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§ Acta Sincera, p. 302.* 147) De M. P. c. 11. Lactantius (or whoever was the author of this little treatise,) was, at that time, an inhabitant of Nicomedia; but it seems difficult to conceive how he could acquire so accurate a knowledge of what passed in the Imperial cabinet.f (148) The only circumstance which we can discover, is the devotion and jealousy of the mother of Galerius. She is described by Lactantius, as Deorum montium cultrix, mulier admodum superstitiosa. 8he *:: great influence over her son, and was offended by the disregard of some of her Christian servants (149) The worship and festival of the god Terminus are elegantly illustrated by M. de Boze, Mem. de l'Academie des Inscriptions, tom. i. p. 50. (150). In our only MS. of Lactantius, we read profectus, but reason and the authority of all the critics, allow us, instead of that word which destroys the sense of the passage, to substitute prefectus.
(153) Many ages afterward, Edward I. practised, with great success, the same mode of porsecution against the clergy of England. See Hume's History of England, vol. ii. p. 300, last 4to, edition.
Some slight disturbances, though they were suppressed almost as soon as excited, in Syria and the frontiers of Armenia, afforded the enemies of the church a very plausible occasion to insinuate, that those troubles had been secretly fomented by the intrigues of the bishops, who had already forgotten their ostentatious professions of passive and unlimited obedience.(162). The resentment, or the fears, of Dioclesian, at length transported him beyond the bounds of moderation, which he had hitherto preserved, and he declared, in a series of cruel edicts, his intention of abolishing the Christian name. By the first of these edicts, the governors of the provinces were directed to apprehend all persons of the ecclesiastical order: and the prisons, destined for the vilest criminals, were soon filled with a multitude of bishops, presbyters, deacons, readers, and exorcists. By a second edict, the magistrates were commanded to employ every method of severity, which might reclaim them from their odious superstition, and oblige them to return to the established worship of the ods. This rigorous order was extended, by a subsequent edict, to the whole jody of Christians, who were exposed to a violent and general ..". Instead of those salutary restraints, which had required the direct and solemn testimony of an accuser, it became the duty as well as the interest of the Imperial officers, to discover, to pursue, and to torment, the most obnoxious among the faithful. Heavy penalties were denounced againstall who should presume to save a proscribed sectary from the just indignation of the gods, and of the emperors. Yet, notwithstanding the severity of this law, the virtuous courage of many of the Pagans, in concealing their friends or relations, affords an honourable proof, that the rage of superstition had not extinguished in their minds the sentiments of nature and humanity.(164) Dioclesian had no sooner published his o against the Christians, than, as if he had been desirous of committing to other hands the work of persecution, he divested himself of the imperial purple. The character and situation of his colleagues and successors sometimes urged them to enforce, and sometimes inclined them to suspend, the execution of these rigorous laws; nor can we acquire a just and distinct idea of this important period of ecclesiastical history, unless we o consider the state of Christianity, in the different parts of the empire, during the space often years, which elapsed between the first edicts of Dioclesian, and the final peace of the church. The mild and humane temper of Constantius was averse to the oppression of anyd. of his subjects. The principal offices of his palace were exercised by Christians. He loved their persons, esteemed their fidelity, and entertained not any dislike to their religious principles. But as long as Constantius remained in the subordinate station of Cesar, it was not in his power openly to reject the edicts of Dioclesian, or to disobey the commands of Maximian. His authority contributed, however, to alleviate the sufferings which he pitied and abhorred. He consented, with reluctance, to the ruin of the churches; but he ventured to protect the Christians themselves from the fury of the populace, and from the rigour of the laws. The provinces of Gaul (under which we may ..". include those of Britain) were indebted for the singular tranquillity which they enjoyed, to the gentle interposition of their o But Datianus, the president or governor of Spain, actuated either by zeal or policy, chose rather to execute §. public edicts of the emperors, than to understand the secret intentions of Constantius; and it can scarcely be doubted, that his
(162) Eusebius, l. viii. c. 6. M. de Valois (with some probability) thinks that he has discovered the Syrian rebellion in an oration of Libanius; and that it was a rash attempt of the tribune Eugenius, who with only five hundred men seized Antioch, and might perhaps allure the Christians by the promise of religious toleration. From Eusebius, (l. ix c. 8,) as well as from Moses of Chorene, (Hist. Armen. l. ii. c. 77, &c.) it may be inferred, that Christianity was already introduced into Armenia.
(163) See Mosheim, p. 938; the text of Eusebius very plainly shows, that the governors, whose powers were enlarged, not restrained, by the new laws, could punish with death the most obstinate Christians, as an example to their brethren.
§ Athanasius, p. 833, * Tillemont, Mem. Ecclesiast. tom. v. part i. p. 90.
165) Eusebius, I. viii. c. 13. Lactantius de M. P. c. 15. Dodwell (Dissertat. Cyprian. xi. 75) repre
sents them as inconsistent with each other. But the former evidently speaks of Constantius in the station of Cesar, and the latter of the same prince in the rank of Augustus.