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THE FIRST PART
CONTAINING SIXTEEN DISCOURSES ON THE APOSTLES' CREED; DESIGNED
THE SECOND PART
CONTAINING A DISSERTATION ON THE TESTIMONY OF THE EARLY COUNCILS,
BY JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, D. D.
YE SHOULD CONTEND EARNESTLY FOR THE FAITH WHICH WAS ONCE DELIVERED
EP. JUD. 3.
ENTERED, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1834, by CHAUNCEY GOODRICH, in the Clerk's office of the District Court, for the District of Vermont.
7/9/46 Old Authors Farm
THE work here presented to the Church, was undertaken, many years ago, in order to supply to the congregation of the author's charge, a course of plain and systematic instruction in the articles of their belief. It was his aim to take the admirable work of Bishop Pearson as his general guide, desiring to retain, in substance, all that promised to be useful, and to present the various topics of his subject in a shape that might be likely, under the Divine favor, to enlighten the intellect and affect the heart. And he has had the happiness to find, after many repetitions of these discourses, that he has not been altogether unsuccessful. The result has encouraged him to hope, that in complying with the frequent requests of his friends to commit them to the press, he is contributing to the treasury of Christian literature a volume of useful, although by no means of high pretension.
But, in justice to his undertaking, he could neither omit an appeal to the testimony of the Primitive Church, nor yet did it seem to accord with his main purpose, to pile together a mass of notes in the dead languages, which many of his readers could not have perused with improvement or satisfaction. Hence he has prepared the Dissertation which forms the second part of the book, with special regard to the intelligent English reader, by giving translations throughout; while the originals are carefully inserted at the bottom of the page, in order that the scholar, who prefers it, may make his translations for himself.
In this part of his labor, it was his first intention to avail himself of the learning of those who had preceded him, especially Bishops Pearson and Bull, and the Rev. G. S. Faber, whose late work on the Apostolicity of the doctrine of the. Trinity,' is worthy of all praise. But having at intervals, during some years, occupied-himself with the consecutive perusal of the Fathers, and having prepared, in the progress of this deeply interesting study, a larger body of original notes than the limits of his book would allow him to use, he decided upon selecting from these, in preference to the other, not because they were better, but because they were his own. Wherever he has deviated from this course, the reader will be apprised of it in the Dissertation; for the author has long since considered it a clear principle of literary honesty, that the notes of a writer are as much his property as any other part of his work, and should never be borrowed without a distinct and fair acknowledgment.
The chief topic of the Dissertation, is the fundamental doctrine of the Trinity, in which it has been the author's leading purpose to show the harmonious consent of the Primitive Christian writers, and of all the Creeds and Councils of the Church, up to the commencement of the fifth century, according to the maxim approved by Dr. Priestly himself, and adopted as the basis of Mr. Faber's argument, that the Primitive Fathers must have derived the true interpretation of Scripture from the Apostles, and could not have been mistaken in questions so important as the Deity of Christ, his incarnation, and the other points inseparably connected with the Trinitarian system.
For the freedom-and, as some may think, the severity-with which the author has expressed his opinions of certain anti-trinitarian expositors of Scripture, he does not feel that any other apology is required than the duty of a faithful and uncompromising adherence to the interests of Truth. It can hardly be necessary to say, that the unhesitating reprobation of what we hold to be unchristian sentiment, is never intended
to operate against the personal courtesies or charities of social life. We must judge doctrines, in order to separate what we believe to be the truth of God, from the errors of heresy. But far be it from us to condemn men, for this is the sole prerogative of the Redeemer. While, therefore, the author endeavors to maintain the kindliest feelings of benevolence towards all his fellows, whatever may be the errors of their religious system, he does not dare to shrink from the plainest disapprobation of any sentiment, which he honestly believes subversive of the authority of Scripture. If a heathen could say that the friendship of Socrates and Plato should yield to the friendship of Truth, what excuse can the Christian teacher offer, for suffering his fears of human censure to weaken his defence of the Gospel?
With regard to his strictures upon some opinions of a justly celebrated orthodox writer, the author considers himself, fully sustained by the vast body of older expositors, to whose interpretations of the Bible a far higher reverence is due, in his estimation, than to any modern' oppositions of science,' whatever. And the principle on which the author rests this partiality for Primitive interpretation, seems of incalculable importance to the security of Divine truth. For however it may gratify a particular mind to form, in every case, its own independent conclusions, the mass of mankind never can be expected to yield much deference to the solitary judgment of any one individual; and, therefore, when the defender of orthodoxy proclaims himself hostile to the early Fathers, he exposes his views to general suspicion, and deprives his doctrines of an argument, derived from the consent of the Primitive Church of God, which every sound mind is able to appreciate, and the want of which, no individual learning or talent can supply.
Nor is this the worst feature of the error in question. For
very fact that there was such an admirable unity in all the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel, during the purer ages of Christian antiquity, is in itself an important evidence in favor of the Divine origin of the whole system, and of the ample suf