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mation, 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 evident 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, Hugenots, 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 Refor mation, 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 Ecclesiastical 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
I must content myself with selecting a competent number of the most authentic and interesting topics, from the voluminous materials already published, but 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 myself, and willingly leaving to others, the rights of private judgement, the just privilege of Christians, Protestants, and 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 perpetrate, under the pretext and sanction of religion. Enough has been wrote in this way; curiosity, nay, 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 languages, in favour of what the wisdom of the world rejects and reviles; to bring
unanswerable proofs that the doctrine of grace is a doctrine according to godliness, that the constraining love of Christ is the most powerful motive to obedience, that it is the property of true faith to overcome the world, and that the true church and people of Christ have endured his cross in every age; the enemy has thrust sore at them that they might fall, but the Lord has been their refuge and support; they are placed upon a rock that cannot be shaken, they are kept [poupouμevoi] guarded and garrisoned by the power of God, and therefore the gates of hell have not, cannot; shall not prevail against them.
Per damna, per cædes, ab ipso
Ducit opes animumque ferro.
A Review of Ecclesiastical History, upon the plan proposed in the Introduction, is a subject of so much extent and difficulty, that, if I had not entered upon it before my admission into the ministry, I believe I should not have attempted it afterwards; for I soon found that the stated care of a large parish, and a due attention to the occasional occurrences of every day, would leave me but little leisure for the prosecution of my design. Upon these accounts it was wholly intermitted for several years; and my progress since I have resumed it, has been so slow, and my interruptions so many, that I had almost determined to content myself with publishing, in a single volume, a Review of the First Century. However, a desire of completing the work has prevailed, and I send this abroad with the title of a first volume, because I hope it will be followed by more, if the great God, who has the sovereign disposal of his creatures, shall be pleased to afford me a competent measure of health and ability for the service; but if he should see fit to appoint otherwise, I hope what I now offer to the public (though but a part of my intended plan) may suffice to show how little just ground there is for the insinuations and invectives which have been so plentifully thrown out against the preachers and professors of those doctrines which were once esteemed the life and glory of the Protestant name.
I cannot expect that all my readers will be pleased with the application I have made of New Testament facts to the state of religion in our times; but as I am not conscious that I have written a single line with a view to provoke or inflame, I have only to entreat a candid perusal, and to commit the issue to Him whom I desire to serve with my spirit in the Gospel