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PREFACE.

These short memorials of Ecclesiastical History were, a considerable time since, announced as ready for publication. I have to offer an apology, but too valid, for the delay. The last sheet had just gone to the press, when the whole was consumed by fire; and, as the manuscript was at that time in the printer's hand, only a remnant of the Work could, with the utmost diligence, be recovered from the ruins. Restored, at length, as nearly as possible, to its original form, it is now presented to the reader, and it will, I hope, be found to answer the design of its publication.

The “New Plan” of Mr. Milner, which, omitting a great deal of what is found in most other Ecclesiastical Histories, would confine our attention chiefly to the concerns of “real,” and not “merely nominal Christians,” has been followed in the present Work. And where the guidance of this valuable historian, and that of his learned continuator, the late Dean of Carlisle, cease, it has been my endeavour to trace out the same plan for the ages subsequent to their narrative. The present Work, however, is upon a very reduced scale. Its limits, in order to suit the convenience of a different class of readers or purchasers, are confined to a single volume. The History referred to, already

extends to five full-sized octavos; and, if its future continuators do justice to the plan, it cannot occupy less than as many volumes more.

A pleasing result of the researches conducted on this plan is, that, amidst the multifarious annals of corrupted Christianity, there is evidence still extant, that a body of faithful believers, who “ held the mystery of the faith in a good conscience,” have existed in every age, from “ the time that the fathers fell asleep," down to our own times, when, I trust,'we may say, in the language of the Apostle—“ The epistle of Christ,” " written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the Living God," “ in fleshly tables of the heart,” may be“ known and read of all men.'

This is “ the eternal church,” against which the gates of Hell cannot prevail. We find its members, indeed, in the external churches to which they have belonged, sometimes so “compassed about with the wicked,” that “ a wrong judgment proceedeth ;” yet, at such times, a few are found “ valiant for the truth, upon the earth.” There may be periods, too, when we seem indebted almost solely to the hatred of their enemies, and to the records of persecution, that we can discover there was then such a people upon earth.

. But we shall often have occasion to remark, that when “the kingdom of God is taken away” from one people, it is in order to “ give it to another bearing the fruits thereof;” and when the Gospel light has been traced to its extinction in one part of the world, we shall generally find, if we are careful to mark the date, that

about the same time it was being rekindled in another quarter.

“ THE TRUTH" that “maketh free,” as taught by the Holy Spirit, can be but one; and with “ the acknowledging of the Truth,” eternal life is connected by the Word of God. That Word, as written in the Holy Scriptures, must be our only standard of Truth. We are to try the opinions held by churches and professors, by this standard, and not to bend the standard to the tradition of churches, or to the religious sentiments of the fathers and uninspired teachers. Our object in the study of Church History should be to learn—not what is Truth, but what are the progress and effects of that truth which we already understand from the Oracles of God.

Could the “ Christian mind” be consulted, I am persuaded that we should be struck with the sameness of Truth, as taught of God, in every age. But on the page of history, even of the history of true Christians, it does not always shine forth with the same clearness and fulness. Though it is the same heavenly light, it seems often to fall discoloured and obscured by the medium of human ignorance and prejudice through which it passes. We have sometimes to complain of inconsistency in ecclesiastical writers and orators, who at other times seem to transmit the truth so fairly. From the circumstances of the ages, also, in which they lived, from the errors and heresies they had to oppose, even the orthodox teachers refract not all the rays of light at all times with equal brightness, or at least seem not to do so, from the records of history.

Those ages, for instance, which cast so clear a ray in their defence of the doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity, and of the mysterious person of the Incarnate Saviour, are not so luminous in their testimonies for the “ second” great truth, “ which is like unto it”—

By grace ye are saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” But, at a subsequent period, when this great truth is more directly and publicly impugned, the testimony becomes clearer, and the voice of the universal church seems to be raised at the call of Augustin, to declare what was the “ truth once delivered to the saints."

But, notwithstanding the partial and varying beam that on different occasions shines through the medium of the fathers and eminent teachers of the church, and which, had we no other standard, might sometimes perplex us, history does present us a proof of an incidental kind, but a very satisfactory one, that the Christian system, when administered with life and power, has in every age been the same; --and the proof is this - That we find an exact agreement concerning it in the hostile views of its sagacious opponents, and a remarkable coincidence in the arguments by which, in their appeal to the common judgment of mankind, they would deliver it over to ignominy and reproach. Observe the description which the philosophers Celsus and Porphyry present, of the preaching and doctrine of the Christians in the age of the apostolic fathers'. And again, at the beginning of

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the third century, remark the objections which are so lucidly stated in Minucius Felix, against the doctrines then taught by the Christians'. Compare with these objections, the calumnies of the Pelagians against the doctrines defended by Augustin, in the fifth century”. Observe how the same inferences are drawn from the doctrine which Luther taught, by Aleander, the papal advocate, at the diet of Worms, in the year 1521°; and the uniform language of the opponents of the Reformation, on several other occasions ;—the manner, for instance, in which the popish bishop Gardiner expresses himself, on archbishop Cranmer's publication of the first book of Homilies". And, lastly, compare the reasonings and objections -and even the very

language of the less wary-of more modern opponents of “the Gospel of the grace of God.”

I conceive that the comparison of these objections, will impress the reader with a strong conviction, that the obnoxious doctrine has been the same in all ages.

And if we have embraced the same “ truth” which animated the primitive Christians, and the teachers of the blessed Reformation, and find it still impugned with the same censures and calumnies which Celsus, the pagan in Minucius Felix, the papal advocates, and others, in their day, have used, we may turn it into a testimony, that we are right and correct in our statements.

Nor must we be “ashamed” of our Master, or deny his “doctrine:”—nor shall we, if to us it has been “the

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