« VorigeDoorgaan »
the attentive inquirer into the history of the times as singular—as Malicions marked by an unnatural readiness to seize every occasion of boldly Jews at this claiming the blood of their enemies. As a nation, they displayed period. perpetually an inveterate malice, and a monstrous delight in acts of revenge, such as ordinarily only exists in certain individuals who are exceptions to their sect or nation. All this admits of explanation Explained. from their singular fate. Dwelling in all the great cities of the empire, their malevolent feelings were doubly excited, by the presence of their political oppressors, and by the triumph of idolatry. This for a time did not produce any sudden burst of mutiny; which, according to the usual course of things, would have subsided into torpid and slavish insensibility, as each unsuccessful effort rendered them more hopeless, and their oppressors more watchful and more imperious. There was a secret amongst them, which at once fostered their malice and restrained its ebullition; which gave a higher tone to their sense of wrongs, and yet stifled their complaints; it was the daily and hourly hope of a temporal Messiah, and the certain presage of retribution, in obtaining through him dominion over their rulers, and being made the oppressors instead of the oppressed. Like the assassin who had attended on his master for years, and crouched beneath his blows without a murmur, waiting for the moment of revenge; so waited the Jewish people, inmates of every city, and even favourites of the court: to all outward appearance content and peaceable citizens, so much so as to be able to separate their cause from that of the persecuted Christians, but in secret nourishing daily the feelings which at length found vent and caused their ruin. To this may be traced their obstinacy beyond human nature in maintaining the last siege of their city, as well as the monstrous scenes which were exhibited in Cyprus, Alexandria, and elsewhere, and which are, perhaps, the bloodiest on the pages of history, not excepting those of the French Revolution. 89 Among the causes
which would produce an increasing party-spirit Hatred ofthe opposed to the Christians among the Gentiles also, no one, perhaps, against the was more powerful than that sense of interest, which operated with Christians. the large class of tradesmen and artisans. As long as the tenets of their religion were confined to few, its character was as abominable to the pious Gentile indeed as when it spread abroad; but it was then only that it sensibly affected the gains of the silversmith and the sculptor, the seller of victims, or the expounder of oracles. It was then that it operated on the public feeling in each separate place, as the introduction either of a body of superior artists, or a
89 See note to Gibbon, Vol. II. p. his example. The victorious Jews de377, from Dion Cassius, Lib. LXVIII. voured the flesh, licked up the blood,
“In Cyrene they massacred and twisted the entrails like a girdle 220,000 Greeks; in Cyprus, 240,000. round their bodies.” Their misappliIn Egypt a very great multitude. cation of Scripture example forcibly reMany of these unhappy victims were minds the Englishman of some domestic sawed asunder, according to a precedent scenes, never, let us trust, to be repeated. which David had given the sanction of
Extent of the First
sale of better manufactures, would operate in any commercial city; and the condition of the Flemish settlements formerly in England and elsewhere, may, perhaps, not unfitly illustrate the way, in which the harmless, unoffending sect of primitive Christians became the marks of general hatred. With such a feeling, persecution would be raised, not professing the source from which it sprang, but sheltering its selfish origin under various honest pretexts. Demetrius and the craftsmen would act from a sense of interest, but would appeal to a sense of religion; and hence, Christians would not only be branded as atheists,” but all sorts of crimes and foul practices would be attributed to them, in order to furnish motives in which men could sympathize, instead of the interested feelings from which the instigators themselves either altogether or originally acted. No wonder that the heathen historian should be found speaking of them with a disgust which would be felt for Bacchanalian associations ; or that it should be whispered at Rome, that all kinds of abomination were practised in those meetings, which having been secret originally from fear, continued to be secret from custom.
It has been questioned by modern authorities, whether this first Persecution. persecution extended beyond Rome, as was once commonly asserted;
and doubtless the strongest historical testimony in support of this assertion does not appear to be authentic. The famous Spanish or Portuguese inscription, which is given by Gruter in his Inscription. Roman. Corpus, has been justly suspected by Scaliger and others. Independently of the objections urged against it by those writers, it may be observed, that no native of Spain and Portugal reports it on his own authority. It professes to commemorate Nero's glory, for freeing the province from robbers; and also“ for cleansing the province of those who were infecting the human race with a new superstition.” This, if authentic, would decide the question ; but the denial of its authenticity leaves the fact not contradicted, but only less certain. It seems, indeed, highly probable that the persecution was general. It was long currently believed to be so; and nothing is more likely, with the existence of prejudices such as have been described, and which only lay smothered and dormant in a large portion of every community, than that the erection of an inquisitorial tribunal at Rome would be imitated, by the nearer provinces at least; under the pretence of a general conspiracy, a harbouring of fugitives, or whatever other pleas there might be, such as always suggest themselves on similar occasions.
The continuance of this persecution through a space of four years renders it still more probable that it was general; and although the legends which have been handed down in the several Churches of Spain and Italy—especially of Lucca, Pisa, Aquileia, and Romeconcerning the martyrdom of their respective saints, are doubtless fabulous ; yet that circumstance scarcely contradicts the general statement. It
90 Tom. I. p. 238. Mosheim de Rebus Christ. ante Const. Magn. p. 109.
to have been in the last of these four years Martyrdom when the persecution closed, only because of Nero's death, that the of St. Paul, great apostle of the Gentiles suffered. He is said to have been and of beheaded. About the same time also, St. Peter is asserted to have St. Peter. been crucified, according to the prediction of his blessed Master. 18, 19. There is, however, some difficulty in reconciling this statement with the established chronology.
MINISTRY OF ST. PETER, ST. JAMES, AND THE OTHER
APOSTLES, AND THEIR COADJUTORS.
Thus far I have attempted to follow the sacred narrative in tracing the course of the Holy Spirit's dispensation through its several successive stages—through the period when the Gospel was preached to the Jews only,—through that during which it was preached to Jews and devout Gentiles,-through that, again, when an especial commission was in force to declare it to the idolaters also. In conformity, likewise, with that which appears to have been the design of the sacred narrative, I have thus far confined my notice to the main line of its progress: only touching on the ministry of the agents of the blessed Comforter, as they were in succession called on to throw open the way wider and wider ; and taking no note of the acts and fortunes of the rest. But we are now approaching near to the period when, by the destruction of Jerusalem, the first blow was given to all distinction between converts from Jews and Gentiles, proselytes of the gate and idolatrous heathen ; that is, when all distinction of ministry and of teachers was removed, and the unity of the Church completed.
Before we quit, then, the last stage of the mystery of godliness, it will be neither useless nor uninteresting to pause, and inquire into the labours and the fate of those other holy men, from whom we have gradually parted, in pursuing with St. Paul the course of Gentile ministry. Not that much authentic information, beyond what has been given, can be laid before the reader, respecting either him or any other of the apostles and inspired ministers of the Gospel. Not only are the notices of them in the Acts so scanty as to furnish no materials for a narrative; but the greater part have left behind them no epistolary or other monuments; which, as in the case of St. Paul, might have served to confirm or to refute, to complete or to illustrate, the imperfect and uncertain accounts given by uninspired writers. St. John, St. James, St. Peter, and St. Jude, each have left something; but in each case their writings are insignificant, if considered as a source whence to glean biographical notices. Eusebius's account is brief, and yet it contains nearly all besides that can be relied on. So silently did the apostles proceed
in their mighty task of building up the Church, and so truly did the Luke xvii.20. kingdom of God come upon men - without observation.”
ST. PETER. St. Peter, as we have seen, was, by a special revelation, no less General than St. Paul, called from the common ministry of all the apostles A.D. 64, 65. to preach the Gospel to the devout Gentiles also. After the con- Acts x 9. version of Cornelius little can be gleaned from the Scriptures respecting his
and success. The address of his epistle“ to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” marks so far the direction of his journeys. The date also shows that Rome had likewise been the scene of his labours. Agreeably to the view already given of his call and special appointment, there will be no difficulty in determining who
“ the strangers scattered throughout Pontus,” &c. the special objects of his care. That they could not be Jews, as some have hastily asserted, is clear, from the term “ strangers. The specific appellation of elect” also, which appears in the opening of the Why Epistle, tends further to prove that those addressed were Gentiles, the Elect. that is, devout Gentiles-proselytes of the gate-St. Peter's especial charge. That term, it is true, most properly belonged to the Jews, they being originally the chosen and elect people of God; but it was to show the world that such privilege and distinction was now cancelled, that the apostles more frequently apply it to the Gentiles. In this mode of applying it to the latter, they generally add, by way of explanation, that they were “elect according to the foreknowledge 1 Peter i. 2.
predestined,” &c. which was as much as to say, We address you as the elect of God—You are God's elect now as really as the Jews were heretofore, and this not from any change in God's unchangeable purposes, which the bigoted adversary may suggest to refute your claim, but it was so intended from the beginning of the world. God, of course, must and did foreknow and design what has now come to pass.
“ Whom He did foreknow, He also did pre- Rom. viii. destinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that He might be 29, 3). the first-born among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” Now the addition of this expression relating to God's foreknowledge, which St. Peter makes to the term elect, determines the Gentiles, or some portion of them, to be the persons intended. But the body of the Epistle explains the words strangers more expressly. E.G. “ But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, 1 Pet. ii. 9– a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who 11. hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Which
91 That is, if we suppose, as there is much reason for doing, that Rome is designated by the term Babylon. See Tertullian's remarks on the use of this figurative mode of writing in Scripture. Adv. Judæos, C. 9. The Babylon of St. John
is one of the instances selected. . Sic et Babylon apud Joannem nostrum, Romanæ urbis figura est.” See also Adv. Marcion, Lib. III. C. 13. From 1 and 2 Cor. it seems St. Peter had been at Corinth also.