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I am not aware that there is any account of the Church of Rome, framed on the simple and obvious principle of merely collecting and arranging the testimony of History with regard to facts, and so presented to the reader as that he should have a right to believe, that when he has read what is before him, he has learnt all that is to be known. This is strange, considering the points at issue, and the extent, duration, and intensity of the controversies which have been carried on between that Church and the rest of Christendom.
Of course certain historical facts have been discussed over and over again for ages, and every original account of them has been made to mean every thing that it could mean, and, under the influence of party feeling, often a great deal more; but this is not such an account as I am speaking of; and I have thought, and think still, that there is something yet wanting which, if sincerely and truly performed, would be valued by the honest student of Church History.
We have accounts of the Church of Rome in the
New Testament quite enough to excite deep interest in all belonging to it. It is a very natural inquiry to make, Can we carry on the thread of history and trace the further progress of that Church? We have lists of its bishops. Do we know any thing about the men, who they were, and what they said and did ? At the present time, and for a thousand years past, they have been making large claims on the obedience of the other prelates of Christendom. Did they always make such claims, and how were they received in the successive generations of the Church ? Information on such questions would be full of interest.
A few years ago, thinking that there were sufficient materials to give a far more intimate knowledge of the Roman Church than the general reader then possessed, it occurred to me to endeavour to collect and arrange them. I had no object in view beyond a desire to represent the truth. It seemed to me to be a want. I was somewhat acquainted with the subject, and I had leisure. Besides, feel ing assured, on other grounds, that Roman pretensions could have no sound foundation, I thought that a true and simple statement of historical facts would show their fallacious origin. I had seen that the early writings gave no support to the present Roman theory of a supremacy by divine right, and I thought that so long as that was shown, history supported Scripture and common sense in rejecting it. I had viewed the controversy through a Protestant glass of the present day.
I accordingly commenced my work. A question, however, very soon arose touching the authenticity and genuineness of the writings I was using. I had, in former days, even in that general perusal which most ecclesiastical scholars undertake of the early writings, felt now and then unpleasant misgivings; but I had, like, perhaps, those before me, passed them over without minute investigation. Now, however, that I was using them for history I could no longer do so. The question of their authenticity and genuineness was irresistibly fixed on my attention, and must be answered. I spent some months, I believe, in a vain attempt to solve it. I grew disheartened, ill health supervened, a severe domestic affliction followed, and I gave up my History
About a year and a half ago I determined to resume it, and again these writings and documents confronted me. I must own that I sought to evade the difficulty, and to write the history I meditated without grappling with them. After a while a better feeling returned. I felt that, although these writings had floated down the broad stream of history, if not unsuspected yet, as far as I knew, unchallenged * (the Romanist having triumphantly
* It is a curious fact that, after I had written this page, I received a letter by this morning's post, informing me of a note of Mr. Poole, in his “Life and Times of Cyprian,” in which he