THE design of the following Lectures is to present a sketch of the theological literature of the Church of England from the Reformation to the beginning of the present century. Some general knowledge of the civil and ecclesiastical history of England during the period is assumed; and the lectures are mainly concerned with tracing the growth and changes in religious opinion, indicating the character of the principal works of the more eminent theologians, and in some degree estimating their value.
It has been thought advisable not to extend this sketch beyond the close of the eighteenth century. The writer feels that we are as yet too near the controversies which originated out of the Oxford Movement to be able to judge them dispassionately.
Homiletical literature, unless distinctly contributing to theological science, and works of practical divinity, together with devotional writings, are not considered; hence many eminent names, among which may be mentioned Donne, South, Ken, Atterbury, and Thomas Wilson, are passed over in silence. But even within the limits prescribed to ourselves, there are omissions which would be culpable in any extended history.
One could have wished to enlarge the scope of these lectures so as to embrace the theologians of the Irish and Scottish Churches. The bearings of ethical and metaphysical speculation upon theology, as exhibited in the writings of Archbishop King, Bishop Berkeley, and Bishop Peter Brown, deserve careful study. And it is with particular regret that I omit any notice of the great John Forbes, of Corse; Bishop William Forbes, first Bishop of Edinburgh, and author of the Considerationes Modestae; and Archbishop Leighton. The consideration of Ussher's writings to be found in the following pages makes no infringement of the rule laid down; for, not to speak of the important part he played in English ecclesiastical affairs, England has the honour of being able to claim him as Bishop of Carlisle.
It has only to be added that several passages which, for the sake of brevity, were omitted in the delivery of the Lectures, are here inserted in their proper places.