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It was my wish that this translation should have appeared two years ago; but other literary occupations have, contrary to my hope, retarded its publication. The Protestant mind, however, I flatter myself, is now better prepared for the reception of the work, than at the period referred to; and if, in the great moral ferment which now pervades my country, it should be the means of allaying and reconciling, in any degree, the agitated elements of religious strife; if it should extricate but one spirit from the difficulties, the distractions, and the anguish of doubt, wherein so many are now involved, and should help him on to the solution of that great problem, whereon all depends, I shall consider my labour to be more than sufficiently recompensed. May He, from whom every good gift descends, shed His blessing on the present undertaking, and enable all to come to the perusal of the work with the suitable dispositions!
AUTHOR'S PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
EVERY book has a two-fold history; a history before, and a history after its publication. The first can be described only by the author himself; and respecting this, the public imposes on him the duty to make no mystery, and, accordingly, to relate to it partly the outward occasions that induced him to undertake the composition of his work; and partly to assign the more intrinsic reasons, by which he was determined to the undertaking. Hereupon I have now to communicate to the indulgent reader the following remarks.
The present work has arisen out of a course of lectures, that for several years I have delivered on the doctrinal differences between Catholics and Protestants. On this subject it has been the custom, for years, in all the Lutheran and Calvinistic universities of Germany, to deliver lectures to the students of theology; and highly approving of this custom, I resolved to transplant it to the Catholic soil, for the following reasons. Certainly those, who are called to take the lead in theological learning, may be justly expected to acquire a solid and comprehensive knowledge of the tenets of the religious communities, that for so long a time have stood opposed to each other in mutual rivalry, and still endeavour to maintain this their position. Justly are they required not to rest satisfied by any means with mere
general, uncertain, obscure, vague, and unconnected notions upon the great vital question, which has not only, for three hundred years, continually agitated the religious life of Europe, but has in part so deeply and mightily convulsed it.
If the very notion of scientific culture makes it the duty of the theologian to enter with the utmost possible precision and depth into the nature of the differences that divide religious parties; if it imperiously requires him to set himself in a condition to render account of, and assign the grounds for, the doctrinal peculiarities of the different communions; so, regard for his own personal dignity and satisfaction of mind, presses the matter on him; nay, on every well-instructed Christian, with a still more imperious claim. For what is less consistent with our own self-respect, than to neglect instituting the most careful and accurate enquiry into the grounds and foundation of our own religious belief; and convincing ourselves whether, and how far, we stand on a firm footing, or whether we have not placed ourselves on some treacherous covering, that conceals beneath it an enormous abyss? How is it possible to enjoy a true and solid peace of the soul, when in the midst of great ecclesiastical communities, that all pretend alike to the possession of the pure and unmutilated truth, we stand almost without reflection, and without possessing any adequate instruction? There is, indeed, in this respect, a quiet, such as they possess, in relation to a future life, who are utterly heedless whether there be such a state. This is a quiet that casts deep, indelible disgrace on any being endowed with reason. Every man, accordingly, owes it to himself, to acquire the clearest conception of the doctrinal peculiarities, the inward power and strength, or the inward weak
ness and untenableness of the religious community, whereof he acknowledges himself a member; a conception which entirely depends on a very accurate and precise knowledge of the opposite system of belief. There can even be no solid acquisition, nor confident use of the arguments for any communion, unless they be conceived in relation to the antagonist system. Nay, a solid acquaintance with any confession, must necessarily include its apology, if at least that confession make any pretensions to truth. For every educated Christian possesses such general notions of religion and Christianity-he possesses such general acquaintance with Holy Writ-that so soon as any proposition be presented to him in its true light, and in its general bearings, he can form a judgment as to its truth, and immediately discern its conformity or its repugnance to the fundamental doctrines of Christianity.
We are also at a loss to discover, how a practical theologian, especially in countries where conflicting communions prevail, can adequately discharge his functions, when he is unable to characterize the distinctive doctrines of those communions. For public homilies, indeed, on matters of religious controversy, the cycle of Catholic festivals, conformably to the origin and the nature of our Church, happily gives no occasion. All the festivals established by her have reference only to facts in the life of Jesus Christ, and to those truths, whereon all our faith and all our hopes depend; as well as to the commemoration of those highly meritorious servants of God, who hold a distinguished place in the history of the Church, such, in particular, as were instrumental in the general propation and consolidation of Christianity, and in its special