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introduction, he is seen to be continually directing his mind to the investigation of causes ; and, as he is free from those eccentricities by which otherwise great philosophers have sometimes been spoiled, and possesses in a large degree that rarest of all endowments, the gift of common sense, he never misleads us by fanciful reasonings, or farfetched and unlikely conjectures. His combinations are natural and comprehensive ; he seldom loses sight of the remoter and more concealed influence of events, in their more palpable and obvious bearings : he is not the writer of biography, but of history; nor of the history of a doctrine or a sect, but of the church ; and, as he has set himself in a catholic spirit to ascertain the lessons which it teaches, we are persuaded that, as far as human frailty will admit, he will faithfully record them for the instruction of his fellows. We have examined the structure he has set himself to rear, as its parts are developed in this introduction, and we have little hesitation in saying, that if it should be completed according to the pattern, of which the commencement holds out the promise, we shall have a building as beautiful and ornamental, as it will be useful, solid, and compact.
We propose to quote a few paragraphs from this part of the volume, as well to justify our own remarks, as to exhibit Dr. W.'s views in his own clear and elegant language.
"The object of church history is to give an account of the rise and progress, the vicissitudes and character of that spiritual kingdom, which the Almighty has established on the earth, under the administration of his Son Jesus Christ.”—p. 1.
“The history of the church is not to be considered as forming merely a separate branch in the history of religion and manners, or as affording matter only for a subordinate chapter in civil history. An acquaintance with the leading events connected with ecclesiastical affairs, is indeed indispensable to the philosopher and politician ; but the fact that a revelation has been made of the Divine will from heaven, imparts to the history of those who have been brought under its influence, the dignity of an independent branch of inquiry.”—p. 2.
"In regard both to the subjects treated of, and the different periods under which they are considered, it must be constantly borne in mind, that in general church history we have to do with the church universal. Ecclesiastical history is not the history of the Christian religion merely, nor of the science of theology, nor of the hierarchy, nor of the learned and good individuals who have given a character to the Christian community--but of all these. Nor is it to be considered as a col. lectiou merely of the histories of the different sects and communities. It is not more distinguished from Christian biography, than it is from special histories of sects or Christian countries. The result of the contact between the truth of revelation and the human mind, affords in each particular instance matter of curious and instructive observation; and within certain limits, the experience of every individual under the influence of Divine truth, may be made available in the departments both of religion and theology. In church bistory, however, we have to do with individuals only as they stand related to the spiritual community to which they belong, and those individuals alone can be noticed, who hy their talents or virtues have exercised a remarkable influence over the whole. It is thus also with the communities into which the church universal has been divided. None of them must be overlooked, -all of them afford matter for instructive description. .... The
same rule must be followed here, with that laid down by philosophical historians in reference to the account that should be given of the progress of society among different states, which from their mutual relations, admit of being considered as forming one body politic. Those who have embraced the truths of revelation, extend in a chain from the origin of our race, and have been scattered over many countries— often without any external tie of connexion or dependence. Still there are some particulars in which all agree, and thus the idea of unity may be attached to the whole; and in fact, so far as they are all under the influence of Divine truth, a real union subsists among them as all partaking of the same spirit. Even those who, living in the same country, are divided into different parties, and who may refuse to each other the character of church membership, in so far as they hold the essen. tial truths of revelation, and live under its power, are in reality united as followers of the same Lord-and the history of the church embraces them all as one."— pp. 12, 13.
Referring to the benefits of the study, Dr. W. says:
"The highest advantages, however, resulting from the study of church history, relates to theology considered as a science. It is very common with those who have been long habituated to one view of Scripture doctrine, to look upon the system that they hold as that which must necessarily be adopted by, or rather must suggest itself to every unprejudiced mind, and that we have little more to do with other and preceding systems than to examine how far they coincide with our own as the only true standard. Nothing, however, can be more erroneous. While the essential truths of the Gospel, as objects of saving faith, have continued the same in all periods of the church, their scientific form has continually varied, being determined by the personal character and views of individuals, as affected by the condition of society at the time when they flourished, and the systems of philosophy which then prevailed. There is nothing which proceeds from the hands of man in reference to the Scriptures, which is not more or less tinged by one or other of the particulars which have been mentioned. We find the topics, the form, and the expression of creeds and confessions, even of the true church, in successive eras, affected, or, in a great measure, determined by the errors against which it was necessary to guard the faithful, and by the controversies which prevailed; and the influence of the spirit of the different ages, and of the personal character of individuals, is often also perceptible in matters of doctrine, worship, and government.” -pp. 22, 23.
"The advantages of connecting the study of historic and systematic theology have been pointed out, and in this respect an acquaintance with the heresies is of great importance, from the remarkable fact, in regard to many of the doctrines of our confessions and creeds, that while the germ of them is to be found in the works of the most ancient Christian writers, and though substantially they were always embraced by the church, yet the full and distinct statement of them has been generally first occasioned by the existence of errors of an opposite description. Not that anything essentially new has been discovered, but that the attention of the church has been directed to those portions of holy writ that relate to such questions, by which means the nature and bearing of Christian doctrine have been more fully and accurately evolved. Thus the spurious gospels forged by the Gnostics, and the false glosses made by them of the true gospels, first prepared the way for a right exegesis. Thus also the doctrine of the Trinity, though received by the church from the earliest times, was never set forth in all its fulness till the Patripassian, Sabellian, Arian, and Macedonian heresies brought the various passages of Scripture under the notice of minds solemnised by the subject, and sharpened in the controversy which was carried on. In like manner
the Apollinarian, Nestorian, and Eutychian errors led to a more definite explanation of the doctrines of the incarnation. And the same illustrations might be given respecting the doctrines of original sin, justification by faith, and others.”—pp. 26, 27.
The introduction to the first part contains two sections; one on the condition of the heathen world; the other on the condition of the Jews ; in each of which, we think, the author has been singularly successful in seizing and presenting clearly to our view the right points; the perusal of which has constantly reminded us of the famed disquisitions prefixed to the History of Charles the Fifth.
The History begins p. 95, and the remainder of the volume is occupied with the first chapter and the appended notes. This chapter is exclusively devoted to the “Propagation and Persecutions of Christianity,” the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the church being reserved, we presume, for the second volume. It is divided into four sections. Section 1. on the Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ, has interested us deeply. Its biographical sketch, though brief, is at once comprehensive and graphic; and the various theories by which men have attempted to explain away its peculiarities are satisfactorily met, and it is made to stand out in the front of this history, as it ought to stand-THE
ALL MYSTERIES, THE
GREATEST OF ALL
Section 2. carries us on to the death of the last surviving apostle, and makes us acquainted with the progress and difficulties of the new doctrine up to the close of the first century. Section 3. extends to the commencement of the Dioclesian persecution, and treats “ of the spread of the Gospel; of the opposition made to Christianity;" embracing notices of the legal position of the Christians; and of their persecutions by order of the civil rulers, and from popular violence; and of the authors who wrote against Christianity.” Section 4. continues the narrative “till the peace of the church was secured by Constantine becoming sole emperor.
We must transcribe the concluding paragraph. After referring to the rapid divergence from the views of Constantine, which took place in the mind of Licinius, though they had affixed their joint signatures to the edict of Milan ;—and describing the hostilities that ensued, and were followed by the death of the rival monarch, A.D. 324, he says
“ It is not to be wondered at that in contemplating the change that was effected by this victory, Eusebius should break forth into the utterance of the warmest sentiments of gratitude and joy. When thinking of the deliverance of the followers of Jesus from the terrible evils to which they had been so long subjected, he de. clares, that he is constrained to 'sing a new song unto the Lord, who hath done marvellous things. With his right hand and his holy arm he hath gotten him the victory.' It is indeed delightful to contemplate the scene that, after Constantine became sole emperor, presents itself to the view. New churches everywhere sprung up, and the Christians, secure from all fears of those who formerly oppressed them, celebrated solemn days of festivity. All things seemed to abound with fulness of
light, and they who heretofore had looked on each other with dejectedness and sorrow, then met with smiling countenances and cheerful eyes. In dances also and in songs in every city, and in the fields they first of all glorified God, the King of kings, and then the pious emperor, together with his children beloved of God. There was an oblivion of past affliction, no remembrance of any impiety, but only an enjoyment of the present good things, heightened by the expectation of thei increase. Euseb. H. E. x. 9."
How sad the issue of these apparently auspicious events! and Dr. W. as if significantly, adds—
"How far the prognostications of future good were realised, will be considered in a subsequent volume."
We have already said that the government, &c., of the church during this period remain to be considered; and the author has kept so clear of these points in the volume before us, that we do not recollect a sentence which indicates his own preference. We believe him to be a sincere Presbyterian; how far he is an Establishment man, we have no means of accurately judging; of course his views in those matters will come out as he proceeds, and will be fairly and broadly stated. Perhaps it is hardly worth while anticipating this; yet it may prevent mistake on the part of some of our readers, if we observe that the commendations which we are able so heartily to bestow on this part of his performance, will by no means commit us to the approval of that system of church government, &c., of which he may be found the advocate. Should we seriously differ on these points, and be under the necessity of entering the arena with him, we shall still highly estimate his labours. It is enough for us to be assured that he will write honestly and impar tially, though not infallibly; and we shall hail the statement and defence of even what we may deem to be erroneous views from such a man, because we believe they must aid the enunciation of truth, and prove a powerful help in bringing about that union of sentiments among the people of God, which we think time and Providence are hastening on. After so long a night of darkness and superstition, during which truth had been torn to pieces, and given to the four winds, it was not to be expected that the scattered fragments could be gathered up, and her original form restored, amid the consternation and excitement attendant on the first discovery of the loss. True the pattern, as far as it seemed good to the Divine Architect to furnish one, was preserved, but the filling up, the embodiment, had disappeared with the primitive churches, and one would mistake one feature, and another, another; whilst others would differ as to the combinations and groupings of the whole; and men are but just beginning to pursue the investigation calmly. Dr. Welsh has entered on the inquiry; he will furnish us with his idea for our study; we hope it will be an approximation: we expect there will be much to be approved; but should there be much also that both we and others may be compelled to reject because we deem it false, it may
yet greatly aid our own progress by stimulating further examination, suggesting views we had not taken, correcting prejudices we had not suspected, producing that oneness of heart which must precede the oneness of thought; and thus be a step which will ultimately lead to the recovery of the divine but long-lost object we have all been eagerly in
It is worthy of observation that no church history of the kind undertaken by our author has been attempted in our language. We have works on different periods, and selected topics, of great research and labour, but that by Milner is the only one that professes to be a universal history on a large scale. And this, as Dr. W. justly observes, “cannot be considered a history of the church. It is professedly written on 'a new plan,' and the peculiarity of that plan consists in giving a history only of real Christians;' and it must be obvious that it excludes much that is essential to a complete portraiture of historic Christianity.” Accordingly we have been compelled to import our knowledge on this most interesting topic, like our choicest wines and fruits, from other lands. Yet where should it grow if not here, where Christianity has so long cast her deepest and her firmest roots? We rejoice that with the improved culture and fertility of our soil, the mental vine of which church history is the appropriate fruit, is at length beginning to show some symptoms of a vigorous and luxuriant existence. We heartily thank our continental friends for the rich repasts they have often afforded us, but we cannot conceal our anxiety to redeem our character, and taste some grapes of home growth. We cannot but think that a church history, the product of a mind with whose tendencies and habits we thoroughly sympathise, and which has been trained under the influence of British philosophy, good sense, and above all of British piety, is a desideratum ; it may lack some advantages derived from German penetration and patience, but we believe it would possess other sterling qualities which would more than compensate for the loss.
To these considerations, by which we are induced to urge on our readers the early perusal of the volume at the head of this article, we cannot help adding that the book is got up in a manner every way worthy of its contents. Type, paper, and external appearance, are all in its favour. It is to its spirited publishers we are indebted for the valuable series of the Biblical Cabinet and the Cabinet Library; with some of the volumes of which we hope very shortly to be able to interest our readers.