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of Christianity has derived from the active faith, the invincible constancy, the fervent piety, and extensive charity of its genuine professors, who, by the attractive lustre of these amiable virtues, have led many into the way of truth, and engaged them to submit themselves to the empire of the Messiah.

events.

v. Under the calamitous events that have hap- Calamitous pened to the church, may be comprehended the injuries it has received from the vices and passions of its friends, and the bitter opposition and insidious stratagems of its enemies. The professors of Christianity, and more especially the doctors and rulers of the church, have done unspeakable detriment to the cause of religion, by their ignorance and sloth, their luxury and ambition, their uncharitable zeal, animosities and contentions, of which many shocking examples will be exhibited in the course of this history. Christianity had public enemies to encounter, even princes and magistrates, who opposed its progress by penal laws, and bloodthirsty persecution; it had also private and inveterate adversaries in a certain set of philosophers, or rather sophists, who, enslaved to superstition, or abandoned to atheism, endeavoured to blast the rising church by their perfidious accusations and their virulent writings.

VI. Such then are the events that are exhibited to our view in the external history of the church. Its internal history comprehends the changes and vicissitudes that have happened in its inward constitution, in that system of discipline and doctrine by which it stands distinguished from all other religious societies. This branch may be properly

3

Internal histo

ry, which com

prehends,

First, the his.

tory of the

termed the History of the Christian Religion. The causes of these internal changes are to be sought for principally in the conduct and measures of those who have presided and borne rule in the church. It has been too frequently their practice to interpret the truths and precepts of religion in a manner accommodated to their particular systems, nay, to their private interest; and, while they have found in some implicit obedience, they have met with warm opposition from others. Hence have proceeded theological broils and civil commotions, in which the cause of religion has often been defended at the expense both of justice and humanity. All these things must be observed with the strictest attention by an ecclesiastical historian. VII. The first thing, therefore, that should be natchristian doc urally treated in the internal history of the church, is the history of its ministers, rulers, and form of government. When we look back to the commencement of the christian church, we find its government administered jointly by the pastors and the people. But, in process of time, the scene changes, and we see these pastors affecting an air of pre-eminence and superiority, trampling upon the rights and privileges of the community, and assuming to themselves a supreme authority both in civil and religious matters. This invasion of the rights of the people was at length carried to such a height, that a single man administered, or at least pretended a right to administer, the affairs of the whole church with an unlimited sway. Among the doctors of these early times, there were some who acquired, by their learned labours, a

tors.

shining reputation, and an universal influence; they were regarded as oracles; their decisions were handed down to posterity as sacred rules of faith and practice; and they thus deserve to be mentioned, with particular distinction, among the governors of the church, though no part of its public administration was actually in their hands.a

Secondly, the history of the doctrines and

laws of the church.

VIII. After giving an account of the rulers and doctors of the church, the ecclesiastical historian proceeds to exhibit a view of the laws that are peculiar to this sacred community, that form, as it were, its centre of union, and distinguish it from all other religious societies. These laws are of two kinds. The first are properly called divine, because they are immediately enacted by God himself, and are contained in those sacred books, which carry the most striking marks of a divine origin. They consist of those doctrines that are the objects of faith and reason, and those precepts that are addressed to the heart and the affections. To the second kind belong those laws that are merely of human institution, and derive their authority only from the injunctions of the rulers of the church. IX. In that part of the sacred history which relates to the doctrines of Christianity, it is necessa-history of ry, above all things, to inquire particularly into the of the christdegree of authority that has been attributed to the sacred writings in all the different periods of the church, and also into the manner in which the divine doctrines they contain, have been explained

By these our author means the fathers, whose writings form still a rule of faith in the Romish church, while in the protestant churches their authority diminishes from day to day.

Rules necessa

ry to be obser ved in giving

the doctrines

ian church.

Thirdly, the history of its ceremonies

and worship,

and illustrated. For the true state of religion in every age can only be learned from the point of view in which these celestial oracles were consid ered, and from the manner in which they were expounded to the people. As long as they were the only rule of faith, religion preserved its native purity; and in proportion as their decisions were either neglected or postponed to the inventions of men, it degenerated from its primitive and divine simplicity. It is further necessary to show under this head, what was the fate of the pure laws and doctrines of Christianity; how they were interpreted and explained; how they were defended against the enemies of the gospel; how they were corrupted and adulterated by the ignorance and licentiousness of men. And, finally, it will be proper to inquire here, how far the lives and manners of christians have been conformable to the dictates of these sacred laws, and the influence that these sublime doctrines ought to have upon the hearts of men; as also to examine the rules of discipline prescribed by the spiritual governors of the church, in order to correct and restrain the vices and irregularities of its members.

x. The human laws, that constitute a part of ecclesiastical government, consist in precepts concerning the external worship of the Deity, and in certain rites, either confirmed by custom or introduced by positive and express authority. Rites and ceremonies regard religion either directly or indirectly; by the former, we understand those that are used in the immediate worship of the Supreme Being, whether in public or in private; by the

latter, such pious and decent institutions as, beside direct acts of worship, have obtained in the church. This part of sacred history is of a vast extent, both on account of the great diversity of these ceremonies, and the frequent changes and modifications through which they have passed. This consideration will justify our treating them with brevity, in a work which is only designed as a compendious view of Ecclesiastical History.

XI. As bodies politic are sometimes distracted with wars and seditions, so has the christian church, though designed 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 heretics, 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 difficult, on account of the sagacity, candour, and application that it re quires, in order to its being treated in a satisfactory manner.

The difficulty of arriving at the truth,

A term innocent in its primitive signification, though become odious by the enormity of some errors, to which it has been applied, and also by the use that has been made of it, to vent the malignity of enthu siasts and bigots.

Fourthly, the heresies that

history of the

it.

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