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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 deserved 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 un

speakably 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 period 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 downwards, 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 called the Middle Age. And indeed I may venture to affirm, that I have brought to light several things hitherto generally unknown, 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 compared 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 credibility on a solid foundation. The illustrations and enlargements, which, generally speaking, carry an air of disproportion and superfluity in an historical abridgment, were absolutely necessary in the present case.

These reasons engaged me to change the plan laid down in my former work, and one peculiar consideration induced me to render the present history more ample and voluminous. The Elements, so often mentioned, were designed principally for the use of those who are appointed to instruct the studious youth in the history and vicissitudes of the Christian church, and who stand in need of a compendious text, to give a certain order and method to their prelections. In this view, I treated each subject with the utmost brevity, and left, as was natural and fitting, much to the learning and abilities of those who should think proper to make use of these Elements in their course of instruction. But, in reviewing this compendious work, with a design to offer it anew to the public, I imagined it might be rendered more acceptable to many, by such improvements and additions as might adapt it, not only to the use of those who teach others, but also of those who are desirous of acquiring, by their own application, a general knowledge of Ecclesiastical History. It was with this view that I made considerable additions to my former work, illustrated many things that had been there obscurely expressed, for the sake of brevity, and reduced to a re

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