A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church

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Publisher
Scribner
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Published on
Dec 31, 1907
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Pages
650
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Language
English
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This volume, containing the equivalent of three volumes of the Edinburgh series of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, will be found a library somewhat complete in itself. The Apostolic Fathers and those associated with them in the third generation, are here placed together in a handbook, which, with the inestimable Scriptures, supplies a succinct autobiography of the Spouse of Christ for the first two centuries. No Christian scholar has ever before possessed, in faithful versions of such compact form, a supplement so essential to the right understanding of the New Testament itself. It is a volume indispensable to all scholars, and to every library, private or public, in this country.

The American Editor has performed the humble task of ushering these works into American use, with scanty contributions of his own. Such was the understanding with the public: they were to be presented with the Edinburgh series, free from appreciable colour or alloy. His duty was to give historic arrangement to the confused mass of the original series; to supply, in continuity, such brief introductory notices as might slightly popularize what was apparently meant for scholars only, in the introductions of the translators; to supply a few deficiencies by short notes and references; to add such references to Scripture, or to authors of general repute, as might lend additional aid to students, without clogging or overlaying the comments of the translators; and to note such corruptions or distortions of Patristic testimony as have been circulated, in the spirit of the forged Decretals, by those who carry on the old imposture by means essentially equivalent. Too long have they been allowed to speak to the popular mind as if the Fathers were their own; while, to every candid reader, it must be evident that, alike, the testimony, the arguments, and the silence of the Ante-Nicene writers confound all attempts to identify the ecclesiastical establishment of "the Holy Roman Empire," with "the Holy Catholic Church" of the ancient creeds.

In performing this task, under the pressure of a virtual obligation to issue the first volume in the first month of the new year, the Editor has relied upon the kindly aid of an able friend, as typographical corrector of the Edinburgh sheets. It is only necessary to add, that he has bracketed all his own notes, so as to assume the responsibility for them; but his introductions are so separated from those of the translators, that, after the first instance, he has not thought it requisite to suffix his initials to these brief contributions. He regrets that the most important volume of the series is necessarily the experimental one, and comes out under disadvantages from which it may be expected that succeeding issues will be free. May the Lord God of our Fathers bless the undertaking to all my fellow-Christians, and make good to them the promise which was once felicitously chosen for the motto of a similar series of publications: "Yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers."

 As I appear before the public with a new edition of my Church History, I feel more than ever the difficulty and responsibility of a task which is well worthy to occupy the whole time and strength of a long life, and which carries in it its own rich reward. The true historian of Christianity is yet to come. But short as I have fallen of my own ideal, I have done my best, and shall rejoice if my efforts stimulate others to better and more enduring work.


History should be written from the original sources of friend and foe, in the spirit of truth and love, "sine ira et studio," "with malice towards none, and charity for all," in clear, fresh, vigorous style, under the guidance of the twin parables of the mustard seed and leaven, as a book of life for instruction, correction, encouragement, as the best exposition and vindication of Christianity. The great and good Neander, "the father of Church History" first an Israelite without guile hoping for the Messiah, then a Platonist longing for the realization of his ideal of righteousness, last a Christian in head and heart made such a history his life-work, but before reaching the Reformation he was interrupted by sickness, and said to his faithful sister: "Hannchen, I am weary; let us go home; good night!" And thus he fell gently asleep, like a child, to awake in the land where all problems of history are solved.


When, after a long interruption caused by a change of professional duties and literary labors, I returned to the favorite studies of my youth, I felt the necessity, before continuing the History to more recent times, of subjecting the first volume to a thorough revision, in order to bring it up to the present state of investigation. We live in a restless and stirring age of discovery, criticism, and reconstruction. During the thirty years which have elapsed since the publication of my separate "History of the Apostolic Church," there has been an incessant activity in this field, not only in Germany, the great workshopof critical research, but in all other Protestant countries. Almost every inch of ground has been disputed and defended with a degree of learning, acumen, and skill such as were never spent before on the solution of historical problems.

This volume, containing the equivalent of three volumes of the Edinburgh series of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, will be found a library somewhat complete in itself. The Apostolic Fathers and those associated with them in the third generation, are here placed together in a handbook, which, with the inestimable Scriptures, supplies a succinct autobiography of the Spouse of Christ for the first two centuries. No Christian scholar has ever before possessed, in faithful versions of such compact form, a supplement so essential to the right understanding of the New Testament itself. It is a volume indispensable to all scholars, and to every library, private or public, in this country.

The American Editor has performed the humble task of ushering these works into American use, with scanty contributions of his own. Such was the understanding with the public: they were to be presented with the Edinburgh series, free from appreciable colour or alloy. His duty was to give historic arrangement to the confused mass of the original series; to supply, in continuity, such brief introductory notices as might slightly popularize what was apparently meant for scholars only, in the introductions of the translators; to supply a few deficiencies by short notes and references; to add such references to Scripture, or to authors of general repute, as might lend additional aid to students, without clogging or overlaying the comments of the translators; and to note such corruptions or distortions of Patristic testimony as have been circulated, in the spirit of the forged Decretals, by those who carry on the old imposture by means essentially equivalent. Too long have they been allowed to speak to the popular mind as if the Fathers were their own; while, to every candid reader, it must be evident that, alike, the testimony, the arguments, and the silence of the Ante-Nicene writers confound all attempts to identify the ecclesiastical establishment of "the Holy Roman Empire," with "the Holy Catholic Church" of the ancient creeds.

In performing this task, under the pressure of a virtual obligation to issue the first volume in the first month of the new year, the Editor has relied upon the kindly aid of an able friend, as typographical corrector of the Edinburgh sheets. It is only necessary to add, that he has bracketed all his own notes, so as to assume the responsibility for them; but his introductions are so separated from those of the translators, that, after the first instance, he has not thought it requisite to suffix his initials to these brief contributions. He regrets that the most important volume of the series is necessarily the experimental one, and comes out under disadvantages from which it may be expected that succeeding issues will be free. May the Lord God of our Fathers bless the undertaking to all my fellow-Christians, and make good to them the promise which was once felicitously chosen for the motto of a similar series of publications: "Yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers."

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