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I CANNOT persuade myself, that the complaints which we hear frequently of the frivolous nature of the public taste in matters of literature, are so far to be relied on, as to make me despair of a favourable reception of the following work. A History of the Christian Church, composed with judgment, taste, and candour, drawn with uncommon discernment and industry from the best sources, enriched with much useful learning and several important 'is. coveries, and connected with the history of arts, philosophy, and c. vil government, is an object that will very probably attract the attention of many, and most undoubtedly excite the curiosity of the judicious and the wise. A work of this nature will be considered by the philosopher, as an important branch of the history of the human mind; and I need not mention a multitude of reasons that render it peculiarly interesting to the Christian. Besides, there has not hitherto appeared, in English, any complete history of the church, that represents its revolutions, its divisions, and doctrines, with impartiality and truth, exposes the delusions of popish legends, breathes a spirit of moderation and freedom, and, keeping perpetually in the view of the reader the true nature and design of the Christian religion, points out those deviations from its beautiful simplicity, which have been too frequent among all orders of men and in all ages of the world. *
How far justice has been done to this excellent work, in the following translation, is a point that must be left to the decision of those who may think proper to peruse it with attention. I can say, with the strictest truth, that I have spared no pains to render it worthy of their gracious acceptance; and this consideration gives me some claim to their candour and indulgence, for any defects they may find in it. I have endeavoured to render my translation faithful, but never proposed to render it entirely literal. The style of the original is by no means a model to imitate, in a work designed for general
Dr. Mosheim affected brevity, and laboured to crowd many things into few words; thus his diction, though pure and correct, became sententious and harsh, without that harmony which pleases the ear, or those transitions which make a narration flow with ease. This being the case, I have sometimes taken considerable liberties with my author, and followed the spirit of his narrative without adhering strictly to the letter. Where, indeed, the Latin phrase appeared to me elegant, expressive, and compatible with the English idiom, I have constantly followed it; but, in all other cases, I have departed from it, and have often added a few sentences, to render an observation more striking, a fact more clear, a portrait more finished. Had I been translating Cicero or Tacitus, I should not have thought such freedom par. donable. The translation of a classic author, like the copy of a capital picture, must exhibit not only the subject but also the manner of the original: this rule, however, is not applicable to the work now under consideration.
When I entered upon this undertaking, I proposed rendering the additional notes more numerous and ample, than the reader will find them. I soon perceived that the prosecution of my original plan would render this work too voluminous; and this induced me to alter my purpose The notes I have given are not, however, inconsiderable in number; I wish I could say as much with respect to their merit and importance. I would only hope that some of them will be looked upon as not altogether unnecessary.
Hague, Dec. 4, 1764. * We omit the intervening part of Dr. Maclaine's Preface, because its insertion is rendered unnecessary by the biographical sketch which the Editor has given.
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 His. tory 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 zcal 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 pre cepts 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 thie 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. Ile 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.
C. COOTE May 15, 1826
THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE.
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 ex. pense 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
work in which I myself perceived so'many imperfections, prevented my yielding, for a long time, to his earnest 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 cer tain 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 rrom 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