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from the works of their friends and contemporaries, and of other Theologians, their great successors in the Priesthood.
The authorities cited extend in an unbroken order from 1556 to 1747; and among them will be found the decisions (not merely of “a few” of our "ancient Divines”—but) of our Reformers, Martyrs, Bishops, and Confessors our most illustrious Champions against Heresy and Schism-of all, in a word, to whom universal consent has assigned the rank and honour of Doctors and Masters of the Anglican Church.
But it may be urged that the positions contained in this Work are disputed by the majority of the Clergy and Laity now alive; that since Religion is a practical and not merely speculative Institution, the doctrines
a Church, at any given time, may best be learned from what its Pastors generally teach and its members generally believe, and therefore the present Volume does not exhibit the “ judgment” of the Church of England, with reference to Scripture and Tradition.
This objection may be briefly answered as follows:
The reader of Ecclesiastical History is aware that at a period not very far removed from Primitive times, the Prelates, Clergy, and People of the Eastern branch of the Universal Church were so ensnared by Heresy that the true Doctrine was confined to but a small minority of Catholics : but will it be thence inferred that the Creed of the heterodox majority was acknowledged by the Eastern Church—in other words, that she destroyed herself by apostasy ? Surely not: for Christian Antiquity has declared the despised minority the Guardians and correct Expounders of the Doctrinal Deposit, committed to that Church by the Apostles; and that they, and not their opponents, were the organs through which her voice was heard. Now, admitting (what remains to be proved) that the principles contained in this Work, though a fair exposition of the authorized declarations of the Church of England—are unpopular among her Clergy and Laity, the consequence of the admission only amounts to this, namely, That certain persons are inconsistent members of her Communion, and faithless to the tenets which they stand pledged to support; and that others (a small minority, if you will), in the midst of the general defection, still continue to witness to the real principles of their revered and holy Mother.
Further, it may be objected that our Church allows two most different, or even contradictory sentiments, respecting Tradition, to be publicly taught by her members, and therefore the holders of neither have a right to call them more than opinions in the Church. It is replied, that a Church may authoritatively decide, where, from particular and temporary circumstances, she cannot always enforce; and, therefore, to say, before inquiry, that because essentially opposite sentiments are promulgated within her, therefore she cannot have pronounced any judgment on the subject in dispute, is assuredly to argue illogically. When, in the last century, Arianism was preached with impunity in our Communion, did Trinitarianism become simply an opinion in her pale? No one will venture such an assertion with her Liturgy, Creeds, and Articles before him; and yet to such a conclusion would the above objection inevitably lead.
It must, therefore, be confessed, that the method pursued in the following pages is the only one by which any doctrine of a Church can be fairly ascertained. A reference to the list of Authors cited will show, that in making this inquiry, the Editor has been guided by the strictest impartiality. The Work has been compiled' with no party purpose.
It will condemn no one who is not “condemned already” in the judgment of the Anglican Church.
1 This Publication had been some time in preparation when the Editor was informed that a Catena Patrum, on the rule of St. Vincent, was in the press. When the Catena appeared, the following Work was nearly completed; and the Editor was gratified to find, that although several extracts in each were necessarily alike, the general character of the publications was sufficiently dissimilar to render each useful in its own sphere and for its own object.
The labour of prosecuting this undertaking has been its own reward. No one can humbly commune with our old standard Divines, without becoming refreshed and nerved by their ponderous eloquence—enlightened by their profound wisdom-edified by their charity and devotion. Their principles, on many weighty matters—as, for example, the subject of the present Volume—though widely at variance with the popular notions of the day-are strictly accordant with Primitive and Catholic Truth. Innumerable quotations from the works of the holy Fathers, like jewels set in gold, gleam in their pages.
The Editor may adopt the language of an illustrious Poet:
My days among the dead are past,
Around me I behold,
The mighty minds of old :
My hopes are with the dead; anon
My place with them will be,
Thro' all futurity;