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The support and government of fo immense a fociety, the movements of such a complicated machine, and, whilst it points to sublimer objects, and would steer à course to celestial habitations, its intimate connection, in mean time, with this world, with princes and potentates, with states and kingdoms, with transactions of peace and war, with any new event or revolution, and with men of every rank and character,--all this serves remarkably to enrich and diversify the scene of Ecclesiastical History,
THIS, however, it must be owned, is too little known by many ; and whilst they roam at large through other less valuable volumes of history, they preposterously neglect this more curious and interesting one, calculated to improve a folid, sagacious tafte ; and even to gratify, in some degree, an imagination turned
for romance, considering the numerous and marvellous incidents with which it is crouded,
To remove a considerable objection made by some, I have, in the following performance, lopped off numberless excrescencies which over-load our Churchhistories in general; whilst, however, I have judged it proper, to introduce a variety of episodes and observations omitted by others. Yet, I find, that some, on the other hand, have affected such a short, fystematic method, as to render their account of things little better than a mere ehronological index, jejune and uninteresting, whilst they have neglected to lay open the true springs of action, to trace the movement and gradual evolution of affairs, or to resolve into their proper causes the various events and revolutions which they too transiently relate,
I have aimed at something of a medium between both those extremes : Whe, ther I have succeeded or not, others must determine.
WITH a farther view to introduce to more general attention the History of the Church, I have followed out a kind of continued narration, through the FOUR GRAND PERIODS into which I have divided the Work: This, I knew, would be more agreeable to the prefent polished taste, than. if I had formally thrown it into separate centuries and subdivisions, as most other historians do, though they acknowledge this method is attended with several disadvantages. Thus alfo, I have avoided in particular, many disagreeable repetitions, whilft, at fame time, ave been duly attentive to chronological order, and to the natural series of events, and that too, even when I venture on a new
and peculiar arrangement.
Some such compendious view of Ecclesiastical History, from the commencement of Christianity to the beginning of the present century, as this now offered to the public, has been thought by some a performance, if properly executed, in fome measure wanting in the historical department. This kind of summary, containing the elements of Church History, may be of particular use to such who have not leisure to peruse larger volumes, and will not, it is hoped, be altogether unprofitable nor unpleasant even to those, who have made this branch of study an object of some attention. Even from the brevity of it a deeper inipression may be riverted in the mind, just as we retain a more distinct remembrance of a landscape that is not too extensive and varie
gated ; or, as a principal piece in paints ing strikes the eye more exquisitely, the less it is encumbered with a group of figures.
WHERE the subjects were rich and copious, it was not easy always to hold ani equal hand; and some may perhaps imagine, that I have been too diffusive on fome occasions, and affected too muchi brevity upon others. All I shall say is, that I apprehend every man is at liberty to chuse his own subject, and to treat it after his own manner, agreeable to the particular plan which he himself proposes. The public possess the undoubted privilege of approving or condemning as they shall see proper, and to their verdict every author is obliged to submit.
To comprise so much as I have done within such narrow limits, was accompa