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THE different editions of the Elements of the Christian History a met with such a favourable reception from the public, and the demand for them was so great, that they were, in a little time, out of print. Upon this occasion, the worthy person, at whose expense they had been presented to the public, desired earnestly to give a new edition of the same work improved and enlarged, and thus still more worthy of its gracious acceptance. The other occupations in which I was engaged, and a prudent consideration of the labour I must undergo in the correction and augmentation of a work in which I myself perceived so many imperfections, prevented my yielding, for a long time, to his earnest solicitations. The importunities of my friends at length prevailed upon me to undertake this difficult work; and I have employed assiduously my hours of leisure, during the space of two years, in bringing it to as high a degree of perfection as I am capable of giving 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 retained still 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 circumstances to recommend it, yet the counsels of some learned men, who have experienced the great advantages of this division, engaged me to prefer it to every other method. And indeed, when we examine this matter with due attention, we shall find, that the author, who proposes comprehending in one work all that variety of observations and facts that are necessary to an acquaintance

• A small work published by Dr. Mosheim, many years ago, in two volumes 12mo.

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with the state of Christianity in the different ages of the church, will find it impossible to execute this design, without adopting certain general divisions of time, and others of a more particular kind, which the variety of objects, that demand a place in his history, naturally points out.

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 from the fountain head, and have gone to those genuine sources from whence 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 they relate, or lived near the periods in which they happened; and I have en deavoured 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, that 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. From 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 abridgments; and I had lately the mortification to find some instances of this in my own work, when I examined it by the pure lamp of antiquity, and compared it with those original records that 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 diligence; and it was then also, that I became sensible of the necessity of adding, suppressing, changing, and correcting several things

in the small work which I formerly published, and which has been already mentioned. In the execution of this neċessary task, I can affirm with truth, that I have not been wanting in perseverance, industry, or attention; and yet, with all these, it is extremely difficult to avoid mistakes of every kind, as those who are acquainted with the nature of historical researches abundantly know. How far I have approached to that inaccessible degree of exactness, which is chargeable with no error, must be left to the decision of those whose extensive knowledge of the christian history entitles them to pronounce judgment in this matter. That such may judge with the more facility, I have mentioned the authors who have been my guides; and, if I have in any respect misrepresented their accounts or their sentiments, I must confess, that I am much more inexcusable than some other historians, who have met with and deserv ed the same reproach, since I have perused with attention and compared with each other the various authors to whose testimony I appeal, having formed a resolution of trusting to no authority inferior to that of the original sources of historical truth.

In order to execute, with some degree of success, the design I formed of rendering my abridgment more perfect, and of giving the history of the church as it stands in the most authentic records, and in the writings of those whose authority is most respectable, I found myself obliged to make many changes and additions. These will be visible through the whole of the following work, but more especially in the Third Book, which comprehends the history of the christian, and particularly of the Latin or western church, from Charlemagne to the rise of Luther and the commencement of the reformation. This period of Ecclesiastical History, though it abound with shining examples; though it be unspeakably useful as a key to the knowledge of the political, as well as religious state of Europe; though it be singularly adapted to unfold the origin and explain the reasons of many modern transactions, has nevertheless been hitherto treated with less perspicuity, solidity, and elegance, than any other branch of the history of the church. The number of writers


that have attempted to throw light upon this interesting pe riod is considerable, but few of them are in the hands of the public. The barbarous style of one part of them, the profound ignorance of another, and the partial and factious spirit of a third, are such as render them by no means inviting; and the enormous bulk and excessive price of the productions of some of the best of these writers must necessarily render them scarce. It is further to be observed, that some of the most valuable records that belong to the period of Ecclesiastical History now under consideration, lie yet in manuscript in the collections of the curious, or the opulent, who are willing to pass for such, and are thus concealed from public view. Those who consider these circumstances will no longer be surprised, that in this part of Ecclesiastical History, the most learned and laborious writers have omitted many things of consequence, and treated others without success. Among these, the annalists and other historians, so highly celebrated by the church of Rome, such as Baronius, Raynaldus, Bzovius, Manriques, and Wadding, though they were amply furnished with ancient manuscripts and records, have nevertheless committed more faults, and fallen into errors of greater consequence, than other writers, who were by far their inferiors in learning and credit, and had much less access to original records than they were favoured with.

These considerations induce me to hope, that the work I here present to the public will neither appear superfluous nor useless. For as I have employed many years in the most laborious researches, in order to acquire a thorough acquaintance with the history of Christianity, from the eighth century downward, and as I flatter myself, that by the assistance of books and manuscripts too little consulted, I have arrived at a more certain and satisfactory knowledge of that period than is to be found in the generality of writers, I cannot but think, that it will be doing real service to Ecclesiastical History to produce some of these discoveries, as this may encourage the learned and industrious to pursue the plan that I have thus begun, and to complete the history of the Latin church, by dispelling the darkness of what is call

ed the middle age. And indeed I may venture to affirm, that I have brought to light several things hitherto generallyunknown, corrected from records of undoubted authority accounts of other things known but imperfectly and expressed with much perplexity and confusion, and exposed the fabulous nature of many events that deform the annals of sacred history. I here perhaps carry too far that self praise, which the candour and indulgence of the public are disposed either to overlook as the infirmity, or to regard as the privilege of old age. Those, however, who are curious to know how far this self applause is just and well grounded, have only to cast an eye on the illustrations I have given on the subject of Constantine's Donation, as also with respect to the Cathari and Albigenses, the Beghards and Beguines, the Brethren and Sisters of the free Spirit, whose pestilential fanaticism was a public nuisance to many countries in Europe during the space of four hundred years, the Fratricelli, or Little Brethren, the controversies between the Franciscans and the Roman Pontiffs, the history of Berenger and the Lollards, and other matters. When my illustrations on these subjects and points of history are compar ed with what we find concerning them in other writers, it will perhaps appear, that my pretensions to the merit of some interesting discoveries are not entirely without foundation.

These accessions to Ecclesiastical History could not be exhibited with the same brevity which I have observed in treating other subjects, that have already been amply enlarged upon by others; for this would have been incompatible with the information of the curious, who would have received but imperfect and confused notions of these subjects, and would have made me, perhaps, pass for a fabulous writer, who advanced novelties, without mentioning either my guides or my authorities. I have therefore, not only explained all those points of history which carry with them an appearance of novelty, or recede considerably from the notions commonly received, but have also confirmed them by a sufficient number of observations and testimonies to establish their

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