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THE Compiler of the present volume cannot venture to offer it to the Christian public without a few words of explanation; expressive both of his sense of its many deficiences, and of some of the causes which have occasioned them.
These deficiences might be divided into two classes: those which have been intentional, and those which are involuntary.
Probably, however, the chief among them may be reckoned to belong to both. The references to what is called 'antiquity' will be found to be few. In this respect there was an equal want of leisure for research, and of disposition to make such research, even had time been more attainable.
An opinion is now very industriously circulated, that it is only by an appeal to antiquity,' or 'tradition,' that Romanism can be effectually refuted.
The compiler has good reason for believing that none are more anxious for the spread of such an opinion, than the Romanists themselves. Nor is he at all surprised at this. His own conviction, not
hastily formed, is, that the Romish controversialist who can succeed in drawing his opponent away from the inspired oracles, and in resting the discussion chiefly upon the sayings or doings of councils or fathers, has already achieved more than half a victory, and is at least secure against defeat. The worst that can happen to him is, the closing the discussion by a drawn battle.
From this conviction, the compiler of the present volume has generally declined to make any other use of the writers of the earlier centuries, than to shew, by brief references to their writings, that it was as easy to quote them on one side as on the other. Such he believes to be the case; and he believes, also, that this latter confusion of tongues' has been as wisely ordered as was that of Babel. The descendants of Noah proposed to themselves to make such a provision, as should render them, in any future deluge, independent of divine assistance. Exactly similar is the attempt now making, to raise such a pile of human authorities, as may enable its architects to dispense with the word of God, as completely as they of old proposed to dispense with any future ark. The attempt is equally presumptuous, and its result will equally frustrate the expectations of its authors.
In this respect, therefore, whatever may be the short-comings of the present volume, its compiler will not attempt to shelter himself under the plea of want of leisure. His neglect has been as much a matter of choice as of necessity. In many
other respects the case is different. The distraction of a variety of dissimilar and conflicting engagements and avocations, besides personal and
innate disqualifications of which no one can be better aware than himself, will have left their traces in many errors, weaknesses, and failures. Of all these, the puny and faultful instrument must, without repining, bear the blame. But amidst the whole, he is yet conscious that it is in the power of the Allwise to use even such an effort as this to some good purpose. And he would most of all desire, that should such be the case, the praise and glory may be ascribed to HIM alone, to whose gracious operation all such results will be solely attributable.