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AUGUST 1, 1837.
ORIGINAL PAPER S.
A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORIANS.
Greatly as ecclesiastical studies have been neglected in this country since the early part of the last century, it is to be hoped that the attention of the public, and especially of the clergy, has now been sufficiently awakened to them to render it unnecessary to say anything on the importance of church-history. But the very fact that an impulse has been given to the spirit of inquiry in this direction, suggests the propriety of an attempt to point out the writers who are best able to supply the information which is now happily, from day to day, more sought after. As I am not aware that anything has yet been done to supply the growing demand for this kind of knowledge, I have been led to think that it would not be unseasonable to put together a short notice of the historians of the church.
Church-history, or Ecclesiastical History, is, according to the obvious etymology, the history of that spiritual society founded by our Lord himself, " in which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments are duly administered according to Christ's ordinance," and the perpetuity of which is secured by his promise. The name, however, has often been made to bear à much wider meaning. It has sometimes been so applied as to include God's dealings with his people under the Old Testament as well as the New. And in its common application, it is understood to comprehend the history of heretical and schismatical communities as distinctly as that of the orthodox and catholic church. When the idea to be expressed is thus extended, it would undoubtedly be more correct and scientific to use respectively the terms, “history of revealed religion,” or “ history of Christianity.” But the common practice has very uniformly been, to describe the history of Christianity as the history of the church.
A complete literary history of the sources, or materials, of church history would be the labour of years, and would require learning, and endowments, and leisure, and opportunities, such as very rarely fall to
VOL. XII.- August, 1837.
the lot of an individual scholar. The object which I now attempt is one of a much less extensive range and less aspiring character. It is merely to indicate the more celebrated works which have, in various ages, been written under the name of histories of the church, or kindred titles. I shall purposely exclude the writers of memoirs, and of chronicles or annals of particular periods, as any attempt even to enumerate them would so enlarge my design as to render it such as (to say nothing of the want of other requisites) I have neither leisure nor opportunities to accomplish, and confine myself entirely to a notice of systematic writers on the subject. Within this limited circuit
, dividing the whole interval between the age of the apostles and our own time into three periods—the ancient, the middle, and the modern, I hope to be able to mention all the professed writers of church history that belong to the first period, which naturally terminates with the Council of Chalcedon (451); and to the second, which terminates with the Reformation. I must content myself with noticing the principal works produced during the third, or modern, period,-i.e., the works which have, in any considerable degree, tended to promote an acquaintance with the history of the church.
The genius and circumstances of primitive Christianity were alike adverse to the production of any very early history of the church. Dead to the world, and engaged by the active duties and exercises of their holy calling, the first Christians were little likely to be under the influence of the mixed feelings which usually originate literary exertions. And the sword of persecution was long suspended over those who were distinguished by learning or talents above their brethren. A season of action and of suffering was no time for the pursuits of literature. With the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, which were gradually communicated to all the churches, they had a sufficient account of the origin and first establishment of the faith. In the eye of Christian humility, their own labours and sufferings were scarcely worth recording. The succession of the bishops, and the acts of the martyrs, were sufficient to establish their catholicity, and enliven their Christian courage. Their brief creeds were easily retained in the memory; and their cause was pleaded before the world by the converted philosophers and advocates, who were but too happy to employ in the service of the church the acuteness and eloquence which they had learned to practise in the schools and the forum. The latter part of the second century, however, produced a writer who is generally considered as the first historian of the church. HEGESIPPUS,* who appears to have flourished about A.D. 170,+ “recorded, in five books, an unsophisticated account of the apostolical preaching, in a very
* Ilegesippus, vicinus apostolicorum temporum, omnes à passione Domini usque ad suain ætatem, ecclesiasticorum actuum texens historias, multaque ad utilitatem Jegentium pertinentia hinc inde congregans, quinque libros composuit sermone simplici : ut quorum vitam sectabatur, dicendi quoque exprimeret characterem. (s. Hieron. de Script. Eccles. cap. 22.)
† Lardner's Credibility, part. ii. ch. xiv. vol. ii. p. 141. Ed. 1788.
simple style.” A few fragmentst only of his work have come down to us.
And these, however interesting and valuable, throw very little light on the form and method of the work to which they belonged. Towards the beginning of the third century, the chronicle of JULIUS AFRICANUS $ seems to have partaken of the nature of a church history. But it no longer exists entire ; § and it is not even possible satisfactorily to detect the portions of it which appear to have been inserted || in later compilations.
But the instances supplied by the first three centuries can scarcely be regarded as invalidating the claim of EUSEBIUS of Cæsarea to be considered as the father of ecclesiastical history. This learned and industrious writer, who, according to the conjecture of Cave, was born in 270, and who appears to have written the work for which he is most distinguished in 326,** was, in various ways, eminently qualified
, to be the historian of the early church. His friendship with the learned and accomplished Pamphilus, his residence at Cæsarea, which possessed a library rich in the works of the Christian writers, an inquisitive mind, and the free access which he enjoyed to the public archives,tt all conspired to fit him for the work, and to enable him to
* 'Εν τούτοις έγνωρίζετο Ηγήσιππος ... έν πέντε συγγράμμασιν, ούτος, την απλανή παράδοσιν του Αποστολικού κηρύγματος απλουστάτη συντάξει γραφής υπομνηματισάμενος. (Euseb. Hist. Eccles. lib. iv. c. 8, p. 150.)
† These fragments are enumerated by Cave, (Hist. Liter. an. 170,) and have been collected by Dr. Routh, (Reliquiæ Sac., tom. i.) and by Gallandius, (Bibl. PP., tom. ii.)
* Του δ' αυτού 'Αφρικανού και άλλα τον αριθμόν πέντε χρονογραφιών ήλθεν εις ήμας επ' ακριβές tetovnuéra srovôdouata. (Euseb. Hist. Eccles. , lib. vi. c. 31, p. 295.) Julius Africanus, cujus quinque de temporibus exstant volumina. (S. Hieron. de Script. Eccles., c. 63.)
This work was read by Photius, who thus describes the writer : δε σύντομος μεν, αλλά μηδέν των αναγκαίων ιστορηθήναι παραλιμπάνων, άρχεται δε από της Μωσαικής κοσμογονίας, και κάτεισιν έως της Χριστού παρουσίας επιτροχάδην δε διαλαμβάνει και τα από Χριστού μεχρί της Μακρίνου των Ρωμαίων βασιλέως βασιλείας. (Biblioth. Cod. Xxxiv. col. 20, ed. 1653.)
|| Cave, Hist. Liter. ad an. 220; and Lardner's Credibility, part II. c. xxxvii. vol. ii. p. 435.
1 His words are--'Αναγκαιότατα δέ μοι πονείσθαι την υπόθεσιν ηγούμαι, ότι μηδένα πω είς δεύρο των εκκλησιαστικών συγγραφέων διέγνων περί τούτο της γραφής σπουδήν πεποιημένος το μέρος. (Hist. Eccles., lib. i. c. i. p. 3.) And Nicephorus Callisti, in his “ Ecclesiastical History,” says of him-Πρώτος ούτος τη μετά χείρας υποθέσει επέβαλεν εκκλησιαστικών is topiar spītos ovourious Thy Bißlov. (Lib., vi. 37, p. 436.) Fabricius says-Quanquam verò Hegesippus, et Africanus, quodam modo Eusebio præiverant, Papias quoque et Justinus ac Clemens Alexandrinus, Irenæus aliique varia in scriptis suis annotaverant, quæ ad Historiam Ecclesiæ et Heresium facerent, justum tamen Ecclesiasticæ Historiæ corpus nemo ante Eusebium condidit, unde merito ait, se spárov aj vzotégei erißñoar primum aggressum esse hoc argumentum. (Bibl. Græc., vol. vi. p. 59.)
** It is, however, very ably argued by Hankius (de Byzant. Scriptoribus, pp. 101–113,) that it was written in 324.
++ Constantinus Augustus, cùm Cæsaream fuisset ingressus, et diceret memorato Antistiti (Eusebio), ut peteret aliqua beneficia Cæsariensi ecclesiæ profutura; legitur, respondisse Eusebium ; opibus suis ecclesiam ditatam, nullâ petendi beneficia necessitate compelli; sibi tamen desiderium immobile exstitisse, ut, quicquid in Rep. Romanâ gestum sit ergà Sanctos Dei per judices judicibus succedentes in universo orbe Romano; solicità perscrutatione monumenta publica discutiendo perquirerent; et qui martyrum, à quo judice, in quâ provinciâ vel civitate, quâ dic,