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PRE FACE.

As the Scriptures, from whence all Christians investigate their principles of belief and rules of conduct, have been variously interpreted by different commentators and others, these diversities have given birth to a multiplicity of different sects and parties. And as the history and knowledge of religious sects may be said to constitute a branch of general ecclesiastical and literary history, a part of the original materials, of which the following work is composed, was collected, not so much with a view to publication, as to satisfy private curiosity, and from the desire of adding to the author's stock of professional knowledge.

He again submits it to public inspection, with much diffidence; foreseeing, that, notwithstanding all his labour and endeavours to come at the real knowledge of the history and present state of the various controversies and parties into which the religious world is unhappily divided—and he may add, in correcting and improving his work, with a view to a new edition * he will be found to have mistated or misunderstood the principles or practices of some religionists, and will be himself misunderstood in what he has said respecting others.

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* The present is, in fact, the third edition ; an American edition of his work, in 3 vols. having been lately published in Philadelphia.

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By the operation and influence of private vanity, or of that wisdom which is too confident in its own opinions and too contemptuous of those of others, opinions rise into doctrines, doctrines swell into distinctions, and distinctions increase, and break off into sects, extending and multiplying into endless circles. And, as Dr. Hey has well observed, “ some sects bave no precise ideas, and therefore no creeds, cate, chisms, confessions of faith, nor any ecclesiastical history ; hence their doctrines will be unsteady; sects will ramify and mix imperceptibly, keeping the same names, in such a manner as to elude all regular and systematical investigation *."

Taking, therefore, into account the comprehensive object of this work, the necessity, of close investigation and patient discrimination, the great pumber of works to be consulted, the correspondence and other requisites for doing justice to the subject, I may be allowed to say of my office, without magnifying it, that it is one of no small labour and difficulty, and of my performance, such as it is,

“Parva quidem, sed non parvo congesta labore." And the more heartily the reader agrees with me in this, he will of course be the 'more disposed to exercise candour, and make all due allowance for my failures in the discharge of it.

But though few may be of opinion that I was prompted by prudence to undertake it; most readers, I trust, will admit that, in discharging it, I have been guided by candour and moderation.

Trutb should always hold, and Charity ever direct,

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*“ Norrisian Lectures," vol. iii. p. 38.

the pencil which delineates religious objects or opinions; and I humbly trust it will be found that truth and charity have regulated mine. I have endeavoured to divest myself of the odium theologicum ; I have endeavoured to become an insulated man, that I might “ follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace with all them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

No one, therefore, it is hoped, who shall take the trouble of looking into these volumes, will here find bis principles attacked or decried. As far, at least, as I may have misrepresented those of any sect or party wbatever, so far have I failed in my object, which was to give a fair and candid statement of existing sentiments, and differences of opinion, on the important subject of religion.

Departing from the principle of Fleury, that "every one ought to be believed concerning his own doctrine, and the history of his own sect," I have paid less deference than formerly to their own statements respecting themselves, and have been repeatedly present, in most cases, in their religious assemblies, to witness their forms of worship and hear the doctrines they taught. At the same time, I have not only had recourse to various works wherein the principles and practices of the several denominations, sects, and parties, are detailed by themselves and others, and have carefully culled from them whatever seemed applicable to my purpose ; but I have also invited to my assistance living authors, or other learned and distinguished characters of most denominations. And, I am happy to say,

that there are few instances in which, on my stata ing the object and plan of the work, the invitation has not been very readily and cheerfully accepted.

It would give me pleasure, were I at liberty to mention the names of all those who have contributed towards the following account of their respective denominations, both as it would give authenticity and respectability to the work, and as such notice is the very least that I owe them. But, while I must now be satisfied with acknowledging my obligations to them all in general, I feel it my duty to mention here, and I hope I shall be excused for mentioning in particular two very able and willing contributors to the first edition, who have kindly continued their assistance for the improvement of this,--the Rev. Dr. C. E. A. Schwabe, and Joshua Van Oven, Esq. ;—the former a learned, respectable, and amiable pastor of the Lutheran Church, and chaplain to the Prussian Legation ; and the latter, a learned, distinguished, and worthy member of the Society of German Jews, -" an Israelite indeed, "-one of many qui tales sunt, utinam essent nostri. 1. I feel likewise bound, in gratitude and duty, to acknowledge my obligations to two respected, learned, and venerable prelates of the Lutheran Church, Dr. Münter, bishop of Zealand, and Dr. Wingard, bishop of Gottenburgh,--to whose kind condescension the reader is chiefly indebted for the brief account here given of their respective churches. Nor can I here omit likewise thankfully to acknowledge the able and ready assistance I have received from the Rev. Dr. Cook, of Lawrencekirk, a Presbyterian divine, highly gifted both in head and heart, and whose great literary

and professional acquirements are enhanced and adorned, by much genuine liberality of sentiment and Christian candour.

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