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HANDBOOK

OF THE

CHRISTIAN RELIGION

FOR THE USE OF

Advanced Students and the Educated Laity

BY

Rev. W. WILMERS, S.J.

From the German

EDITED BY

Rev. JAMES CONWAY, S.J.

Canisius College, Buffalo, N. Y.

THIRD EDITION, ENLARGED BY A SUPPLEMENT

NEW YORK, CINCINNATI, CHICAGO
BENZIGER BROTHERS
PRINTERS TO THE

PUBLISHERS OF

1
JOLY APOSTOLIC SEB BENZIGER'S MAGAZINE

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PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.

În presenting this work to the English-speaking public it is needless to say anything by way of apology or commendation. For, on the one hand, no college man-in fact, no one who is concerned for the thorough religious education of the Catholic laity-will deny the desirableness of such a text-book in the vernacular. On the other hand, the book speaks for itself. It has been before the public for more than twenty years, and is universally acknowledged to be one of the very best of the many excellent text-books of religion in which the German Catholic literature particularly abounds; while in completeness, thoroughness of treatment, and closeness of reasoning it is certainly unsurpassed. The author has been for well-nigh half a century widely known as cne of the ablest, most learned and popular writers and professors of his order.

Whatever fault may be found with the book, then, will naturally and deservedly fall upon the editor. Therefore it is well that the reader should know from the outset what share the editor had in the work in its present shape. In the first place, the translation, which had been executed by an accomplished English lady, who withholds her name from the public, has been thoroughly revised, compared with the latest improved German edition just from the press, and freely changed wherever change was deemed necessary or advisable. For considerable portions of the translation, in fact, the editor himself is entirely responsible. The propositions which in the latest edition were substituted for general headings have been in many instances extended so as to give a complete summary of the whole subject-matter treated under each heading. Finally, it was deemed necessary considerably to reduce the bulk of the volume, the better to adapt it to the demands of American and English colleges. This was the most delicate and difficult task of all, owing to the extraordinary conciseness and compactness of the text. Some important additions, however, have been made from the new German edition, chiefly touching controversies of the present day (cf. 115, 259). Those who are acquainted with the original will probably regret every omission, notwithstanding the present comprehensiveness of the work.

The book is dedicated to advanced students and to the educated laity. By “advanced students” are to be understood college students proper, and those of corresponding grades in academies for young ladies. By “the educated laity” are meant those readers who with a good knowledge of the Catechism combine such a degree of intellectual maturity as to enable them to appreciate a theological or controversial argument. The work is manifestly intended for study and reference, not for cursory reading.

At first glance the very pertinent question will suggest itself: Can our college students master the amount of matter contained in this volume? An experience of some years inclines the editor to think that the ordinary college boy can, in three years (two lectures a week), without extraordinary effort, profitably traverse the entire ground marked out in this handbook. To meet the difficulty, however, possibly arising from the large amount of matter treated, less important questions, expositions, and proofs will be found in small print, and may be passed over or treated briefly without interrupting the course of the argument. Should eren the large type still appear too much, the teacher can use his discretion in the judicious choice of the various arguments for the different theses. The student who has but mastered the wording of each proposition, who is able to explain all its terms and give at least one proof for each simple thesis, or for each part, if the thesis is a complex one, will have a fair knowledge of his religion; and he would be a poor student indeed who could not achieve so much, Should he fail to master all the subjects

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treated in the book during his college course, it will, in any case, be useful for him to know where to find them in order to refer to them in future years. The work has been written not merely for school use, but to be the constant companion of the educated layman, offering him the means wherewith he may be ready at all times to give an account of the faith that is in him.

A word on the use of the book in the schools. It is intended for a three years' course. Now, although the dogmatic part is logically based on the apologetic; and the moral, again, on the dogmatic, yet the editor is of opinion that it is preferable to begin with the moral, then to proceed to the dogma, and to close with the apology. Thus there will be a gradation from what is easier and more familiar to what is more difficult and requires a higher degree of mental development in the student. The whole may be profitably reviewed in the fourth collegiate year, with special emphasis on the more important and difficult subjects.

Thus used, it is hoped that this manual will continue to fulfil its mission also in the English-speaking world, as it has so far effectually done among the author's own countrymen, for the glory of God and the up-building of His Church.

CANISIUS COLLEGE, BUFFALO, N. Y., On the Feast of St. Ignatius, July 31, 1891.

PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.

In introducing the second edition of this Handbook to the public the editor has only to say that the favor with which it has been received far surpasses his most sanguine hopes. The unanimous verdict of the press, as far as it has come to his notice, is that the book is just the thing needed for the purpose.

Those who have tried it in th school-room report no less favorably of its fitness. But the best evidence of its true value is, perhaps, that, although published after the reopening of our colleges and academies last autumn, a second edi

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