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sies that have di

justify our treating them with brevity, in a work which is only designed as a compendious view of ecclesiastical history. Fourthly, the his

XI. As bodies politic are sometimes distracted with wars tory of the here

and seditions, so has the Christian church, though designed vided it. to be the mansion of charity and concord, been unhappily perplexed by intestine divisions, occasioned sometimes by points of doctrine, at others by a variety of sentiments about certain rites and ceremonies. The principal authors of these divisions have been stigmatized with the title of lleretics, and their peculiar opinions of consequence distinguished by the appellation of Heresies. The nature, therefore, and progress of these intestine divisions or heresies are to be carefully unfolded ; and, if this be done with judgment and impartiality, it must prove useful and interesting in the highest degree, though at the same time it must be observed, that no branch of ecclesiastical history is so painful and dislicult, on account of the sagacity, candour, and application that it requires in order to its being treated in a satisfactory manner. The difficulty of arriving at the truth, in researches of this nature, is extreme, on account of the injurious treatment that has been shown to the heads of religious sects, and the unfair representations that have been made of their tenets and opinions; and this difficulty has been considerably augmented by this particular circumstance, that the greatest part of the writings of those who were branded with the name of heretics have not reached our times. It is therefore the duty of a candid historian to avoid attaching to this term the invidious sense in which it is too often used, since it is the invective of all contending parties, and is employed against truth as frequently as against error. The wisest method here is to take the word heretic in its general signification, as denoting a person who, either directly or indirectly, has been the occasion of exciting divisions and dissensions among Christians. In treating eccle

XII. After thus considering what constitutes the matter siastical history, of Ecclesiastical History, it will be proper to bestow a few

thoughts on the manner of treating it, as this is a point of connexion with too much importance not to deserve a moment's attention.

And here we may observe, that, in order to render both the External and Internal History of the Church truly interesting and useful, it is absolutely necessary to trace effects to their causes, and to connect events with the circumstances, views, principles, and instruments, that have contributed their existence. A bare recital of facts can at best but enrich the memory, and furnish a certain degree of amusement; but the historian who enters into the secret springs that direct the course of outward events, and views things in their various relations, connexions, and tendencies, gives thus a proper exercise to the judgment of the reader, and administers, on many occasions, the most useful lessons of wisdom and prudence. It is true, a high degree of caution is to be observed here, lest, in disclosing the secret springs of public events, we substitute imaginary causes in the place of real, and attribute the actions of men to principles they never professed.

XIII. In order to discover the secret causes of public investigating the events, some general succours are to be derived from the

history of the times in which they happened, and the testi

events are to be considered in

their causes.

General method of

monies of the authors by whom they are recorded. But b c A term innocent in its primitive sig- plied, and also by the use that has been mado nification, though become odious by the enor- of it, to vent the malignity of enthusiasts and mity of some errors to which it has been ap- bigots.

secret causes of things.

church.

besides these, a considerable acquaintance with human nature, founded on long observation and experience, is singularly useful in researches of this kind. The historian who has acquired a competent knowledge of the views that occupy the generality of men, who has studied a great variety of characters, and attentively observed the force and violence of human passions, together with the infirmities and contradictions they produce in the conduct of life, will find, in this knowledge, a key to the secret reasons and motives which gave rise to many of the most important events of ancient times. A knowledge also of the manners and opinions of the persons concerned in the events that are related, will contribute much to lead us to the true origin of things.

XIV. There are, however, besides these general views, More particular rules for coming particular considerations, which will assist us still further to this knowledge in tracing up to their true causes the various events of history of the sacred history. We must, for example, in the external

history of the church, attend carefully to two things; first, to the political state of those kingdoms and nations in which the Christian religion has been embraced or rejected ; and secondly, to their religious state, i, e., the opinions they have entertained concerning the Divine nature, and the worship that is to be addressed to him. For we shall then perceive, with more certainty and less difficulty, the reasons of the different reception Christianity has met with in different nations, when we are acquainted with the respective forms of civil government, the political maxims, and the public forms of religion that prevailed in those countries, and in those periods of time in which the Gospel received encouragement, or met with opposition.

XV. With respect to the internal history of the church, history. nothing is more adapted to lay open to view the hidden springs of its various changes, than an acquaintance with the history of learning and philosophy in the times of old. For it is certain that human learning and philosophy have, in all times, pretended to modify the doctrines of Christianity; and that these pretensions have extended further than belongs to the province of philosophy on the one hand, or is consistent with the purity and simplicity of the Gospel on the other. It may also be observed, that a knowledge of the forms of civil government, and of the superstitious rites and institutions of ancient times, is not only useful, as we remarked above, to illustrate several things in the external history of the church, but also to render a satisfactory account of its internal variations, both in point of doctrine and worship. For the genius of human laws, and the maxims of civil rulers, have undoubtedly had a great influence in forming the constitution of the church ; and even its spiritual leaders have, in too many instances, from an ill-judged prudence, modelled its discipline and worship after the ancient superstitions. The sources from XVI. We cannot be at any loss to know the sources

whence ecclesiastical history

from whence this important knowledge is to be deriveil. must be derived. The best writers of every age, who make mention of ecclesiastical affairs, and particularly those who were contemporary with the events they relate, are to be carefully consulted; since it is from credible testimonies, and respectable authorities, that history derives a solid and permanent foundation. Our esteem for those writers who may be considered as the sources of historical knowledge, ought not, however, to lead us to treat with neglect the historians and annalists who have already made use of these original records ; since it betrays a foolish sort of vanity

And in its internal

An historian must

ment

nions.

to reject the advantages that may be derived from the succours and labours of those who have preceded us in their endeavours to cast light upon matters that have been for many ages covered with obscurity.c The essential qua

XVII. From all this we shall easily discern the qualifilities of an eccle- cations that are essential to a good writer of ecclesiastical siastical history.

history. His knowledge of human affairs must be considerable, and his learning extensive. He must be endowed with a spirit of observation and sagacity, a habit of reasoning with evidence and facility, a faithful memory, and a judgment matured by experience and strengthened by exercise. Such are the intellectual endowments that are required in the character of a good historian; and the moral qualities that are necessary to complete it, are, a persevering and inflexible attachment to truth and virtue, a freedom from the servitude of prejudice and passion, and a laborious and patient turn of mind.

XVIII. Those who undertake to write the history of be free from a the Christian church are exposed to receive a bias from

to times, three different sources : from times, persons, and opinions. men, and opi- The times in which we live have often so great an influence

on our manner of judging as to make us consider the events which happen in our days, as a rule by which we are to estimate the probability or evidence of those that are recorded in the history of past ages. The

persons on whose testimonies we think we have reason to depend acquire an imperceptible authority over our sentiments, that too frequently seduces us to adopt their errors, especially if these persons have been distinguished by eminent degrees of sanctity and virtue. And an attachment to favourite opinions leads authors sometimes to pervert, or at least to modify facts in favour of those who have embraced these opinions, or to the disadvantage of such as have opposed them. These kinds of seduction are so much the more dangerous, as those whom they deceive are, in inumerable cases, insensible of their delusion, and of the false representations of things to which it leads them. It is not necessary to observe the solemn obligations that bind an historian to guard against these three sources of error with the most delicate circumspection, and the most scrupulous attention.

XIX. It is well known, nevertheless, how far ecclesiasare visible in the tical historians in all ages have departed from these rules, writers of church and from others of equal evidence and importance. For, history.

not to mention those who lay claim to a high rank among the writers of history, in consequence of a happy memory, loaded with an ample heap of materials, nor those whose pens are rather guided by sordid views of interest than by a generouş love of truth, it is but too evident how few in number the unprejudiced and impartial historians are, whom neither the influence of the sects to which they belong, nor the venerable and imposing name of antiquity, nor the spirit of the times and the torrent of prevailing opinion, can turn aside from the obstinate pursuit of truth alone. In the present age more especially, the spirit of the times and the influence of predominant opinions have gained with many an incredible ascendant. Hence we find frequently in the writings even of learned men such wretched arguments as these : “Such an opinion is true, therefore it

The defects that

• The various writers of ecclesiastical bistory are enumerated by Sever. Walt. Sluterus, in his Propylæun Historiæ Christiana, pub

lished at Lunenburg, in 4to, in the year 1696 ; and by Casp. Sagittarius, in his Introductio ad Historian Ecclesiam, singulasquc cjus partes.

must of necessity have been adopted by the primitive Christians; Christ has commanded us to live in such a manner, therefore it is undoubtedly certain that the Christians of ancient times lived so; a certain custom does not take place now, therefore it did not prevail in former times.” The advantages

XX. If those who apply themselves to the composition that result from of ecclesiastical history be careful to avoid the sources of clesiastical his- error mentioned above, their labours will be eminently tory, -general, useful to mankind, and more especially to those who are called to the important office of instructing others in the sacred truths and duties of Christianity. The history of the church presents to our view a variety of objects that are every way adapted to confirm our faith. When we contemplate here the discouraging obstacles, the united efforts of kingdoms and empires, and the dreadful calamities which Christianity, in its very infancy, was obliged to encounter, and over which it gained an immortal victory, this will be sufficient to fortify its true and zealous professors against all the threats, cavils, and stratagems of profane and impious men. The great and shining examples, also, which display their lustre, more or less, in every period of the Christian history, must have an admirable tendency to inflame our piety, and to excite, even in the coldest and most insensible hearts, the love of God and virtue. Those amazing revolutions and events that distinguished every age of the church, and often seemed to arise from small beginnings, and causes of little consequence, proclaim, with a solemn and respectable voice, the empire of Providence, and also the inconstancy and vanity of human things. And, among the many advantages that arise from the study of ecclesiastical history, it is none of the least, that we shall see therein the origin and occasions of those ridiculous rites, absurd opinions, foolish superstitions, and pernicious errors, with which Christianity is yet disfigured in too many parts of the world. This knowledge will naturally lead us to a view of the truth in its beautiful simplicity, will engage us to love it, and render us zealous in its defence; not to mention the pleasure and satisfaction that we must feel in researches and discoveries of such an interesting kind.

XXI. They, more especially, who are appointed to inAnd particular.

struct the youth in the public universities, as also such as are set apart for the service of the church, will derive from this study the most useful lessons of wisdom and prudence, to direct them in the discharge of their respective offices. On the one hand, the inconsiderate zeal and temerity of others, and the pernicious consequences with which they have been attended, will teach circumspection; and in the mistakes into which even men of eminent merit and abilities have fallen, they will often see the things they are obliged to avoid, and the sacrifices it will be prudent to make, in order to maintain peace and concord in the church. On the other hand, illustrious examples and salutary measures will hold forth to them a rule of conduct, a lamp to show them the paths they must pursue. It may be further observed, that, if we except the arms which scripture and reason furnish against superstition and error, there is nothing that will enable us to combat them with more efficacy than the view of their deplorable effects, as they are represented to us in the history of the church. It would be endless to enumerate all the advantages that result from the study of ecclesiastical history; experience alone can display these in all their extent; nor shall we mention the benefits that may be derived from it by those who have turned their views to other sciences than that

es.

of theology, and its more peculiar utility to such as are engaged in the study of the civil law. All this would lead us too far from our present design.

XXII. As the history of the church is external or interThe method of

treating ecclesi- nal, so the manner of treating it must be suited to that astical history in division. As to the first, when the narration is long, and internal branch- the thread of the history runs through a great number of

ages, it is proper to divide it into certain periods, which will give the reader time to breathe, assist memory, and also introduce a certain method and order into the work. In the following history, the usual division into centuries is adopted preferably to all others, because most generally liked; though it be attended with difficulties and inconveniences.

XXIII. A considerable part of these inconveniences will be, however, removed, if, besides this smaller division into centuries, we adopt a larger one, and divide the space of time that elapsed between the birth of Christ and our days into certain grand periods that are distinguished by signal revolutions or remarkable events. It is on this account that we have judged

expedient to comprehend the following history in Four Books, that will take in four remarkable periods; the first will be employed in exhibiting the state and vicissitudes of the Christian church, from its commencement to the time of CoNsTANTINE the GREAT. The second will comprehend the period that extends from the reign of ConstanTINE to that of CHARLEMAGNE, which produced such a remarkable change in the face of Europe. The third will contain the history of the church from the time of CHARLEMAGNE to the memorable period when LUTHER arose in Gerinany to oppose the tyranny of Rome, and to deliver divine truth from the darkness that covered it. And the fourth will carry down the same history from the rise of Luther to the present times.

XXIV. We have seen above, that the sphere of Ecclesiastical History is extensive, that it comprehends a great variety of objects, and embraces political as well as religious matters, so far as the former are related to the latter, either as causes or effects. But, however great the diversity of these objects may be, they are closely connected ; and it is the particular business of an ecclesiastical historian, to observe a method that will show this connexion in the most conspicuous point of view, and form into one regular whole a variety of parts that seem heterogeneous and discordant. Different writers have followed here different methods, according to the diversity of their views and their peculiar manner of thinking. The order I have observed will be seen above, in that part of this Introduction which treats of the subject-matter of Ecclesiastical History ; the mention of it. is therefore omitted here, to avoid unnecessary repetitions.

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