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not believe that a raven had brought half a loaf to St. Anthony, nor that this hermit had had conversation with centaurs and satyrs, he would have deserved a fevere 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 malsacred and thrown to wild beasts those againft 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 master of all other heavenly beings.
« O! quis res hominumque deûmque « Æternis regis imperiis, & fulmine terres, später, ô hominum divûmque æterna poteftas,&c. SQ
the subordinate deities, and distinguished by the title of Deus optimus maximus ; would they, I
And Horace expresses himself ftill more strongly:
Unde nil majus generatur ipfo, “ Nec viget quidquam fimile, aut fecundum."
In those mysteries into which almost all the Roman youths were initiated, nothing else was sung 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 none “ but fools can possibly deny a supreme Being." Longinus, who was an heathen, writes also to St. Augustine, “ That God is one, incomprehensible, s ineffable.” Even Lactantius, who certainly cannot be charged with being too indulgent, acknowledges in his fifth book, " That the Romans sub
jected all the other deities to the one supreme * God;" illos fubjecit & mancipat Dro. Tertullian also in his apology confesses, " That the whole em“ pire acknowledged one God, ruler of the world,
• and infinite in power and majesty :" Principem mundi perfecte potentia & majeftatis. Again, if we look into Plato, who taught Cicero his philofophy, we lhall there find him thus express himself;: say, have persecuted such who professed to worfhip one only God?
There appears little reason to believe that there ever was an inquisition erected against the Christians under the Roman emperors; I mean, that they were ever judicially examined on the subject of their faith ; neither do we find, that Jew, Syrian, Egyptian bards, Druids, or philosophers, were ever troubled on this account. The primitive martyrs then, were men who opposed the worship of“ false gods. But, however. wise or pious they might be in rejecting the belief of such absurd 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 absurd that religion might be; impartiality obliges us to confess, that they themselves were the first persecutors.
6. There is. but one God, whom we all ought to “ love and adore; and labour to resemble him in
integrity and holiness.” Epictetus in a dungeon, and Mark Antoninus on a throne, tell us the fame in a hundred different pafiages of their writings.
Tertullian, in his apology t, says, that the Christians were looked upon as a turbulent and feditious feet. This accusation is doubtless un' just; but it serves to prove, that the civil power did not set itself against the Christians purely on account of their religion. In another place he says, that the Christians refused to adorn the doors of their houses with laurel branches on the days of public rejoicing for the victories of the emperors. Now this blameable particularity might not; without some reason, be taken for disaffection to the government,
The first juridical act of severity we find exercised against the Christians, was that of Domitian; but this extended only to banishment,
l which did not laft above a year : for, says the author above quoted, Facile cæptum represlit restitutis quos ipfe relegaverat. Lactantius, fo remarkable for his passionate and pompous ftile, acknowledges..that from the time of Domitian to that of Decius, the church continued in a peaceable and flourishing condition.
This long tranquility, says. he $, was interrupted by
that execrable animal Decius, who began to oppress the church : Poft multos annos extitit execrabile animal Decius qui vexaret ecclefiam.
I shall not here enter into a discuffion of the opinion of the learned Mr. Dodwell, concerning the few number of martyrs; but if the Romans had been such violent persecutors of the Christian religion ; if their senate had condemned so many of its innocent votaries to perifh by the most unheard of tortures, plunging them alive in boiling oil, and exposing their wives and daughters naked to the wild beasts in the Circus; how happened it, that they suffered all the first bishops of Rome to live unmolested ? St. Ireneus reckons only one martyr among all these bishops, namely, Telesphorus, who suffered in the year 139 of our vulgar æra; nor have we any positive proof of this Telesphorus being put to death. Zephirinus governed the flock at Rome for eighteen years successively, and died peaceably in the year 219. It is true, that in the antient martyrologies, we find almost all the first
popes ranked as martyrs; but the word martyr is there taken only in its original and true signification, which is a witness and not a sufferer.