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It may possibly strike some readers with surprise that no notice is taken, in the following pages, of a multiplicity of sects which arose, from time to time, in what is called the Christian world, and whose history occupies so very large a space in the volumes of most of our modern writers on this subject. But to speak the truth, my opinion of these in general is, that they have nothing to do with the history of the church or kingdom of Christ; and that to connect them with it, as Dr. Mosheim and others have done, is scarcely more unwise than the conduct of Mr. Hume would have been, had he incorporated the Tyburn Chronicle into his valuable History of England.
In tracing the kingdom of Christ in the world, I have paid no regard whatever to the long disputed subject of apostolical succession. I have, indeed, read much that has been written upon it by the Catholic writers on one side, and by Dr. Alix, Sir Samuel Morland, and several Protestants on the other; and I regret the labour that has been so fruitlessly expended by the latter, persuaded as I am that the postulatum is a mere fiction, and that the ground on which the Protestant writers have proceeded in contending for it, is altogether untenable. It is admitted, that the Most High has had his churches and people in every age, since the decease of the Apostles; but to attempt to trace a regular succession of ordained bishops in the vallies of Piedmont, or any other country, is “ labouring in the fire for very vanity,” and seems to me to proceed upon mistaken views of the nature of the kingdom of Christ, and of the sovereignty of God, in his operations in the earth, as they have respect unto it. Jesus himself, in reply to an inquiry put to him by the Pharisees, (Luke xvii. 20—24.) compares his kingdom to the lightning, darting its rays in the most sovereign and uncontrolled manner from one extremity of the heavens to the other. And this view of it corresponds with matter of fact. Wherever the blessed God has his elect, there, in his own proper time, he sends his gospel to save them. One while we see it diffusing its heavenly light on a particular region, and leaving another in darkness. Then it takes up its residence in the latter, and forsakes the former. Thus when Paul and his companions attempted to go into Bithynia, the Spirit permitted them not; but they were instructed by a vision to proceed to Macedonia, where the word of the Lord had free course and was glorified. When Paul first came to Corinth, he met with great opposition, but he was encouraged to persevere by Him who said, “ I have much people in this city.” When the first churches began to swerve from the form of sound words, to corrupt the discipline of the house of God, and to commit fornication with the kings of the earth, by forming an alliance with the state, we cease to trace the kingdom of Christ among them, but
we shall find it successively among the churches of the Novatians, the followers of Ærius, the Paulicians, the Cathari, or Puritans in Germany, the Paterines, and the Waldenses, until the times of reformation.
If the present work contain any thing of sufficient interest to give it a temporary buoyancy upon the ocean of public opinion, and prevent its rapid transition into the gulph of oblivion—that insatiable vortex which has already swallowed up myriads of much more important publications, the author would persuade himself it must be those excellent letters of our great poet Milton, which, in the capacity of Latin Secretary to Cromwell, he wrote to the Protestant princes upon the Continent, pleading the cause of the poor, afficted, and grossly injured Waldenses. It is a mortifying reflection, that these interesting letters should now be almost forgotten as the compositions of our great poet. Whence comes it to pass, that while Milton's Defence of the People of England is so generally known, no one ever speaks of his Defence of the Waldenses? It will be difficult to assign a more plausible reason for this, than the unpopularity of the subject. The Waldenses were “ a poor and afflicted people,” the subjects of a kingdom that is not of this world, and they were treated by their adversaries as “ the filth of the world and offscouring of all things.” But Milton understood their character, and duly appreciated it. He recognized in them his Christian brethren; their distress not only reached his ears, but roused all the sensibilities of his soul; he participated in their sorrows, and his letters in their behalf do as much honour to the benevolence of his heart as his immortal poem of Paradise Lost does to the sublimity of his genius. It has been too inuch the fashion amongst a certain class of writers to inveigh against the malignity and moral character of Milton ; but surely we have a right to ask his revilers, before they take such freedoms with his fair fame, at least not to be unjust to his virtues.
SECOND EDITION. .
THE favourable reception which this work has experienced from the author's friends and the public, having encouraged him to present it a second time at the bar of their tribunal, it now makes its appearance in a somewhat less imperfect state than it originally did. A careful revision has suggested the necessity of correcting some inaccuracies which had escaped his notice, both in point of style and of historical fact; a few paragraphs, which upon more mature consideration appeared not so immediately connected with the subject, have been removed and their places supplied with more interesting occurrences; but the additional information now introduced is so copious that it would be no easy task to specify it in detail, even in a general way. Yet concise, and consequently imperfect, as was the narrative of the Waldenses contained in the former edition, the author has been gratified at finding that it excited an unusual degree of interest in the minds of Christians of every denomination; and the anxiety expressed by many to be as fully informed as possible concerning this remarkable people, whose memory the lapse of a century was rapidly sinking into oblivion, has stimulated him to spare no