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First, the history of

VII. The first thing, therefore, that should be the Christi- naturally treated in the internal History of the an doctors. 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 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].

of the doc

Secondly, VIII. After giving an account of the rulers the history and doctors of the church, the ecclesiastical histrines and torian proceeds to exhibit a view of the laws laws of the 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 con

[a] 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.

tained 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.

observed in

doctrines of

IX. In that part of the sacred history which Rules nerelates to the doctrines of Christianity, it is necessary to be cessary, above all things, to inquire particularly giving a hisinto the degree of authority that has been attri-tory of the buted to the sacred writings in all the different the Christiperiods of the church, and also into the manner an church. in which the divine doctrines they contain have been explained 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 considered, 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 farther necessary to shew under this head, what was the fate of the pure laws and doctrines of Christianityhow 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

Thirdly, the

history of nies and

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of the here

have divided it.

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, besides 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.

Fourthly, XI. As bodies politic are sometimes distracted the history with wars and seditions, so has the Christian sies that 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 [b]. 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;

[b] 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 enthusiasts and bigots.

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 requires in order to its being treated in a satisfactory manner. The difficulty of arriving at the truth, in researches of this nature, is extreme, on account of the injurious treatment that has been shewn 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,


to be consi❤


XII, After thus considering what constitutes In treating the matter of ecclesiastical history, it will be pro-cal history, per to bestow a few thoughts on the manner of events are treating it, as this is a point of too much import-dered in ance not to deserve a moment's attention. And connection here we may observe, that, in order to render with their 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

General method of

cret causes

direct the course of outward events, and views things in their various relations, connexions, 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 substitute 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 investigat public events, some general succours are to be ing the se- derived from the history of the times in which of things, they happened, and the testimonies of the authors by whom they are recorded. But besides 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 occupy 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.

More particular rules

in the er

XIV. There are, however, besides these genefor coming ral views, particular considerations, which will to this assist us still further in tracing up to their true knowledge causes the various events of sacred history. We ternal his- must, 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 em

tory of the church;

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