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falfehood was reported of him, no doubt can now-a-days be reafon ably entertained concerning this hiftory; especially as the belief of it was attended with no advantage, but rather expofed people to all manner of perfonal fufferings.-Before I offer the particulars whereby the reader will be enabled to form a proper notion of the converfion of the world, and of the importance of the argument refulting therefrom, it will be neceffary to propofe the hiftorical evidence upon which we believe, not only that this aftonishing revolution in the religious opinions of mankind actually happened, but that it was effected by the perfons at the time, and in the manner, wherein we affirm it came to pass.
Teftimonies from heathen authors, proving that the Chriftian religion took its rife in Judea, and that the world was converted at the time we Suppose.
EVERY one knows that the Gospels have fixed the origin of the Chriftian religion to the reign of Tiberius. Agreeably to this re prefentation, there is not to be found, prior to the reign of Tiberiu the fmalleft veftige of Chriftianity, nor the leaft trace of any fect feting itself in oppofition, whether to the fuperftition of the Jews, pr to the idolatry of the Gentiles. Till then, Jews and Gentiles enjoyed the peaceable poffeffion of their respective religions. But from that period downwards, in all kinds of books, there is mention made of the Chriftian fect, of their opinions, of their numbers, of their endeavours to fubvert the established religions, and of the perfecutions they underwent on that score; of their conftancy in fufferings; and of the general establishment of their faith throughout the Roman empire.
The account which the Chriftian record, entitled, "Acts of the "Apoftles," gives of the origin, progrefs, and ftate of Chriftianity in the first ages, is, that this faith took its rife in Judea, the country which was the scene of our Lord's miniftry; that it began at the time in which the Gofpels fay Jefus lived; that the preachers and profeffors of this new religion were feverely perfecuted, firft in Jude, and then in the different provinces of the Roman empire; that, no withstanding this, Chriftianity fpread itself quickly into all the noted towns of Afia, Greece, and Italy: that Rome itself was early bleffed with the light of the Gospel, and cherished many converts to the new faith; laftly, that in a fhort time our religion fpread itself, upon the ruins of idolatry, through all the provinces of the Roman empire.
This account of the origin, progrefs, and ftate of Chriftianity is highly worthy of credit, notwithstanding it is given by a Chriftian writer, who was himself the author of one of the Gof pels. The reafon is, it agrees with, and is confirmed by, the teftimony of the Roman hiftorians of that age, and is not contradicted by any of thofe learned men, who in the infancy of Chrif→ tianity
tianity wrote against the cause itself, or against its abettors. To fhew this, is the defign of the prefent fection.
1. First of all, then, Suetonius reprefents the Chriftians to have been very numerous in Rome, fo early as the reign of Claudius, who fucceeded to the empire A. D. 41. about feven years after our Lord's death. Claud. cap. 25. << Judæos, impulfore Chrifto, affidue tumultuantes," &c. But of this teftimony enough has been faid, B. II. C. III. § I. p. 299.
2. Tacitus likewife, who wrote about thirty years after our Lord's death, tells us that Chrift was the founder of the Chriftian religion, that he lived in Judea under the reign of Tiberius, that he had many difciples, and that he was put to death by the procurator Pontius Pilate. See the original paffage with remarks in the following fection, Art. I.
3. Arrian was the difciple of Epictetus, the Stoic philofopher, who lived at Rome in the reign of Nero, about 25 years after our Lord's death. Wherefore both the mafter and the fcholar being contemporary with Peter and Paul, they may have feen these apoftles in Rome. This Arrian, in the fecond book of his Commentary upon Epictetus, Manual, chap. ix. towards the end, fpeaks of baptized and elected perfons, whom he calls Jews; but who, from the circumftance of their baptifm and election, must have been converted to Christianity; and tells us, that in their conduct they were always fteady to their principles, infomuch that when a man's practice did not correfpond with his profeffions, the common faying was, he is not a Jew or Chriftan, but a diffembler.
4. Juftin Martyr, in his Dialogue with Trypho, which he committed to writing about the year 146, defcribes the progrefs of Chrif tianity as follows. "There is no nation, whether of Barbarians, or "Greeks, or any others, what names foever they are called by, "whether they live in waggons, or without houfes, or in tents, "among whom prayers are not made and thanksgiving offered up to "the Father and Creator of all, through the name of the crucified "Jefus." Dial. p. 345.
5. Lucian the Syrian philofopher, who lived under Adrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius, about 120 years after Chrift's death, in his hiftory of the death of Peregrinus, having told how this philofopher joined the Chriftians in Palcftine, and became a man of great note among them, adds, that, "having been taken into cuf"tody on the fcore of his new doctrine, this mishap did much con"tribute to his glory, and helped to bring him into credit. For
upon this news the Chriftians, who of his private distress made "their public calamity, began to fet heaven and earth at work, for the "endeavouring to procure his enlargement; which feeing they could "not bring about, they paid him all the devoirs imaginable, by way "of fweetening and mollifying his imprisonment. A whole troop of "old women, widows, and orphans, were feen by break of day at his "prifon door; and the principal paffed the nights with him, after having corrupted the jailer. They banqueted there too, and cele
"brated their myfteries; and deputies came thither from their "churches of Afia, for the affuring him of the grief they lay under "on his account, and for the offering him their affiftance. For it is "almost incredible what care and diligence they use on such occafions, "fparing nothing for the relieving one another in neceffity: infomuch "that they fent him money from all parts on this pretext; and this "their charity proved to him a vast revenue. In a word, thofe mife❝rable creatures defpife all things and death itself in hopes of immor"tality, and offer themselves willingly to punishments. For their
firft legiflator made them believe they are all brethren, when once "they have renounced our religion! and that adoring their cruci"fied Saviour, they live according to the laws (namely of their "own religion) so as they defpife all, and believe all is in common, "receiving his dogmas with a blind obedience." Spence's tranflation. From this teftimony it plainly appears how numerous the Chriftians were in Lucian's time, not much above 100 years after Chrift's death. In this likewife the crucifixion of Jefus is acknowledged; he is called by the name of Saviour; the attachment of his difciples to his doctrines and precepts is fhewed; and their behaviour towards one another is defcribed; and all in a manner very conformable to the reprefentation given of these things in the books of the New Teftament: on which account this is juftly esteemed a very valuable relick of antiquity.The fame Lucian, in his Pfeudomantis, informs us, that the Chriftians of Pontus having fet about expofing Alexander's imposture, he complained that Pontus was full of them. His words are, "When feveral wife men had difcovered the
cheat, and particularly the philofophers of the Epicurean fect, he "exclaimed, that all the country was filled with Chriftians and blafphemers, who fowed calumnies against him; and commanded "that the people fhould ftone them, if they expected the favour " and bleffing of God upon their land." Spence's tranflation, p. 255. The Epicureans and Chriftians, it feems, agreed in this, that both of them were active in expofing the folly of the commonly practifed worship. Hence, by the bigoted heathens, they were always joined together. -Moreover, Lucian tells us, that the Chriftians were every where the objects of public odium, and that they were ranked with Atheists, as being equally impious. For, in his account of the myfteries celebrated in Pontus by Alexander, he fays, the Chriftians were excluded along with Atheists and Epicureans, by a folemn proclamation, the form of which was the fame with that ufed at Athens in the celebration of the mysteries there. "He had alfo inftituted a kind of fociety or fraternity, wherein they "carried torches with various ceremonies, which lafted for three "whole days. On the first they proclaimed as they do at Athens: "If there be any Epicurean, or Chriftian, or Atheift, who is come "to make a mock of our myfteries, let him depart; but let the true believers be initiated in God's name." Then he, marching in the front, cried out, "Hence, ye Chriftians! and the whole mul
Hence, ye Epicureans!" Spence's tranfla
6. The emperor Marcus Aurelius, who fucceeded to the empire A. D. 161, in his Meditations, Lib. xi. § 3. speaks of the Chriftians as exifting in his time, and mentions their fortitude in fufferings, calling it obftinacy. For, defcribing the condition of the foul of a virtuous man, he reprefents it as ready to be feparated from the body, or to be extinguished, or to be diffipated, or to exift a while longer : then adds, "That it is thus prepared, muft proceed from its own proper judgment, and not from pure obftinacy, as is the cafe with "the Chriftians.'
7. Galen the phyfician, who was born at Pergamus A. D. 131, in the reign of the emperor Adrian, has fpoken alfo of the Chriftians, and of the firmnefs wherewith they maintained their faith. Says he, "One may fooner prevail with the followers of Mofes and Chrift to "change their principles, than with thofe phyficians and philofo"phers who are engaged in fects."
8. Irenæus, in his Treatife againft Herefies, which, according to Dodwell, he published A. D. 176, has accidentally described the ftate of the church in his time, by obferving that "the Chriftian religion "was diffused through the whole earth to the very ends of it." This is the more to be remarked, confidering that the perfecutions had been fo very fharp and numerous, and of long continuance, and fo clofe on the back of one another.
9. Tertullian, in his Apology, publifhed A. D. 200, gives an account of the prevalence of the Chriftian faith in his time. For, addreffing himself to the Roman governors, probably the proconful in Africa, and the chief magiftrate refiding in Carthage, he fays, Apologet. c. 37. "We are but of yesterday: neverthelefs we have "filled every thing belonging to you; cities, iflands, villages, free "boroughs, affembling places, the armies themselves, the wards, "the rolls of judges, the palace, the fenate: we leave to you no"thing but the temples."-The fame author, adverf. Judæos, cap. 7. affirms that all the nations had believed in Chrift," Par"thians, Medes, Elamites, and those who inhabit Mefopotamia, "Armenia, Phrygia, Capadocia, and the inhabitants of Pontus, "and Afia, and Pamphilia; they who tarry in Egypt, and they "who inhabit the region of Africa, beyond Cyrene, both Romans "and natives. Likewife the Jews in Jerufalem, and the other na❝tions: fo that already the various tribes of Getuli, and the many "countries of the Moors, and all the provinces of Spain, and the "different nations of Gaul, and the parts of Britain inacceffible to "the Romans, are now fubject to Chrift: and the Sarmatians, and "Dacians, and Germans, and Scythians, and many remote nations "and provinces, and many iflands to us unknown, which we can"not enumerate, in all which places the name of Chrift, who is al"ready come, reigns."
10. Porphyry likewife, the Tyrian philofopher, in the life which he wrote of his mafter Plotinus, who was born in the 13th year of
the emperor Severus, A. D. 206, informs us, that while Plotinus lived in Rome, whither he came in the fortieth year of his age, A. D. 246, there were many Chriftians in the city. De vitâ
Plotin. c. 16.
11. Cornelius was bishop of Rome in the time of the Decian perfecution, A. D. 251. He, writing to Cyprian bishop of Carthage, gives the following account of the church at Rome. "We have in
this place forty-four prefbyters, feven deacons, and as many sub"deacons; and widows, and other perfons maintained by the "church, fifteen hundred." Eufeb. Eccl. Hift. Lib. vi. C. 43. Now fuppofing every twentieth perfon to have received maintenance, there will have been no less than thirty thousand Chriftians in Rome at this time. A vaft number, confidering that, the emperors having their ufual refidence in this city, their edicts for perfecution must have been executed with the utmoft rigour, under their eye, and by their direction.
12. Lampridius, a Heathen writer, who flourished in the reign of Dioclefian, A. D. 290, tells us, that the emperor Alexander Severus, who obtained the purple A. D. 222, had the image of Chrift in his private chapel, and would have built him a temple, and admitted him among the gods, as he fays Adrian, who became emperor A. D. 117, intended to have done, had not the priests affured him, from their divination, that it would make all the world Chriftians, and cause the other temples to be deferted. His words are: "If he had
leifure in the morning, he worshipped in his private chapel, "wherein he had the deified emperors, making choice however of "the beft. There alfo he had the more holy fouls, among whom 66 was Apollonius, and, as a writer of that age fays, Chrift, Abraham, and Orpheus, and fuch like Gods; alfo the image of his ancestors.. He intended to build Chrift a temple, and to re"ceive him among the gods; which Adrian likewife is faid to have "defigned, who in every city caufed temples to be raised without "images, which, because they had no gods, are at this day called "Adriani. These temples he is faid to have prepared for the end "now mentioned; but he was hindered by thofe who, having con"fulted the aufpices, found that if what he propofed were accom"plished, all men would become Chriftians, and the other temples "would be deferted." Lamprid. apud Hift. Auguft. Script. p. 439. D. p. 351. E. Adrian began to conceive a favourable opinion of Christianity, about the beginning of the fecond century, that is, in the very infancy of the Gofpel. It feems, mankind thus early fhewed fo ftrong a difpofition to embrace our faith, that the emperor judged it good policy to adopt it into the fyftem of religions profeffed throughout the empire. But the Heathen priefts foreseeing, that if this honour was conferred upon Chriftianity, the whole world would embrace it, and the temples be deferted, diverted the emperor from kis purpofe, by feigning that the gods had given them premonition of the direful confequences.