Johann Lorenz Mosheim.

An ecclesiastical history, ancient and modern, form the birth of Christ, to the beginning of the present century (Volume 1) online

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The Rise, Progress, and Variations of


Ecarninfl antr t^fiUosopfjs,



^«ylMA/wvt- JLcnre-ji^SY^'lTHE LATE LEARNED

^,,.JitfOJ«i«^^SSIf#K. MOSHEIM, D.D.

And Cliancellor of the University of Gottingen.




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■Tames & John Harper, Printers.

1824. Hi



R 1910 I.


The favourable 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 the acceptance of the
public. He has corrected a passage erroneously translated in the
second volume, 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 favoured him
with several notes, and with some hundreds of additional articles
and corrections for the Index. Many of these are inserted in this
edition, and an N. subjoined to each, to distinguish them from
those of the translator.


I CANNOT persuade myself, that the complaints we hear fre-
quently of the frivolous nature of the public taste in matters of
literature, are so far to be relied on, as to make me despair of a
favourable reception of the following work. A History of the
Christian Church, composed with judgment, taste, and candour,
drawn with uncommon discernment and industry, from the best
sources, enriched with much useful learning, and several important
discoveries, and connected with the history of Arts, Philosophy,
and Civil Government, is an object that will very probably attract
the attention of many, and must undoubtedly excite the curiosity
of the judicious and the wise. A work of this nature will be con-
sidered by the philosopher as an important branch of the history
of the human mind, and I need not mention a multitude of reasons
that render it peculiarly interesting to the Christian. Beside, there
has not hitherto appeared in English any complete history of the
Church, that represents its revolutions, its divisions, and doctrines,
with impartiality and truth, exposes the delusions of popish le-
gends, breathes a spirit 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 beautiful
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 pointed out as far as mo-
desty would permit, in the ensuing preface of its justly celebrated
author. The reputation of this great man is very well known.

* Some time after I had undertaken this translation, I was honoured willi a lettei'
from the learned Bishop of Gloucester, in which he was so good as to testify his
approbation of my design, and to speak of the work I here otl'er to the public in an
English dress, in the following manner : Mosheim's Cowpcndiitm is (xcellent, the
mtthod admirable ; in short, the only one deserving (he name of an Ecclesiaslica/.
History. It deserves, and needs, frequent notes. I hope this eminent prelate will
not take amiss my placing here a testimony that was not designed to be produced
in this public manner. It is, however, so adapted to give those who examine re-
«•ommendations with discernment, a favourable notion of the following work, thai,
t could not think of suppressing it. It is usual, in publishing ces'tain ancient authors,
to prefix to them the encomiums they have been Jionoured with by those whosp
authority is respected in the republic of letters. I adopt this custom so far as fo
mention one testimony ; more would be unnecessary. The testimony of a War-
J»arton is abundantly sufficient to answer my purpose, and will be justly looked upou
' as equivalent to a multitude.


His noble birth seemed to open to his ambition a fair path to civil
promotion ; but his zeal for the interest of religion, his insatiable
thirst after knowledge, and more especially his predominant taste
for sacred literature, induced him to consecrate his admirable ta-
lents to the service of the church. The German universities loaded
him with literary honours. The king of Denmark invited him to
settle at Copenhagen. The duke of Brunswick called 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 honoured with the character of ecclesiastical
counsellor to that respectable court ; and presided over the semi-
naries of learning in the dutchy of Wolfenbuttle and the principa-
lity of Blackenburg. When the late king formed the design of
giving an uncommon degree of lustre to the University of Gottingen,
by tilling it with men of the first rank in the literary world, such as
a Haller, a Gesner, and a Michaelis, Dr. Mosheim was deemed
worthy to appear at the head of that famous seat of learning, in the
quality of chancellor ; and here he died universally lamented in the
year 1755, and in the sixty-first year of his age. In depth of judg-
ment, in extent of learning, in the powers of a noble and mascufine
eloquence, in purity of taste, and in laborious application to all the
various branches of erudition and j>hiloso|ihy, he had certainly very
few superiors. His Latin translation of the celebrated Dr. Cud-
worth's Intellectual System of the Universe, enriched with large an-
notations, discovered such a profound acquaiiita';ce with ancient
philosophy and erudition, as justly excited the admiiacion ol' the
learned world. His ingenious illustrations of the sacred writings,
his successful labours in the defence of Christianity, and the light
he cast upon the history of religion and philosophy by his uninter-
rupted researches, appear in a multitude of volumes, which are
deservedly placed among the most valuable treasures of sacred and
profane literature ; and the learned and judicious work, that is here
presented to the public, will undoubtedly render his name illustrious
in the records of religion and letters.

How far justice has been done to this excellent work, in the fol-
lowing translation, is a point that must be left to the decision ol
those who shall think proper to peruse it with attention. I can say,
with the strictest truth, that I have spared no pains to render it
Avorthy of their gracious acceptance ; and this consideration give^
me some claim to their candour and indulgence, for any delects
they may find in it. I have endeavoured to render my translation
faithful, but never proposed to render it entirely literal. The style
of the original is by no means a model to imitate, in a work de-
signed for general use. Dr. Mosheim affected brevity, and labour-
ed to crowd many things into few words ; thus his diction, though
pure and correct, became sententious and harsh, without that har-
mony which pleases the ear, and those transitions which make a
narration flow with ease. This being the case, I have sometimes
takf^n considerable liberties with my author, and followed the spirit

translator's PREFACK. V

01' his narrative 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 followed it ;
in all other cases I have departed from it, and have often added a
few sentences to render an observation more striking ; a fact 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 classic author, like the copy of a capital picture,
must exhibit not only the subject, but also the manner of the original ;
this rule, however, is not applicable to the work now under consi-

The reader will easily distinguish the additional notes of the
translator from the original ones of the author ; the references to
the translator's being marked with a hand, thus (^

When I entered upon this undertaking, I proposed rendering the
additional notes more numerous and ample, than the reader will find
them. I soon perceived that the prosecution of my original plan
would render this work too voluminous, and this induced me to
alter my purpose. The notes I have given are not, however, in-
considerable 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 looked upon as not altogether unnecessary.

Hazue, Dec. 4, 1764.


The difterent editions of the Elements of the Cliristian HistO)'y *
met with such a favourable reception from the public, and the de-
mand for them was so great, that they were, in a little time, out of
print. Upon this occasion, the worthy person, at whose expense
they had been presented to the public, desired earnestly to give a
new edition of the same work improved and enlarged, and thus still
more worthy 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 work in which
I myself perceived so many imperfections, prevented my yielding,
for a long time, to his earnest solicitations. The importunities of
my friends at length prevailed upon me to undertake this difficult
work ; and I have employed assiduously my hours of leisure, du-
ring 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 chan-
ges they have undergone are certainly advantageous in every re-
spect. I have retained still the division of the whole into certain pe-i
riods ; for though a continued narration 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 ex-
perienced the great advantages 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 observa-
tions and facts that are necessary to an acquaintance with the state
of Christianity in the different ages of the church, will find it impos-
sible to execute this design, without adopting certain general di-
visions of time, and others of a more particular kind, which the va-
riety of objects, that demand a place in his history, naturally points

And as this was my design in the following work, I have left
its primitive form entire, and made it «ly principal business to cor-»

CF a A smuU work published by Dr. Moslieini, many vcai.-. ago, in t-Wo ii'olame.;#

TOL. T. \ 2

10 author's PREi-'ACE.

voct, improve, and augment it in such a manner, as to render it
more instructive and entertaining to the reader.

My principal care has been employed in establishing upon the
most solid foundations, and confirming by the most respectable au-
thority, the credit of the facts related in this history. For this pur-
pose, 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 re-
late, or lived near the periods in which they happened ; and I have
endeavoured to report their contents with brevity, perspicuity, and
precision. Abbre viators, generally speaking, do little more than
reduce to a short and narrow compass, those large bodies of his-
tory, that have been compiled from original authors : this method
may be, in some measure, justified by several reasons, and there-
fore 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 pas-
sing 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 perceiv-
ed the danger of confiding implicitly even in those who are the
most generally esteemed on account of their fidelity, penetration,
and diligence : and it was then also, that I became sensible of the
necessity of adding, suppressing, changing, and correcting several
things in the small work which I formerly published, and which has
been already mentioned. In the execution of this necessary task,
I can affirm with truth, that I have not been wanting in perseve-
rance, industry, or attention : and yet, with all these, it is extremely
difficult to avoid mistakes of every kind, as those who are acquaint-
ed with the nature of historical researches abundantly know. How
far I have approached 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 history entitles
them to pronounce judgment in this matter. That such may judge
with the more facility, I have mentioned the authors who have
been my guides : and, if I have in any respect misrepresented theii-
accounts or their sentiments, I must confess, that I am much more
inexcusable than some other historians, who have met with and
deserved the same reproach, since I have perused with attention and
compared with each other the various authors to whose testimony
1 appeal, having formed a resolution of trusting to no authority in-
ferior :to that of the original sources of historical truth.

In order to execute, with some degree of success, the design I
formed of rendering my abridgment more perfect, and of giving the
liistorv Qf ihe. chwrch as it stands in the most authejitic records.


and 111 the writings of those whose authorit\' is most lespectalile, J
found myself obliged to make many changes and additions. These
will be visible through the whole of the follovving ^vork, but more,
especially in the Third 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 commencement of
the Reformation. This period of Ecclesiastical History, though it
abound with shining examples : though it be unspeakably useful as a
key to the knowledge of the political, as well as religious state of Eu-
rope : though it be singularly adapted to unfold the origin and ex-
plain the reasons of many modern transactions, has nevertheless
been hitherto treated with less perspicuity, solidity, and elegance,
than any other branch of the history of the church. The nurabej-
of writers that have attempted to throw light upon this interesting
period is considerable, but few of them are in the hands of the pub-
lic. The barbarous style of one part of them, the profound igno-
rance of another, and the partial and factious spirit of a third, are
such as render them by no means inviting ; and the enormous bulk
and excessive price of the productions of some of the best of these
^^Titers must necessarily render them scarce. It is further to be ob-
served, that some of the most valuable records that belong to the
period of Ecclesiastical History now under consideration, lie yet in
manuscript in the collections of the curious, or the opulent, who
are willing to pass for such, and are thus concealed from public
view. Those who consider these circumstances will no longer be
surprised, that in this part of Ecclesiastical History, the most learn-
ed and laborious writers have omitted many things of consequence,
and treated others without success. Amongthese, the annalists and.
other historians so highly celebrated by the church of Rome, such
as Baronius, Raynaldus, Bzovius, Manriques, and Wadding, though
they were amply furnished with ancient manuscripts and records,
have nevertheless committed more faults, and fallen into errors of
greater consequence, than other writers, who were by far their in-
feriors in learning and credit, and had 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 re-
searches, in order to acquire a thorough acquaintance with the
history of Christianity, from the eighth century downward, and as
I flatter myself, that by the assistance of books and manuscripts
too little consulted, I have arrived at a more certain and satisfactory
knowledge of that period than is to be found in the generality of
writers, I cannot but think, that it will be doing real service to Eccle-
siastical History to produce some of these discoveries, as this 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 called the middle age. And
indeed I may venture to affirm, that I have brought to light seve-


ral things hitherto generally unknown, corrected troni records of
undoubted authority accounts of other things known but imper-
fectly, and expressed with much perplexity and confusion, and expos-
ed the fabidous nature of many events that deform the annals of sa-
cred history. I here perhaps carry too far that self praise, which the
candour and indulgence of the public are disposed either to over-
look as the iufn-mity, or to regard as the privilege of old age.
Those, however, who are curious to know how far this self applause
is just and Avell grounded, have only to cast an^'eye on the illus-
trations I have given on the subject of Constanline's Donation, as
also with respect to the Cathari and Albigenses, the Beghards and
Begumes, the Brethren and Sisters of the free Spirit, whose pesti-
lential fanaticism was a public nuisance to many countries in Eu-
rope during the space of four hundred years, the Fratricelli, or
Little Brethren, the controversies between the Franciscans and the
Roman Pontiffs, the history of Berenger and the Lollards, and
other matters. When my illustrations on these subjects and points
of history are compared with what we find concerning them in
other writers, it will perhaps appear, that my pretensions to the :
merit of some interesting discoveries are iiiOt entirely without foun-

These accessions to Ecclesiastical History could not be exhibited
with the same brevity which I have observed in treating other sub-
jects, that have already been amply enlarged upon by others ; for 'l
this would have been incompatible with the information of the cu-.V
rious, who would have received but imjierfect and confused notions'- .
of these subjects, and would have made me, perhaps, pass for a fa- ■
bulous writer, who advanced novelties, without mentioning either
my guides or my authorities. I have, therefore, not only explained,
all those points of history which carry with them an appearance of;
novelty, or recede considerably from the notions commonly re-';':
ceived, but have also confirmed them by a sufficient number of ob- ■ •;
servations and testimonies to establish their credibility on a solid J
foundation. The illustrations and enlargements, which, generally ' '
speaking, carry an air of disproportion and superfluity in an histori- •'.
cal abridgment, were absolutely necessary in the present case. > .«

These reasons engaged me to change the plan laid down in my.],^
former work, and one peculiar consideration induced me to render t;
the present history more ample and voluminous. The Element f, '1
so often mentioned, were designed principally for the use of those V;!
who are appointed to instruct the studious youth in the history and '<^
vicissitudes of the Christian church, and who stand in need of a. •'
compendious text to give a certain order and method to their pre-*' ",
lections. In this view I treated each subject with the utmost bre-
vity, and left, as was natural and fitting, much to the learning and
abilities of those who should think proper to make use of these
Elements in their course of instruction. But in reviewing this com-
pendious work with a design to oiler it anew to the public, I imagin-
ed it might be rendered more acceptable io many, by such jm-

author's preface. 13

provements and additions as might adapt it, not only to the use oi"
those who teach others, but also of those who are desirous of ac-
quiring, by their own application, a general knowledge of Ecclesias-
tical History. It was with this view that I made considerable ad-
ditions to my former work, illustrated many things that had been
there obscurely expressed for the sake of brevity, and reduced to a
regular and perspicuous order a variety of facts, the recital of which
had been more or less attended with perplexity and confusion.
Hence it is, that in the following work, the history of the calamities
in which the Christians of the first ages were involved, and the ori-
gin and progress of the sects and heresies which troubled the church,
are exhibited with an uncommon degree of accuracy and precision-
Hence the various forms of religion, which have sprung from the
excessive love of novelty are represented without prejudice or par-
tiality, and with all possible perspicuity and truth. It is also in con-
sequence of this change of my original design, that I have taken
the utmost pains to state more clearly religious controversies, to es-
timate their respective moment and importance, and to exhibit the
arguments alleged on both sides ; nor must I omit mentioning the
care and labour I have employed in giving an exact narration of the
transactions, wars, and enterprising measures of the Roman Pontiffs,
from the reign of Charlemagne down to the present times.

Those, therefore, who are prevented from applying themselves
to a regular study of Ecclesiastical History through want of lei-
sure, or by not having at hand the sources of instruction, and are
nevertheless desirous of acquiring a distinct knowledge of certain
events, doctrines, or religious rites, may consult the following work,
in which they will find the information they want ; and those who
are inclined to push their inquiries still further, will see the course
they must pursue, and the authors mentioned whom it will be proper
for them to peruse. '

It would betray an unpardonable presumption in me to imagine,
that in a work, whose plan is so extensive, and whose contents
are so various, I have never fallen into any mistakes, or let any thing
drop from my pen which stands in need of correction. But as I
am conscious to myself of having conducted this undertaking with
the most upright intentions, and of having employed all those means
that are generally looked upon as the best preservatives against the
seduction of error, I would hope that the mistakes I may have com-
mitted, are neither so frequent, nor so momentous as to be produc-
tive of any pernicious effects.

I might add more ; but nothing more is necessary to enable
those to judge of this work, who judge with knowledge, impar-
tiality, and candour. I therefore conclude, by offering the just
tribute of my gratitude to Almighty God, who amidst the infirmi-
ties of my advanced years, and other pressures under which I have
laboured, has supplied me with strength to bring this difficult work
to a conclusion.

GoTTiNGEN, March 23, 1755.

Online LibraryJohann Lorenz MosheimAn ecclesiastical history, ancient and modern, form the birth of Christ, to the beginning of the present century (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 57)