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to interpose in their behalf, either for preventing or for mitigating their sufferings. And hereafter we shall
see that, when application was made to him by a governor for direction how to treat some men, who had been accused before him as christians, and were in his custody, tbis emperor sent orders that they should be put to death, unless they renounced the christian doctrine. Once more, 8. I must beg leave to observe that we can hence infer, that the christian scriptures were as yet held in contempt by the wise and great men of this world. The books of the New Testament were all published and joined together in two codes or volumes, one called Gospels, the other Epistles, before Marcus Antoninus was born: and they were in the hands of great numbers of his subjects, and were highly prized, and diligently read and studied by them. But he had never read them, nor perhaps ever seen them. They might, possibly, be well known to some of the philosophers, his masters: but they knew how to be silent and to keep their disciple in ignorance about what they did not desire he should know. Hence this great man, in the midst of light, was in darkness: he had no just apprehensions concerning a life to
The christian religion, considering the difficulties it had met with, and that it contained no worldly allurements, had made great progress. But it was not yet the prevailing religion. The state of things in the world had still a resemblance with what it was in the time of St. Paul : 1 Cor.i. 22, and 26. “ The Jews,” says he, “ require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom.” And, “ Ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” And Jesus himself, reflecting upon the success of his ministry after having preached the heavenly doctrine with unparašleled faithfulness and zeal, and observing that they were chiefly of the meaner rank with whom it had met with a ready acceptance, expressed his acquiescence in the event, and said: “ I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth,” • I give glory to thee, • cheerfully acquiescing in this dispensation of thy provi
dence,' ?" that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” Matt. xi. 25; Luke x. 21.
OF THE PERSECUTIONS IN HIS TIME.
I. A general account of the persecutions in the reign of this
emperor. II. Large extracts out of the Martyrdom of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who, with twelve others, suffered in that city in the year 167 or 168. III. The history of the martyrs at Lyons, who suffered in the year 177. "IŤ. Remarks and observations upon the foregoing
history. I. I THINK it must be fit for me to take some particular notice of the treatinent which the christians met with in the reign of this emperor, who by the ancients is always reckoned among the persecuting emperors. Eusebiusa placeth the fourth persecution under him; as does also b Orosius, who follows him. Sulpicius, thinking that the christians were persecuted by Adrian, reckons Marcus's the fifth persecution.
And learned moderns seem now to be fully convinced that Marcus was unfriendly to the christians. Says Dr. Jortin : “ As tod the emperor Marcus, with all his amiable • and princely qualities, he did not love the christians, as * appears from unquestionable authority, even his own book. • The philosophers had probably contributed to set him against them. And his love of philosophy, and the respect which he paid to the professors of it, was excessive, 6 and indeed sometimes ridiculous.'
Tillemont says, “ Theree were inany instances of mildness * in the reign of this emperor, and very few of severity, ex
cepting against the christians, who the least deserved it.' And in another place, the same diligent writer, having put down some instances of this emperor's exactness in the rites
a Euseb. Chr. p. 169.
Sed in diebus Parthici belli persecutiones christianorum, quartâ jam post Neronem vice, in Asiâ et Galliâ graves precepto ejus exstiterunt, multique sanctorum martyrio coronati sunt. Oros. 1. 7. c. xv.
c Quarta sub Adriano persecutio numeratur, quam tamen post exerceri prohibuit, • injustum esse pronuntians, 'ut quisquam sine crimine reus constitueretur.'. Post Adrianum, Antonino Pio imperante, pax ecclesiis fuit. Sub Aurelio deinde, Antonini filio, persecutio quinta agitata. Ac tum primum intra Gallias martyria visa, serius trans Alpes Dei religione susceptâ. Sul. Sev. Sacr. Hist. 1. 2. cap. 46.
• Remarks upon Ecclesiastical History, Vol. ii. p. 169. See also his Discourses, p. 57
L'Emp. Max. Aurele. art. vii.
of the established worship, adds: “We have taken notice • of these things to show that we ought not to be surprised • that a prince, reckoned so mild and equitable, should per• secute the true religion, as we know he did.'
Pagi acknowledgeth the same. He says thats this emperor was not only averse to the christians, but persecuted them in the former part of his reign, as well as afterwards: and elsewhere h he observes how grievous the persecutions were in this reign, and the reasons of it.
Mosheim says thati in the time of no emperor after Nero the christians suffered more or greater calamities than under Marcus. And he ascribesk this emperor's ill-will toward the christians more to the instructions of the philosophers, and the hard-hearted philosophy which he had embraced, than to his superstition,
The Benedictine editors' of Justin Martyr, and other ancient Greek apologists, are likewise very sensible of this temper of Marcus. And I transcribe in the margin some of their observations, to be perused by such of my readers as are willing to cast their eyes downward.
This temper of Marcus, which, as before hinted, prevailed f Ibid. art. ii.
8 Ad hæc Marcus non solum a christianis alienus fuit, sed etiam sæpe in eos sæviit, et quidem prioribus imperii annis, quibus Lucilla Lucio Vero uxor data est. Ann. 161, n. xi. h Vid. ann. 162. num. vi. et 163. num. ii. 177. n. ii. &c.
Itaque nullo sub Imperatore post Neronem plures et graviores calamitates perpessi sunt christiani, quam sub Marco, quem cæteris omnibus meliorem et sapientiorem fuisse censent. De Reb. Christian. p. 246. Confer ejusdem Institutiones H. E. Sec. 2. P. i. c. 2. num. v. p. 74.
* Mala hæc Imperatoris in christianos voluntas unde prodierit, nusquam memoriæ proditam legitur : proclive vero conjectu est, a philosophis, quibus omnia dare solebat, inductum fuisse eum, ut christianos absurdos, rationis inopes, obstinatos, et vanos esse duceret ; ideoque quum ex lege philosophiæ, quam profitebatur, justo durior esset, judicâsse, satius esse vecordes ejusmodi hominis delere, quam tolerare. Moshem. Ibid. p. 242. Vid. et p. 244, 245.
I Quo anno Romam reversus sit Justinus, statuere non possumus : minime dubium, quin et hac urbe commoratus sit, cum gravissima persecutio sub Marco Aurelio grassaretur. Non jusserat præstantissimus princeps vexari christianos. Sed, ut observat Athenagoras, sap. num. 1.] dum injuriam ab eis non propulsat, dum nullam partem in eos derivat paternæ illius solicitudinis, quâ universos Imperii Romani cives tuebatur, omnibus inimicorum injuriis expositi fuere. Hæc agendi ratio in optimo imperatore summum odium declarat christianæ religionis. Nunquam enim suum de illis patrocinium clausisset, si quid de illis æqui sensisset. Sed plus apud eum et nefaria philosophorum consilia, et Romanorum cæremoniarum amor, quam avi et patris exempla, et insita omnibus justitiæ et æquitatis elementa, valuerunt. Cum ergo omni ope destituti essent christiani, gravissimæ in eos undique exortæ tempestates. Præf. P. 3. cap. viii. n. i. p. 92.- -Tam inimica tempora non Antonini, qui illis favit, sed M. Aurelii imperium redolent, qui ne maximo quidens beneficio provocatus æquum se illis præbuit. Ib. n. iv. p. 94. m.
in every part of his reign, has appeared to me the more strange, considering how favourable to the christians Adrian was, and also his predecessor Antoninus. Nor can we forbear to observe that Marcus must have been well acquainted with the conduct of his predecessor, and the reasons of it: for it was the custom of that good emperor Titus Antoninus, to determine nothing concerning the provinces, or any other affairs of the public, without first mi consulting his friends, ofn whom Marcus was one. Moreover during the whole time of his reign, Marcus lived in the same palace, and was almost constantly with him. As those two emperors were so intimate, and Marcus had so long experienced the favour of his predecessor and father Antoninus, it is truly somewhat strange that their temper and conduct toward the christians should have been so different,
One thing we plainly bence discern, that Marcus was not unacquainted with the christians. He must have often heard of them, and of their sufferings, and of the apologies made by them. The christians were well known to Adrian and to Antoninus the pious, bis grandfather and father, and they had been favoured by them. Marcus therefore must have had good knowledge of them, and have been acquainted with their circumstances, many years before he came to the empire himself.
We have seen how learned men ascribe Marcus's aversion to the christians to his attachment to philosophy, and the rites of the established deities. Nor is that judgment formed without probability. Nevertheless I have observed a passage at the beginning of this emperor's meditations, which may perhaps deserve to be taken notice of here; . From
Diognetus,' says he, ' I learned not to busy myself about * vain things, nor to give credit to wonder-workers, and
stories of incantations, and expelling dæmons, and such · like things.
Possibly Marcus applied the instructions of Diognetus to the history of our Saviour's miracles, and to the relations of some extraordinary works, said to have been done by christians; and he concluded the whole to be nothing but imposture. If so, he might admit of an aversion to the chrism Neque de provinciis, neque de ullis actibus quidquam constituit
, nisi quod prius ad amicos retulit. Atque ex eorum sententiâ formas constituit. Capitol in Vit. Ant. Pii, cap. 6.
—tantumque apud eum valuit, ut nunquam quemquam sine eo facile promoverit. Capit. in Vitâ M. Aurel. cap. 6.
• Παρα Διογνητο, το ακενοσπεδον, και το απιςητικον τους υπο των τερατευομενων, και γοητων περι επωδων και περι δαιμονων αποπομπης, και των τοιοτων deyouevoic. De Reb. suis, l. i. sect. 6.
tians in general, who often spoke of these things and relied inuch upon them.
I am indeed well satisfied that Marcus had never read, or looked into, the books of the New Testament. But if he could have been persuaded to read them, I think (provided he had in him any real goodness, and could have detached himself for a few moments fron subjection to the philosophers) he would have admired the sublime morality of the gospels and the epistles; and then the miracles would have been distinguished from the pretensions of imposture, and would have been received by him as true and divine works, notwithstanding all the precautions of Diognetus: but that was not to be obtained. Marcus scorned every thing that was christian, their books as well as their persons, and looked upon all as void of merit.
But, whatever was the reason of it, we plainly perceive the christians to be under great discouragements during the reign of this emperor. In that period were published many apologies, as the second of Justin Martyr, the Apologies of Tatian, Athenagoras, Apollinaris of Hierapolis, Melito of Sardis, Theophilus of Antioch. In this reign likewise, or at the beginning of that of Commodus, is to be placed the Apology of Miltiades. In this period were many martyrs; some of great distinction, as Justin, Polycarp, and the inartyrs of Lyons, with their aged bishop Pothinus.
Justin, at the beginning of his second apology, presented in the early part of this reign, mentions Ptolemy, and two others, who had suffered martyrdom at Rome a short time before, by the order of Urbicus, præfect of the city, and speaks as if the persecution was general; and he suffered himself not long after in the year 166 or 167, if not sooner. Things that have happened very lately, but a few days ago, in your city, and which are every where done in like man• ner by the presidents, without reason, have compelled me * to make this address to you.' And he says that, every? • where, if any Gentile was admonished or reproved for a • fault, by a father, or a neighbour, or a child, or a friend,
or a brother, or a husband, or a wife, he would presently • have his reprover before a governor, who would be willing to inflict death upon him.'
P Και τα χθες δε και πρωην εν τη πολει υμων γενομενα επι Ουρβικά, ώ “Ρωμαιοι, και τα πανταχε ομοιως υπο των ηγεμενων αλογως πραττομενα, εξηναγκασε με, κ. λ. Αp. 2. p. 41. al. num. 1. p. 88.
4 Πανταχο γαρ, ος αν σωφρονιζηται υπο πατρος, η γειτονος, η τεκν8, η φιλε, η αδελφε, η ανδρος, η γυναικος κατ' ελλειψεν- ως Bν αρχοντας δαιμονιωντας φονευειν ημας παρασκευαζεσιν. Ιd. ib.