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CHRISTIAN LIFE OF THE FIRST THREE CENTURIES.
LIGHT IN THE DARK PLACES.
PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION OF VOL. I.
The work which I now publish in an amended form, was undertaken from a desire to excite and cherish in the minds of persons who were not devoted to the study of theology as a science, a consciousness of the unity of that Christian Spirit which has been in action through every age of the church, and which connects us with all that has flowed from the operation of the Holy Spirit since its first effusion—to awaken an interest for everything which has proceeded from this Spirit—to let the testimonies drawn from actual life, speak for general edification and instruction—and to lead to a recognition at once of the Unity of that Spirit, and of the variety that exists in its forms of manifestation. Accounts from several quarters have reached me that this attempt has not been altogether in vain. I recollect especially some beautiful lines which I received from Schleiermacher, when the first part of these sketches appeared in the year 1822, in which he expressed to me his deep interest, as a practical clergyman, in this undertaking.
As the object for which these sketches were first published seems equally suited to the wants of the present times (though changed in many respects from the former), I am desirous that this work, of which the first volume has been long ago out of print, should not sink into oblivion. And I wish to construct these historical delineations in a manner more corresponding to their object, to make them still more popular, and to remove all philosophical discussion, which will find a place with more propriety in my larger Church History. On this account, and to give a greater unity to the whole, I have been obliged, much to my regret, to omit several contributions from other persons. I hope that my dear friend Dr. Tholuck will not allow his Essay on the Moral Influence of Heathenism to be lost, but present it to the public in some other form. The First and Second Volumes are now thrown into one.
I have endeavoured, as far as my other engagements would permit, to perfect the form and contents of these sketches, and to enrich them with new ones.
These delineations, which make not the least pretension to scientific value, are designed only to meet the wants of Christians in general. Yet possibly it would gratify many a younger or older theologian who makes use of these testimonies of the Christian life, to read, in the original, several important and beautiful passages from the Fathers, which are here translated ; therefore my dear young friend Mr. Schneider (theological candidate from Silesia), who has compiled all the indexes, and corrected the proof sheets, and whose diligence, zeal, and fidelity have been of great service, has taken the trouble to see to the printing of these passages. My hearty thanks are due for all his exertions.
The profits of this work were, from the first, devoted to the benefit of poor and deserving students of theology. Nothing can diminish my interest in an object so dear to my heart; it rather supplies a fresh motive to resume and continue the work. But as the so-called Neander Society has been since formed for the same purpose, the amount will be added to its capital, or transferred to it for distribution.
As these sketches are intended to testify of the one (and in the true sense (Catholic Church-which rests on an immoveable foundation, even Christ—they are dedicated to all the members of this church, under whatever form of constitution they may be scattered ; and may the Spirit of the Lord accompany them and make them a blessing to such !
A. NEANDER. Berlin, August 5, 1845.