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them upon their words for want of authentic memorials or chronicles in those times. Besides, as these writers do not quote any authority for what they advance, who could contradict them? They blackened whom they pleased, and wantonly diercted the judgment of pofterity. The wise and impartial reader will, however, readily perceive, how far the veracity of historians is to be depended on, and what degree of credit is due to public facts attested by authors of reputation, born in a learned and enlightened nation, as well as what bounds to set to our belief of anecdotes, when related by these fame authors, without any authority to support them.
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; thereore, why should they seek out and prosecute an obfcure people, who had a worshippeculiar to themfelves, 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 Aflyria, 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 cuftody; 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 fhort 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 thansgivings 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 fo gross an insult would have been passed over?: The Christian who publicly tore the edict of the emperor Dioclesian, and by that act brought on the great persecution against
shew him the place where they were affembled; that he was afterwards tried and condemned to the torture ; that the prefect ordered the smith tomake a grid-iron large enough to broil a man upon ; that the principal magistrate of Rome affifted 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 fide, let " them turn me on the other, if you have a mind. « to eat me." This same 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. fory 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 dirasters 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 sacramentarians 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. Afsuredly Farrel deserved death for this flagrant 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