« ForrigeFortsett »
Mareotis, a Jewish sect which had abated much of its reverence for the Mosaic ceremonies. The austere life of the Essenians, their fasts and excommunications, the community of goods, the love of celibacy, their zeal for martyrdom, and the warmth though not the purity of their faith, already offered a very lively image of the primitive discipline. It was in the school of Alexandria that the Christian theology appears to have assumed a regular and scientifical form; and when Hadrian visited Egypt, he found a church composed of Jews and of Greeks, sufficiently important to attract the notice of that inquisitive prince. But the progress of Christianity was for a long time confined within the limits of a single city, which was itself a foreign colony; and till the close of the second century the predecessors of Demetrius were the only prelates of the Egyptian church. Three bishops were consecrated by the hands of Demetrius, and the number was increased to twenty by his successor Heraclas. The body of the natives, a people distinguished by sullen inflexibility of temper," entertained the new doctrine with coldness and reluctance; and even in the time of Origen, it was rare to meet with an Egyptian who had surmounted his early prejudices in favour of the sacred animals of his country. As soon, indeed, as Christianity ascended the throne, the zeal of those barbarians obeyed the prevailing impulsion; the eities of Egypt were filled with bishops, and the deserts of Thebais swarmed with hermits.
a Basnage (Histoire des Juifs, lib. 2. c. 20—23.) has examined, with the most critical accuracy, the curious treatise of Philo, which describes the Therapeutæ. By proving that it was composed as early as the time of Augustus, Basnage has demonstrated, in spite of Eusebius, (lib. 2. c. 17.) and a crowd of modern Čatholics, that the Therapeutæ were neither Christians nor monks. It still remains probable that they changed their name, preserved their manners, adopted some now articles of faith, and gradually became the fathers of the Egyptian Ascetics.
b See a letter of Hadrian, in the Augustan History, p. 245. For the succession of Alexandrian bishops, consult Renaudot's History, p. 24, &c. This curious fact is preserved by the patriarch Eutycbius, (Annal. tom. 1. p. 834. Vers. Pocock.) and its internal evidence would alone be a sufficient answer to all the objections which Bishop Pearson has urged in the Vindiciæ Ignatianæ.
Ammian. Marcellin. 22. 16. e Origen contra Celsum, lib. 1. p. 40.
A perpetual stream of strangers and provincials
flowed into the capacious bosom of Rome. Whatever was strange or odious, whoever was guilty or suspected, might hope, in the obscurity of that immense capital, to elude the vigilance of the law. In such a various conflux of nations, every teacher, either of truth or of falsehood, every founder, whether of a virtuous or a criminal association, might easily multiply his disciples or accomplices. The Christians of Rome, at the time of the accidental persecution of Nero, are represented by Tacitus as already amounting to a very great multitude, and the language of that great historian is almost similar to the style employed by Livy, when he relates the introduction and the suppression of the rites of Bacchus. After the Bacchanals had awakened the severity of the senate, it was likewise apprehended that a very great multitude, as it were another people, had been initiated into those abhorred mysteries. A more careful inquiry soon demonstrated, that the offenders did not exceed seven thousand; a number indeed sufficiently alarming, when considered as the object of public justice. It is with the same candid allowance that we should interpret the vague expressions of Tacitus, and in a former instance of Pliny, when they exaggerate the crowds of deluded fanatics who had forsaken the established worship of their gods. The church of Rome was undoubtedly the first and most populous of the empire; and we are possessed of an authentic record which attests the state of religion in that city about the middle of the third century, and after a peace of thirtyeight years. The clergy, at that time, consisted of a bishop, forty-six presbyters, seven deacons, as many sub-deacons, forty-two acolythes, and fifty readers, ex
Ingens multitudo is the expression of Tacitus, 15. 44. 8 T. Liv. 39. 13. 15—17. Nothing could exceed the horror and consternation of the senate on the discovery of the Bacchanalians, whose depravity is described, and perhaps exaggerated, by Livy.
orcists, and porters. The number of widows, of the infirm, and of the poor, who were maintained by the oblations of the faithful, amounted to fifteen hundred." From reason, as well as from the analogy of Antioch, we may venture to estimate the Christians of Rome at about fifty thousand. The populousness of that great capital cannot perhaps be exactly ascertained; but the most modest calculation will not surely reduce it lower than a million of inhabitants, of whom the Christians might constitute at the most a twentieth part.' In Africa
The western provincials appeared to have deand the
rived the knowledge of Christianity from the western provinces. same source which had diffused among them the language, the sentiments, and the manners of Rome. In this more important circumstance, Africa, as well as Gaul, was gradually fashioned to the imitation of the capital. Yet notwithstanding the many favourable occasions which might invite the Roman missionaries to visit the Latin provinces, it was late before they passed either the sea or the Alps ;k nor can we discover in those great countries any assured traces either of faith or of persecution that ascend higher than the reign of the Antonines. The slow progress of the gospel in the cold climate of Gaul was extremely different from the eagerness with which it seems to have been received on the burning sands of Africa. The African Christians soon formed one of the principal members of the primitive church. The practice introduced into that pro
b Eusebius, lib. 6.c. 43. The Latin translator (M. de Valois) has thought proper to reduce the number of presbyters to forty-four.
This proportion of the presbyters and of the poor, to the rest of the people, was originally fixed by Burnet, (Travels into Italy, p. 168.) and is approved by Moyle. (vol. 2. p. 151.) They were both unacquainted with the passage of Chrysostom, which converts their conjecture almost into a fact.
Serius trans Alpes, religione Dei susceptà. Sulpicius Severus, lib. 2. These were the celebrated martyrs of Lyons. See Eusebius, 5. 1. Tillemont, Mem. Ecclesiast. tom. 2. p. 316. According to the Donatists, whose assertion is confirmed. by the tacit acknowledgment of Augustin, Africa was the last of the provinces which received the Gospel. Tillemont, Mem. Ecclessiast. tom. 1. p. 754.
1 Tum primum intra Gallias martyria visa. Sulp. Severus, lib. 2.* With regard to Africa, see Tertullian ad Scapulam,
c. 3. It is imagined, that the Scyllitan martyrs were the first. Acta Sincera Ruinart. p. 34. One of the adversaries of Apuleius seems to have been a Christian. Apolog. p. 496, 497. edit. Delphin.
vince, of appointing bishops to the most inconsiderable towns, and very frequently to the most obscure villages, contributed to multiply the splendour and importance of their religious societies, which, during the course of the third century, were animated by the zeal of Tertullian, directed by the abilities of Cyprian, and adorned by the eloquence of Lactantius. But if, on the contrary, we turn our eyes towards Gaul, we must content ourselves with discovering, in the time of Marcus Antoninus, the feeble and united congregations of Lyons and Vienna : and even as late as the reign of Decius, we are assured, that in a few cities only, Arles, Narbonne, Thoulouse, Limoges, Clermont, Tours, and Paris, some scattered churches were supported by the devotion of a small number of Christians." Silence is indeed very consistent with devotion; but as it is seldom compatible with zeal, we may perceive and lament the languid state of Chris, tianity in those provinces which had exchanged the Celtic for the Latin tongue; since they did not, during the three first centuries, give birth to a single ecclesiastical writer. From Gaul, which claimed a just pre-eminence of learning and authority over all the countries on this side of the Alps, the light of the gospel was more faintly reflected on the remote provinces of Spain and Britain; and if we may credit the vehement assertions of Tertullian, they had already received the first rays of the faith, when he addressed his apology to the magistrates of the emperor Severus." But the obscure and imperfect origin of the western churches of Europe has been so negligently, recorded, that if we would relate the time and manner of their foundation, we must supply the silence of antiquity by those legends which avarice or supersti
im Raræ in aliquibus civitatibus ecclesire, paucorum Christianorum devotione, re surgerent. Acta Sincera, p. 130. Gregory of Tours, lib. 1. c. 28. Mosheim, po 207. 449. There is some reason to believe that, in the beginning of the fourth century, the extensive dioceses of Liege, of Treves, and of Cologne, composed & single bishopric, which had been very recently founded. See Memoires de Tillemont, tom. 6. part. 1. p. 43. 111.
n The date of Tertullian's Apology is fixed, in a dissertation of Mosheim, to the year 198.
tion long afterward dictated to the monks in the lazy gloom of their convents. Of these holy romances that of the apostle St. James can alone, by its singular extravagance, deserve to be mentioned. From a peaceful fisherman of the lake of Gennesareth, he was transformed into a valorous knight, who charged at the head of the Spanish chivalry, in their battles against the Moors. The gravest historians have celebrated his exploits; the miraculous shrine of Compostella displayed his the sword of a military order, assisted by the terrors of the inquisition, was sufficient to remove every objection of profane criticism.P Beyond
The progress of Christianity was not confined the limits to the Roman empire; and according to the Roman primitive fathers, who interpret facts by proempire.
phecy, the new religion, within a century after the death of its divine author, had already visited every part of the globe. There exists not (says Justin Martyr) a people, whether Greek or barbarian, or any other race of men, by whatsoever appellation or manners they may be distinguished, however ignorant of arts or agriculture, whether they dwell under tents, or wander about in covered waggons, among whom prayers are not offered up in the name of a crucified Jesus to the Father and Creator of all things. But this splendid exaggeration, which even at present it would be extremely difficult to reconcile with the real state of mankind, can be considered only as the rash sally of a devout but careless writer, the measure of whose belief was regulated by that of his wishes. But neither the belief, nor the wishes, of the fathers can alter the truth of history. It will still re
• In the fifteenth century, there were few who had either inclination or courage to question, whether Joseph of Arimathea founded the monastery of Glastonbury, and whether Dionysius the Areopagite preferred the residence of Paris to that of Athens.
p The stupendous metamorphosis was performed in the ninth century. See Mariana, (Hist. Hispan. lib. 7. c. 13. tom. 1. p. 285. edit. Hag. Com. 1733.) who, in every sense, imitates Livy, and the honest detection of the legend of St. James by Dr. Geddes, Miscellanies, vol. 2. p. 221.
1 Justin. Martyr, Dialog. cum Tryphon. p. 341. Ireneus adv. Hæres. lib. 1. c. 10. Tertullian ads, Jud. €.7. See Mosheim, p. 203.