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V. We now come to Trajan's Rescript, which is short and concise, written in the style best becoming lawgivers : and which is now to be rehearsed by us, with notes and observations.
• You have taken the right method, my Pliny, in your proceedings with those who have been • brought before you as Christians.'
Pliny's proceedings, as I suppose, had been in some respects extraordinary, and unsupported by express law: and yet Trajan declares his approbation of them. And hereby he also ratifies and confirms the proceedings of other governors of provinces, if any of them had acted in a like manner, without express law: as very probably several had.
• For it is impossible to establish any one rule that shall hold universally:'
This, as seems to me, relates more especially to Pliny's first question: "whether the young • and tender, and the full grown and robust, ought to be treated all alike.' And Trajan seems to leave this very much to the discretion of governors, to do as they thought best. Accordingly, as we well know, many, in succeeding times, both young people and women, did suffer as Christians.
With regard to Pliny's second question, whether “ pardon should be granted to those who re'pent,' he allows of it, if good proof be given of repentance.
As to the third question, Trajan peremptorily decides that the name is punishable without any crime annexed. But he says, they should not be sought for.'
I shall now recite the very words of this part of the Rescript.
• They are not to be sought for. If any are brought before you, and are convicted, they ought to be punished. However, he that denies his being a Christian, and makes it evident in fact, that is, by supplicating to our gods, though he be suspected to have been so formerly, • let him be pardoned upon repentance. But in no case, of any crime whatever, may.a bill • of information be received without being signed by him who presents it.' And what follows. This last clause is very reasonable, as will be allowed by all. The rest we must consider.
As I said just now, Trajan allows pardon to be granted, if good proof be given of repentance; • If he makes it evident in fact by supplicating to our gods. It has been said, by some commentators, that here is a sign of Trajan's modesty, in that he does not add, and by sacrificing to our
image;' and that here is a proof of his moderation, in not adding, and by reviling the name of • Christ.' But I cannot persuade myself to think that such observations are at all material. Trajan knew very well that the governors of provinces would not fail to supply those articles, though omitted by him. Trajan approves of Pliny's method, and what had been his, would be the method of other governors, and actually was so, as is well known.
Tertullian has ridiculed this decree of Trajan as inconsistent and contradictory. He forbids: - the Christians to be sought for, supposing them to be innocent; and he orders them to be pu• nished as guilty. If they are criminal
, why should they not be sought for? If they are not to be sought for, why should they not be absolved?'
The earl of Orrery, in his preface to the tenth book fuisse, quod in Christianis puniretur, præter nomen. Fr. Balof Pliny's Epistles. Vol. 2, p. 323, expresseth himself in this duin. ut supr. p. 36. Quæsiverat Plinius, nomen ipsum Chrismanner: Such a correspondence between a sovereign and a tianorum, etiamsi flagitiis careat, an flagitia cohærentia nomini * subject is no less curious than extraordinary. But, if we are punienda sint? Trajanus dum rescribit simpliciter, si deferan'to pass an impartial judgment upon the two correspondents, tur Christiani, et arguantur, id est, ejus esse sectæ convincan
the emperor's epistles will certainly outshine those of Pliny, tur, puniendos esse, nec aliam pænæ causam requirit; quod "to which they are answers. The conciseness and sagacity nomen ipsum debeat puniri, satis indicat. . Atque sic confir'which run through Trajan's style and manner of writing, mat nominis illud prælium, quod præter jus omne et fas sus
shew him an artist, if I may use the expression, in the epis- tinuisse fideles, ex queribundo tot veterum ore supra, ad Plinii 'tolary science.
. Kortholt. ut supr. p. 194. b. Actum, quem debuisti,' &c. Actum vocat extraordi- d Satis interim sciebat provinciarum præsides hac parte non nariam Plinii quæstionem. Extraordinarium hoc crimen, de defore suo officio. Voss. Comment. quo agebatur, erat. Nulla enim de eo lex certa erat. Tra- • Tunc Trajanus rescripsit, hoc genus inquirendos quidem janus esse etiam debere hoc judicium extraordinarium, hoc est, non esse, oblatos vero puniri oportere. O sententiam necesmagistratuum cognitioni et imperio relinquendum esse putat. sitate confusam! Negat inquirendos, ut innocentes, et mandat Balduin. ut supr. p. 63.
puniendos, ut nocentes. Parcit, et sævit. Dissimulat, et ani• Cum Trajanus simpliciter rescribit, Christianos esse puni- inadvertit. Quid temet ipsum censurà circumvenis? Si damendos, neque aliam causam pænæ requirit, satis significat, no- nas, cur non et inquiris ? Si non inquiris, cur non et absolvis ? men ipsum puniri. Et Tertullianus in Apolog. ostendit, nihil Ap. cap. 2.
However, for certain, here is fresh proof of the Christians' innocence. If they had been crimi. nal; if Trajan had not known, and been well satisfied, that they were guilty of no great crimes, he would not have forbid inquiring after them. And since they were guilty of no offences contrary to the peace of society, they should have been protected; and Trajan's rescript should have been very
different from what it is. It should have been to this effect: You have well done, my Pliny, • to inquire into the principles and conduct of the Christians. As you have detected no crimes ' committed by them, and you recommend pardon upon repentance, and forsaking their error; I
readily grant it, if it be needful. And I hereby declare that no Christians ought to suffer with* out proof of some crime; for to inflict penalties upon innocent men would be a disparagement • of my government. And it has been a maxim with me, from the beginning of my empire, not to • let any good men suffer death.'
So, I think, Trajan might, and should have said : and so he would have said, were it not that people were not then disposed to treat Christians as they did other men. But the time was not yet come that Christians should be exempted from suffering as such, and on account of their Lord and Master, who had died for them, and was risen again.
This rescript of Trajan, which we are now considering, was designed not for the direction of Pliny only, but of all governors of provinces in general : as is observed by that judicious lawyer, Fr. Balduinus. And, as Tillemont says, this unreasonable edict subsisted for almost an age, and • was the rule of action to the Romans till the persecution of Severus.'
· VI. Before we proceed any farther, it may be fit that we should consider a question, whether Trajan ever put an end to the persecution by an order from himself. Suidas
says that • Trajan relaxed the persecution against the Christians. For Tiberian, who was governor of what was called the first part of Palestine, wrote to him that he was weary of kill* ing the Christians, because they offered themselves to punishment. Wherefore Trajan gave or* ders to all his subjects that they should no more punish the Christians.'
This is supposed to be taken by Suidas from 'John of Antioch, or John Malala, a writer near the end of the sixth century, and of little credit.
To this purpose then writes Malala : • While s the emperor Trajan was at Antioch of Syria, consulting about the affairs of war, he received a letter from Tiberian, governor of the first • Palestine, to this effect. “ To the invincible emperor, Cæsar, the most divine Trajan. I have s to the utmost of my power performed your order for killing the Galileans, who go under the “ denomination of Christians. But they cease not to discover themselves, and offer themselves “ to be put to death. I have discountenanced this by my advices, and even by threatenings, “ telling them that they should not come to me to accuse themselves of holding that opinion: “ but all to no purpose. I must therefore entreat you to determine in this point as shall seem as meet to your invincible majesty." And the emperor sent an order to him, and to all the præ• fects every where, that they should no longer put to death any that were called Christians. • After which the Christians had a short breathing time from the afflictions which they had • endured.'
So writes Malala.' But Mr. Dodwell " has examined this letter of Tiberian, and has argued that it is a downright forgery. He says that if there had been such a letter written to Trajan by a governor of Palestine, Eusebius could not have been ignorant of it. He also says that the province of Palestine was not divided into two parts till long after the reign of Trajan. He likewise observes that the titles here given to Trajan by Tiberian, are not suited to that age. For these, and other considerations, he rejects that letter as a forgery. And his argument has been approved of by all learned critics ' in general.
* Ex his iterum liquet, nullius criminis reos factos fuisse videtur. Fr. Bald. ut supr. p. 29. d Cependant cette Christianos, nisi deorum minime cultorum. Cleric. ib. n. xiv. ordonnance si déraisonable subsiste près d'un siècle, et fut la
• “Ως δε αυτοκρατωρ εγενετο, επεσειλε τη βελη αυτοχειρια regle des Romains jusques a la persecution de Severe, &c. αλλα τε, και ως αδενα ανδρα αγαθον αποσφαξοι, η ατιμασοι. Tillem. Perséc. de l'Egl. sous Trajan. art. v. Dion. L. 68. p. 1122.
e Suid. V. Tpacaros. c Tandem Trajanus, quid opus esse facto putet, rescribit; f Vid. Vales. Excerpta ex Johanne Antiocheno. p. $18. ut non solum in causà Ponticorum aut Bithynorum Christia- & J. Malalæ Chronogr. p. 356. Oxon. 1691. norum id sequatur Plinius, sed et alii Præsides in suis provin- h Dissertat. Cyprian. xi. sect. xxiii. xxiv. ciis observent. Atque boc quidem primum rescripto lex Ro- i Vide Pagi ann. 116. num. ii. Basnag. ann. 117. n. iii. mana de Christianis certaque constitutio aliqua edita fuisse Cleric. H. E. ann. 113. Dr. Jortin's Remarks upon Ecclesiasin Pontum et Bithyniam missus, (Vid. Ep. 1. x. 29, 41, 118.) • Non multo deinde intervallo, tertia persecutio per Traja- non nisi casu quodam, in eorumdem cognitionem incurrit, num fuit; qui cuin tormentis et quæstionibus nihil in Christi- quibus tunc provinciæ illæ redundabant. Kortholt. Comm. in anis morte aut pænâ dignum reperisset, sæviri in eos ultra ve
As Trajan directed that the Christians should not be sought for, it is not unlikely that toward the latter part of his reign the persecution was moderated in some places. The account which Sulpicius Severus gives of this persecution is to this purpose : · Not long after Domitian, the * third persecution was raised by Trajan, who, when after strict inquiries made by racks and tor• tures, no discovery was made of any thing done by them worthy of death, or other punishment, • he forbade their being any longer persecuted.' The expression is strong; yet, perhaps, no more is intended than this emperor's prohibition to seek for them, which is in his rescript to Pliny.
VII. The observations of commentators and ecclesiastical historians upon the foregoing letter and rescript are so numerous that I am induced to mention some more general remarks, beside those which have already appeared under the several paragraphs of each of them.
It is certainly a just observation that some writers have aggravated the severity of Trajan, and that we ought to exercise moderation in our reflections upon the proceedings of former times, and even of those who have been unfriendly to us. Paul Orosius, a Christian writer not far from the beginning of the fifth century, speaks as if the persecution had been begun by
Trajan's order, and that Pliny and other presidents were sent by him into the provinces for • this very purpose, to carry on the persecution of Christians :' which is evidently contrary to Pliny's letter, which we have largely considered. He carried not with him any edict against the Christians, nor any particular directions concerning the method of treating them: but they were brought before him after his arrival in the province; and he had occasion to refer himself to the emperor for advice in several things relating to them.
Moreover Eusebius, as before quoted, acknowledgeth that the persecution in the time of Trajan was first occasioned by the clamours and tumults of the people.
It seems to me likewise that in the Martyrdom of Ignatius, in all the editions of it, whether Greek or Latin, Trajan's earnest concern to extirpate the Christian religion by a general persecution is aggravated: which, together with other things, may be reckoned an argument that it was not composed, as is generally said, by such as were contemporaries of the emperor and the martyr.
On the other hand, I think the mildness of Trajan has been beyond measure extolled, and the benefits of his edict too much magnified by some of late times: as if, after the publication of the abovementioned rescript, Christians might meet together and worship God securely in their own way, provided they observed only the common rules of prudence.
I think that Tertullian's censure of this edict above taken notice of, in which he shews the inconsistence of it, is very just. And in another paragraph he acknowledges all the benefit of it, saying that • Trajan had in some measure defeated, restrained, or moderated, the de* crees of Nero and Domitian against the Christians, by forbidding inquiry to be made after o them.'
What that amounts to I should think might be easily computed. It implies this—that the presidents of provinces or other magistrates should not, or need not, send out their
tical History, Vol. 2, p. 82, 83. Where that learned writer fuisset Trajani de interficiendis Christianis edictum certum ante having alleged such reasons as shew the Letter of Tiberian Plinii relationem, non dubitåsset iste, aut sane, Trajanum. not to be genuine, concludes: • So I hope we shall no more consulendo, ejus edicti mentionem fecisset. Neque Plinius
hear of ii henceforward, either for or against the behaviour judex datus est, ut Christianos persequeretur, sed aliis de causis of the martyrs.'
Plin. et Traj. Ep.p. 11. tuit. Hist. Sacr. l. 2, c. 31, p. 244.edit. Cleric.
c Vid. Patr. Apost. T. 2. - Apparet hinc, cum grano salis accipiendum quod ait Oro- d Peccavit quidem in eo non leviter, quod Christianos de. sius, lib.7. cap. xii, In persequendis sane Christianis errore sertæ majorum religionis convicios, et cerlere nolentes, capitali • deceptus, tertius a Nerone, cum passim repertos cogi ad sa- penâ jussit affici - Sed valde tamen profuit Christianis, quod
crificandum idolis, ac detractantes interfici præcepisset, plu- inquisitionem et investigationem eorum vetuit. Hac enim rimique interficerentur, Plinii Secundi, qui inter cæteros sublatâ, secure Christiani secretos conventus suos celebrare, * judices persecutor datus fuerat, relatu admonitus, eos ho- atque hostium suorum invidiam, modo prudentiæ obedirent,
mines, præter confessionem Christi, honestaque conven- effugere poterant. &c. Mosbem, de Reb. Chr. ante C. M. . ticula, nihil contrarium Romanis legibus facere, fiduciâ Sec. 2, sect. i. p. 233, 234, • sane innocentis confessioris nemini mortem gravem ac for- ¿ Quales ergo leges istæ, quas
adversus nos soli exsequuntur midolosam videri, rescriptis illico lenioribus temperavit edic. impii, injusti, lurpes, truces, vani, dementes ? Quas Trajanus 'tum.' Nam, ui recte hic monet Franc. Balduinus, si quod ex parte frustratus est, vetando inquiri Christianos. Ap.c.5.
irenarchs, their serjeants, or other peace officers, to search for and apprehend the Christians, as was usual to be done for apprehending heinous criminals. But it does not hence follow that the presidents of provinces always observed this rule. And as to other people, they are left at liberty to do as they saw good. Among them certainly the Christians had many enemies. And if they were brought before the governors, and accused as Christians, the governors are required to punish them, unless they denied their Christianity, and gave proof of it by sacrificing to the gods : all which was frequently done. This must be the truth of the case, as it is agreeable to what Eusebius says, who could not but know very well what was the state of affairs after the publication of this edict. • Nevertheless,' says he, in the place before cited, they who had a mind to disturb * us did not want pretences for so doing: in some places the people, in other places the governors • of provinces, laying snares for us: so that, though there was no general persecution, there were persecutions in several places and provinces; and there were many faithful men who underwent divers kinds of martyrdom.'
Le Clerc therefore justly says that in this rescript there is little more than an appearance of moderation, without any real kindness. And the learned writer, whom I have already quoted several times, and who, I think, sometimes too much magnifies the kindness and the benefits of this rescript, acknowledges that it" being placed among the laws of the empire, and being long * in force, occasioned the death of many excellent men under divers succeeding emperors of good • character; and that, by virtue of this very edict, Simeon, bishop of Jerusalem, and Ignatius of • Antioch, were put to death.' And yet the same learned writer, in the very next words, says that, however severe this law may appear, the Christians of a warm temper were displeased at * it, because it deprived them of the honour of suffering a glorious death for Christ.' But if the Christians disliked this edict as too mild, how came it that so warm a man as Tertullian complained of it as unjust and severe ? And why were there so many apologies written soon after. wards by Justin, Athenagoras, and others, complaining of the severities with which they were treated, and offering every argument that could be thought of by innocent and good men, for moderating and averting the sufferings which they underwent, or were liable to? However, for proof of this assertion is alleged a story told by Tertullian, who says: “When · Arrius Antoninus . in Asia grievously persecuted the Christians, all the Christians of the city in which he was came * together in a body to his tribunal, offering that he might do with them as he saw good. He,
ordering away a few of them to be put to death, said to the rest : O miserable people, if you • have a mind to die you may find precipices and halters enough.'
As this passage has been alleged by Mr. Dodwell also, I shall now immediately put down his argument upon it. Only premising, that whereas the learned man beforementioned placeth this affair in the reign of Adrian, and as consequent upon Trajan's rescript, Mr. Dodwell supposeth it to have happened in the reign of Trajan, at the same time that Pliny was persecuting the Christians in Bithynia. He argues that many did not suffer in that persecution ; because, when the Christians of that place offered themselves at the governor's tribunal, it is said he ordered away • a few of them to be put to death.' But does not this learned writer forget the word instanter, in the former part of the sentence? Antoninus had persecuted some while. And that word implies somewhat very grievous, either for the manner, or the length and duration of the persecution, carried on by that president in Asia. So that it may be reckoned not improbable that many Christians had suffered death by his order.
a Re verâ species tantum erat moderationis in Trajani re
Christo mortem obeundam, magistratu non inquiscripto. Nam, quamvis magistratus in Christianos publice rente, et accusatore sæpe deficiente, occluderet. Hinc multi quæstiones non haberent, inimicis tamen suis tradebantur passim ipsi nomina sua deferebant apud judices. Ibid. p. 235. Christiani, quos satis erat deferri ad magistratus, ut plecteren- d Arrius Antoninus in Asiâ cum persequeretur instanter, tur, nisi Religioni Christianæ nuntium remittere vellent. Nun- omnes illius civitatis Christiani ante tribunalia ejus se mana quam autem iis defuisse inimicos apud Ethnicos, facile est factâ obtulerunt. Cum ille, paucis duci jussis, reliquis ait : intelleciu. Cleric. A. cxi, n. xv.
Ω δειλοι, ει θελετε αποθνησκειν, κρημνος η βροχες εχετε. Αd. b Hæc Trajani lex inter publicas Romani Imperii sanctiones Scap. cap. ult. relata, efficiebat, ut deinceps etiam sub imperatoribus optinis Eodem ni fallor tempore, quo persecutus est in Bithynia et justissimis multi Christiani perirent.- -Hac igitur lege Plinius, persecutus etiam est in Asia Proconsulari Arrius Antojubente, Simeon, Cleopæ filius, antistes Hierosolymitanus, ninus, avus maternus Antonini Pii, ad quem scripsit etiam centum et viginti annorum, senex in crucem agi debebat. Ex nonnullas epistolas ipse Plinius. De hujus persecutione ita ejusdem legis præscripto, ipse imperator eodem anno magnum Tertullianus. Arrius Antoninus in Asià. Et hic sese offeillum Ignatium, Antiochenum episcopum, a sacerdotibus de- rentiuin mulitudine, ut Plinius multitudine periclitantium, latum, et ipsius Imperatoris minas spernentem, Romam abduci impeditus est, quo minus pro libitu suo sæviret. -Cæteruni et bestiis objici jubebat. Moshem. ib. sect. x. p. 234. multos fuisse probabile non est, quos ita paucos tam frigide
Quod vero vaide mireris, dura satis hæc et inhumana lex Censuit esse animadvertendos. Diss. Cyp. xi. sect. xxvii. fervidioris animi Christianis displicebat, quod viam eis ad glo
Which also overthrows Mr. Mosheim's observation. Those Christians did not offer them, selves because of the mildness of Trajan's rescript, and · accuse themselves because there were none to accuse them: but it was the governor's severe treatment which occasioned their acting in that manner. Which interpretation is manifestly the sense of the paragraph itself, and is confirmed by the coherence in Tertullian. The persecution of Arrius was so violent, and so long continued, that the Christians in Asia were reduced to great distress. Under this affliction they came in a body to the governor, and told him he might even take them all, if • nothing else would satisfy him ; for they were not afraid to die. This resolution of mind in those generous Christians astonished him. And, putting a good countenance upon his proceedings, he shut up that disagreeable scene, and concluded the persecution in the manner before related.
If this account be right, these Christians were not so contemptible as has been insinuated : and Mr. Mosheim might have spared a reflection unworthy of himself, which so generous minds do not deserve.
Before we quite dismiss this affair, it may be worth the while to consider who this Antoninus was, and the time of his persecution.
There were three of this name, proconsuls of Asia, in the space of a century, or less. The first I take to be Arrius Antoninus, of whom Tertullian here speaks; the second Antoninus, afterwards emperor, and surnamed Pius; the third, named Arrius Antoninus, was proconsul of Asia afterwards, in the time of Commodus. Casaubon supposeth this to be the person intended by Tertullian. Several other learned men have been of opinion that the person intended by Tertullian was the emperor Antonimus, grandfather by the mother's side, and the same to whom some of Pliny's letters are sent. Which opinion, as already hinted, appears to me very probable. Hereby we may be led to the time of this event. By Mosheim, as before observed, it is placed in the reign of Adrian, and also 'by Mr. Lampe; but by Mr. Dodwell, as already mentioned, in the time of Trajan, and whilst Pliny was in Bithynia. But, if he be the same to whom Pliny wrote, it must have been sooner. For Pliny, in one 8 of his letters to him, speaks of his having been twice consul, and then proconsul of Asia some time before: consequently he had been proconsul of Asia before Pliny went into Bithynia. For I cannot discern that any of Pliny's letters, now extant, were written after his provincial government. Indeed, Arrius Antoninus was an old man at the time of Pliny's writing to him. And if this be the person intended by Tertullian, here is another consideration that overthrows Mr. Mosheim's reasonings.
When Arrius Antoninus was proconsul of Asia, I cannot say exactly; whether in the time of Domitian, or some while afterwards: but plainly before Pliny was sent into Bithynia.
This Antoninus was a learned and ingenious man, and has a good character in "Pliny, and other' writers. Nor do I think he was a bad man. I only say he acted badly for some while
omnes illius civitatis Christiani ante tribunalia ejus itidem proconsulem, virum longe clarissimum, qui principe se manu factâ obtulerunt:' moleste nimirum ferentes, nul. Commodo occisus scelere Cleandri, tantam Imperatori invis lum sibi accusatorem obtigisse, et proconsulem inquirere nolle, diam apud valgus et omnes bonos concitavit, ut eam ferre quod Imperator vetuerat, ipsi accusatorum sibi partes sume- Commodus cum non posset, Cleandrum plebi ad poenam dobant. Mosh. ibid. p. 235, notis.
naverit. Historiam habes apud Lampridium. [Vit. Commodi Crudelitas vestra est gloria nostra. Vide tantum ne hoc cap. 7.] Hic videtur esse, de quo Tertullianus ad Scapulam, ipso, quod talia sustinemus, ad hoc solum videamur erumpere, Casaub. ut hoc ipsum probemus, nos hæc non timere, sed ultro vocare. e See Casaubon in the preceding note. Arrius, &c. Tertull. eod. cap. ad Scap. p. 88. A.
Neque sub Hadriano Imperatore res Christianorum in • Itaque paucis, ut terreret cæteros, condemnatis, reliquam Oriente satis pacatæ erant; sub quo Asiam administravit multitudinem cum indignatione ac contemptu dimittebat: Arrius Antoninus, qui Christianos male habuit. Lampe SyMoshem. ut supr. p. 235. notis.
nops. H. E. p. 113. d Proconsulatum Asiæ sic egit, ut solus avum vinceret. Jul. & Quod semel atque iterum consul fuisti, similis antiquis ; Capitol. Antonini Pii. cap. 3. Here I put down part of Ca- quod proconsul Asiæ, qualis ante te, qualis post te vix unus saubon’s note upon the above place. Avus hic, quem intelli- et alter (non sinit enim me verecundia tua dicere, qualis nemo); git, est Pii avus maternus, Arrius Antoninus. Ambo Procon- quod sanctitate, quod auctoritate, ætate quoque princeps civisules Asiæ fuerunt, et Pius, et avus. De Pii proconsulatu lo. tatis, est quidem venerabile et pulchrum. Ego tamen te vel quitur Marcianus libro secundo de judiciis publicis. De magis in remissionibus miror, &c. lib. 4, ep. 3. vid. et ep. 18, avo illius, proconsule Asiæ, et immortali laude, quam inde re- et 1. 5, ep. 10. portavit, Plinius in epistolâ ad ipsum Arrium Antoninum. h See before wote 8. Quod semel. Invenio et tertium Arrium Antoninum, Asiæ · Vid. Jul. Capitolin, Antonin. cap. i, et Victoris Epit. c. xii. VOL. IV.