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TO THE READER.
HAVE in this book undertaken an Exposition of the Creed, and think it necessary in this Preface to give a brief account of the work, lest any should either expect to find that here which was never intended, or conceive that which they meet with such as they expected not.
The Creed, without controversy, is a brief comprehension of the objects of our Christian faith, and is generally taken to contain all things necessary to be believed. Now whether all things necessary be contained there, concerneth not an Expositor to dispute, who is obliged to take notice of what is in it, but not to inquire into what is not: whether all truths comprehended in the same be of equal and absolute necessity, we are no way forced to declare; it being sufficient, as to the design of an Exposition, to interpret the words, and so deliver the sense, to demonstrate the truth of the sense delivered, and to manifest the proper necessity of each truth, how far, and in what degree, and to what purposes, it is necessary.
This therefore is the method which I proposed to myself, and have prosecuted in every Article. First, to settle the words of each Article according to their antiquity, and generality of reception in the Creed. Secondly, to explicate and unfold the terms, and to endeavour a right notion and conception of them as they are to be understood in the same. Thirdly, to shew what are those truths which are naturally contained in those terms so explicated, and to make it appear that they are truths indeed, by
such arguments and reasons as are respectively proper to evidence the verity of them. Fourthly, to declare what is the necessity of believing those truths, what efficacy and influence they have in the soul, and upon the life of a believer. Lastly, by a re-collection of all, briefly to deliver the sum of every particular truth, so that every one, when he pronounceth the Creed, may know what he ought to intend, and what he is understood to profess, when he so pronounceth it.
In the prosecution of the whole, according to this method, I have considered, that a work of so general a concernment must be exposed to two kinds of readers, which though they may agree in judgment, yet must differ much in their capacities. Some there are who understand the original languages of the holy Scripture, the discourses and tractates of the ancient Fathers, the determinations of the Councils, and history of the Church of God, the constant profession of settled truths, the rise and increase of schisms and heresies. Others there are unacquainted with such conceptions, and uncapable of such instructions; who understand the Scriptures as they are translated; who are capable of the knowledge of the truths themselves, and of the proofs drawn from thence; who can apprehend the nature of the Christian faith, with the power and efficacy of the same, when it is delivered unto them out of the Word of God, and in the language which they know. When I make this difference, and distinction of readers, I do not intend thereby, that because one of these is learned, the other is ignorant; for he which hath no skill of the learned languages, may notwithstanding be very knowing in the principles of Christian religion, and the reason and efficacy of them.
According to this distinction I have contrived my Exposition, so that the body of it containeth fully what can be delivered and made intelligible in the English tongue, without inserting the least sentence or phrase of any learned language; by which he which is not acquainted with it might be disturbed in his reading, or interrupted
in his understanding. Not that I have selected only such notions as are common, easy, and familiar of themselves, but have endeavoured to deliver the most material conceptions in the most plain and perspicuous manner; as desirous to comprise the whole strength of the work, as far as it is possible, in the body of it. The other part I have placed in the margin, (but so as oftentimes it taketh up more room, and yet is never mingled or confounded with the rest,) in which is contained whatever is necessary for the illustration of any part of the Creed, as to them which have any knowledge of the Latin, Greek, and Oriental languages, of the writings of the ancient Fathers, the doctrines of the Jews, and the history of the Church; those great advantages toward a right perception of the Christian Religion.
Now being the Creed comprehendeth the principles of our religion, it must contain those 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 such principles as are to be acknowledged in natural theology, such as no man which worshippeth a God can deny; and therefore in the proof of these, I have made use of such 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 Christian and Catholic. As Christian, it containeth such truths as were delivered by Christ and his Apostles, and those especially concerning Christ himself, which I have prosecuted constantly with an eye to the Jews, who obstinately deny them, expecting still another Messias to come; wherefore I shew out of the Law and Prophets which they acknowledge, what was foretold in every particular concerning the Messias, and prove all those to be completed by that Christ in whom we believe. As our religion is Catholic, it holdeth fast that faith which was once delivered to the saints, and since preserved in the Church; and therefore I expound such verities, in opposition to the heretics arising in all ages, especially against the Photinians, who
of all the rest have most perverted the articles of our Creed, and found out followers in these latter ages, who have erected a new body of divinity in opposition to the Catholic theology. Against these I proceed upon such principles as they themselves allow, that is, upon the Word of God delivered in the Old and New Testament, alleged according to the true sense, and applied by right reason; not urging the authority of the Church which they reject, but only giving in the margin the sense of the primitive Fathers, for the satisfaction of such as have any respect left for antiquity, and are persuaded that Christ had a true Church on the earth before these times.
In that part, which, after the demonstration of each truth, teacheth the necessity of the believing it, and the peculiar efficacy which it hath upon the life of a Christian, I have not thought fit to expatiate or enlarge myself, but only to mention such effects as flow naturally and immediately from the doctrine; especially such as are delivered in the Scriptures; which I have endeavoured to set forth with all possible plainness and perspicuity. And indeed in the whole work, as I have laid the foundation upon the written Word of God, so I have with much diligence collected such places of Scripture as are pertinent to each doctrine, and with great faithfulness delivered them as they lie in the writings of those holy penmen; not referring the reader to places named in the margin (which too often I find in many books multiplied to little purpose), but producing and interweaving the sentences of Scripture into the body of my Exposition, so that the reader may understand the strength of all my reason, without any further inquiry or consultation. For if those words which I have produced, prove not what I have intended, I desire not any to think there is more in the places named to maintain it.
At the conclusion of every distinct and several notion, I have re-collected briefly and plainly the sum of what hath been delivered in the explication of it, and put it,
as it were, into the mouth of every Christian, thereby to express more fully his faith, and to declare his profession. So that if the reader please to put these collections together, he may at once see and perceive what he is in the whole obliged to believe, and what he is by the Church of God understood to profess, when he maketh this public, ancient, and orthodox Confession of Faith.
I have nothing more to add; but only to pray, that the Lord would give you and me a good understanding in all things.