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pass; and, with a few alterations of language, where particular words or phrases had become obsolete, the Editor trusts, that under the blessing of God, this primitive work may be submitted to the candid perusal both of those who doubt, and of those who believe the gospel, in the full assurance of hope, that, in either case, those who seek the truth, the truth will make them free, and deliver them from the delusions of sin, and the fatal prejudices of error.
The consideration which leads us to value and to improve the following historical remarks, is, that the beautiful structure of the church of Christ, such as it is here described, rests solely and exclusively on the faith of Christ; and that, unless the foundation had been of the soundest kind,-its motives the purest which were ever delivered to man, its terms holy, and just, and good,-its means gracious, and its end salvation, no such pleasing picture as that of the primitive christian would have delighted the eye, or taken possession of the heart. When we argue back to those golden days of the church, we may well be ashamed of our defective imitation.
But as the infallible word of truth encourages us to look forward to a restoration of
the primitive church, under the well-known figure of the spiritual Jerusalem, we may with confidence put forth our hand to the golden reed which is to measure the city; and though we may find no temple built of perishable materials, yet shall we have no reason for regret, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it; and the glory of God shall lighten it; and the Lamb is the light thereof: and the nations of them which are saved, shall walk in the light of it, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honour into it.*
* Rev. c. 21.
No sooner did I arrive at years capable of discerning, but I began to enquire into the grounds of that religion into which I had been baptized; which I soon found to be so noble and excellent,-in all its laws so just and rational,--in all its designs so divine and heavenly,--so perfective of the principles --so conducive to the happiness of human nature,
-a religion so worthy of God --so advantageous to man,-built upon such firm and uncontrovertible evidence,-confirmed by such proper and powerful arguments, that I was presently convinced of the divinity that resided in it, and concluded with myself (and I thought I had reason so to do) that surely the disciples of this religion must be the most excellent persons in the world. But, alas ! a few years' experience of the world shewed
me that this was the conclusion of one who conversed only with books, and the reason. ings of his own mind. I had not been long an observer of the manners of men, but I found them generally so corrupt, and con. trary to the rules of this holy religion, that is a modest and honest heathen was to estimate christianity by the lives of its professors, he would certainly determine it to be one of the worst religions in the world. Offended at this, I resolved to “stand in the ways and see, and enquire for the old way,” the paths in which the ancient christians walked: for I could not think that this had always been the state of christianity; and that if the footsteps of true christian piety and simplicity were any where to be found, it must be in those times when the blood of Christ was warm in the breasts of christians, and faith yet glowed in the hearts of the believers.*
In pursuance of this design, I applied myself more diligently to the reading of the first Fathers and monuments of the church, especially for the three or four first centuries ; and have since endeavoured to exhibit a spe. cimen of primitive christianity, in some of the
Jerom ad Demet. H. i.
most considerable branches and instances of religion. Here the reader will find a piety active and zealous, shining through the blackest clouds of malice and cruelty ;-afflicted innocence triumphant, notwithstanding all the powerful or politic attempts of men or devils ; -a patience unconquerable under the greatest persecutions ;-a charity truly catholic and'unlimited;—a simplicity and upright carriage in all transactions ;-a sobriety and temperance remarkable to the admiration of their enemies;—and, in short, he will see the divine and holy precepts of the christian religion drawn into action, and the most excel. lent genius and spirit of the gospel breathing in the hearts and lives of these good old christians.
To this representation of their lives and manners, I have added some account of the ancient rites and ceremonies of the church. I have studiously avoided controversies, it being no part of my design to enquire, what was the judgement of the Fathers in disputable cases; but, what was their practice, and by what rules they governed and conducted their lives. I have followed St. Paul's distri. bution of religion, into piety towards God,