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EVERAL Christians afterwards suffered
martyrdom; it is not easy to say on what particular account they were condemned; but I can venture to affert, that none suffered under the first Cæfars, merely on the account of religion, for they tolerated all beliefs; therefore, why should they seek out and prosecute an obscure people, who had a worship peculiar to themselves, at the time they licensed all others ?
The emperors Titus, Trajan, Antoninus, and Decius, were not barbarians : how then can we imagine, that they would have deprived the Christians alone of that liberty, with which they indulged every other nation; or, that they would even have troubled them for having concealed mysteries, while the worshippers of Isis, Mithra, and the Goddess of Assyria, whose rites were all of them equally unknown to the Romans, were suffered to perform them without hindrance ! Certainly, the persecutions the
Christians suffered, must have arisen from other causes, and from some private pique, enforced by reasons of state.
For instance, when St: Laurence refused to deliver to Cornelius Secularius, the Roman prefect, the money belonging to the Christians which he had in his custody ; was it not very natural for the prefect and the emperor to be incensed at this refusal? They did not know that St. Laurence had distributed this money among the poor, in acts of charity and benevolence ; therefore they considered him only as a refractory person, and punished him accord
* We most certainly have a proper deference for whatever the holy church has made the objects of our reverence; accordingly, we invoke the blessed martyrs : but at the same time that we pay St. Laurence all due respect, may we not be permitted to doubt that St. Sixtus said to him, " You will “ follow me in three days." That, during this short interval, the prefect of Rome made him demand a sum of money of the Christians; that Laurence had time to assemble all the poor people in that city ; that he walked before the prefect, to
Again, let us consider the martyrdom of SA Polyeuctes. Can he be said to have suffered on account of religion only? He enters a temple, where the people are employed in offering thanfgivings to their Gods, on account of the victory gained by the emperor Decius; he insults the priests, and overturns and breks in, pieces the altar and statues: is there a country in the world where so gross an insult would havo been paffed over? The Christian who publicly tore the edict of the emperor Dioclefian, and by that act brought on the great persecution against
fhew him the place where they were assembled ; that he was afterwards tried and condemned to the torture ; that the prefect ordered the smith to make a grid-iron large enough to broil a man upon ; that the principal magistrate of Rome affited in person at this strange execution; and lastly, that St. Laurence, while upon the grid-iron, called out to him, " I am done enough on this side, let. “ them turn me on the other, if you have a mind “ to eat me.” This fame grid-iron seems to have. very little of the Roman genius in it; and besides, how happens it that we do not find a word of this, tory in any of the heathen writers ?
his brethren in the two last years of this prince's reign, had not, surely, a zeal according to knowledge, but was the unhappy cause of all the disasters that befel his party. This inconsiderate zeal, which was often breaking forth, and was condemned even by several of the fathers of the church, was probably the occasion of all those persecutions we read of.
Certainly, I would not make a comparison between the first facramentarians and the primitive Christians; as error should never be ranked in the same class with truth : but it is well known, that Farrel, the predecessor of Calvin, did the very same thing at Arles, which St. Polyeuctes had done before him in Armenia. The townsmen were carrying the statue of St. Anthony the hermit in procession through the streets, ; Farrel and some of his followers in a fit of zeal fell upon the monks who were carrying the image, beat them, made them take to their heels, and, having seized upon St. Anthony, threw him into the river. Assuredly Farrel deserved death for this Aagrant outrage upon the public peace, but he had the good luck to escape by Aight. Now, had 'he only told those monks in the open streets that he did E.6.
not believe that a raven had brought half a loaf to St. Anthony, nor that this hermit had had conversation with centaurs and fatyrs, he would have deserved a severe reprimand for troubling the public peace; but if the night after the procession, he had quietly examined the story in his own room, no one could have found
fault with him for it.
But indeed can we suppose, that the Romans, after permitting the infamous Antinoüs to be ranked among their demi-gods, would have maffacred and thrown to wild beasts those against whom they had no other cause of reproach, than. having peaceably worshiped a just deity ? Or, would those very Romans, who worshipped a. fupreme and all-powerful God , master of all
| We have only to open Virgil to be convinced that the Romans acknowledged one Supreme Being, the lord and mafter of all other heavenly beings.
O! quis res hominumque deûmque Æternis regis imperiis, & fulmine terres, “O pater, ô hominum divûmque æterna poteftas,&c.