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PART I.

CENT.IL distresses. For, though edicts of a severe nature were issued out against them, and the magistrates, animated by the priests and by the multitude, shed their blood with a cruelty which frequently exceeded even the dictates of the most barbarous laws; yet there was always some remedy that accompanied these evils, and softened their severity. Trajan, however condemnable in other respects, on account of his conduct toward the christians, was yet engaged, by the representations that Pliny the younger gave of them, to forbid all search to be made after them. He also prohibited all anonymous libels and accusations, by which the christians had so often been perfidiously exposed to the greatest sufferings. Antoninus Pius went so far as to enact penal laws against their accusers. And others, by various acts of beneficence and compassion, defended them from the injurious treatment of the priests and people. Hence it came to pass, that in this century, the limits of the church were considerably enlarged, and the number of converts to Christianity prodigiously augmented. Of the truth of this, we have the most respectable and authentic testimonies in the writings of the ancients; testimonies, whose evidence and authority are every way superior to the vain attempts which some have made to obscure and weaken them.

What coun

lightened

b

II. It is not easy to point out particularly the diftween-ferent countries on which the light of celestial truth with the gos- first rose in this age. The ancient records that yet remain, do not give us information sufficient to determine that matter with certainty; nor is it

pel.

■ See Pliny's epistles, book x. let. xcviii.

Eusebius Eccl. Hist. lib. iv. cap. xiii. p. 126.

• See Moyle's letters concerning the thundering legion, with the remarks which Dr. Mosheim has annexed to his Latin translation of them, published at the end of a work, entitled, Syntagma Dissert. ad Sanctiores Disciplinas pertinent. See also the dialogue between Justin Martyr and Trypho the Jew, p. 541.

PART I.

indeed, a matter of much importance. We are, CENT. II. however, assured by the most unexceptionable testimonies, that Christ was worshipped as God, almost throughout the whole east, as also among the Germans, Spaniards, Celts, Britons, and many other nations;d but which of them received the gospel in the first century, and which in the second, is a question unanswerable at this distance of time. Pantænus, the head of the Alexandrian school, is said to have conveyed to the Indians the knowledge of Christ. But after an attentive examination of the account which Eusebius gives of this matter, it will appear, that these Indians were certain Jews, inhabitants of the Happy Arabia, whom Bartholomew the apostle had before instructed in the doctrines of Christianity. For according to the account of St. Jerom, Pantænus found among this people the gospel of St. Matthew, which they had received from Bartholomew their first teacher.

sion of the'

IV. The christian religion, having penetrated The conver among the Gauls, seems to have passed from thence Germans. into that part of Germany which was subject to the Romans, and from thence into Britain. Certain German churches indeed, are fondly ambitious of deriving their origin from St. Peter, and from

d Irenæus contr. Hæres. lib. i. cap. x. Tertullian adv. Judæos, cap. vii. p. 212.

• Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. book v. c. x. Jerome Catal. Scriptor. Eccles. c. xxxvi.

f Ursinus, Bebelius, and others, have written learnedly concerning the origin of the German churches, which Tertullian and Irenæus men, tion as erected in this century. Add to these, the ample illustrations of this subject, which are to be found in Liron's Singularites Histor. et Litter. tom. iv. p. 193. The celebrated Dom. Calmet has judiciously refuted the common and popular accounts of the first christian doctors in Germany, in his Hist. de la Lorraine, tom. i. Diss. sur les Eveques de Treves, part iii. iv. See also Bollandus, Act. Sanctor. p. 922. Hontheim Diss. de Æra Episcop. Trepir. tom. i. Hist. Trevir.

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CENT. II. the companions of the other apostles. The Britons also are willing to believe, upon the authority of Bede, that in this century, and under the reign of Marcus Antoninus, their king Lucius addressed himself to Eleutherus the Roman pontiff, for doctors to instruct him in the christian religion, and having obtained his request, embraced the gospel. But after all, these traditions are extremely doubtful, and are, indeed, rejected by such as have learning sufficient to weigh the credibility of ancient narrations.

the Gauls.

Conversión of v. It is very possible that the light of Christianity may have reached Transalpine Gaul, now called France, before the conclusion of the apostolic age, either by the ministry of the apostles themselves, or their immediate successors. But we have no records that mention with certainty, the establishment of christian churches in this part of Europe before the second century. Pothinus, a man of exemplary piety and zeal, set out from Asia in company with Irenæus and others, and laboured in the christian cause with such success among the Gauls, that churches were established at Lyons and Vienne, of which Pothinus himself was the first bishop.h

Translations

of the New

VI. The writers of this century attribute this Testament. rapid progress of Christianity to the power of God, to the energy of divine truth, to the extraordinary gifts, which were imparted to the first christians, and the miracles and prodigies that were wrought in their behalf, and at their command; nor do they

8 See Usher Antiq. Eccles. Britann. cap. i. p. 7; as also Godwin, De conversione Britann. cap. i. p. 7, aud Rapin's History of England.

h See the epistle of Petrus de Marca, concerning the first rise of Christianity in France, published among the dissertations of that author; and also by Valesius, in his edition of Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History. See also Histoire Literaire de la France, tom. i. p. 223. Liron's Singularites Histor. et Literaires, vol. iv.

PART I.

ascribe almost any part of the amazing success that CENT. II. attended the preaching of the gospel, to the intervening succours of human means or second causes. But this is carrying the matter too far. The wisdom of human counsels, and the useful efforts of learning and prudence, are too inconsiderately excluded from this account of things. For it is beyond all doubt, that the pious diligence and zeal, with which many learned and worthy men recommended the sacred writings, and spread them abroad in translations, which rendered them useful to those who were ignorant of the language in which they were written, contributed much to the success and propagation of the christian doctrine. Latin versions of these sacred books were multiplied by the pious labours of the learned with particular diligence, because that language was now more universal than any other. Among these versions, that which was distingui by the name of the Italic, obtained universally the preference, and was followed by the Syriac, Egyptian, and Ethiopic versions, whose dates it is impossible to fix with certainty.

fended, and

ed.

VIL Among the obstacles that retarded the prog- Christians de ress of Christianity, the impious calumnies of its heretics refutenemies were the most considerable. The persons, the characters, and religious sentiments of the first christians were most unjustly treated, and most perfidiously misrepresented to the credulous mulțitude,' who were restrained by this only from em

See Augustin. De doctrina Christiana, lib. ii. cap. xi. p. 85, edit. Calixt.

* See Jo. Gottlob. Carpzov. Critica sacra Vet. Test. p. 663.

Nothing more injurious can be conceived than the terms of contempt, indignation, and reproach, which the heathens employed in expressing their hatred against the christians, who were called by them atheists, because they derided the heathen polytheism; magicians, because they wrought miracles; self murderers, because they suffered martyrdom cheerfully for the truth; haters of the light, because, to avoid the fury of the persecutions raised against them, they were forc

PART I.

CENT. II. bracing the gospel. Those therefore, who by their apologetic writings in favour of the christians, destroyed the poisonous influence of detraction, rendered, no doubt, signal service to the doctrine of Christ, by removing the chief impediment that retarded its progress. Nor were the writings of such as combated with success the ancient heretics without their use, especially in the early periods of the church. For the insipid and extravagant doctrines of these sectaries, and the gross immoralities with which they were chargeable, were extremely prejudicial to the christian religion, by disgusting many at whatever carried the christian name. But when it was known, by the writings of those who defended Christianity, that these corrupt heretics were held in aversion, instead of being patronized by the true followers of Christ, then the clouds that were cast over the religion of Jesus were dispersed, and the prejudices that had been raised against it were fully removed.

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Miracles and

gifts.

VIII. It is easier to conceive than to express, how extraordinary much the miraculous powers and extraordinary gifts, which were displayed in the ministry of the first heralds of the gospel, contributed to enlarge the bounds of the church. These gifts, however, which were given for wise and important reasons, began gradually to diminish in proportion as the reasons ceased for which they were conferred. And, accordingly, when almost all nations were enlightened with the truth, and the number of christian churches increased daily in all places, then the miraculous gift of tongues began gradually to decrease. It appears, at the same time, from unexceptionable testimonies, that the other extraordinary

ed, at first, to hold their religious assemblies in the night; with a multitude of other ignominious epithets employed against them by Tacitus, Suetonius, Celsus, &c. See Bingham's Antiquities of the Christian Church, book i. cap. ii. p. 5.

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