Johann Lorenz Mosheim.

An ecclesiastical history, ancient and modern: from the birth of ..., Volume 1 online

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irra of christ,to the beginning of tub pbesent century.














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I cAirwoT penmde myael^ that the complaints we hear
frequently <rf the frivolous nature of the public taste b mat-
tanof literature^ are so fiirto be relied on, as to make me
despur of a &vourable reception of the following work. A
Histoiy of the Christian Churchy composed with judgment,
taste, and candour, drawn with uncommon discernment and
industry, from the best sources, enriched with much useful
learning and sereral important discoveries, and connected
with the history of ArU, Philosophy, and Civil Government,
is an object that will very probably attract the attention of
many, and must undoubtedly excite the curiosity of the ju-
dicious and the wise. A work of this nature will be con-
sidered by the iihiiowpher as an important branch of the his-
tory of the human mind, and I need not mention a multitude
of reasons that render it peculiarly interesting to the chriut'
urn. Beside, there has not hitherto appeared in English,
any complete history of the church, that represents its rev-
olutions, its divisions, and doctrines, with impartiality and
trotb, exposes the delusions of popish legends, breathes a
s{»rit of moderation and freedom, and keeping perpetually
in the view of the reader the true nature and design of the
christian religion, points out the deviations from its beauti«
ful simplicity, that have been too frequent among all orders
of men, and in all ages of the world.

The following work has the best claim of any I know, to
these characters ;» and its peculiar merit Is ^inted out as

■ Some time after I had undertaken this tranalatioo, I irat honoared with
a letter from tbe learned btflhop of Gkmeetter, in vhieh he vat m good
ii to teftify hie approbati«m of my deaign, a«d to speak of the work I
here offer taihe puhHe in an BngKab dreaa^- in the following manner ;

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fer as modesty would permit, in the ensuing prefigice of its
justly celebrated author. The reputation of this great man
b very well known. His noble birth seemed to open to his
ambition a fair path to civil promotion ; but his zeal for the
interest <^ x^ligi9n^ t^s insatiable thirst after knowledge,
and moi^ especially his preidominant taste for sacred litera-
toire, induced him to consecrate his admirable talents to the
pe of the church. The German universities loaded
; literary honours. The king of DenmaHt invited
himmettle at Copenhagen. The diike of Brunsniek e«H»
ed him from thence to Helmstadt, where he received the
marks of distinction due to his eminent abilities ; filled
with applause the academical chair of divinity; was hon-
oured with the character of ecclesiastical counsellor to thai
respectable court; and presided over the seminaries of
learning in the dutchy of Wolfembuttle and the principality
. of Blackenburg. When the fate king formed the design
of giving an uncommon degt'ee of lustre to the Umvprsity
of Gottingen, by filling it whh men of the first rank uk the
literary world, such as a Haller, a Gesner, and a Michaelia,
Dr. Mosheim was deemed worthy to af^ear at the head of
that &mous seat of learning, in die quality of chancellor ;
and here he died, universally lamented in the year 175S»
and in the sixty first year of his age. In depth of judgment,
in extent of learning, in the powers of a noble and mascu*
line eloquehc^e, in purity of taste, and in a laborioms applica-
tion to all the various branches of erudition and philosophy,
he had certainly very few superiors. His Latin translation

Moiheira't CompemUum U exoeBent^ the method admirable .* in thortt the
•v^ on* dbeervinff the name 9if an EcdeHattical Eittory. It deterveB^-
and needM, frequent note; 1 hope thia eminent prelate irill not take
amiM rnj plaeing here a testimony that vas not designed to be produced
in this public manner. It is, howeyer, so adapted to pre those "who
examine reoomraendstioas» with diseerameot a fitrourahle notion of the '
following work, that I could not think of suppressing it It is usual, in
pnblbhiag oerlain aacient author^ to prefix to them the encomiums they
have bae» honoured vith by those whose autliortt; is respected in the
Republic at letters. I adopt this enstom so fiur as to mention one testi-
motiy ; more would be unnaeessary ; the testimony of a Warboi'ton if
abundantly sufficient to answer my purpose, and will be justly looked
upon as equivalent to a multitude.

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of tlM c^kbmtfid Dr. Cudwovth's ^teUecttnlSyMtemi/ tkt
Um»er^ Qoriclicd with ki^ge aoiiotatioiM, discovered such «
prafipijmd Mqwdatance with ancient philosophy and erudi-
tion, as justly excited the admiration of the learned world.
Va^ mgenioiu illustrations of the sacred writings, his suc-
ceisfttl labours in the defence of Christianity, and the light
hft cast upon the Uatory of religion and philosophy by his
unintenrnpted researches, appear in a multitude of volumes,
wkaeh are deservedly i^aced among the most valuable
tnasares of sacred and profane literature ; and the learned
and judidoua wiurk, that is here presented to the public, will
nndoobtedly render his na«ie illustrious in the records of
va£gi<yn and letters.

HoNT &r justice has been done to thb excellent work, in
the following translation, is a point that must be left to the
decision of those who shall think proper to peruse it with
atrm t iosL I csn say, with the strictest truth, that I have
spared no pains to render it worthy of their gracious ac-
ceptance { .and this consideration gives me some claim to
their caiklour and indulgence, for any defects they may find
in it. I have endeavoured to render my translation fidthiul,
but never proposed to render it entirely literal. The style
of the original is by no means a model to imitate, in a work
designed for general use. Dr. Mosheim affected brevity,
and laboured to crowd many things into few words ; thus
his diction, though pure and correct, became sententious
and harsh, without that harmony which pleases the ear, and
those transitions which make a narration flow with ease.
This being the case, I have sometimes taken considerable
liberties with my author, and followed the spirit of his nar-
rative without adhering strictly to the letter. Where in-
deed, the Latin phrase appeared to me elegant, expressive,
and compatible with the English idiom, I have constantly
Mowed it ; in all other cases, I have departed from it, and
have often added a few sentences, to render an observation
more striking, a fiict more clear, a portrait more finished.
Had I been translating Cicero or Tacitus, I should not have
thought such freedom pardonable. The translation of a

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classic author, like the copy of a capital {ttctare, most ex-
hibit not only the mbjectj but also the tnann^r of the orig-
inal ; this rule, howerer, is not applicable to the work now*
under consideration.

The reader will easily disdnguish the additional notes of
the translator from the original ones of the author ; the ref-
erences to the translator^ being marked with a hand^
thus, 03-

When I entered upon this undertaking, I proposed ren-
dering the additional notes more numerous and ample, than
the reader will find them. I soon perceived that the pros-
ecution of my original plan would render this work too yo-
luminous ; and this induced me to alter my purpose. The
notes I hare given, an not hoWever inconsiderable in
number ; I wish I could say as much with respect to their
merit and importance. I would only hope, that some of
them will be loo%d upon as not altogether unnecessary.

Hagvs» Dee. ^ 176i.

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The CuToarable reception which the first edition of this
work met with, has encouraged the translator to employ his
utmost care in rendering the second still less unworthy of
tiie acceptance of the public. He hae corrected a passage
emMieousIy translated in the second Tolume^ at the 574th.
page of the quarto edition ; and he has revised the whole
with a degree of attention, which he hopes will secure him
against the charge of any other inadvertency. He takes
this opportunity of acknowledging the goodness of the learn*
ed and worthy Dr. Neve of Middleton Stoney, who fitvoured
lum iHdth seyeral notes, and with some hundreds of addi-
tional articles and corrections for the Index. Many of these
are inserted in this edition, and an N. subjoined to each, to
dsdnguiah them from those of the translator.

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Thb different editions of the Kiementi qfthc ChriMtum Ifit*
tory • met with such a favourable reception from the pub*
Gc, and the demand for them was so great, that thef were^
in a little time, out of print. Upon this occasion, the wor*-
tbf person, at whose expense they had been presented to
the public, desired earnestly to give a new edition of the
same woriL improved and enlarged, and thus still more wor»
thf of its gracious acceptance. The other occupations in
which I was engaged, and a prudent consideration of the
labour I must undergo in the correction and augmentation
of a woriL in which I myself perceived so many imperfec-
tions, prevented my yielding, for a long tim^, to his earnest
solicitations* The importunities of my friends at length
prevailed upon me to undertake this difficult wotk ; and (
have employed assiduously my hours of lebure, during the
space of two years, in bringing it to as high a degree of
perfection as I am capable of giving it ; so that now these
Elements of Ecclesiastical History appear under a new form|
and the changes they have undergone are certainly advanta-
geous in every respect, I have retained still the divisiohof
the whole into certain periods ; for though a continued nar-
ration would have been more agreeable to my own taste, and
had also several circumstances to recommend it, yet the
counsels of some learned men, who have experienced the
great advant^es of this division, engaged me to prefer it to
every other method. And indeed, when we examine this
matter with due attention, we shall find, that the author,
who proposes comprehending in one work all that variety of
observations and facts that are necessary to an acquaintance

Olj* • .\ tiiudl work published by Dr. Mosheim, many yean iigo,i|i
tvo Tolnmet l8mo.


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with the state of Christianity in the different ages of the
church, will find it impossible to execute this design, with-
out adopting certain general divisions of time, and others of
a more particular kind, which the variety of objects, that
demand a place in his history, naturally points out.

And as this was ray design in the following work, I have
left its primitive form entire, and made it my principal bu-
siness to correct, improve, and augment it in such a man-
ner, as to render it more instructive and entertaining to the

My principal care has been employed in establishing up*
on the most solid foundations, and confirming by the most
respectable authority, the credit of the facts related in thi»
history. For this purpose, I have drawn from the fountain
head, and have gone to those genuine sources from whence
the pure and uncorrupted streams of evidence flow. I have
consulted the best authors of every age, and chiefly those
who were contemporary with the events they relate, or lived
near the periods in which they happened ; and I have en-
deavoured to report their contents with brevity, perspicuity,
and precision. Abbreviators, generally speaking, do little
more than reduce to a short and narrow compass, those
large bodies of history, that have been compiled from orig*
inal authors ; this method may be, in some measure, justi-
fied by several reasons, and therefore is not to be entirely
disapproved. From hence nevertheless it happens, that the
errors, which almost always abound in large and voluminous
productions, are propagated with facility, and passing from
one book into many, are unhappily handed down from age to
age. This I had formerly observed in several abridgments ;
and I had lately the mortification to find some instances of
this in my own work, when I examined it by the pure lamp
of antiquity, and compared it with those original records*
that are considered as the genuine sources of sacred history.
It was then, that I perceived the danger of confiding implic-
itly even in those who are the most generally esteemed on
account of their fidelit}-, penetration, and diligence ; and it
w«8 then also, that I became sensible of the neeesshy of
adding, suppressing, changing, and correcting several things

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ill the utaSI work which I fionnerly published, uid whk^
haA becti already mentioned. In the execution of this no*
eeteaiy task, I can afBrm with truth, that I have not heea
^wanting In perseveranee, industiy, or attention ; and yett
-with all theae, it is extremely difficult to avoid mifltakes of
•very kind, as those who are acquainted with the nature of
Ittsserical researches abnndantly know. How &r I have
approHcked to that inaccessible degree of exactness, which
is chargeable with no error, must be left to the decision of
those whose extensive knowledge of the christian histoiy
entitles them to pronouDce judgment in this matter. That
inch may judge with the more facility, I have mentioned
the authors who have been ro^ guides ; and, if 1 have in
any respect misrepresented their accounts or their senti-
ments^ i must confess, tliat I am much more inexcusable
than some other historians, who have met with and deserv-
ed the same reproach, since I have perused with attention
and compared with each other the various authors to whose
testimoo^r I appeal, having formed a resolution of trusting
to no authority inferioi* to that of the original sources of
historical truth.

In order to execute, with some degree of success, the
design I Cbrmed of rendering my abridgment more perfect,
and of giving the history of the church as it stands in the
most authentic records, and in the writings of those whose
authority b most respectable, I found myself obliged to
make many changes and additions. These will be visible
through the whole of the following work, but more especial^
ly in the Tlurd Book, which comprehends the history of
the christian, and particularly of the Latin or western church,
from Charlemagne to the rise of Luther and the commence-
ment of the reformation. This period of Ecclesiasdcal His*
tory, though it abound with shining examples ; though it be
unspeakably useful as a key to the knowledge of the polidcal,
as w^l as religious state of Europe ; though it be singularly
adapted to unfold the origin and explain the reasons of many
modem transactions, has nevertheless been hitherto treated
with less perspicuity, solidity, and elegance, than any other
branch of the history of the church. The number of writers

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Oiat have atteniited to throw light upon this interetdng pe-
riod is considerable, but few ut them are in the hands of the
public. The bai*barou8 style of one part of them, the profibund
ignorance of anotheri and the partial and &ctious spirit of a
third) are such as render them by no means inviting ; and
the enormous bulk and excessiTe price of the productions
of some of the best of these writers must necessarily render
them scarce. It is further to be obserTed, that some of the
most valuable records that belong to the period of Ecclesi-
astical History now under consideration, lie yet in manu*
script in the coUectians of the curious, or the opulent, who
lure willing to pass for such, and are thus concealed from
public view. Those who consider these circumstances will
no longer be surprised, tliat in this part of Ecclesiastical
History, the most learned and laborious writers have omit*
ted many things of consequence, and treated others without
success. Among these, the annalists and other historians^
so highly celebrated by the church of Rome, such as Baro-
nius, Raynaldus, Bzovius, Manriques, and Wadding, though
they were amply funiished with ancient manuscripts and
records, have nevertheless committed more faults, and fall*
en into errors of greater consequence, than other writers,
who were by fiur their inferiors in learning and credit, and
liad much less access to original records than they were
favoured with.

These- considerations induce me to hope, that the work I
here present to the public will neither appear superfluous
nor useless. For as I have employed many years in the
most laborious researches, in order to acquire a thorough
acquaintance with the history of Christianity, from the eighth
century downward, and as 1 flatter myself, that, by the assist*
ance of books and manuscripts too littfe consulted, I have ar-
rived at a more certain and satis&ctory knowledge of that
period than is to be found in the generality of writers, I can-
not but think, that it will be ddng real service to Ecclesias-
deal History to produce some of these discoveries, as tliis
may encourage the learned and industrious to pursue the
plan that I have thus begun, and to complete the history of
the Latin church, by dispelling the darkness of what is call-

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ed the midile age. And indeed I may Tentnre to efirni)
Huit I ksve brongltt to light sevend things hitherto geoendlf
mknowny corrected from records of undoubted authority
accounts of other things known but imperfectly and express-
ed idth much perplexity and confuakm, and exposed the
ftbidoos nature of many events that deform the annals ot
aocred history. Ihmv perhaps carry too far that self praisoy
widch the candour and indulgence of the public are dispos«
ed either to overtook as the infirmity, or to regard as the
pmilege of old age. Those, however, who are curious to
know how har this self applause Is just and well grounded,
have only to cast an eye on the Mhistrations I have givea
en the subject of Constantino's DonaHimj as also with re*
spect to the Cathari and MbigenWi the BegkarfU and B^gu^
me9y the Brethren and 9nter9 <f the free Bpint^ whose pes*
tUential fsnaticism was a public nuisance to many countries
in Europe during the space of four hundred^ years, the
JPratrieeUi^ or Little Brethren^ the controversies between
the Frmideeam and the Reman FonHffe^ the history of Beren*
ger and the Loilarde^ and other matters. When my illus-
iradons on these subjects and pomts of history are compar*
ed with what we find coBcertiing them in other writers, it
' will perhaps appear, that my pretensions to the merit of
some interesting discoveries are not entirely without foun*

These accessions to Ecclesiastical History could not be
exhibited with the same brevity which I have observed ia
Heating other subjects, that have already been amply enlarge
ed upon by others ; for this would have been incompatible
with the inbrmation of the curious, who would have received
but imperfect and confused notions of these subjects, and
would haye made me, perhaps, pass for a fabulous writer,
who advanced novelties, witliout mentioning either ray guides
mt my authorities. I have tbecofiore, not onlf explained. all
those points of historywhich carry with them an appearance
of novelty, or recede considerably from the notions common-
ly received, but have also confirmed them by a sufficient
number of observations and testimonies to establish their

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crecBUlity on a solid foandsituaL The illustratioiis and e^*
largements, which, generally 8peaking4 Garry an air of dia*'
propoitioD and superflasty in an hiatoricai aMdgmant^waro
absolutety neceasary in the present case*

Ttiese reasons engaged me to changa tine jilaii laid down
in my former work, and one peculiar consideration kMioced
mim to render the present history more ample and volnmin-
oiM. The RUmentBj so often mentioned, were designed
principally for the nse of those who aane appointed to instruot
the studious youth in the history and vicissitudes of thft
christian church, and who stand in need of a eompendious text
to give a certain order and method to their prelections. In

Online LibraryJohann Lorenz MosheimAn ecclesiastical history, ancient and modern: from the birth of ..., Volume 1 → online text (page 1 of 36)