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In treating

are to be con

nection with their causes.

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.

XII. After thus considering what constitutes the History events matter of Ecclesiastical History, it will be proper to sidered in con- bestow a few thoughts on the manner of treating it, as this is a point of 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 to 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, connections, 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 subst ute 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 events, some general succours are to be derived from the history of the times in which they happened, and the testimonies of the authors by whom they are recorded. But beside 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 оссиру 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, beside these general views, particular considerations, which will assist us still further in tracing up to their true causes the various events of sacred history. We

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General method of investi

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cret causes of


More particu coming to this

lar rules for

knowledge in the external church;

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and in its internal history.

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.


With respect to the internal history of the church, 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.


We cannot be at any loss to know the sources from whence this important knowledge is to 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 those original records; since it betrays a foolish sort of vanity 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

XVIL From all this we shall easily discern the qualifications that are essential to a good writer of

• The various writers of Ecclesiastical History are enumerated by Sever. Walt. Sluterus, in his Propylæum Historiæ Christianæ, published at Lunenburg in 4to. in the year 1696; and by Casp. Sagittarius, in his Introductio ad Historiam Ecclesiasticam, singulasque ejus partes.

The sources
History must

from whence

be derived.

The essential Ecclesiastical

qualities of an


An historian must be free


Ecclesiastical History. His knowledge of humanı affairs must be considerable, and his learning extensive. He must be endowed with a spirit of obser. vation 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.

XVII. Those who undertake to write the histofrom a servile ry of the christian church are exposed to receive and opinions, a bias from three different sources, from times,

attachment to

times, men,

persons, and opinions. 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.

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