« PreviousContinue »
The Church History, composed by the two distinguished brothers, Joseph and İsaac MILNER, appears to be daily advancing in general estimation ; while by those, who cordially concur with its authors in the principles which pervade it, it is regarded as one of the most important theological works of the age. And this estimate is formed of it, not so much by speculative persons, merely from reflection on the nature of its contents, as by practical men, from the actual observation of its effects, in bringing to a serious sense of religion those who were heretofore lost in the vain pursuits of the world, and in instructing, establishing, and edifying sincere Christians.
To all who thus regard the work, it has been a subject of deep regret that it should have stopped short in the midst of a most interesting period, without any additional part having been published during the last seventeen years. That, after the death of the latter of its two authors, it should not have readily found a continuator, cannot be matter of surprise. Not only might the great learning, the vigour of intellect and of genius, and, above all, the glow of high-principled piety, which characterize the volumes hitherto given to the public, well deter a modest mind from attempting to add to their number ; but the very mag
· The last volume was published in the year 1809. Dr. Milner died in 1820.
JUN 28 1301 do cwu8
nitude of the undertaking, to furnish any thing like an adequate history of the church of Christ from the glorions period of the reformation, is of itself sufficiently appalling. The slender stream, which the elder Milner often traced with difficulty through the grass and weeds with which it was overgrown, here spreads into a mighty river of many branches. The present writer can most sincerely declare, that he long shrunk back from attempting even that comparatively small portion of such a work, which he now presents to the world. It was not a service that he presumed to select for himself: it was not till it had been proposed to him, and repeatedly pressed upon him, by persons whose judgment and whose wishes were entitled to his highest respect, that he at length consented, between five and
six years ago, to enter upon a course of reading, and to make some collections, tending to such a result.
It may be proper very briefly to state what has since occurred, and deferred the prosecution of the undertaking to any practical issue till the present time.
When I first applied myself to the subject, it was confidently said, that the late Dean of Carlisle had left no papers behind him which could be employed as a continuation of the History. The contrary was afterwards declared to be the fact; and expectations were held out, that what he had prepared would be revised and published without any unnecessary delay. This intimation, concurring with the circumstance of other services
1 I may now perhaps venture to fill up a blank which has hitherto stood in the copy of my revered father's last letter to me, published in his Life. He there says, under the date of Feb. 23, 1821, “ I hope that, notwithstanding all interruptions and difficulties, and your own fears and feelings, it is appointed for you to &c. &c.” The words to be supplied are—to tinue Milner's Church History.” Scott's Life, p. 494. (486.)
devolving upon me, caused me to lay aside the work for four years. But my other occupations having then terminated, and no addition to the Church History having appeared or been announced, the solicitations of friends were kindly renewed, and my labours in consequence resumed.
The fruit of them, as far as they have yet proceeded, is now respectfully submitted to the public. I am conscious that my production will call for much indulgence, and that it must in very many respects fall short of what the noble theme might well have demanded : yet I cannot but entertain a confidence, that what I have been able to bring forward will be found interesting to most persons who feel interested in religion itself, and in its progress among mankind.2
In this volume I have endeavoured to complete the history of Luther, and of the principal events pertaining to that branch of the church which was connected with him, to the period of his death. Dr. Milner had detailed the history of the first thirteen years of the Reformer's public life : that of sixteen more remained to be related. It seemed necessary thus to restrict the plan of the present volume chiefly to the Lutheran church, both because of the magnitude of the transactions in which that division of the Christian world was
The compilation of my father's Life and Letters, and the publication of his Miscellaneous Theological Works.
2 While I could not but acquiesce in the sentiment, that no obligation could possibly exist to wait longer in the hope of seeing a continuation of the History from materials collected by the late Dean of Carlisle, it is a satisfaction to me to think, that the publication of my volume need not obstruct, perhaps it may accelerate, the communication of his papers. The religious public will still welcome any thing, sufficiently matured, from his pen, upon a subject which so deeply interested his powerful mind; and, for myself, I shall be most happy to have my statements confirmed where they are right, and, where they may be erroneous, corrected by his hand.
involved, and also in order to maintain a conformity between the commencement of my work and the latter part of that which it aspires to continuewhere a like restriction is, in point of fact, observed. The same general principles, it is hoped, will be found to prevail here, as in the work of the Milners. What the junior of them said of his venerated brother, I trust I may apply to myself-that,“ in composing the work, he certainly believed himself to be employed in the service of his Heavenly Master." I have laboured to cherish this feeling respecting it: and I hope I now send it forth with this as my first prayer concerning it that it may be accepted as a humble offering to God, and be blessed to the increase and the edification of his church. I may adopt the words of the author to whom all students of the history of Luther are so deeply indebted, the excellent Seckendorf, and say of my publication, as he did of his, “ Prodit itaque, non tam meo quam amicorum arbitrio-utinam ad gloriam Dei et emolumentum ecclesiæ !”? At least, with respect to my first engaging in the work, it was not my own inclination but the importunity of my friends that prevailed. I will not deny that I have since become cordially attached to my employment, and am anxious to proceed in it.
There is another point in which a pretty close agreement will be found between my work and that of my illustrious predecessors—if I may be allowed to use a term, which perhaps rather too much assumes that I am succeeding to their la
1 “My work is at length published-not so much in pursuance of my own choice, as in compliance with the wishes of my friends: may it prove to the glory of God, and the good of his church!”-Seck. in Præloquio.-I could have wished to suggest, from the same source, a motto for Dr. Milner's part of the Church History: “ Nunc Lutherum ex ipso Luthero eruo, formo, depingo, et-conspiciendum admirandumque sisto."