John KAYE, Ecclesiastical History of the Second and Third Centuries (1845). Chapter 2. pp. 67-130.
ON THE EXTERNAL HISTORY OF THE CHURCH.
HAVING in the preceding chapter laid before the reader an account of the Life and Writings of Tertullian, we shall now proceed, in conformity with the arrangement adopted by Mosheim, to collect from his works such passages as serve to illustrate the external history of the Church during the period in which he flourished. 1 In the first place then, he bears explicit testimony to the wide diffusion of Christianity in his day. To refute the charges of disloyalty and disaffection to the Emperors which had been brought against the Christians, he thus appeals to the patience with which they bore the injuries and cruelties inflicted on them. 2 "Not," he says, "that we are destitute of the means of resistance, if our Christian principles allowed us to resort to them. Though we date our existence only from yesterday, we have filled every part of your empire; we are to be found in your cities, your islands, your camps, your palaces, your forum. ..... So great |68 are our numbers, that we might successfully contend with you in open warfare; but were we only to withdraw ourselves from you, and to remove by common consent to some remote corner of the globe, our mere secession would be sufficient to accomplish your destruction, and to avenge our cause. You would be left without subjects to govern, and would tremble at the solitude and silence around you—at the awful stillness of a dead world." In another place Tertullian tells 3 Scapula, the Proconsul of Africa, that if the persecution against the Christians were persisted in, the effect would be to decimate the inhabitants of Carthage. 4 He elsewhere speaks also of the immense revenue which might be collected, if each Christian was allowed to purchase the free exercise of his religion for a sum of money.
After we have made all reasonable allowance for any exaggeration into which Tertullian may have been betrayed, either by the natural vehemence of his temper, or by his anxiety to enhance in the eyes of the Roman governors the importance of the cause which he is pleading, the above cited passages will justify the belief that the Christians in his day composed a numerous and respectable portion of the subjects of Rome. Nor were the triumphs of the Gospel confined within the limits of the Roman Empire. 5 " Christ is |69 preached among the barbarians"—is the incidental, and therefore less suspicious expression of Tertullian. 6 "We witness," he says, while arguing against the Jews, "the accomplishment of the words of the Psalmist (as applied by St. Paul), "their sound is gone out into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world." For not only the various countries from which worshippers were collected at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, but the most distant regions have received the faith of Christ. He reigns among people whom the Roman arms have never yet subdued: among the different tribes of Getulia and Mauritania,— in the furthest extremities of Spain, and Gaul, and Britain,—among the Sarmatians, Dacians, Germans, and Scythians,—in countries and islands scarcely known to us by name." The language is declamatory; yet such a representation would not have been hazarded, unless it had been realized to a considerable extent, in the actual state of Christianity.
In speaking of the numerous converts continually added to the Church, and of the extension of its limits, Tertullian contents himself for the most part with simply stating the fact. Convinced of the divine origin of the Gospel, he ascribed the triumphs of the cross to the power of God bringing to pass in the fulness of time the events which had been foretold by the Prophets; without deeming it necessary to go in quest of secondary causes of the rapid progress of Christianity. |70 But though he has not expressly directed his attention to the development of the means, which the Almighty was pleased to employ in the establishment of the empire of the Gospel, we may collect from his writings much interesting information on the subject.
The success which attended the preaching of the Apostles, and their immediate successors, is doubtless to be principally ascribed to the supernatural powers, by the exercise of which they proved their divine commission. But the writings of Tertullian furnish little reason for supposing, that the preachers of the Gospel in his day were indebted for their success to the display of similar powers. He asserts indeed that Christians possessed 7 the power of expelling Daemons, of curing diseases, of 8 healing the wounds occasioned by the bites of serpents: but he casts a doubt upon the accuracy of his own statement by ascribing to Christians in general those extraordinary gifts which, even in the days of the Apostles appear to have been confined to them, and 9 to the Disciples upon whom they laid their hands. |71
The miraculous powers conferred upon the Apostles were the credentials, by which they were to prove that they were the bearers of a new Revelation from God to man; and thus to mark the commencement of a new aera in the order of divine dispensations. 10 We might, therefore, infer from the purpose for which they were conferred, that they would in process of time be withdrawn. That they have been withdrawn is a fact which few Protestants will controvert, though great difference of opinion prevails respecting the precise period to which we must refer this important alteration in the circumstances of the Church. Gibbon has endeavoured to convert what he terms the insensibility of the Christians to the cessation of miraculous gifts, into an argument against their existence at any period. "So 11 extraordinary an event must," he argues, "have excited universal attention; and caused the time at which it happened to be precisely ascertained and noted. But in vain do we consult Ecclesiastical History, in the hope of assigning a limit to |72 the period during which supernatural powers subsisted in the Church: we find pretensions to them advanced in every age, and supported by testimony no less weighty and respectable than that of the age which preceded it." The inference, which he manifestly intends his reader to draw, is that, as pretensions to miraculous gifts had been asserted in all ages, and continued to be asserted even at the time when he wrote and every reasonable man was convinced of their cessation, those pretensions were in all ages equally unfounded.
The argument is plausible, and is urged with the author's wonted ingenuity and address. Yet the supposition, that miraculous powers were gradually withdrawn from the Church, appears in a great measure to account for the uncertainty which has prevailed respecting the period of their cessation. To adopt the language of undoubting confidence on such a subject, would be a mark no less of folly, than presumption; but I may be allowed to state the conclusion to which I have myself been led, by a comparison of the statements in the book of Acts, with the writings of the Fathers of the second century. My conclusion then is, that the power of working miracles was not extended beyond the disciples, upon whom the Apostles conferred it by the imposition of their hands. As the number of those disciples gradually diminished, the instances of the exercise of miraculous powers became continually less frequent; and ceased entirely at the death of the last individual on whom the hands of the Apostles |73 had been laid. That event would, in the natural course of things, take place before the middle of the second century: at a time when, Christianity having obtained a footing in all the provinces of the Roman Empire, the miraculous gifts conferred upon its first teachers had performed their appropriate office—that of proving to the world that a New Revelation had been given from heaven. What then would be the effect produced upon the minds of the great body of Christians by their gradual cessation? Many would not observe, none would be willing to observe it; for all must naturally feel a reluctance to believe that powers, which had contributed so essentially to the rapid diffusion of Christianity, were withdrawn. They who remarked the cessation of miracles, would probably succeed in persuading themselves that it was only temporary, and designed by an all-wise Providence to be the prelude to a more abundant effusion of supernatural gifts upon the Church. Or if doubts and misgivings crossed their minds, they would still be unwilling openly to state a fact, which might shake the steadfastness of the friends, and would certainly be urged by the enemies of the Gospel, as an argument against its Divine Origin. They would pursue the plan which has been pursued by Justin Martyr, Theophilus, Irenaeus, &c.; they would have recourse to general assertions of the existence of supernatural powers, without attempting to produce a specific instance of their exercise. The silence of Ecclesiastical history, respecting the cessation of miraculous gifts in the Church, is to be |74 ascribed, not to the insensibility of Christians to that important event, but to the combined operation of prejudice and policy—of prejudice which made them reluctant to believe, of policy which made them anxious to conceal the truth.
Let me repeat, that I offer these observations with that diffidence in my own conclusions, which ought to be the predominant feeling in the mind of every inquirer into the ways of Providence. I collect from passages already cited from the book of Acts, that the power of working miracles was conferred by the hands of the Apostles only; and consequently ceased with the last disciple on whom their hands were laid. 12 I |75 perceive in the language of the Fathers, who lived in the middle and end of the second century, when speaking on this subject, something which betrays, if not a conviction, at least a suspicion, that the power of working miracles was withdrawn, combined with an anxiety to keep up a belief of its continuance in the Church. They affirm in general terms, that miracles were performed, but rarely venture to produce an instance of a particular miracle. Those who followed them were less scrupulous, and proceeded to invent miracles; very different indeed in circumstances and character from the miracles of the Gospel, yet readily believed by men who were not disposed nicely to examine into the evidence of facts which they wish to be true. The success of the first attempts naturally encouraged others to practise similar impositions upon the credulity of mankind. In every succeeding age miracles multiplied in number, and increased in extravagance; till at length,13 by their frequency, they lost all title to the name, since they could no longer be considered as deviations from the ordinary course of nature.
But to return to Tertullian. The only specific instances which he mentions, of the exercise of supernatural powers, relate to the exorcism of daemons. He |76 is contending in 14 the Apology, that the gods of the heathen are no other than daemons; of which assertion he offers the following proof. "Bring," he says, "before your tribunals a man possessed with a daemon: the evil spirit, if commanded by a Christian, will speak and confess himself a daemon. In like manner produce a person supposed to be inspired by one of your deities: he too will not dare to give a false reply to a Christian, but will confess that his inspiration proceeds from a daemon." In the 15 Tract de Spectaculis, wo find a story of a female who went to the theatre, and returned possessed by a daemon. The unclean spirit, when asked by the exorcist how he dared to assault a Christian, replied, "I was justified in so doing, for I found her on my own ground." 16 Surely if miraculous powers still subsisted in the Church, the writings of Tertullian would have supplied some less equivocal instances of their exercise.
Gibbon 17 has animadverted on the evasions of Middleton respecting the clear traces of visions, to be found in the Apostolic Fathers. Yet it appears to me that Middleton might have admitted their existence, |77 without any detriment to the main position of his Essay. His object was to prove, that, after the Apostolic age, no standing power of working miracles existed in the church—that there was no regular succession of favoured individuals upon whom God conferred supernatural powers; which they could exercise for the benefit of the Church of Christ, whenever their judgment, guided by the influence of the Holy Spirit, told them that it was expedient so to do. This position is perfectly compatible with the belief that God still revealed himself in dreams to pious members of the Church, for their especial comfort and instruction. The distinction between the two cases has been expressly pointed out by Middleton himself. When, however, we examine the visions recorded in Tertullian's writings, we shall feel great difficulty in believing that they were revelations from heaven. 18 He mentions a Christian female to whom visions were frequently vouchsafed in the time of divine service. They related for the most part to points which had formed the subject of previous discussion. On ono occasion, a question having arisen respecting the soul, it was exhibited to her in a corporeal state. He 19 tells another story of a female, who saw in a dream a linen cloth, on which was inscribed, with accompanying expressions of reprobation, the name of an actor whom she had heard that very day at the theatre: Tertullian adds, that she did not survive the dream five days. 20 An unfortunate man, whose servants, on the occasion |78 of some public rejoicing, had, without his knowledge, suspended garlands over his doors, was, for this involuntary offence, severely chastised in a vision: 21 and a female, who had somewhat too liberally displayed her person, was thus addressed by an angel in a dream, Cervices, quasi applauderet, verberans: "Elegantes, inquit, cervices, et merito nudas." It should be observed, that all these visions are introduced in confirmation of some opinion for which Tertullian is at the time contending. His enthusiastic temper readily discovered in them indications of a Divine origin: the unprejudiced reader will probably come to a different conclusion.
But though miraculous gifts might have ceased in the Church, the Almighty might still interpose for its protection, and for the advancement of its interests, by especial and visible manifestations of his power. An instance of such interposition is recorded in the writings of Tertullian, which is generally known by the name of the Miracle of the Thundering Legion. He asserts in 22 the Apology, as well as in 23 the Address to Scapula, that Marcus Antoninus became a protector of the Christians; because during his expedition into Germany, he together with his army was preserved from perishing with thirst, by a seasonable shower of rain, procured by the prayers of his Christian soldiers. |79 In support of his assertion, he appeals to a Letter of the Emperor, in which the deliverance of the army was ascribed to this cause; he does not, however, affirm that he had himself seen the letter. The story has been repeated by subsequent writers; and has received, as might be expected, considerable additions in the transmission. 24 Not only were the Roman soldiers preserved by the seasonable shower; but the army of the enemy was destroyed by a storm of thunder and lightning which accompanied it.
That during the German war the Roman army suffered severely from want of water, and was relieved from a situation of great peril by a seasonable shower of rain, is a fact which does not rest on the single authority of Tertullian. It is recorded by several profane writers, and confirmed by the indisputable testimony of the Antonine Column. Nor was Tertullian singular in regarding the event as preternatural: the heathen historians did the same. But while Tertullian ascribes the deliverance of the Emperor to the prayers of his Christian soldiers, 25 Dion Cassius gives the credit of it to certain magical rites performed by an Egyptian, named Arnuphis; and on the Antonine column it is attributed to the immediate interposition of Jupiter Pluvius. This latter circumstance completely disproves Tertullian's statement respecting the existence of a letter, in which the Emperor ascribed his deliverance to the prayers of his Christian |80 soldiers—a statement indeed neither reconcileable to his general character, nor to the harsh treatment experienced by the Christians during his reign.
Referring the reader to 26 Lardner for a full account of all that has been said by learned men on the subject of this story, I shall content myself with remarking, that, as told by Tertullian, it contains nothing miraculous. The Roman army was reduced to great extremity—the Christian soldiers who were present put up prayers to God for deliverance—and a seasonable shower of rain relieved the army from its perilous situation. Tertullian indeed wishes his reader to infer that the shower was the consequence of the prayers of the Christian soldiers; that, unless they had prayed, the shower would not have fallen. But this is to assume an acquaintance with the designs of Providence, which man can obtain only by immediate Revelation. The pious mind, persuaded that the course of this world is ordered by the Divine governance, naturally has recourse to prayer in the hour of danger: and after the danger is passed, it pours forth its gratitude to God for having so ordered events as to admit of a compliance with its petitions. But it presumes not to ascribe such efficacy to its prayers as would imply that God had been induced by them to alter the course of his government. To represent events, which are in themselves of a character strictly natural, a storm for instance, or an earthquake, as produced by an especial interposition of divine power, exerted in compliance |81 with the prayers of men, is to speak the language, not of genuine piety, but of superstition. Yet such was the language of Tertullian's day. We find in his writings numerous instances of the same disposition to ascribe events to the immediate interference of the Almighty. 27 The Christians in Africa had been deprived of their burial-grounds; Tertullian represents a total failure of the harvest, which occurred shortly after, as a punishment inflicted upon the Pagan inhabitants for this act of injustice. 28 He accounts in a similar manner for an extraordinary quantity of rain which had fallen in the year preceding that in which his Address to Scapula was written. He speaks of flames which appeared to hang by night over the walls of Carthage, and of an almost total extinction of the sun's light at Utica, and discovers in them infallible presages of the impending wrath of heaven. To the same wrath he imputes the calamities which had befallen those Roman governors who had been particularly active in their persecution of the Christians.
I shall take this opportunity of offering a few remarks upon another fact, not of a miraculous nature, related by Tertullian. He says, in 29 the Apology, that |82 the Emperor Tiberius, having received from Palestine an account of those supernatural events which proved the Divinity of Christ, proposed to the Senate that he should be received among the deities of Rome—that the Senate rejected the proposal—that Tiberius retained his opinion, and menaced all who brought accusations against the Christians. 30 In a subsequent passage Tertullian states that the account was sent to Tiberius by Pilate, who was in his conscience a Christian; and adds an expression which implies that worldly considerations alone prevented Tiberius from believing in Christ. The story is repeated by 31 Eusebius, who appeals to Tertullian as his authority for it. 32 Lardner, after a detailed examination of the objections which have been made to its truth, pronounces it deserving of regard. 33 Mosheim also seems to be of opinion that it ought not to be entirely rejected. Gibbon treats it as a mere fable; but some of his arguments appear to me far from convincing. One is founded on a misrepresentation of Tertullian's |83 statement: 34 "We are required," says Gibbon," to believe that Tiberius protected the Christians from the severity of the laws many years before such laws were enacted, or before the Church had assumed any distinct name or existence." Now Tertullian says not a word about any protection, from the severity of the laws, afforded by Tiberius to the Christians; he merely says, that Tiberius threatened all who accused them. This threat appears to me to have referred to the inveterate hostility manifested by the Jews against Christ and his Disciples; which had come to the emperor's knowledge through the account transmitted by Pilate. Tertullian could not intend to say that any laws against the Christians were in force during the reign of Tiberius; since he has declared 35 more than once that Nero was the first emperor who enacted any such laws. I must, however, confess my own opinion to be that the story is liable to just suspicion. It rests entirely on the authority of Tertullian. How happened it that so remarkable a fact, as a public proposal from the Emperor to the Senate to receive Christ among the Gods of Rome, escaped the notice of every other writer? Justin Martyr, who 36 on two different occasions appeals to what he calls the Acts of Pilate, in confirmation of the Gospel narrative of our Saviour's sufferings and miracles, is |84 silent respecting the proposal of Tiberius to the Senate.
But to proceed with the information supplied by Tertullian's works respecting the causes which contributed to the rapid growth of Christianity, during the latter part of the second century. "We have seen that they furnish no ground for ascribing the success of its teachers at that period to the exercise of miraculous powers. They enable us, however, to ascertain, that by the pious zeal and diligence of its professors, powerful engines had been set at work to promote the diffusion of the Gospel. Of these, 37 Mosheim has noticed two: the translation of the New Testament into different languages, and the composition of numerous Apologies for the Christian Faith. The writings of Tertullian, which contain quotations from nearly all the Books of the New Testament, 38 render it highly probable that a Latin translation existed in his day. By such a translation the history and doctrines of the Gospel would be rendered accessible to a large portion of the subjects of the Roman empire, who had previously derived their notions of the New Religion only from report; and that perhaps the report of |85 enemies, anxious to misrepresent it. They were now enabled to judge for themselves, and to perceive how admirably all its precepts are adapted to promote the well-being of society, and to diffuse universal happiness. The favourable impression, produced upon the minds of men by the perusal of the Sacred Books, was doubtless confirmed and increased by the numerous Apologies for Christianity, to which Mosheim alludes. Among these the Apology of Tertullian has always held a distinguished place; and there is perhaps no better mode of conveying to the mind of the reader an accurate notion of the general condition of the Christians in the second century—of the difficulties with which they had to contend, and of the principles on which they acted—than by laying before him a brief summary of its contents. It will be necessary, however, to offer by way of preface a few remarks respecting what may be called the Legal Position of the Christians at that period; or the point of view in which they were regarded by the Roman laws.
Mosheim 39 says, that "in the beginning of the second century there were no laws in force against the Christians; for the Senate had annulled the cruel edicts of Nero, and Nerva had abrogated the sanguinary laws of his predecessor Domitian." 40 Gibbon also infers from Pliny's celebrated letter to Trajan, that, when the former accepted the government of Bithynia, |86 "there were no general laws or decrees of the Senate in force against the Christians; and that neither Trajan nor any of his virtuous predecessors, whose edicts were received into the civil and criminal jurisprudence, had publicly declared their intentions concerning the new Sect." If, however, we can attach any weight to the statements of Tertullian, the conclusions both of Gibbon and Mosheim are erroneous. In 41 the first book ad Nationes, Tertullian expressly says, that, while all the other edicts of Nero had been repealed, that against the Christians alone remained in force. In the 42 Apology, after having stated that Nero and Domitian were the only emperors who had persecuted the Christians, he says, 43 as we have already seen, that Marcus Antoninus became their protector in con sequence, of the miraculous deliverance of his army in the German expedition. 44 "Not," he adds, "that the emperor abrogated the punishment enacted against them; but he indirectly did away its effect, by denouncing a heavier punishment against their |87 accusers. What then," our author proceeds, "are we to think of laws which none but the impious, the unjust, the vile, the cruel, the trifling, the insane enforce? of which Trajan partly frustrated the effect by forbidding all inquiries to be made after Christians? which neither Adrian, though a searcher out of all new and curious doctrines, nor Vespasian, though the conqueror of the Jews, nor Pius, nor Verus, called into operation?" The whole tenor of this passage manifestly assumes the existence of laws which, though generally allowed to slumber by the justice and humanity of the emperors, might yet at any moment be converted into instruments wherewith to injure and oppress the Christians. It is evident also from 45 Pliny's letter and Trajan's answer, that the only offence laid to their charge by the informers was their religion; and that, in the estimation both of the emperor and the proconsul, the mere profession of Christianity constituted a crime deserving punishment.
But whether there were, or were not, any laws in force, expressly directed against the Christians, it is certain that their situation was most precarious. It appears indeed to have depended in a great measure on the temper and disposition of the governor of the province in which they lived. If he happened to be rapacious, or bigoted, or cruel, it was easy for him to |88 gratify his favourite passion, by enforcing against the Christians the penalties of laws, originally enacted without any reference to them; such, for instance, as 46 Trajan's edict against companies and associations, and the 47 law which forbade the introduction of any new deity, whose worship had not been approved by the senate. 48 If on the contrary he was just and humane, he discountenanced all informations against them, suggested to them the answers which they ought to return when brought before the tribunals, and availed himself of every pretext for setting them at liberty. Thus while in one part of the empire they were suffering the most dreadful persecution, in another they were at the very same moment enjoying a certain degree of ease and security. 49 For even the power of the governors was not always sufficient to ensure their safety, or to prevent them from falling victims to the angry passions of the populace; at all |89 times difficult to be repressed, but rising to an ungovernable pitch of fury at the celebration of the public" games and festivals. On these occasions the intimidated magistrates too often deemed it expedient to yield to the clamorous demands of the multitude; and to gratify its sanguinary impatience by suspending the tardy forms of law, and delivering the Christians to instant death.
The Apology of Tertullian is, 50 as has been already observed, addressed to the governors of Proconsular Africa, and we learn 51 from the commencement that their attention and jealousy had been excited by the increasing number of the Christians; but that, instead of being induced to inquire into the real nature of a religion which attracted so many proselytes, they suffered themselves to be hurried away by their prejudices, and condemned it unheard. 52 So great indeed was their ignorance, that they mistook even the name of the new sect; calling those who belonged to it, not Christiani, but Chrestiani. 53 Tertullian exposes with great power of argument and eloquence, the injustice Of punishing Christians merely because they were Christians; without inquiring whether their doctrines were in themselves deserving of hatred and punishment. 54 He complains that in their case alone all the established forms of law were set aside, and all the rules usually observed in the administration of justice violated. Other criminals were heard in their own defence, and |90 allowed the assistance of counsel: nor was their own confession deemed sufficient to their condemnation. The Christian, on the contrary, was simply asked whether he was a Christian; and either his sentence was pronounced as soon as he had admitted the fact; or such was the strange infatuation of the judges, the torture was inflicted in order to compel him to retract his confession and deny the truth: whereas in all other cases torture was applied in order to extract the truth, and to compel the suspected party to confess his guilt. Tertullian dwells for some time upon the gross injustice of these proceedings; as well as upon the inconsistency exhibited by Trajan in his letter to Pliny; in which, at the very moment that he forbade all search to be made after the Christians, he ordered them to be punished as malefactors when brought before the tribunals.
The Apology furnishes many striking proofs of the unreasonableness and blindness of the hatred, which the enemies of the Gospel had conceived against its professors. 55 The Christians were accused of the most heinous crimes; of atheism, infanticide, of holding nocturnal meetings in which they abandoned themselves to the most shameful excesses. In vain did they challenge their opponents to make good these horrible charges. In vain did they urge the utter improbability |91 that any body of men should be guilty of such atrocious, such unnatural acts; especially of men, the fundamental article of whose belief was that they should hereafter be summoned before the judgment-seat of God, there to give an account of the deeds done in the flesh.56 "You are determined," says Tertullian, "to close your eyes against the truth, and to persist in hating us without a cause. You are compelled to witness the salutary influence of Christianity, in the reformed lives and morals of those who embrace it; but you quarrel with the effect, however beneficial, in consequence of your hatred of the cause from which it proceeds. Even virtue ceases in your estimation to be virtue, when found in a Christian: and you are content that your wives shall be unchaste, your children disobedient, and your slaves dishonest, if they are but careful to abstain from all communication with this detested sect."
Tertullian 57 alludes to an ancient law, which prohibited even the emperor from introducing the worship of any new Deity, unless it had been previously approved by the Senate. As the worship of Christ had not received this preliminary sanction, the Christians by the profession of their religion, manifestly offended against the law; and Tertullian speaks as if this was the principal ground of the accusations made against them. It was not, however, their sole offence: they were charged, not only with introducing a new deity, but with abandoning the gods of their ancestors. Tertullian replies, that the accusation came with an ill grace from men, who were themselves in the daily |92 habit of disregarding and violating the institutions of antiquity; but he does not attempt to deny its truth. 58 On the contrary, he boldly maintains that the Christians had done right in renouncing the worship of Gods, who were in reality no gods; but mortals to whom divine honours had been ascribed after death, and whose images and statues were the abode of evil spirits, lurking there in ambush to destroy the souls of men.
The 59 absurdity and extravagance of the Heathen Mythology open to Tertullian a wide field for the exercise of his eloquence and wit: and while at one time he ironically apologizes for the readiness with which the magistrates and people gave credit to the horrible reports circulated against the Christians, on the ground that they believed stories equally horrible respecting their own Deities; at another he warmly inveighs against the gross inconsistency of imputing to a Christian as a crime, that which was not deemed derogatory from the character of a God.
But 60 the prejudice and bigotry of the enemies of the Gospel induced them, not only to believe the most atrocious calumnies against its professors, but also to entertain the most erroneous and ridiculous notions repecting the objects of Christian worship. Not content with falling into the double error, first, of confounding the Christians with the Jews, and next of receiving as true the idle tales related by 61 Tacitus respecting the origin and fortunes of the Jewish people, they persisted |93 in accusing the Christians of worshipping the head of an ass: although, as our author justly observes,62 the Roman historian had himself furnished the means of disproving his own statement; by relating that, when Pompey visited the temple of Jerusalem and entered the Holy of Holies, he found there no visible representation of the Deity. Since they could give credit to so palpable a falsehood, we cannot be surprised at their believing that the sun and the cross were objects of worship in the New Religion—a belief, to which the forms of Christian devotion might appear to an adversary to lend some countenance. In replying to these calumnies, 63 Tertullian takes the opportunity of stating, in spirited and eloquent language, the Christian notions of the Deity; and of insisting upon the genuineness and antiquity of the Jewish Scriptures, by which the knowledge of the one supreme God, of the creation of the world, and of the origin of mankind, had been preserved and transmitted from age to age. 64 The superior antiquity of Moses and the Prophets to the poets and legislators of Greece is repeatedly urged by our author, as an irrefragable proof (weak as the argument may appear to us) of the superior claim of the Mosaic institutions to be received as a revelation from heaven.
It has been remarked that the treatment of the primitive Christians formed a solitary exception to that system of universal toleration, which regulated the conduct of the Roman government towards the |94 professors of other religions. 65 Gibbon appears to have assigned the true reason of this deviation from its usual policy, when he observes that while all other people professed a national religion, the Christians formed a sect. The Aegyptian, though he deemed it his duty to worship the same birds and reptiles to which his ancestors had paid their adorations, made no attempt to induce the inhabitants of other countries to adopt his deities. In his estimation the different superstitions of the heathen world were not so much at variance that they could not exist together. He respected the faith of others, while he preferred his own. But Christianity was from its very nature a proselyting religion. The convert not only abandoned the faith of his ancestors, and thereby committed an unpardonable offence in the eyes of a Gentile; but also claimed to himself the exclusive possession of the truth, and denounced as criminal every other mode of worship. When we consider this striking distinction between the character of Christianity, and of every other form of religion then existing, we shall feel less surprise that it was regarded by the ruling powers with peculiar feelings of jealousy and dislike, or that it was excepted from the general system of toleration. 66 In vain did Tertullian insist upon the right of private judgment in matters of faith; in vain expose the strange inconsistency of tolerating the absurd superstitions of Aegypt, and at the same time persecuting the professors of a religion, which inculcated the worship |95 of one, pure, spiritual, omniscient, omnipotent God, —a God in every respect worthy to receive the adorations of intelligent beings. By thus asserting that the God of the Christians was the only true God, he unavoidably destroyed the effect of his appeal to the understanding, the justice, and the humanity of the Roman governors.
Sometimes the Christians fell into an error not uncommon with very zealous advocates; they urged arguments which were easily retorted upon themselves, and were even converted into pretences for persecuting their religion. 67 We have seen that they were in the habit of accounting for events by the immediate interposition of Providence: of ascribing favourable events to their own prayers, and calamities to the Divine displeasure, excited by the cruelties inflicted upon them. 68 The Pagans, in answer, appealed to the continually increasing power and glory of Rome, during the seven centuries which preceded the birth of Christ; and contended that this long series of prosperity was to be attributed solely to that piety towards the gods, which had always formed a striking feature in the national character. 69 "But how," they asked, "are we to account for the calamities by which the empire has been visited, since the odious sect of Christians appeared? How, but by their impiety and crimes, which have drawn down upon us the wrath of Heaven? By tolerating their existence we have in fact become partakers of their guilt. Let us then hasten |96 to repair our error; and to appease the displeasure of the gods by utterly rooting out their enemies from the earth." The stated returns of the public games and festivals were,70 as has been already observed, the occasions on which the blind and inhuman zeal of the deluded populace displayed itself in all its ferocity. Every feeling of compassion was then extinguished; and the cry of "Christianos ad leonem!" resounded from every part of the crowded amphitheatre.
Another 71 ground of accusation against the Christians was, that they refused to sacrifice to the gods for the safety of the Emperor. Tertullian admits the fact; but answers that their refusal arose, not from any feeling of disrespect or disaffection, but from the well-grounded conviction that the gods of the heathen were mere stocks and stones, and consequently incapable of affording the Emperor protection. "Far from being indifferent to his welfare, we put up daily petitions in his behalf, to the true, the living, the eternal God; in whom kings reign, and through whose power they are powerful. To that God we pray, in full confidence that he will hear our prayers, and grant the Emperor a long life, a peaceful reign, and every public and private blessing." "Do not," Tertullian adds, "trust merely to my assertions: consult our sacred books: you will there find that we are expressly enjoined to pray for kings and those in authority."
As 72 the Christians cautiously abstained from every act which in the least approximated to idolatry, the |97 seasons of public festivity were to them seasons of the most imminent danger. Their abhorrence of every species of excess, their refusal to join in obstreperous or indecent expressions of joy, to illuminate their houses in the day-time, or to hang garlands over their doors, were construed by their adversaries into certain marks of disloyalty. Tertullian answers this charge by appealing to the uniform tenor of their conduct; "a less equivocal proof," he adds, "of our affection towards our Sovereign, than those outward demonstrations of joy 73 which have been displayed in our own time, by men who at the very moment were plotting his destruction. As our religion teaches us to disregard and despise the honours and riches of this world, we are not liable to be led astray by those feelings of avarice and ambition, which impel others to disturb the public tranquillity; and if you would take the trouble of informing yourselves of what passes in our assemblies and at our love-feasts, far from finding reason to view them with jealousy as dangerous to the State, you would acknowledge that their necessary tendency is to increase our love towards God and towards our neighour; to make us better men and better subjects."
But 74 though the enemies of the Gospel might be compelled to allow that a Christian was a peaceable, they still accused him of being an unprofitable citizen. |98 The charge, however, if we may judge from Tertullian's answer, resolved itself principally into this, that the Christians brought no offerings to the Temples, and contributed nothing towards defraying the expenses of the public games, or to the support of those trades which were more immediately connected with the pomps and ceremonies of idolatry. In his remarks upon this charge, Tertullian expressly affirms that the Christians in his day did not affect a life of solitude and abstraction; but dwelt in the world, and laboured in their several callings and occupations, like other men. In like manner, they disclaimed all singularity of dress or diet; freely using the gifts of Providence, but careful not to abuse them. "They indeed," says Tertullian, "who minister to the vicious and criminal passions of mankind—pimps, assassins, and fortunetellers—may complain with truth that the Christians are unprofitable to them. But all who think that the best man is the most useful citizen, must admit the claim of the Christian to that character, whose religion teaches him that, not only his actions but his very thoughts must be pure; and who regulates his conduct by a reference, not to the imperfect laws of man, the penalties of which he might hope to evade, but to the perfect law of that God, from whom nothing can be hid, and whose vengeance it is impossible to escape."
Unable 75 either to fix any stain upon the morals of the Christians, or to substantiate the charges of irreligion and disloyalty against them, their enemies proceeded |99 in the last place to undervalue Christianity itself, and to represent it as a mere species of philosophy. "The philosophers," they said, "inculcate innocence, justice, patience,sobriety, chastity; and what do the Christians more?" "Be it so," is Tertullian's reply; "why then do you deny to us alone the indulgence which you extend to every other sect? But look at the effects of Christianity, and you will be forced to confess that it is something more than a species of philosophy; how otherwise can you account for the altered lives and morals of its professors—a change which philosophy has never yet produced in its votaries? "
The 76 conclusion of the Apology points out to us one cause of the rapid growth of Christianity, which has been overlooked by Mosheim—the admirable courage and constancy with which the Christians bore the torments inflicted upon them by their persecutors. "Proceed," says Tertullian to the provincial governors, "proceed in your career of cruelty; but do not suppose that you will thus accomplish your purpose of extinguishing the hated sect. We are like the grass which grows the more luxuriantly, the oftener it is mown. The blood of Christians is the seed of Christianity. Your Philosophers taught men to despise pain and death by words; but how few their converts |100 compared with those of the Christians, who teach by example? The very obstinacy with which you upbraid us is the great propagator of our doctrines. 77 For who can behold it, and not inquire into the nature of that faith which inspires such supernatural courage? Who can inquire into that faith, and not embrace it? who can embrace it, and not desire himself to undergo the same sufferings in order that he may thus secure a participation in the fulness of the divine favour?"
I cannot 78 quit this part of my subject without briefly noticing Gibbon's remarks on the Apologies published by the early Christians, in behalf of themselves and their religion. He admits that they expose with ability the absurdities of Polytheism; and describe with eloquence and force, the innocence and sufferings of their brethren. But when they attempt to demonstrate the divine origin of Christianity, then in his opinion they entirely fail; and the only feeling, which they excite in the mind of the reader, is regret that the cause was not defended by abler advocates. He particularly blames them for insisting more strongly upon the predictions which announced, 79 than upon the miracles which accompanied the appearance of the Messiah. But in these remarks the Historian seems to me to proceed upon the erroneous |101 supposition that the Apology of Tertullian, and other works of a similar nature, were designed to be regular expositions of the evidences of Christianity. 80 Such an idea never entered into the writer's mind. His immediate business was to defend Christianity against the attacks of its enemies—to correct their misrepresentations, and to refute their calumnies—to persuade them that it was not that combination of folly and crime which they supposed it to be—that in a word they were bound to examine, before they condemned it. The object, therefore, at which he principally aimed was, not to marshal its evidences, but to give a full and perspicuous account of its doctrines and moral precepts. Yet when he explains the notion of the Supreme Being, entertained by the Christians, he adverts, though concisely, to the grounds on which their belief was founded. 81 He shows that the testimony, borne to the existence of an Almighty Creator of the Universe, by his visible works without, and by the voice of conscience within us, is confirmed by the Jewish Scriptures; the claims of which to be received as a divine revelation he rests upon their superior antiquity, not only to the literature, but even to the gods of Greece, and upon the actual accomplishment of many of the prophecies contained in them. When again he proceeds to explain those doctrines which are more peculiarly Christian, he 82 says that Christ was proved to be the Word of God, as well by the miserable state to which, agreeably to the prophecies of the |102 Old Testament, the Jewish nation was reduced in consequence of its rejection of him, as by the miracles which he wrought during his residence upon earth.
I know not what further evidence of the divine origin of Christianity Tertullian could be expected to produce, in a work designed to explain what it was, not to prove whence it was derived. But had the latter been his professed object, are we competent to decide upon the train of reasoning which he ought to have pursued in order most readily to accomplish it? Arguments, which appear to us the most forcible, might have been thrown away upon the persons whom he was addressing; and we may surely give him credit for knowing by what means he was most likely to produce conviction in their minds. He has frequent recourse to the argument ad hominem; which, however lightly it may weigh in the estimation of the dispassionate and reflecting reader of the present day, was not without its effect in silencing the clamours of malice and of ignorance. They who think with 83 Daillé, that the exquisite wisdom and transcendent beauty of the rule of life prescribed in the Gospel constitute the strongest and surest proof of its divine origin, will also think that Tertullian, by simply stating the doctrines of Christianity and appealing to the Scriptures in confirmation of his statement, adopted the most efficacious mode of extending its influence. |103
We have seen that the persecutions inflicted on the Christians, far from retarding, contributed, in the opinion of Tertullian, to accelerate the progress of the Gospel. The Church was not insensible to the advantages which its cause derived from the intrepid constancy of its members; but it was too well aware of the infirmity of human nature not to know, that even the sincerest conviction of the truth of Christianity might not always be sufficient to support the convert in the hour of danger. In order, therefore, to excite his courage, the sufferings of martyrdom were invested with peculiar privileges and honours. It can scarcely be necessary to remark, that the original signification of the word Martyr is "a Witness;" and though in later times the appellation has been generally confined to those who proved the sincerity of their faith by the sacrifice of their lives, in the time of Tertullian 84 it was used with greater latitude, and comprehended all whom the profession of Christianity had exposed to any severe hardship, such as imprisonment, or loss of property—those who are now usually distinguished by the name of 85 Confessors. To this lax use of the term martyr must be chiefly ascribed the erroneous persuasion which has been so carefully cherished by the Church of Rome, respecting the number of martyrs, strictly so called; for though it may have been greater than 86 Dodwell was willing to |104 allow, it is certain that his opinion approaches much nearer to the truth than that of his opponents.
We shall, however, form a very inadequate idea of the sufferings endured by the primitive Christians, if we restrict them to the punishments inflicted by the magistrates, or to the outrages committed by a blind and infuriate populace. Many, who escaped the sword and the wild beasts, were destined to encounter trials of the severest kind, though their sufferings attracted not the public attention. When we consider the species of authority exercised by heads of families in those days, and the hatred by which many were actuated against Christianity, we may frame to ourselves some notion of the condition of a wife, a child, or a slave who ventured to profess a belief in its doctrines. 87 This alone was deemed a sufficient cause for repudiating a wife, or disinheriting a son; and Tertullian mentions 88 by name a governor of Cappadocia, who avenged the conversion of his wife by persecuting all the Christians of the province. So heinous indeed was the offence that it 89 cancelled all |105 obligations. He who committed it became at once an outcast from society, and was considered to have forfeited his claim to the good offices of his nearest kinsman; nor were instances wanting, 90 if Tertullian's expressions are to be literally understood, in which a brother informed against a brother, and even a parent against a child.
Yet amidst the trials and afflictions to which he was subjected, the convert was not entirely destitute even of earthly consolation. The affection and esteem of the Brethren in some degree compensated the loss of his former friends, the alienation of his kindred, and the contempt and insults of the world. We in the present day can form only a faint conception of the intimacy of that union which subsisted between the primitive Christians, and was cemented by a community of danger, as well as of faith and hope. 91 The love which they bore to each other excited the astonishment, |106 though it could not subdue the hostility of their heathen persecutors. But they naturally regarded, with feelings of peculiar affection and respect, those members of the Church who were called to suffer in its cause. The Christian, when imprisoned on account of his religion, was supported by the reflection, that his brethren anxiously watched over his fate, and that no exertion would be wanting on their part to mitigate its severity—92 that he should be maintained during his confinement by their voluntary contributions—that 93 devout females would flock to his prison to kiss his chains, and 94 penitents to obtain through his intercession a speedier restoration to the communion of the Church. If he escaped with life, he knew that he should become the object of the most reverential regard —that he should be held up by the Church as an example to all its members, and possess 95 a prior claim to its dignities and honours. If he was destined to lose his life, he had been taught that martyrdom was a 96 second and more efficacious baptism—97 that it washed away every stain—and that, while the souls of ordinary Christians passed the interval between |107 their separation from the body and the general resurrection in a state of incomplete enjoyment, that of the martyr was 98 secure of immediate admission to the perfect happiness of Heaven.
When such were the privileges conferred, both in this and in the next world by suffering for the faith of Christ, it is not surprising that men of an ardent and enthusiastic temper should aspire to the crown of martyrdom, and eagerly encounter persecution. Nor can it be dissembled that 99 some of the early fathers, in their anxiety to confirm the faith of the convert, and to prevent him from apostatizing in the hour of trial, occasionally spoke a language calculated to encourage men to make that gratuitous sacrifice of life, to which the sober decision of reason must annex the name and guilt of suicide. It may be asked, perhaps, "what surer mark there can be of that love of God, in which consists the perfection of the Christian character, than an earnest desire to be removed from this world of vanity and sin, and to be admitted to the immediate perception of the Divine Presence? 100 When Tertullian says, that the Christian's only concern respecting this life is, that he may as speedily as possible exchange it for another, in what does his language differ from that of St. Paul, |108 who tells 101 the Philippians that he has a desire to depart, and to be with Christ?" But this desire was tempered and controlled in the mind of the Apostle by a feeling of implicit resignation to the will of God. He must abide in the flesh so long as his ministry could be useful to the Philippians; and it was not for him to determine for how long a period his usefulness would continue. Though he was prepared—though he longed for the summons to depart, he did not venture to anticipate it; and far from courting martyrdom, he employed all warrantable methods of preserving his life. Tertullian himself, 102 in the Apology, discriminates accurately between the case of a Christian who voluntarily denounces himself, and that of one who, when brought before the magistrate, professes his gladness that he is called to suffer on account of his faith. He supposes a heathen to ask, "Why do you complain of being persecuted, when it is your own wish to suffer?" His answer is, "No doubt, we wish to suffer; but in the same manner that a soldier wishes for the battle. He wishes to obtain the spoil and glory consequent upon victory, but would gladly avoid the danger to which he will be exposed, though he does not shrink from it. So we, |109 though we endure your persecutions in the hope of finally obtaining the reward of our fidelity, would gladly avoid them could we do so consistently with our allegiance to Christ."
While however we condemn that immoderate anxiety to obtain the honours of martyrdom, which appears to have been too prevalent among the primitive Christians, let us not involve in one indiscriminate censure, all who either became their own accusers before the magistrates, or refused to save themselves by flight, or by any other innocent means, from the certain death which awaited them. The moral character of the act must depend upon the motive by which it was dictated. The name of suicide is justly applied to that voluntary sacrifice of life, which originates in distrust of the goodness, or impatience of the visitations of God—in disgust at the world—or in a presumptuous desire to seize, before the appointed time, the rewards reserved in heaven for the faithful followers of Christ. But who can fail to discern the clear distinction between these cases and the noble refusal of Socrates to save his life by escaping from prison? a refusal dictated by a feeling of reverence for the laws of his country, and a conviction that he was bound to obey them even unto death. In like manner it may be presumed, that when the primitive Christians voluntarily presented themselves before the tribunal of the magistrate, they were frequently actuated by a more justifiable motive than the desire of securing the honours of martyrdom. They might hope to arrest the violence of an angry governor, by convincing him |110 of the inutility of persecuting men who, far from dreading or avoiding any punishments which he could inflict, came forward to meet them. They might hope to excite a feeling, if not of compassion, at least of horror, in his mind, by showing him that he must wade through a sea of blood in order to accomplish his purpose. Such is the construction put by 103 Lardner upon the conduct of the Asiatic Christians, who during a persecution presented themselves in a body before the tribunal of 104 Arrius Antoninus, the proconsul. He regards as an act of well-timed, as well as generous, self-devotion, that which 105 Gibbon produces as an instance of the indiscreet ardour of the primitive Christians. His view is, in my opinion, confirmed by the context; 106 for Tertullian introduces the story by observing that the Christians voluntarily presented themselves, in order to convince the governors that they were not afraid of death; and afterwards calls upon Scapula, the Proconsul of Africa, whom he is addressing, to reflect how many thousands he would destroy, and what utter ruin he would bring upon Carthage, if he persisted in his cruel intentions. Whatever might be the motive which dictated the act, its effect certainly was to put an end to the persecution. |111 Antoninus, after he had ordered a few to be led away to punishment, either influenced by compassion, or observing that the resolution of the survivors was unshaken, dismissed them with the exclamation, "Miserable men! if you wish to die, have you not precipices or halters? "
We find, as we might expect from the change which took place in Tertullian's opinions, some inconsistency in his language respecting the conduct to be pursued by Christians in times of persecution. As he advanced in life his notions became continually more severe. We have 107 already observed that in the Tract de Patientia, he speaks as if it were allowable for a Christian to consult his safety by flight. But in the Tract de Fuga in Persecutione—which was written after his secession from the Church, and is described, perhaps too harshly, by Gibbon, as a compound of the wildest fanaticism and most incoherent declamation— he denounces flight in time of persecution as an impious attempt to resist the divine will. 108 "Persecutions," he argues, "proceed from God, for the purpose of proving the faith of Christians: 109 the attempt, therefore, to avoid them is both foolish and wicked; foolish, because we cannot escape the destiny assigned us by God; wicked, because by fleeing from persecution, we appear to set ourselves in opposition to his will, and to accuse him of cruelty. 110 Our |112 Saviour, it is true, said to his disciples, 'When they persecute you in one city, flee to another.' But this injunction applied only to their particular circumstances: had they been cut off in the very outset of their ministry, the Gospel could not have been diffused throughout the world. 111 The same reason will account for the conduct of Christ, in withdrawing himself from the fury of the Jews. His bitter agony in the garden, which is urged in defence of flight in time of persecution, was designed to refute by anticipation the heretical notion that he had neither a human body nor soul: and his prayer to God—'Let this cup pass from me'—will not justify us in endeavouring to flee from danger, since he immediately subjoined, 'Not my will, but thine be done.' "
Allusion 112 has already been made to a passage in the Tract which we are now considering, where Tertullian speaks of the immense revenue which might be collected, if each Christian was allowed to purchase the free exercise of his religion for a sum of money. 113 This measure indeed had not been resorted to as a source of revenue to the state; but it had suggested itself to the avarice of the provincial governors as an excellent expedient for replenishing their private coffers; and we find that not only individuals, but whole Churches were in the habit of purchasing exemption from persecution. 114 Tertullian, as might be expected, condemns this practice in the strongest terms. |113 "Christians," he says, "who have been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, may not redeem their lives with money. If such a practice was to become universal, no instance of martyrdom could occur. God would no longer be glorified by the sufferings of his faithful servants, and thus one end of the Christian dispensation would be defeated."
Two of Tertullian's Treatises relate expressly to the subject of martyrdom. One of them entitled ad Martyres, is a brief address to certain Christians who had been cast into prison on account of their religion; pointing out to them various topics of consolation, and exhorting them to courage and constancy under their sufferings. It might be supposed, that the duty of preparation for the cruel fate which awaited them would have left them neither time nor inclination to engage in disputes with each other. 6 They appear, however, to have disagreed in prison; and part of Tertullian's address is taken up in warning them not to allow the enemy of their salvation to gain a triumph by their dissensions. Their disputes appear from our author's expressions to have been of a personal character. Our Reformers in Queen Mary's days, when confined in prison, and expecting to be brought to the stake, wrote and dispersed Tracts against each other on the doctrine of Predestination.
"With respect to the other Tract, entitled Scorpiace, we have already observed that it was directed against the Gnostics and Valentinians, who denied that a Christian |114 was under any obligation to encounter martyrdom.115 "God," they said, "cannot desire the death of the innocent; nor can Christ who died for man, wish man to die in turn for him." The aim, therefore of our author, is to show, that it is the bounden duty of Christians to endure the severest sufferings, rather than do any act which can be construed into a participation in idolatry. 116 The heinousness of that sin in the sight of God is proved by the numerous denunciations in the Old Testament against it; and by the severe punishments inflicted on the Israelites for adopting the rites of their idolatrous neighbours. 117 But when God forbids us to commit idolatry, he evidently forbids us to shrink from any danger to which we may be exposed by our refusal to commit it; to shrink, for instance, from martyrdom, if we should be called to so severe a trial of our faith. 118 This conclusion our author supports by references to the example of Daniel, and the three Jews who were thrown into the fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar, for refusing to bow down to the golden image. 119 He appears, however, to have been aware that these references would have little weight with the Gnostics and Marcionites, who denied that the God of the Old Testament was the Supreme God. 120 He contends, therefore, that, when God calls men to suffer for the Gospel, far from deserving, as the Valentinians insinuated, on that account to be censured as cruel, he |115 affords a striking proof of his goodness, by enabling us to vanquish in turn the enemy of our salvation by whom Adam was vanquished.
From the Old Testament Tertullian proceeds to the New, and 121 argues, that one principal object of our Saviour's discourses to his disciples was to confirm their faith, and prepare them cheerfully to encounter the persecutions which awaited them. The interpretation which the Apostles put upon the words of Christ is, he adds, manifest both from their writings and their conduct. 122 The former are full of allusions to the dangers and difficulties to which the professors of the Gospel would be exposed, and of exhortations to support them with constancy; 123 and with respect to the latter, the violent deaths of many of the first Disciples sufficiently proved that they did not think themselves at liberty to shrink from martyrdom.
Some of the evasions, suggested by the Valentinians for the purpose of enabling the convert at once to save his life and satisfy his conscience, afford amusing instances of the deception which men continually practise on themselves. 124 "Our Saviour's words," they argued, "are, He who denies me before men, him will I deny before my Father. Christ does not say, He who denies that he is a Christian; this, therefore, may be denied without incurring the penalty of exclusion from heaven." The heathen magistrates appear to have been aware of this equivocation; for after the party accused had denied that he was a |116 Christian, they compelled him also to deny and blaspheme Christ. 125 The Valentinians also contended, that as St. Paul enjoins Christians to be subject to the higher powers, without limiting the injunction, he meant that they were to obey the magistrate, even when commanded to adjure Christianity. 126 Another of their fancies was, that when Christ directed his followers to confess him before men, he alluded to a confession to be made, not before the race of men existing upon earth—the vile work of the Demiurge—but before those to whom the name of men really belongs, the Valentinian Powers and Aeons. It must, however, be admitted that Tertullian occasionally displays no less dexterity than his opponents, in wresting Scripture to his own purpose. 127 Thus he says, that the fear, which, according to St. John, is cast out by perfect love, is the fear of persecution.
Though we attempt not to justify the language used by many of the Fathers on the subject of martyrdom, we cannot forbear observing, that a reference to the circumstances of the times will probably induce us to moderate our censure of them for using it. They lived when the profession of Christianity was attended with the greatest danger—when the Christian was liable at any moment to be dragged by the malice or avarice of his neighbours before the tribunal of the magistrates: and to be offered the dreadful alternative of renouncing his faith, or dying a cruel and |117 ignominious death. They knew how greatly the cause of the Gospel was either promoted or injured by the behaviour of its professors under this severe trial. They resorted, therefore, to every argument which was in their opinion calculated to prepare the mind of the convert for the arduous conflict; and to enable him to subdue the natural apprehension of pain and death. But unhappily, instead of adhering closely to the example 128 of the Apostles, and instructing their brethren to encounter persecution, not merely with firmness, as the lot to which they were especially called by their profession, but with cheerfulness and joy, since they thereby became partakers in their Blessed Master's sufferings—instead of confining themselves" to these sound and reasonable topics of exhortation, they represented martyrdom as an object to be ambitiously sought; forgetting that, although resignation to the will of God, and a patient enduring of the afflictions with which he is pleased to visit us, are the surest signs of a genuine piety, to go as it were in quest of suffering and to court persecution, is in reality to tempt him, and bespeaks an impatient and presumptuous temper, most foreign from the Christian character.
We 129 have seen that Tertullian complains of the total disregard of the established forms of law manifested by the heathen magistrates in their proceedings against the Christians. They appear, also, in the punishments which they inflicted, to have been more |118 intent upon gratifying their own ferocity, or that of an exasperated populace, than upon complying with the edicts of the Emperor. 130 From a passage in the Address to Scapula, we may conclude that death by the sword was the punishment appointed in the case of the Christians: but Tertullian says that in many instances they had been burned—"a severity of punishment," he adds, "to which even criminals convicted of sacrilege or treason are not doomed." Nor were the governors content with inflicting bodily sufferings on their unhappy victims. Those more refined and ingenious torments which 131 Gibbon supposes to have existed only in the inventions of the monks of succeeding ages, were, if we may believe Tertullian, actually resorted to in his day. 132 The Primitive Christians scrupulously complied with the decree pronounced by the Apostles at Jerusalem, in abstaining from things strangled and from blood; when, therefore, they were exhausted by long fasting, food containing blood was offered to them in the hope that they might be seduced into an act of disobedience. 133 Tertullian states also that attempts were frequently made to overcome the chastity of the |119 female martyrs; and that, instead of being exposed to the wild beasts, they were consigned to the keepers of the public stews, to become the victims either of seduction, or of brutal violence.
I shall proceed to notice some other facts mentioned by Tertullian; which, though they do not relate immediately to the history of his own times, are yet worthy of observation. 134 In the Tract against the Jews, he says that Christ suffered in the reign of Tiberius Caesar, in the Consulship of Rubellius Geminus and Fusius Geminus, in the month of March, at the time of the Passover, on the eighth of the calends of April, on the first day of unleavened bread. 135 He had previously said that Augustus survived the birth of Christ fifteen years; and that Christ suffered in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Cassar, being then about thirty years of age. It is allowed that the consulship of the Gemini corresponded to the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius; and as we know from St. Luke's Gospel that our Saviour began to preach in that year, those writers who contend that his ministry lasted only for a single year, refer to Tertullian as maintaining that opinion. To these passages, however, has been opposed another, 136 from the first Book against Marcion, in which it is |120 said that Christ was revealed in the twelfth year of Tiberius. The correct inference, therefore, appears to be, that Tertullian believed our Saviour's ministry to have continued for three years, but mistook the year in which he was revealed for the year in which he sufferred. As it forms no part of my plan to discuss the difficulties attending the chronology of our Saviour's life I shall content myself with referring the reader to 137 Mr. Benson's work on that subject.
Tertullian138 more than once speaks of a census taken during the reign of Augustus; the documents relating to which were preserved in the Roman archives, and according to him, afforded incontestable evidence of our Lord's nativity. He states, however, that this census was taken by Sentius Saturninus; and consequently appears to contradict the account given by St. Luke, who ascribes it to Cyrenius. In this, as in the former case, I shall not attempt to examine the solutions of the difficulty, which have been proposed by different learned men; but shall refer the reader |121 to 139 Lardner. One circumstance, however, seems worthy of observation. 140 Tertullian uniformly appeals to the census as establishing the descent of Christ from David through Mary; whose genealogy he also supposes to be given 141 in St. Matthew's Gospel. 142 In the Apology, Tertullian states that the miraculous darkness at our Lord's crucifixion was denied by those who did not know that it had been predicted, and therefore could not account for it; "yet," he adds, "it is mentioned in your, i.e. the Roman archives." 143 Gibbon thinks, that instead of archivis vestris, we should adopt the reading of the Codex Fuldensis, arcanis vestris; and understand the reference to be to the Sibylline Verses, which relate the prodigy exactly in the words of the Gospel. It is certain that 144 Tertullian speaks of the Sibyl as a true prophetess; but we 145 have just seen that he occasionally appeals to documents in the Roman archives in confirmation of his statements, and I observe that Semler retains the reading archivis. |122 I will conclude my remarks on the external History of the Church, as illustrated by the writings of Tertullian, with briefly adverting to the few notices which can be collected from them, respecting the condition of the Jews in his time. 146 He describes them as dispersed throughout the world; having neither God nor a fellow-mortal for their king; not allowed to set foot upon their native land; reduced in a word to a state of the lowest degradation; compelled to purchase by the payment of 147 a tax permission publicly to exercise their worship.
BY the kindness of the Rev. Samuel Hey, Rector of Steeple Ashton, and of Dr. Richard Hey, of Hertingford-Bury, I have been put in possession of twelve Lectures on Ecclesiastical History, read by their brother—the Rev. Dr. John Hey, late Norrisian Professor of Divinity in the University of Cambridge—in the Chapel of Sidney College, in the years 1768 and |123 1769. Two of them relate to the miracles of the Primitive Church; and I willingly take this opportunity of confirming my own opinion on this interesting subject, by that of one of the most acute, most impartial, and most judicious Divines of modern times. The reader, in perusing the following extracts, should bear in mind that at the time when Dr. Hey wrote, the controversy excited by Dr. Middleton's Essay was still fresh in the recollections of men.
After some preliminary remarks, Dr. Hey observes: "The authors on both sides of this question, concerning the reality of the miraculous powers in the Primitive Church, seem to have looked too far before them; and to have argued the point with too much regard to the consequences which were likely to follow from its being determined in this manner or in that. Those who defend the pretensions of the Fathers, do it through fear, lest, if they should appear indefensible, the cause of Christianity should suffer by the condemnation of its early propagators. Those who accuse the Fathers of superstition, weakness, or falsehood, consider what indelible disgrace they shall bring upon Popery by showing the impurity of the sources from which all its distinguishing doctrines have taken their rise. But why, in searching after the truth, should we give the least attention to any consequences whatsoever? We know with certainty beforehand, that error of every kind, if it is not an evil in itself, is always productive of evil in some degree or other; and that to distinguish truth from falsehood, is the likeliest method we can take to make our conduct |124 acceptable to God and beneficial to man. Nothing can be more groundless than the fears which some men indulge, lest the credit of Christianity should suffer along with the reputation of several of its professors; or more weak than considering that a sufficient reason for defending the veracity of the Fathers at all events. There are some miracles recorded in Ecclesiastical History, which are too childish and ridiculous for any one to believe; and there are some indisputable records of the vices of the Christians, and more particularly of the Clergy: so that, if Christianity can suffer by such objections (for which there is no kind of foundation in reason) it has already suffered, even in the estimation of those who think the objections of weight. All agree (at least all Protestants) that there have been pious frauds and forged miracles, as well as that the sacred order have been in some ages extremely vicious. The only difference then is in the degree of this charge, or rather about the century with regard to which it ought to take place; but what difference can such a circumstance as that make in respect of the divine origin of Christianity? We may, therefore, without fear of scruple, enter upon the discussion which I have been proposing, and probe every apparent wound with resolution and accuracy.
But as all reasoning on subjects of this nature must have its foundation in facts (for we can no more argue upon points of history without ascertaining facts, than upon points of philosophy without experiments), the first part of our business is to collect from |125 Ecclesiastical writers narratives of those miracles wrought or pretended to be wrought, in the Christian Church, which seem to be most worthy of our attention and most likely to afford our judgment ground for a determination.
Previous, however, to such enumeration, it will be proper to mention a circumstance of importance, viz. that for fifty years after the ascension of Christ, none of the Fathers made any pretensions to the possession of miraculous powers. We have already spoken in a former Lecture, of those Fathers who are called the Apostolic, of Ignatius, Polycarp, Barnabas, 148 Hermas; now it is an historical truth not to be omitted, that not one of those pious men, though they were the principal governors of the Church, and the immediate successors of the Apostles in that government (as well as their companions and friends), ever speaks of himself as capable of counteracting the ordinary powers of nature: they all endeavour to inculcate the morality and religion of the Gospel, but that merely as men, possessed indeed of the sense and meaning of the sacred writers, but entirely void of their extraordinary power. This fact, though not wholly uncontroverted, is very nearly so; some ambiguous expressions concerning the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit have been, not without great violence, extended to signify an extraordinary communication with the Deity—but no one has so much as pretended, that such communication was ever meant to answer any further end, than that of strengthening the weakness of human nature against the terrors of |126 persecution. I only affirm, however, that none of the Apostolic Fathers speaks of himself as endued with a power of working miracles; we must not absolutely say that no miracles have ever been said to be wrought about the time they lived; because there is a very celebrated letter extant from the Church of Smyrna, giving an account of the martyrdom of Polycarp, which is said to have been attended with circumstances sufficiently miraculous. This account I shall beg leave to repeat from an eminent writer."
Having given an extract from this letter, as well as from the account of the martyrdom of Ignatius, Dr. Hey proceeds: "These miracles are mentioned because they are said to have been performed concerning those two Apostolic Fathers, who never ventured to assume the power of performing any themselves." After briefly noticing the miracle of the thundering legion, of which he observes that "there seems sufficient reason for being cautious about ranking it amongst the genuine miracles performed in favour of the Christian religion," he adds the following remarks: "Though the Apostolic Fathers stand clear of all imputations of vanity or falsehood on the score of claiming miraculous powers, yet those whom we mentioned next in order, when we considered the subject of studying the writings of the Fathers, declare openly that such were in their time indisputably exercised in the Church. I mean Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Theophilus Bishop of Antioch, and Tertullian. We might add Origen, and indeed every other writer after them till the Reformation; and there is no effort of the divine power so great which they |127 do not boast of having exerted. Of all sorts of miracles ever performed, one would expect men to be the most cautious of assuming the power of raising the dead: and yet Irenaeus says that this was frequently done on necessary occasions: and that men so raised lived amongst them many years. Irenaeus only affirms this in general, without mentioning any particular instance, and it is somewhat strange that no instance was ever produced in the three first centuries, insomuch that the heathens gave no credit to the affirmations of the Fathers upon this head. 149 'Tantum enim,' says Irenaeus, 'absunt ab eo ut mortuum ipsi excitent, ut ne quidem credant hoc in totum posse fieri.' There is not, however, the same want of instances with regard to the other branches of miracles said to have been performed in the Church, namely, seeing visions, prophesying, healing diseases, curing daemoniacs, and gome others."
Dr. Hey passes in the second of the two Lectures to what he terms the later miracles of the Church; those which are said to have been wrought in the interval between the establishment of Christianity by the civil power, and the time at which he wrote: and having remarked that many of them were proved to be impostures, he supposes with respect to others, the |128 question to be asked—"whether those should not be credited which have been strongly attested, and their falsity never proved? "
"In answer to this," he proceeds, "we may observe, in the first place, that to any one who has been conversant in history, and has seen the credulity of some and the pious frauds of others, the want of regard to conscience in promoting the views of a party, whether civil or religious, with the many actual violations of truth which have been fully exposed, it is absolutely impossible to believe the common run of miraculous stories; no evidence can equal the prior probability which we have of their falsehood. Then there are many relations of preternatural events which no one believes (or perhaps a very trifling party), though they have been attested with all possible formality and exactness. The Abbé Paris is mentioned by every one on this subject: he only died in 1735; the variety of miracles which were said to have been performed at his tomb is truly surprising in an improved age: but not less so the strength, the precision, the regularity of the attestations of them, taken before magistrates of the greatest gravity and authority. Mons. de Montgeron, a person of eminent rank in Paris, published a select number of them in a pompous volume in quarto, which he dedicated to the King, and presented to him in person; being induced to the publication of them, as he declares, by the incontestable evidence of the facts: by which he himself, from a libertine and professed Deist, became a sincere convert to the Christian faith. And yet no one now believes |129 these facts; the Jesuit party never owned their belief of them, for the Abbé was a Jansenist, and the miracles were to support the interests of the Jansenists: though the Jesuits profess to believe the miracles of the Fathers which we have been relating, and which are not near so well attested as those of the Abbé Paris.
If then some of the ecclesiastical miracles are to be disbelieved, and the later which we are to disbelieve are better attested than the early, in what century shall we draw the line between the credible and incredible? it is a difficult matter; and the difficulty cannot but affect the general credit of Church miracles, if joined to other collateral proofs of the fallibility of their evidence.
There is another remarkable instance, in which the greatest number of witnesses, and the firmest temporary opinion concerning the truth of the facts, have not been able to perpetuate an error; and that is the affair of witchcraft. No miraculous fact in the Church has ever been better proved, if so well, as the supernatural operations of witches. All the nations of Christendom have so far taken their powers for granted, as to provide legal remedies against them,—nay, even capital punishments for their supposed crimes. At this time there subsist, in this University one, if not several foundations for annual sermons, to be preached against them. It is shocking to think of the number of poor wretches who have suffered cruel deaths on account of this superstition: and yet there does not now seem to remain the least trace of it amongst |130 liberal people or indeed 150 in any rank whatsoever. If we consider how an incredulous person, during its existence, would be blamed for opposing the united sense of all Christian nations,—the testimony of numbers of impartial people,—the purport of the wisest laws; we shall at least contract a candid indulgence towards those who are unable to believe the relations of St. Jerome. In short, as Dr. Middleton says, 'the incredibility of the thing prevailed, and was found at last too strong for human testimony 151.'
Far different from those we have been speaking of are the miracles of the Gospel; rational, benevolent, seasonable, of extensive use, disinterested, free from superstition and moroseness, promoting good morals, called out by the greatness of the occasion in a series, coincident with the purposes of God manifested in prior revelations of his will. 152 Nor would even these have justly gained the assent of mankind, had the internal evidence of the Gospel plainly contradicted the external,—had the precepts which it promulgated been evidently unworthy of the Deity, and productive of the misery of human nature, instead of meriting the angelic eulogium which they received when the heavenly choir sang, 'Glory to God,—peace on earth,—and good-will towards men.' "
[Footnotes have been moved to the end]
1. 1 Obsessam vociferantur civitatem: in agris, in castellis, in insulis Christianos: omnem sexum, aetatem, conditionem, etiam dignitatem transgredi ad hoc nomen quasi detrimento moerent. Apology, c. 1.
2. 2 Quid tamen de tam conspiratis unquam denotastis, &c.? Apology, c.37.
3. 3 Ad Scapulam, c. 5. In c. 2. speaking of the Christians, he says, quum tanta hominum multitudo, pars pene major civitatis cujusque, in silentio et modestia agimus.
4. 4 Tanta quotidie aerario augendo prospiciuntur remedia censuum, vectigalium, collationum, stipendiorum: nec unquam usque adhuc ex Christianis tale aliquid prospectum est, sub aliquam redemptionem capitis et sectae redigendis, quum tantae multitudinis nemini ignotae fructus ingens meti possit. De Fuga in Persecutione, c. 12.
5. 5 Et apud barbaros enim Christus. De Corona, c. 12.
6. 6 Adversus Judaeos, c. 7. Quem exaudiorunt omnes gentes, id est, cui omnes gentes crediderunt, cujus et praedicatores Apostoli in Psalmis David ostenduntur, &c.
7. 7 Edatur hic aliquis sub tribunalibus vestria, quem daemone agi constat. Jussus a quolibet Christiano loqui, Spiritus ille tam se daemonem confitebitur de vero, quam alibi Deum de false. Apology, c. 23. See also cc. 37. 43. Quod calcas Deos nationum, quod daemonia expellis, quod medicinas facis, de Spectaculis, c. 29. de Testimonio Animae, c. 3. ad Scapulam, c. 2. de Corona, c. 11. de Idololatria, c. 11.
8. 8 Nobis fides presidium, si non et ipsa percutitur diffidentia signandi statim et adjurandi et unguendi bestiae calcem. Hoc denique modo etiam Ethnicis saepe subvenimus, donati a Deo ea potestate quam Apostolus dedicavit, quum morsum viperae sprevit. Scorpiace, c. 1.
9. 9 It is not intended by this remark to convey the idea that all upon whom the Apostles laid their hands were endowed with miraculous powers; but that the imposition of hands was the mode in which the Apostles communicated those powers to others. See Acts vi. 6. (com pared with vi. 8. and viii. 6.) viii. 17, 18. xix. 6.
10. 1 A view somewhat similar seems to have been taken by Pascal in the following extract from his Pensées, which has been pointed out to me by a, learned friend. Jésus Christ a fait des miracles, et les Apotres ensuite, et les premiers Saints en ont fait aussi beaucoup: parce que les Prophéties n'etant pas encore accomplies et s'accomplissant par eux, rien ne rendoit témoignage que les Miracles. Il étoit prédit que le Messie convertiroit les nations. Comment cette prophétie se fut-ello accomplie sans la conversion des nations? et comment les nations se fussent-elles converties au Messie, ne voyant pas ce dernier effet des Prophéties qui le prouvent? Avant donc qu'il fut mort, qu'il fut resuscité, et que les nations fussent converties, tout n'etoit pas accompli. Et ainsi il a fallu des miracles pendant tout ce tems-la. Maintenant il n'en faut plus pour prouver la vérité de la Religion Chrétienne: car les Prophéties accomplies sont un miracle subsistant. Diverses preuves de Jesus Christ, c. 16.
11. 2 Chap. xv. p. 477. ed, 4to. We have given only the purport of Gibbon's observations.
12. 3 In confirmation of this remark. I refer the reader to the following passages of Tertullian's works. In the Tract de Pudicitia, he is contending that the Church possesses not the power of pardoning certain offences; but foreseeing that the example of the Apostles, who had pardoned those offences, might be objected to him, he thus anticipates the objection. "Itaque si et ipsos beatos Apostolos tale aliquid indulsisse constaret, cujus venia a Deo, non ab homine competeret, non ex disciplina, sed ex potestate fecisse." The meaning is, that the Apostles pardoned those offences, not in the ordinary course of Church discipline, but by a peculiar power vested in themselves. "Nam et mortuos suscitaverunt, quod Deus solus: et debiles redintegraverunt, quod nemo nisi Christus: immo et plagas inflixerunt, quod noluit Christus; non enim decebat eum saevire qui pati venerat. Percussus est Ananias et Elymas, Ananias morte, Elymas caecitate, ut hoc ipso probaretur Christum et haec facere potuisse. Sic et prophetae caedem et cum ea moechiam poenitentibus ignoverant, quia et severitatis documenta fecernnt. Exhibe igitur et nunc mihi, apostolice, prophetica (f. legendum Apostolica et Prophetica) exempla, et (f. ut) agnoscam divinitatem, et vindica tibi delictorum ejusmodi remittendorum potestatem. Quod si disciplinae solius officia sortitus es, nec imperio praesidere, sed ministerio, quis aut quantus es indulgere? qui neque Prophetam, nec Apostolum exhibens, cares ea virtute cujus est indulgere, c. 21. It is evident that the whole argument proceeds on the supposition, that the miraculous powers, which had been exerted by the Prophets and Apostles, no longer subsisted; since, if they did subsist, the individual possessing them might exercise the Apostolic or Prophetic privilege of pardoning the offences in question. Again in c. 22. Sic enim Dominus potestatem suam ostendit: "quid cogitatis nequam in cordibus vestris? Quid enim facilius est dicere Paralytico, Dimittuntur tibi peccata, aut surge et ambula? Igitur ut sciatis filium hominis habere dimittendorum peccatorum in terra potestatem, tibi dico, Paralytice, surge et ambula," (Matt, ix.). Si Dominus tantum de potestatis suae probatione curavit, ut traduceret cogitatus et ita imperaret sanitatem, ne non crederetur posse delicta dimittere; non licet mihi eandem potestatem in aliquo sine iisdem probationibus credere. In the Tract de Praescriptione Haereticorum, where Tertullian calls upon the Heretics to declare what miracles had been wrought by the founders of their several sects, it is worthy of remark that he does not appeal to any instance of the exercise of miraculous powers in his own day, c. 30. See also c. 44.
13. 4 Gibbon, c. xxviii. p. 99. ed. 4to.
14. 5 c. 23. quoted p. 70, in note 7.
15. 6 Nam et exemplum accidit, Domino teste, ejus mulieris quae theatrum adiit et inde cum daemonio rediit. Itaque in exorcismo quum oneraretur immundus Spiritus quod ausus esset fidelem adgredi. "Constanter et justissime quidem," inquit, "feci: in meo eam inveni," c. 26.
16. 7 See also the Tract ad Scapulam, c. 4. Nam et cujusdam notarius, quum a daemone praecipitaretur, liberatus est; et quorundam propinquus et puerulus. Et quanti honesti viri de vulgaribus enim non dicimus, aut a daemoniis aut valetudinibus remediati sunt! In the Tract de Exhortatione Castitatis, c. 12. sub fine, is a story of a man who married a second wife under the idea that she was barren; but she proved pregnant; preternaturally as our author would insinuate. See also two stories in the Tract de Anima, c. 51.
17. 8 Chap. xv, note 71.
18. 9 De Animâ, c.9.
19. 1 De Spectaculis, c. 26.
20. 2 De Idololatria, c. 15.
21. 3 De Virginibus velandis, c. 17.
22. 4 At nos e contrario edimus protectorem, si literae M. Aurelii gravissimi imperatoris requirantur, quibus illam Germanicam sitim Christianorum forto militum precationibus impetrato imbri discussam contestatur, c. 5. See Mosheim de Reb. ante Constant. Saec. Sec. c. 17.
23. 5 Marcus quoque Aurelius in Germanica expeditione, Christianorum militum orationibus ad Deum factis, imbres in siti illa impetravit, c. 4.
24. 6 Hist. Eccl. Eusebii, L. v. c. 5. Apollinarius, who was prior to Tertullian, appears to have mentioned the storm of thunder and lightning.
25. 7 See the Epitome of Dion by Xiphilinus. Marcus Antoninus, p. 246. C. Ed. II. Steph. 1568.
26. 8 Heathen Testimonies, Marcus Antoninus, Sect. 3.
27. 9 Sicut et sub Hilariano praeside, quum de areis sepulturarum nostrarum adclamassent, " Areae non sint," Areae ipsorum non fuerunt; messes enim suas non egerunt, c. 3. Our author plays upon tho double meaning of the word Area which signifies a threshing-floor, as well as an enclosure. Ad Scapulam, c.3.
28. 1 Ad Scapulam, c. 3.
29. 2 Tiberius ergo, cujus tempore nomen Christianum in seculum introivit, annuntiata sibi ex Syria Palestina, quae illic veritatem illius divinitatia revelaverant, detulit ad Senatum cum praerogativa suffragii sui. Senatus, quia non ipse probaverat, respuit. Caesar in sententia mansit, comminatus periculum accusatoribus Christianorum, c. 5. In this passage Pearson would read "quia non in se probaverat," for "quia non ipse probaverat," and interpret the sentence thus: The Senate rejected the proposal, because Tiberius had not approved a similar proposal in his own case—had himself refused to be deified. Lardner contends that this must be the meaning, even if ipse is retained. But a sentence which precedes, "Vetus erat decretum, ne qui Deus ab Imperatore consecraretur, nisi a Senatu probatus," shows that ipse refers to Senatus: the Senate refused, because it had not itself approved the proposal; and so the passage was translated in the Greek Version used by Eusebius.
30. 3 Ea omnia super Christo Pilatus, et ipse jam pro sua conscientia Christianus, Caesari tunc Tiberio nuntiavit. Sed et Caesares credidissent super Christo, si aut Caesares non essent seculo necessarii, aut si et Christiani potuissent esse Caesares, c. 21.
31. 4 Hist. Eccl. L. ii. c. 2.
32. 5 Heathen Testimonies, c. 2.
33. 6 Ecclesiastical History, Cent. I. e.
34. 7 Chap. xvi. p. 550. Ed. 4to.
35. 8 Apology, cc. 5. 21. ad Nat. L. i. c. 7. Scorpiace, c. 15.
36. 9 Apol. I. pp. 76. C. 84. C. The Acts of Pilate here referred to were the daily transactions of his government, registered in a book, a copy of which was probably sent to Rome.
37. 1 Century II. Part I. c. i.
38. 2 Semler indeed insinuates that the works, extant under Tertullian's name, contain the first specimens of a Latin translation. "Itaque videmur hic ipsa primordia Latinae Translationis occupare et deprehendere." And again, "Aut illud scivit (Tertullianus) tam pauca esse adhuc Evangelii Latini exemplaria (nulla forte alia, quam hoc primum, suum ipsius), &c." Sect. 4. Yet he asserts that Tertullian, or whoever the author might be, never used a Greek MS.; De eo enim satis jam certi sumus, etsi solent viri docti aliter statuere, hunc scriptorem oculis suis manibusquo nunquam usurpasse Graecum ullum codicem Evangeliorum aut Epistolarum, &c. Ibid.
39. 3 Century II. Part I. c. 2.
40. 4 Chap. xvi. p. 540. Ed. 4to.
41. 5 Et tamen permansit, omnibus erasis, hoc solum institutum Neronianum, &c. c. 7. Compare the Apology, c. 4. Sed quoniam, quum ad omnia occurrit veritas nostra, postremo legum obstruitur auctoritas adversus eam, &c.
42. 6 c. 5. Tertullian says that Domitian's persecution was of short duration, and that the Emperor himself put a stop to it.
43. 7 p. 78.
44. 8 Sicut non palam ab ejusmodi hominibus poenam dimovit, ita alio modo palam dispersit, adjecta etiam accusatoribus damnatione, et quidem tetriore. Quales ergo leges istae, quas adversus nos soli exequuntur impii, injusti, turpes, truces, vani, dementes? quas Trajanus ex parte frustratus est, vetando inquiri Christianos; quas nullus Hadrianus, quanquam curiositatum omnium explorator; nullus Vespasianus, quanquam Judaeorum debellator; nullus Pius, nullus Verus impressit. Apol. c. 5. Quoties enim in Christianos desaevitis, partim animis propriis, partim legibus obsequentes? c. 37. Quis denique de nobis alio nomine queritur? quod aliud negotium patitur Christianus, nisi sure sectae? Ad Scapulam, c. 4.
45. 9 Pliny's words are, Interrogari ipsos an essent Christiani; confitentes iterum ac tertio interrogavi, supplicium minatus: perseverantes duci jussi. Neque enim dubitabam, qualecunque esset quod faterentur, pervicaciam certo et inflexibilem obstinationem debero puniri. L. x. Ep. 97. Trajan answers, Conquirendi non sunt; si deferantur et arguantur, puniendi sunt.
46. 1 See Pliny's Letter above cited, and the Apology, cc. 38, 39, 40, where our author complains of the injustice of classing the Christiana among the illegal associations, illicitas factiones. See also the Tract de Jejuniis, c. 13. Nisi forte in Senatusconsulta et in Principum mandata, coitionibus opposita, delinquimus.
47. 2 See the Apology, c. 5, quoted in note 2, p. 81.
48. 3 In the Address to Scapula, c. 4, are recorded the names of several governors, who displayed great lenity in their treatment of the Christians; but the latter appear to have regarded the evasions, suggested by the kindness of their judges, with distrust, as the devices of Satan to shake their steadfastness and to betray them into a criminal compromise of their faith. See the Apology, c. 27. Scorpiace, c. 11.
49. 4 Quoties etiam, praeteritis vobis, suo jure nos inimicum vulgus invadit lapidibus et incendiis? Apology, c. 37. Nec ulli magis depostulatores Christianorum quam vulgus. c. 35. Neque enim statim et a populo eris tutus, si officia militaria redemeris. De Fuga in Persec. c. 14. Odisse debemus istos conventus et coetus Ethnicorum, vel quod illic nomen Dei blasphematur, illic in nos quotidiani leones expostulantur, inde persecutiones decernuntur, inde tentationes emittuntur. De Spectaculis, c. 27. Ne non sint qui exclamant, Christiani ad bestias. De Exhort. Castitat. c. 12.
50. 5 Chap i. p. 37.
51. 6 c.1.
52. 7 c.3.
53. 8 c. 1.
54. 9 c.2. Compare ad Scapulam, c. 4.
55. 1 cc. 1. 7, 8. Propter illam sceleratam in nos opinionem Gentilium. De Cultu Foeminarum, L. ii. c. 4. One of the opprobrious appellations applied to the Christians was "Tertium Genus," the precise meaning of which Tertullian does not appear himself to have understood. Ad Nationes, L. i. cc. 7, 8,19. See also Scorpiace, c. 10. De Virgin, vel. c. 7- Clemens Alexandrinus makes the Jews and Gentiles the first two races, Christians, the third. Strom. L. vi. p. 761-4.
56. 2 c. 3.
57. 3 cc. 5, 6. See p. 81.
58. 4 cc. 10, 11. 22, 23. 27.
59. 5 cc, 12, 13, 14, 15.
60. 6 c. 16.
61. 7 Hist. L. v. c. 4.
62. 8 Hist. L. v. c. 9.
63. 9 cc. 17, 18, 19, 20, 21.
64. 1 c.47.
65. 2 Chap. xvi. p. 523. Ed. 4to.
66. 3 cc. 24. 28. ad Scap. c. 2.
67. 4 p. 81.
68. 5 cc. 25, 26.
69. 6 c. 40.
70. 7 p. 89.
71. 8 c. 29, 30,31, 32, 33, 34.
72. 9 cc. 35, 36. 38, 39. Ad Martyres, c. 2.
73. 1 Ad Scapulam, c. 2.
74. 2 cc. 42, 43,44, 45. Compare de Cultu Foeminarum, L. ii. c. 11. At si necessitas amiticiarum officiorumque gentilium vos vocat, &c.: from which it appears, that the Christians did not think themselves called upon to interrupt their former friendships, much less to break off all intercourse with the heathen.
75. 3 c. 46.
76. 4 c. 50. In the Scorpiace, our author argues, as if sufferings, voluntarily endured in the defence of a religion, prove not merely the sincerity of the sufferer's persuasion, but also tho truth of the religion. Caeterum pati oportebat omnem Dei praedicatorem et cultorem qui ad idololatriam provocatus negasset obsequium, secundum illius quoque rationis statum, qua et praesentibus tunc et posteris deinceps commendari veritatem oportebat, pro qua fidem diceret passio ipsorum defensorum ejus, quia nemo voluisset occidi, nisi compos veritatis, c. 8.
77. 5 Compare ad Scapulam, c. 5.
78. 6 Chap. xv. near the end.
79. 7 In the third book against Marcion, Tertullian assigns the reason why he considers the evidence of miracles, as not alone sufficient to establish the truth of Christianity. Christ himself, he says, warned his disciples that many would come in his name, showing signs and wonders. (Matt. xxiv. 24.) It was, therefore, necessary to the complete establishment of his pretensions, that he should not only work miracles, hut should in all respects fulfil the predictions of the prophets respecting his character and office, c. 3.
80. 8 Compare Mosheim de Reb. ante Constan. Saec. ii. c. 6, p. 228.
81. 9 Apology, cc. 17, 18, 19, 20.
82. 1 c. 21.
83. 2 La sagesse exquise et l'inestimable beauté de la discipline même de Jésus Christ est, je l'avoue, le plus fort et le plus sûr argument de sa vérité. Quoted by Dr. Hey in his Lectures, Book i. end of c. 12.
84. 3 Thus in the tract de Praescriptione Haereticorum, c. 3. Si etiam Martyr lapsus de regula fuerit.
85. 4 Tertullian sometimes applies the term Confessor to one who was imprisoned on account of his religion. Et quum in carcero fratrem vult visitari, Confessoris imperat curam. Scorpiace, c. 11.
86. 5 Tertullian, we believe, mentions only five Martyrs by name: St. Peter, who was crucified, and St. Paul, who was beheaded at Rome during Nero's persecution; De Praescriptione Haereticorum, c. 36. Adv. Marcionem, L. iv. c. 5. Scorpiace, cap. ult. Perpetua, of whose martyrdom an account is still extant under the title of Passio Perpetuae ac Felicitatis; De Animâ, c. 55. Rutilius, who, having for some time avoided persecution by flight, and even, as he conceived, secured his safety by the payment of a sum of money, was suddenly seized, and, after undergoing severe torments, cast into the flames; De Fuga in Persecutione, c. 5. and Justin, adv. Valentianos, c. 5. Tertullian relates also that St. John the Evangelist was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil, and came out unhurt. De Praescript. Haeret. c. 36.
87. 6 Uxorem jam pudicam maritus, jam non zelotypus, ojecit: filium jam subjectum pater, retro patiens, abdicavit: servum jam fidelem dominus, olim mitis, ab oculis relegavit: ut quisque hoc nomine emendatur, offendit. Apology, c. 3.
88. 7 Ad Scapulam, c. 3.
89. 8 In the first Tract ad Nationes, Tertullian says that informations were frequently laid against the Christians by their slaves, c. 7. Quid? quum domestici eos vobis prodant? omnes a nullis magis prodimur: quanto magis, si atrocitas tanta sit quae justitia indignationis omnem familiaritatis fidem rumpit!
90. 9 I speak doubtfully, because there is something in our author's mode of expressing himself which leads me to suspect, that no such instances had actually fallen within his own knowledge; but that ho inferred that they had occurred, because our Lord had declared that they would occur. Quum autem subjicit, Tradet autem frater fratrem, et pater filium in mortem, et insurgent filii in parentes et mortificabunt eos; manifesto iniquitatem istam in caeteros pronuntiavit, quam in Apostolis non invenimus. Nemo enim eorum aut fratrem aut patrem passus est traditorem, quod pleriquo jam nostri. Dehinc ad Apostolos revocat: Et eritis odio omnibus propter nomen meum: Quanto magis nos, quos a parentibus quoque tradi oportot! Scorpiace, c. 9. Sed et fratres nostros et patros et filios et socrus et nurus et domesticos nostros ibidem exhibere debebis, per quos traditio disposita est, c. 10. Justin Martyr, however, speaks of Christ's prediction as literally fulfilled: kai\ ga_r a pa&sxomen pa&nta, a0nairou&menoi u9po_ tw~n oi0kei/wn proei~pen h9mi~n me&llein gene/sqai. Dial. p. 254.
91. 10 Vide, inquiunt, ut invicem se diliguut. Apology, c. 39.
92. 1 Apology, c. 39. Ad Martyres, cc. 1. 2. De Jejuniis, c. 12.
93. 2 Quis in carcerem ad osculanda vincula Martyris reptare patietur? Ad Uxorem, L. ii. c. 4.
94. 3 Quam pacem quidam in Ecclesia, non habentes a Martyribus in carcero exorare consueverunt. Ad Martyres, L. i. After Tertullian had seceded from the Church, he denied that it possessed the power of pardoning crimes of a heinous nature: and ridiculed the notion that attention ought to be paid to the intercession of a martyr. De Pudicitia, c. 22.
95. 4 Sed alium ex martyrii praerogativa loci potitum indignatus. Adv. Valentinianos, c. 4. See de Fuga in Persecutione, c. 11.
96. 5 De Patientia, c. 13. Scorpiace, c. 6. sub fine. De Pudicitia, c. 9. sub fine, c. 22. De Baptismo, c. 16.
97. 6 Apology, sub fine. Omnia enim huic operi delicta donantur.
98. 7 Nemo enim, peregrinatus a corpore, statim immoratur penes Dominum nisi ex martyrii praerogativa, Paradiso scilicet, non inferis, deversurus. De Resur. Carnis, c. 43. Scorpiace, c. 12. Ad ipsum divinae sedis ascensum. De Patientia, c. 13.
99. 8 Denique cum omni saevitia vestra concertamus, etiam ultro erumpentes, magisque damnari quam absoluti gaudemus. Ad Scapulatn, c. 1. Absit enim ut indigne feramus ea nos pati quae optamus, c. 2. See also c. 5.
100. 9 In primis, quia nihil nostra refert in hoc aevo, nisi de eo quam celeriter excedere. Apology, c. 41.
101. 1 c. 1. v. 23. Tertullian refers more than once to this very passage. Cupidi et ipsi iniquissimo isto saeculo eximi, et recipi ad Dominum, quod etiam Apostolo votum fuit. Ad Uxorem, L. i. o. 5. Ipso Apostolo festinante ad Dominum. De Exhort. Castitatis, c. 12. See also de Spectaculis, c. 28.
102. 2 Ergo, inquitis, car querimini quod vos insequamur, si pati vultis, quum diligere debeatis per quos patimini quod vultis? Plane volumus pati; verum eo more, quo et bellum nemo quidem libens patitur, quum et trepidare et periclitari sit necesse; tamen et praeliatur omnibus viribus, et vincens in praelio gaudet qui de praelio querebatur, quia et gloriam consequitur et praedam, c. 50.
103. 3 Heathen Testimonies. Observations on Pliny's Letter. Sect. vii.
104. 4 Learned men are not agreed respecting the individual of whom this story is told. Lardner supposes him to have been the maternal grandfather of Antoninus Pius, who was proconsul of Asia during the reign of Nerva or Trajan. Gibbon supposes him to have been Antoninus Pius himself, who was also proconsul of Asia. Casaubon fixes upon an Arrius Antoninus, who was murdered during the reign of Commodus, Aelii Lampridii Commodus, p. 870.
105. 5 Chap. xvi. p. 552. Ed. 4to.
106. 6 Ad Scapulam, c. 5.
107. 7 See the passage quoted in chap. i. note 4, p. 35. Compare ad Uxorem, L. i. c. 3. Etiam in persecutionibus melius est ex permissu fugere de oppido in oppidum, quam comprehensum et distortum negare. Atqui isti beatiores qui valent beati testimonii confessione non excidere.
108. 8 c. 1-5.
109. 9 c. 4.
110. 1 c. 6. Matt. x. 23.
111. 2 c. 8.
112. 3 note 4. p. 68.
113. 4 c. 13.
114. 5 c. 11. ad fin.
115. 7 c. 1. See chap. 1. p. 41.
116. 8 cc.2,3.
117. 9 c. 4. This notion is carried to the utmost pitch of extravagance, in the Tract de Idololatria, c. 22.
118. 1 c 8.
119. 2 c. 5.
120. 3 c. 6.
121. 4 c. 9-12.
122. 5 cc. 12, 13, 14.
123. 6 c. 15.
124. 7 c. 9. Matt. x. 33.
125. 8 c. 14. Rom. xiii. 1.
126. 9 c. 10.
127. 1 c. 12. 1 John iv. 18. The same interpretation is repeated in the Tract de Fuga in Persecutione, c. 9.
128. 2 I Peter iv. 12.
129. 3 p. 90.
130. 4 Pro tanta innocentia, pro tanta probitate, pro justitia, pro pudicitia, pro fide, pro veritate, pro Deo vivo (f. vivi) cremamur, quod nec sacrilegi, nec hostes publici, verum nec tot majestatis rei pati solent. Nam et nunc a Praeside Legionis et a Praeside Mauritaniae vexatur hoc nomen, sed gladio tenus, sicut et a primordio mandatum est animadverti in hujusmodi, c. 4. Compare ad Nationes, L. i. c. 18. Incendiali tunica.. And ad Martyres, c. 5. In tunica ardente.
131. 5 Chap. xvi. p. 544. Ed. 4to.
132. 6 Apology, e. 9. De Monogamia, c. 5. Et libertas ciborum et sanguinis solius abstinentia, sicut ab initio fuit. See also de Pudicitia, c. 12.
133. 7 Nam et proximo ad Lenonem damnando Christianum, potius quam ad Leonem, confessi estis labem pudicitiae apud nos atrociorem omni poena et omni morte reputari. Apology, sub fine. See also de Pudicitia, c. 1.
134. 8 c. 8. sub fine. Compare c. 10. sub fine.
135. 9 Post enim Augustum, qui supervixit post nativitatem Christi, anni 15 efficiuntur: cui successit Tiberius Caesar, et imperium habuit annis 22, mensibus 7, diebus 20. Hujus quintodecimo anno imperii passus eat Christus annos habens quasi 30 quum pateretur, c. 8. Tertullian affirms also, that Christ was born in the forty-first year of the reign of Augustus, of which he dates the commencement from the death of Cleopatra.
136. 1 c. 15. At nunc quale est ut Dominus a 12 Tiberii Caesaris revelatus sit? In a subsequent chapter Tertullian speaks as if the ministry of Christ had commenced in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar; but he then appears to be stating the opinion of Marcion. Anno 15 Tiberii, Christus Iesus de coelo manare dignatus est, Spiritus Salutaris, c. 19. So in L. iv. c. 7. Anno quintodecimo principatus Tiberiani, proponit (Marcion) eum deseendisse in civitatem Galilseso Capharnaum, utique de coalo creatoris, in quod de suo ante descenderat.
137. 2 c. vii. Sect. i. p. 274.
138. 3 Cujus nemo adhuc certus de tribu, de populo, de domo? de censu denique Augusti, quem testem fidelissimum Dominicae nativitatis Romana Archiva custodiunt? ad Marcionem, L. iv. c. 7. We must bear in mind that Tertullian is arguing with an heretic, who affirmed that Christ was not born at all, but descended upon earth a perfect man. Again, c. 19. Sed et census constat actos sub Augusto nunc (f. tunc) in Judaea per Sentium Saturninum And c. 36. Vel de recentibus Augustianis censibus adhuc tunc fortasse pendentibus. See also de Carne Christi, c. 2. Molestos semper Caesaris census. In the Treatise de Pallio, c. 1. Sentius Saturninus is mentioned as having presided at the ceremonies which attended the admission of Carthage among the Colonies of Rome.
139. 4 Credibility of the Gospel History. Objections against Luke ii. 1, 2. considered.
140. 5 Ex stirpe autem Jesse deputatum, per Mariam scilicet inde censendum. Fuit enim de patria Bethlehem, et de domo David, sicut apud Romanos in censu descripta est Maria, ex qua nascitur Christus. Adv. Judaeos, c. 9. Compare adv. Marc. L. iii. cc. 17. 20. L. iv. c. I. c. 36. Qui vult videre Iesum, David filium credat per Virginis censum. See also L. v. c. I, and c. 8. where there is a very fanciful application of Isaiah xi. 1. Compare de Carne Christi, c. 21.
141. 6 De Carne Christi, c. 22.
142. 7 Eodem momento dies, medium orbem signante sole, subducta est. Deliquium utique putaverunt, qui id quoqne super Christo praedictum non scierunt; ratione non deprehensa, negaverunt. Et tamen eum mundi casum relatum in archivis vestris. c. 21.
143. 8 Chap. xv. note 194.
144. 9 Ad Nationes, L. ii. c. 12. sub fine.. The verses there quoted may be found in the Apology of Athenagoras. c. 26. De Pallio, c. 2. See Salmasius in loco.
145. 1 See note 3, p. 120 of this Chapter.
146. 2 Dispersi, palabundi, et coeli et soli sui extorres vagantur per orbem, sine homine, sine Deo rege, quibus nec advenarum jure terram patriam saltem vestigio salutare conceditur. Apology, c. 21. Compare adv. Judaeos, c. 2. Unde Israel in novissimo tempore dignosci haberet quando sccundum sua merita in sanctam civitatem ingredi prohiberetur. See also c. 13, and de Pudicitia, c. 8. Ecclesiastical writers sometimes speak as if Adrian's prohibition applied only to the precincts of Jerusalem or Ae1ia; at others, as if it extended to the whole territory of Judaea. See Gibbon, c. xv. note 19. and the note of Valesius ad Eusebii Eccl. Hist. L. iv. c. 6. Justin Martyr, Apology I. p. 84. B.
147. 3 Sed et Judaei palam lectitant; vectigalia libertas. Apol. c. 18.
148. 4 Hermas had visions. Note of Dr. Hey.
149. 5 The whole passage is as follows: Tantum autem absunt ab eo ut mortuum excitent, quemadmodum Dominus excitavit, et Apostoli per orationem, et in fraternitate saepissime propter aliquid necessarium, ea quae est in quoque loco Ecclesia universa postulante per jejunium et supplicationem multam, reversus est Spiritus mortui et donatus est homo orationibus sanctorum, ut ne quidem credant hoc in totum posse fieri. L. ii. c. 56. Again, c. 57. Jam etiam, quemadmodum diximus, et mortui resurrexerunt, et perseveraverunt nobiscum annis multis. Instead of the Heathens, Dr. Hey should have said the Heretics, for of them Irenaeus is speaking.
150. 6 We are afraid that Dr. Hey here overrates the intelligence of the people of this country.
151. 7 Dr. Middleton does not seem to fall far short of Mr. Hume on Miracles. Note of Dr. Hey.
152. 8 A miracle to me can only be what I judge is done with, and could not be done without, divine power: I am liable to be deceived both as to what is done, and what can be done: every miracle therefore must be scrutinized by every man; and the nature and tendency of it called in to assist the judgment as to the fact, and the powers of man, &c. under the laws of nature. Note by Dr. Hey, written in 1783.
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