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not believe that a raven had brought half a loaf to St. Anthony, nor that this hermit had had converfation with centaurs and fatyrs, he would have deferved a fevere reprimand for troubling the public peace; but if the night after the proceffion, he had quietly examined the story in his own room, no one could have found any fault with him for it.
But indeed can we fuppofe, that the Romans, after permitting the infamous Antinous to be ranked among their demi-gods, would have maffacred and thrown to wild beafts thofe against whom they had no other cause of reproach, than having peaceably worshiped a juft deity? Or, would those very Romans, who worshipped a fupreme and all-powerful God ‡, mafter 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 Eternis regis imperiis, & fulmine terres, O pater, ô hominum divûmque æterna poteftas, &c.
the fubordinate deities, and distinguished by the title of Deus optimus maximus; would they, I
And Horace expreffes himself still more strongly:
Unde nil majus generatur ipfo, "Nec viget quidquam fimile, aut fecundum."
In thofe myfteries into which almost all the Roman youths were initiated, nothing elfe was fung but the unity of God. See the noble hymn of Orpheus, and the letter of Maximus of Modarum to St. Auguftin, in which he says, "That hone
but fools can poffibly deny a fupreme Being." Longinus, who was an heathen, writes alfo to St. Auguftine, "That God is one, incomprehenfible, "ineffable." Even Lactantius, who certainly cannot be charged with being too indulgent, acknowledges in his fifth book, "That the Romans fub"jected all the other deities to the one fupreme • God;" illos fubjecit & mancipat Deo. Tertullian alfo in his apology confeffes, "That the whole em
pire acknowledged one God, ruler of the world, and infinite in power and majesty :" Principem mundi perfecta potentiæ & majeftatis. Again, if we look into Plato, who taught Cicero his philofophy, we shall there find him thus express himself;
fay, have perfecuted fuch who profeffed to worfhip one only God?.
There appears little reafon to believe that there ever was an inquifition erected against the Chriftians under the Roman emperors; I mean, that they were ever judicially examined on the fubject of their faith; neither do we find, that Jew, Syrian, Egyptian bards, Druids, or philofophers, were ever troubled on this account. The primitive martyrs then, were men who oppofed the worship of falfe gods. But, however. wife or pious they might be in rejecting the belief of fuch abfurd fictions; if, not content with worshipping the true God in spirit and in truth, they offered a violent and public outrage to the received religion of the government under which they lived, however abfurd that religion might be impartiality obliges us to confefs, that they themselves were the first perfecutors.
"There is but one God, whom we all ought to "love and adore; and labour to refemble him in "integrity and holiness." Epictetus in a dungeon, and Mark Antoninus on a throne, tell us the fame in a hundred different paffages of their writings. Ture
Tertullian, in his apology †, fays, that the Chriftians were looked upon as a turbulent and feditious fect. This accufation is doubtless un- ' juft; but it ferves to prove, that the civil power. did not fet itself against the Chriftians purely on account of their religion. In another place he fays, that the Chriftians refused to adorn the doors of their houfes with laurel branches on the days of public rejoicing for the victories of the emperors. Now this blameable particularity might not, without fome reason, be taken for difaffection to the government.
The first juridical act of feverity we find exercifed against the Chriftians, was that of Domitian; but this extended only to banishment, which did not laft above a year: for, fays the author above quoted, Facile captum repreffit reftitutis quos ipferelegaverat. Lactantius, so remarkable for his paffionate and pompous file, acknowledges,. that from the time of Domitian to that of Decius, the church continued in a peaceable and flourishing condition. This long tranquility, fays. he. §, was interrupted by
+ Chap. 39:
+ Chap. 35:
§ Chap. 33
that execrable animal Decius, who began to opprefs the church: Poft multos annos extitit execrabile animal Decius qui vexaret ecclefiam.
I fhall not here enter into a difcuffion of the opinion of the learned Mr. Dodwell, concerning the few number of martyrs; but if the Romans had been fuch violent perfecutors of the Christian religion; if their fenate had condemned so many of its innocent votaries to perish by the most unheard of tortures, plunging them alive in boiling oil, and expofing their wives and daughters naked to the wild beafts in the Circus; how happened it, that they fuffered all the first bishops of Rome to live unmolefted? St. Ireneus reckons only one martyr among all these bishops, namely, Telefphorus, who fuffered in the year 139 of our vulgar æra; nor have we any pofitive proof of this Telefphorus being put to death. Zephirinus governed the flock at Rome for eighteen years fucceffively, and died peaceably in the year 219. It is true, that in the antient martyrologies, we find almoft all the first popes ranked as martyrs; but the word martyr is there taken only in its original and true fignification, which is a witness and not a fufferer.