« السابقةمتابعة »
The Epiftle Dedicatory.
great felicity, that as faith triumpheth in good works, fo my Expofition of the Creed fhould be contemporary with the re-edifying of your Church. For though I can have little temptation to believe that my Book fhould laft fo long as that fabrick; yet I am exceedingly pleased that they should begin together; that the publishing of the one should so agree with the opening the other. This, I hope, may perfuade you to forget my flacknefs, confidering ye were not ready to your own expectation, your experience tells you the excufe of Church-work will be accepted in building, I beseech you let it not be denied in printing.
That bleffed Saint, by whofe name your Parish is known, was a fellow-labourer with S. Paul, and a fucceffor of S. Peter; he had the honour to be numbred in the Scripture with them whose names are written in the book of life; and when he had fealed the Gofpel with his blood, he was one of the firft whofe memory was perpetuated by the building a Church to bear his name. Thus was S. Clement's Church famous in Rome when Rome was famous for the faith Spoken of throughout the whole world. He wrote an Epiftle to the Corinthians infefted with a fchifm, in imitation of S. Paul, which obtained fo great authority in the primitive times, that it was frequently read in their publick congregations; and yet had for many hundred years been loft, till it was at last fet forth out of the Library of the late King.
Now as by the providence of God, the me
mory of that primitive Saint hath been reftored in our age, fo my defign aimeth at nothing else but that the primitive Faith may be revived. And therefore in this Edition to the Creed I fhall fpeak to you but what S. Fude hath already spoken too the whole Church. Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you, of the common falvation, it was needful for me to write unto you that ye Should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the Saints. If it were fo needful for him then to write, and for them to whom he wrote to contend for the firft Faith, it will appear as needful for me now to follow his writing, and for you to imitate their earnestnefs, because the reason which he renders, as the cause of that neceffity, is now more prevalent than it was at that time, or ever fince. For, faith he, there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lafciviousness, denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jefus Chrift. The principles of Christianity are now as freely queftioned as the most doubtful and controverted points; the grounds of Faith are as fafely denied as the most unnecessary fuperftructions; that Religion hath the greatest advantage which appeareth in the newest dress, as if we looked for another faith to be delivered to the Saints: Whereas in Christianity there can be no concerning truth which is not ancient; and whatfoever is truly new, is certainly falfe. Look then for purity in the fountain, and strive to embrace the first faith, to which you cannot A 2. have
The Epiftle Dedicatory.
have a more probable guide than the Creed, received in all ages of the Church; and to this I refer you, as it leads you to the Scriptures, from whence it was at firft deduced, that while thofe which are unskilful and unstable, wreft the words of God himself unto their own damnation: ye may receive fo much inftruction as may fer you beyond the imputation of unskilfulnefs, and fo much of confirmation as may place you out of the danger of inftability; which as it hath been the conftant endeavour, fo fhall it ever be the prayer of him, who af ter fo many encouragements of his labours amongst you, doth still defire to be known as
Have in this Book undertaken an Expofition of the Creed, and think it neceffary in this Preface to give brief account of the Work, left any should either expect to find that here which was never intended, or conceive that which they meet with fuch as they expected not.
The Creed, without controverfie, is a brief comprehenfion of the objects of our Chriftian Faith, and is generally taken to contain all things necessary to be believed. Now whether all things necessary be contained there, concerneth not an Expofitor to difpute, who is obliged to take notice of what is in it, but not to enquire into what is not: Whether all truths comprehended in the Jame be of equal and abfolute neceffity, we are no way forced to declare; it being sufficient, as to the defign of an Expofition, to interpret the words, and for deliver the fenfe, to demonftrate the truth of the fenfe delivered, and to manifeft the proper neceffity of each truth, how far, and in avbat degree, and to what purposes, it is necessary.
This therefore is the Method which I proposed to my felf, and have profecuted in every Article. First, to fettle the words of each Article according to their Antiquity and Generality of reception in the Creed. Secondly, to explicaté and unfold the Terms, and to endeavour a right notion and conception of them as they are to be runderstood in the fame. Thirdly, to fhew what are those truths which are naturally contained in thofe terms fo explicated, and to make it appear that they are truths indeed, by fuch arguments and preafons as are refpectively proper to evidence the verity of them. Fourthly, to declare what is the neceffity of believing those truths, what efficacy and influence they have in the Soul, and upon the Life of a Believer. Lastly, by a recollection of all, briefly to deliver the fum of every particular truth, fo that every one when he pronounceth the Creed may know what he ought to intend, and what he underflood to profefs, when he fo pronounceth it.
In the profecution of the whole, according to this Method, I have confidered, that a Work of so general a concernment must be expofed to two kinds of Readers, which though they may agree in judgment, yet muft differ much in their capacities. Some there are who understand the Original Languages of the holy Scripture, the Difcourfes and Tractates of the ancient Fathers, the determinations of the Councils, and Hiftory of the Church of God, the conftant profeffion of fettled Truths, the rife and increafe of Schifms and Herefies. Others there are unacquainted with fuch conceptions, and
uncapable of fuch inftructions; who understand the Scriptures as they are tranflated; who are capable of the knowledge of the Truths themselves, and of the proofs drawn from thence; who can apprebend the nature of the Chriftian Faith, with the power and efficacy of the fame, when it is delivered unto them out of the word of God, and in a Language which they know. When I make this difference, and diftinction of Readers, I do not intend thereby, that because one of thefe is learned, the other is ignorant; for he which bath no skill of the learned Languages, may notwithstanding be very knowing in the Principles of Chriftian Religion, and the reafon and efficacy of them.
According to this diftinction I have contrived my Expofition, so that the Body of it containeth fully what can be delivered and made intelligible in the English Tongue, without inferting the leaft fentence or phrafe of any learned Language; by which he who is not acquainted with it might be disturbed in his reading, or interrupted in his understanding. Not that I have selected only fuch notions as are common, eafie, and familiar of themselves, but have endeavoured to deliver the most material conceptions in the most plain and perfpicuous manner; as defirous to comprize the whole ftrength of the Work, as far as it is poffible, in the Body of it. The other part I have placed in the Margin, (but fo as oftentimes it taketh up more room, and yet is never mingled or confounded with the reft,) in which is contained whatsoever is necessary for the illustration of any part of the Greed, as to them which have any knowledge of the Latin, Greek, and Original Languages, of the Writings of the ancient Fathers, the Doctrines of the Jews, and the Hiftory of the Church, thofe great advantages toward a right perception of the Chriftian Religion.
Now being the Creed comprehendeth the Principles of our Religion, it must contain thofe Truths which belong unto it as it is a Religion, and those which concern it as it is ours. As it is a Religion, it delivereth fuch Principles as are to be acknowledged in natural Theology, fuch as no man which worshippeth a God can deny; and therefore in the proof of thefe, I have made use of fuch arguments and reasons as are most proper to oppose the Atheists, who deny there is a God to be worshipped, a Religion to be professed. As it is our Religion, it is Chriftian and Catholick. As Chriftian, it containeth fuch Truths as were delivered by Chrift and his Apoftles, and thofe efpecially concerning Chrift himself, which I have profecuted conftantly with an eye to the Jews, who obftinately deny them, expecting fill another Meffias to come; wherefore I fhew out of the Law and the Prophets which they acknowledge, what was foretold in every particular concerning the Meffias, and prove all thofe to be com