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'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
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, 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
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 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
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 from felf-created critics, who are carried
The encouragement, which I have received
What real Christianity is, I mean to exhi-
* See Burnet's History of the Reformation, and Strype's Lives