A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/preface

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The candid reception which the public have given to the three preceding editions of the View of Religions encourages me to publish a fourth edition, with an account of a number of denominations, which have been recently formed. A London edition of this work, by the late Rev. Dr. Andrew Fuller, has been found useful in this compilation. This excellent man observes in his Preface, that "The design of such a work is not to convey an idea of all religious principles being equally true, or safe to those who imbibe them but to exhibit the multiplied speculations of the human mind in as just and impartial a manner as possible. Such things exist or have existed in the world, whether we know them or not ; and the reading of them in a proper spirit may induce us to cleave more closely to the law and to the testimony $ forming our religious principles by their simple and obvious meaning ; and avoiding, as a mariner would avoid rocks and quick sands, every perversion of them in support of a preconceived system."

I respectfully acknowledge having derived much assistance from Mr. Thomas William's Dictionary of all Religions, including the substance of Miss H, Adams' View of Religions reduced to one alphabet. I have adopted his title, and inserted a number of his alterations and additions in this edition. The articles I have selected and published verbatim from Mr. Williams' work are distinguished by an asterisk(*) placed at the beginning of each, according to his method. But having, in the first edition of my View of Religions prescribed rules to myself, from which I have not knowingly deviated in the subsequent editions, I have avoided inserting any thing from Dr. Fuller or Mr. Williams, which appeared to me an infringement of these rules.

I have therefore omitted quoting the remarks which Mr. Williams makes upon the different denominations ; for whether correct or not, the inserting of them would be an infringement of the first rule in the Advertisement of my work.

With regard to many of the ancient sects, it is well known that little has been preserved, and therefore little can be expected. The accounts of these, as Mr. Williams justly observes, "have necessarily been taken from early ecclesiastical history, which was by no means written with the candour and impartiality of modern times." . As for modern sects, it has been the practice in this candid age to let them speak for themselves. This liberal principle has been adopted in all the editions of my work, where I had an opportunity to peruse their own authors. But as the account of the Jesuits is chiefly taken from Protestant ecclesiastical historians, it may be proper to add, that many individuals of this order undoubtedly deserve the following character given of them by a Roman Catholic author: "The severity of their manners, their temperance, their personal decency and disinterestedness did them honour as religious men and as citizens."[1] The great and good Bourdaloue, one of the most celebrated preachers in the reign of Lewis XIV, was a Jesuit.

The first part of the Appendix, "Containing a sketch of the present state of the world as to population, religious toleration, missions, etc." is the work of Mr. T. Williams, excepting a few additions relative to recent events, which have taken place since the publication of his Dictionary. This intelligence is chiefly contained in the notes to his statements.

The last part of the Appendix, which mentions the central points in which the various denominations of Christians are united, was published in the second and third editions of this work ; and is inserted with a few additions. After perusing accounts of such a variety of opinions on religion, it is pleasant to find even a few articles in which the great body of Christians are agreed.

In giving this work to the public, I have only to request a continuance of the same candid indulgence I have so long experienced. I shall be highly gratified, if seeing such a diversity of sentiment amongst Christians might induce those, who peruse this work, to search the scriptures as the only foundation for their faith and practice. And in all their researches after truth may they imitate the candour of the late pious and ingenious Dr. Watts. This excellent man observes, that "From my own experiment, I can easily guess what confounding intricacies of thought others pass through in their honest searches after truth. These conflicts did exceedingly enlarge my soul, and stretched my charity to a vast extent. I see, I feel, and am assured, that several men may be very sincere, and yet entertain notions of divinity, all widely different. I confess, now and then some opinions, or some unhappy occurrences are ready to narrow and confine my affections again, if I am not watchful over myself; but I pray God to preserve upon my heart a strong and lasting remembrance of those days, and those studies, whereby he laid within me the foundation of so broad a charity."[2]

Original footnotes[edit]

  1. Butler's Life of Feneloni
  2. Watts' Orthodoxy and Charity united