The present work has been prepared by request of the Department of Religious Education as a part of The Beacon Course. No one else can regret so much as the author that the preparation of it has been so long protracted; but the collection and working over a vast amount of material in nine different languages, which was essential to a satisfactory product, has involved great difficulties, and the whole has had to be done subject to the prior demands of an exacting office.
The work is primarily designed for the use of young people presumed to be sixteen or seventeen years of age, and this fact has of course dictated scope, selection of materials, and method of treatment. It has been necessary to study the utmost compression consistent with a just treatment of the subject, and even now the work is longer by half than would have been desirable. Much more space should be given to the doctrinal element which has bulked so large in the actual movement, but this would not have been to the purpose intended. It would also have been desirable to quote generously from authorities used, to give full references to sources, and to state convincing reasons for positions taken; but these things would have served another public than the one for which the work was designed. Despite these limitations, however, the author would say that he has written as far as possible directly from the sources, and has used every endeavor to make his work as careful and accurate as if its display of scholarship were greater.
In the nearly forty years since the publication of Professor Allens Historical Sketch (the only work hitherto that could make any real claim to being a history of Unitarianism), many new sources have been brought to light, and much has been published bearing especially on the European phases of the subject. The present work is therefore able to give for the first time in English much interesting and important material; and in spite of its being somewhat elementary in scope and popular in form, the author ventures to hope that it may be found quite the most adequate treatment of the subject as yet produced. If permitted, however, to continue his studies in this field, he hopes some years hence to present a work much more complete, and duly fortified with all the authorities that a history should give.
For assistance given him the author is indebted to more kind friends than can be named here; but he wishes especially to acknowledge his obligation to the following persons who have read one or other of the several divisions in manuscript, and have made many helpful suggestions: the Rev. William Laurence Sullivan of New York; the Rev. Alexander Gordon of Belfast, Ireland; Professor George Rapall Noyes of the University of California; Professor Stanislaw Kot of the University of Krakow, Poland; Professor George Boros of the Unitarian College, Kolozsvar, Transylvania; Professors J. Estlin Carpenter and James Edwin Odgers of Manchester College, Oxford; and the late Rev. William Channing Gannett of Rochester, N. Y.
It is hoped that the Index will facilitate the use of the work, and especially the pronunciation of the large number of foreign names occurring in the text.