Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume VII/Introductory Notice
The genius of Lactantius suffers a sad transformation when unclothed of vernacular and stripped of the idiomatic graces of his style. But the intelligent reader will be sure to compare this translation with the Latinity of the original, and to recur to it often for the enjoyment of its charming rhetoric, and of the high sentiment it so nobly enforces and adorns. This volume will be the favourite of the series with many. The writings of the Christian Tully alone make up more than half of its contents; and it is supremely refreshing to reach, at last, an author who chronicles the triumph of the Gospel over “Herod and Pontius Pilate;” over the heathen in their “rage,” and the people in their “vain imaginings;” over “the kings of the earth who stood up, and the rulers who were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.”
I love the writings of Lactantius, and two of his sayings are always uppermost when I recall his name. They touch me like plaintive but inspiring music. Let me quote them entire:—
1. “Si vita est optanda sapienti profecto nullam aliam ob causam vivere optaverim, quam ut aliquid efficiam quod vita dignum sit.”
2. “Satis me vixisse arbitrabor, et officium hominis implesse, si labor meus aliquos homines ab erroribus liberatos, ad iter cœleste direxerit.”
The Minor Writers to be found in this volume are not unworthy of their place. They are chiefly valuable as an appendix to preceding volumes, and illustrative of their contents.
But this series is enriched beyond its original by the Bryennios Manuscript and the completed form of the pseudo-Clementine Epistle, edited by Professor Riddle. The same hand has annotated the Apostolic Constitutions, so called; and the student has in his brief but learned notes all the light which has been shed by modern scholarship on these invaluable relics of antiquity, since the days of the truly illustrious Bishop Beveridge. These, and the liturgical pseudepigraphic treasures of early Christianity I have gathered here, to distinguish them from the mere Apocrypha, which will largely make up the one remaining volume of the series.
Of the Liturgies, I have said what seemed necessary as an introduction, in the proper place. They are debased by mediæval alloy. In their English dress, and in the nudity of their appearance, without adequate notes and elucidations, they are therefore far from attractive specimens of liturgical literature. But it would have been beyond my province to say much where the original editors have said nothing, and I have contented myself with such comments only as seemed requisite to remind the student how to “take forth the precious from the vile.”
- Compare Merivale, Conversion of the Roman Empire, p. 8, ed. New York, 1866.
- De Opificio Dei, cap. xxi. p. 395, ed. Basil, 1521.
- Thus the Apocalyptic comments of Victorinus must be compared with those of Commodian and Hippolytus, Dionysius with his namesake of Alexandria, Asterius with Caius, etc.
- Compare Canon Wescott, The Historic Faith, Short Lectures, etc., pp. 185-202, 237 (and same author’s Risen Lord, etc., p. 28), London,1883.