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A 'symbolical library' that contains the creeds and confessions of all Christian denominations fills a vacuum in theological and historical literature. It is surprising that it has not been supplied long ago. Sectarian exclusiveness or doctrinal indifferentism may have prevented it. Other symbolical collections are confined to particular denominations and periods. In this work the reader will find the authentic material for the study of Comparative Theology Symbolics, Polemics, and Irenics. In a country like ours, where people of all creeds meet in daily contact, this study ought to command more attention than it has hitherto received.
The First Volume has expanded into a doctrinal history of the Church, so far as it is embodied in public standards of faith. The most important and fully developed symbolical systems the Vatican Romanism, the Lutheranism of the Formula of Concord, and the Calvinism of the Westminster standards have been subjected to a critical analysis. The author has endeavored to combine the ἀληθεύειν ἐν ἀγάπῃ and the ἀγαπᾷν ἐν ἀληθείᾳ, and to be mindful of the golden motto, In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas. Honest and earnest controversy, conducted in a Christian and catholic spirit, promotes true and lasting union. Polemics looks to Irenics—the aim of war is peace.
The Second Volume contains the Scripture Confessions, the ante-Nicene Rules of Faith, the cumenical, the Greek, and the Latin Creeds, from the Confession of Peter down to the Vatican Decrees. It includes also the best Russian Catechism and the recent Old Catholic Union Propositions of the Bonn Conferences.
The Third Volume is devoted to the Lutheran, Anglican, Calvinistic, and the later Protestant Confessions of Faith. The documents of the Third Part (pp. 707–876) have never been collected before.
The creeds and confessions are given in the original languages from the best editions, and are accompanied by translations for the convenience of the English reader.11 I have used, e.g., the fac-simile of the oldest MS. of the Athanasian Creed from the 'Utrecht Psalter:' the ed. princeps of the Lutheran Concordia (formerly in the possession of Dr. Meyer, the well-known commentator); the Corpus et Syntagma Confessionum, ed. 1654; a copy of the Harmonia Confessionum, once owned by Prince Casimir of the Palatinate, who suggested it; the oldest editions of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms, of the Savoy Declaration, etc.
While these volumes were passing through the press several learned treatises on the ancient creeds by Lumby, Swainson, Hort, Caspari, and others have appeared, though not too late to be noticed in the final revision. The literature has been brought down to the close of 1876. I trust that nothing of importance has escaped my attention.
I take pleasure in acknowledging my obligation to several distinguished divines, in America and England, for valuable information concerning the denominations to which they belong, and for several contributions, which appear under the writers' names.22 The Rev. Drs. Jos. Angus, W. W. Andrews, Chas. A. Briggs, J. R. Brown, E. W. Gilman, G. Haven, A. A. Hodge, Alex. F. Mitchell, E. D. Morris, Chas. P. Krauth, J. R. Lumby, G. D. Matthews, H. Osgood, E. von Schweinitz, H. B. Smith, John Stoughton, E. A. Washburn, W. R. Williams. See Vol. I. pp. 609, 811, 839, 911; Vol. III. pp. 3, 738, 777, 799. In a history of conflicting creeds it is wise to consult representative men as well as books, in order to secure strict accuracy and impartiality, which are the cardinal virtues of a historian.
May this repository of creeds and confessions promote a better understanding among the Churches of Christ. The divisions of Christendom bring to light the various aspects and phases of revealed truth, and will be overruled at last for a deeper and richer harmony, of which Christ is the key-note. In him and by him all problems of theology and history will be solved. The nearer believers of different creeds approach the Christological centre, the better they will understand and love each other.
Bible House, New York,
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