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John Pearson was born at Snoring in 1613. After his education at Eton and Cambridge, he entered into holy orders in 1639; and was the same year collated to the prebend of Netherhaven, in the church of Sarum. In 1640, he was appointed chaplain to the lord-keeper Finch, and by him presented to the living of Torrington in Suffolk. In 1650 he was made minister of St. Clement's Eastcheap, in London. Some time afterwards he published in London an Exposition of the Creed, in folio, dedicated to his parishioners of St. Clement's Eastcheap, to whom the substance of this excellent work had been preached several years before, and by whom he had been desired to make it public. The same year he likewise published “ The Golden Remains of the ever memorable Mr John Hales, of Eton.” Soon after the restoration, he was presented by Juxon, then bishop of London, to the rectory of St. Christopher's, in that city; created doctor of divinity at Cambridge, in pursuance of the king's letters mandatory; installed prebendary of Ely, archdeacon of Surrey; and made master of Jesus college in Cambridge ;
all before the end of the year 1668. March 25, 1661, he was appointed Margaret professor of divinity in that university; and, the first day of the ensuing year, was nominated one of the commissioners for the review of the liturgy in the conference at the Savoy. April 14, 1662, he was admitted master of Trinity college in Cambridge; and, in August, resigned his rectory of St. Christopher's and prebend of Sarum. In 1667 he was admitted a fellow of the Royal Society. In 1672 he published at Cambridge, “Vindiciæ Epistolarum Ignatii,” in answer to Mons. Daillé; to which is subjoined, “Isaaci Vossii Epistola duæ adversus Davidem Blondellum." Upon the death of the celebrated Wilkins, Pearson was appointed his successor in the see of Chester, to which he was consecrated February 9th, 1672. In 1682 his “ Annales Cyprianici, sive tredecim annorum, quibus Cyprianus inter Christianos versatus est, historia chronologica," was published at Oxford, with Fell's edition of that father's works. Pearson was disabled from all public service by ill health, a considerable time before his death, which happened at Chester, July 16, 1686. The present Edition of his great work is printed from the Oxford Edition of 1820, with the omission of the Notes.
I have in this book undertaken an Exposition of the Creed, and think it necessary in this Preface to give a brief account of the work, lest any should either expect to find that here which was never intended, or conceive that which they meet with, such as they expected not.
The Creed, without controversy, is a brief comprehension of the objects of our Christian faith, and is generally taken to contain all things necessary to be believed. Now whether all things necessary be contained there, concerneth not an Expositor to dispute, who is obliged to take notice of what is in it, but not to inquire into what is not : whether all truths comprehended in the same be of equal and absolute necessity, we are no way forced to declare; it being sufficient, as to the design of an Exposition, to interpret the words, and so deliver the sense, to demonstrate the truth of the sense delivered, and to manifest the proper necessity of each truth, how far, and in what degree, and to what purposes, it is necessary.
This therefore is the method which I proposed to myself, and have prosecuted in every article ;-first, to settle the words of each article according to their antiquity and generality of reception in the Creed ;-secondly, to explicate and unfold the terms, and to endeavour a right notion and conception of them as they are to be understood in the same;—thirdly, to show what are those truths which are naturally contained in those terms so explicated, and to make it appear that they are truths indeed, by such arguments and reasons as are respectively proper to evidence the verity of them ;-fourthly, to declare what is the necessity of believing those truths, what efficacy and influence they have in the soul, and upon the life of a believer ;-lastly, by a re-collection of all, briefly to deliver the sum of every particular truth, so that every one, when he pronounceth the Creed, may know what he ought to intend, and what he is understood to profess, when he so pronounceth it.
In the prosecution of the whole, according to this method, I have considered, that a work of so general a concernment must be exposed to two kinds of readers, which though they may agree in judgment, yet must differ much in their capacities. Some there are who understand the original languages of the holy scripture, the discourses and tractates of the ancient fathers, the determinations of the councils, and history of the church of God, the constant profession of settled truths, the rise and increase of schisms and heresies. Others there are unacquainted with such conceptions, and incapable of such instructions; who understand the scriptures as they are translated; who are