THIS CHURCH HISTORY is designed to occupy a middle position between a mere compendium and those ponderous works which by their very mass are discouraging to all but professional investigators. It would have been very easy to have doubled the bulk of the production, but we are confident that in so doing we should not have increased its practical value.
Considerable attention has been paid to the demands of historical perspective. By passing lightly over subordinate themes, we have endeavored to secure space in connection with important topics for the presentation, not merely of conclusions, but also of the grounds of conclusions.
The work is not exclusively for professional students. We apprehend, in fact, that it has some special adaptations to the intelligent layman. At any rate, we have written with the conviction that a good knowledge of church history lies close to the vocation of every earnest-minded citizen. For one thing, it is very desirable that he should have in view such object lessons on the relations of Church and State as are furnished by a candid review of the Christian centuries.
A somewhat larger space would doubtless have been given to doctrinal history, had it not been for the author's conviction that the detailed treatment of this subject belongs to a separate branch. It will be noticed however, that the prominent heresies have been sketched, that the field of Catholic doctrine has been defined in the different eras, and that a relatively full account has been given of the principal theological and philosophical developments which have had place since the beginning of the critical era in the eighteenth century.
We have thought it proper to devote three out of the five volumes to the Modern Church, partly on account of the breadth and complexity of the later church history, and partly on account of the relative lack of comprehensive works for this division of the subject.
In a few instances convenience of grouping has led to a departure from the scheme of periods sketched in the introduction; but the tables of contents and the indexes will afford ready means for locating any topic.
It will be observed that on points at issue between Protestantism and Romanism we have taken more than average pains to brace our statements by documentary evidence.
The foot-notes refer to only a part of the sources consulted, but they indicate most of those having prime importance. In general, we have sought to be mindful of the maxim that, in this age of the world, it is far more important to give facts and arguments than to furnish a catalogue of the names and opinions of persons who have chanced to write about the facts. We are conscious, however, that we hare supplied no ideal illustration of the maxim.