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The Constitutions of the Roman-catholic and Protestant Churches, differ in nothing more, than in the following important points : The Catholic Church acknowledges the authority of the scriptures, and, in addition to them, a body of traditionary law: she receives both under the authority, and with the interpretation of the Church ; and she believes that the authority of the Church in receiving and interpreting them, is infallible. The Protestant Churches acknowledge no law but the scriptures, 'no interpreter of the scriptures, but the understanding and conscience of the individual who
That the Roman-catholic Church should propound a formulary of her faith, enlarge it, from time to time, as further interpretation is wanted, and enforce acquiescence in it by spiritual censures, is consistent with her principles. Whether such a pretension can be avowed without inconsistency by any Protestant Church, has been a subject of much discussion. In point of fact, however, no Protestant Church is without her formulary, or abstains from enforcing it by spiritual censures. To enforce their formularies by civil penalties, is inconsistent with the principles of every Christian Church. All churches however have so enforced, and blamed the others for so enforcing them.
Such formularies, from the circumstance of their collecting into one instrument, several articles of religious belief, are generally known on the continent by the appellation of Symbolic Books. To give some account of the principal of these formularies, is the object of these pages.
The following order is preserved in them : They begin with the Symbolic Books of the Romancatholic Church, as the church, from which all other churches have separated. They then proceed to the Symbolic Books of the Greek Church, as the church nearest to her in antiquity. After this, they proceed to the Symbolic Books of the Protestant Churches, comprehending, under that word, all the churches which, at the period of the Reformation, or subsequently to it, have separated from the Roman-catholic Church. They are here considered under the known division of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches; the former division embraces the churches which profess the creed expressed in the confession of Augsburgh; the latter embraces the churches which adhere to the doctrines of Calvin. Sometimes, and particularly in England, the term “ Reformed,” is generally used as standing in opposition to the Romancatholic Church : but it is more accurately used, for the common denomination of the Calvinistic
churches on the Continent. In this sense, it was
first assumed by the French Calvinistic reformers, and passed from them to the members of the other churches of the same or a similar creed. From their differing from the Lutheran churches on the doctrine of the real presence in the sacrament of the Eucharist, they acquired the appellation of Sacramentarians; and, from some circumstance, which has not been yet ascertained, they received in France the name of Hugonots. The work then proceeds to the Symbolic Books of the Waldenses and Bohemians. The separation of the members of these sects from the Church of Rome may be traced to the ninth century; but they do not fall within the subject of these pages till their fraternization with Protestant churches. The account of the churches on the continent closes with the “ Articuli Visitatorii” of Saxony, as presenting, under a few heads, what the framers of them considered to constitute the chief doctrinal points in difference between the Lutheran and the Reformed