This book gives a detailed history of the first four centuries of the Christian Church. Important topics include the struggle between Christianity and Pagan Rome, early persecutions, early heresies, and the establishment of monasticism in both the Greek-speaking east, and the West. The Arian controversy is explained in detail, and the life stories of many of the early church fathers are introduced.
These chapters began as Lowell Lectures in 1908. The lectures were given without manuscript, and have been repeated in that form in Cambridge, in Salem, in Springfield, in Providence, Rhode Island, and in Brooklyn, New York. The first, second, third, and fourth were then written out and read at the Berkeley Divinity School, Middletown, Connecticut, as the Mary H. Page Lectures for 1914. In like manner the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth were given at Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio, as the Bedell Lectures for 1913. The tenth was given in 1913, at Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the Baldwin Foundation. Finally, the lectures, as they now appear, were repeated in 1914 at West Newport, California, at the Summer School conducted by the Commission on Christian Education of the Diocese of Los Angeles.
The following extracts from a communication in 1880 to the Trustees of Kenyon College indicate the intentions of Bishop and Mrs. Bedell, founders of the Bedell Lectureship:—
We have consecrated and set apart for the service of God the sum of five thousand dollars, to be devoted to the establishment of a lecture or lectures in the Institutions at Gambier on the Evidences of Natural and Revealed Religion, or the Relations of Science and Religion.
The lecture or lectures shall be delivered biennally on Founders' Day (if such a day shall be established) or other appropriate time. During our lifetime, or the lifetime of either of us, the nomination of the lectureship shall rest with us.
The interest for two years on the fund, less the sum necessary to pay for the publication, shall be paid to the lecturer.
We express our preference that the lecture or lectures shall be delivered in the Church of the Holy Spirit, if such building be in existence; and shall be delivered in the presence of all the members of the Institutions under the authority of the Board. We ask that the day on which the lecture, or the first of each series of lectures, shall be delivered shall be a holiday.
We wish that the nomination to this Lectureship shall be restricted by no other consideration than the ability of the appointee to discharge the duty to the highest glory of God in the completest presentation of the subject.
The original sources from which a knowledge of this period is derived are readily accessible in translation. In The Ante-Nicene Fathers (8 vols.) the reader will find most of the writings of the Early Church under the Pagan Empire, to the year 325. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, in two Series (each of 14 vols.), contains the most important works of Christian writers from 325 till the beginning of the Middle Ages. The first series is given to Augustine and Chrysostom. The second series contains the books of the leaders of Christian thought and life from Athanasius to Gregory the Great. The Church History of Eusebius, extending to 324, has been translated and edited by Dr. A. C. McGiffert. The continuations of this history by Socrates (324-439), by Sozomon (324-425), and by Rufinus (324-395) are translated into English,—Socrates and Sozomon in the Second Series of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Dr. Joseph Cullen Ayer's Source Book for Ancient Church History contains significant extracts from the writers of this period, with interpretive comments. The first volume of the Cambridge Medieval History deals with the fifth century. Professor Gwatkin's Early Church History to 313 and Monsignor Duchesne's Early History of the Church are recent aids to an understanding of these times.
My friend and colleague, Professor Henry Bradford Washburn, has read these chapters in proof, and I am indebted to him for many helpful suggestions.
EPISCOPAL THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL