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13. Arnobius, formerly a Heathen teacher of rhetoric at Sicca in Africa, flourished A. D. 306. In his first book against the Gentiles, he fpeaks thus: "Is not this an argument for our faith, that in so "little a space of time, the facraments of Chrift's great name are dif"fused over the world? that orators, grammarians, rhetoricians, "lawyers, phyficians, and philofophers, men of great genius, love "our religion, defpifing thofe things wherein before they trufted? "Slaves will rather fuffer torments for their mafters, wives fooner part with their hufbands, and children rather be difinherited by "their parents, than abandon the Christian faith.”

14. The emperor Julian, who obtained the purple A. D. 361, acknowledges, apud Cyrill. Lib. x. p. 327, that, in the days of John the Apostle, great numbers in many cities of Greece and Italy embraced the religion of Jefus, which, on account of its spreading nature, he calls a diftemper wherewithal people were feized. By the confeffion therefore of Julian himself, Chriftianity even in his time was no recent forgery, but had existence as early as the Chriftian records inform us.The fame Julian, in his letter to Arfakios, chief of the Pagan priefts in Galatia, which is the 49th epiftle, Oper. p. 429, gives an honourable teftimony to the practice of the ancient Chriftians. His words are, "Do we not fee what has "chiefly increased this impiety," fo he falfely calls the Chriftian religion their benevolence to ftrangers, their care to bury the "dead, and their feigned fanctity of life? every one of which ought "to be truly and carefully practifed by us. Not that this fanctity "is fufficient; but in general oblige all the priests in Galatia, by "threats or perfuafions, to be diligent, or difmifs them from the "prieftly function, if with their wives, children, and fervants, they "do not attend upon the gods, and do not hinder their fervants and "children, or their wives, who are Galileans, to behave impiously "towards their gods, and to prefer picty to impiety." Then he gives particular precepts concerning the behaviour of his priests, whom he would have formed upon the model of the Chriftian priests, as it would feem. For he fays, "Exhort each prieft not 66 to go to the theatre, not to drink in taverns, and to follow no bafe or infamous trades; and thofe who obey you, honour; and those "who difobey, banifh." Next, he orders houfes to be fet up for the entertainment of ftrangers, whether they were of the emperors religion or not, and fettles a revenue upon them; adding, "For "it is a fhame, feeing there is no beggar among the Jews, and "these impious Galileans maintain not only their own poor, but 66 ours, that the latter fhould be deftitute of the help we ought to "afford them."


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Thus, by a clear fucceffion of undoubted teftimonies, it appears that the Chriftian religion took its rife in Judea, as the Gofpels affirm; that it began in the reign of the emperor Tiberius, the time fixed for it in the Chriftian records; and that from Judea it immediately fpread itfelf into the neighbouring countries, and by degrees into all the provinces of the Roman empire, great multitudes every


where forfaking the religion of their ancestors for the fake of this better faith, and more perfect form of worship. It is therefore certain, that the world was converted to Christianity precifely at the time, and by the inftruments, we fuppofe.


Shewing that the Chriftian religion fpread itself into all countries under the fevereft perfecution.

IT is not fufficient to have fhewed, that Chriftianity began at the time mentioned in the Gofpels. We muft fhew likewise that in the firft ages mankind embraced our faith under perfecution. This fact, being of great importance in the prefent argument, merits particular attention; for which reason I have claffed the proofs of it by themselves. I must however obferve, that these proofs eftablish likewife the point handled in the preceding fection, namely, the antiquity of our religion, and the numeroufnefs of its difciples in the firft ages. It feems the heathen magiftrates, priefts, and philofophers, from the beginning, were jealous of our fect, on account of its numbers. And not knowing any other way to prevent the world from being over-run with the new principles, they rigorously perfecuted those who efpoufed them, in whatever province or corner they appeared. But though I am to fhew that the profeffors of the Chrif tian religion were from the beginning perfecuted in all countries, it is not my purpose to fpeak of the fufferings of the Apostles, and firft preachers of the Gofpel. These have been fufficiently explained already, B. III. C. III. § 3. What I propofe is, to demonftrate from history and other authentic evidence, that in the first ages the profeffion as well as the preaching of the Gofpels unanimously expofed men to manifold and great fufferings. The importance of the fubject requires that this proof be not flightly paffed over; for the perfecutions which the firft Chriftians fuftained, as we shall fee by and by, demonftrate that nothing but the strongest conviction could determine them to embrace Christianity. The Gofpelhistory was rendered indubitable by the teftimony and miracles of the Apostles, and of the rest of the eye-witneffes. People therefore did not fcruple to part with every thing, and to undergo every thing, for the fake of a religion fo clearly proved to be divine.


The enemies of revelation, fenfible of the force of this argument, have, upon I know not what foundation, infinuated or affirmed, that the fufferings of the first Chriftians were not fo great as they are commonly thought to have been. To this purpose, Mr. Voltaire, in his Effay on univerfal hiftory, vol. i. chap. 5. pag. 60. where, fpeaking of the Jews, he fays, "Having an implacable ha"tred to the profeffors of Chriftianity, they accufed them of being "the incendiaries who deftroyed fome part of Rome under the t emperor Nero. It was as unjuft to impute this accident to the "Chriftians as to Nero. Neither he, nor the Chriftians, nor the


"Jews, had any intereft in fetting Rome on fire. But there was a "neceffity for appeafing the populace, who had the fame deteftation "as the Jews for thofe ftrangers. A few poor wretches were facri"ficed to the public vengeance. This inftance of violence ought "not, I apprehend, to be reckoned among the perfecutions which "the Chriftians underwent on account of their faith: it had no"thing at all to do with their religion, which was not fo much as "known, and which the Romans confounded with Judaifm, then "under the protection of the laws.This is very certain, that it "was not the difpofition of the fenate to perfecute any man for his "opinion; that no emperor ever attempted to force the Jews to "change their religion, neither after the revolt in Vefpafian's reign, "nor that which broke out under Adrian. It is true, their wor"fhip was reviled and derided, and ftatues were erected in their "temple before its demolition. But never did emperor, procon"ful, or Roman fenate, dream of hindering the Jews from believ

ing the Mofaic law. This fingle reafon fhews what liberty the "Chriftians had to extend their religion in private. The Chriftians "were not molefted by any of the emperors till the reign of Do

mitian. Dion Caffius fays, that under this emperor, there were "fome people condemned as Atheists, and for imitating the man"ner of the Jews. It feems, that this oppreffion, of which we "have but very imperfect accounts, was neither long nor general. "We cannot exactly tell why fome perfons were exiled, nor why "they were recalled.-Nerva, Vefpafian, Titus, Trajan, Adrian, " and the Antoninuses, were not perfecutors. Trajan, having pro"hibited all private affemblies, wrote notwithstanding to Pliny: "You must make no inquiry after the Chriftians.' These words "fufficiently prove, that they might conceal themfelves, and exer"cife their religion with prudence, though through the malice of the "priests and the hatred of the Jews they were frequently carried be"fore the magiftrates and punished. The people, and especially "the people of the provinces, hated the Chriftians. They incited "the magiftrates against them, and were for having them expofed "to wild beafts in the circus. The emperor Adrian not only gave "ftrict charge to Fondanus the proconful of Afia Minor, not to "perfecute them, but his orders exprefsly mention, That if the "Chriftians were flandered, the flanderer fhould be feverely punish"ed.' This regard to juftice in Adrian, made fome people falfely (C imagine, that this emperor was a Chriftian. But would he, who " erected a temple to Antinous, erect one to Jefus Chrift? Marcus "Aurelius ordained, that the Chriftians should not be perfecuted on "the account of religion. Caracalla, Heliogabalus, Alexander, "Philip, Galien, openly protected them; therefore they had full"leifure to extend their doctrine, and to ftrengthen their infant "church." Nugent's tranflation.

In oppofition to thefe falfe colourings and violent contradictions of truth, I place the following clear and authentic teftimonies, many of them furnished by the heathens themselves, whereby it will ap



pear, that from the very beginning the Chriftians were perfecuted exprefsly on account of their religion; that in thefe perfecutions infinite multitudes fuffered death, that the evils which followed the profeffion of the Gospel were not confined to a particular province or feafon; but were met with in every country, and continued for the space of three hundred years.

The first and moft ancient fufferings of the Chriftians are those which they underwent from the inferior magiftrates, from the priests, and from the populace in every country, immediately upon their embracing the Gofpel. It would be tedious, and indeed needlefs, to recount all the inftances mentioned in the Chriftian records. The general appeals made there concerning those evils, will give a juft enough idea of them. For example, the Chriftians in Judea fuffered great afflictions immediately on receiving the Gospel, Heb. x. 32. "But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after


ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; 33. "Partly whilft ye were made a gazing-stock, both by reproaches " and afflictions; and partly whilft ye became companions of them "that were fo ufed. 34. For ye had compaffion of me in my bonds,


and took joyfully the fpoiling of your goods, knowing in yourfelves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring fubftance.' So likewife the churches of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Afia, and Bithynia, 1 Pet. iv. 12.. "Beloved, think it not ftrange concern

ing the fiery trial, which is to try you, as though fome ftrange thing happened unto you. 13. But rejoice in as much as ye are "partakers of the fufferings of Chrift.-15. But let none of you "fuffer as a murderer, &c. 16. Yet if any man fuffer as a Chrif"tian, let him not be afhamed; but let him glorify God on this "behalf." And the churches of Macedonia, 2 Cor. viii. 1. "Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God be"stowed on the churches of Macedonia: 2. How that in a great

trial of affliction, the abundance of their joy, and their deep po"verty, abounded unto the riches of their liberality." And the church at Theffalonica, 2 Theff. i. 4. "So that we our felves glory "in you in the churches of God, for your patience and faith in all ́ "your perfecutions and tribulations that ye endure." 1 Theff. ii. 14.

For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God, "which in Judea are in Chrift Jefus: for ye alfo have fuffered like "things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews. << 15. Who both killed the Lord Jefus, and their own prophets, "and have perfecuted us." And the church at Corinth, 2 Cor. i. 6. "And whether we be afflicted, it is for your confolation and fal"vation, which is effectual in the enduring of the fame fufferings "which we alfo fuffer:-7. And our hope of you is ftedfaft, know"ing that as you are partakers of the fufferings, fo fhall ye be allo "of the confolation." 2 Tim. iii. 12. "Yea, and all that will

live godly in Chrift Jefus, fhall fuffer perfecution." The Apostle Paul acknowledges, that he himself had been a violent perfecutor of the apoftles and difciples of Chrift, 1 Tim. i.. 12-" putting me

into the miniftry; 13. Who was before a blafphemer, and a per"fecutor, and injurious. But I obtained mercy, becaufe I did it "ignorantly in unbelief:" And more fully in his defence before Agrippa; a paffage worthy of particular notice, because it shews how great and general the perfecution was which the Chriftians fuffered in Judea from the beginning. Such was the miferable condition into which all the firft Chriftians were brought by their belief and profeffion of the Gospel. Against this proof offered, I do not fee what can be objected. The early publication of the writings wherein these things are mentioned, renders them fufficiently credible; becaufe, if the Gospel had not expofed its profeffors to fufferings, all men must immediately have been fenfible of the falfehood of these affirmations, and have rejected the books which contained them. Befides, what purpofe could it ferve, for the Chriftians to speak of themfelves as defpifed, afflicted, and perfecuted every where? Such reprefentations of the confequences of the Chriftian profession could allure no new profelytes; and as for the old ones, they would rather be difgufted than pleafed with fuch things. Not to mention that this was the ready way to raise their fears, and tempt them to apoftatize. It is evident, therefore, that these affecting reprefentations of the' miferies to which the firft Chriftians were fubjected, proceeded from no other cause but truth alone.

However, we do not depend upon the Chriftian records alone for our knowledge of this important fact, that the difciples of Jesus were every where perfecuted in the early ages: it is attefted likewife by a variety of heathen writers, who inform us farther, that the preCevalence of the Chriftian religion excited the jealousy of the Roman emperors themselves; and that, to ftop it, they raised furious perfecutions against its abettors. The fact is certain, that the laws for perfecuting the difciples of Jefus were iffued by the Roman emperors, confequently thefe perfecutions were extended to the whole empire; and they were put in execution by the governors of the provinces, often with great cruelty. Thefe perfecutions are reckoned to have been ten in number; for so many were the general more violent and known perfecutions. Nevertheless, it is certain, that during the firft three centuries, the Chriftians were continually haraffed in one province of the empire or other. The heat and extent of the persecutions indeed were fometimes abated, according to the humanity of a particular emperor, and the moderation of this or that governor. But the laws against the Chriftians were never repealed till the reign of Conftantine, who, by declaring himself of our religion, put an end to all the hardships which our fathers had for fo many ages fuf


I. The first perfecution of the Chriftians was raised by the emperor Nero, A. D. 65, that is, about thirty years after our Lord's death. Concerning this perfecution, we have the teftimony of Tacitus and Suetonius, who, being both of them Roman citizens and heathens, are witneffes of unfufpected credit. Tacitus is fuppofed to have been fifteen years old at the death of Nero, A. D. 67, and VOL. V. P


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