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The Ancient Church Its History, Doctrine, Worship, and Constitution   By: (1806-1902)

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Its History, Doctrine, Worship, and Constitution, Traced for the First Three Hundred Years.



Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Pastoral Theology to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

"Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God." PSALM lxxxvii. 3.



I cannot permit this Edition of "The Ancient Church" to appear before the citizens of the United States without acknowledging my obligations to Mr Charles Scribner of New York. Mr Scribner was the first gentleman connected with the noble profession to which he belongs, either in the Old or in the New World, from whom I received encouragement in this undertaking; and his prompt and generous offers aided me materially in making arrangements for the publication of the work in Great Britain. Every line of the present impression has been corrected by myself, and should my life be spared, any future Edition which Mr Scribner may publish is to appear under the same supervision. I trust that the Trade throughout the Union will recognize the debt of gratitude which I owe to my American friend. There is a higher law than the law of international copyright, and I feel confident that no Publisher of honour and integrity in the Great Republic will repudiate its claims.


17 University Square, Belfast, Ireland, July 1859.


The appearance of another history of the early Church requires some explanation. As the progress of the Christian commonwealth for the first three hundred years has been recently described by British, German, and American writers of eminent ability, it may, perhaps, be thought that the subject is now exhausted. No competent judge will pronounce such an opinion. During the last quarter of a century, various questions relating to the ancient Church, which are almost, if not altogether, ignored in existing histories, have been earnestly discussed; whilst several documents, lately discovered, have thrown fresh light on its transactions. There are, besides, points of view, disclosing unexplored fields for thought, from which the ecclesiastical landscape has never yet been contemplated. The following work is an attempt to exhibit some of its features as seen from a new position.

The importance of this portion of the history of the Church can scarcely be over estimated. Our attention is here directed to the life of Christ, to the labours of the apostles and evangelists, to the doctrines which they taught, to the form of worship which they sanctioned, to the organization of the community which they founded, and to the indomitable constancy with which its members suffered persecution. The practical bearing of the topics thus brought under review must be sufficiently obvious.

In the interval between the days of the apostles and the conversion of Constantine, the Christian commonwealth changed its aspect. The Bishop of Rome a personage unknown to the writers of the New Testament meanwhile rose into prominence, and at length took precedence of all other churchmen. Rites and ceremonies, of which neither Paul nor Peter ever heard, crept silently into use, and then claimed the rank of divine institutions. Officers, for whom the primitive disciples could have found no place, and titles, which to them would have been altogether unintelligible, began to challenge attention, and to be named apostolic. It is the duty of the historian to endeavour to point out the origin, and to trace the progress of these innovations. A satisfactory account of them must go far to settle more than one of our present controversies. An attempt is here made to lay bare the causes which produced these changes, and to mark the stages of the ecclesiastical revolution. When treating of the rise and growth of the hierarchy, several remarkable facts and testimonies which have escaped the notice of preceding historians are particularly noticed... Continue reading book >>

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