An Exposition of the Creed, 1676


by John Pearson, Lord Bishop of Chester

One of the most influential works on the Apostles’ Creed in the Anglican Church, by ‘the greatest divine of the age’.


An Exposition of the Creed. By John Lord Bishop of Chester. The Fourth Edition, Revised and now more Enlarged. London: Printed by J.M. for John Williams at the Crown in Cross-Keys-Court in Little-Britain. 1676. Wing P998, vi + 398 pages. Engraved frontispiece portrait of Pearson, frontispiece and title page with doubled-ruled borders in red, not ink smudged, title page vignette of Crown of Charles II. Foolscap folio, original calf on front board blind-ruled with decorative corner ornaments, laid on early calf, early calf spine with five raised bands, red and gilt morocco title label, gilt date 1676 at base of spine, all page edges with faded red sprinkling.

Condition: very good, missing A1, otherwise complete, pages unmarked, binding tight. Very clean and bright internally, except for a faint water stain at top of one page. A few surface scars at upper front board, corners bumped.

The Apostles’ Creed, first mentioned in a letter from a Milan Synod in 390 AD, is a statement of Christian belief widely used in churches of the Western tradition. It was based on Christian theological understanding of the Canonical Gospels, NT letters and to some extent the Old Testament. An Exposition of the Creed by John Pearson was first published in 1659, appearing in many editions over the next quarter century; its notes are a model of patristic learning. The book is described in the English Dictionary of National Biography as ‘within its limits, the most perfect and complete production of English dogmatic theology’. The Exposition was developed from Pearson’s sermons at St Clements, Cheapside, London, and was dedicated to his parishioners.

John Pearson (1613-1686), English theologian and scholar, attended Eton College and Queens College Cambridge, and became a Fellow of King’s College Cambridge in 1634. He took orders in 1639 and served variously at Salisbury, Suffolk and as chaplain in 1645 to the forces of Lord George Goring, a Royalist General in the Civil War. Pearson disputed with prominent Roman Catholics on schism and with Puritans, and became interested in Bishop Walton’s Polyglot Bible. His major work, the celebrated Exposition of the Creed was first published in 1659. After the Restoration, Pearson was made Rector of St Christopher-le-Stocks, created Doctor of Divinity at Cambridge, appointed a royal chaplain, Prebendary of Ely, Archdeacon of Surrey, Master of Jesus College Cambridge, and Lady Margaret’s Professor of Divinity. In 1662 Pearson was appointed as a commissioner for the review of liturgy and in 1662 became Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. He was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1667 and appointed Bishop of Chester in 1672. Pearson was buried in Chester Cathedral.

The signatures of two earlier owners of this volume appear on recto of the frontispiece (James Townsend Lawes, signed in ink and dated 1800 followed by an ink flourish) and on the inside front cover (Francis Haines). James Townsend Lawes (1779-1828) was the son of William Lawes, gentleman, of Warminster, Wiltshire, and grandson of an eminent schoolmaster in Sutton Veny, near Warminister, said to be ‘the best penman of his age’. James Townsend Lawes matriculated in 1797 and entered St Alban Hall, Oxford, graduating B.A. in 1803 and M.A. in 1813. He became under-master at Warminster School, Master of Marlborough Grammar School (1808), Curate of Easton, Wiltshire, and in 1821 Vicar of Halberton, Devon, where he served until his death on 13 October 1828. The second signature appears as “Francis Haines, Oct. 1918”, possibly the Rev Francis Haines, Church of England Rector (1902-1916) of the 12th century St Nicholas’ Church, Itchenor, West Sussex, near Chichester.