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observed in the preceding
1. The order and method that have been followed in the former part of this Work cannot be continued, The method without the greatest inconveniences in this, which : relates to the modern history of the church. From bister of chiens the commencement of the sixteenth century, the sed. face of religion was remarkably changed; the divisions, that had formerly perplexed the church, increased considerably; and the Christian societies, that relinquished the established forms of divine worship, and erected themselves into separate assemblies, upon principles different from those of the Roman hierarchy, multiplied from day to day. This circumstance renders it impossible to present in one connected series, or, as it were, in one continued tablature, the events, vicissitudes and revolutions, that happened in the church, divided its members, and enfeebled the dominion of its tyrants. From the period on which we now enter, the bond of union among Christians, that had been formed by a blind obedience to the Roman pontiffs, was every where either dissolved, or at least relaxed; and consequently this period of our history must be divided into a multitude of branches, into as many parts as there were famous sects that arose in this century.
11. It is, however, proper to observe here, that many of the events, which distinguish this century, had a The history of manifest relation to the church in general, and ; not to any Christian society in particular. And may be dowo as these events deserve to be mentioned separate- general beads. ly, on account of their remarkable tendency to throw a light upon the state of Christianity in general, as well as upon the history of each particular Christian society, we shall therefore divide this into two main and principal parts, of which the one shall contain the General, and the other the Particular History of the Christian Religion.
tbe church in tbis century may be divid.
111. To the General History belong all those events The general which relate to the state of Christianity, considerbistory of the ed in itself and in its utmost extent, to the Chrisextent. tian church viewed in the general, and abstracted from the miserable and multiplied divisions into which it was rent by the passions of men. Under this head we shall take notice of the advancement and progress of Christianity in general, without any regard to the particular sects that were thus instrumental in promoting its interests; nor shall we omit the consideration of certain doctrines, rights, and institutions, which appeared worthy of admission to all, or at least to the greatest part of the Christian sects, and which, consequently produced everywhere changes and improvements of more or less importance.
iv. In the Particular History of this century, we propose Particular passing in review, in their proper order, the vahistory. rious sects into which the Christian church was divided. This part of our work, for the sake of method and precision, we shall subdivide into two. In the first we shall comprehend what relates to the more ancient Christian sects both in the eastern and western hemispheres; while the second shall be confined to the history of those more modern societies, the date of whose origin is posterior to the Reformation in Germany. In the accounts that are here to be given of the circumstances, fate, and doctrines of each sect, the method laid down in the preface to this work shall be rigorously observed, as far as is possible; since it seems the most adapted to lead us to an accurate knowledge of the nature, progress, and tenets of every Christian society, that arose in these times of discord. v. The most momentous event that distinguished the
Jor the church after the fifteenth century, and we may Reformation, add, the most glorious of all the revolutions that happened in the state of Christianity since the time of its divine and immortal Founder, was that happy change introduced into religion, which is known by the title of the Blessed Reformation. This grand revolution, which arose in Saxony from small beginnings, not only spread itself with the utmost rapidity through all the European provinces, but also extended its efficacy more or less to the most distant parts of the globe, and may be justly considered as the main and principal spring which has moved the nations from that illustrious period, and occasioned the greatest
History of the
part both of those civil and religious revolutions that fill the annals of history down to our times. The face of Europe was, in a more especial manner, changed by this great event. The present age feels yet, in a scnsible manner, and ages to come will continue to perceive, the inestimable advantages it produced, and the inconveniences of which it has been the innocent occasion. The history therefore of such an important revolution, from whence so many others have derived their origin, and whose relations and connexions are so extensive and universal, demands undoubtedly a peculiar degree of attention, and has an unquestionable right to the principal place in such a work as this. We therefore now proceed to give a compendious view of the modern history of the Christian church, according to the plan and method already laid down.