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SHORT PAPERS ON CHURCH HISTORY
VOLUME 1 - A.D. 32 – 814
The following “Short Papers” have far outgrown their original intention. They were commenced in “Things New and Old,” chiefly with the view of supplying, in a series of papers, a brief outline of Church History, for the convenience of our numerous readers. But the vastness of the subject and the limited space of the magazine compelled me to abandon the design and publish them in a separate form.
As all we know of history comes to us through books, I have examined, with some care, the authors which are most esteemed in this country and considered the most reliable. And although there is frequent reference to volume and page, this by no means indicates all that has been gathered from those histories. It would be impossible to say how many thoughts, words, and sentences, are interwoven with my own. The references have been generally given, not so much to verify what has been written, as to induce the reader to study the larger works if he has an opportunity. The materials are so varied and abundant, that the difficulty lies in making a selection, so as to maintain a continued historic line, and yet leave out what would now be neither profitable nor interesting.
The following are the principal histories I have consulted, and to which I am largely indebted: Milman’s; Greenwood’s; Neander’s; J.C. Robertson’s; Waddington’s; Mosheim’s; Milner’s; Collier’s; Du Pin’s; and Gardner’s “Faiths of the World.”
But I have aimed at more than mere history. It has been my desire to connect with it Christ and His word, so that the reader may receive the truth and blessing, through grace, to his soul.
It will be observed that I commence with the Lord’s revealed purpose concerning His church in Matthew 16. Other parts of the New Testament have been carefully examined as to the first planting of the church, but its actual history I have endeavoured to trace in the light of the seven epistles, addressed to the seven churches in Asia. This of course must be in a very general way, as I have been desirous to give the reader as broad a view of ecclesiastical history as possible, consistently with my plan and brevity.
The apostle John learnt the history of the church at the feet of Jesus. Blessed place for both reader and writer! It is there He reveals His mind to His disciples about the church and her enemies, Himself and His glories. But the disciple must know Him to learn all at His feet; as John says, “When I saw him.” None on earth knew the Saviour so intimately as John; but the glory of His Person, as now revealed, completely overwhelmed him. He was then an exile for his faithfulness to “the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” He was sharing in the sufferings of His persecuted church.
Such was the blessed position of John, when he heard the prophetic history of the church as introductory to God’s judgment of the world that now is. Holding fast the word of God, faithful in his testimony to Christ, persecuted for the truth’s sake, a humble disciple at the Master’s feet, the most wonderful histories and glories are revealed to him. He had honoured the Lord in his life and in his ways; and now the time was come for the Lord to honour His faithful servant. And this He did by showing him, from His own point of view, the glories of heaven, the miseries of hell, the histories of earth, down to the last and closing scene when the dead appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, and the annals of time and the universe itself melt into the new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.
The Lord’s tender ways in love and grace to His banished one are beautiful beyond all description. “And He laid His right hand upon me,” John tells us, ‘‘saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last; I am He that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen: and have the keys of hell and of death.” Here the risen Lord assures John, and all who believe in Him, that there is nothing now to fear. Sin and guilt are put away, every enemy is vanquished, and every circumstance of death and the grave completely mastered. “Fear not,” He says, and why? “Because I am the first and the last” —God as well as man; and farther, “I am He that liveth, and was dead:” but now, I am alive for evermore in resurrection, where no enemy or evil can ever come. And surely every believer, weak or strong, is there with Him, and under the shelter of “His right hand.” Besides, He has the keys of death and hell —the symbol of His authority and power over the whole realm of Satan.
May the Lord’s blessing accompany the volume that now goes forth; and may He give you, my dear reader, to know Himself, His victories, His glories, His revelations: and in true humility, like the beloved disciple, to study them all at the Master’s feet.
Ever yours truly,
London, Dec. 1, 1873.
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