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gular and perspicuous order a variety of facts, the recital of which had been more or less attended with perplexity and confusion. Hence, it is, that, in the following work, the history of the calamities in which the Christians of the first ages were involved, and the origin and progress of the sects and heresies which troubled the church, are exhibited with an uncommon degree of accuracy and precision. Hence the various forms of religion, which have sprung from the excessive love of novelty, are represented without prejudice or partiality, and with all possible perspicuity and truth. It is also in consequence of this change of my original design, that I have taken the utmost pains to state more clearly religious controversies, to estimate their respective moment and importance, and to exhibit the arguments alleged on both sides; nor must I omit mentioning the care and labour I have employed in giving an exact narration of the transactions, wars, and enterprising measures of the Roman pontiffs, from the reign of Charlemagne down to the present times.

Those, therefore, who are prevented from applying themselves to a regular study of Ecclesiastical History through want of leisure, or by not having at hand the sources of instruction, and are, nevertheless, desirous of acquiring a distinct knowledge of certain events, doctrines, or religious rites, may consult the following work, in which they will find the information they want; and those who are inclined to push their inquiries still further, will see the course

they must pursue, and the authors mentioned whom it will be proper for them to peruse.

It would betray an unpardonable presumption in me to imagine, that, in a work whose plan is so extensive, and whose contents are so various, I have never fallen into any mistakes, or let any thing drop from my pen which stands in need of correction. But as I am conscious to myself of having conducted this undertaking with the most upright intentions, and of having employed all those means that are generally looked upon as the best preservatives against the seduction of error, I would hope that the mistakes I may have committed are neither so frequent, nor so momentous, as to be productive of any pernicious effects.

I might add more; but nothing more is necessary to enable those to judge of this work who judge with knowledge, impartiality, and candour. I therefore conclude, by offering the just tribute of my gratitude to Almighty God, who, amidst the infirmities of my advanced years, and other pressures under which I have laboured, has supplied me with strength to bring this difficult work to a conclusion.



astical his

I. ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY is a clear and faith- Definition ful narration of the transactions, revolutions, and of ecclesievents, that relate to that large community which tory. bears the name of JESUS CHRIST, and is vulgarly known under the denomination of the CHURCH. It comprehends both the external and internal condition of this community, and so connects each event with the causes from which it proceeds, and the instruments which have been concerned in its production, that the attentive reader may be led to observe the displays of providential wisdom and goodness in the preservation of the church, and thus find his piety improved, as well as his knowledge.



II. The church, founded by the ministry and Division of death of Christ, cannot be represented with cal history more perspicuity and propriety than under the into exter notion of a society, subjected to a lawful domi- nal and ins nion, and governed by certain laws and institutions, mostly of a moral and spiritual tendency. To such a society many external events must happen, which will advance or oppose its interests, and accelerate or retard its progress towards perfection, in consequence of its unavoidable connection with the course and revolutions of human affairs. Moreover, as nothing is stable and uniform where the imperfections of humanity take place, this religious society, besides the vicissitudes to which it must be exposed from the influence of external events, must be liable to various changes in its internal constitution. In this view of things, then, it appears, that the history of the church, like that of the state, may be divided, with propriety, into two general



and calami

branches, which we may call its external and internal history.

The exter- III. The external history of the church comnal, which prehends all the changes, vicissitudes, and events, hends the that have diversified the external state and condiprosperous tion of this sacred community. And as all public tous events societies have their periods of lustre and decay, that hap- and are exposed to revolutions both of a happy pened to the church and calamitous nature, so this first branch of ecclesiastical history may be subdivided into two, comprehending, respectively, the prosperous and calamitous events that have happened to the church.



Calamitous events.

IV. The prosperous events that have contributed to extend the limits, or to augment the influence of the Christian church, have proceeded either from its rulers and leaders, or from the subordinate members of this great community. Under the former class, we rank its public rulers, such as princes, magistrates, and pontiffs, who, by their authority and laws, their liberality, and even their arms, have maintained its cause and extended its borders; as also, its more private leaders, its learned and pious doctors, whose wise counsels, pious exploits, eminent examples, and distinguished abilities, have contributed most to promote its true prosperity and lustre. Under the latter class, we may comprehend the advantages which the cause 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.

V. Under the calamitous events that have happened to the church, may be comprehended the injuries it has received from the vices and passions of its friends, and the bitter opposition and insi

dious 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 blood-thirsty 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.

which com

VI. Such then, are the events that are exhibited Internal to our view in the external history of the church. history, Its internal history comprehends the changes prehends, 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 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 his orian.

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