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A BRIEF ACCOUNT, &c.
In tracing the hisiory of the Christian Church from its earliest establishment, through the period of its decline, until it reached that long and dark night of apostacy, which for ages preceded the reformation, we find, that in proportion as the life and substance of religion decayed, a multitude of ceremonies were introduced in their place, little, if at all, less onerous than the typical institutions of the Mosaic law. This has ever been the result, when the ingenuity of man has attempted to improve or adorn the simplicity of spiritual religion. There is a natural activity in the human mind, which prompts it to be busy, and can with difficulty submit to that self-renunciation which the gospel enjoins. It is much easier for a professor of religion to be engaged in the performance of rites and ceremonies, than to yield his heart an entire sacrifice to God. Objects presented to the mind through the medium of the natural senses, produce a powerful impression, and are more easily apprehended, than those truths which are addressed to the intellectual faculties only, and are designed to subdue and control the wayward passions of the human heart. It is not surprising, therefore, that instead of that worship of the Almighty Father, which is in Spirit and in Truth, and which requires the subjection of the will and activity of man, and the prostration of the whole soul in reverent humility before God, a routine of ceremonies and forms should have been substituted, calculated to strike the eye and the ear with admiration.
As the period of degeneracy was marked by the great amount and increase of these ceremonies, so, when it pleased the Most High to raise up individuals, and enlighten them to see the existing corruptions, and how far the professed Christian Church had departed from original purity, and to prepare them for instruments in working a reformation ; one of their first duties was, to draw men off from those rites by which their minds had been unduly occupied, and on which they had too much depended, instead of pressing after experimental religion in the heart.
This, of necessity, was a progressive work. The brightness of meridian day bursts not at once upon the world. There is a gradual increase of light, from its earliest dawn until it reaches its fullest splendour; yet the feeblestray which first darts through the thick darkness, is the same in its nature with the most luminous blaze. It makes manifest those things which the