities for the furtherance of the Gospel. The more thoughtful, surely, must see in the fact that all this power and influence have been given to England, rather than to Italy, or France, or Spain, an indication of God's gracious purpose to make the Church of this country a chosen instrument for bringing Heathen nations within the fold of His blessed Son. May He who hath so freely bestowed these talents, give to our Church and nation the grace to use them as a wise and faithful. steward!
The following "Notices" will show that the Church of England was not barren of good works during the last century. In many a lone settlement on the Continent and in the Islands of America, she had the