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It is now about six years, as I gather by the reckoning laid down in the thirty-first page of this book, since this following Challenge was brought unto me from a Jesuit, and received that general answer, which now serveth to make up the first chapter only of this present work. The particular points which were by him but barely named, I meddled not withal at that time: conceiving it to be his part, as in the fortieth page is touched, who sustained the person of the assailant, to bring forth his arms, and give the first onset; and mine, as the defendant, to repel his encounter afterwards. Only I then collected certain materials out of the Scriptures and writings of the fathers, which I meant to make use of for a second conflict, whensoever our challenger should be pleased to descend to the handling of the particular articles by him proposed; the truth of every of which he had taken upon him to prove, by the express testimonies of the fathers of the primitive Church, as also by good and certain grounds out of the sacred Scriptures, if the fathers' authority would not suffice.
Thus this matter lay dead for divers years together: and so would still have done, but that some of high place
in both kingdoms, having been pleased to think far better of that little which I had done, than the thing deserved, advised me to go forward, and to deliver the judgment of antiquity touching those particular points in controversy, wherein the challenger was so confident that the whole current of the doctors, pastors and fathers of the primitive Church did mainly run on his side. Hereupon I gathered my scattered notes together, and as the multitude of my employments would give me leave, now entered into the handling of one point, and then of another : treating of each, either more briefly or more largely, as the opportunity of my present leisure would give me leave. And so at last, after many interruptions, I have made up in such manner as thou seest, a kind of a doctrinal history of those several points, which the Jesuit culled out, as special instances of the consonancy of the doctrines now maintained in the Church of Rome, with the perpetual and constant judgment of all antiquity.
The doctrine that here I take upon me to defend, (what different opinions soever I relate of others,) is that which by public authority is professed in the Church of England, and comprised in the book of articles agreed upon in the synod held at London in the year MDLXII. concerning which I dare be bold to challenge our challenger and all his complices, that they shall never be able to prove, that there is either any one article of religion disallowed therein, which the saints and fathers of the primitive Church did generally hold to be true, (I use the words of my challenging Jesuit,) or any one point of doctrine, which by those saints and fathers was generally held to be untrue. As for the testimonies of the authors which I allege, I have been careful to set down in the margin their own words in their own language (such places of the Greek doctors only excepted, whereof the original text could not
be had) as well for the better satisfaction of the readers, (who either cannot come by that variety of books, whereof use is here made, or will not take the pains to enter into a curious search of every particular allegation) as for the preventing of those trifling quarrels that are commonly made against translations; for if it fall out, that word be not every where precisely rendered by word (as who would tie himself to such a pedantical observation ?) none but an idle caviller can object, that this was done with any purpose to corrupt the meaning of the author, whose words he seeth laid down before his eyes, to the end he may the better judge of the translation, and rectify it where there is cause.
Again, because it is a thing very material in the historical handling of controversies, both to understand the times wherein the several authors lived, and likewise what books be truly or falsely ascribed to each of them ; for some direction of the reader in the first, I have annexed at the end of this book, a chronological catalogue of the authors cited therein, wherein such as have no number of years affixed unto them, are thereby signified to be incerti temporis; their age being not found by me, upon this sudden search, to be noted by any: and for the second, I have seldom neglected in the work itself, whensoever a doubtful or supposititious writing was alleged, to give some intimation whereby it might be discerned that it was not esteemed to be the book of that author, unto whom it was entitled. The exact discussion as well of the authors' times, as of the censures of their works, I refer to my Theological Bibliotheque : if God hereafter shall lend me life and leisure, to make up that work, for the use of those that mean to give themselves to that noble study of the doctrine and rites of the ancient Church.
In the mean time I commit this book to thy favourable
censure, and thyself to God's gracious direction: earnestly advising thee, that whatsoever other studies thou intermittest, the careful and conscionable reading of God's book may never be neglected by thee. For whatsoever becometh of our disputes touching other antiquities or novelties: thou mayest stand assured, that thou shalt there find so much by God's blessing, as shall be “ able to make thee wise unto salvation," and " to build thee up, and “ to give thee an inheritance among all them that are sanctified.” Which next under God's glory, is the utmost thing, I know, thou aimest at: and for the attaining whereunto I heartily wish, that the “ word of Christ may dwell in thee richly, in all wisdom.”