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The fources

from whence


and even its spiritual leaders have, in too many inftances, from an
ill-judged prudence, modelled its difcipline and worship after the ancient

XVI. We cannot be at any lofs to know the fources from whence this Ecclefiaftical Hi- important knowledge is to be derived. The beft writers of every age, who flory must be de- make mention of ecclefiaftical affairs, and particularly thofe who were contemporary with the events they relate, are to be carefully confulted, fince it is from credible teftimonies and refpectable authorities that hiftory derives a folid and permanent foundation. Our esteem for those writers who may be confidered as the fources of hiftorical knowledge, ought not however to lead us to treat with neglect the hiftorians and annalifts, who have already made ufe of these original records; fince it betrays a foolish fort of vanity to reject the advantages that may be derived from the fuccours and labours of those who have preceded us in their endeavours to caft light upon matters that have been for many ages covered with obfcurity [c].

The effential qualities of an


XVII. From all this we fhall eafily difcern the qualifications that are efEcclefiaftical Hi- fential to a good writer of Ecclefiaftical Hiftory. His knowledge of human affairs must be confiderable, and his learning extenfive. He must be endowed with a spirit of obfervation and fagacity; a habit of reafoning with evidence and facility; a faithful memory; and a judgment matured by experience, and strengthened by exercife. Such are the intellectual endowments that are required in the character of a good hiftorian, and the moral qualities that are neceffary to complete it, are a perfevering and inflexible attachment to truth and virtue, a freedom from the fervitude of prejudice and paffion, and a laborious and patient turn of mind.

An historian

must be free from a fervile attachment to times, men, and opinions.

XVIII. Those who undertake to write the hiftory of the Chriftian church are exposed to receive a biafs from three different fources, from times, perfons, and opinions. The times, in which we live, have often fo great an influence on our manner of judging, as to make us confider the events, which happen in our days, as a rule by which we are to eftimate the probability or evidence of thofe that are recorded in the hiftory of paft ages. The perfons, on whofe teftimonies we think we have reafon to depend, acquire an imperceptible authority over our fentiments, that too frequently feduces us to adopt their errors, especially if thefe perfons have been diftinguished by eminent degrees of fanctity and virtue. And an attachment to favourite opinions leads authors fometimes to pervert, or, at least, to modify facts in favour of thofe who have embraced thefe opinions, or to the difadvantage of fuch as have oppofed them. Thefe kinds of feduction are fo much the more dangerous, that thofe whom they deceive are, in innumerable cafes, infenfible of their delufion and of the falfe reprefentations of things to which it leads them. It is not neceffary to obferve the folemn obligations. that bind an hiftorian to guard against thefe three fources of error with the moft delicate circumfpection, and the moft fcrupulous attention.

[c] The various writers of ecclefiaftical history are enumerated by SEVER. WALT. SLUTERUS in his Propyleum Hiftoriæ Chriftiana, published at Lunenburg in 4to. in the year 1696; and by CASP. SAGITTARIUS, in his Introductio ad Hiftoriam Ecclefiafticam, fingulafque ejus partes.


the writers of

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XIX. It is well known nevertheless how far ecclefiaftical hiftorians, in The defects that all ages, have departed from thefe rules and from others of equal evidence are visible in and importance. For not to mention thofe who lay claim to a high rank Church hiftory. among the writers of hiftory in confequence of a happy memory, loaded with an ample heap of materials, nor those whofe pens are rather guided by fordid views of intereft than by a generous love of truth, it is but too evident, how few in number the unprejudiced and impartial hiftorians, are whom neither the influence of the fect to which they belong, nor the venerable and impofing names of antiquity, nor the fpirit of the times and the torrent of prevailing opinion can turn afide from the obftinate pursuit of truth alone. In the prefent age, moré especially, the fpirit of the times and the influence of predominant opinions have gained with many an incredible afcendant. Hence we find frequently in the writings even of learned men fuch wretched arguments as thefe: Such an opinion is true; therefore it must of neceffity have been adopted by the primitive Chriftians — Chrift has commanded us to live in fuch a manner; therefore it is undoubtedly certain, that the Chriftians of ancient times lived fo.A certain custom does not take place now; therefore it did not prevail in former times.

the fudy of Ec-


XX. If those who apply themselves to the compofition of Ecclefiaftical The advantages History are careful to avoid the fources of error mentioned above, their la- the rule from bours will be eminently useful to mankind, and more efpecially to thofe clefiaftical Hiwho are called to the important office of inftructing others in the facred General. truths and duties of Chriftianity. The hiftory of the church prefents to our view a variety of objects that are every way adapted to confirm our faith. When we contemplate here the difcouraging obftacles, the united efforts of kingdoms and empires, and the dreadful calamities which Chriftianity, in its very infancy, was obliged to encounter, and over which it gained an immortal victory, this will be fufficient to fortify its true and zealous profeffors against all the threats, cavils, and ftratagems of profane and impious. men. The The great and fhining examples alfo which difplay their luftre, more or lefs, in every period of the Chriftian history, must have an admirable tendency to inflame our piety and to excite, even in the coldest and most infenfible hearts, the love of God and virtue. Thofe amazing revolutions and events that diftinguished every age of the church, and often feemed to atife from fmall beginnings and caufes of little confequence, proclaim, with a folemn and refpectable voice, the empire of providence, and alfo the inconftancy and vanity of human things. And, among the many advantages that arife from the ftudy of Ecclefiaftical Hiftory, it is none of the leaft, that we fhall fee therein the origin and occafions of thofe ridiculous rites, abfurd opinions, foolish fuperftitions, and pernicious errors, with which Chriftianity 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 fimplicity, will engage us to love it and render us zealous in its defence; not to mention the pleasure and fatisfaction that we must feel in : researches and discoveries of fuch an interesting kind.

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And particular.

The method of treating Ecclefiaftical Hiftory,

and Internal


XXI. They, more especially, who are appointed to inftruct the youth in the public univerfities, as alfo fuch as are fet apart for the fervice of the church, will derive from this ftudy the moft ufeful leffons of wisdom and prudence, to direct them in the discharge of their refpective offices. On the one hand, the inconfiderate zeal and temerity of others, and the pernicious confequences with which they have been attended, will teach circumfpection; and in the miftakes into which, even men of eminent merit and abilities have fallen, they will often fee the things they are obliged to avoid, and the facrifices it will be prudent to make, in order to maintain peace and concord in the church; on the other, illuftrious examples and falutary measures will hold forth to them a rule of conduct, a lamp to fhew them the paths they muft purfue. It may be further obferved, that, if we except the arms which fcripture and reafon furnish against fuperftition 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 reprefented to us in the history of the church. It would be endlefs to enumerate all the advantages that refult from the study of Ecclefiaftical Hiftory; experience alone can display thefe in all their extent; nor fhall we mention the benefits that may be derived from it by thofe who have turned their views to other sciences than that of theology, and its more peculiar utility to fuch as are engaged in the study of the civil law. All this would lead us too far from our prefent defign.

XXII. As the hiftory of the church is External or Internal, so the manner of treating it must be fuited to that divifion. As to the firft, when the in its External narration is long and the thread of the hiftory runs through a great number of ages, it is proper to divide it into certain periods, which will give the reader time to breathe, affift memory, and also introduce a certain method and order into the work. In the following hiftory the ufual divifion into centuries is adopted preferably to all others, because most generally liked ; though it be attended with difficulties and inconveniencies.

XXIII. A confiderable part of these inconveniencies will be however removed, if, befides this fmaller divifion into centuries, we adopt a larger one, and divide the space of time that elapfed between the birth of CHTIST and our days into certain grand periods, that are diftinguished by fignal revolutions or remarkable events. It is on this account that we have judged it expedient to comprehend the following Hiftory in FOUR BOOKS, that will take in four remarkable periods: The FIRST will be employed in exhibiting the ftate and viciffitudes of the Chriftian 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 fuch a remarkable change in the face of Europe. The THIRD will contain the Hiftory of the Church, from the time of CHARLEMAGNE to the memorable period when LUTHER arose in Germany, to oppofe the tyranny of Rome and to deliver divine truth from



the darkness that covered it. And the FOURTH will carry down the fame bistory, from the rife of LUTHER to the prefent times.

XXIV. We have seen above, that the fphere of Ecclefiaftical History is extensive, that it comprehends a great variety of objects, and embraces political, as well as religious, matters, fo far as the former are related to the latter, either as caufes or effects. But, however great the diverfity of these objects may be, they are closely connected; and it is the particular bufinefs of an ecclefiaftical hiftorian to obferve a method that will fhew this connexion in the most confpicuous point of view, and form into one regular whole a variety of parts that feem heterogeneous and difcordant. 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 Ecclefiaftical Hiftory; the mention of it is therefore omitted here, to avoid unneceffary repetitions.


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