« ПредишнаНапред »
WORKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR
LESSONS FROM THE LIVES OF THREE GREAT
FATHERS : ST. ATHANASIUS, ST. CHRYSOSTOM, and
ST. AUGUSTINE. With Appendices. Crown 8vo. 6s. SOME ASPECTS OF PRIMITIVE CHURCH LIFE.
Crown 8vo. 6s. THE ROMAN SEE IN THE EARLY CHURCH:
AND OTHER STUDIES IN CHURCH History. Crown 8vo.
75. 6d. THE INCARNATION AS A MOTIVE POWER.
Crown 8vo. 6s. MORALITY IN DOCTRINE. Crown 8vo. 7s.6d. HYMNS AND OTHER VERSES. Fcp. 8vo. 55.
LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
LONDON, NEW YORK, AND BOMBAY
AGE OF THE FATHERS
CHAPTERS IN THE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH
BY THE LATE
WILLIAM BRIGHT, D.D.
REGIUS PROFESSOR OF ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF
OXFORD AND CANON OF CHRIST CHURCH
IN TWO VOLUMES
LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
The ground covered in these volumes is almost exactly the same as that traversed by Dr. Bright in his earliest work, The History of the Church from A.D. 313 to A.D. 451. But the treatment is very different: that book was written for students, and it was the work of an annalist aiming at completeness and verifying each statement by reference to the authority for it: this is intended to be more popular; the interest of the reader is not distracted by notes, the less important details are omitted, and attention is concentrated on the lives of the great fathers and on the great doctrinal controversies ; it is the work of an historian and a theologian, writing with a more perfect mastery of his materials, with a truer sense of their relative importance, and with a greater freedom and richness of style.
But, though more popular, it is also more learned. It is enriched by a wide and varied reading of thirty-five additional years; and those who have been privileged to see Dr. Bright's notebooks—his “Sylva” as he called them, amounting to more than sixty volumes-will know with what thoroughness and with what freshness of interest he was wont to digest his reading and make it available for future use. It is also illuminated by the experience of later travel in the countries of which he writes, and many of the scenes described-in Milan, in Rome, and elsewhere-gain a new force from the mind of one who has looked upon them, and looked upon them with the eyes of a vivid imagination, able to bridge the gulf between the scene as it was and as it now is. Above all, the form of the book is affected by the fact that it reproduces the lectures with which he charmed and stimulated and inspired generations of Oxford students. They, at least, as they read the book, and, to a certain extent, all readers with them, will not picture to themselves an historian writing in his study, but will see and hear a lecturer : they will see the merry smile breaking over his face if any event has its ludicrous aspect, the fire lighting up the eyes at the mention of the courage of witnesses for the truth ; they will hear a voice ringing through the room as it recalled the bold denunciations of passion or of cowardice even in a Christian Emperor, or hushed into a solemn quiet at the mention of the Sacred Name: they will recall a personality lifted by constant friendship with the great personalities of St. Athanasius, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Chrysostom; and seeing with his eyes, they will therefore see with the eyes of the actors themselves the events which he portrays.
It must be acknowledged that Dr. Bright was not well acquainted with German, and it is possible that some modern contributions to our knowledge even of the original materials for the history of the period may have escaped him. On the other hand, few, if any, scholars of our generation have moved with such ease among the primary Latin and Greek contemporaneous writers and among the eighteenth-century literature of the subject, and it may well be that an intimate familiarity with the editions of the Benedictines of St. Maur, with Mansi’s Concilia, and with Tillemont's Mémoires, is still the best equipment for an author who would communicate to his readers a real and intelligent understanding of “The Age of the Fathers.”
In the treatment of the narrative there will be found all those marked characteristics which we have long been accustomed to associate with Dr. Bright's work, an enthusiasm for great characters, a picturesque and almost poetic power of painting the chief episodes, and above all that delicate sureness of touch in handling questions of doctrine, that fear of exaggeration, that sense of balance, which springs only from a loyal reverence for truth, developed through years of mature reflection. It is in keeping with this that we who have had occasion to examine Dr. Bright's manuscript and to note the successive changes made in it, have come to realize how there grew up in his mind a greater tenderness and charitableness of judgment towards those who opposed the orthodox view, and a greater effort to credit them with those aspects of truth for which they were, however onesidedly and wrongly, yet honestly contending. At the same time, his indignation against the unfairness of some recent Roman controversialists has perhaps led him to adopt an unduly suspicious and hostile attitude towards the occupants of the Roman see.