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charges, and to bear his testimony against them; and this he has done in the most emphatic manner:-"Before a member," says he, "can be admitted into their communion, he pledges himself by a most awful oath to cultivate piety towards God; to maintain justice towards men, always to shun the wicked, and to co-operate with the virtuous; to be faithful to all men, and especially to men in power; for these, they think, receive their authority from the appointment of God. He farther binds himself that, if power be placed in his hands, he will not abuse it; that he will not endeavour to out-shine those in subordination to him, by splendour of dress, or any superfluous ornaments; that he will stedfastly adhere to the truth, and reprehend those who are guilty of falsehood; that he will keep his hands clear from theft, and his soul from unlawful gains," &c. J. W. lib. ii. c. 8. 7.
The malicious rumours circulated against the christians operated upon them as a salutary caution against admitting, promiscuously into their societies, such persons as had insidious or interested views, and were likely, by their subsequent conduct, to disgrace them. To the prudence thus bought by experience, we owe the precautions noticed by Pliny and Josephus. The testimonies of these writers corroborate each
other in a remarkable manner; and it appears to me surprising, that the great similarity which subsists in the language used by them, had not induced critics to suspect, that they both must have had in view the same people in different situations. The assertion of the Jewish historian, that the Esseans were faithful to all men, and especially to men in power, as thinking their authority of divine appointment, was calculated to shelter them from the imputation of being enemies to Cæsar, and disturbers of the state. The same assertion is made by the apostle Paul himself, in his Epistle to the Romans. His object, like that of Josephus, was to state the consistence of civil obedience with their attachment to Christ; and to preclude the charge of treason and rebellion, by a suitable submission to the magistrate in temporal affairs.
It seems the general opinion of divines, that the believers, forewarned by the predictions of Jesus, had left Jerusalem before the commencement of the Jewish war, and that consequently they did not suffer the horrors incurred by the rest of that community. The following passage of Josephus, containing an important but an indirect information, sets aside the common opinion as erroneous. "The loftiness of soul which they all possess, was evinced in the late war with the Romans; in which they were wrung and dis
membered, and burnt and maimed, in order to blaspheme their legislator, and to eat any of those things which are contrary to their customs. But they complied with neither of those terms; they rather smiled under their tortures, and submitted to every species of torment 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, as convinced that they shall again receive them." J. W. lib. II. c. viii. 10.
The believers, in the first and second centuries, rejected in general, not only the lucrative concerns of the state, but every station in the army, though the most honourable as inconsistent with their allegiance to Jesus, and the beneficent spirit of his religion. Hence Philo says of them, "None among them can be found that manufac tures darts, arrows, swords, breast-plates, or even such weapons as might be converted to bad purposes in the time of peace; much less do they engage in any of those arts which are useful in war." This feature, in the character of the early christians, is very unfairly stated by Gibbon, who falsely imputes it to a pusillanimous spirit, and to a secret expectation, that the Roman empire would soon be no more. "The christians," says he, "were not less averse to the business than to the pleasures of this world. The defence
of our persons and property they knew not how to reconcile with the patient doctrine, which enjoined an unlimited forgiveness of past injuries, and commanded them to invite the repetition of fresh insults. Their simplicity was offended by the use of oaths, by the pomp of magistracy, and by the active contention of public life, nor could their humane ignorance be convinced, that it was lawful on any occasion to shed the blood of our fellow-creatures, either by the sword of justice or that of war; even though their criminal and hostile attempts should threaten the peace and safety of the whole community.While they inculcated the maxims of passive obedience, they refused to take any active part in the civil administration, or the military defence of the empire. Some indulgence might, perhaps, be allowed to those persons who, before their conversion, were already engaged in such violent and sanguinary occupations; but it was impossible that the christians, without renouncing a more sacred duty, could assume the character of soldiers, of magistrates, or of princes. This indolent or even criminal disregard to the public welfare exposed them to the contempt, and to the reproaches of the pagans, who very frequently asked, what must be the fate of the empire, attacked on every side by the barbarians, if all mankind should adopt the pusillanimous sentiments of the
new sect. To this insulting question, the christian apologists returned obscure and ambiguous answers, as they were unwilling to reveal the secret cause of their security; the expectation that, before the conversion of mankind was accomplished, war, government, the Roman empire, and the world itself would be no more." Vol. II. c. 15.
This historian is, I believe, the first who accounts for the peaceful conduct of the early believers on the principle here stated. Their enemies, in ancient times, ascribed it to a motive very different, but equally false and uncandid, namely, the hatred which they were said to cherish towards mankind. Philo and Josephus were far more competent judges than Gibbon could be of the primitive believers; and these writers, in the most equivocal manner, impute their reluctance to bear arms, to their great humanity, to their love of peace and order, to their unsurmountable aversion to become instrumental in propagating misery and desolation. The insulting question above specified was undoubtedly put by the pagans from the most early times; and Josephus meets it by shewing, that, while the Esseans, as far as it was possible, lived in peace with all mankind, they did not decline to engage in war when inevitably brought upon them; that, instead of receding, they stood at their post in defence of their country, when