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appealed to them, and the Protestant, without denying them, contenting himself with showing that they fell short of present Roman claims), still, if they were false originally, they had not become truths in their passage downwards; that I could not conscientiously propose for the belief of others what I was assured could not be true, and that I ought not to acquiesce in the circulation of falsehood. The impression on my own mind was clear that, after my attention had been directed to the subject, and I had proceeded so far as to entertain strong grounds for suspicion of fraud, it was my duty to pursue the inquiry, and endeavour, if possible, to come at the truth. I therefore recommenced my labours, and the result, which was very gradually, I may almost say unwillingly, arrived at, is now presented to the reader. Whether my proofs will be convincing to him is to be seen. I have endeavoured to make them as popular as I was able, and to free them as much as possible from what would be repulsive. I have sought, also, to carry the reader along with me, that he might understand what I was aiming at. He must recollect, however, that I cannot, in a work like this, fully represent the grounds of my own convictions. I am confined to two or three arguments, more would be tedious, if even so many will be endured. I can convey to him but few of the convictions derived from the style, the character of the works, the connection of the forgeries with each other, and a multitude of lesser but cumulative facts and arguments which render the belief in their forgery so irresistible to myself. If, then, his confidence from what I allege shall be shaken in the several writings and documents, I request him to pursue the investigation himself, and I feel confident of the result.
mentions a Raymund Missorius having attributed the Letters of Cyprian and Firmilian (I suppose the Letters confined to the question of Rebaptism) to the Donatists of Africa. I am not aware that, until to-day, I ever heard of Raymund Missorius; and I regret it, as I should have been glad to have seen his objections. The idea of a Donatist origin to these letters had, however, already passed through my mind and been rejected.
But, whatever may be the effect of my arguments on my reader's mind, at all events, I trust, that, be he who he may, and of what party he may, he will give me credit for honesty of also that he will not believe that I have hastily and rashly sought to unsettle faith in acknowledged writings; but on the contrary, that I have bestowed both labour and thought upon my book; and that, although there may be errors in it (and no doubt there are), yet that he will believe that they are there without my knowledge, and that I would not on any account be knowingly guilty of a suppression even, much more of an untruth. My errors, I can truly say, are those of oversight or ignorance.
I think I have proved, -or to say the least, have given such indications as will lead to the proof, that some documents which have been quoted as
authorities in the History of the Early Christian Church, are neither genuine nor authentic,—that they were not written by the persons to whom they are ascribed, and that the alleged facts which they contain are fictions; that they are, in short, forgeries of a date later than that which they bear, or to which they pretend. To what period each individual forgery belongs, I do not undertake to decide. I have, it will be seen, assumed that some of them may have been written before the end of the fifth century; but I confess at once that I do not see my way clearly. I have not sufficient grounds for any certainty. Some bear the marks of a much later age. It is not, however, of immediate importance in this enquiry (and may really be of none), to decide this point. Moreover, from an inability to see in each case the original manuscript, even if diplomatics were a more certain science than I suspect it to be, the date could, in many cases, be only very vaguely approached.
I must add that, having been thus, as it were, forced into this investigation, while I have felt as certain as I could be, that some of the documents and passages which I had at first taken in hand as materials for my intended work, are plainly spurious, there have been others about which I have entertained various shades of doubt. Under such circumstances I have not thought it necessary or even expedient to state every suspicion that has arisen in my own mind. I have been desirous to preserve as much as I could of the small remains of history, which we possess; and I have therefore felt myself justified, even in cases where I entertained doubts, to speak at times without imputation of doubt respecting some things which pass unquestioned in history.
I would suggest to those readers who may wish to make themselves masters of the subject to read the “Proofs and Illustrations, consecutively; later enquiries sometimes assume a knowledge of the previous ones.
Luddesdown, March 18. 1851.