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had been so often made use of to check the increase of the number of christians, and to root them out, if possible, and all traces and footsteps of their religion. And the several edicts of all the persecuting emperors are proofs, that the christian religion was continually making progress, and gaining ground. Let this suffice for a review of the argument of this volume. II. I now proceed to make some observations upon the state of christianity under heathen emperors ; and they shall be these three. It was all along in a state of persecution : Nevertheless it prevailed greatly. Which is honourable to the religion of Jesus, and to the professors of it at that time. 1. Christianity, from the time of its first appearance in the world, was all along in a state of persecution till the conversion of Constantine. I forbear to show here, how it was opposed and persecuted, after the resurrection of Jesus, by the Jewish rulers at Jerusalem, and in Judea, and then by Herod Agrippa when king of Israel, and afterwards by other Jews in Judea, and out of it. Upon these things I do not now insist, which may be seen in the Acts of the Apostles, and the epistles of the New Testament, and also in the second chapter of the sixth volume of this work, where was shown “the treatment given to the first christians by the unbelieving Jews.’ I am now only to consider the state of christianity in Gentile countries, and under heathen emperors, from the time that it began to be preached among the Gentiles, and to make some progress among them, from about the middle of the first century to the end of this period, when Constantine embraced the christian religion, and by edicts gave leave to christians to worship God according to their own judgment and conVI CtHOI). St. Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, has taken notice of some difficulties which St. Paul met with in preaching the gospel in Gentile cities; particularly at Lystra in Lycaonia, ch. xiv. 19, 20, at Philippi, ch. xvi. 19–24. St. Paul himself speaks of some of his sufferings, 2 Cor. xi. 23–26, particularly at 25, “thrice was I beaten with rods:” meaning, as I suppose, by Roman magistrates: though St. Luke has mentioned one instance only, which was at Philippi, as just mentioned, when both Paul and Silas underwent that hard usage. But there were no imperial edicts issued against the christians, before that of Nero in the year of Christ G4 or 65; at which time the two apostles, Peter and Paul, were put to death. It has now of a long time been a prevailing opinion, that christians suffered ten persecutions under heathen emperors: nevertheless, there have been some exceptions made to this opinion by a learned writer, who is deservedly in great repute. “If you speak,’ he says, “ of heayy persecutions that prevailed every where, there were not so many; if of les‘ser troubles, there were more than ten. The number of “ten general persecutions is no more than a popular error ‘which arose in the fifth century, destitute of good founda‘tion in history, and founded in a fanciful interpretation of “some texts of the Old Testament, where the christian per‘secutions have been thought to be foretold. Lactantius, ‘ in his book Of the Deaths of Persecutors, makes but six ‘persecutions: Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History does ‘ not number the persecutions, though nine persecutions may ‘ be made out from it. Upon the whole, the notion of ten “heathen persecutions had its rise in the fifth century.’ Upon all which I must say, that in the book Of the Deaths of Persecutors, whether written " by Lactantius, or another, we cannot expect to see an account of all the persecutions which christians had suffered in former times. His book is entitled, Of the Deaths of Persecutors; his design therefore is to speak of such persecutors only as came to an untimely end : accordingly he writes of the persecution of Nero, Domitian, Decius, Valerian, and Aurelian, who suffered a violent death. Of their persecutions he gives a brief account in the first chapters of his book; and then he proceeds to Dioclesian's persecution, upon which he enlargeth. Here he computes four several persecutors, Dioclesian, Maximian Herculeus, Maximian Galerius, and Maximin. And according to his account Dioclesian " met with great misfortunes; Maximian * was strangled by order of Constantine for base treachery, and an attempt upon his life; Galerius" and Maximin “ died miserably by grievous distempers, supposed to have been inflicted upon them by way of judgment from heaven, for their inhumanity to the christians. That is the design and substance of that book; and from it no argument can be formed for determining the number of persecutions which christians endured from heathen emperors. Eusebius, in his Ecclesiastical History, does not number the great afflictions which the christians had endured; but he has mentioned eleven persecutors, though the persecutions of some of them may have been of but short duration. The persecutors mentioned by Eusebius are these: Nero, Domitian, Trajan, Marcus Antoninus, Severus," Maximin the first, or the Thracian, Decius, 8 Gallus," Valerian, Aurelian, Dioclesian, and his colleagues. The several persecutions of heathen emperors did not come to an end before the beginning of the fourth century; they could not be numbered till they were all over. Orosius * counts ten persecutions, and expressly calls Dioclesian's the tenth and last. Augustine likewise reckons ten heathen persecutions: he numbers them in this manner: the first Nero's, the second Domitian's, the third Trajan's, the fourth Marcus Antoninus’s, the fifth Severus’s, the sixth Maximin’s, the seventh Decius's, the eighth Valerian's, the ninth Aurelian's, the tenth Dioclesian's. These two learned writers lived partly in the fourth and partly in the fifth century: and it may be thence argued, that this way of computing was in use before the end of the fourth century; and indeed we can prove it. Jerom's book of Illustrious Men, or Ecclesiastical Writers, was published in the year 392, and he there sometimes numbers the persecutions. In the chapter of St. John he calls" Domitian's the second persecution; in the chapter of Ignatius " he expressly mentions Trajan's persecution, though without numbering it; in the chapter of Polycarp" he says, he suffered in the time of the fourth persecution under Marcus Antoninus. He expressly calls Decius's P the seventh ; and Cyprian's martyrdom he placeth's in the eighth persecution, in the time of Valerian and Gallienus: and in his Latin edition of the Chronicle of Eusebius are ten persecutions, all expressly mentioned and numbered as in Augustine's. There may have been some affectation in numbering the persecutions. Orosius," and some others, have found out a way to compare the ten persecutions of the christians with the ten plagues of Egypt, which is trifling: but the number of persecutions has a foundation in history, as we have seen in the several chapters of this and the preceding volume. Some may compute nine, others ten, or eleven, but ten was a round number, and has generally prevailed : I think there were eleven ; it seems to me that there is good reason to say so from Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History. The primitive christians, I think, called those troubles persecutions, which were ordered by edicts of emperors. Sulpicius Severus, having given an account of Nero's cruelty toward the christians at Rome, under a pretence that the city had been set on fire by them, adds: ‘That" was the be‘ginning of the cruel proceedings against the christians. “Afterwards the christian religion was forbidden by laws; ‘ and by public edicts it was declared, that no man might “be a christian.” Of such edicts or rescripts there were ten or eleven: and I suppose, that all persecutions ordered by imperial edicts were general; they were intended for the whole Roman empire subject to their government, but possibly they did not all actually reach to every part of the in De W. I. C. 9. n De V. I. c. 16. * Postea vero, regnante Marco Antonino, et L. Aurelio Commodo, quartà post Neronem persecutione, Smyrnae, sedente proconsule et universo populo, in amphitheatroadversus eum personante, igni traditus est. Ib. cap. 17. P Septimã autem persecutione sub Decio, quo tempore Babylas Antiochiae passus est, Alexander ductus Caesaream, et clausus in carcere, ob confessionem Christi, martyrio coronatur. Ib. cap. 62. * Passus sub Valeriano et Gallieno principibus, persecutione octavā. Ib. cap. 67. * Oros. l. vii. cap. 27. * Hoc initio in christianos saviri coeptum. Post etiam datis legibus religio vetabatur; palamgue editis propositis christianum esse non licebat. Sul. Sever. l, ii. cap. 29. Cleric. VO Le VII. 2 O
* Numeramus a multis jam seculis decem ejusmodi persecutiones. Verum non suffragatur huic numero vetus rerum christianarum historia. Si graviores intelligas persecutiones, et per universum orbem Romanum pertinentes, pauciores sunt quam decem; si minores, et provinciales, multo plures sunt quam decem. Auctores hujus numeri non eum in historiá invenerunt, Sed historiam ad partes quasdam Sacri codicis accommodárunt, quibus persecutiones christianorum praedictas esse opinabantur Perantiqua est, et a quinto seculo ad nos ducta sententia, de decem christianorum sub imperatoribus a Christo aversis persecutionibus. Quam ego tamen omnes veri amantes popularibus et fundamento destitutis erroribus, meo periculo, adscribere jubeo. Auctores ejus ignoti sunt. Hoc vero certum est, eos hanc sententiam non ab historiá traditam accepisse, sed parum felicibus auspiciis ex divinis libris eruisse, atque historiae reluctanti obtrusisse. Quarto post natum Servatorem seculo numerus persecutionum christianarum nondum definitus erat. Lactantius libello de Mortibus Persecutorum sex tantum numerat. Eusebius, in Historia Ecclesiastică, mala quæ christianis evenerant, recenset, numerum malorum non addit. At novem tamen ex eo christianorum calamitates colligi quodammodo possunt. Totidem seculo quinto Sulpicius Severus commemorat. Moshem. de Reb. Christianor. p. 97, 98.
* That Lactantius is not the author of that little book, was shown, Vol. iii. p. 495–499.
* De Mort. Persecut, cap. 26. ° Ibid. cap. 30.
* Interea Diocletianus in Oriente, Maximianus Herculeus in occidente, vastari ecclesias, adfligi interficigue christianos, decimo post Neronem loco praeceperunt, quae persecutio omnibus fere ante actis diuturnior atque immanior fuit, &c. Oros. 1. vii. cap. 25. Vid. et cap. 27.
| Primam quippe computant a Nerone quae facta est, secundam a Domitiano, a Trajano tertiam, quartam ab Antonino, a Severo quintam, sextam a Maximino, a Decio Septimam, octavam a Valeriano, ab Aureliano monam, decimam a Diocletiano et Maximiano. De Civ. Dei, l. xviii. cap. 52.
empire. The edict of Maximin the Thracian" is said to have been ‘against the clergy only, and his is sometimes called a local persecution: nevertheless, I think, it must have been general, and intended against the clergy every where. There is this proof of it: that Ambrose and Protoctetus were then imprisoned: this last was presbyter at Caesarea in Palestine, and Ambrose is supposed to have been deacon in that or some other church not far off: and Orosius says, that this persecution was particularly intended against the presbyter Origen. But all those eminent christians lived in Syria, at a great distance from the capital of the empire; the edict, therefore, may have been intended against the clergy every where. I apprehend I need not say any thing more here, nor make any recapitulation of what we have seen : but I would refer my readers to the accounts of the heathen persecutions which have been given in this and the preceding volume; which, I hope I may say, are authentic, and will be allowed to be so: and we have seen genuine copies of divers of the imperial edicts which were sent by them to the proconsuls, or other governors of provinces. But it may be said, that all these ten persecutions will not prove, that christians were all along in a state of persecution till the conversion of Constantine : for the lives of some of those persecuting emperors were short, and when they were dead their edicts were little regarded; and then peace might be restored to the churches. Undoubtedly there is some truth in what is here alleged; therefore I shall add some farther observations for clearing up this point, and for showing that they might still be in a state of persecution. For Trajan’s edict was never abrogated, but was still in being ; and thereby the presidents were required to pro
nounce sentence of death upon all who were brought before them, and accused of christianity, unless they denied themselves to be christians, and made out the truth of what they said. And many might be accused by the spiteful and igmorant vulgar, as well as by other malicious people. And some judges or governors of provinces might act without law, or contrary to it, as Pliny " had done. According to the edict of Trajan, christians were not to be “sought for :’ but the president at Lyons, in the time of Marcus Antoninus, ‘V issued out public orders, that strict ‘searches should be made for them.’ And it is manifest, that many christians suffered in the time of Adrian and
* See p. 348, 349, * See p. 34, 35, 50, 51. * P. 171.