Paul concerning him, in his epistles be wrote from thence--but is so far without foundation in ecclesiastical history, that it still remains a point of dubious controversy, whether he ever saw Rome in his life. If he did, it was probably towards the close of it; and the most received opinion is, that he suffered martyrdom there at the same time with St. Paul; that Peter was crucified, and that Paul had the favour of being beheaded, in consideration that he was a Roman citizen.

The Christians, though generally despised, and often insulted, for their profession, had not bitherto been subject to a direct and capital persecution ; but Nero, who, intoxicated with power, had in a few years arrived at a pitch of wickedness and cruelty till then unheard of, at length directed his rage against the servants of Christ.

A. D. 64.] In his tenth year the city of Rome was set on fire, and a considerable part of it consumed. This calamity was generally imputed to him as the author, and it seems not without justice. Mischief and the misery of others were the study of his life ; and he is reported to have expressed great pleasure at the spectacle, and to have sung the burning of Troy while Rome was in flames. Though he afterwards did many popular things, and spared no expense in relieving the people, and rebuilding the city, he could not clear himself from the suspicion of the fact, any otherwise than by charging it upon the Christians. The Heathen bistorian Tacitus, in bis account of this event, enables us so well to judge of the character which the Christians bore in his time, that I shall subjoin a translation of it for the information of the unlearned.

" But neither the emperor's donations, nor the atonement offered to the gods, could remove the scandal of this report, but it was still believed that the city had been burnt by his instigation. Nero, therefore, to put a stop to the rumour, charged the fact, and inflicted the severest pimishments for it, upon the Christians, as they were commonly called, a people detestable for their crimes. The author of this sect was Christ, who, in the reign of Tiberius, was put to death by Pontius Pilate. The destructive superstition which was by this means suppressed for the present, soon broke out again, and not only overspread Judea, where it first arose, but reached even to Rome, where all abominations, from every quarter, are sure to meet and to fiud acceptance. Some who confessed themselves Christians were first apprehended, and a vast multitude afterwards upon their impeachment, who were condemned, not so much for burning the city, as for being the objects of universal hatred. Their sufferings and torments were heightened by mockery and derision. Some were enclosed in

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the skins of wild beasts, that they might be torn in pieces by dogs; others were crucified; and others, being covered with inflammable matter, were lighted up as torches at the close of day. These spectacles were exhibited in Nero's gardens, where he held a kind of Circensian show, either mixing with the populace in the habit of a charioteer, or himself contending in the race. Hence, it came to pass, that, criminal and undeserving of mercy as they were, yet they were pitied, as being destroyed merely to gratify his savage and cruel disposition, and not with any view to the public good.'

From this quotation, it appears, that the Christians were considered by the Heathens as a sect that had been alınost crushed by the death of their Master, but suddenly recovered strength, and spread far and near soon afterwards : that they were so extremely odious, on account of the supposed absurdity and wickedness of their principles, as to be thought capable of committing the worst crimes, when no sufficient proof could be found of their having committed any: that they were treated as the professed enemies of mankind, and therefore, upon the first occasion that offered, were promiscuously destroyed with the most unrelenting cruelty: that they did not suffer as common malefactors, who, when under the actual punishment of their crimes, are usually beheld with some commiseration, but that insult and derision were added to the most exquisite inventions of torture : and lastly, that if these violent proceedings were blamed by any, it proceeded rather from the hatred they bore to Nero, than from a suspicion that the Christians met with any thing more than their just desert. These things are carefully to be observed, if we would form a right judgment of the primitive church. It is possible, many persons suppose, that St. Paul's Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, and Ephesians, were (like the pastoral letters of bishops in our own times) addressed to the bulk of the inhabitants in those places; but the case was far otherwise. The Romans, to whom St. Paul wrote, were inconsiderable in their number; most of them contemptible in the sight of the world on account of their poverty and low rank in life, and as the above extract from Tacitus proves) the objects of public detestation for their attachment to the name and doctrines of Jesus,

Whether this persecution was confined to Rome, or carried on by public authority through all the provinces where Christians were to be found, is not absolutely certain, though the latter seems most probable ; for it is hardly to be supposed that Nero would rage against them in the capital, and suffer them to live in peace every where else. Tertullian expressly asserts that Nero enjoined their destruction, by public edicts, in the several provin

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ces; and his testimony seems worthy of credit, as he mentions it in his apology, which, though written more than a century afterwards, was not at so great a distance of time but he might easily have been contradicted, if he had advanced an untruth. Besides, the example of Nero, without his express injunctions, seems to have been sufficient to awaken persecution against a people so generally hated as the Christians were. Multitudes, upon this occasion, had the honour to seal their profession with their blood; but the cause for which they suffered triumphed over all opposition, and the martyrs' places in the church were supplied by an accession of fresh converts.

This storm, though sharp, was not of very long continuance; it terminated with the life of Nero, who was compelled, though with extreme reluctance, to destroy himself with his own hands, that he might escape the most ignominious punishment; he having been, by a decree of the senate, justly and solemnly branded with the character which malice and ignorance would have fixed upon the christian name, and condemned to be whipped to death, as an enemy of the human race.

A. D. 68, 69.] After him, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, were successively acknowledged emperors; but their reigns were short, and their deaths violent. The Jewish war, which ended in the final catastrophe and dispersion of that nation, was, at this time, carried on under the command of Vespasian, who, while engaged in that service, was saluted emperor by his army.

A. D. 70.] Upon this, leaving the conduct of the war to his son Titus, he returned to Italy; and, soon after the death of Vitellius, was peaceably established in the government. Titus having a secret commission from God (whom he knew not) to execute his fierce displeasure against the Jews, upon whom wrath was now come to the uttermost, after destroying the whole country of Judea, with fire and sword, laid siege to Jerusalem ; and having taken it, at the end of five months, with an incredible slaughter of the Jews and the destruction of the temple, he burnt the city, and pulled down the very walls. More than a million of people, who had trusted in lying words, and boasted themselves of an empty profession, perished in this war : and those who survived were reduced to slavery, sold, and dispersed into all parts, at the will of conquerors. Thus ended the Jewish economy; and the law of Moses having received the accomplishment of all its types, ceremonies, and precepts, in the person, life, and death of Jesus the Messiah, was irrevocably abrogated as to its observance, which was rendered utterly impracticable by the destruction of the temple and the cessation of the priesthood.

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A. D. 79.) Under Vespassian, and Titus, who succeeded him, the Christian church enjoyed considerable peace and liberty, though, upon many occasions, they suffered from the ill-will of their adversaries. Few, however, were put to death, publicly and professedly for their religion, till Domitian, who came to the empire after his brother Titus, [A. D. 81.] and who too much resembled Nero in his temper and conduct, imitated him likewise in employing his power against the followers of Christ, [A. D. 94.} Several are mentioned in history, who suffered in his time ; but as little of moment, or that can be fully depended on, is recorded concerning them, I wave a recital of bare names. It is generally believed that St. John was banished to the isle of Patmos by this emperor, where he wrote his epistles to the churches of Asia, and the revelation of future events, which he had received from the Lord. Some there are who place these events much earlier, under the reign of Claudius, but the former opinion seems most probable, and best supported by the testimony of the ancients; but the story of his having been cast into a caldron of boiling oil, in the presence, as some add, of the Roman senate, does not seem supported by any tolerable evidence. It is believed that he gained his liberty from banishment, and returned to Ephesus, or the neighbouring parts; that he afterwards wrote his Gospel a little before his death, which is supposed to have happened about the last year of the century. If so, he was probably about a hundred years of age, and survived the rest of the apostles a considerable space.

Domitian, having made the earth groan under his cruelties and excesses, was assassinated in the sixteenth year of his reign, [A. D. 96.] Nerva succeeded, (a man of much fairer character,) who repealed the sanguinary edicts of his predecessor; and it does not appear that the Christians were generally persecuted during his short government. Before his death, (for he did not live two years,) he adopted Trajan for his successor, who came to the empire [a. D. 98] with a general approbation, and is still reputed one of the best and wisest princes that Rome was favoured with. From his conduct, and that of some of the following emperors, it appeared that the Gospel of Christ was not only hated by such persons as Nero and Domitian, who seemed professed enemies to every thing that was good and praiseworthy, but that men who desired to be thought the patrons of virtue, and to act upon the most benevolent principles, had objections equally strong against it; for if Trajan did not issue edicts expressly against the Christians, there was a very sharp persecution carried on against them in his reign; and when Pliny (in an epistle still extant) represented to him the greatness of their sufferings, and the multitude and inno, Vol. II.


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cence of the sufferers, the emperor interposed no further, by his answer, than to forbid informations against them, upon suspicion, to be encouraged ; but directed, that such as were proved to be Christians, and refused to join in the Heathen sacrifices, should suffer death : and when he visited Asia, Ignatius, who was bishop of Antioch, being brought before him, he condemned bim, with his own mouth, to be sent to Rome to be devoured by wild beasts. But we shall resume the account of what happened under his reign hereafter, his second or third year (A. D. 100] coinciding, according to the generally received computation, with the end of the first century, which I have fixed as the limit of our researches in the present volume.

But before I conclude the chapter, it may be useful to enquire what might be the motives which influenced the Heathens so eagerly to embrace every occasion of showing their displeasure against the professors of Christianity.

The original and proper cause of the injurious treatment the first Christians met with from the Heathens, and particularly from the Roman government, which usually tolerated every kind of religious worship that did not interfere with the public tranquility, and the obedience due to the state, was one that is of an abiding and universal influence, namely, that enmity of the carnal heart which cannot be brought to submit to the wisdom and will of God. This has been the secret source of all the persecution which has been the lot of the true disciples of Christ in every age. The sublime doctrines of the Gospel were offensive to the pretended wisdom of men, and the spirituality of its precepts no less thwarted their passions.Men, if only left to themselves, cannot but oppose a system which, at the same time that it reduces all their boasted distinctions of character to a perfect level in point of acceptance with God, enjoins a life and conversation absolutely inconsistent with the customs and pursuits which universally prevail, and brands many of the most allowed and authorized practices with the hard names of wickedness and folly. But they are not left to themselves; but are, in a degree thoy are little aware of, under the influence of Satan, who, for the power he maintains and exerts over them, is styled, in Scriptore, the god of this world.' Since their own evil dispositions are thus instigated by the great enemy of God and goodness, it is entirely owing to the powerful restraints of the providence of the Most High, that his servants can, at any time, or in any place, enjoy an interval of rest; and though he has always made good his promise in favour of his church, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; though they who oppose it successively perish and leave their schemes unfinished, while the inter

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