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controversy, might have been expected soon to érect the temple of the papacy. But the time was not yet. The true spirit of prophecy was still with the church ; better principles long withstood the inroads of the new philosophy; the tyranny of the Roman bishop was unsupported, and Victor himself died a faithful martyr for the truth. The holy city was not yet given to be trodden under foot by the Gentiles.

What kind of people the Christians were in this age of the apostolic fathers, and of their surviving contemporaries, and of what kind were the doctrines taught in their churches, before they were spoiled by philosophy, we may further learn even from the malicious representations of their enemies. Lucian, who wrote in the reign of Trajan, says of the Christians : “ These poor creatures are firmly persuaded they shall one day enjoy immortal life; therefore they despise death with wonderful courage, and offer themselves voluntarily to punishment. Their first lawgiver has put it into their heads that they are all brethren. Since they separated from us, they persevere in rejecting the gods of the Grecians, and worshipping that deceiver who was crucified; they regulate their manners and customs by his laws; they despise, therefore, all earthly possessions, and enjoy them in common. Therefore, if any magician or juggler, any cunning fellow who knows how to make his advantage of opportunity, happens to get into their society, he immediately grows rich; because it is easy for a man of this sort to abuse the simplicity of these silly people.”

The philosopher Celsus, who wrote against the Christians, in the latter part of this century, affords an undeniable inference as to the doctrines as yet generally taught in the Christian church. You say that God was sent to sinners; but why not to those who were free from sin? What harm is it not to have sinned ?“ You encourage sinners, because you are not able to persuade any really good men ; therefore you open the doors to the most wicked and abandoned.” Some of them say, do not examine, but believe, and thy faith shall save thee.”

“ These are our institutions.”. Speaking sarcastically of the Christians --" Let not any man of learning come here, nor any wise man, nor any man of prudence; for these things are reckoned evil by us. But whosoever is unlearned, ignorant, and silly, let him come without fear.” “ Thus

I Milner.

they own that they can gain only the foolish, the vulgar, the stupid, slaves, women, and children.” " All wise men are excluded from the doctrine of their faith; they call in only fools and men of a servile spirit.”

Celsus frequently upbraids Christians for reckoning Him “ who had a mortal body to be God, and looking on themselves to be pious on that account.” The preachers of their divine word only attempt to persuade fools, mean and senseless persons, slaves, women, and children.”—“ What harm can there be in being learned, well informed, and both in being and in appearing a man of knowledge? What obstacle can this be to the knowledge of God ? Must it not be an advantage?” — “ We see these itinerants shewing readily their tricks to the vulgar, but not approaching the assemblies of wise men, nor daring there to shew themselves; but wherever they see boys, a crowd of slaves and ignorant men, there they thrust in themselves, and shew off their doctrine.” —“ You may see weavers, and tailors, and fullers, illiterate and rustic men, in their houses; but not daring to utter a word before persons of age, experience, and respectability; but when they get hold of boys privately, and silly women, they recount wonderful things, — that they must not mind their fathers or their tutors, but obey them, as their fathers and their guardians are quite ignorant and in the dark; but themselves alone have the true wisdom. And if children obey them, they pronounce them happy, and direcť them to leave their fathers and tutors, and to go with the women and their playfellows into the chambers of the females, or into a tailor's or a fuller's shop, that they may learn perfection.”-“ In other mysteries the crier uses to say: Whoever has clean hands and a good conscience, and a good life, let him come in. But let us hear what they proclaim : Whoever is a sinner, a fool, an infant, a lost wretch, the kingdom of God will receive him.An unjust man, if he humble himself for his crimes, God will receive him ; but a just man, who has proceeded in a course of virtue from the beginning, if he look up to him, he will not be received." Celsus compares a Christian doctor to a quack, who promises to heal the sick, on condition that they keep from intelligent practitioners, - lest his ignorance be detected.

Porphyry, a writer of a similar description, who followed not long after, asks, “ If Christ be the way of salvation, the truth and the life, and those only that believe in him shall be saved, what became of the men who lived before his coming ?” From all this, it plainly appears what sort of doctrines were still preached, for only one system is capable of being thus mistaken and reviled. Still we see that the poor had the Gospel preached unto them ; still it is apparent, in general, that God hid those things from the wise and prudent, which he revealed unto babes ; still we see the Christian calling to be what it was in the apostles' days, “ that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise ; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things that are despised ; yea, and things that are not, to bring to nought things that are,i” &c.

The last-mentioned author, in a story which he relates respecting one who consulted the oracle of Apollo,“ how to make his wife relinquish Christianity, shews the opinion which was held respecting the constancy of these pitied Christians. The answer was : “ It is easier, perhaps, to write on water, or to fly in the air, than to reclaim her. Leave her to her folly — to hymn, in a faint mournful voice, the dead God, who publicly suffered death from judges of singular wisdom.”

Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, who died about the year 180, gives the following account of the doctrine of the Trinity: he is reported to have been the first who made use of that term. “ The Word of God is his Son; not as the poets and fabulous authors say, that gods have sons, begotten after the manner of men, but as Truth itself gives an account of the Word, which always existed in God : for before any thing was made he was his counsellor, and he was his thought.”—“ But when God was pleased to bring to pass all that was determined, he begat his Word External, the first-born of all creatures.”-“ Thus Theophilus acknowledges him to be the Word, co-eternal with the Father : but he calls that generation, or, according to the style of the ancient divines, progression, by which he was externally manifested, when the Father produced all things by him. He adds that God the Word, born of God, was sent by the Father when it pleased him. He calls the three days which preceded the creation of the stars, types of the Trinity of the Godhead — God, his Word, and his Wisdom, meaning by Wisdom the Holy Ghost, who is the giver of its.”

1 Cor. i. 26, &c.

2 Milner.

Fleury, b. iv. 20. compare Horsley's Tracts.

CHAPTER THE THIRD.

THE HISTORY OF THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH TILL THE CLOSE

OF THE THIRD CENTURY. THE AGE OF ORIGEN, CYPRIAN, &c.

SECT. I.

In proceeding to the history of the church in the third century, I shall first notice the situation of affairs in the civil government of the empire. The successful general in the civil wars into which the cruel tyranny of Commodus had plunged the Roman world, was Severus, who seized upon the government, and under the pretence of the most strict and rigid justice, perhaps in some measure necessary in the disordered and dissolute state of the times, indulged his own severe and cruel disposition ; but he firmly established the imperial authority, and introduced a new era in civil history.

“ Salutary laws,” Mr. Gibbon remarks, “ executed with inflexible firmness, soon corrected most of the abuses with which, since the accession of Commodus, every part of the government had been infected. In the administration of justice the judgments of the emperor were characterised by attention, discernment, and impartiality; and whenever he deviated from the strict line of equity, it was generally in favour of the poor and distressed; not so much, indeed, from any sense of humanity, but from the natural propensity of a despot to humble the pride of greatness, and to sink all his subjects to the same common level of absolute dependence.” “ He considered the Roman empire as his property, and had no sooner secured the possession, than he bestowed his care on the cultivation and improvement of so valuable an acquisition."

Severus died at York, in the eighteenth year of his reign®. A stormy interval of a few years succeeded, amidst the struggles of his sons, Geta and Caracalla, and afterwards between Macrinus and Heliogabalus ; but the government at length settled under the administration of Alexander Severus", who, though less cruel, restored both the name and the times of the first Severus, and maintained the peace of the empire for thirteen years?; after which, a most extraordinary scene of distress and calamity followed, which brought the Roman empire to the very brink of ruin.

| The era foretold in the Third Seal, Rev. vi. 5, 6. "? A. D. 211.

3 A. D. 222.

During this more peaceful part of the century, the church suffered severely from persecution. The rigid justice of the first Severus, doomed it to extirpation : weighed in the balance of his equity, the Christians were estimated to be “ an infamous generation ; a people that designed nothing but treason against the state.” Early in his reign, Victor, bishop of Rome, was martyred, and also Irenæus, bishop of Lyons, his reprover in the cause of Christian charity. Victor was succeeded by Zephyrinus, who held the see during eighteen years, when Calixtus followed, and having sat five years, left the church to Urbanus, who governed eight years, and was succeeded by Pontianus. In the tenth year of Severus’, the persecution is marked as general and very severe, especially in Alexandria, which, observes the historian, was “ the theatre of God” for the champions out of Egypt and Thebes 3.

How little the Christians of those days deserved this treatment from the justice of Severus, nothing can better shew, than what is found in the Apology of Tertullian, a Christian of Africa the first who has left any thing written in the Latin language. “ We constantly pray for all emperors, that they niay have a long life, a secure empire, a safe palace, strong armies, a faith ful senate, a well-moralised people, a quiet state of the world.” “ Thus, then, let the claws of wild beasts tear us, or their feet trample us, while our hands are stretched out to God : let crosses suspend us, let fires consume us, let swords pierce our breasts ;” -"a praying Christian is in a frame for enduring any thing. How is this — ye generous rulers! Will ye kill the good subject, who supplicates God for the emperor? Were we disposed to return evil for evil, it were easy for us to revenge the injuries which we sustain. · But God forbid that his people should vindicate themselves by human fire; or be reluctant to endure that by which their sincerity is evinced. Were we disposed to act the part, I will not say of secret assassins, but of open enemies, should we want forces and numbers ? Are there not multitudes of us in every part of the world? It is true, we are but of yes

2

A. D. 235.

A. D. 202. · Euseb. vi. 1. So greatly did this persecution distress the universal church, that a writer on prophecy, at this period, declared it as his firm persuasion, that the time of Antichrist was at hand. Euseb. vi. 6.

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