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History. Christian was distinguished by purity. Hatred was ticism could not reason away.
Christianity alone Of the transformed into love, and the violence of passion sub- offered the remedy: it is not surprising, therefore, if Christian sided into tenderness and peace. The proud became Christianity was chosen. In fact, a mighty change in the lind humble. The contemner submitted to contempt. All seemed to have come over the hearts and minds of the and IIIrd felt,* that the Morality of their Religion was a fixed and Gentiles. Thoughts and feelings which, while the Centuries. imperative Rule, and not, like the Ethics of Philoso- possessors reposed beneath the shade of ancient Idolphy,t mere Reasoning, often too vague and imperfect atry, lay shrunk and closed, were warmed and elicited. to convince, and always too destitute of authority to Strong principles evinced the operation of strong command. But this reform was vital: it altered not motives. The hopes and fears of futurity-almost as so much the exterior appearance as the inward heart. unknown in that Age to the uneducated as to the The Christians, in general, appear to have affected no learned* — worked upon the Christian with all their peculiarity in habit or diet, and to have refused no pro- force and fulness; and the effects were proportionate to fession which was consistent with their Religious creed, the magnitude and activity of the cause. and adapted to promote the welfare of Society. They It is scarcely necessary to repeat here, that the early frequented the Forum and the Baths: they were seen in Converts were not men whose minds, suddenly struck and the camp, I and at the marts; they followed an agri- inflamed, had caught but a partial light on some promicultural, a mercantile, or a sea-faring life.
nent points, without extending their view over the general That some Christians fell into extremes in their nature of Christianity; but men who, before their adcondemnation of innocent pleasures cannot be denied: mission into the Church, had remained during a but the critical time in which they lived, and the deep certain period, the length of which seems sometimes to importance of being free from all that could be con- have been considerable,t in the degree of Catechustrued into impropriety, or which had any tendency mens, I in order that they might receive a course of to produce evil, are considerations which ought very gradual instruction on the great Moral truths of Remuch to diminish the severity with which their conduct vealed Religion, and give satisfactory proofs of the has been viewed.
sincerity of their intentions by the holiness of their Rembarks on
But it has been urged as an objection that, among lives. And, if afterwards they should fall into guilt, a the objec. the early Converts, there were persons who had pre- severe, and often a very protracted penance was refie drawn viously been guilty of immoral practices. It ought to quired, as a necessary step for the attainment of
be remembered, that the number of such persons was pardon.Ş persons, for comparatively small. The majority were men of remerly crimi- gular habits, I whose feelings were naturally drawn by III. Influence of the Pagan Religion ; Causes of the pal, into the à congenial influence towards a Religion by which
Opposition which Christianity experienced from the their sentiments of virtue were strengthened, refined,
Roman Government. and elevated. But that persons who had fallen into Notwithstanding this view of the state of Christianity, Influence of sin, at a period of extreme licentiousness, should have its History, previous to its Civil establishment, is, for the the Poly
theistic sought forgiveness in the bosom of a Church, which, most part, the History of Persecutions : it is necessary
system. though it emphatically condemned guilt, pointed out therefore to develope the causes of so remarkable a Repentance, is, we conceive, a circumstance rather circumstance. redounding to its honour than deserving of reproach. The Pagan Religion, with its rich succession of paThe nature of Paganism was little adapted to instruct, geants, had naturally a strong ascendency over the minds still less to console. The offender, who had once broken of the unreflecting. Its Priests, its Temples, its Mysteries, through the fence of his first scruples, felt no moral its Sacrifices, its magnificent Processions, calling to their check to arrest him in his descent through the various aid the varied powers of Music, Painting, and Sculpture, stages of crime.**
At the same time, he was not and awakening the different feelings of awe, pleasure, exempt from that inscrutable feeling of remorse, interest, and triumph, conspired with the force of early which, whether it flows from Nature, or from a com
habits and recollections, to work a very powerful debination of accidental influences, still clings to the lusion. Attention was diverted from the poverty of its heart from which even Belief has been banished.tt. essence to the sumptuousness of its externals. Its The uneasiness which consumed Tiberius, fi the terrors meagre system of Ethics, and its cold and gloomy which disturbed the dreams of Nero,$8 the phantoms prospects of a dimly shadowed futurity, were forgotten of horror which haunted Caracalla, ||| were torments amid a glow of ritual brilliancy, which was designed to which Paganism could not assuage, and which Scep- kindle intense enthusiasm.
But these were far from being the only means by which The Christians, as long as they adhered to their Religion, though Paganism excited that train of emotions which precluded many suffered for the Faith, were not charged with specific crimes in the courts of justice. (Tertull. Apol.c. 44.) So Minucius Felix,
the free action of temperate inquiry. It was the care of De vestro numero carcer exæsluat: Christianus ibi nullus, nisi aut
the Statesman to implant and cherish the prejudice, which Teus suce Religionis aut profugus. c. 35.
afterwards clung with extreme tenacity to the minds of the † Tertull. Apol. c. 42.
populace, that, to their deep respect for the Deities of On this point, however, the views of different Christians seem to the Republic, the unexampled success of the Roman Greatness of have been different. See Orig. c. Ceis. lib. viii. p. 427, and the note of Spencer.
arms was to be attributed. The piety of Romulus and the Romans s Tertull. Apol. c. 45.
of Numa was believed to have laid the foundations of ascribed to I Gibbon, Decline and Fall, &c. c. 16.
their greatness. The vast extent of the Roman Em- their suOrig. c. Cels, lib, iji.
perior Piety. P.
150. ** Quis peccandi finem posuit sibi ? Juv. Sal. xiii.
* Cic. Or. pro Cluent. ; de Nat. Deor. lib. ii. c. 2. Juv. Sat. ii. # Juv. Sat, xiii. &c.
149, &c. 11 Tacit. Ann. lib. vi. c. 6.
* Orig. c. Cels. lib. iii. p. 142, &c. $ $ Ibid. lib. xiv.
Bingham, Antiquit. of the Christ. Church, vol. i. IH Dio Cassius, lib. lxxvii.
Ś Tertull. de Pænit. Cyprian, de Laps. sec. 27.
History. pire was deemed the recompense of assiduous devotion. celebrated Oration, in whích Mæcenas endeavours to Of the
* It was,” they pompously exclaimed, “ by exercising press on Augustus a conviction of the dangers which Christian Religious discipline in the camp, and by fortifying the he conceives would result from the toleration of new Church City with Sacred rites, with Vestal Virgins, and the Religions. And even under Tiberius, the Egyptian and Illra various degrees of a numerous Priesthood, that they ceremonies were violently proscribed.
Centuries. had stretched their dominion beyond the paths of the The mistaken opinion of an entire freedom from Sun and the limits of the Ocean.' And, as Public persecution, may have originated in a wrong inference, prosperity was universally ascribed to the favourable drawn from the very remarkable fact, that coexistent with agency of the Gods, so were Public calamities con- intolerant laws against public deviations from the estasidered as visitations of their anger. The influence of blished rites, was an almost unlimited liberty enjoyed by these opinions was peculiarly active among the Romans, individuals of expressing private sentiments. On the whose attachment to their Religion was far greater than Stage, and in the works of professed Sceptics, the that of the other nations of the Heathen world. Hence keenest ridicule against the popular Gods was exercised arose that exclusion of Foreign rites, which, though with perfect impunity.* The sarcastic attacks of practically modified by Political necessity, was theoreti- Plautus and Terence, as well as the impious sentiments cally a part of their Religious system.
of Seneca the Tragedian, were heard without censure. Observa- It has been the practice of late Writers to expatiate The philosophic raillery of Cicero and of Lucian was tions on the in terms of the warmest admiration on the unbounded indulged in without danger.t degree of Religious
toleration which characterised the Constitution of The Christian Religion had therefore to encounter the Causes to toleration Rome,t get it is evident from History, that this supposed aversion which the Romans entertained against Foreign which the which ex- indulgence was far more circumscribed than its panegy- Worship; an aversion, indeed, which the enlargement opposition
made to isted under rists have asserted. It was positively forbidden by Law of their Empire had considerably diminished, but which the Roman
to honour with private worship any other Deity than may still be thought not to have been wholly eradicated. tianity must
Pagan Priesthood, to which the Crowd had been taught
This spirit, though perhaps not at first fully perceived, muniunt sacrorum religionibus, castis virginibus, multis honoribus ac nominibus sacerdotum. Min. Felix. Octavius, p. 51. Ed. 1672.
was no sooner felt than resisted. It was imputed to + Montesquieu, in his Dissertation Sur la Politique des Romains a strange obliquity of intellect or of will. The ruling dans la Religion ; Voltaire, Dict. Philos. art. Tolerance, Eur. maxim of Roman administration was evidently, if tom. xxxviii. p. 404; Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Foreign Worships could not be excluded, at least to conEmpire, c. 16, &c. Tertull. Apolog. c. 5, &c.
solidate them into one great Religious federacy; to allow Val. Max. lib. i. c. 3. n. 2.
men the free enjoyment of their opinions, but to unite li In the year u.c. 326, when, in consequence of a severe drought, together those opinions by a common principle of acindividuals had resorted to new rites with a view of appeasing the commodation and reciprocal indulgence. The Legiswrath of Heaven, the Senate enjoined the Ædiles to suffer no other lator, who could not bend and mould Christianity into God and no other form of worship than that which had been sanctioned by Roman usage. (Liv. lib. iv.) In v. c.541, in the height of the second
a component part of the Polytheistic structure, put Punic war, the Senate published a strict decree against certain Religious innovations, which had been introduced. (Liv. lib. xxv.) In u.c.615 the * This was a circumstance which frequently struck the early Prætor, C. Cornelius Hispalus, banished those who attempted to esta- Christians. Just. Mart. Apol. i. c. 4; Tertull. Åpol. c. 46. Quinimo blish the worship of the Sabasian Jupiter, (Valer. Max. lib.i.c. 3.) and et Deos vestros palam destruunt .... laudantibus vobis, &c. in u. c. 701, the Temples of Isis and Serapis were again demolished + The same licence existed in Ancient Greece ; and, by a someby order of the Senate. (Dion. lib. xl.) These laws may be found what similar anomaly, the Church of Rome combined with her former more fully detailed in an article, Sur le Respect que les Romains spirit of rigid intolerance the strange permission of exhibiting theaavoient pour la Religion. Histoire de l'Académ. des Inscript. tom. trical pieces, in which the events of Scripture History were reprexxxiv. p. 110_125.
sented with irreverent buffoonery. Quoties hoc patrum avorumque ætate negotium est magistratibus Sacerdotum honores et purpuras despiciunt. (Min. Fel. c. 8.) datum, ut sacra externa fieri vetarent ; sacrificulos vatesque foro, See Gibbon, Decline and Fall, &c. c. 16. The observation of circo, urbe prohiberent ; vaticinos libros conquirerent comburerentque, Voltaire, in accounting for the different treatment which the Jews omnem disciplinam sacrificandi præterquam more Romano abo- and the Christians experienced is not without truth. Les Juifs ne lerent ? Judicabant enim prudentissimi viri omnis divini humanique voulaient pas que la statue de Jupiter füt à Jerusalem; mais les juris, nihil æquè dissolvendæ religionis esse, quam ubi non patrio, Chretiens ne voulaient pas qu'elle füt au Capitole, Dict. Philos. sed externo ritu sacrificaretur. (Liv. lib. xxxix.c. 16.)
Histry. it out of the circle of toleration, however capacious, The feeling of fear or hatred already entertained was Of the and endeavoured to crush it, before its magnitude was considerably increased by the cloud of calumnies in Christian
Church increased. And hence, perhaps, it is, that the Christian which their conduct was enveloped. Strange reports of
in the Ilnd was often condemned simply on account of his Profes- disgusting Rites were industriously circulated, and cre- and IIIrd sion, when no criminal acts were proved, or even alleged. dulously believed. The fury of the lower, and the dis- Centuries. The Name was a Test. The Magistrate was probably trust of the higher Orders, were raised by absurd fictions, directed to consider it as such, with a view to prevent which represented the Christians as slaying a new-born Observathe ultimate consequences of a System, of which, in par- infant at their initiation ; drinking the blood; tearing tions on the ticular instances, it would have been difficult to define asunder the limbs ; binding themselves to secrecy; against the the mischief. But the sufferer, who felt unable to ex- and consummating their deeds of horror in the shades Christians. plain on what principle so singular a deviation from of night, by the uncontrolled indulgence of the most ordinary practice could be grounded, loudly complained depraved passions.* In vain did the Christian, who of the palpable injustice of passing sentence on him, in avoided the sight of the sanguinary feats of the Amphiconsequence of a mere Name, without any judicial in- theatre, and who observed the Apostolic precept of abquiry into his character and conduct.* Such, at least, staining from blood, t express his deepest abhorrence seems to us to be the solution of the anomalous mode , of inventions, which apparently originated in a monof treatment which the Christians experienced.
strous perversion of the meaning of the Eucharistic Christians But, independently of these apprehensions of the effects Commemoration of the Death of Christ; in vain did suspected of the new Religion, arising from its essential incom- he appeal to the common feelings of mankind, and e disaffeco patibility with Polytheism, the persons who professed it challenge the minutest investigation of his actions; the
laboured under suspicions of disaffection to the Civil progress of falsehood was but slowly repressed, and was
have credited rumours, widely spread, while even Nightly But nothing was more effectual in rousing the fears of Christians recorded calumnies too dreadful to admit Leetings, the Roman Rulers than the circumstance, that men, whose of the faintest description : if, on the other hand,
principles were already questioned, should hold frequent their accounts are true, we ought surely to make some
of the pretended facts, notwithstanding the superior
means of inquiry which they possessed, notwithstanding
See the description given in Minucius Felix, c. 9, &c.
The Heathens were aware of this fact. Tertull. Apol. c. 9. pected to mean á Kingdom on Earth.
Davis, not. in Min. Fel. c. 9. On the ancient custom of concealing the nature of the Sacra- Epiphan. Hæres. xlviii. c. 14 ; xxvü, c. 1, &c. ments, see Bingham's Antiquities of the Christian Church, b. x. c. 5,
OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
FROM A. D. 101 to 211.
History. ALTHOUGH we have already briefly adverted to the the laws of Nero, in this particular case, were not ab- Of the
celebrated Letter* which Pliny, during his residence as rogated. Nor can the contrary be inferred from the Christian From Governor in the Province of Pontus and Bithynia, ad- uncertainty of so experienced a lawyer as Pliny,
Church dressed to Trajan, a more minute examination, and since he himself, in another of his
Letters, laments his in the lind 101.
an illustration of it by a few additional remarks, will deficiency on some points of legal knowledge. * It may, 211.
perhaps be the best method of conveying a clear and however, be reasonably concluded, that these laws, if From Review of
connected idea of the policy which directed the con- not formally and entirely annulled, were, in many rePliny's Let- duct of the Roman Rulers at the period succeeding the spects, become of dubious authority, and that the general 101. ter to Tra. Apostolic Age. The object of Pliny is to ascertain decrees of the Senate against the introduction of new an.
the nature and extent of inquiry and of punishment, Deities, though they enabled harsh or unjust Governors 211. Its object. which it was necessary to adopt against the followers to pursue the most vigorous measures, were regarded
of the new Religion. He states, that he had never by milder Rulers as attended with considerable difficulty
persisted in their confession he looked upon as infaInferences From these questions it appears to us manifest, that tuated, and ordered to be led away, to prison or to drawn from the Christians were then generally known as a separate execution ; for the word employed is susceptible of this the ques- Body; that judicial proceedings had been instituted ambiguity.t "For," he adds, in explanation of the Reasons as
against them; that the repeated complaints, which the motives which impelled him to the adoption of this signed. posed.
Apologists make, of being punished for a name only, course, “ I never doubted, that, whatever might be the
Christians, throws great light on an investigation of
the old Religion, were the main springs which directed
the learned and the powerful. The soft feelings of
would necessarily shake the stability of those Civil instiApolog. c. 1, 5, 37; ad Scapul. c. 4. (Lectures on Tertullian, p. 115.) With respect to the abrogation of Domitian's laws by the Senate, which Mosheim and Lardner mention, and the belief in * Ep. 14. lib. viii. wherein he consults Aristo, and gives the reasons which rests upon the authority of Suetonius (in Dom. c. 23.) and the of his want of sufficient acquaintance with the Jus Senatorium. writer of the Treatise de Mortib. Persecut. c. 21, it ought to be re- + Persererantes duci jussi ; that it does not vecessarily impy membered, that Trajan restored Domitian's Rescripts, Epistolis enim capital punishment is evident from many passages in other Writers, Domitiani standum est. (Plin. lib. X. Ep.66.) (See Gibbon's Index e.g. Ne mihi in carcere habitandum sit, si Tribunus plebis duci Expurgator, in his Miscell. Works, vol. v. p. 560.)
jussisset. Cic. de Lege Agrar. Or. ii, sec. 37.
ces of the co92
History been united. The great maxim of the Roman Govern- it appears difficult to determine the reason which could
Of the ment, in its external relations, and in its internal policy, induce him to select two females as fit subjects to be Christian
. tried by . *
It is most obvious to in the Ilod cere subjectis, et debellare superbos. The progress, how-' assign this act of cruelty to a desire of extorting their Century. ever, of Christianity seems not to have suffered that secret with greater facility, from the natural timidity of
check which the severe proceedings of the Governor the weaker sex. We ought, however, to bear in mind, From 211.
were intended to produce. A more natural circum... that the Roman Laws did not allow any persons to be Corynen- stance was, probably, the result; informations conti- put to the torture except slaves and female servants, 101. nually multiplied. In consequence of an anonymous whose evidence, unless by this process, was inadmissible.†
211 adopted. accusation, Pliny examined several persons, who denied It was not, however, his intention to continue these
the profession of Christianity, and who, as a mark of the intolerant proceedings. Sensible of the inefficacy of
, he assures him that persons of all ranks and ages, and Bithy-
stition had not merely seized cities, but lesser towns, Observa- The succeeding part of the Letter contains the favour and the open country. The Temples had been almost lats oa the able account of the Christians which we have already deserted; the sacred ceremonies had suffered a long azount of transcribed. This account, it will be observed, was intermission; and the victims were for some time e manners drawn by Pliny from those who had recanted; men
without purchasers. who, in all probability, by revealing any impious tenet, These assertions render it a very probable conjecture Influence of if such had existed in the system, or any vicious habit that the severity of the Governors, and the exasperation the Priestin the professors, of the Religion which they had for- of the populace, were excited and kept alive by the hood. saken, would gladly have found a justification of their Priests, by the inferior officers of Religion, and, in short, apostasy, satisfactory alike to themselves and to their by all to whom the splendid solemnities, or gorgeous judges, bringing peace to their consciences and security structures, which were consecrated to the maintenance to their persons. An informer, who had any reason to of Polytheism, were a source of pleasure, of emolument, believe that he was tearing the mask from the hypocrite, and of distinction. Nor would the representations of and dragging the criminal to light, would have consoled the Priesthood be received without alarm, even by the himself with the reflection, that he was justly entitled to Philosophic Sceptic. Regarding the existing Religions Remarks. the character of a public benefactor. Yet, far from as instruments of controul, or incentives to exertion, finding any discovery of concealed vice, any detection many of the Sages of Antiquity had no sooner closed their of subtle intrigue, we have a testimony, recorded by an free speculations on the Divinity, than they bent before the enemy, and derived from unsuspected witnesses, which senseless objects of popular idolatry which they interaffords not merely a refutation of the calumnies, by nally ridiculed. Even the followers of Epicurus, and which the character of the first Christians was assailed, of Pyrrho, were willing to discharge the sacerdotal but a strong evidence of their piety and rectitude, their offices. But the ascendency of the Priesthood would be unaffected simplicity and affectionate union.
particularly great in the mind of Pliny, who was anxious With a view, moreover, to ascertain the truth of this that reverence should be entertained "for the Deities, for account, Pliny, as we have already observed, deemed it ancient glory, even for fables.”l. The glowing imagery necessary to examine by torture two maid-servants, who of Pagan Worship, with its train of varied associations, are called Ministers, (perhaps Deaconesses :) he was had taken possession of his ardent fancy. The elegance unable, however, to discover any thing, except, to use his of his taste lent charms to empty pageantry; and his own language, “ a wilful and immoderate superstition;" time was spent in building and in adorning Temples. an expression, as may be inferred from the whole tenour
* Mosheim adds, Presbyteris cum Episcopo aut fuga dilapsus, exortå of the Epistle, only equivalent to “ an obstinate devia
tempestate, aut in occulto latentibus. (De Reb. Chr. p. 232.) The tion from the established rites, a presumptuous attempt assertion is, we think, unwarranted and unjust. to disturb the Religious harmony of the Heathen world." + This was not the case in other countries. Dicendum ...... de
In considering the moderation and humanity, by institutis Atheniensium, Rhodiorum, doctissimorum hominum, apud which the general conduct of Pliny was distinguished, quos eriam (id quod acerbissimum est) liberi, civesque torquentur.
(Cic. de Part. Orat. c. 34.) Hence, as Gibbon has remarked, the acqui
escence of the Provincials encouraged their Governors to acquire, and It is possible that this additional injunction may have been made perhaps to usurp, a discretionary power of employing the rack to exin consequence of a singular equivocation, which we may, perhaps, tort from vagrant and plebeian criminals the confession of their guilt, suppose to have been tried before the time of the Valentinians, who till they insensibly proceeded to confound the distinctions of rank, and argued that they miglit deny that they were Christians without incur- to disregard the privileges of Roman Citizens, (see Decline and Fall, ring the penallý denounced in the words of our Saviour,“ He who &c. c. 17.) It may be doubted, however, whether so conscientious denies Me before men, him will I deny before My Father.” (See a Governor as Pliny would have deviated from the practice of the Bishop Kaye, on Tertullian, p. 153.)
State and the rule of Civilians. This inquiry was made probably a. D. 104. Domitian perished in Orig. c. Cels. lib. v. p. 260. the year 96, and Nero in 68, (i.e. 36 years before.) The persons exo, Epict. Dissert. lib. i. c. 20. Diog. Laert. lib. x. sec. 10, &c. amined were perhaps confused, and not scrupulously exact in the dates. Encyclopædia, Sext: EMPIRIC. Encyclopædia, History, ch. xxxviii. p. 810. nole.
ll Ep. 21. lib. viii.