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profoundest self-sacrifice? The enthusiasm of a Bernard; the simple piety of a Francis de Sales; the practical philanthropy of a Vincent de Paul; the self-forgetfulness of a Martyn or a Patteson; the fervour of a Francis Xavier; can we fail to profit by the contemplation of such Christian graces? We may not be able to raise ourselves up to so lofty a level as they attained: but seeing what they achieved and endured, how they were tried and how they prevailed, we may take heart to meet with calmness and patience our own smaller troubles and temptations, and run the race set before us with a clean conscience and a braver spirit. We may seek to imitate them, not in the grandeur of their works, or in the wonderful sanctity of their lives, but in their forgetfulness of self, their trustfulness, their meekness, their charity, and, above all, in their obedience to the voice of duty, their submission to the will of God.
In selecting my examples, I have studied, first, variety, and second, novelty. As to the first point, I have brought together sketches of an English bishop, the founder of a great religious order, the mediaeval orator whose eloquence moved masses of men with eager sympathy, the great reformer of Florence, a scholar missionary, an English matron, a Jesuit missionary. Resembling one another in their devout enthusiasm, they will be found to differ vastly in intellectual and moral characteristics, so that each presents a distinct type of the Christian life. With regard to the second point, I claim that this volume includes a number of biographies founded upon authorities not easily accessible to the general reader; some of which are by no means so well known as seems desirable and profitable; and that they have never before been presented in so compact and available a form. This is specially true of the chapters devoted to the great men of the mediaeval Church. I would add that all have been prepared under a strong sense of responsibility; and with a desire to render them suitable for perusal in families, and by the younger members of the Anglican communion. For this purpose, controversial topics have been carefully avoided, and references to dogmatic difficulties made as brief as possible. I hope a note of true Catholicity will be found in every page. Upon the lives and characters, and upon the gifts and graces, of the Christian heroes whom I have sought to commemorate, it has been my delight to dwell, and not upon their religious systems. But while I have refrained from theological bitterness, and from that violent language against the Roman Church which, in some quarters, is considered a mark of true Protestantism, I must own that, throughout, I have written from the standpoint of an English Churchman, and in entire and unhesitating sympathy with the teaching of the Church of England.