Изображения страниц

‘ all men may be fully persuaded of our piety and provident * concern in this matter.” Eusebius said, as quoted above, that now Maximin “gave ‘full and complete liberty to the christians.’ And, indeed, this edict, so far as it relates to the christians, is conformable to the edict of Constantine and Licinius, before exhibited. I have nothing farther to add here, but that,” according to the computation of learned critics, Maximin died, as already hinted, in the month of August, in the year 313. XII. I have now recited at length all the edicts concerning the persecution of Dioclesian. There are two inscriptions in 4 Gruter, relating to it, in which it is intimated, that in the times of ‘Dioclesian, and * Maximian Herculius, and Galerius, the name of the chris“tians, who had overthrown the republic, was extirpated.’ And again, ‘ that the superstition of the christians was every ‘where extirpated, and the worship of the gods restored.’ I shall put down those two inscriptions at length, in the Latin original. They are said to have been found in Spain, at a place called Clunia, which was a Roman colony.

Cluniae in Hisp. in pulchra columna.






P Baluzius recte in Notis observat non statim mortuum esse Maximinum ac Tarsum pervenit, Sed aliquanto tempore gravissimos dolores sustinuisse, sicque non videri, eum ante mensem Augustum periise. Wide quae ibidem sequuntur. Pagi ann. 314. num. viii.

Il mourut, vers le mois d'Aoûst à Tarse dans Cilicie. Tillem. Persécution de Dioclétien art. 48. Mem. E. T. v. p. 117. Paris.

* Ap. Gruter. p. 280. * Wide Cellarii Geogr. Antiq. l. ii. cap. 1.

[ocr errors][merged small]

XIII. I think it may not be improper to add some concluding observations upon this persecution. Mr. Mosheim will furnish me with some; after which I may subjoin others of my own.

Obs. 1. This persecution might as properly, or more properly, be called Maximian's as Dioclesian's. It is evident from * Caecilius, and from " Eusebius, that Maximian Galerius was the first mover in this design. He seems to own as much himself, at Y the beginning of the edict published by him in favour of the christians, a short time before his death. Caecilius, in his book Of the Deaths of Persecutors, has largely related, how " Galerius urged Dioclesian to it: who “ for some while objected to it, alleging the great disturbances which it might occasion in the empire. And it is allowed, that the persecution did not begin till the 19th year of Dioclesian's reign, before which time many christians were admitted to posts of honour, near the emperor's person, and in the provinces. Moreover, in the third year of the persecution, Dioclesian resigned, and concerned himself no longer in the affairs of the empire. However, it must be acknowledged, that he joined and concurred in the several edicts against the christians, which were published in the first two years of the persecution. Nory do we aim to acquit him of all guilt in this affair : but only to mitigate the reflections which have been cast upon him both in former and later times. Dioclesian was timorous and superstitious; but it does not appear that he delighted in cruelty. Obs. 2. In the first edict for the persecution, as we learn $rom * Eusebius, the sacred scriptures were ordered to be burnt; and so far as we know, this is the first imperial edict of that kind. Mr. Mosheim suspects, that" Hierocles, or some other learned men, were the contrivers of this malignant order, and suggested it to the emperors. Mr. Mosheim is also of opinion, that" ecclesiastical history has greatly suffered by it. The precept in the edict might speak only of sacred books, or scriptures. But the officers employed in the execution, when they searched for sacred books, would lay hold of any writings, which they found in the places of christian worship, or in the habitations of bishops or other christians. The copies of the sacred books of the Old and the New Testament were now so numerous, that they could not be all found and destroyed. But of some Acts of Martyrs, Registers of church-affairs, Epistles of Bishops to each other, there might be few copies only, or perhaps one alone. If such papers were seized and thrown into the flames, they were irrecoverably lost. Those observations are from Mr. Mosheim. I shall now add two or three others. Obs. 3. Dioclesian's persecution was very grievous: indeed, it was the longest and the worst that the christians had ever endured. This may appear from the particulars alleged above from Eusebius, though my accounts have

* Quae a Diocletiano nomen habet decennis, et omnium atrocissima christianorum vexatio, rectius Maximiana vocanda esset. Etsi enim Diocletianus, fraudibus sacerdotum deceptus, injuriarum aliquid christianis in aulá degentibus, et castra sequentibus, intulit, leges etiam deinde in eos rogavit; certum tamen est, præcipuum hujus calamitatis auctorem generum ejus, Maximianum Galerium, fuisse. De Reb. Christian. p. 916.

* De M. P. cap. 10, 11, 12. * H. E. l. viii. cap. 16. p. 314. D.

* Vid. De M. P. cap. 34. in. Euseb. H. E. l. viii. cap. 17. p. 316.

w Deinde, interjecto aliquantotempore in Bithyniam venit hiematum [Diocletianus:] eodemgue tempore Maximianus quoque Caesar inflammatus Scelere advenit, ut ad persequendos christianos instigaret Senem Vanum, qui jam principium fecerat. De M. P. cap. 10.

* Ergo habito inter se per totam hiemem consilio, cum memo admitteretur diu senex furori ejus repugnavit, ostendens, quam perniciosum esset inquietari orbem terræ, fundi sanguinem multorum; illos libenter mori solere; satis esse, si palatinos tantum et milites ab ea religione prohiberet. Nectamen deflectere potuit praecipitis hominis insaniam. Ibid. cap, 11.

3 Quocirca multum, meo quidem judicio, de contumeliis et querimoniis detrahi debet, quibus et veteres et recentiores imperatorem hunc obruunt. Peccabat fateor, levitate, superstitione, timiditate : at multo tamen, quam vulgaris opinio fert, tolerabilius peccabat. Moshem. ubi supr. p. 922. M. * H. E. l. viii. cap. 2. p. 294. B. * Non dubito vero, malignam hanc voluntatem libros christianorum delendi, Hieroclem, de quo diximus, Augustis injecisse. Certe, non hominum ridium, et rei christianæ ignarorum, quales Maximianus ejusque SOcer erant, Med eruditorum, et sacri codicis peritorum, qui quid in illis traderetur, et quantam vim haberent ad christianorum animos contra deorum cultum et superstitionem muniendos, ex lectione eorum ipsi percepissent. Id. ib. p. 925. * Ex Actis purgationis Felicis apud Baluzium Miscell. Tom, ii. p. 84. constat, epistolasetiam Salutatorias, quas episcopi mutuo sibi variis de rebus scribebant, combustas esse. Nam has in tabulariis etiam templorum reponi solebant. Hincincredibilem Historia Christiana jacturam in hoc bello Diocletianæo fecit. Nam ex primis rerum christianorum temporibus quae supererant documenta, chartae, epistolae, leges Acta Martyrum et Conciliorum, ex quibus antiqua christianae civitatis historia egregie illustrari potuisset, omnia in his turbis, plurima saltem, interierunt. Id. ib. p. 924, 925.

been designedly brief, and therefore defective. Sulpicius Severus, as may be remembered, said, ‘Never was the world ‘more wasted by any war.’ That observation is verified by the eighth and ninth books of Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History, together with his book Of the Martyrs of Palestine: containing the authentic accounts of a learned and eminent man, who was a contemporary, and an eye-witness of many of the cruelties related by him. I say, that observation may be verified by those authentic histories, without having recourse to spurious acts of martyrs, or any other legendary writings. Sulpicius Severus adds: “Nor ever had we a greater vic‘tory, than when we were not overcome by the slaughters ‘ of ten years.’ Another true and just observation For the patience and fortitude of the christians of that time were invincible and admirable. Some of all orders, pastors of churches, and others, were presently terrified, and fell away; but many were faithful to death. They patiently endured calumnies, stripes, imprisonments, maiming of members, exquisite tortures of every kind, and still persevered ; and though many were taken off by cruel deaths of every kind, the number of the faithful was not diminished, but increased and multiplied under that heavy weight of afflictions. Obs. 4. The revolution made in the Roman empire, in favour of the christians, upon the conversion of Constantine, was a gracious dispensation of divine providence; it put an end to scenes of cruelty which are shocking to think of, and were disgraceful to human nature. The professors of the religion of Jesus had now endured many severe trials, and had approved their zeal and fidelity under them. They had been tried, and were “found faithful, and loved not their lives unto the death,” Rev. ii. 10; xii. 11. And thereby they had done great and lasting honour to the principles of their religion. Now, therefore, God appointed them rest from those troubles. “For,” as it is said, Ps. cxxv. 3, “ the rod of the wicked shall not ” always “rest upon the lot of the righteous, lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity.” Obs. 5. And lastly, the cruelties of Dioclesian's and other heathen persecutions, which have been endured by christian people, may fill our minds with horror for persecution, and every degree of it. Never let us be persecutors: never let us encourage or give countenance to persecution: never let the cruelties of heathen persecutions be practised in christian countries. If we would effectually secure ourselves from temptations to persecution, let us take care to derive our religion from the books of the Old and New Testament, without adding other doctrines, not found in them, as important parts of religion. Where transubstantiation, or other like absurdities, are taught as articles of religion, there will be persecution. Ancient gentilism could not stand before the light of the gospel. It was absurd, and could not be maintained by reason and argument. The christians, therefore, were continually gaining ground. . They drew men off from the temples, from sacrifices, from the religious solemnities, from public sports and entertainments. This was a provocation to heathen people, which they could not endure; they had recourse, therefore, to violence, and tried every possible way to discourage the progress of the christian religion; and in the space of about two hundred and fifty years, from the emperor Nero to Maximin, there were ten or more heathen persecutions of the christians: the last of which was the longest, and the worst of all ; at the end of which christianity prevailed. But if gentilism had been revived, heathen persecutions would have been repeated, and the cruelties of former times would have been practised over again, with equal, or, if possible, with redoubled rage and violence. The emperor Julian, when he became a heathen, though he was a man of wit and learning, and though he dressed up his scheme of gentilism in as plausible a form as he was able, to recommend it to the judgments of men, could not help being a persecutor, like his admired Marcus Antoninus, and many others, his heathen ancestors and predecessors. So it will be always. An absurd religion cannot maintain itself by reason and argument: it needs, and will have recourse to, force and violence for its support. But true religion, which is throughout reasonable, can rely upon its own intrinsic excellence, and those testimonials, which God, in his good providence, has been pleased to afford it, as the proper evidences of its high original.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »