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The Design and Use of this Treatise : with the Method
and Partition of it. My
design is, to inquire into the age, author, and value of that celebrated Confession, which goes under the name of the Athanasian Creed. The general approbation it hath long met with in the Christian churches, and the particular regard which hath been, early and late, paid to it in our own, (while it makes a part of our Liturgy, and stands recommended to us in our Articles,) will, I doubt not, be considerations sufficient to justify an undertaking of this kind : provided only, that the performance be answerable, and that it fall not short of its principal aim, or of the just expectations of the ingenuous and candid readers. No one will expect more of me than my present materials, such as I could procure, will furnish me with; nor any greater certainty in an essay of this nature, than things of this kind will admit of. If a reasonable diligence has been used in collecting, and due pains in digesting, and a religious-care in building thereupon, (more
than which I pretend not to,) it may, I hope, be sufficient with all equitable judges.
Many learned and valuable men have been before employed in the same design: but their treatises are mostly in Latin, and some of them very scarce, and hard to come
I know not that any one hitherto has attempted a just treatise upon the subject in our own language, however useful it might be to the English readers; and the more so at this time, when the controversy about the Trinity is now spread abroad among all ranks and degrees of men with us, and the Athanasian Creed become the subject of common and ordinary conversation. For these reasons, I presumed, an English treatise might be most proper and seasonable: though otherwise, to avoid the unseemly mixture of English and Latin, (which will here be necessary,) and because of some parts which none but the learned can tolerably judge of; it might be thought more proper rather to have written a Latin treatise, and for the use only of scholars. However, there will be nothing very material but what an English reader may competently understand: and I shall endeavour to lay before him all that has been hitherto usefully observed upon the subject, that he may want nothing which may be conceived of any moment for the enabling him to form a true judgment. What I borrow from others shall be fairly acknowledged as I go along, and referred to its proper author or authors; it being as much my design to give an historical account of what others have done, as it is to supply what they have left undone, so far as my present materials, leisure, and opportunities may enable me to do it. Now to present the reader with a sketch of my design, and to show him how one part is to hang upon another, my method will be as follows.
I. First, in order to give the clearer idea of what hath been already done, and of what may be still wanting, I begin with recounting the several conjectures or discoveries of the learned moderns.
II. Next, to enter upon the matter itself, and the evidence proper to it, I proceed to lay down the direct testimonies of the uncients concerning the age, author, and value of this Creed.
III. To these I subjoin an account of the ancient comments upon the same Creed, being but another kind of ancient testimonies.
IV. After these follows a brief recital of the most ancient, or otherwise most considerable, manuscripts of this Creed, which I have either seen myself or have had notice of from others.
V. After the manuscripts of the Creed itself, I inquire also into the ancient versions of it, printed or manuscript; which will be also very serviceable to our main design.
VI. I come in the next place to treat of the ancient reception of this Creed in the Christian churches; as being a point of great moment, and which may be more certainly determined than the time of its composition, and may give great light into it.
VII. These preliminaries-settled, to introduce to what follows, I then fall directly to the darkest part of all; namely, to the inquiry after the age and author of the Creed: which I dispatch in two distinct chapters.
VIII. Next, 1 lay before the learned reader the Creed itself in its original language, with the most considerable various lections; together with select passages from ancient writers, either parallel to those of the Creed, or explanatory of it. And, lest the English reader should appear to be neglected, I subjoin the Creed in English with a running English commentary, serving much the same purpose with what is intended by the Latin quotations going before.
IX. I conclude all with a brief vindication of our own Church in receiving, and still retaining this excellent formulary of the Christian faith; answering the most material objections which have been made against us, on that account; and showing the expediency, and even necessity of retaining this form, or something equivalent, for the preservation of the Christian faith against heresies. The Reader, I hope, will excuse it, if in compliance with custom, and to save myself the trouble of circumlocution, I commonly speak of it under the name of the Athanasian Creed; not designing thereby to intimate, either that it is a Creed strictly and properly so called, or that it is of Athanasius's composing: both which points will be discussed in the sequel.