« AnteriorContinuar »
transcribe below some observations of · Le Clerc upon this passage of Pliny, which to me seem very just and not at all too severe.
Nevertheless some learned men have of late apologized for Pliny, and they blame . Le Clerc, and propose to correct him. They say that · Pliny • did all this out of kindness and good-will * to the Christians; hoping they might be induced to disown their first profession,' that is, I think, to deny Christ; and that he might not be obliged to put them to death.'
This appears to me exceeding strange. I think that Pliny had as much kindness for the Christians as other heathen persecutors; and that this treatment of them was exactly the same with what they met with from their worst enemies in the times of the worst persecuting, emperors.
The Irenarch, who apprehended Polycarp, said: "What harın is it to say, Lord Cæsar, and • sacrifice, and save your life?' And afterwards the proconsul himself, endeavouring to persuade him to deny Christ, said: 'Reverence thine age,' and other things common upon like occasions: ·Swear by Cæsar's fortune. Repent. Swear, and reproach Christ, and I will dismiss thee.' To all which Polycarp made a resolute and proper answer.
Eusebius, giving an account of the martyrdoms of Phileas, bishop of Thmuis in Egypt, and Philoromus, receiver-general at Alexandria, who suffered under the persecuting emperor Maximin, says:
• When many of their kindred, and other honourable friends, and some of the * magistrates, and even the judge himself, advised them to take pity upon themselves, and to
consider their wives and children, they would not by all their entreaties be induced, out of a regard to their own lives, to transgress the divine laws concerning denying and confessing our * Saviour; and, having withstood all the threatenings and abuses of the judge, they were be<headed.'
Lactantius : is far from reckoning them merciful governors, who took great care to save the lives of Christians by inducing them to deny their first confession, and who sometimes mightily pleased themselves, when they left their provinces, that their government had been unbloody. And he speaks with great disdain of a governor of Bithynia, and therefore a successor of our Pliny, who exulted as if he had gained a victory over a whole nation of barbarians, when one
Christian at last seemed to give way, who with signal fortitude had for two years withstood all his cruel attacks.'
But it would be endless to rehearse all the ancient instances of this - kind.
The true and only kindness of any in such cases, whether they be magistrates or others, can be none but this only: they who have power ought to discharge men brought before them and accused, if, upon inquiry, they appear to be innocent and free from such crimes as deserve punishment: and real friends should exhort them to persevere in the profession of the truth, and not to do or say any thing contrary to conviction, through fear of suffering.
a Cur vero interrogabat, an essent Christiani? Si ex animo sect. vi. p. 127, 128. De Plinii benigno in Christianos animo essent, an volebat homines mentiri, et id, quod erant, se esse mihi non est dubium, quin huc spectárint ipsius interrogationes, negare? Qui religioni ducebant alium, præter rerum om- ut eos in vitâ potius servaret negantes Christianismum. Rite nium Creatorem, colere, an erant vi adigendi, ut se aliter tershusius in loc. et ap. Heuman. I. c. p. 127. not. ? sentire falso dicerent? Attamen hoc ipsum volebat Plinius, qui d Euseb. H. E. I. 4, c. 15, p. 131. B. ' supplicium' utique non ‘minabatur,' nisi ut eos negare co- e Ibid. p. 131. D. geret : quod erat improbum et impium, si revera cum Chris- " H. E. 1. 8, c. X. p. 301. And see the Credibility, Vol. ii. tianis sentiebant, &c. Cleric. ib. n. vii. p. 549.
• Adjungo Jo. Clericum, qui Hist. Eccl. sec. 2, p. 546% 8 Illud vero pessimum (Præsidum) genus est, cui clemen553.suas ad totam banc epistolam protulit meditationes; sed, ut tiæ species falso blanditur. Ille gravior, ille sævior est carniex hac meâ Dissertatione apparebit, justo festinantius excussas. fex, qui neminem statuit occidere. Itaque dici non potest, Illud in primis errat vir doctissimus, quod longe aliter in hujusmodi judices quanta, et quam gravia tormentorum genera Christianos putat affectum fuisse Plinium, quam reverâ fuit. excogitaverint, ut ad effectum propositi sui pervenirent. Hæc Heuman. Disput. de Persecutione Christianor. Plinian. n. 1. autem non tantum ideo faciunt, ut gloriari possint, nullum se ubi supr. p. 120, not. C
innocentium peremisse, (nam et ipse audivi aliquos gloriantes, • Interrogavit igitur eos, an essent Christiani, non ideo, ut quia administratio sua, in bac parte, fuerit incruenta) sed inse Christianos faterentur, sed ut negando effugerent suppli- vidiæ causâ, ne aut ipsi vincantur, aut illi virtutis suæ gloriam cium. Quapropter non semel eos interrogavit, sed 'iterum,' consequantur. Itaque in excogitandis pænarum generibus, sed 'tertio,' ei, quasi cum ignaris periculi ageret, addita' nihil aliud, quam victoriam excogitant --Vidi ego, in Bitandem'comminatione mortis. Quam cum essent, qui for- thyniâ, præsidem, gaudio mirabiliter elatum, tamquam Barbatiter contemnerent, invictæ fidei Christiani, hos necessitate rorum genteni aliquam subegisset, quod unus, qui per bienmagis, quam irâ, cogente, duci,' hoc est, supplicio affici nium magnâ virtute restiterat, postremo cedere visus est. jussit. Non enim putabat iniquum, contentores tantæ suæ Instit. I. 5, c. xi. humanitatis, et mortem pro vità libenter eligentes, at ne pre- • They who desire to see more instances, may consult Koro cantes quidem humiliter, ut sibi parcatur, mori. Heuman. ib. tholt, as before, p. 37, &c.
· For it was no doubt with me, whatever might be the nature of their opinion, that contumacy and inflexible obstinacy ought to be punished.'
• Whatever might be the nature of their opinion, that is,' says à an author, favourable enough to Pliny, · whether their religion tended to make them wicked or good men.'
The observation of Le Clerc is to this purpose: • But 'the constancy of these men, who were • convicted of no crimes or wicked principles, as our president will acknowledge by and by, • ought not to be called “ contumacy,” and obstinacy. Perseverance in what is good deserves commendation; so far is it from exposing inen to punishment. By what law was death ever appointed for obstinacy, without any other fault? Pliny, therefore, before he ordered any · Christians away to be punished, should have inquired into the principles of their religion, and • not have resolved to condemn and punish them whatever their opinions were.' So says that rational and judicious writer.
The learned lawyer, Fr. · Balduinus, does not speak more favourably of this determination of Pliny than Le Clerc.
Indeed these are hard words, very improperly applied to men who were open to conviction, and willing to satisfy others if they might have leave to speak. But they would not be persuaded by fair promises, and severe menaces, to deny what they thought to be truth. And, as Kortholt says: “Who can forbear to admire such magnanimity ?'
• There were others of the same infatuation, whom, because they are Roman citizens, I have noted down to be sent to the city.'
Upon this part of Pliny's epistle we may farther remark, as follows:
First, I believe we may hence reasonably conclude that the Christians underwent many hardships in several places from governors of provinces, when there was no general persecution,
Secondly, it appears to me that Pliny acted very arbitrarily and unrighteously in his treatment of the Christians in 'his province. Some perhaps, yea probably many, he put to death ; and others, who were Roman citizens, he sent from their native country, or the place of their usual abode, to Rome. What they suffered we cannot say: but he sent them away to be dealt with as Christians. But what right had Pliny to act in this manner ? By what law, or laws, did he punish those with death, who, upon examination before him, persisted in the profession of Christianity? There was not at that time any imperial edict in force against the Christians, as was observed some while ago.
There had been such laws in the time of Nero and Domitian : but they were abrogated. Nor were any like edicts since published. And upon other occasions Pliny expresseth great dislike of those two emperors, as enemies to liberty and mankind.
The old Romans protected people of all sects and religions; as was largely shewn by us formerly. Nor were any of their priests or worshippers molested, or their rites prohibited, unless they were guilty of some misdemeanor, contrary to good manners, and inconsistent with the welfare of society. Nothing of that kind had been proved to Pliny against the Christians. I do not therefore perceive how they could be punished by virtue of any laws of the emperors, or any ancient laws of the senate and people of Rome. I think that there were not, and could not be, any laws against them as Christians. When St. Paul pleaded before Festus and Agrippa, and that numerous and august assembly at Cæsarea by the seaside, the residence of the Roman governor, he gave a large and distinct account of himself, and his doctrine, and his conduct; what he had
- qualecumque esset quod faterentur:' hoc est, sive quidem factum fateri; sed constanter defendere, se jure facere, improbos redderet ipsos religio sua, sive bonus. Heuman. ubi atque adeo pie et religiose. Quid illud tandem sit, neque insupr. n. vi. p. 128.
telligit, neque inquirit. Et tamen non dubitat damnare. Certe • Atqui . pertinacia' et 'obstinatio' dici nullo jure potuit religionem non abjicere, improbæ obstinationis non est, sed corum constantia, qui nihil fiagitiosum (quod mox de Chris- optimæ constantiæ. Balduin. ubi supr. p. 40. tianis agnoscet noster) fatebantur. Perseverantia in re bonâ d Et quis eorum non suspiceret apisalar, quos nec exilium, non potest noa laudari, nedum ut jure pænas dare debeat. nec carcer-nec gladius, nec crux, ad abnegandam fidem Præterea quibus legibus pertinacie mors erat imposita, nisi adigere potuit ? Kort. ib. p. 59. res per se mala esset, quæ pertinacius fieret? Itaque debuisset © So says Eusebius in his Chronicle, cited above at p. 16, Secundus, antequam * duci' Christianos juberet, in eorum note a. Plinius Secundus, quum quamdam provinciam regereligionem inquirere, non, 'qualecumque esset quod fateren- ret, et in magistratu suo plurimos Christianorum interfecisset tur,' eos damnare. Cler. ib. n. vjii. p. 549.
multitudine eorum perterritus, quæsivit de Trajano, quid facto • Mira vero profani hominis, et causam, de quâ pronuntiat,
-&c. non intelligentis, confidentia, cum de religione, hoc est, de re See Vol. i. p. 94, &c. maximâ, quærebatur. Causa capitis agebatur. Audit, reus
preached to Jews and Gentiles, and with what zeal he had acted in recommending this doctrine to all men. And when he had finished his discourse they all agreed in their verdict, “ saying, “ This man doth nothing worthy of death or of bonds. Then said Agrippa to Festus : This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Cæsar :" Acts xxvi. 31, 32.
Therefore there were no Roman laws against the Christian religion, or its professors or teachers. Consequently Pliny, in putting Christians to death as such, acted without law and authority.
That they suffered without law appears from himself. He punished them for • inflexible obstinacy. But who can allege any law of the Roman empire which condemned men to death for • contumacy and obstinacy, whatever might be the nature of their opinion?' We proceed.
• In a short tiine, the crime spreading itself, even whilst under prosecution, as, is usual in • such cases, divers sorts of people came in my way. An information was presented to me, ' without mentioning the author, containing the names of many persons, who upon examination, • denied that they were Christians, or had ever been so: who repeated after me an invocation of • the gods, and with wine and frankincense made supplication to your image, which for that 'purpose I had caused to be brought and set before them, together with the statues of the deities. • Moreover they reviled the name of Christ. None of which things, as is said, they who are * really Christians, can by any means be compelled to do. These therefore I thought proper to • discharge.'
This is a remarkable paragraph. We hence learn that ^ Trajan was worshipped as a god in his lifetime. And here we see many people brought before Pliny and accused as Christians, who were not so, and, as it seems, never were. But they were mentioned by name in an information which was not subscribed. It appears to have been a malicious accusation. Le Clerc says, “We hence perceive how dangerous a thing persecution is: when also innocent persons • are involved in it, or are without reason suspected; which, in the affair of religion, may be of • bad consequence.'
Though these persons were not now Christians, and never had openly professed Christianity, they may have been men of a mild and moderate disposition. Possibly, they had sometimes spoken favourably of the Christians, and intimated that they thought they were treated too rigorously, and were not so bad people as some insinuated. These we may consider as lowchurch Gentiles, though they were not Christians.
All these persons Pliny, our prætor, discharged: but not without strict examination, and good assurance, that they were not Christians. First, he puts the question to them: and they deny that they were Christians, or ever had been so. And, as he says, they afterwards invoked the gods in a form prescribed by himself: me præeunte. It is implied, and to be understood, that they did every thing else, hereafter mentioned, in the like manner: that is, in a form prescribed by him, they * made supplication to Trajan's image, and reviled the name of Christ.'
A learned man, who not long since wrote a commentary upon this letter of Pliny, and, with a design to correct the mistakes of former commentators, says, that • Pliny' seems to have • considered Christ as another Socrates, who both, by a pious life, and a pious doctrine, excited • his disciples to the love of virtue, and an abhorrence of vice.' I think we may do well to take our notion of Pliny's character and sentiments from himself, rather than from our own imagination. How he treated the name or person of Christ, and how he required others to treat it, we have just seen. What he thought of the Christian religion, we before saw, when he called it • infatuation, or madness, amentia. Moreover he inflicted death upon several of the faithful followers and steady disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
• Others were named by an informer, who at first confessed themselves Christians, and afterwards denied it. The rest said they had been Christians, but had ccased to be so, some three years, some longer, and one, or more, above twenty years,' [or, as Mr. Melmoth, - a few above • twenty years ago.'] • They all worshipped your image, and the statues of the gods. They « also reviled Christ.
a Vel hinc apparet, quid habenduin de assertione Eutropii, fiant. Quod est, in religionis negotio, periculosissimum. Ib. I. ix. et Cassiodori, et Eusebii in Chronicis, quod inter impe- num. ix. p. 550. ratores primus ut Deum adorari se jusserit Diocletianus. Kor- c Christum quidem pro altero Soerate videtur habuisse, tholt. Comm. in Plin. et Trajan. Ep. p. 81.
qui, cuni piâ vitâ, tum piâ doctrinâ, discipulos suos excitavic Vel hinc quam periculosa sit persecutio, intelligere est, com ad studium virtutuin, fugamque vitiorum. Heuman. ib. 11. v. etiam innocentes eâ inyolvantur, aut certe immerito suspecti p. 126.
These were presented to Pliny in a libel, or information; and, as we may reasonably think, properly subscribed with the name of the accuser. Nevertheless his accusations seeni to have been malicious; for they were not all true. Some whom he accused as Christians were not so at that time.
The persons first mentioned are described by Pliny after this manner: “they confessed them. * selves to be Christians;' that is, when broughť before Pliny, and interrogated by him, they said they were Christians, and afterwards denied it.'
Here we are to recollect what Pliny assured Trajan was his constant method of proceeding. • I have taken this course,' says he, • with all who have been brought before me, and accused • as Christians; I put the question to them whether they were Christians. Upon their confess•ing to me that they were, I repeated the question a second and a third time, threatening also * to put them to death.' So he had acted toward those of whom he is now speaking. Upon his first putting the question to them whether they were Christians, they confessed they were. But when he repeated the question the second or the third time, adding menaces, they denied that they were Christians; that is, they gave way, and their courage failed them, being terrified by the governor's threatenings. Here we see more persons overcome by the artifices and menaces of our proprætor, who was an ingenious man, and soon became an expert persecutor.
After them he mentions others, who said they had been Christians, but had ceased to be *so, some three years, some longer, and one at least above twenty years.'
What were the occasions of their leaving the Christians we cannot say particularly, but probably it was not willingly, and of their own choice, but rather through fear of suffering for the profession of the Christian religion. However, the change of some may have been owing to the fickleness and inconstancy of their own temper, or to some worldly considerations, less moving than open persecution. All these are deserters and apostates, some made so by Pliny himself, others by other governors, and some possibly through their own unsteady temper. All these Pliny examines, and reports their testimony; which we are next to observe.
• They affirmed, that the whole of their fault, or error, lay in this,—that they were wont to meet together on a stated day before it was light, and sing among themselves alternately a
hymn to Christ as a god, and to bind themselves by an oath not to the commission of any
For they who had deserted the Christians several years ago, could not of their own knowledge inform him about what had been done by them since he came into the province. However, we before observed, that the persons first mentioned professed themselves Christians when they were brought before him. They therefore could inform him of their late conduct. And concerning other times all here present could bear witness.
• They affirmed,' they solemnly attested, that the whole of their fault, or error, lay in this, • that they were wont to meet together on a stated day:' doubtless, meaning the Lord's-day, or Sunday: on which, as Justin relates particularly in his first Apology, all the Christians in general, in any city, and in the neighbouring country, came together for divine worship,
- before it was light.' Justin Martyr, in his large and particular account of the Christian worship, says nothing of this circumstance. It is likely, therefore, that this was not chosen, but only out of necessity, when they were disturbed by enemies, either the common people or magistrates.
a Quamquam admiranda erat, et plane inusitata, Christianorum plerorumque, si persecutiones æstuarent, constantia, Wapprova, et apigela; multi tamen tormentorum metu, multi etiam ex merà animi levitate, vel seculi vanitate fascinati, a fide defecerunt. Kortholt in loc. ubi supr. p. 95.
• Και τη τ8 ήλι8 λεγομενη ημερα παντων κατα πολεις η αγρες μενoντων επι τα αυτά συνελευσις γινεται. Αp. 1. p. 98. D. Ρar. 83. D. Bened. Την δε τε ήλι8 ημερας κοινη παντες την συνελευσιν ποιόμεθα. p. 99. B. al. 84. Α.
c Vid. Ap i. sub fin.
d Stato die ergo, hoc est, Dominico, convenire solebant, idque ante lucem, ne persecutioni, quæ in ipsos sæviebat, se obnoxios redderent. Bevereg. Cod. Can. cap. 3. n. vii. Non fugiebant certe lucem, non quærebant tenebras Christiani. Sed quid facerent. Interdictum iis erat locis publicis, et ipsâ prope luce solis, ut igni et aqua. Certe, ubi licuit, in apertâ et publicâ luce convenerunt. Fr. Balduin. in loc. Ap. Edict. Prin, Roman. p. 46. Vid. et Kortholt ubi supr. p. 105.
• And sang among themselves alternately a hymn to Christ, as a god.' Mr. Melmoth thus : · And addressed themselves in a form of prayer to Christ, as to some god.' What Pliny means by • secum invicem,' which I have rendered among themselves alternately,' I cannot say distinctly. Justin says, they · stood up, and offered up prayers and thanksgivings together, and • when the president had concluded, all the people said, Amen. Perhaps this is what Pliny means. The prayers were common, the people joined therein with the president, and signified their assent by a loud Amen at the conclusion.
Tertullian, representing Pliny's account, says: "He discovered nothing beside their meeting together before it was light, and singing to Christ and God:' or, as some would read, “to: • Christ as a god.' And Eusebius, speaking of the same matter from Tertullian, says, they
sang a hymn to Christ, as to a god. Such are their expressions, though • carmen,' the word used by Pliny, does not always signify a composition in metre, but may denote a prayer in
And sing together a hymn to Christ, as to a god.' This is a heathen way of speaking: and it has been questioned whether 'Pliny speaks here in his own words, or those of the Christians who were brought before him, heathen people being willing to deify eminent men. Jesus Christ was such an one, especially in the esteem of Christians. All knew he had died, and that the Christians said he was risen again from the dead, and was ascended to heaven. Heathen people therefore might naturally enough say, they worshipped Christ as a god.
Justin Martyr nevertheless says: • In 8 all our oblations we praise the Creator of all through • his Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.' And, • The president gives praise and glory to • the Father of all in the name of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.' And, says Tertullian, • the i
God, whom we worship, is the God who made this whole universe, and every thing therein, by his powerful word.' Again, · We* worship God through Christ. Call him a man, if you
think fit. It is by him, and through him, that we have been brought to the knowledge and • the worship of God. And the Jews themselves were taught how to worship God by the man • Moses.'
Mr. Melmoth, as before seen, translates those words in this manner: • And addressed them. selves in a form of prayer to Christ, as to some god.' And I must acknowledge that his translation appears to me as proper as my own. For carmen, or upvos, (as before hinted) does not always denote a metrical composition. Julian concludes his Oration upon The Mother of the Gods, with what' he calls A Hymn to her Honour, which is a prayer in prose : and, unquestionably, Julian speaks properly. Therefore Pliny's Carmen Christo quasi Deo, may have been a prayer to God in the name of Christ: a prayer upon Christian principles, in which God was praised for all the blessings of the Christian revelation. I may here observe likewise, that Marinus, in his life of Proclus, says, some " hymns to the gods are in metre, others in prose.
-και συντελεσαντος τας ευχας και ευχαρισιαν, πας και verbis concepta. Sed Tertullianus hic intelligit, quod caneσαρων λαος επευφημει λέγων: Αμην. Αp. 1. p. 97. D. al. 82. batur. Balduin. ib. p. 46.
-επειτα ανισαμεθα κοινη παντες, και ευχας πεμπομεν i Vocabula, quasi Deo,' quà vi prædita hic sint, determi
προεσας ευχας ομοιως και ευχαρισιας, όση δυναμις nare, haud audeo. Incertum enim est, suis hic verbis Plinius. auru, aramej TEI, ran o haos ETTEVỢ,uel neYWY TO Ayyy. p. 98. loquatur, an Christianorum. Moshem. ut supr. p. 148. D. E. al. p. 83. D. E.
8 Επι πασι τε οις προσφερομεθα, ευλογεμεν τον ποιητών των V-at confiteor tamen, nihil obsistere arbitremur, Plinium παντων δια τα υίε αυτό Ιησε Χριςο, και δια πνευματος το αγια. exprimere boc uno vocabulo voluisse, quod Christiani pluri- Ap. i. p. 98. C. al. 83, C. bus ipsi verbis narraverant, presbyterorum unum, seu episco- * Και αυτος λαβαν, αινον και δοξαν τω πατρι των ολων δια pum, formulam precum dictare, populum vero eam repetere, το ονοματος τα υia, και τα πνευματος αγια, αναπεμπει. p. 97. atque voculâ Amen claudere solere. Moshem. de Reb. ante C. al. 82. D. C. M. p. 146.
i Quod colimus, Deus unus est, qui totam molem istam, c-nihil aliud se de sacramentis eorum comperisse, quam cum omni instrumento elementorum- --verbo quo jussitcætus antelucanos ad canendum Christo et Deo. Ap. cap. 2. de nibilo expressit in ornamentum majestatis suæ. Ap. cap.
17. p. 18. και τον χρισον θεα δικην υμνειν. Η. Ε. 1. 3.
* Dicimus, et palam dicimus, -Deum colimus per Chris. e Alias carmen Romanis vocatur quidquid conceptis verbis tum. Illum hominem putate. Per eum, et in eo se cogdicitur : sic ut quamcumque præscriptis verbis conceptam nosci vult Deus, et coli. Ut Judæis respondeamus. Et ipsi precationem Pliniana innuere possit narratio. Kortholt, ut Deum per hominem Möysen colere didicerunt. Id. cap. 21. supra, p. 109.
Plinius carmen vocat, Romano more, quod conceptis verbis 'Αλλα τι περας εςαι μοι των λογων, η δηλον ως και της με-
aveu perqwr. Martin. de Vita Proel. Et sane carmen quoque Latine dicitur, precatio, præscriptis cap. i.