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THE

'HE period of time, which the Volume

now presented to the reader embraces, will exhibit the Church of Christ in a very different situation from any, in which it appeared, during the whole course of the three first Centuries.

The fourth Century opens with a persecution more systematically planned, and more artfully conducted, than those which Chriftians had ever known. Indeed Victory at first shewed itself in favour of the Perfecutors, and Christianity seemed to be near an end. All the Powers, of cruelty and artifice, and of violence and calumny; associated, were exerted to the utmost in the course of these transactions; and, if the Church still survived the storm, and rose more terrible from her losses, the only reason was, because her DEFENDER is invin

cible.

We next behold the Church etablished and protected by civil Polity, and the whole system of Paganism, which had been the pride of ages, gradually dissolved, and sinking into insignificance and contempt. The advantages and abuses, attendant on Christian Establishments, display themselves, on this occasion, in a very conspicuous point of view. I have en

deavoured,

a 2

way, have

deavoured, with faithfulness and candour, to point out both, at the same time that the regard due to truth itself, and to the characters of the most illustrious and the most exemplary Christians in past ages, seemed to require a defence of Ecclesiastical establishments. I hope no real lover of truth and liberty will censure the attempt: for it must be owned, that the most direct attacks, in the way of

argument, and I wish I could say, only in that repeatedly been made against them, as if they were unchristian in their whole nature. It cannot, therefore, be reckoned unfair to desire men, freely to give to others the liberty, which they allow to themselves, if they would prove that their love of liberty is genuine and sincere.

The Arian controversy fills almost the rest of the Century; it was my duty to give a faithful history of its rise, progress, and effects. And, if the personal character of Arians appear more criminal than

many

of
my

readers have been taught to imagine, I confidently refer them to the most authentic records of antiquity. I am not conscious of having dif-. guised any one fact, or exaggerated any one enormity.

But it is with far greater pleasure, that I have contemplated the fifth Century. The history of Pelagianism I judged to be a Desideratum in our language: it was necessary to lay it before the reader with some degree of cir

cumstantial

cumstantial exactness, supported too by incontestible documents. If the account of the writings and labours of Augustine be thought to extend to an immoderate length, I can only say, that the importance of the doctrines of Grace, with their practical effects, will, perhaps, be considered as a fufficient apology. Nothing can be introduced more pertinent to the whole design of this history, than the revival of religion, of which he was the Providential instrument: its effects remained for many centuries : and I scarce need say to those, who have read the former volume even with superficial attention, that my plan often requires me to be brief, where other historians are immoderately tedious; and to be circumftantial, where they say little, or are silent al

together.

even

is

To search out the real Church from age to age, is indeed a work of much labour and difficulty; far more fo, I apprehend, than can

be conceived by those, whose studies have never been directed to this object. The Ore

Precious, but it must be extracted from incredible heaps of Ecclesiastical rubbish. I cannot pretend to be clear of mistakes; but it

me to be as careful as I could; and I hall thankfully receive information or correction from studious persons who have carefully investigated antiquity for themselves. I cannot, indeed, expect information or cor

rection

behoved

a 3

rection from felf-created critics, who are carried
down the torrent of modern prejudices, and
who know no sentiments, but those, which
they have imbibed from authors of the pre-
sent Century

The encouragement, which I have received
from a generous publick, induces me to per-
severe. Besides, the peculiar advantage of a
work of this kind is, that it is capable of per-
fection, fo far as it proceeds, without needing
any support from subsequent parts. It is not
like a connected thread of argumentation,
which must be read throughout, before the full
force of any particular portion of it be dif-
cerned.

What real Christianity is, I mean to exhi-
bit historically; and, in the execution of this
Plan, I hope, I shall be found not altogether
to have disappointed the expectations of the
University of Cambridge. I reflect with pe-
culiar fatisfaction, that the University, to
which I am now so much indebted for liberal
support in the publication of this work, and
in which several of my earlier years were spent
in useful studics, was, under Divine Provi-
dence, the principal Instrument* of spreading
through these kingdoms at the Reformation,
that very light of Evangelical doctrine, which it
is the capital object of this history to explore.

* See Burnet's History of the Reformation, and Strype's Lives
of the Arch-Bishops, paflim.

CONTENTS.

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