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Antiquities of the Christian Church


In preparing the following summary of the rites and institutions of Ancient Christianity, the author has sought to make it intelligible to the English reader; and, at the same time, to present to the theological student a convenient book of reference, and to the scholar and antiquary a guide in his more extended and original investigations.

German authors, with a provoking reliance upon the scholarship of those who may consult their pages, are accustomed to overspread them with original quotations from the dead languages, and references to writers in every tongue, so that even the practised scholar but darkly threads his way through the endless mazes of their works. Much therefore remains for humbler minds in selecting, arranging, translating and condensing, before the researches of these great men can be made available to the mass of the reading public. This task, in the absence of a better work, has been attempted in the preparation of the following pages; and in the execution of it the author has endeavored to perform the service only of a translator and compiler.

In the fulfilment of this duty, the original authorities, when introduced into the text, are followed by a translation; but more frequently they are transferred to the margin in the form of notes, or dismissed with a reference to the works from which they were taken, according as their importance seemed to require; and all for the purpose of presenting to the eye of the reader a fair English page.

For the same general reasons, the references are all brought together in an index at the end. These references, in the original, are accumulated to an excess even for German scholarship and scholastic affectation. Of these very many have been omitted, but enough, it is believed, are retained, not only to direct to sufficient original authorities, but to satisfy the largest desires even of the antiquary or the scholar.

From the rich and abundant materials which Augusti has furnished, it has been a difficult task to decide what to select, and what to omit; and from the parts selected, it has been one of equal difficulty so to abridge as to preserve a just medium between a tedious detail and a barren abstract. In the progress of this work, however, other writers on the same and kindred subjects have been freely consulted, to supply, in some instances, the omissions and deficiencies of Augusti, and in others, to enrich the following pages with the combined results of different authors. Compilations have been freely gathered from many sources, and incorporated with the work in hand. The works especially of Rheinwald, and Siegel, together with those of Neander, Gieseler, and others, have been laid under contribution to a greater or less extent. With the two first mentioned, the several subjects in their order have been compared with more or less care, and numerous compilations from them are embodied in the work.

In making these compilations, the course pursued has been to go through with an abridgment of a given article from Augusti, and then to compare it with these authorities, such additions and corrections being made as the subject seemed to require. These additions, when of any considerable extent, are distinguished as quotations with appropriate references, or introduced with preliminary remarks indicating the source from whence they are derived. In other instances, additional or qualifying words and sentences have been silently entered without any formal acknowledgment In all this the compiler has considerably increased the labor and responsibility which devolved upon him; but the work, it is believed, has by this means been rendered more complete and valuable. It is important farther to remark that the larger work of Augusti has been freely consulted, and in several instances entire articles have been translated or abridged directly from it. At other times the order of the sentences and paragraphs has been transposed as occasion required. It is hardly necessary to add that the above explanations should be borne in mind in making a comparison of this abridgement and compilation with the originals.

The reader will not expect in this volume a close or literal translation; the work, however, has been executed with a constant endeavor to give a fair and faithful interpretation of the author, and, on important or disputed points, to give it in terms as literal as the idioms of our language would admit In other instances merely the results of the author are given with references, to the original sources from which he has derived his authorities. And at other times, the substance of his researches and conclusions is presented in language appropriately our own.

After having advanced far towards the completion of his task, the compiler obtained a copy of Riddle's Manual of Christian Antiquities. This work is an abridged translation from Augusti, with occasional compilations from Siegel, and copious extracts from Bingham. The work, though executed with candor and ability, is unsuited for the American public, and too expensive for general circulation. The compiler however acknowledges himself under many obligations to this author in the revision and correction of his own translations. The translation from Siegel on the Agapae, or lovefeasts of the primitive church, in the following pages, is transferred entire from that work. The article on Prayers for the Dead is also from his hand, together with various extracts, in different parts of the following work, of which the most important are acknowledged in their proper place.

Jamieson on the Manners and Trials of the primitive Christians came to hand just as this work was going to the press. From this work various extracts have been made by way of recapitulation, though at the hazard of being occasionally repetitious. These extracts give a brief and popular view of the topics which have been previously treated of in a manner more methodical and minute.

His reputation as a distinguished preacher in Edinburgh entitles this treatise to the confidence of the reader, especially when informed by the author himself that he "has with minute and patient industry tested almost every statement contained in his book with the original authorities." The chapter on the Domestic and Social Character of the Primitive Christians is compiled chiefly from this work.

The Plan of churches and the Chronological Index are from Rheinwald. The reader will here find a valuable compend of the historical events connected with the antiquities of the church, in which the successive stages of departure from the simplicity and purity of primitive worship are distinctly stated, in connection with the contemporary authors and rulers in church and state, who were instrumental either in introducing or opposing these innovations.

The critical observer will notice some confusion in the accentuation of oxytone words in the Greek language. The accents were incautiously copied as found on the pages of Augusti, and the printing had advanced some distance before the more approved mode of the accentuation of such individual words was adopted.

The chapter on the Sacred Seasons of the Puritans supplies an obvious deficiency in the history of our forefathers, and will, no doubt, be received as a valuable addition to this work, and an important contribution to our own ecclesiastical history.

The account of the religious rites of the Armenian church from Rev. H. G. O. Dwight, missionary at Constantinople, cannot fail to interest the Christian reader, while it reveals to him, through the dimness of a high antiquity, the customs of the primitive church.

This work was undertaken with the hope that it would, in some measure, supply a great deficiency in our ecclesiastical literature, and serve to direct the attention of the public to this neglected branch of study. Many topics of great interest relating to the rites, institutions and authority of the ancient church, are now the subject of earnest controversy in England, and of eager inquiry in this country. Ancient Christianity is destined, in both countries, to be severely scrutinized anew, and its merits sharply contested. And this consideration presents one reason among many for offering this publication, at the present time, to the service of the public. But the various reasons, which recommend the study of Christian Antiquities to the attention of the public, are clearly exhibited by the Rev. Prof. Sears, in the Introduction which he has very kindly prepared for this work. The reader is there presented with the views of an eminent scholar, thoroughly familiar with the researches of German authors on this subject, and fully qualified to speak of their comparative merits, and of the importance of this department of sacred literature.

It only remains to render my grateful acknowledgments to this gentleman not only for his valuable contributions to this work, but for his advice and assistance which in the progress of it have been as kindly given as it has been freely sought. Similar acknowledgments are also due to the Rev. Prof Edwards, of this place, for like offices of kindness and assistance, in these protracted labors which are now drawing to a close.

Conscious of having labored diligently to prepare a compend of this interesting branch of the history of the church, that shall be at once acceptable and useful in disclosing the sources from which the venerable institutions of our religion are derived, and in delineating the virtues of those holy men from whom they have been transmitted down to us, I now commit it, with all its deficiencies, to the charitable consideration of the public, and await in submission the result of their decision.

Andover, April, 1841


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