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to their judgment, and the principles which they had embraced after serious inquiry and consideration ? Were not all wise and honest men persuaded that a man ought to die rather than do what he thought evil and dishonourable. Celsus,h who wrote against the christians, says as much. Was there any way for a christian's escaping, but by criminal hypocrisy and dissimulation, when statues of heathen deities were set before him to be worshipped by him; or when he was required to revile Jesus Christ? They had taken up their principles upon consideration; and it was reasonable to adhere to them at all times.
(4.) Marcus says must be done considerately.'
The christians took up their principles upon consideration. When they first embraced them they could not but see that, as the world then stood, the making a profession of them was very likely to expose them to many sufferings. And therefore, when they first resolved upon christianity, they must have resolved to adhere to it whatever it should cost them. By this means they were always ready to die, upon mature consideration, whenever the spite of their ignorant and prejudiced neighbours worked so far against them. And a constant readiness for a violent death, in a good cause, is the most glorious fortitude that can be imagined in a human creature.
(5.) He says it should be done “gravely, without tragical exclamations.
Upon this Le Clerc well observes, that itk is not a little strange that a stoic, whose writings are full of affectation,
Τοιαυτα τινα λεγει: Εαν μεντοι γε κελευοι τις, ατυχοι, θρησκευοντα θεον η ασεβειν, η αλλο τι αισχρον ειπείν, εδαμη εδαμως πιςευτεον, αλλα προ τετων πασαις βασανoις εγκαρτερητεον, και παντας θανατος υπομενητεον, πριν τι ανοσιον περι θε8, μη οτι γε ειπειν, αλλα μελετησαι. Celsus ap. Orig. Contra Cels. I. 8. p. 421. al. num. 66.
i Nos quidem neque expavescimus, neque pertimescimus ea quæ ab ignorantibus patimur ; cum ad hanc sectam utique susceptâ conditione ejus pacti venerimus, ut etiam animas nostras auctorati in has pugnas accedamus, ea, quæ Deus repromittit, consequi optantes, et ea, quæ diversæ vitæ comminatur, pati timentes, Tertull. ad Scap. cap. i.
k Verum et hoc mirum est, hominem Stoïcum, et cujus liber plenus est exaggerationibus vere tragicis, hoc est, tumidis et fictis, exprobare christianis, quod arpaywdwg non morerentur. Atqui nihil illi exaggerabant, cum vitam Deo repetenti, potius quam ab eo deficerent, libenter reddendam profitebantur. Si qui, quod interdum factum negare nolim, credulitate suppliciorum, propinquitate mortis, speque proximæ beatitatis, extra se rapti, quædam proferebant, quæ supra vulgi Ethnici captum erant, an tribuenda hæc sunt Taparaxtl, obstinationi, vel perturbationi? Imo eo aut vitio, aut adfectu, vel maxime laborabant, qui innocentes excarnificatos occidebant, quod facere nollent, quæ illicita, et a Deo improbari, pro certo statuebant. Cleric. ib. ann. 165. n. iv.
6 and are all over tragical, should blame the christians for • not dying without tragical noise and exclamation. If they then called upon God and Christ; if they then exhorted their brethren to constancy and perseverance; if they expressed a contempt of this world, and its fading enjoyments; if they spake in sublime strains of the felicities of the world to come; in a word, if they triumphed in death, as some of them did, there is nothing in it absurd or unreasonable; nothing but what is truly admirable: the heathen people around them wanted nothing to make them sensible of it but a better knowledge of the christian principles; such as a persuasion of the boundless power and goodness of the one God, Creator of all, and a well-grounded expectation of eternal life.
(6.) And lastly, Marcus says, ' it should be done so as to persuade another.
This alone, if there were nothing else, would be sufficient to satisfy us that Marcus was influenced by prejudice in his judgment concerning the christians. It has been often said, and very truly, that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church. And some early believers have themselves assured us, that they were led to inquire into the principles of the christians when they observed their manner of dying; and that this was the first means of their own conversion. The like is often testified by christian writers, who lived when the followers of Jesus were in suffering circumstances, and martyrdoms were frequent. But if there were nothing of this kind in the remains of ancient christian authors, since there continued to be christians in the world, and they suffered in every age, and were not extinguished, but remained and increased, as heathen writers themselves
Nec quidquam tamen proficit exquisitior quæque crudelitas vestra. Illecebra magis est sectæ. Plures efficimur, quoties metimur a vobis. Semen est sanguis christianorum. Tertull. Ap. cap. 50.
" Και γαρ αυτος εγω, τοις πλατωνος χαιρων διδαγμασι, διαβαλλομενες ακων Xρισιανος, ορων δε αφοβες προς θανατον, και παντα τα αλλα νομιζομενα φοβερα, ενενο8ν αδυνατον ειναι εν κακια και φιληδονια υπαρχειν αυτες. Justin. M. 2. p. 50. a. al.
96. num. 12. n Multi apud vos ad tolerantiam doloris et mortis hortantur, ut Cicero in Tusculanis, ut Seneca in fortuitis–Nec tamen tantos inveniunt verba discipulos, quantos christiani factis docendo. Illa ipsa obstinatio, quam exprobratis, magistra est. Quis enim non contemplatione ejus concutitur ad requirendum, quid intus in re sit? Quis non, ubi requisivit, accedit? Ubi accessit, pati exoptat? Tertull. ap. cap. 50.
Nec tamen deficiet hæc secta, quam tunc magis ædificari scias, cum cædi videtur. Quisquis enim tantam tolerantiam spectans, ut aliquo scrupulo percussus, et inquirere accenditur, quid sit in causâ : et ubi cognoverit veritatem, et ipse statim sequitur. Ad Scap cap. ult. Vid. et Lact. 1. 5. c. 13. et alibi.
acknowledge; we may depend upon it that many did die so as to persuade others; their brethren were animated to patience and courage by their example; and unbelievers were awakened, and excited to serious examination, till they were convinced and converted.
As I have gone along, I have transcribed in the margin several remarks upon this passage of Marcus Antoninus from Le Clerc's Ecclesiastical History. I would also refer too Mr. Mosheim, in whom likewise divers just observations may be seen upon
the same. But perhaps it will be said that the christians gave cause for these censures by their too great forwardness, and by offering themselves to death,
To which I would answer. First, Instances of this kind were not very common, and they were disliked and condemned by the wiser sort. Some such instances there were during the persecution in Asia when Polycarp suffered. They are particularly mentioned, and censured in the epistle of the church of Smyrna, which gives an account of the martyrs in that city. And a St. Cyprian, in his last letter to his people at Carthage, in the persecution of Valerian, in the year 258, exhorts them to a quiet and peaceable behaviour, but not to offer themselves to the magistrates ; forasmuch as the Lord had not required it of us; but to confess his name when called upon so to do. And he reminds them that this had always been his doctrine. Secondly, There could be no instances of this kind but in times of persecution, and when there were magistrates who were disposed to inflict death upon men as christians. Thirdly, The most remarkable instances of this kind bappened when the persecution was violent. So it was in the case before taken notice of by us. When Arrius Antoninus, proconsul of Asia, furiously persecuted the christians in that country, a great number of them, in some city where he was, came before his tribunal, telling him he might do with them as he pleased, for they were not afraid to die. In like manner Scapula, proconsul of Africa, persecuted the christians with great severity. Somes he ordered to be burnt alive;
• De Reb. Christianorum, sec. ii. p. 245, 246. p Vid. Euseb. H. E. 1. 4. cap. 15. p. 129, 130.
1 Vos autem, fratres carissimi, pro disciplinâ, quam de mandatis dominicis a me semper accepistis,—quietem et tranquillitatem tenete : ne quisquam vestrum aliquem tumultum de fratribus moveat, aut ultro se Gentilibus offerat. Apprehensus enim et traditus loqui debet : siquidem in nobis Dominus positus illâ horâ loquatur, qui nos confiteri magis voluit quam profiteri. Ep. 81. al. 83. p. 239. Oxon.
57. * Pro tantâ innocentiâ, pro tantâ probitate, pro justitiâ, pro pudicitia, pro
though that was a punishment seldom inflicted even upon traitors, or the worst of criminals. Upon that occasion Tertulliant puts him in mind of the forementioned conduct of the christians in Asia : and, the more to alarm him, te him the like might happen again, and at Carthage itself. And what would you do, says he, if you should see the christians of that place present themselves in a body before your tribunal? What would you do with so many thousands of each sex, of every age, of every condition, and some of the most honourable persons of the city, some of them your friends, or friends and relations of your friends and counsellors ?
After all, it must be acknowledged that the christians'ı readiness to die, and their intrepidity in death, were sometimes perverted to their disadvantage. Nor do I think that the primitive christians were exempted from human frailty. Nevertheless I apprehend that the exceptions and reflections of this kind were chiefly owing to the prejudices and ignorance of misguided and sensual men, who minded little or nothing but the affairs of this present life; who did not consider the importance of religious truth, nor the great virtue and value of integrity, and a steady regard to the convictions of our own minds. So says Lactantius. And Tertullian has spoken to this point excellently at the conclusion of his Apology. He mentions • Mutius, Regulus, fide, pro veritate, pro Deo, vivi cremamur ; quod nec sacrilegi, nec hostes publici, verum nec tot majestatis rei pati solent. Ad Scap. cap. 4. p. 88. A.
? Vide tantum, ne hoc ipso, quod talia sustinemus, ad hoc solum videamur erumpere, ut hoc ipsum probemus, nos hæc non timere, sed ultro vocare. Arrius Antoninus in Asiâ cum persequeretur instanter, omnes illius civitatis christiani ante tribunalia ejus se, manu factâ, obtulerunt. Hoc si placuerit et hic fieri, quid facies de tantis millibus hominum, tot viris ac feminis, omnis sexûs, omnis ætatis, omnis dignitatis, offerentibus se tibi ? Quantis ignibus, quantis gladiis opus erit ? Quid ipsa Carthago passura est decimanda a te, cum propinquos, cum contubernales suos illic unusquisque cognoverit, cum viderit illic fortasse et tui ordinis viros et matronas, et principales quasque personas, et amicorum tuorum vel propinquos vel amicos. Parce ergo tibi, si non nobis : parce Carthagini, si non tibi. * Ad Scap. cap. 5.
u Licet nunc sarmentitios ac semaxios appelletis, quia ad stipitem dimidii axis revincti sarmentorum ambitu exurimur.—Propterea enim desperati, et perditi existimamur. Tertull. Ap. cap. 50. Vid. et Minuc. Fel. cap. 3. Lactant. 1. 5. cap. 9. et Epit. cap. 54.
"Sed illi malitiâ et furore cæcantur, ne videant ; stultosque arbitrantur esse, qui cum habeant in suâ potestate supplicia vitare, cruciari tamen, et emori malunt. Lact. l. 5.
Lact. 1. 5. cap. 13. w O gloriam licitam, quia humanam, cui nec presumptio perdita, nec persuasio desperata reputatur, in contemptu mortis et atrocitatis omnimodæ; cui tantum pro patriâ, pro imperio, pro amicitiâ pati perinissum est, quantum pro Deo non licet. Et tamen illis omnibus et statuas defunditis, et imagines inscribitisquantum de monimentis potestis scilicet, præstatis et ipsi quodam
. and others, whose resolution had been admired and ap
plauded by the Greeks and Romans. And indeed,' says he,' with you it is reputable to die for our country, for the
commonwealth, for a friend; but to die for God and truth * is reckoned reproachful and dishonourable.
Certainly the first christians, who were men as we are, and had the same sensations with us, were not weary of life, nor did they desire death : but* as men engaged in a warfare, hazard their lives for the sake of victory, and the advantages of it; so the christians of those times, desirous to approve themselves to God, and hoping for the reward of eternal life, were ready, if required, to lay down their lives rather than deny Christ and the truths which they had received from him.
The corollaries to be drawn from this passage are several; but they will be all easily admitted after what has been already said.
1. At that time the christians were well known in the world. 2. The emperor Marcus was well acquainted with them, and had often heard of their sufferings. He knew that many christians had died in testimony to their principles, and as christians; and that the sufferings which they had undergone were in common estimation very grievous. 3. He knew, and here acknowledgeth, their resolution and steadiness in the profession of their principles for which they suffered death. This he calls obstinacy. 4. He had heard of their cheerfulness in death and in all the sufferings which they had met with. This he endeavours to disparage by comparing it to the declamations of tragedies. '5. He was also persuaded of their innocence, or freedom from promiscuous lewdness and other gross crimes in their assemblies, with which they were charged by some. If he had known and believed that they practised such things, he would have expressed himself very differently. 6. He despised and scorned the christians as a mean, illiterate, and unphilosophical set of men. 7. He was not at all inclined
modo mortuis resurrectionem: hanc qui veram a Deo sperat, si pro Deo patiatur, insanus est. Ap. cap. 50. p. 45.
Ergo, inquitis, cur querimini, quod vos insequamur, si pati vultis; cum diligere debeatis, per quos patimini quod vultis ? Plane volumus pati, verum eo more, quo et bellum nemo quidem libens patitur, cum et trepidare, et periclitari sit nccesse; tamen et præliatur omnibus viribus, et vincens in prælio gaudet, qui de prælio querebatur, quia et gloriam consequitur et prædam. Proelium est nobis, quod provocemur ad tribunalia, ut illis sub discrimine capitis pro veritate certemus. Victoria est autem, pro quo certaveris, obtinere. Ea victoria habet et gloriam placendi Deo, et prædam vivendi in æternum. Tertullian. Apol. c. 50. p. 44. B. C.