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"HE absorbing duties of the pastoral office in a great
city may be regarded as both a hindrance and a help to the discussion of the subjects involved in these Lectures. They are a hindrance because they leave so little time and strength for patient and thorough investigation beyond the limits of ordinary preaching; and yet they are a help, because they constantly present in a concrete and practical form the questions which go to the roots of all theories and controversies concerning the Church, the Ministry, and the Sacraments. Every man who claims to be a minister of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God must often ask himself whether his claim is well founded, and for his own peace of mind must find some solution of the problems which this question involves. And so also in the administration of the sacraments, he must often ask and answer the inquiry what these holy ordinances mean, and to whom they are to be dispensed. If these Lectures show that their Author has not been exempt from the hindrances referred to, he trusts that their defects, of which he is painfully conscious, will find some compensation in the help which comes from the practical experience of a long pastoral life, and from the earnest desire to settle the questions which underlie such a lifework according to the Word of God.
The Author is well aware that the views here expressed differ in some respects from the prevailing practice and opinions in the Presbyterian Church. They are likely to provoke criticism in two directions. His views of the Divine origin and authority of the visible Church and its ministry, and of the obligation and efficacy of the sacraments, will be regarded by many as High-church. The name is of little importance. The Author believes that these views are scriptural; and he feels sure that they are in full accord with the teaching of the Westminster Confession of Faith.
On the other hand, the breadth and comprehensiveness of his views as to the constitution of the visible Church, and his readiness to subordinate differences in doctrine, church government, and forms of worship to the desire for greater unity among Christians, will be criticised and rejected as Broad-churchism by those who hold to what is called jure divino Presbyterianism. Here again the name is of little importance. The Author has long felt that the present attitude of Christian denominations is unscriptural, and hurtful to the cause of Christ, and especially that the relations of the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches are too much controlled on both sides by misunderstandings, unreasonable prejudices, and the bitter memories of past controversies which ought to be forgiven and forgotten. A careful study of the creeds of Christendom, and especially a comparison of the standards of the Presbyterian and Episcopal churches, brings the full conviction that the agreements are unspeakably greater than the differences, and that it is the high duty of every one who is loyal to Christ to magnify the one and minimise the other. I claim to be a minister, not only of the Presbyterian Church, but of the one visible Church of Christ; and the larger relation dominates and moulds my thoughts and desires. I long for the time when all the ministers and churches of Christ shall cease their rivalries and their witness-bearing against each other and unite in the larger and more important work of testifying the grace of God in all the world to every creature, and in co-operation for the triumphant establishment of Christ's kingdom in all the earth.
How this consummation is to be reached, I do not undertake to dictate or to prophesy; but sure I am that the wish, if it shall attain to the height and depth and breadth which the Scriptures warrant and enjoin, will be father not only to the thought, but also to the deed. The obstacles in the way are but wood, hay, and stubble, when compared with the one Foundation on which we all build, and in whose praise our hearts and tongues unite. If in the more controversial parts of these Lectures anything shall be found inconsistent in fact or in spirit with these views, it will be a cause of sincere regret.
It may be proper, though hardly necessary, to add, that while these Lectures were delivered in the Theological Seminary at Princeton, N. J., by invitation of its Faculty, no one but their Author is in any way responsible for them.
HENRY J. VAN DYKE.
May 27, 1890.