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воок I.

Containing the HISTORY of the CHRISTIAN
CHURCH from its first rise to the time of

Lib. Bib. Face Jur. Edin


Comprehending the External HISTORY of the CHURCH.


Concerning the civil and religious ftate of the world at the birth of CHRIST.



GREAT part of the world was become fubject to the Roman empire, when JESUS CHRIST made his appearance upon earth. The remoter nations, which had fubmitted to the yoke of this mighty empire, were ruled, either by Roman governors invested with temporary commiffions, or by their own princes and laws, in fubordination to the republic, whofe fovereignty was to be acknowledged, and from which the conquered kings, that were continued in their dominions, derived their borrowed majefty. At the fame time the Roman people and their venerable fenate, though they had not loft all fhadow of liberty, were yet, in reality, reduced to a state of fervile fubmiffion to AUGUSTUS CESAR, who, by artifice, perfidy, and blood-fhed, had proceeded to an enormous degree of power, and united in his own perfon the pompous titles of Emperor, Sovereign VOL. I.




The fate of the

Roman empire.

CENT. I. Pontif, Cenfor, Tribune of the people, Proconful; in a word, all the great offices of the ftate [a].

ceeded from the

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The inconveni- H. The Roman government, confidered both with refpect to its form ences, which pro- and its laws, was certainly mild and equitable [6]. But the injuftice and corrupt admini- avarice of the Prætors and Proconfuls, and the ambitious luft of conquest stration of its ma- and dominion, which was the predominant paffion of the Roman people, togiftrates.

The advantages, which arofe from

its extent.

The Romanem

gether with the rapacious proceedings of the Publicans, by whom the taxes of the empire were levied, were the occafions of perpetual tumults and unfupportable grievances. And among the many evils that arofe from thence we juftly reckon the formidable armies, that were neceffary to fupport these extortions in the provinces, and the civil wars, which frequently broke out between the oppreffed nations, and their haughty conquerors.

III. It muft, at the fame time, be acknowledged, that this fupreme dominion of one people, or rather, of one man over fo many kingdoms, was attended with many confiderable advantages to mankind in general, and to the propagation and advancement of Christianity in particular. For, by the means of this almost universal empire, many nations, different in their language, and in their manners, were united more intimately together in focial. intercourse. Hence a paffage was opened to the remoteft countries by the communications, which the Romans formed between the conquered provinces [c]. Hence alfo the nations, whofe manners were favage and barbarous, were civilized by the laws and commerce of the Romans. And by this, in fhort, the benign influence of letters and philofophy was fpred abroad in countries, which had lain, before, under the darkest ignorance. And all this contributed, no doubt, in a fingular manner, to facilitate the progress of the Gofpel, and to crown the labours of its first minifters and heralds with fuccefs [d].

IV. The Roman empire, at the birth of CHRIST, was lefs agitated by pire enjoys peace, wars and tumults, than it had been for many years before. For, though I cannot affent to the opinion of thofe, who, following the account of OROSIUS, maintain, that the temple of JANUS was then fhut, and that wars and difcords abfolutely ceased throughout the world [e]; yet it is certain, that the period, in which our Saviour defcended upon earth, may be justly styled the Pacific Age, if we compare it with the preceding times. And indeed, the tranquillity, that then reigned, was neceffary to enable the ministers of CHRIST to execute, with fuccefs, their fublime commiffion to the human


[a] See for this purpofe the learned work of AUGUSTIN. CAMPIANUS, entitled, De officio et peteflate Magiftratuum Romanorum et jurifdi&tione, lib. i. cap. i. p. 3, 4. &c. Geneva, 1725, in Quarto.

[6] See MoYLE's Effay on the Conftitution of the Roman Government in the pofthumous works of that author, vol. i. p. 1-48. as alfo Scip. MAFFAEI Verona illuftrate, lib. ii. p. 65.

[] See, for a further illuftration of this matter, Hiftoire des grands chemins de l'Empire Romain, Far NICOL. BERGIER, printed in the year 1728. See alfo the very learned EVERARD OTTO, De tutela viarum Publicarum, part II. •p. 314.

[d] ORIGEN, among others, makes particular mention of this, in the fecond book of his anfwer to CELSUs, p. 79. of the Cambridge edition.

[e] See Jo. MASSONI Templum Jani, Chrifto nafcente, referatum. Roterodami, 1706.


V. The

V. The want of ancient records renders it impoffible to fay any thing fatisfactory or certain concerning the ftate of thofe nations, who did not receive the Roman yoke: nor indeed is their history effential to our prefent purpose. It is fufficient to obferve, with refpect to them, that thofe who inhabited the eastern regions were flangers to the fweets of liberty, and groaned under the burthen of an oppreffive yoke. This, their foftness and effeminacy, both in point of manners and bodily conftitution, contributed to make them fupport with an unmanly patience; and even the religion, they profeffed, riveted their chains. On the contrary, the northern nations enjoyed, in their frozen dwellings, the bleffings of facred freedom, which their government, their religion, a robuft and vigorous frame of body and spirit, derived from the inclemency and feverity of their climate, all united to preferve and maintain [f].


The ftate of the

other nations.

VI. All those nations lived in the practice of the most abominable super- All funk in feftitions. For though the notion of one fupreme being was not entirely effaced perftition. in the human mind, but fhewed itself frequently, even through the darkness of the groffeft idolatry, yet, all nations, except that of the Jews, acknowledged a number of governing powers whom they called Gods, and one or more of which they fuppofed to prefide over each particular province or people. They worshiped thefe fictitious deities with various rites; they confidered them as widely different from each other in fex, and power, in their nature, and alfo in their refpective offices, and they appeafed them by a multiplicity of ceremonies and offerings, in order to obtain their protection and favour. So that, however different the degrees of enormity might be, with which this abfurd and impious theology appeared in different countries; yet there was no nation, whofe facred rites and whofe religious worship did not discover a manifeft abufe of reafon, and very ftriking marks of extravagance and folly.

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fame kind.

VII. Every nation then had its refpective gods, over which prefided one But not of the more excellent than the reft; yet in fuch a manner, that this fupreme deity was himself controlled by the rigid empire of the fates, or what the philofophers called Eternal neceffity. The gods of the east were different from those of the Gauls, the Germans, and the other northern nations. The Grecian divinities differed widely from thofe of the Egyptians, who deified plants, animals, and a great variety of the productions, both of nature and art [g]. Each people alfo had their own particular manner of worshiping and appeafing their respective deities, entirely different from the facred rites of other countries. In procefs of time, however, the Greeks and Romans grew as ambitious in their religious pretenfions, as in their political claims. They maintained that their gods, though under different names, were the objects of religious worship in all nations, and therefore they gave the names of their deities

[f] Fere itaque imperia (fays SENECA) penes eos fuere populos, qui mitiore cælo utantur: in frigora, feptemtrionemque vergentibus immanfueta ingenia funt, ut ait poeta, fuoque fimillima cœlo. SENECA De ira, lib. ii. cap. xvi. tom. i. Opp. Edit. Gronovii.

[g] See the difcourfe of ATHANASIUS, entitled, Oratio contra gentes, in the first volume of his works.

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