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INTRODUCTORY REMARKS, &c.
cient and noble family. At an early period of life he discovered a strong inclination for books, which was cherished by his father, who had him educated with great care. Having gone through his course of grammar-learning and philosophy, he determined on the clerical profession, and frequented Lectures of divinity in the Sorbonne, a celebrated college in Paris. In prosecuting his studies he made such progress, particularly in an acquaintance with the writers of ecclesiastical history, that, in 1684, he was admitted a doctor of the Sorbonne. He then set about writing a work on ecclesiastical history, the first volume of which appeared in 1686, and others followed in succession, as far as five volumes, which comprised an account of the first eight centuries. When he had arrived at this point, he was called to account by his superiors for the freedom with which he had treated some ecclesiastical writers, in regard to their style, opinions, and other matters, in doing which he gave great offence to certain persons, and in 1693 his work was suppressed. He, however, found means afterwards to pacify the higher powers, and, by making a trifling variation in the title of his work, he was allowed to carry it on, which he did to the publication of several successive volumes, continuing the history to the end of the 16th century. The whole was translated into English, and printed in six volumes folio, 1695–1702, enriched with notes, and I may add that there is a useful abridgment of it in four volumes 12mo. The author was possessed of very extensive reading, and wrote with ease and fluency. Add to which, that he had an extraordinary faculty of analyzing the works of another, which rendered his own pages very instructive ; besides which his impartiality is admirable, and it was this quality which rendered him so obnoxious to the zealots of the church of Rome, to which he belonged. Yet, after all, it must be remembered that Dupin was a Catholic, and of course believed the church of Rome to be the church of Christ, which in my humble judgment was a fundamental error. I cannot, therefore, recommend his book to you as furnishing an authentic history of the Christian church, though it is certainly a repository of valuable materials connected with that interesting subject. His work, is much less read among us in the present day, than it was a century ago, having given place to the more popular production of Mosheim. This learned writer was Chancellor of the University of Gottingen, about the middle of the last century, and wrote in Latin an Ecclesiastical History from the birth of Christ to the beginning of the eighteenth century. It was soon afterwards translated into our language by Dr. Maclaine, who accompanied it with very copious notes, in which he corrects a few errors in the author's text and supplies many deficiences which he had detected. Mosheim had certainly one great advantage over Dupin; I mean in being a Protestant; for he was of the Lutheran persuasion, and consequently under no temptation' to advocate the cause of the Romish church, or find apologies for her corruptions. Yet somehow or other, by a singular perversion of judgment, throughout his whole work the church of Rome is identified with the church of Christ ! To have given the work its appropriate title, it should have been designated “ A History of Popery, detailing its rise and progress, with the various modifications of church power, &c;" for if you look into his pages you will presently perceive that “ the church” whose history he narrates is always the dominant party, that is, the Roman Catholic party, whose influence was paramount, and which tyrannized over the bodies and souls of men with ruthless sway. Perhaps you will ask me, does he take no notice of the friends of truth, the real disciples of Christ, the meek and humble followers of the Lamb? I reply that he certainly does : they come in for a share of his notice ; but then it is almost invariably to exhibit them as heretics who troubled the church! Now, had Mosheim himself been a Catholic, we might have found some apology for his conduct in this monstrous perversion of truth and justice: but, avowing himself a Protestant, he was both inconsistent and culpable.
It has been often remarked that Truth is the life's blood of History: deprive it of that valuable ingredient, and you convert it into fable or romance. But what truth can there be in holding up a corrupt and apostate communion as the Christian church, and the friends of truth, who opposed those corruptions, as heretics that troubled the church? Yet this is precisely Mosheim's plan of compiling the annals of Ecclesiastical History. In the course of Lectures which I am about to deliver, it will be my object to l'everse that plan. We shall endeavour
INTRODUCTORY REMARKS, &c.
first of all to settle the important question, what are the constituent principles of the church or kingdom of Christ—the doctrine on which it is founded—the Sovereign whose authority it acknowledges—the laws by which it is regulated, with the nature of its privileges and blessings ; and, having once ascertained these points on scriptural grounds, the discovery will serve us as a polar star, by which to steer our course through all the mazes and intricacies of what is termed Ecclesiastical History. The truth is, that to render this important subject as interesting, instructive, and profitable as from its nature it is adapted to become, a totally different form of compiling, and consequently a different mode of studying it, must be adopted and pursued. New arrangements of the subject may be devised, by means of which the narrative may be rendered more luminousmuch trifling matter may, without detriment, be omitted—the most striking events in the lives or histories of the distinguished individuals with whom it brings us acquainted may serve to diversify and enliven the general narration, whilst the bearing of all the leading incidents upon the constitution of human nature, and on the influence which they have exerted, may be more clearly and steadily represented than hath hitherto been done. But, to achieve anything of this kind, a sincere and ardent love of truth, which is the surest guide, because it is the light of the mind, must be cherished and cultivated. This is the only thing that can raise us above the influence of those religious and political prejudices which too often bewilder the mind and enslave even the soundest understandings. But, to proceed,
Of MILNER's History of the Christian church it may suffice to say, that, though extending to five thick volumes, it brings down the narrative no further than the Reformation, and of course leaves the subject incomplete by three hundred years. The author himself lived to publish only three volumes, and of these I cannot speak in very high terms: I mean, according to my own views of what a History of the Christian church ought to be. In point of learning he was not deficient, and his reading was extensive; but he wanted a discriminating judgment. He seems never to have settled in his own mind what constitutes the church or kingdom of Christ; or, if he had, he certainly decided erroneously, for he confounded it with the church of
England, in which he exercised the ministerial functions; and the consequence has been that his volumes exhibit a strange mixture of truth and error, a motley assemblage of human inventions and the corruptions of Christianity with the pure and simple religion of the New Testament. It was obviously a leading object with him to make the primitive church the pattern of modern Episcopacy, that is, of the church of England, a point which he has laboured with great diligence, as had been done by several of his predecessors, as well as some who have followed him; but it is “ labouring in the fire for very vanity.” The fourth and fifth volumes of the work, which are occupied with the history of the Lutheran reformation, were added by the author's brother, the Dean of Carlisle, a man of much superior attainments, and these possess sufficient merit to make it a matter of regret that he did not live to finish the undertaking. The subject, however, has been lately taken up by a clergyman of the name of Scott, who has added a sixth and seventh volume, and is engaged on a continuation; but the work, if brought down to the present time upont he plan of the later volumes, independently of the objections already mentioned, must be too voluminous for the generality of readers.
Having thus offered my opinion concerning the most popular works on Ecclesiastical History in our language, and pointed you to what I consider to be defective in either the plan or execution of them, I have great pleasure in being able now to direct your attention to what I cannot but regard, and therefore think myself fully warranted to pronounce, a perfect specimen and example of what a History of the Christian church ought to be. I refer to the book of the Acts of the Apostles, which I venture to uphold as an inimitable model, both as respects style and materials. All this, indeed, natively follows from the fact of its having been written under divine inspiration. But let us, for a few moments, drop that consideration, and take a brief review of this section of the New Testament, considered simply as an epitome of Ecclesiastical history.
The penman was evidently the Evangelist Luke, who accompanied Paul in most of his travels, and was consequently an eye-witness of much that he relates. His entire narrative embraces a period of thirty years, commencing with the ascension
INTRODUCTORY REMARKS, &c.
of the Son of God into heaven, and the choice of an apostle to fill the place of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him :—these two events occupy the first chapter.
The second chapter contains an account of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, in which was fulfilled, as the historian tells us, a memorable prophecy which had been delivered by Joel, eight hundred years before. We then have the substance of a sermon preached by the apostle Peter to a multitude of unbelieving Jews, most of whom had been accessary in putting the Son of God to a shameful and ignominious death, and so powerful was the appeal that, through divine energy, about 3000 of them were converted to the faith, baptized in the name of Christ, and formed into a Christian church. The chapter closes with a particular specification of the ordinances of public worship which, under apostolic direction, and conformably to the will of the ascended Saviour, chapter i. 3, they statedly observed, namely, “the doctrine or teaching of the apostles,—the fellowship or contribution for the relief of the poor, &c.—the commemoration of the Lord's death, here termed the “breaking of bread,” with the moral and devotional exercises of prayer and praise,” v. 41-47. And with this commenced the Christian church, or setting up of Christ's kingdom in the world: that church or kingdom whose history we intend, if the Lord will, to trace from that period to the present, contemplating the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, gradually expanding its dimensions until it becomes a great mountain, or, according to one of our Lord's own parables, “the grain of mustard meed” taking root in the earth, springing out of the ground, rising majestically into a tree, casting forth its branches on every side, so that the birds of the air come and lodge under them.
In the third, fourth, and fifth chapters we are furnished with an interesting account of the effects produced in Jerusalem by the occurrences of the day of Pentecost, connected with the preaching of the apostles, and the miracles which they wrought. As these wonderful works were attestations of divine power, and wrought in the name of him whom the Jewish rulers had lately “taken, and by wicked hands had crucified and slain,” they, by necessary implication, involved a charge of atrocious murder against the constituted authorities, who very naturally took the