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stood this matter the best of any, fairly owns, that the Jews and Christians brought the execration of the world upon them, by their aversion to the gods of paganism, and their refusal of all communication with them." But to proceed.
From what took place in the province of Bithynia, under the government of the mild and amiable Pliny, a tolerably correct judgment may be formed of the state of Christianity during the reign of Trajan, in every other part of the empire.
While Pliny was thus conducting matters in Bithynia, the province of Syria was under the government of Tiberianus. There is still extant a letter which he addressed to Trajan, in which he says, “I am quite wearied with punishing and destroying the Galilæans, or those of the sect called Christians, according to your orders. Yet they never cease to profess voluntarily, what they are, and to offer themselves to death. Wherefore I have laboured by exhortations and threats, to discourage them from daring to confess to me, that they are of that sect. Yet, in spite of all persecution, they continue still to do it. Be pleased therefore to inform me, what your highness thinks proper to be done with them." +
The stated returns of the public games and festivals were generally attended by calamitous events to the Christians. “On those occasions, the inhabitants of the great cities of the empire were collected in the great circus of the theatre, where every circumstance of the place, as well as of the ceremony, contributed to kindle their devotion and to extinguish their humanity. Whilst the numerous spectators, crowned with garlands, perfumed with incense, purified with the blood of victims, and surrounded with the altars and statues of their tutelar
• Divine Legation of Moses, vol. ii. b. ii. $ 6. &c.
deities, resigned themselves to the enjoyment of pleasures, which they considered as an essential part of their religious worship; they recollected, that the Christians alone abhorred the gods of mankind, and by their absence and melancholy on those solemn festivals, seemed to insult or to lament the public felicity. If the empire had been afflicted by any recent calamity, by a plague, a famine, or an unsuccessful war; if the Tyber had, or if the Nile had not, risen beyond its banks; if the earth had shaken, or if the temperate order of the seasons had been interrupted, the superstitious pagans were convinced that the crimes and the impiety of the Christians, who were spared by the excessive lenity of the government, had at length provoked the divine justice.* It was not among a licentious and exasperated populace, that the forms of legal proceedings could be observed; it was not in an amphitheatre, stained with the blood of wild beasts and gladiators, that the voice of compassion could be heard. The impatient clamours of the multitude denounced the Christians as the enemies of god and men, doomed them to the severest tortures, and venturing to accuse by name, some of the most distinguished of the new sectaries, required, with irresistible vehemence, that they should be instantly apprehended and cast to the lions.”+
Inveterate as were the prejudices of this classical 'vistorian against the Christians, it seems he could condescend occasionally to borrow a striking thought or a brilliant sentence from their writings. The reader may compare the above quotation with the following extract from Tertullian's Apology.
"If the city be besieged, if any thing happen ill in the fields, in the garrisons, in the lands, immediately they (the Pagans) cry out, “ Tis because of the Christians.” Our enemies thirst after the blood of the indocent, cloaking their hatred with this silly pretence, “ That the Christians ore the cause of all public calamities.” If the Tyber flows up to the walls -if the river Nile do not overflow the fields—if the heavens alter their course—if there be an earthquake, a famine, a plague, immediately the cry is “Aunty with the Christians to the lions.” APOL. cap. 1. Operum, p. 17.
+ Gibbon's Decline, vol. 2. ch. 16. VOL. I.
About the time that Pliny wrote his celebrated letter, Trajan, who was then entering upon the Parthian war, arrived at Antioch in Syria. Ignatius was at that time one of the pastors of the church there; a man of exemplary piety, and “ in all things like to the apostles.” During the emperor's stay at Antioch, the city was almost entirely ruined by an earthquake. It was preceded by violent claps of thunder, unusual winds, and a dreadful noise under ground. Then followed so terrible a shock, that the earth trembled, several houses were overturned, and others tossed to and fro, like a ship at sea. The noise of the cracking and bursting of the timber, and of the falling of the houses, drowned the cries of the dismayed populace. Those who happened to be in their houses were, for the most part, buried under their ruins; such as were walking in the streets and in the squares, were, by the violence of the shock, dashed against each other, and most of them killed or dangerously wounded. Trajan himself was much hurt, but escaped through a window out of the house in which he was. When the earthquake ceased, the voice of a woman was heard crying under the ruins, which being removed, she was found with a sucking child in her arms, whom she kept alive, as well as herself, with her milk.
The eminent station of Ignatius, and the popularity which generally attends superior talents, marked him out as the victim of imperial fury on the occasion. He was seized, and by the emperor's order sent from Antioch to Rome, where he was exposed to the fury of wild beasts in the theatre, and by them devoured. About the same time, Simeon, the son of Cleopas, who had succeeded the apostle James, as pastor of the church originally gathered in Jerusalem, but which, at the time of its destruction, removed to a small town called Pella, was accused, before Atticus, the Roman governor, of being a
Christian. He was then an hundred and twenty years old, but his hoary hairs were no protection to him under the charge of professing Christianity. He endured the punishment of scourging, for many days; but though his hardiness astonished, his sufierings failed to excite the pits of his persecutors, and he was, at length, ordered to be crucified.
This state of things, which is commonly termed the third persecution, seems to have continued during the whole of Trajan's reign; for it does not appear that his edicis against the Christians were revoked during his life, which, after having swayed the imperial sceptre 19 years, was closed in the year 117, while prosecuting his great military expedition into the east.
THE SUBJECT CONTINUED.
The state of the Christian profession under the reigns of
Adrian and the Antonines. A. D. 117--180.
The persecuting edicts, which had been issued against the Christians, under the former emperors, continued unrepealed when Adrian was raised to the throne of the Cæsars. The law of Trajan, of which I have taken notice in the foregoing section, and which had been registered among the public edicts of the empire, had in some degree ameliorated the state of matters. « The Christians were not to be officiously sought after;" but still, such as were accused and convicted of an adherence to Christianity were to be put to death as wicked citizens, if they did not return to the religion of their ancestors.
l'ader the reign of Adrian, the empire flourished in
peace and prosperity. He encouraged the arts, re formed the laws, enforced military discipline, and visited all his provinces in person. His Fast and active genius was equally suited to the most enlarged views, and the minute details of civil policy; but the ruling passions of his soul were curiosity and vanity. As they prevailed, and as they were attracted by different objects, Adrian was, by turns, an excellent prince, a ridiculous sophist, or a jealous tyrant. After his death, the senate doubted wbetter they should pronounce him a god or a tyrant, and the honours decreed to his memory were granted to the pray. ers of his successor, the pious Antoninus.*
In the sixth year of his reign, Adrian came to Atbeas, where he was initiated in the Elecsinian mysteries. Tertullian describes him as a man excessively curiozs and inquisitive-curiositatum omnium explorator)-his knowledge was various and extensive-he had studied all the arts of magic, and was passionately fond of the pagan institutions. At the time of his visiting Athens, Quadratus was pastor of the Christian church in that city, having succeeded Publius, who suffered martyrdom either in this or the foregoing reign. It seems likely that this church had undergone a severe persecetion, for we are informed that when Quadratus took the oversight of them, he found the flock in a dispersed and confused state; their public assemblies were neglected; their zeal was become languid, and they were in danger of being wholly scattered. Quadratus laboured indefatigably to recover them, and he succeeded. Order and discipline were restored, insomuch that at a subsequent period, when Origen wrote his treatise against Celsus, he adduces the church at Athens as a notable pattern of good order, constancy, meekness and quietness.
• Gibboo's Rome, vol. i. ch. 3.