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The purpose of this volume is to describe and classify all denominations, so as to give a clear idea of the character and strength of the religious forces of the United States.
THE SOURCES OF INFORMATION AND THE PLAN.
The statistics are those of the government census of 1890, revised in a few particulars, and arranged to present, with necessary fullness and without unnecessary detail, the facts that everybody ought to know, but which have not hitherto been accessible. The government report is very voluminous.
It makes the county the unit, not only in its tables for the States, but also in those for ecclesiastical organizations, such as classes, conferences, dioceses, districts, presbyteries, synods, and the like. That is, the statistics of each denomination are given by counties under dioceses and presbyteries, etc., as well as under the several States and Territories. It was deemed unnecessary to over-burden these pages with such a mass of statistical details. There are but few persons who would ever need to make use of them. Therefore the State has been made the civil unit, and each denomination is presented in tables, first by States, and secondly by ecclesiastical organizations, where such organizations exist. The descriptive accounts are, in the main, those prepared for the government census. Their object is to show the general characteristics of denominational families, or groups; to give the date, place, and circumstances of the origin of each denomination, together with its peculiarities in doctrine, polity, and usage; to state the cause of every division, and to indicate the differences which separate branches bearing the same family name.
The order of the alphabet is followed in presenting the denominations. The first chapter is given to the Adventists, the second to the Baptists, and so on through the list. A different rule is observed, however, in the arrangement of the branches of denominational families or groups. The stem, or oldest body, is given the first place, and the others appear in chronological order, according to the date of their origin, except in cases where there has been one or more divisions in a branch. To illustrate, let us take the Adventist family. The Evangelical branch is generally conceded to be the oldest. The Advent Christians are second in the order of time, and the Seventh-Day body third. The Life and Advent Union would be fourth, were it not that the Church of God, which is more recent, is a division of or secession from the Seventh-Day branch. The Church of God therefore occupies the fourth place, next to its parent body. The same rule applies to the arrangement of Methodist and other branches. The historical order has been observed because it is the more logical and convenient. The alphabetical order would inevitably lead to confusion, and frequent and unnecessary repetition in the descriptive accounts; and arrangement according to numerical strength would be open to the same objection. The method chosen allows the reader to follow the historical development of every denominational group, and study the causes of each successive division in the order in which it occurred.
THE SCOPE AND METHOD OF THE CENSUS.
The census of the churches, just completed, is the first successful effort of the government in this direction. In 1850, 1860, and 1870, religious statistics were gathered by United States marshals or their agents. In the censuses of 1850 and 1860 three items only were given, viz., churches, church accommodations, and value of church property. In 1870 a distinction was made between churches or church societies and church edifices, thus making an additional item. In 1880 large preparations were made for a census which should not only be thorough, but exhaustive in the number of its inquiries. A vast mass of detailed information was obtained; but the appropriations were exhausted before it was tabulated, and the results were wholly lost. Having been appointed in 1889 by the Hon. Robert P. Porter, superintendent of the eleventh census, to the charge of this division of the census office, I determined to make the scope of the inquiry broad enough to embrace the necessary items of information, and narrow enough to insure success in collecting, tabulating, and publishing them; and to devise a method of collecting the statistics which would serve the ends of accuracy, completeness, and promptness. It was in some sense to be a pioneer effort, and the plan and methods adopted were designed to bring success within the range of possibility The scope of the inquiry of 1880 was therefore greatly reduced. Many questions which, if fully answered, would yield desirable information were omitted from the census of 1890, which