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sible that she could reconcile the practice of vice with the precepts of the Gospel, she might hope to atone for the frailties of her sex and profession, by declaring herself the patroness of the Christians.” Under the gracious protection of Marcia, they passed in safety the thirteen years of a cruel tyranny; and, when the empire was established in the house of Severus, they formed a domestic but more honourable connexion with the new court. The emperor was persuaded that, in a dangerous sickness, he had derived some benefit, either spiritual or physical, from the holy oil with which one of his slaves had anointed him. He always treated with peculiar distinction several persons of both sexes who had embraced the new religion. The nurse as well as the preceptor of Caracalla were Christians; and, if that young prince ever betrayed a sentiment of humanity, it was occasioned by an incident which, however trifling, bore some relation to the cause of Christianity.” Under the reign of Severus, the fury of the populace was checked; the rigour of ancient laws was for some time suspended; and the provincial governors were satisfied with receiving an annual present from the churches within their jurisdiction, as the price, or as the reward, of their moderation.” The controversy concerning the precise time of the celebration of Easter armed the bishops of Asia and Italy against each other, and was considered as the most important business of this period of leisure and tranquillity.” Nor was the peace of the church interrupted till the increasing numbers of proselytes seem at length to have attracted the attention, and to have alienated the mind, of Severus. With the design of restraining the progress of Christianity, he published an edict which, though it was designed to affect only the new converts, could not be carried into strict execution without exposing to danger and punishment the most zealous of their teachers and missionaries. In this mitigated persecution, we may still discover the indulgent spirit of Rome and of Polytheism, which so readily admitted every excuse in favour of those who practised the religious ceremonies of their fathers.11?
[c. A.D. 202]
1* Dion Cassius, or rather his abbreviator Xiphilin, l. lxxii. p. 1206 . Mr. Moyle (p. 266) has explained the condition of the church under the reign of Commodus. [Cp. Gorres, Jahrb. für protestantische Theologie X. 401 o
109 Compare the life of Caracalla in the Augustan History with the epistle of Tertullian to Scapula. Dr. Jortin (Remarks on Ecclesiastical History, vol. ii. p. 5, &c.) considers the cure of Severus by the means of holy oil, with a strong desire to convert it into a miracle. [Wirth dates Tertullian's letter 21% A.D.]
110Tertullian de Fugā, c, 13. The present was made during the feast of the Saturnalia; and it is a matter of serious concern to Tertullian that the faithful should be confounded with the most infamous professions which purchased the connivance of the government.
* Euseb. l. v. c. 23, 24. Mosheim, p. 435–447.
But the laws which Severus had enacted soon expired with of the sus. the authority of that emperor; and the Christians, after this:
accidental tempest, enjoyed a calm of thirty-eight years.118 Till this period they had usually held their assemblies in private houses and sequestered places. They were now permitted to erect and consecrate convenient edifices for the purpose of religious worship; * to purchase lands, even at Rome itself, for the use of the community; and to conduct the elections of their ecclesiastical ministers in so public, but at the same time in so exemplary, a manner as to deserve the respectful attention of the Gentiles.” This long repose of the church was accompanied with dignity. The reigns of those princes who derived their extraction from the Asiatic provinces proved the most favourable to the Christians; the eminent persons of the sect, instead of being reduced to implore the protection of a slave or concubine, were admitted into the palace in the honourable characters of priests and philosophers; and their mysterious doctrines, which were already diffused among the people, insensibly attracted the curiosity of their sovereign. When the empress Mammaea passed through Antioch, she expressed a desire of conversing with the celebrated Origen, the fame of whose piety and learning was spread over the East. Origen obeyed so flattering an invitation, and, though he could not expect to succeed in the conversion of an artful and ambitious woman, she listened with pleasure to his eloquent exhortations, and honourably dismissed him to his retirement in Palestine.” The sentiments of Mammaea were adopted by her son Alexander,
m?Judaeos fieri sub gravi poena vetuit. Idem etiam de Christianis sanxit. Hist. August. p. 7o [x. 17, 1]. . [See A. Wirth, Quaestiones Severianae, 1888.]
iia Sulpicius Severus, l. ii. p. 384. This computation (allowing for a single exception) is confirmed by the history of Eusebius, and by the writings of Cyprian.
m*The antiquity of Christian churches is discussed by Tillemont (Mémoires Ecclésiastiques, tom. iii. part ii. p. 68–72), and by Mr. Moyle (vol. i. p. 378–398). The former refers the first construction of them to the peace of Alexander Severus; the latter to the peace of Gallienus.
lis See the Augustan History, p. 130 [xviii. 45, 7]. The emperor Alexander adopted their method of publicly proposing the names of those persons who were candidates for ordination. It is true that the honour of this practice is likewise attributed to the Jews.
116 Euseb. Hist. Ecclesiast. 1. vi. c. 21. Hieronym. de Script. Eccles. c. 54. Mammaea was styled a holy and pious woman, both by the Christians and the Pagans. From the former, therefore, it was impossible that she should deserve that bonourable epithet.
and the philosophic devotion of that emperor was marked by a singular but injudicious regard for the Christian religion. In his domestic chapel he placed the statues of Abraham, of Orpheus, of Apollonius, and of Christ, as an honour justly due to those respectable sages who had instructed mankind in the various modes of addressing their homage to the supreme and universal deity.” A purer faith, as well as worship, was openly professed and practised among his household. Bishops, perhaps for the first time, were seen at court; and after the death of Alexander, when the inhuman Maximin discharged his fury on the favourites and servants of his unfortunate benefactor, a great number of Christians, of every rank, and of both sexes, were involved in the promiscuous massacre, which, on their account, has improperly received the name of Persecution.* Notwithstanding the cruel disposition of Maximin, the effects of his resentment against the Christians were of a very local and temporary nature, and the pious Origen, who had been proscribed as a devoted victim, was still reserved to convey the truths of the Gospel to the ear of monarchs.” He addressed several edifying letters to the emperor Philip, to his wife, and to his mother; and, as soon as that prince, who was born in the neighbourhood of Palestine, had usurped the Imperial sceptre, the Christians acquired a friend and a protector. The public and even partial favour of Philip towards the sectaries of the new religion, and his constant reverence for the ministers of the church, gave some colour to the suspicion, which prevailed in his own times, that the emperor himself was become a convert to the faith;” and afforded some grounds for a
in See the Augustan History, p. 123 [xviii. 29, 2]. Mosheim (p. 465) seems to refine too much on the domestic religion of Alexander. His design of building a public temple to Christ (Hist. August. p. 129, [ib. 43, 6]) and the objection which was suggested either to him or in similar circumstances to Hadrian appear to have no other foundation than an improbable report, invented by the Christians and credulously adopted by an historian of the age of Constantine. 118 Euseb. 1. vi. c. 28. It may be presumed that the success of the Christians had exasperated the increasing bigotry of the Pagans. Dion Cassius, who composed his history under the former reign, had most probably intended for the use of his master those counsels of persecution which he ascribes to a better age and to the favourite of Augustus. Concerning this oration of Maecenas, or rather of Dion, I may refer to my own unbiassed opinion (vol. i. p. 55, Not. 25) and to the Abbé de la Bléterie (Mémoires de l'Académie, tom. xxiv. p. 303, tom. xxv, p. 432). 119 Orosius, l. vii. c. 19, mentions Origen as the object of Maximin's resentment; and Firmilianus, a Cappadocian bishop of that age, gives a just and confined idea of this persecution op. Cyprian. Epist. 75). 1*The mention of those princes who were publicly supposed to be Christians, as we find it in an epistle of Dionysius of Alexandria (ap. Euseb. 1. vii. c. 10), evi. dently alludes to Philip and his family, and forms a contemporary evidence that
fable which was afterwards invented, that he had been purified by confession and penance from the guilt contracted by the murder of his innocent predecessor.” The fall of Philip in- Ad zo troduced, with the change of masters, a new system of government, so oppressive to the Christians that their former condition, ever since the time of Domitian, was represented as a state of perfect freedom and security, if compared with the rigorous treatment which they experienced under the short reign of Decius.” The virtues of that prince will scarcely allow us to suspect that he was actuated by a mean resentment against the favourites of his predecessor, and it is more reasonable to believe that, in the prosecution of his general design to restore the purity of Roman manners, he was desirous of delivering the empire from what he condemned as a recent and criminal Foot 2:0 superstition. The bishops of the most considerable cities were” removed by exile or death; the vigilance of the magistrates prevented the clergy of Rome during sixteen months from proceeding to a new election; and it was the opinion of the Christians that the emperor would more patiently endure a competitor for the purple than a bishop in the capital.” Were it possible to suppose that the penetration of Decius had discovered pride under the disguise of humility, or that he could foresee the temporal dominion which might insensibly arise from the claims of spiritual authority, we might be less surprised
such a report had prevailed; but the Egyptian bishop, who lived at an humble distance from the court of Rome, expresses himself with a becoming diffidence concerning the truth of the fact. The epistles of Origen (which were extant in the time of Eusebius, see 1. vi. c. 36) would most probably decide this curious, rather than important, question.
in Euseb. 1. vi. c. 34. The story, as is usual, has been embellished by succeeding writers, and is confuted, with much superfluous learning, by Frederick Spanheim (Opera Varia, tom. ii. p. 4oo, &c.).
* Lactantius, de Mortibus Persecutorum, c. 3, 4. After celebrating the felicity and increase of the church, under a long succession of good princes, he adds, “Extitit post annos plurimos, execrabile animal, Decius, qui vexaret Ecclesiam ". [The object of Decius was to enforce universal observance of the national religion, and he was successful in inducing many Christians to concede external compliance to the pagan ceremonials, by sacrifice and sprinkling incense on the altars of the gods. Many Christians purchased libelli from the magistrates certifying that they were free from the imputation of Christianity, and were hence called libellatici. The chief sources are Cyprian's Letters and his De Lapsis; fragments of Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria, who hid himself during the persecution, in Eusebius, H. E., vi. 40–42; and the Vita of Gregory Thaumaturgus by Gregory of Nyssa.]
1*Euseb. 1. vi. c. 39. Cyprian. Epistol. 55. The see of Rome remained vacant from the martyrdom of Fabianus, the 20th of January, A.D. 250, till the election of Cornelius, the 4th of June, A.D. 251. Decius had probably left Rome, since he was killed before the end of that year.
that he should consider the successors of St. Peter as the most
church; and the Christians obtained the free exercise of their
religion, by an edict addressed to the bishops and conceived in such terms as seemed to acknowledge their office and public character.” The ancient laws, without being formally repealed, were suffered to sink into oblivion; and (excepting only some hostile intentions which are attributed to the emperor Aurelian *) the disciples of Christ passed above forty years in a state of prosperity, far more dangerous to their virtue than the severest trials of persecution.
The story of Paul of Samosata, who filled the metropolitan see of Antioch, while the East was in the hands of Odenathus and Zenobia, may serve to illustrate the condition and character of the times. The wealth of that prelate was a sufficient evidence of his guilt, since it was neither derived from the inheritance of his fathers nor acquired by the arts of honest industry. But Paul considered the service of the church as a very lucrative profession.” His ecclesiastical jurisdiction was venal and rapacious; he extorted frequent contributions from the most
Paul of 8amosata, his manners. A.D. 260
124 Euseb. 1. vii. c. 10. Mosheim (p. 548) has very clearly shown that the Praesect Macrianus and the Egyptian Magus are one and the same person.
125 Eusebius (I. vii. c. 13) gives us a Greek version of this Latin edict, which seems to have been very concise. By another edict he directed that the Caemeteria should be restored to the Christians.
* Euseb. 1. vii, c. 30. Lactantius de M. P. c. 6. Hieronym. in Chron., p. 177 [ad ann. 2290). Orosius, l. vii. c. 23. Their language is in general so ambiguous and incorrect that we are at a loss to determine how far Aurelian had carried his intentions before he was assassinated. [He intended to rescind the edict of Gallienus.] Most of the moderns (except Dodwell, Dissertat. Cyprian. xi. 64) have seized the occasion of gaining a few extraordinary martyrs.
127 Paul was better pleased with the title of Ducenarius, than with that of bishop. The Ducenarius was an Imperial procurator, so called from his salary of two hundred Sestertia, or 1600l. a year. (See Salmasius, ad Hist. August. p. 124.) Some critics suppose that the bishop of Antioch had actually obtained such an office from Zenobia, while others consider it only as a figurative expression of his pomp and insolence.