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THE EDITOR'S PREFACE.
In every civilized country, the ministers of religion, from the nature of their education, may be expected to be conversant in literature: but in no country do they appear to be so fond of imparting their thoughts to the world, by the medium of the press, as in Germany. The greater part of their productions, indeed, pass silently into the gulf of oblivion, while some remain, and excite continued attention. To the latter class may be assigned the History of the Christian Church, written by Dr. John Laurence von Mosheim.
Academical honours and ecclesiastical dignities have frequently been obtained by persons who were born in the lowest sphere of life; and it may therefore be supposed that Mosheim might have obtained such honours and rewards by his abilities and erudition, even if he had been the son of an ordinary tradesman, of a low mechanic, or a rude peasant: but that was not his fate; for he was born (in the year 1695) of a family that boasted of high rank and noble blood. Lubeck was the place of his birth; but, in the short accounts of him which have fallen under our notice, the scene of his academical education is not mentioned. He gave early indications of a promising capacity, and of a strong desire of mental and literary improvement; and, when his parents proposed to him the choice of a profession, the church suggested itself to him as a proper department for the exercise of that real which disposed him to be useful to society.
Being ordained a minister of the Lutheran church, he soon distinguished himself as a preacher. His eloquence was impressive: he could wield with force the weapons of argumentation; and his language was neat, perspicuous, and accurate. He did not bewilder his auditors in the refinements of doctrine, or the profundities of speculation, but generally contented himself with stating the chief doctrinal points of Christianity, while he enforced the useful precepts of practical religion, recommending pious feelings, benevolent affections, an orderly demeanour, correct morals, and virtuous habits.
His reputation as a preacher, however high, was local and confined: but the fame of his literary ability diffused itself among all the nations of Christendom. The Danish court invited him to Copenhagen, and rewarded his merit by the grant of a professorship in the university of that capital. The duke of Brunswick-Wolffenbuttel afterwards patronised him; and, having solicited his return to Germany, not only procured for him the theological chair at Helmstadt, but appointed him counsellor to the court in the affairs of the church, and invested him with authority over all the seminaries of learning in the duchy. Even king George the Second, who, though a respectable prince, was not distinguished as an encourager of literary merit, entertained a high opinion of the character of Dr. Mosheim, and selected him for the dignified office of chancellor or president of the university of Gottingen. He discharged the duties of that station with zeal and propriety, and his conduct gave general satisfaction. His death, therefore, was sincerely lamented by all ranks of people, particularly as it did not occur in the extremity of age; for he had not completed his sixty-first year.
His literary labours were principally connected with his theological profession. He wrote, in the language of ancient Rome, an account of the affairs and state of the Christians before the reign of Constantine the Great;-a vindication of the early discipline of those votaries of pure religion;—a narrative of the chief incidents of the life of the unfortunate Servetus, the martyr of
Calvinistic bigotry;dissertations on various subjects of a sacred nature;and a translation of the celebrated work of Dr. Ralph Cudworth upon the intellectual system of the universe, accompanied with erudite remarks and judicious illustrations.
His history of the church was at first a small work, which appeared under the title of Institutiones Historiæ Christianæ, and passed through several editions. He was repeatedly urged by his learned friends to extend a work which they represented as too meagre for the importance of the subject. He acknowledged the applicability of the objection; but alleged various avocations, as an excuse for non-compliance. To the wish of the public he at length acceded; and, having employed two years in the augmentation and improvement of his history, he published it in the year 1755, with a dedication to Burchard Christian baron Behr, one of the counsellors of regency to his Britanic majesty for the electorate of Hanover. In the preface, he solemnly thanked God for having given him strength and ability to finish a difficult and tedious work (opus difficile, non unâ de causâ, et tædii plenum.) He, at the same time, lamented that he was almost worn out with labours and cares. Thus did he seemingly predict his speedy dissolution; and, before the end of that year, his honourable and useful life was closed by the will of Providence.
Being desirous of procuring, for a work so replete with information, a more general perusal than its Latin dress would allow, Dr. Maclaine, a learned minister of the English church in Holland, undertook the task of translating it; and the attempt was by no means unsuccessful. For his translation there is a permanent demand; and a new edition is therefore submitted to the public eye, after that revision and correction which appeared to be necessary. A continuation is subjoined, that the reader might not regret the want of a religious and ecclesiastical history of recent times; and the translator's appendix has been enriched with a judicious essay, the offspring of the spontaneous zeal of a distinguished divine of the Episcopal church in Scotland.
The different editions of my Elements of the Christian History met with such a favourable reception, and so great was the demand for them, that they were soon out of print. On this occasion, the worthy person, at whose expense they had been presented to the public, advised that a new edition should be given of the same work, improved and enlarged. The other occupations in which I was engaged, and a prudent consideration of the labour I must undergo in the correction and augmentation of a work in which I myself perceived so many imperfections, prevented my yielding, for a long time, to his carnest solicitations. But the importunities of my friends at length prevailed upon me to undertake the difficult task; and I have assiduously employed my hours of leisure, during two years, in bringing the work to as high a degree of perfection as I am capable of giving to it; so that now these Elements of Ecclesiastical History appear under a new form, and the changes they have undergone are certainly advantageous in every respect. I have still retained the division of the whole into certain periods; for, though a continued narration would have been more agreeable to my own taste, and had also several cir- : cumstances to recommend it, yet the counsels of some learned men who have experienced the great advantages of this division, engaged me to prefer the former to every other method; and indeed, when we examine this matter with due attention, we shall be disposed to allow, that the author, who proposes comprehending in one work all the observations and facts which are necessary to an acquaintance with the state of Christianity in the different ages of the church, will find it impossible to execute this design, without adopting certain general divisions of time, and others of a more particular kind, naturally pointed out by the variety of objects that demand a place in his history. And, as this was my design in the following work, I have left its primitive form entire, and made it my principal business to correct, improve, and augment it in such a manner, as to render it more instructive and entertaining to the reader.
My principal care has been employed in establishing upon the most solid foundations, and confirming by the most respectable authority, the credit of the facts related in this history. For this purpose, I have drawn rom the fountain-head, and have gone to those genuine sources from which the pure and uncorrupted streams of evidence flow. I have consulted the best authors of every age, and chiefly those who were contemporary with the events which they record, or lived near the periods in which they happened; and I have endeavoured to report their contents with brevity, perspicuity, and precision. Abbreviators, generally speaking, do little more than reduce to a short and narrow compass those large bodies of history, which have been compiled from original authors. This method may be, in some measure, justified by several reasons, and therefore is not to be entirely disapproved: hence, nevertheless, it happens, that the errors, which almost always abound in large and voluminous productions, are propagated with facility, and, passing from one book into many, are unhappily handed down from age to age. This I had formerly observed in several abridgements; and I had lately the mortification to find some instances of this in my work, when I examined it by the pure lamps of antiquity, and compared it with those original records which are considered as the genuine sources of sacred history. It was then that I perceived the danger of confiding implicitly even in those who are the most generally. esteemed on account of their fidelity, penetration, and dili
gence; and it was then also that I became sensible of the necessity of adding, suppressing, changing, and correcting several things in the small work (already mentioned) which I formerly published. In the execution of this necessary task, I can affirm with truth, that I have not been deficient in perseverance, industry, or attention; and yet, with all these, it is exceedingly difficult to avoid mistakes of every kind, as those who are acquainted with the nature of historical researches abundantly know. How far I have approached to that inaccessible degree of exactness, which is chargeable with no error, must be left to the decision of those whose extensive knowledge of the Christian history entitles them to pronounce judgment in this matter. That such may judge with the greater facility, I have mentioned the authors who have been my guides; and, if I have in any respect misrepresented their accounts or their sentiments, I must confess that I am much more inexcusable than some other historians, who have met with and deserved the same reproach, since I have attentively perused and compared the various authors to whose testimony I appeal, having formed a resolution of trusting to no au
Ι thority inferior to that of the original sources of historical truth. In order to execute, with some degree of success, the design I formed of rendering my abridgement more perfect, and of giving the history of the church as-it stands in the most authentic records, and in the writings of those whose authority is most respectable, I found myself obliged to make many changes and additions. These will be visible through the whole of the following work, but more especially in the third book, which comprehends the history of the Christian, and particularly of the Latin or western church, from Charlemagne to the rise of Luther and the commencement of the Reformation. This period of history, though it abound with shining examples, though it be unspeakably useful as a key to the knowledge of the political as well as religious state of Europe, though it be singularly adapted to unfold the origin and explain the reasons of many modern transactions, has nevertheless been hitherto treated with less perspicuity, solidity, and elegance, than any other branch of the history of the church. Many writers have attempted to throw light upon this interesting period; but the barbarous style of one part of the number, the profound ignorance of some, and the partial and factious spirit of others, are such as render them by no means inviting; and the enormous bulk and excessive price of the productions of some of the best of these writers must necessarily make them scarce. It is farther to be observed, that some of the most valuable records that belong to the period now under consideration, remain yet in manuscript in the collections of the curious (or the opulent, who are willing to pass for such,) and are thus concealed from public
Those who consider these circumstances will no longer be surprised, that, in this part of the subject, the most learned and laborious writers have omitted many things of consequence, and treated others without success. Amongst these, the analists and other historians, so highly celebrated by the church of Rome, such as Baronius, Raynaldus, Bzovius, Manriques, and Wadding, though they were amply furnished with ancient manuscripts and records, have nevertheless committed more faults, and fallen into errors of greater consequence, than other writers, who were far inferior to them in learning and credit, and had much less access to original records than they were favoured with.
These considerations induce me to hope, that the work which I now present to the public will neither appear superfluous nor be found useless. For, as I have employed many years in the most laborious researches, in order to acquire a thorough acquaintance with the history of Christianity from the eighth century downwards, and as I flatter myself that, by the aid both of printed works and manuscripts too little consulted, I have arrived at a more certain and satisfactory knowledge of that period than is to be found in the
generality of writers, I cannot but think that it will be doing real service to this branch of history to produce some of these discoveries, as this may encourage the learned and industrious to pursue the plan that I have thus begun, and to complete the history of the Latin church, by dispelling the darkness of what is called the Middle Age. And indeed I may venture to affirm, that I have brought to light several things hitherto unknown; corrected from records of undoubted authority accounts of other things imperfectly known, and expressed with perplexity and confusion; and exposed the fabulous nature of many pretended events that deform the annals of sacred history. I here perhaps carry too far that self-praise, which the candour and indulgence of the public are disposed either to overlook as the infirmity, or to regard as the privilege of old age. Those, however, who are curious to know how far this self-applause is just and well grounded, have only to cast an eye on the illustrations I have given on the subject of Constantine's donation, as also with respect to the Cathari and Albigenses, the Beghards and Beguines, the Brethren and Sisters of the Free Spirit (whose pestilential fanaticism was a public nuisance to many countries in Europe during a period of four hundred years, the Fratricelli or Little Brethren, the controversies between the Franciscans and the Roman pontiffs, the history of Berenger and the Lollards, and other matters. When my illustrations of these subjects and points of history are compared with what we find concerning them in other writers, it will perhaps appear, that my pretensions to the merit of some interesting , discoveries are not entirely without foundation.
The accessions to ecclesiastical history could not be exhibited with the same brevity that I have observed in treating other subjects, which had been amply enlarged upon by others; for this would have been incompatible with the information of the curious, who would have received imperfect and confused notions of these subjects, and would have made me, perhaps, pass for a fabulous writer, who advanced novelties, without mentioning either my guides or my authorities. I have, therefore, not only explained all those points of history which carry with them an air of novelty or recede considerably from the notions commonly received, but have also confirmed them by a sufficient number of observations and testimonies, so as to establish their credibility on a solid foundation. The illustrations and enlargements, which, generally speaking, have an appearance of disproportion and superfluity in an historical abridgement, were absolutely necessary in the present case. These reasons engaged me to change the plan laid down in my
former work, and one peculiar consideration induced me to render the present history more ample and voluminous. The elements before mentioned, were prineipally intended for the use of those who are appointed to instruct the studious youth in the history and vicissitudes of the Christian Church, and who stand in need of a compendious text to give a certain order and method to their prelections. In this view I treated each subject with the utmost brevity, and left, as was natural and fitting, much to the learning and abilities of those who might think proper to make use of these elements in their course of instruction. But, in reviewing this compendious work with an intention of presenting it anew to the public, I imagined it might be rendered more acceptable to many, by such improvements and enlargements as might adapt it not only to the use of those who teach others, but also of those who are desirous of acquiring, by their own application, a general knowledge of ecclesiastical history. It was with this view that I made considerable additions to my former work, illustrated many things that had been there obscurely expressed for the sake of brevity, and reduced to a regular and perspicuous order a variety of facts, the recital of which had been more or less attended with perplexity and confusion. Hence it is, that, in the following work, the history of the calamities, in which the Christians of the first ages were in