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2. It is a remarkable circumstance, that the primitive christians, who sacrificed their ease, and, in many instances, their lives, to bless the world, were accused of hatred towards the human race. Multitudes in every province, and especially at Rome, were condemned, and destroyed without appeal, under the sole imputation of hating the gods and human kind. The causes of this unjust and inconsistent charge are founded in the new views and conduct, which the christian faith enjoined on its votaries. Rational as the gospel
prius discumbitur quam oratio ad deum prægustetur; editur quantum esurientes cupiunt; bibitur quantum pudicis est utile: ita saturantur, ut qui meminerint etiam per noctem adorandum deum sibi esse. Ita fabulantur ut qui sciant dominum audire. Post aquam manualem et lumina, ut quisque de scripturis sanctis, vel de proprio ingenio potest, provocatur in medium deo canere: hinc probatur quomodo biberit. Eque oratio convivium dirimit. Inde disceditur non in catervas cæsionum, neque in classes discursationum, nec in eruptiones lasciviarum, sed ad eandem curam modestiæ et pudicitiæ, ut qui non tam cœnam cœnaverint quam disciplinam, Apolog. c. 39. Josephus is particular in saying, that they blessed God both before and after meat, agxOMEVOL TE και παυόμενοι γεραίρουσιν τον θεον. Philo mentions it as their custom to sing a hymn, and to pray before they separated, and after separating, again to return to their accustomed pursuits. It is curious to remark that, when Tertullian wrote the above passage, he had the words of Philo before him; and he has done little more than translating them.
was in its principle, and salutary in its effects, its diffusion was attended with temporary evils and convulsions. The converts no longer joined in the worship of the gods; and they resigned not only the loose pleasures, but on many occasions the serious duties of life. The pagans were no less surprised than offended with the change; and their animosities disposed them to ascribe it to no other motive than enmity and hatred. Tacitus, so renowned for his integrity and political wisdom, is in the number of those who impute this charge to the early believers; and Philo acts the more just and honourable part of defending them from it. "They fix their habitations," says he, "in gardens and villages, seeking retirement, not from hatred of mankind, but to avoid the pernicious intercourse of those who differ from them in opinions and manners."*
3. The early christians were often so situated, that they were called upon to part with their faith or with their lives. When apprehended and arraigned, they had the sad alternative proposed to them, either to deny Christ, or to be
* Τειχων έξω ποιουνται τας διατριβας εν κήποις η μοναγρίοις ερημιαν μεταδιωκοντες· ου δια τινα, ωμην, επι τετηδευμενην μισανθρωπίαν, αλλα δια τας των ανομοίων το ήθος επιμιξίας, αλυσιτελείς και βλαβερας ειδότες,
exposed to a violent death. The Saviour foresaw the dreadful trial which awaited his followers; and he animates them to a perseverance in confessing him, by representing his acknowledgment of them as his disciples, in the presence of God, and of an assembled universe, as depending on the fortitude and openness, with which they should act on such trying occasions before men. "Whosoeyer shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven."
The sincere converts acted up to this hard condition of their faith, and justified the reasonableness and practicability of the precept, by following the example of their master. Josephus bears them the fullest testimony in this respect. They despise terrors," says he, "and triumph over suffering by the greatness of their minds, deeming death itself, if encountered with glory, to be preferable to immortality. The loftiness of soul, which they all possess, was evinced in the late war with the Romans, in which they were wrung and dismembered, and burnt and maimed, in order to curse their legislator, and to eat any of those things which are contrary to their customs. But they complied with neither of these terms; they ra
ther smiled under their pains, and submitted to every species of tortures without a tear: and so far were they from supplicating their tormentors, that they defied and derided them; being ready to deliver up their lives with cheerfulness, in full expectation that they shall again resume them."*
Christ admonished his disciples not to expose themselves to persecutions, which, consistently with prudence and integrity, they might avoid. This admonition was by no means unnecessary;
The sentiments, which could support the sufferers under such trials, are thus expressed in M. Felix, p. 338. Quam pulchrum spectaculum deo, cum christianus cum dolore congreditur, cum adversum minas, et supplicia et tormenta componitur? Cum strepitum mortis, et horrorem carnificis irridens insultat? Cum libertatem suam adversum reges et principes erigit? Soli deo, cujus est, cedit? Cum triumphator et victor ipsi, qui adversum se dixit, insultat? Vicit enim qui, quod contendit, obtinuit. Qui non miles sub oculis imperatoris audacius periculum provocet: nemo enim præmium percipit ante experimentum: et imperator tamen quod non habet, non dat. Non potest propagare vitam, potest honestare militiam. At enim dei miles, nec in dolore deseritur, nec morte finitur. Sic christianus miser videri potest, non potest inveniri. Et quot ex nostris non dexteram solum, sed totum corpus uri, cremari, sine ullis ejulati bus pertulerunt, cum demitti præsertim haberent in sua potestate. Pueri et mulierculæ nostræ, cruces, et tormenta, feras et omnes suppliciorum terriculas inspirata patientia doloris illudunt.
as many, not only among the Jews, but among the Gentiles, were disposed, in the ardour of their zeal and the constancy of their faith, to court rather than shun the violence which menaced them. And nothing surely was better calculated to prove, that the advocates of the new religion were not under the influence of mere obstinacy or blind fanaticism, as to use at once the skill of the serpent, and the innocence of the dove, in defending themselves and their cause; and then only to submit to deprivations, pain, and death, where these could no longer be retained, without forfeiting their honour and their hopes. The christians, indeed, had often the alternative offered of escaping disgrace and death by some trifling compliance with the genius of paganism, without renouncing their faith in Jesus. But they refused to purchase life itself by a handful of incense thrown on the altar of Jupiter, or by tasting a morsel of flesh forbidden by the law of Moses. Their persecutors, who were total strangers to the nature and effects of convincing evidence in matters of religion, were astonished at this inflexible adherence to principle, and branded it as an instance of stubbornness, which demanded the utmost rigour of punishment.
Pliny, in his well known letter to the Emperor Trajan, as well as Josephus, furnishes an unequivocal testimony, on the one hand, to the fide