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purity and simplicity which it has never since enjoyed. And the contemplation of the age in which this goodly spectacle was presented to the world, has ever been a delightful employment to minds endowed with a kindred feeling.
Of late years a considerable impulse has been given, among ourselves, to the study of the early Christian writers. The labours of the learned Bishop of Lincoln, in elucidating the works of Justin Martyr and Tertullian, and those of Dr. Burton, are specimens of the valuable matter which is yet to be extracted from the stores of Christian antiquity.
The present work lays claim to no such pretensions. Its object is to put the English reader in possession of some of the genuine remains of Christian writers of the first and second centuries, and to furnish occasional information upon such points as seem to require explanation. For this purpose it appeared more advisable to give the whole of such pieces as should be selected, than to select certain parts only. Extracts must always fail to give a faithful representation of the whole manner of reasoning and train of thought which characterized the first advocates of Christianity; and may unintentionally give erroneous notions of their opinions. It is well known that detached passages are quoted from these writings, in favour of very different notions. To judge therefore of the real sentiments of the writers, the general tendency of their argument is to be regarded, more than the mere verbal expression of particular parts. If we would know how these fathers of the Church thought and wrote, we are not at liberty to omit what
may appear to us superfluous and fanciful in illustration, or diffuse and inconclusive in reasoning; or simply uninteresting, because it refers to errors which have long since passed away. The very manner of treating a subject is an indication of the habits of thought and of the moral condition of the age in which it was discussed. A more striking and graphic representation is often given of the state of society, and of the condition of the Christian world in general, by an application of a passage of Scripture, by a slight allusion to an objection against the religion of the Gospel, by a casual reference to some difficulty which its professors encountered, or by some elaborate refutation of an absurd calumny, than we should have received from a detailed description of the circumstances.
Besides, those very parts of the writings of the carly Fathers, which seein least valuable both for style and matter, have this incidental advantage, that they set in a clear point of view the immeasurable superiority of the Scriptures of the New Testament. The inspired books were written principally by men who had not the same advantages of education and literary training, as some of the Ecclesiastical writers enjoyed: yet they are totally free from the blemishes which disfigure the most elaborate productions of later ages of the Church.
Had not the pens of the Evangelists and Apostles been guided by a wisdom superior to any which those writers possessed by ordinary means, they never could have produced a work, which, even as a specimen of plain yet majestic narration, and of consistent, sober, rational discussion of the most abstruse questions, is entirely unrivalled. We should have found—as we do find in the writings even of those who had been thoroughly instructed in scriptural truth, and had deeply imbibed the spirit of Christianity-some error mixed with truth ; some inconclusive reasoning; some vague declamation; some incautious overstatement of doctrine or fact; some merely mystical application of the Scriptures of the Old Testament; some exaggerated sentiment.
In uninspired writers we should have detected the prejudices of their education and of the age in which they lived. We should have found some extravagant eulogies of martyrdom; some fanciful notions respecting spiritual beings; some captious and scrupulous objection to practices in themselves indifferent. And, in their public defences of the faith before their adversaries, we should have perceived them, not only speaking boldly, as they ought to speak, but sometimes displaying a subtilty too nearly allied to the craftiness of the disputer of this world; and on other occasions indulging in sarcasm or invective against the various errors of heathen worship.
In the Scriptures of the New Testament, wo find none of these faults: they are uniformly dignified, simple, reasonable. But a very limited acquaintance with the writings of those who endeavoured to follow their steps will shew that, if the Apostles and Evangelists were preserved from such extravagance and error, they owed it to a wisdom which was not of this world.
The works, which have been chosen for the present purpose, are the Epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians; that of Polycarp; the genuine Epistles of Ignatius, with the accounts
of the Martyrdom of Ignatius and Polycarp: the first Apology of Justin Martyr; and the Apology of Tertullian.
These Epistles, and the short histories of the Martyrdoms, have been long known to the English reader, in Archbishop Wake's very valuable translation. It
may appear presumptuous to have changed, in any degree, language which is at once so faithful and so scriptural as that which he has employed. And no alteration has been made, except after due deliberation. In Archbishop Wake's translation, however, the quotations from the Scriptures are given in the words of the authorised English Version.
Now the original quotations from the Old Testament are often taken from the Septuagint or some other Version, so as to differ considerably from the Hebrew text, and consequently from the English Version : and in other instances, references are made to the Old and New Testaments in such a manner as to express the general sense of passages, rather than the words. As the intention of this work is to give as accurate a representation of these writings of the Fathers as the difference of idiom will admit, it seemed advisable to translate these quotations also as faithfully as possible, even in the instances