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While it is true that of making many books there is no end, it is equally true that the reading of too many books is endless and unprofitable. Not only is much study a weariness to the flesh, but overmuch reading is hurtful also to the mind. Whatever is merely read, without being made the subject of serious meditation, is not profitable, but the reverse. Yet we may be assured that God would not have preserved to his Church so vast a store of sacred literature, unless He had designed it, when properly used, to be a great boon : and so we find that the judicious student, who is directed by the Spirit of God to the right use of the works of the pious of former times, does not fail to derive from them much mental and spiritual advantage. We therefore hope to perform a useful service by presenting our readers with such short notices of the principal writers, and such short extracts from their best works as may supply some hints for their guidance in Theological reading. We are not without hopes also that if kindly assisted and supported in the undertaking by our friends, our notes may serve as the basis of what we believe does not exist in any language, and what has been often declared to be a desideratum,_“A History of THEological Liter ATURE.”
For the task which we thus undertake we are free to confess ourselves very inadeqaate, but we trust to receive such assistance from numerous friends as shall make that work comparatively easy, which would be quite impracticable for any one individual, how well qualified soever.
Various modes of arrangement suggest themselves to us as severally possessing various advantages and disadvantages. We might divide the authors according to the times in which they lived, the countries in which their works were published, or the subjects on which they chiefly wrote. It is unnecessary to enter upon the advantages and disadvantages of these several methods. We shall endeavour to combine the advantages of them all, by taking the chronological order as our basis, deviating however occasionally from its strictness in favour of the geographical mode, and inserting sometimes a supplementary paper as to the different modes of treating theological questions at different eras. Thus for example we may mention a dozen English writers side by side, although there may have flourished many Dutch and French writers at the same time; and again we may mention such writers as Clarke and Abernethy alongside of such as Paley in order to contrast their modes of treating the questions which form the subjects of their principal writings. Still we shall never deviate very far from chronologial order, one of whose chief recommendations is that it will be the easiest for ourselves. We begin then with the first ages of the New Testament church, and proceed without further preamble to introduce our readers to the earliest uninspired Christian writers.
A. THE FATHERS.
This term is by different writers taken in different significations in regard to its extent: while some confine the title to writers of the first four centuries, others extend it so as to make it include all Christian writers down to the twelfth or thirteenth century. We shall, for a reason that shall hereafter appear, adopt a limited application of the term, and shall not apply it to any writer who flourished after the fifth century. Of the first centuries we have not very many Christian remains; yet not fewer than we should expect, when we consider the comparatively small number of literary men that had then embraced the Christiau faith, and the numbers of their works that must have been lost before reaching our times. We ought also to bear in mind that the circumstances of the church in these early ages were by no means favourable to the cultivation or exercise of literary talents. "To believe, to suffer, and to love, (says the pious Milner), not to write, was the primitive taste." But shall we regret this even in a literary point of view? How much more valuable may we expect those writings to be which took their birth in a believing, suffering, loving age, than those that originate in one like the present, when book-making has become a profession? Then men wrote from the abundance of full hearts ; now, it is to be feared, many write only because others do, and because it is expected by the church and the world, that men who have attained any eminence or distinction should give to the world in the form of a book their opinions regarding some subject or other.
From this it will be seen, that we do not in any degree sympathize with the prejudice that many Christians entertain against the writings of the Fathers. Neither however do we attribute to them any portion of that authority which some have claimed for them. We look upon them as men who wrote without inspiration in an age which was favorable to the development of piety, but which wanted the benefit of that enlightenment which diffused Christianity has produced in later times, and that experience which is always increasing as the world grows older.
All our specimens we shall present to our readers in an English dress; when the works were not originally written in English, we shall adopt the approved translations of others when we can procure them, translating for ourselves only when we cannot avail ourselves of the labors of others.
a. white Rs of the FIRST century, commonly oALLEd A POSTOLIC FATHERS.
This is he regarding whom we have the testimony of an inspired apostle that his name is in the book of life. Respecting his history there is not much certainly known. He is said to have sprung from the royal race of the Caesars, to have been educated at Rome with great care, to have begun early in life to make anxious inquiries regarding the immortality of the soul and a future state, and to have consulted on these subjects, without receiving any satisfaction, the schools of philosophers and the Egyptian Hierophants. While in this state of suspense, he is said to have heard of the Son of God’s appearing in the world, and to have sought and received instructions from Barnabas and Peter. All ancient writers agree that Clement was at one time Bishop of Rome, but they differ widely as to the time of his appointment and the order of his succession.
The only extant work that is undoubtedly his, is an epistle to the Corinthians. The fragment of another epistle addressed to the same church is by some believed also to be his, and may be considered as doubtful. The other works that have been ascribed to him, are certainly supposititious. Such are the * Epistle to James the Lord’s brother”—“Recognitions”—“Clementia”—“Apostolic Constitutions,” and “Apostolic Canons.”
The Epistle to the Corinthians, which (as we have said) is the only extant production of Clement, whose genuineness is undoubted, seems to have been written about A. D. 95 or 96, on. occasion of some unhappy dissensions which had arisen in the Church of Corinth. It had long been supposed to be utterly lost, but was at last found written at the end of a MS. of the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament, in the possession of Charles I. of England. This is the only MS. of the epistle known to be in existence. There is one deficiency near the end which will probably never be supplied.
We extract as a specimen of the epistle the following sage from the translation published by Mr. Chevallier. It forms the 20th, 21st, and 22nd chapters, and is a passage of much beauty and sublimity.
XX. The heavens, peaceably revolving by his appointment, are subject unto him. Day and night perform the course appointed by him, in no wise interrupting one another. By his ordinance, the sun and moon, and all the companies of stars, roll on, in harmony, without any deviation, within the bounds allotted to them. In obedience to his will, the pregnant earth yields her fruits plentifully in due season to man and
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beast, and to all creatures that are therein ; not hesitating, nor changing any thing, which was decreed by him. The unsearchable secrets of the abyss, and the untold judgments of the lower world, are restrained by the same commands. The hollow depth of the vast sea, gathered together into its several collections by his word, passes not its allotted bounds ; but as he commanded, so doth it. For he said, " Hitherto shalt thou come, and thy waves shall be broken within thee*." The ocean, impassable to mankind, and the worlds which are beyond it, are governed by the same commands of their master. Spring and summer, and autumn and winter, give place peaceably to one another. The winds, in their stations, perform their service without interruption, each in his appointed season. The overflowing fountains, ministering both to pleasure and to health, without ceasing put forth their breasts to support the life cf man. Nay, the smallest of living creatures) maintain their intercourse in concord and peace. All these hath the great Creator and Lord of all things ordained to be in peace and concord; for he is good to all; but above measure to us, who flee to his mercy, through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and majesty, for ever and ever. Amen.
XXI. Take heed, beloved, that his many blessings he not turned into condemnation to us all. (For thus it will surely be,) unless we walk worthy of him, and with one consent do that which is good and wellpleasing in his sight. For he saith in a certain place, " The Spirit of the Lord is a candle, searching out the inward parts of the belly t-" Let us consider how near he is, and that none of our thoughts or reasonings, which we frame within ourselves are hid from him. It is therefore just that we should not desert our ranks (by declining) from his will. Let us choose to offend men, who are foolish and inconsiderate, lifted up, and glorying in the pride of their reasoning, rather than God. Let us reverence our Lord Jesus Christ, whose blood was given for us. Let us honour those who are set over us; let us respect our elders, let us instruct our young men in the discipline and fear of the Lord. Our wives let us direct to that which is good. Let them shew forth the lovely habit of purity (in all their conversation) with a sincere affection of meekness. Let them make manifest the government of their tongues by their silence. Let their charity be without partiality*, exercised equally to all who religiously fear God. Let our children partake of the instruction of Christ; let them learn of how great avail humility is before God, what power a pure charity hath with him, how excellent and great his fear is, saving such as live in it with holiness and a pure conscience. For he is a searcher of the thoughts and counsels (of the heart): whose breath is in us, and when he pleases, he takes it away.
XXII. All these things the faith, which is in Christ, confirms. For he himself by the Holy Ghost thus speaks to us§, "Come, ye children, hearken unto me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. VVhat man is he that desireth life and loveth to see good days? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and ensue it. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous; and his ears are open unto their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cried, and the Lord heard him; and delivered him out of all his troubles. Many are the plagues of the wicked: but they that trust in the Lord, mercy shall compass them about||."
V.—The Hill Tribes—New and important field for Missions.
We have been favoured with the perusal of a most interesting Missionary Journal, containing an account of a tour to the north-east. We have gathered much interesting information from it respecting those regions, which will, we hope, be of service to us, and interesting to our readers in future numbers. We have this month culled a few observations in reference to the Garrows, one of the Hill tribes, evidently a bold and enterprising people. They occupy the western extremity of the range of hills of which the Khasias are the east; and in some measure they resemble that singularly interesting tribe. A lengthened and interesting account of the Khasias appeared in the Observer for March 1838. The account of the Santals, by a resident among them, fully confirms all the statements of our correspondent in the Observer for June 1839. The account of the Coles from the Advocate shows us that the field of Missions is opening on every hand with brightening prospects of success. We have before us for the present, as subjects for prayer, faith and labor, the Hill tribes of the Khasias, Garrows, Coles and Santals. .^_We shall continue this subject as opportunity offers.
To the Editors of the Calcutta Christian Observer. Deab Sirs,
The accompanying are a few recollections of the Santals of the Western Hills. A residence among them of two years in different parts of the country enables me to relate thus of them from personal knowledge ; from the hands of a ready writer I am sure it would interest many of your readers.
A Late Mofussimte.
A residence among the Oriyas and Santals, for a period of upwards of two years, ought to be cause of interest in observing the manners and customs of a people so little known a» the latter class are.
The Santals are an athletic and good-humoured race; in the presence of a stranger they are very much disposed to boast and try the power of limb with each other, but in the best humour: indeed, the violent rage and bazar language, so common among their neighbours, is rarely witnessed among them.
Fondly attached to hunting, in the cold and hot seasons they quit their villages for two weeks at a time, leaving the old '"in and women in charge. The bow and tomakh (tauqi) of