« السابقةمتابعة »
tinguish between evangelical principles and the abuse of them, and when the distinctivn has been spointed out to them again and again, they refuse attention, and repeat the same stale misrepresentations which they know have been often refuted; they will not allow a grain for infirmity or inadvertence in those whom they oppose, while they demand the largest concessions for themselves and their adherents; they expect strict demonstrations from others, while, in their own cause, they are not ashamed to produce slanders for proofs, and jests for arguments : thus they triumph without a victury, and decide, ex cathedrá, without so much as Lentering upon the merits of the cause. These methods, - however successful, are not new inventions : by such arts and arms as these Christianity was opposed from its first appearance; in this way Lucian, Celsus, and Julian employed their talents, and made themselves famous to future times.
I judge it therefore a seasonable undertaking to attempt the apology of Evangelical Christianity, and to obviate the sophistry and calumnies which have.
been published against it; and this I hope to do, withsout engaging in any controversy, by a plain enumeration of facts. I propose to give a brief delineation of Ecclesiastical History from our Saviour's time; and, that the reader may know what to expect, I shall here subjoin the principal points I have in view.
I shall consider the genius and characteristic marks of the Gospel which Jesus taught, and show that, iso long as this Gospel was maintained in its purity, it
neither admitted nor found a neutrality; but that all who were not partakers of its benefits, were exceedingly enraged against it. I shall make it appear, that the same objections which have attended any reformations in later ages, were equally strong against Christianity, as taught by Christ and his first disciples; and that the offences and irregularities which have been known to attend a revival of evangelical doctrine in our time, were prevalent, to a considerable degree, under the preaching and inspection of the apostles.
2. When I come to the lives and conduct of those called the Fathers, whose names are held in ignorant admiration by thousands, I shall prove, on the one hand, that the doctrines for which the Fathers were truly commendable, and by which many were enabled to seal their profession with their blood, were the same which are now branded with the epithets of absurd and nyenthusiastic; and, on the other hand, that the Fathers,
however venerable, were men like ourselves, subject sto mistakes and infirmities, and began very soon to depart from the purity and sinplicity of the Gospel.
3. The progress of our history will manifest that the accession of wealth and power to the Christian profession proved greatly detrimental to the faith, discipline, and manners of the churches, so that, after the emperors publicly espoused the cause of Christ, the power and beauty of the Gospel was gradually eclipsed.
Yet, in the most degenerate times, God had a spiritual people, who, though partaking in some degree of the general declension, retained so much of the primitive Struth and practice as to incur the hatred and persecution of what is called the Christian world.
4. I shall treat of the means and instruments by which the Lord supported and revived his declining cause during several centuries. 1. In the valleys of Piedmont, Provence, &c. by Berengarius, Waldo, and others. 2. In England, by Wickliffe and his followers. 3. In Bohemia, by John Huss and Jerome of Prague. 4. In Germany, by Luther. Here I shall take occasion to observe, 1. That these successive reformations were all projected and executed, so far as God was pleased to give success, upon the same principles which are now so industriously exploded by many who would be thought champions of the Protestant faith. 2. That Luther's reformation, the most extensive and successful, and of which we have the best accounts, was soon followed by errors, heresies, and a numerous train of abominations (as had been the case with primitive Christianity), which the Romanists, in imitation of their Pagan predecessors, joyfully laid to the charge of the doctrine which Luther preached.
5. As it was not long before the reformed countries needed a second reformation, I shall give some account of the endeavours of many good men in Germany and other places in this view, their principles, success, and the treatment they met with from those who ought to have supported them; and then I shall briefly take notice of the similar occurrences in our country, from the end of Queen Mary's reign to the present time, together with what has been most remarkable in the history of the Gospel in our American settlements.
6. I shall occasionally consider the character and conduct of those persons whom God has honoured with eminent usefulness, in the different periods of his church, point out the defects in their plan, and the mistakes which, through infirmity, in some degree blemished their undertakings.
7. Finally, to make it évident that the spiritual worshippers of God have always been a sect every where spoken against, I shall enumerate some of the reproachful names that have been successively fixed on them, as the mark of general contempt and abhorrence, such as Patarienes, Lollards, Huguenots, Gospellers, Puritans, Pietists, &c.
These particulars will be illustrated in the course of our history, not exactly in the order here laid down, but as the series of the narration shall require or suggest. I shall not confine myself to a nice uniformity of method, or a dry detail of facts, but shall endeavour to illustrate and apply the several incidents to the use and edification of common readers, and with a view to my primary design, which is (as I have already said) to vindicate the doctrines of the Reformation, or, in other words, the main doctrines taught in the Articles and Homilies of the Church of England, from those unjust and disingenuous invectives which are every day cast upon them, by not a few who owe all their distinction and authority to their having solemnly engaged to defend them.
Whoever considers the intricacy and variety of Ecclesiatical History, and that the best collections of that sort have swelled to a number of folios, will not expect to find every thing that might have deserved a place. . The life of a man would hardly, suffice to furnish a work of this sort in its just extent.
I must content myself with selecting a competent v number of the most authentic and interesting topics, o from the voluminous materials already published, but is which, either from the size or scarceness of the books, or the languages in which they are written, are little more known to the generality of readers, than if they had never appeared in print.
I shall avoid, as far as possible, interfering in the . controversies on church government, reserving to my
self, and willingly leaving to others, the rights of private judgment, the just privilege of Christians; Protestants, viand Britons.
It must be confessed that the bulk of Ecclesiastical History, as it is generally understood, is little more
than a history of what the passions, prejudices, and : interested views of men have prompted them to per
petrate, under the pretext and sanction of religion. Enough has been written in this way ;, curiosity, nay, 1 malice itself, need desire no more. I propose to open a more pleasing prospect, to point out, by a long succession of witnesses, the native tendency and proper influence of the religion of Jesus; to produce the concurring suffrage of different ages, people, and lan
guages, in favour of what the wisdom of the world : rejects and reviles ; to bring unanswerable proofs that
the doetrine of grace is a doctrine according to god