Oldalképek
PDF
ePub
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

A. D.

to

*

A. D.

to

A. D.

222.

History. We proceed with the thread of our History. Cara- therefore, from their principles, however erroneous, they Of the

calla, though his nurse was a Christian,* cannot be felt themselves bound to repress its increasing progress Christian From reckoned

Church those who imbibed the tenets and with the utmost rigour. among

in the Ilire advanced the progress of the new Religion. He is said, The reign of Alexander Severus was no less

auspic 211.

Century. 'indeed, when a youth, to have expressed great indigna- cious than the two preceding to the Christian cause.

tion at a severe punishment inflicted on one of his play- This Emperor, eminent for many virtues, was particu313.

From fellows, on account of the Jewish Religion. There is larly distinguished by his filial piety.* We Caracalla.

may,

thereperhaps no reason to suppose that Spartian, who relates fore, in a great measure, attribute the protection, which 211 Whether the anecdote, confounded the Jewish with the Christian the Church enjoyed in his time, to the influence of his favourable Faith ; but it is probable that the anger of Caracalla mother, Julia Mammæa, who evinced a disposition to 313. to the Christians,

was excited rather by his affection for his friend, than inquire into the nature, and to show respect to the Alexander by any feeling of respect for the Religion which he pro- teachers of the new Religion.f It seems also pro- causes of fessed. It seems, however, certain, that during his bable that Alexander was inclined to the opinion, the favour

short reign, and that of Macrinus, the Church enjoyed maintained by many ancient Sages, that Religious which he Helioga.

comparative tranquillity. Heliogabalus also, though worship, under all its variety of names and modes, was showed balus. sunk in every vice which can disgrace human nature, essentially the same in its object and spirit; a bond, towards the

was not inclined to molest the Christians. Desirous which, while it united Man to his Creator, linked toge-
that the worship of the Sun, of which Deity he was the ther the multifarious parts of the great Social, system.
Priest, should exceed all other worships in its pomp We know from Tertullian, that when some of the
and mysteries, he was more curious to learn the secrets Heathens were convinced from experience that the

of the various Sects, than anxious to resort to violence Christians were not impostors, they still looked upon Why Chris. against their persons. I And here it may naturally their Religion, not as a Divine Revelation, but as a kind tianity was be asked, to what cause are we to ascribe the leniency of Philosophy. This supposition offers, at least, a very sometimes

with which the bad and the severity with which the plausible explanation of the motives which induced him by the bad good Emperors often, treated the Christians.' How is to place in his private Chapel, and to reverence with

it that the abandoned Heliogabalus is a protector, and Divine lionours, the images of Abraham, Orpheus, cuted by the the Philosophic Aurelius an enemy? The answer is Apollonius Tyanæus, and Christ.!! It will likewise virtuous

obvious. Princes, who were immersed in the depths tend to give weight to the assertion of Lampridius, that Emperors. of sensuality, were least likely to have turned their Alexander entertained a design of erecting a Temple to

attention to the existence of a new and peaceful Sect. Christ, but abandoned it, in consequence of the report
Their minds were seldom occupied by the considera- of the soothsayers, that if such a measure were carried
tion of State affairs, and still less by the investigation into execution, all men would become Christians, and
of facts which were regarded as comparatively of little the other Temples would be abandoned. The Em- Whether h
consequence. The voice of popular clamour was, not peror might have formed a plan for effecting a kind of intended t-

build a loud enough to disturb the recesses of the Palace. As

Temple to long as the Christians interfered not with their private

* Lampr, in Vil. Sever, c. 14.

Chrift. pleasures, they were passed over with profound indiffe- + Euseb. Hist. Eccles. lib. vi. c. 21. Hieron. de Vir. Nlust, c. 54. On rence, as harmless enthusiasts, except when very pecu

the supposed conversion of Mammæa, see Fred. Spanheim, Diss. de

Trad. Antiquiss. Conversionib. Lucii Brit. Regis. Jul. Mammea, liar circumstances were supposed to call for a different

et Philippi Imp. Patris et Filii. Oper. tom. ii. p. 400.
course. But, on the contrary, the Emperors, who

| Plotin. Ennead. ii. lib. ix. c. 9. Themist, in Orat. 7. ad Valent,
devoted all their energies to the great interests of the Apol. c. 46. Sed interim incredulitas, dum de bono sectæ hujus
Government, over which they presided,
and who sought obducitur, quod usu jam et de commercio innotuit

, non utique divi-
to reanimate the spirit of a declining People, regarded num negotium existimat, sed magis Philosophiæ genus.

|| Lampr. in Alex. Sev. c. 29. Matutinis horis in larario suo (in quo Christianity as a dangerous innovation, slowly under

et "Divos Principes, sed optimos electos el animas sanctiores, in queis mining the Religious, and with it, the Civil establish

et Apolonium, et quantum scriptor suorum temporum dicit, Christum, ment, to which they were passionately attached, and, Abraham, et Orpheum et hujuscemodi Deos habebat ac majorum

cffigies) rem divinam facicbat. For “ Deos," Salmasius would read

ceteros." Jablonski prefers “ alios." That he did not consider * Lacle Christiano educatus. Tertull. ad Scapul. iv.

persons so honoured as wholly perfect, appears from the circum† Spartian, in Vit. Caracall. c. 1.

stance that he admitted among them the image of Alexander the Dicebat præterea, Judæorum et Samaritanorum religiones et Great, (c. 32.) whose drunkenness and cruelty towards friends he Christianam devotionem illuc transferendam, ut omnium culturarum himself condemned, (c. 30.) secretum Heliogabali sacerdurium teneret. (Lampr. Vit. Heliog. c. 3.) Lampr. in Alex. Sev. c. 43.

[ocr errors]

From

to

From A. D.

to

A. D.

Tersion.

A. D.

of the History. harmony between the Christian and the Polytheistic issued against the Christians by the Roman Emperors.

systems, while the Priests, either from motives of private None of these Edicts, however, are to be found in the Christian

interest, or from a deeper insight into the exclusive Pandects, and we must, perhaps, impute to injudicious in the IIIrd A. D. principles of the rising Sect, might have urged the zeal the loss of a collection, which would greatly have Century. 211. danger, or the impracticability of the attempt. We elucidated the History of Christianity.t

pretend not to deny, however, that the whole account It may justly be regarded as an additional proof of 313.

has much the appearance of a report, too easily believed the favour which Alexander evinced towards the Chris-
and too hastily recorded. Of the golden rule of Chris- tians, particularly those connected with his household,

211. tian Ethics,-- “ do not to another what thou wouldst not and of the increasing influence which their Body posses

313. that another should do to thee,”—he felt an admiration so sed, or were supposed to possess, that Maximinus, his

Maximinus. lively, that he not merely repeated it frequently, but assassin and successor, was urged by fear or by resentcaused it to be proclaimed by the crier, when any person ment, to seize and condemn the Bishops, and to pub

235. was punished, and ordered it to be engraved upon his lish a Decree against the chiefs of the Church, as being Palace, and upon his public buildings.* That he enter the first authors and propagators of Christianity. I tained no evil suspicion of the character of the Christians, This Decree, though directed against the higher Nature and but that at the same time he did not consider their pecu- members, and, it may be presumed, mostly, if not effects of liar rites as entitled to any marked superiority, may be solely, against those, whom the friendship of the late his Decree.. inferred from the following circumstance: when the Emperor had exposed to the suspicion of disaffection victuallers complained that the Christians had seized a to the new Government, may have extended its effects spot of ground, which had been public, and which they to the inferior ranks of the Christian community. In claimed for themselves, he answered, that it was better Cappadocia and Pontus, several earthquakes, the

God should be worshipped in any manner, than that violence of which destroyed whole cities, excited as Arguments the ground should be granted to victuallers. This usual a severe Persecution, in which the fury of the a uns the is not the language of an enemy to the Christians, people derived encouragement from the harsh and con los element but neither is it that of a person who had embraced savage character of Serenianus, the Roman Governor.

Christianity. Indeed the opinion of those, who reckon This Persecution, however, as Firmilian, in a Letter to Alexander among the secret converts, I rests on no proof, Cyprian, expressly states, was not general, but local. and is contradicted by the general tenour of his conduct. Many, who fled from the scene of comfusion, found True it is, that he is said to have proposed the scrupu- safety in the other Provinces of the Empire. lous care of the Christians and Jews|| in the Ordination The Church continued to enjoy tranquillity during the Maximus of their Priests, as an example which deserved to be reigns of Maximus and Balbinus, of Gordian, and espe

and"Balbi. imitated in the appointment of Provincial Governors ; cially of Philip and his son.

nus, Gor

dian. but the very terms, in which the comparison is made, Of Philip, Eusebius has recorded a report, prevalent imply that he considered the former proceeding as far in his time, from which it has been inferred that he

244. less important than the latter, and, at most, indicate was, if not a professed, at least secret convert to

Philip rather respect for the discipline, than belief in the tenets Christianity. It was said, that the Emperor, on the Inquiry into Christians of the Christians or the Jews. It is certain, however, last day of the Vigils of Easter, was desirous of parthat during his lifetime, the Christians were 'sheltered taking with the rest of the congregation in the prayers

version. Charbes, from injury

, and enabled to apply themselves to the of the Church, but that the Bishop would not suffer erection of edifices, for the express purposes of public him to enter, until he had made confession of the Hastility of worship. Indeed the only interruption by which this crimes which he had committed, and had placed him

season of tranquillity was in a slight degree disturbed, self among the penitents. It is added, that he readily arose from the severity of the Jurisconsults, men complied with this condition, and manifested by his strongly attached to the ancient institutions of Rome. actions a sincere and devout sense of the fear of God. of this class was the celebrated Ulpian, who is sup- Eusebius, who appeals only to common rumour, T has posed to have published his writings about this period. not specified the place, in which this circumstance He is said to have preserved in the VIIth Book of occurred, nor the Bishop, by whom a measure so hazarhis Treatise on the Duty of a Proconsul, the Edicts dous was adopted. Chrysostom, ** however, ascribes a

conduct entirely similar to Babylas, Bishop of Antioch, Lampr. in Alex. Sev. c. 51.

but omits the name of the Emperor. In addition to Letters from Reseripsit, melius esse, ut quomodocumque illic Deus colatur, this argument in favour of Philip's conversion, it is Origen to quàm popinariis dedatur. (Lampr. in Alex. Sev. c. 49.) IP. E. Jablonski endeavoured to prove that Alexander Severus urged that Eusebius mentions Letters written by Origen Philip, and

his wife, was privately initiated into the mysteries of Christianity by the

to Philip, and to his wife Severa, as extant in his time.ft

considered. Gnostics. His main argument is derived from an ancient gem, Without attempting to deny this fact, it is sufficient to bearing the monogram of Christ, with this inscription," Sal. Don. remark, that the Emperor might correspond with Chris Alex. Fil. Ma. Luce," which he interprets to be, “ Salus Donata Alesandro Filio Mammære Luce." “ Salvation given to Alexander Domitius de Officio Proconsulis, libro septimo, rescripta nefaria the son of Mammæa by the Light," i. e. of Christ. (Dissertat. de collegit, ut docerct, quibus pænis affici oporteret eos, qui se cultores Alerandr. Senero, Imperatore Romano, Christianorum sacris per Dei profiterentur. Lactant. Instit. lib. v. c. 11. Gnosticos initiato.) This Dissertation was published in the Miscell. + Lardner's Testimon. vol, iii. p. 44. Jortin's Discourses concern. Lipsiens. Nov. tom. iv. part i. 56-94, It is republished with ing the Truth of the Christian Religion, p. 51. additions in his Opuscula, tom. iv. p. 38—79; see on this subject | Euseb. Hist. Eccles. lib. vi. c. 28. Sulpit. Sev. lib. ii. c. 32. Mosheim, de Reb. Christ. ante Const. Magn. p. 463.

Oros. Hist. lib. vii. c. 19. Lampridius says merely, Judæis privilegia reservavit. Chris. Firmilian, in Epist. ad Cyprian. Oper. Cyprian. p. 146. ed. tianos esse passus est.

Baluz. Conf. Mosh. de Reb. Christ. lib. xc. p. 467. . || Dicebatque, grave esse, quum id Christiani et Judæi facerent in

|| Euseb. Hist. Eccles. lib. vi. c. 34. predicandis sacerdotibus,qui ordinandi sunt, non fieri in Provinciarum Ιbid. Κατέχει λόγος, κ. τ. λ. rectoribus, quibus el fortunæ hominum committerentur el capita. Chrysost. de S. Babyla Cont, Julian, e: Gent. Oper. tom. i. Lampr. in Aler. Sev. c. 45. Baron, Annal. tom. ij. p. 367, 369.

his con

huld

the Jurisfogsuts.

Ulpian. ,

**

ft Hist. Eccles. lib. vi. c. 36.

P. 658,

A. D.

to

A. D.

to

sive argu

History. tians without being himself a member of their Society, renounced the Heathen worship; and, moreover, they Of the

and that these Epistles may have been nothing more may have been struck by Colonies and Municipal Christian From

Church than petitions to request protection, or statements rela- Towns without the Imperial permission. In this man

in the Ilird tive to the extent and organization of the Church ner, as Mosheim* has shown, many of the objections 211,

Century. Indeed, had they contained any assertious or intima- may be eluded. On the whole, we think it not im313.

tions, calculated to throw light on the supposed con- possible that Philip may have been induced, by a sense From
version, it is not probable that Eusebius would have of his heavy crimes and by the persuasions of his wife
been silent on the subject of their contents, and have sup- Severa, to apply for consolation to an Order of men, 211:

ported an important circumstance on no higher autho- for whom he probably entertained feelings of respect. Observa- rity than common fame. The fact, it is true, is repeated But the supposition that he had examined the proofs or 313. tions on the by Jerome,* and by many writers in succeeding times, imbibed the spirit of Christianity, is not supported by successive

but it cannot be too often impressed on the Historical evidence sufficient to command our assent.
writers. examiner, that correspondent testimonies are only One point, however, is certain, that if we omit a

valuable when derived from independent sources. The popular commotion which arose at Alexandria in the
copies of numerous authors are not, or are only in latter part of his reign, the Church experienced tran-
a very slight degree, corroborative evidence. One quillity under his government. To which may be added,
Historian states a report, which he has chanced to that by enacting a Law calculated to repress those
learn, but has taken no pains to investigate ; another, offences against Moral purity, which the principles of
without farther examination, though not without some the Christian Religion severely denounce, he virtually
slight alteration, transcribes the account; a third copies cooperated with the efforts of its preachers.
this copy, with a few additional alterations; and so on, Thus, it appears, that with the exception of the State of
till vague rumours swell into confirmed facts, or mere severities of Maximin, which were but brief in duration the Church.
surmises into direct declarations, and the real value of and partial in extent, the Church was blessed with
the original conjecture can hardly be estimated, dis- peace from the death of Severus in the year 211, to
guised as it is under continued accretions of extraneous that of Philip in 249, a period of 38 years, during
matter. I

which two Emperors, Alexander and Philip, were so Unconclu

Some arguments, however, are also adduced in con- favourable, that one seemed inclined to incorporate,

tradiction of the fact, which are far from being conclu- the other was reported to have embraced, the Chris-
ments
against his sive. Not one of the Augustan Historians makes men- tian Religion. Such were the phases of Imperial
conversion. tion of the event : but the secrecy alone of Philip's favour, till it suddenly darkened. But the soft influence

conversion is a satisfactory explanation of their silence. of Peace, more fatal than the violence of Persecution,
Again, many Christian writers I reckon Constantine as insensibly relaxed the nerves of discipline, and intro-
the first Emperor who embraced Christianity; but they duced the luxuries of a degenerate Age into the bosom
mean, who professed it without disguise. The im- of the Christian State. The melancholy picture which Degeneracy
moral conduct of Philip is also said to contradict this Cyprian and Origen have drawn of the progress of of the
assertion ; but it should be remembered, that the ques- corruption at this time, is perhaps too darkly coloured. Clergy
tion is, whether he believed Christianity to be true, not Their language may partake in too great a degree of
whether he acted consistently with that belief. Of the the want of discrimination, which not unfrequently
same nature is the objection drawn from his celebration characterises the censures of stern Reformers. But it
of the Secular Games, 3 with all their Pagan solemnities, is evident from their continued complaints, that in
For, granting that this event took place subsequently to numerous instances the desire of secular advantages
his supposed conversion, an Emperor more anxious to had absorbed all spiritual concerns. The state of Chris-
gratify the Roman populace, than rigorously to con- tianity might, on the whole, be sound and vigorous ;
form his conduct to his principles, might easily exhibit but morbid humours had corrupted many of its parts
Games, which in after times were allowed even by the and paralyzed much of its influence. Faith is repre-
Christian Emperor Honorius. And, with regard to sented as having grown languid ; the works of Charity
the Pagan emblems on his coins and medals; they had fallen into neglect ; the fervour of Devotion had
also occur in those of Emperors who had openly been quenched; the simplicity which marked the

primitive Disciple had been sacrificed on the altar of
* De Vir. Illust. c. 54. de Origene.

vanity; insatiable thirst for gain seized men who were
+ Another instance will illustrate our meaning. Justin Martyr, in devoted to the profession of holiness, and Bishops forgot
an Apology addressed to the Emperor and Senate, declares that a
statue was erected to Simon Magus on the Tiber, with the inscription,

the duties of their sacred charge, and the wants of their
Simoni Deo Sancto," to Simon, the Holy God. Now in the Tiberine

poorer brethren, in their anxiety to promote their own
island has been dug up a statue inscribed, "" Semoni Sanco (or Sango) private benefit.
Deo, &c.” 10 Semo Sancus, the God of the Sabines. (Gruter, Inscrip.
Antiq. tom. i. p. 95.) Most critics have concluded that the assertion * De Reb. Christ. &c. p. 471–476. On this subject see also
of Justin originated in a mistake; yet is this mistake, (if

, as there is Spanheim's very learned Dissertation de Tradit. Antiquiss. Convers.
reason to believe, it be one,) repeated by Irenæus, by Tertullian, by Lucii, &c. et Philippi Imp. Patris et Filii. Oper. tom. ii. p. 405, and
Eusebius, by Augustine, &c. Thus one man, who would be very Lardner's Teat. vol. iii. p. 62-71. For a list of authors who have
unwilling to deceive others, may deceive himself

, and many may written on the same question, see J. A. Fabricii Salut. Lux Evangel. afterwards be ready to circulate, on his authority, stories, for the truth p. 236. of which, they would have been scrupulous to stake their own. No + Aurel. Vict. new evidence is added, but the old is paraphrased, and iti s well if the Tillemont, Mém. tom. iii. part ii. p. 123. poverty of History be not gradually disguised by riches drawn from $ Cyprian, de Laps. ep. 8. Orig. in Jos. 4, 7, &c. The unguarded the mint of fiction. Stories, stamped with every mark of spuriousness, intimacy in their manner of living, which subsisted between Priests have been pertinaciously maintained, because supported in appearance and Virgins, brought disgrace on the African Church. Strong asserby a train of witnesses, though in reality by a series of copyists. tions of chastity, though they might be true, could not remove suspiEuseb. in Vit. Constant. Magn. lib. iv. c. 74.

cions which had been rashly caused; for however difficult it might Toid. Chron. p. 174; Orosius, lib. vii. c. 20. Conf. Capitol. be to draw the line between the enthusiastic confidence which in Gordian, iii, c. 33; Eutrop. lib. ix. c. 3, &c.

encounters temptation in order to resist it, and the artful bypocrisy

to

A. D.

A. D.

to

the Chris.

tians,

During the short period of his reign, Decius dis almost untouched, while, as it were, the dissecting-room of the History

played many of the virtues which shed a lustre over in all its loathsomeness is thrown open. All that can Christian From private life, and evinced a strong desire to restore the produce the most violent mental revulsion,—the sword

Church

in the Illd 1. D. declining greatness of the Roman People by a renewal and fire, wild beasts, talons of steel, the wheel, red

Century. 211. of their ancient discipline, with all the sanctions of a hot iron chairs, every varied torture which the most free and powerful Censorship. It happened, however, exquisite cruelty can invent-pass before us in rapid

From 313. most disastrously for the Christians, that in proportion succession, and the sensation is oppressive and sickenDecius.

as an Emperor was assiduous in correcting the dege- ing. But turning from scenes, at the bare imagination 211.

neracy of his subjects by the reinforcement of primitive of which the heart dies away, it is deeply interesting 249.

customs, he was drawn into hostile measures against to mark the workings of human passions in those days 313. Cause of his any Body of men who introduced innovations in Religious of alarm and distress. Neighbour betrayed neighbour, Persecution eanity to rites. To this circumstance, therefore, it is natural to and friend denounced friend. All feelings were dead- at Pontus.

ascribe the severe and intolerant Edicts,* by which ened into apathy, or absorbed by selfishness. Some,

Decius attempted utterly to extirpate the Christian whose spirit recoiled from the task of dragging their Persecution. Sect; a Sect, which was now widely spread, which had victims before the Magistrate, pointed them out with

erected Churches in the various Provinces, and already the finger. Others less scrupulous sought them in their had begun in some places to destroy the Altars, Temples, place of refuge, or pursued them in their flight. The and Idols of the Pagan community.t And when the son brought information against his father, and the reader bears in mind the inflamed state of the People, father against his son, and the brother exposed his ever ready to avail themselves of the slightest indication brother to the horrors of the rack. Superstition had of encouragement on the part of their Rulers, he will smothered the voice of Nature. All was distrust and not be surprised to learn that torments, from which it is perplexity, consternation, and a sense of bitter wrong. impossible not to turn with horror, were exercised against Families were dissolved, houses were left empty, and

the Christians in all the Provinces of the Roman Empire. the deserts peopled. The prisons could no longer conState of the At Alexandria, I a whole year before the promulgation of tain the number of the accused, and most of the public Christians the Imperial Edict, the multitude, instigated by the arts buildings were converted into places of confinement. e desap- of a Soothsayer and Poet, had continued to harass the Day after day the work of carnage proceeded. It

Christians with unrelenting violence. The young and engrossed all conversation ; it chased away all expres-
the old, the strong and the weak, promiscuously, fell sion of gaiety from public and private assemblies.
victims to the wild cry of Religion. But if Religion Rank or the infirmities of old age, or infancy, or the
was the ostensible, plunder was often the real spring of feebleness of the weaker sex, obtained no compassion,
these attacks. The houses of the Faithful were pillaged; no mitigation of rigour.
whatever was valuable was retained by the authors of Such, at least, is the description, perhaps over-
the ruin, and the remaining furniture cast into the charged, which Gregory Nyssen has given us, of the
streets, gave the whole place the appearance of a cap- state of Pontus on the receipt of the Imperial Edict.*
tured City

In other Provinces, the storm appears not to have burst A sedition among themselves suspended for awhile at once in all its fury. Exile and incarceration were their enmity against the Christians. But the flame was first tried; and slow torments were employed to supersoon rekindled by the news of the death of Philip and sede, if possible, the necessity of final execution. Nor the accession of Decius. The first step which the new were the efforts of the Persecutors unattended by cirEmperor took, was to publish a Decree of the utmost cumstances deplorable to the Church. In Africa, and severity against the Christians, which was sent to all especially at Carthage, the threats of the enemy were the Provincial Governors, who were commanded, under no sooner heard than the greater number apostatized heavy threats, to adopt every method, however rigorous, from the Faith. They fell of their own accord, says the of constraining their subjects to return to the Religion afflicted Cyprian,t before the violence of Persecution of their forefathers. The effect was overwhelming. had struck them down. Nor were they satisfied with We are again presented, by contemporary Writers, with renouncing their Religion themselves, but they exhorted those dark and dreadful pictures of terror and agony, their brethren to adopt a similar course. At Alexandria, Defection which, as they possess no distinctness of outline, no the same wide defection took place. Some, overpowered at Alexanvariety of tints, no natural distribution of light and by fear, presented themselves before the Magistrates, and dria shade, rather shock than interest, rather confuse than assisted at sacrifices to Idols; others were forcibly drawn inform us. The complicated struggles, the silent pangs by their relations. Some, pale and trembling, looked of internal emotion, the sacrifice of every thing which rather as if they were themselves called to be sacribinds man to life, the sense of estranged love, the ficed than to be sacrificers, and attracted the ridicule bursting of the ties of long friendship and close affec- of the multitude, as men who had neither courage to tion, the loss of worldly reputation, these are passed over meet death, nor to perform the conditions which would

ensure life.

Others ran boldly to the Altar and prowhich seeks the gratification of vice under the cloak of extraordinary tested that they had never been followers of Christ

. virtue, it was thonght evident that the taint of, at least, mental im? Of some, the perseverance lasted till the doors of the purity could scarcely be avoided. While the truly pious Christians dungeon had closed upon them, and of others, till the severely inveighed against a practice, scandalous in its tendency, if feeling of pain had triumphed over resolution. The not in its motives, we know not how far it may have influenced the bostility of the Pagan Rulers. See Cyprian, Ep. 62. ad Pompon.;

same weakness was betrayed by Christians in most Dodwell, Dissert. Cyprian. iii. ; Bingham, Antiq. vol. ii. p. 328.

* The Persecution of Decius is called the seventh by Sulpicius Severus, (lib. viii. c. 32,) Jerome, (de Vir. Illust. c. 62,) Orosius, * Greg. Nyssen. Vit. Greg. Thaumat. Conf. Lactant. dc Mort. (lib.7.c. 21,) and Augustine, (ile Civ. Dei, lib. xviii. c. 52.)

Persecut. Hier. in Vit. Pauli, &c. t Greg. Nyssen. Vit. Greg. Thaumat. tom. iii. p. 563.

+ De Laps. Dionys, ap. Euseb. Hist. Eccles. lib. vi. c. 41.

Dionys. ap. Euseb. Hist. Eccles. lib. vi.c. 41.

Church in the Ilird

A. D.

to

A. D.

to

ment.

History. Other Countries. Bishops renounced their Religion, fury of the people was again kindled against the Of the

and their flocks were seduced by their fatal example. Christians, in consequence of the sufferings arising Christian From

The Lapsed was a term applied to all who thus apos- from the double calamity of a pestilence and a famine.

tatized; but those who were particularly called Libel- The Tracts of Cyprian to console his afflicted brethren, "Century: 211.

latici, * seem, for the most part, to have avoided giving and to reprove their incensed enemies, are evidently

proofs of their rejection of Christianity,-viz. burning written under the influence of great emotion, which From 313.

incense or offering sacrifices—by purchasing from the betrayed his ardent mind from the simple expressions The Libellatici

. Magistrates certain certificates, which declared, that the of piety and courage into the dangerous extremes of 211.

persons nåmed in them had confirmed their adherence enthusiasm and virulence. But it would tend to
to the system of Heathen worship. Many, however, soften the unwarrantable harshness with which the

313. endured with fortitude the effects of this dreadful, language of the ancient Christians has been censured Tracts of and as it was then feared, exterminating Persecution. in modern days, if we were more careful to connect our

Cyprian. Many, from motives of precaution and policy, took examination of their expressions, with a just view of refuge in flight; in this number, among others, are to their peculiar situation. It cannot surely excite our Expectation be reckoned, Cyprian, Dionysius of Alexandria, and surprise that, under a complication of calamities, severe of the Day Gregory Thaumaturgus.

and unrelenting—the havoc of a consuming disease, on of JudgMartyrdoms. Our limits will not allow us to enter into a detail of the one hand, and the fierceness of inflamed Persecutors,

particular Martyrdoms. In their trials, the Christians on the other—the devout disciple should have imagined,
exhibited great fortitude. The conduct of the Roman that he perceived in these various evils the prognostics
Governors was necessarily varied by their peculiar of the approaching end of created things. All Nature
habits and disposition. A strong disinclination to shed seemed to him to give testimony of her hastening dis-
blood, if it could be spared consistently with their own solution: the winter-rain was no longer so copious as
erroneous notions, is often manifest. Again and again to nourish the seed, the summer-sun denied its usual
the Judge exhorted the accused man to avoid running heat in maturing the harvest; the temperature of the
wilfully into destruction, and it was not till a variety of Spring had lost its beauty, and autumn had ceased to
attempts had failed, and after much hesitation and abound in fruit; the race of cultivators was diminished,
reluctance, that he proceeded to put into execution camps were growing empty for want of soldiers, and
the Imperial Decree. How long the violence of this the sea was not covered, as formerly, with mariners ;
Persecution continued cannot be accurately determined. skill in Arts was fast declining ; discipline in Morals
It seems, however, to have subsided in a great degree was dying away; decay was stamped on every feature
after having' raged about the period of a year. The of the material world, its powers were languid and
troubles which distracted the Empire probably diverted exhausted, * and its whole frame proclaimed that the
the Roman rulers from the prosecution of an odious great Day of Judgment was at hand. This, it is true,
task. Decius himself, if the Acts of Acacius be ge- was the language of exaggeration : but it flowed from
nuine, occasionally relaxed his severity;t for, smiling a strong Faith in the promises of Christianity, and,
at the independent spirit of the Bishop, he released him addressed as it was to bitter enemies, its descriptions
from prison. Yet he was vigilant in his attempts to must, at least, have carried some appearance of pro-
prevent the increase of the Christian Hierarchy, and the bability from the aspect of circumstances in the Country
See of Rome, which had remained vacant nearly one wherein they were made.
year and a half, was not filled by Cornelius without the A feeling of deep injury will explain, but not jus- Cyprian's
apprehension of extreme danger. I

tify, the vehemence with which Cyprian attacks the Tract to Disputes As external Persecution expired, internal dissentions private life of Demetrian, a person charged with some

Demetrian. respecting the Lapsed.

The Lapsed, anxious to be readmitted into office of authority, which he exercised with extreme
the Church, without the established course of pre- rigour against the Christians. Intemperate censure
vious penance, obtained Letters of Peace, by which was calculated rather to irritate than to convince :
they were declared worthy of being again received. it might effect much mischief, it could produce no
without delay. Some of the Bishops and Presbyters benefit.
were willing to extend to them the pardon which they
sought. Cyprian, however, the Bishop of Carthage,
unmoved by the authority which supported, and the

The notion that the frame of the world showed evident marks of
earnestness which urged their claims, powerfully re- being grown old and seeble, impaired and worn out, was maintained
sisted an indulgence, which he believed to be calcu-

by the Epicureans: lated to loosen the bonds of Ecclesiastical discipline.

Jamque adeo fracta est ætas, effætaque Tellus

Vir animalia parva creat, quæ cuncta creavit
And, notwithstanding the strong opposition which was

Sæcla, deditque ferarum ingentia corpora partu.
offered to his efforts, the measures of necessary severity
were finally adopted.

Ipsa (Tellus) dedit dulceis fætus el pabula læta;
Gallus. The Persecution, which had gradually abated till the

Quce nunc vix nostro grandescunt aucta labore :

Conterimusque boves, et vires agricolarum death of Decius, was renewed by Gallus and Vo

Conficimus, ferrum vix arvis suppeditati: 251. lusianus, his successors. It was chiefly directed against

Usque adeo pereunt fætus, augentque labores. the Heads of the Church, some of whom were cast into

Jamque caput quussans grandis suspirat arator
exile. But, independently of the Imperial Edicts, the

Crebrius incassum magnum cecidisse laborem ;
El cum tempora temporibus præsentia confert

Præteritis, laudal fortunas sæpe parentis;
* Cyprian, Ep. 14. &c. Mosheim, de Reb. Christ, ante Const.

Et crepal, antiquum genus ut, pietate repletum,
Maj. p. 479.

Perfucile angustis tolerarit finibus ævum,
+ Tillemont, Mém. tom. iii. part ii.

Cum minor esset agri multo modus ante viritim;
Euseb. Hist. Eccles. lib. vii. c. 39. Cyprian, Ep. 55.

Nec tenet, omnia paulatim tabescere, et ire
Dionys. Aler. ap. Euseb. Hist. Eccles. lib. vii.c. 1. Mosh, de

Ad scopulum spalio ælatis desessa vetusto.
Reb. Christ. p. 529.

Lucret, lib. ii. 1149-1171.

arose.

*

A. D.

« ElőzőTovább »