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disgrace all the settled religions of the world? “It is the most difficult of all things to It was not to be imagined that he would convert men from vicious habits to virtuous endure with patience, that the religion of ones, as every one may judge from what he the emperor and of the state should be feels in himself, as well as from what he calumniated and borne down by a company sees in others."* It is almost like making of superstitious and despicable Jews. men over again.
Lastly, the nature of the case affords a Left then to myself, and without any more strong proof, that the original teachers of information than a knowledge of the existence Christianity, in consequence of their new of the religion, of the general story upon profession, entered upon a new and singular which it is founded, and that no act of power, course of life. We may be allowed to force, and authority, was concerned in its presume, that the institution which they first success, I should conclude, from the preached to others, they conformed to in very nature and exigency of the case, that their own persons; because this is no more the Author of the religion during his life, and than what every teacher of a new religion his immediate disciples after his death, exerted both does, and must do, in order to obtain themselves in spreading and publishing the either proselytes or hearers. The change institution throughout the country in which which this would produce was very consider- it began, and into which it was first carried; able. It is a change which we do not that, in the prosecution of this purpose, they easily estimate, because, ourselves and all underwent the labours and troubles which about us being habituated to the institution we observe the propagators of new sects to from our infancy, it is what we neither undergo; that the attempt must necessarily experience nor observe. After men became have also been in a high degree dangerous ; Christians, much of their time was spent in that, from the subject of the mission, comprayer and devotion, in religious meetings, pared with the fixed opinions and prejudices in celebrating the eucharist, in conferences, of those to whom the missionaries were to in exhortations, in preaching, in an affec- address themselves, they could hardly fail of tionate intercourse with one another, and encountering strong and frequent opposition ; correspondence with other societies. Perhaps that, by the hand of government, as well as their mode of life, in its form and habit, was from the sudden fury and unbridled license not very unlike the Unitas Fratrum, or the of the people, they would oftentimes expemodern Methodists. Think then what it rience injurious and cruel treatment; that, was to become such at Corinth, at Ephesus, at any rate, they must have always had so at Antioch, or even at Jerusalem. How much to fear for their personal safety, as new! how alien from all their former habits to have passed their lives in a state of and ideas, and from those of every body constant peril and anxiety; and lastly, that about them! What a revolution there must their mode of life and conduct, visibly at have been of opinions and prejudices to least, corresponded with the institution which bring the matter to this !
they delivered, and, so far, was both new, We know what the precepts of the religion and required continual self-denial. are; how pure, how benevolent, how disinterested a conduct they enjoin; and that this purity and benevolence are extended to the very thoughts and affections. We are not,
CHAPTER II. perhaps, at liberty to take for granted that there is satisfactory evidence that many, the lives of the preachers of Christianity were as perfect as their lessons : but we are
professing to be original witnesses of the
Christian miracles, passed their lives in entitled to contend, that the observable part of their behaviour must have agreed in a
labours, dangers, and sufferings, volun
tarily undergone in attestation of the great measure with the duties which they
accounts which they delivered, and solely taught. There was, therefore (which is all that we assert), a course of life pursued by
in consequence of their belief of those them, different from that which they before
accounts; and that they also submitted, led. And this is of great importance. Men
from the same motives, to new rules of
conduct. are brought to any thing almost sooner than to change their habit of life, especially when After thus considering what was likely to the change is either inconvenient, or made happen, we are next to inquire how the against the force of natural inclination, or with the loss of accustomed indulgences. * Hartley's Essays on Man, p. 190.
transaction is represented in the several closed, that they might serve as lights to accounts that have come down to us. And illuminate the night. Nero lent his own this inquiry is properly preceded by the gardens for these executions, and exhibited other, forasmuch as the reception of these at the same time a mock Circensian enteraccounts may depend part on the credi- tainment; being a spectator of the whole, in bility of what they contain.
the dress of a charioteer, sometimes mingling The obscure and distant view of Chris- with the crowd on foot, and sometimes tianity, which some of the heathen writers viewing the spectacle from his car. This of that age had gained, and which a few conduct made the sufferers pitied; and passages in their remaining works incidentally though they were criminals, and deserving discover to us, offers itself to our notice in the severest punishments, yet they were the first place : because, so far as this evidence considered as sacrificed, not so much out of a goes, it is the concession of adversaries; the regard to the public good, as to gratify the source from which it is drawn is unsuspected. cruelty of one man. Under this head, a quotation from Tacitus, Our concern with this passage at present well known to every scholar, must be inserted, is only so far as it affords a presumption in as deserving particular attention. The reader support of the proposition which we maintain, will bear in mind that this passage was concerning the activity and sufferings of the written about seventy years after Christ's first teachers of Christianity. Now considered death, and that it relates to transactions in this view, it proves three things : Ist, that which took place about thirty years after the Founder of the institution was put to that event.-Speaking of the fire which death; 2dly, that in the same country in happened at Rome in the time of Nero, and which he was put to death, the religion, of the suspicions which were entertained after a short check, broke out again and that the emperor himself was concerned in spread ; that it so spread, as that, within causing it, the historian proceeds in his thirty-four years from the Author's death, narrative and observations thus:
a very great number of Christians (ingens “But neither these exertions, nor his lar- eorum multitudo) were found at Rome. gesses to the people, nor his offerings to the From which fact, the two following inferences gods, did away the infamous imputation may be fairly drawn: first, that if, in the under which Nero lay, of having ordered space of thirty-four years from its commencethe city to be set on fire. To put an end, ment, the religion had spread throughout therefore, to this report, he laid the guilt, Judea, had extended itself to Rome, and and inflicted the most cruel punishments, there had numbered a great multitude of conupon a set of people who were holden in verts, the original teachers and missionaries abhorrence for their crimes, and called by of the institution could not have been idle; the vulgar, Christians. The founder of that secondly, that when the Author of the name was Christ, who suffered death in the undertaking was put to death as a malefactor reign of Tiberius, under his procurator Pon- for his attempt, the endeavours of his foltius Pilate.—This pernicious superstition, lowers to establish his religion in the same thus checked for a while, broke out again; country, amongst the same people, and in the and spread not only over Judea, where the same age, could not but be attended with evil originated, but through Rome also, danger. whither every thing bad upon the earth Suetonius, a writer contemporary with finds its way, and is practised. Some who Tacitus, describing the transactions of the confessed their sect, were first seized, and same reign, uses these words: “Affecti supafterwards, by their information, a vast pliciis Christiani, genus hominum superstimultitude were apprehended, who were tionis novæ et maleficæ."* “The Christians, convicted, not so much of the crime of a set of men of a new and mischievous (or burning Rome, as of hatred to mankind. magical) superstition, were punished.” Their sufferings at their execution were Since it is not mentioned here that the aggravated by insult and mockery; for, burning of the city was the pretence of the some were disguised in the skins of wild punishment of the Christians, or that they beasts, and worried to death by dogs; some were the Christians of Rome who alone were crucified; and others were wrapped in suffered, it is probable that Suetonius refers to pitched shirts, * and set on fire when the day
cerà supervestiebat, et sic ad ignem admoveri * This is rather a paraphrase, but is justified jubebat.”—Lard. Jewish and Heath. Test. vol. by what the Scholiast upon Juvenal says;
i. p. 359. " Nero maleficos homines tædâ et papyro et
Suet. Nero. cap. 16.
There are many
some more general persecution than the short to induce the governor of these provinces to and occasional one which Tacitus describes. speak of them in the following terms: “Multi,
Juvenal, a writer of the same age with omnis ætatis, utriusque sexus etiam;,neque the two former, and intending, it should enim civitates tantùm, sed vicos etiam et seem, to commemorate the cruelties exer- agros, superstitionis istius contagio pervagata cised under Nero's government, has the est.”
every age and of following lines : *
woth sexes ;-nor has the contagion of this “Pone Tigellinum, tædâ lucebis in illa, superstition seized cities only, but smaller Quà stantes ardent, qui fixo gutture fumant, towns also, and the open country.” Great Et latum medià sulcum deducit + arena.
exertions must have been used by the “Describe Tigellinus (a creature of Nero), preachers of Christianity to produce this state and you shall suffer the same punishment of things within this time. Secondly, to a with those who stand burning in their own point which has been already noticed, and flame and smoke, their head being held up which I think of importance to be observed, by a stake fixed to their chin, till they make a namely, the sufferings to which Christians long stream of blood and melted sulphur on were exposed, without any public persecution the ground.”
being denounced against them by sovereign If this passage were considered by itself, authority. For, from Pliny's doubt how ke the subject of allusion might be doubtful; was to act, his silence concerning any subbut, when connected with the testimony of sisting law on the subject, his requesting Suetonius, as to the actual punishment of the the emperor's rescript, and the emperor, Christians by Nero, and with the account agreeably to his request, propounding a rule given by Tacitus of the species of punish- for his direction, without reference to any ment which they were made to undergo, I prior rule, it may be inferred, that there think it sufficiently probable, that these were was, at that time, no public edict in force the executions to which the poet refers. against the Christians. Yet from this same
These things, as has already been observed, epistle of Pliny it appears, “ that accusations, took place within thirty-one years after trials, and examinations, were, and had been, Christ's death, that is, according to the going on against them in the provinces over course of nature, in the lifetime, probably, which he presided : that schedules were of some of the apostles, and certainly in the delivered by anonymous informers, containlifetime of those who were converted by the ing the names of persons who were suspected apostles, or who were converted in their of holding or of favouring the religion; that, time. If then the Founder of the religion in consequence of these informations, many was put to death in the execution of his had been apprehended, of whom some design; if the first race of converts to the boldly avowed their profession, and died in religion, many of them, suffered the greatest the cause; others denied that they were extremities for their profession; it is hardly Christians; others, acknowledging that they credible, that those who came between the had once been Christians, declared that they two, who were companions of the Author had long ceased to be such.” All which of the institution during his life, and the demonstrates, that the profession of Christeachers and propagators of the institution tianity was at that time (in that country at after his death, could go about their under- least) attended with fear and danger : and taking with ease and safety.
yet this took place without any edict from The testimony of the younger Pliny the Roman sovereign, commanding or authobelongs to a later period : for although he rizing the persecution of Christians. This was contemporary with Tacitus and Sueto- observation is further confirmed by a rescript nius, yet his account does not, like theirs, go of Adrian to Minucius Fundanus, the pro. back to the transactions of Nero's reign, consul of Asia :* 'from which rescript it but is confined to the affairs of his own appears that the custom of the people of time. His celebrated letter to Trajan was Asia was to proceed against the Christians written about seventy years after Christ's with tumult and uproar. This disorderly death; and the information to be drawn practice, I say, recognised in the edict, from it, so far as it is connected with our because the emperor enjoins, that, for the argument, relates principally to two points : future, if the Christians were guilty, they. first, to the number of Christians in Bithynia should be legally brought to trial, and not and Pontus, which was so considerable as be pursued by importunity and clamour.
# Sat. i. ver. 155.
+ Forsan " deducis."
• Lard. Heath. Test. vol. ii. p. 110.
Martial wrote a few years before the labours, or successes of the apostles, but one younger Pliny; and, as his manner was, of their own number, or of their followers ? made the sufferings of the Christians the Now these books come up in their accounts subject of his ridicule.* Nothing, however, to the full extent of the proposition which could show the notoriety of the fact with we maintain. We have four histories of more certainty than this does. Martial's Jesus Christ. We have a history taking up testimony, as well indeed as Pliny's, goes the narrative from his death, and carrying also to another point, viz. that the deaths of on an account of the propagation of the these men were martyrdoms in the strictest religion, and of some of the most eminent sense, that is to say, were so voluntary, that persons engaged in it, for a space of nearly it was in their power, at the time of pro- thirty years. We have, what some may nouncing the sentence, to have averted the think still more original, a collection of execution, by consenting to join in heathen letters, written by certain principal agents sacrifices.
in the business, upon the business, and in The constancy, and by consequence the the midst of their concern and connection sufferings of the Christians of this period, is with it. And we have these writings sevealso referred to by Epictetus, who imputes rally attesting the point which we contend their intrepidity to madness, or to a kind of for, viz. the sufferings of the witnesses of the fashion or hábit; and about fifty years history, and attesting it in every variety of afterwards, by Marcus Aurelius, who form in which it can be conceived to appear: ascribes it to obstinacy. “Is it possible directly and indirectly, expressly and inci(Epictetus asks) that a man may arrive at dentally, by assertion, recital, and allusion, this temper, and become indifferent to those by narratives of facts, and by arguments things, from madness or from habit, as the and discourses built upon these facts, either Galileans ?” + “Let this preparation of the referring to them, or necessarily presupposing mind (to die) arise from its own judgment, them. and not from obstinacy like the Christians.”I I remark this variety, because, in examin
ing ancient records, or indeed any species of testimony, it is, in my opinion, of the
greatest importance to attend to the informaCHAPTER III.
tion or grounds of argument which are There is satisfactory, evidence that many, much as this species of proof is, of all others,
casually and undesignedly disclosed; forasprofessing to be original witnesses of the the least liable to be corrupted by fraud or Christian miracles, passed their lives in labours, dangers, and sufferings, volun
misrepresentation. tarily undergone in attestation of the which is now before us, to suggest some
be allowed therefore, in the inquiry accounts which they delivered, and solely conclusions of this sort, as preparatory to in consequence of their belief of those
more direct testimony. accounts; and that they also submitted,
1. Our books relate, that Jesus Christ, from the same motives, to new rules of the founder of the religion, was, in conseconduct.
quence of his undertaking, put to death, as Op the primitive condition of Christianity, a malefactor, at Jerusalem. This point at a distant only and general view can be least will be granted, because it is no more acquired from heathen writers. It is in our
than what Tacitus has recorded. They then own books that the detail and interior of the proceed to tell us, that the religion was, transaction must be sought for. And this notwithstanding, set forth at this same city is nothing different from what might
of Jerusalem, propagated thence throughout expected. Who would write a history of Judea, and afterwards preached in other Christianity, but a Christian? Who was parts of the Roman empire. These points likely to record the travels, sufferings, also are fully confirmed by Tacitus, who
informs us, that the religion, after a short * In matutina nuper spectatus arena Mucius, imposuit qui sua membra focis,
check, broke out again in the country where Si patiens fortisque tibi durusque videtur,
it took its rise; that it not only spread Abderitanæ pectora plebis habes;
throughout Judea, but had reached Rome, Nam cum dicatur, tunica præsente molesta, and that it had there great multitudes of Ure * manum: plus est dicere, Non facio. • Forsan “ thure manum."
converts: and all this within thirty years + Epict. l. iv. c. 7.
after its commencement. Now these facts Marc. Aur. Med. l. xi. c. 3.
afford a strong inference in behalf of the
proposition which we maintain. What could any such thing, and the event would have the disciples of Christ expect for themselves contradicted him if he had, yet historians when they saw their Master put to death? who lived in the age when the event was Could they hope to escape the dangers in known, falsely, as well as officially, ascribed which he had perished? If they have per- these words to him. secuted me, they will also persecute you, 3. Thirdly, these books abound with exhortwas the warning of common sense. With ations to patience, and with topics of comfort this example before their eyes, they could under distress. not be without a full sense of the peril of “Who shall separate us from the love of their future enterprise.
Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or 2. Secondly, all the histories agree in persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or representing Christ as foretelling the perse- peril, or sword ? Nay, in all these things cution of his followers :
we are more than conquerors through Him "Then shall they deliver you up to that loved us.” be afflicted, and shall kill you, and ye “We are troubled on every side, yet not shall be hated of all nations for my name's distressed; we are perplexed, but not in
despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast “When affliction or persecution ariseth down, but not destroyed; always bearing for the word's sake, immediately they are about in the body the dying of the Lord offended.”+
Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be *They shall lay their hands on you, and made manifest in our body ;-knowing that persecute you, delivering you up to the syna- he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall gogues, and into prisons, being brought before raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present kings and rulers for my name's sake :-and
us with you.
For which cause we faint ye shall be betrayed both by parents and not; but, though our outward man perish, brethren, and kinsfolks and friends; and yet the inward man is renewed day by day. some of you shall they cause to be put to For our light affliction, which is but for a death.” 1
moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding “The time cometh, that whosoever killeth and eternal weight of glory." + you will think that he doeth God service. And “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who these things will they do unto you, because have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an they have not known the Father, nor me. example of suffering affliction, and of patience. But these things have I told you, that when Behold, we count them happy which endure. the time shall come, ye may remember that Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and I told you of them.”
have seen the end of the Lord ; that the I am not entitled to argue from these Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” # passages, that Christ actually did foretel “Call to remembrance the former days, these events, and that they did accordingly in which, after ye were illuminated, ye come to pass; because that would be at endured a great fight of afflictions, partly once to assume the truth of the religion : whilst ye were made a gazing-stock both by but I am entitled to contend, that one side reproaches and affictions, and partly whilst or other of the following disjunction is true; ye became companions of them that were so either that the Evangelists have delivered for
had compassion of me in my what Christ really spoke, and that the event bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your corresponded with the prediction; or that goods, knowing in yourselves that ye they put the prediction into Christ's mouth, in heaven a better and an enduring substance. because, at the time of writing the history, Cast not away, therefore, your confidence, the event had turned out so to be: for, the which hath great recompence of reward ; for only two remaining suppositions appear in ye have need of patience, that, after ye
have the highest degree incredible; which are, done the will of God, ye might receive the either that Christ filled the minds of his promise.” § followers with fears and apprehensions, “So that we ourselves glory in you in the without any reason or authority for what he churches God, for your patience and faith said, and contrary to the truth of the case; in all your persecutions and tribulations that or that, although Christ had never foretold ye endure. Which is a manifest token of
the righteous judgment of God, that ye may * Matt. xxiv. 9.
See also chap. x. 30.
See also chap. xi. 49. + 2 Cor. iv. 8, 9, 10. 14. 16, 17.
• Rom. viii. 35. 37.
+ Mark iv. 17.
Luke xxi. 12. 16.