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The objects of this work on the early Christian Church may be plainly stated. In these comparatively free countries, united under the British crown, religious associations, with various names, have been and are daily being formed, for the propagation of the Gospel, and the distri. bution of the Bible at home and in foreign parts. It is assumed, by Protestants of all denominations, associated for such purposes, that the Catholic Church is afraid of the Bible, because " this sacred volume exhibits primitive Christianity in its true colours.” Here, in Ireland, it is amusing to listen to the silly attacks, made by the orators of these associations, upon Catholicism, through the instrumentality of affected praises of the “Word of God.” We are told by them, at one time, that a Bible has been dropped in Andalusia, and that in consequence southern Spain is in a ferment of religious exultation : at another time, the story goes, that Bibles have been planted in Florence, and are bearing fruit through Central Italy,this fruit being the expulsion of Catholicity from the minds of the Tuscans and Romagnols. Alas ! that we should be so indocile as still to believe that the Bible is the second great argument for the Catholic, while, in the hands of the Protestant, it is a tacit recognition of the apostasy of his
Church from the doctrine of the Redeemer and His Apostles !
The first object of this work, is to exhibit, in the interest of Catholicity, the discipline, rites, usages, and belief, as detailed in the Sacred Scripture, of the primitive followers of Christ.
It was difficult to resist the temptation of passing from the Church of the Scriptures to that of the early Fathers, as it was but natural to hold, that no better interpreters of the sense of the New Testament could be found than these learned and holy men, who touched upon the time when the Apostles wrote and spoke. And, surely, if the patristic pages, reproducing Scriptural images, showed at the same time, a complete picture of what we believe and practise, the argument in favour of Catholicity was irresistible. Therefore, the second and third parts of this work are composed of delineations borrowed from the early Christian writers, of the faith and worship of the Church, after the Apostles had been removed from the scene of this world.
In such a work as this, it was desirable to avoid mere assertion as much as possible. Hence it was deemed advisable to introduce into the text the words of the inspired writers and fathers, which embody or illustrate the various subjects discussed. All these passages have been carefully verified, and all the references will be found strictly correct. The texts of Sacred Scripture are quoted from the English version by the divines of Douay and Rheims. The words of the Holy Fathers are original, sometimes, I fear, uncouth because strictly literal trans
lations of passages, taken, for the most part, from the editions of their works published in the “Complete Course of Patrology,” by the Abbé Migne.
A peculiar system has been followed in the preparation of these pages. All the events recorded are given on the authority of contemporary writers exclusively. Much additional information might have been gathered from writers of a subsequent period : for example, St. Augustin might have told us a great deal about the African Church of the third century. We have listened to the testimonies of such witnesses only as recount what passed under their own eyes.
To those who have read the dissertations of Tillemont, Orsi, or Natalis Alexander, this volume must appear little more than a summary of the events of early Christian times. So learned are our great ecclesiastical historians, and so searching and minute are their investigations of the early periods of Christian history, that one to whom they were once familiar, as old and dear friends, cannot but feel somewhat embarrassed in presuming to transmit to the public so small a portion of their light as is reflected
in these pages.
QUEENSTOWN, May 5, 1861.
Division the Fifth.–Victory of Christianity and its organiza-