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This volume completes the history of the Church in the Middle Ages. Dr. Philip Schaff on one occasion spoke of the Middle Ages as a terra incognita in the United States,—a territory not adequately explored. These words would no longer be applicable, whether we have in mind the instruction given in our universities or theological seminaries. In Germany, during the last twenty years, the study of the period has been greatly developed, and no period at the present time, except the Apostolic age, attracts more scholarly and earnest attention and research.
The author has had no apologetic concern to contradict the old notion, perhaps still somewhat current in our Protestant circles, that the Middle Ages were a period of superstition and worthy of study as a curiosity rather than as a time directed and overruled by an all-seeing Providence. He has attempted to depict it as it was and to allow the picture of high religious purpose to reveal itself side by side with the picture of hierarchical assumption and scholastic misinterpretation. Without the mediaeval age, the Reformation would not have been possible. Nor is this statement to be understood in the sense in which we speak of reaching a land of sunshine and plenty after having traversed a desert. We do well to give to St. Bernard and Francis d’Assisi, St. Elizabeth and St. Catherine of Siena, Gerson, Tauler and Nicolas of Cusa a high place in our list of religious personalities, and to pray for men to speak to our generation as well as they spoke to the generations in which they lived.
Moreover, the author has been actuated by no purpose to disparage Christians who, in the alleged errors of Protestantism, find an insuperable barrier to Christian fellowship. Where he has passed condemnatory judgments on personalities, as on the popes of the last years of the 15th and the earlier years of the 16th century, it is not because they occupied the papal throne, but because they were personalities who in any walk of life would call for the severest reprobation. The unity of the Christian faith and the promotion of fellowship between Christians of all names and all ages are considerations which should make us careful with pen or spoken word lest we condemn, without properly taking into consideration that interior devotion to Christ and His kingdom -which seems to be quite compatible with divergencies in doctrinal statement or ceremonial habit.
On the pages of the volume, the author has expressed his indebtedness to the works of the eminent mediaeval historians and investigators of the day, Gregorovius, Pastor, Mandell Creighton, Lea, Ehrle, Denifle, Finke, Schwab, Haller, Carl Mirbt, R. Mueller Kirsch, Loserth, Janssen, Valois, Burckhardt-Geiger, Seebohm and others, Protestant and Roman Catholic, and some no more among the living.
It is a pleasure to be able again to express his indebtedness to the Rev. David E. Culley, his colleague in the Western Theological Seminary, whose studies in mediaeval history and accurate scholarship have been given to the volume in the reading of the manuscript, before it went to the printer, and of the printed pages before they received their final form.
Above all, the author feels it to be a great privilege that he has been able to realize the hope which Dr. Philip Schaff expressed in the last years of his life, that his History of the Christian Church which, in four volumes, had traversed the first ten centuries and, in the sixth and seventh, set forth the progress of the German and Swiss Reformations, might be carried through the fruitful period from 1050–1517.
David S. Schaff.
The Western Theological Seminary,
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