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them alone, the consideration of the treatment which they experienced from the Roman magistrates will serve to explain how far these speculations are justified by facts, and will lead us to discover the true causes of the persecution of Christianity.
Without repeatinffwhat has been already men
Rebellious . . . , TM Pit-. . i
spirit of tioned, of the reverence of the Roman princes and the ewa' governors for the temple of Jerusalem, we shall only observe, that the destruction of the temple and city was accompanied and followed by every circumstance that could exasperate the minds of the conquerors, and authorize religious persecution by the most specious arguments of political justice, and the public safety. From the reign of Nero to that of Antoninus Pius, the Jews discovered a fierce impatience of the dominion of Rome, which repeatedly broke out in the most furious massacres and insurrections. Humanity is shocked at the recital of the horrid cruelties which they committed in the cities of Egypt, of Cyprus, and of Gyrene, where they dwelt in treacherous friendship with the unsuspecting natives ;* and we are tempted to applaud the severe retaliation which was exercised by the arms of the legions against a race of fanatics, whose dire and credulous superstition seemed to render them the implacable enemies, not only of the Roman government, but of humankind.b The enthusiasm of the Jews was supported by the opinion that it was unlawful for them to pay taxes to an idolatrous master; and by the flattering promise, which they derived from their ancient oracles, that a conquering Messiah would soon arise, destined to break their fetters, and to invest the favourites of heaven with the empire of the earth. It was by announcing himself as their long-expected deliverer, and by calling on all the descendants of Abraham to assert the hope of Israel, that the famous Barchochebas collected a formidable army, with which he resisted during two years the power of the emperor Hadrian.0
* In Cyrene they massacred two hundred and twenty thousand Greeks; n Cyprus, two hundred and forty thousand; in Egypt, a very great multitude Many of these unhappy victims were sawed asunder, according to a precedent to which David bad given the sanction of his example. The victorious Jews devoured the flesh, licked up the blood, and twisted the entrails, like a girdle, round their bodies. See Dion Casuus, lib. 68. p. 1145.
1' Without repeating the well-knonm narratives of Josephus, we may learn from Dion (lib. 69. p. 1162.) that in Hadrian's war five hundred and eighty thousand Jews were cut efF by the sword, besides an infinite number which perished by famine, by disease, and hy fire.
Toleration Notwithstanding these repeated provocations, J^j, the resentment of the Roman princes expired religion after the victory; nor were their apprehensions continued beyond the period of war and danger. By the general indulgence of Polytheism, and by the mild temper of Antoninus Pius, the Jews were restored to their ancient privileges, and once more obtained the permission of circumcising their children, with the easy restraint, that they should never confer on any foreign proselyte that distinguishing mark of the Hebrew race.d The numerous remains of that people, though they were still excluded from the precincts of Jerusalem, were permitted to form and to maintain considerable establishments both in Italy and in the provinces, to acquire the freedom of Rome, to enjoy municipal honours, and to obtain at the same time an exemption from the burdensome and expensive offices of society. The moderation or the contempt of the Romans gave a legal sanction to the form of ecclesiastical police which was instituted by the vanquished sect. The patriarch, who had fixed his residence at Tiberias,was empowered to appoint his subordinate ministers and apostles to exercise a domestic jurisdiction, and to receive from his dispersed brethren an annual contribution.' New synagogues were frequently erected in the principal cities of the empire; and the sabbaths, the fasts, and the festivals, which were
i For the sect of the Zealots, see Basnage, Histoire des Juifs, lib. 1. c. 17. for the character of the Messiah, according to the Rabbiet, lib. 5. c. 11—13. for the actions of Barchochebas, lib. 7. c. 12.
* It is to Modestinus, a Roman lawyer, (lib. 6. regular.) that we are indebted for a distinct knowledge of the edict of Antoninus. See Casaubon. ad Hist. August, p- 27.
• See Basnage, Histoire des Juifs, lib. 3. c. ?, 3. The office of patriarch was suppressed by Theodosius the younger.
either commanded by the Mosaic law, or enjoined by the traditions of the rabbies, were celebrated in the most solemn and public manner/ Such gentle treatment insensibly assuaged the stern temper of the Jews. Awakened from their dream of prophecy and conquest, they assumed the behaviour of peaceable and industrious subjects. Their irreconcileablehatred of mankind, instead of flaming out in acts of blood and violence, evaporated in less dangerous gratifications. They embraced every opportunity of overreaching the idolaters in trade; and they pronounced secret and ambiguous imprecations against the haughty kingdom of Edorn.* The Jews Since the Jews, who rejected with abhorrence we.re a the deities adored by their sovereign and by their which fellow-subjects, enjoyed, however, the free ex£eowe' ercise of their unsocial religion, there must have
existed some other cause, which exposed the diswhichde- ciples of Christ to those severities from which the the red- posterity of Abraham was exempt. The difference t£0ir0fa- between them is simple and obvious; but, aethers. cording to the sentiments of antiquity, it was of the highest importance. The Jews were a nation; the Christians were a sect: and, if it was natural for every community to respect the sacred institutions of their neighbours; it was incumbent on them to persevere in those of their ancestors. The voice of oracles, the precepts of philosophers, and the authority of the laws, unanimously enforced this national obligation. By their lofty claim of superior sanctity, the Jews might provoke the Polytheists to consider them as an odious and impure race. By disdaining the intercourse of other nations, they might deserve their contempt. The laws of Moses might be for the most part frivolous or absurd; yet, since they had been received during many ages by a large society, his followers were justified by the example of mankind; and it was universally acknowledged that they had a right to practise what it would have been criminal in them to neglect. But this principle, which protected the Jewish synagogue, afforded not any favour or security to the primitive church. By embracing the faith of the gospel, the Christians incurred the supposed guilt of an unnatural and unpardonable offence. They dissolved the sacred ties of custom and education, violated the religious institutions of their country, and presumptuously despised whatever their fathers had believed as true, or had reverenced as sacred. Nor was this apostacy (if we may use the expression) merely of a partial or local kind; since the pious deserter, who withdrew himself from the temples of Egypt or Syria, would equally disdain to seek an asylum in those of Athens or Carthage. Every Christian rejected with contempt the superstitions of his family, his city, and his province. The whole body of Christians unanimously refused to hold any communion with the gods of Rome, of the empire, and of mankind. It was in vain that the oppressed believer asserted the inalienable rights of conscience and private judgment. Though his situation might excite the pity, his arguments could never reach the understanding, either of the philosophic or of the believing part of the Pagan world. To their apprehensions, it was no less a matter of surprise, that any individuals should entertain scruples against complying with the established mode of worship, than if they had conceived a sudden abhorrence to the manners, the dress, or the language, of their native country.11
1 We need only mention the purim, or deliverance of the Jews from the rage of Haman, which, till the reign of Theodosius, was celebrated with insolent triumph and riotous intemperance. Basnage, Hist, des Juifs, lib. 6. c. 17. lib. 8. c- 6.
t According to the false Josephus, Tsepho, the grandson of Esau, conducted into Italy the army of ..Eneas, king of Carthage. Another colony of Idumaeans, flying from the sword of David, took refuge in the dominions of Romulus. For these, or for other reasons of equal weight, the name of Edom was applied by the Jews to the Roman empire.
h From the arguments of Celsua, as they are represented and refuted by Origen, (lib. 5. p. 247—259.) we may clearly discover the distinction that was made between the Jewish people and the Christian sect. See in the Dialogue of Minn- aaa Felix (c. 5. 6.) a fair and not inelegant description of the popular sentiments, with regard to the desertion of the established worship.
The surprise of the Pagans was soon sucf ceeded by resentment; and the most pious of Atheism, men were exposed to the unjust but dangerous
and mis- . . rf . . -, J.. , ° ..
taken by imputation of impiety. Malice and prejudice audPphSo- concurred in representing the Christians as a sosophers. ciety of Atheists, who, by the most daring attack on the religious constitution of the empire, had merited the severest animadversion of the civil magistrate. They had separated themselves (they gloried in the confession) from every mode of superstition which was received in any part of the globe by the various temper of Polytheism; but it was not altogether so evident what deity, or what form of worship, they had substituted to the gods and temples of antiquity. The pure and sublime idea which they entertained of the Supreme Being escaped the gross conception of the Pagan multitude, who were at a loss to discover a spiritual and solitary God, that was neither represented under any corporeal figure or visible symbol, nor was adored with the accustomed pomp of libations and festivals, of altars and sacrifices.1 The sages of Greece and Rome, who had elevated their minds to the contemplation of the existence and attributes of the First Cause, were induced by reason or by vanity to reserve for themselves and their chosen disciples the privilege of this philosophical devotion.k They were far from admitting the prejudices of mankind as the standard of truth; but they considered them as flowing from the original disposition of human nature; and they supposed that any popular mode of faith and worship, which presumed to disclaim the assistance of the senses, would, in proportion as it receded from superstition, find itself incapable of restraining the wan
1 Cm nullas aras habent; templa nulla • nulla nota simulacra' Unde
autem, vel quis ille, ant ubi, Deus unicus, solitarius, destitutus.? Minucius Felix, c. 10. The Pagan interlocutor goes on to make a distinction in favour of the Jews, who had once a temple, altars, victims, &c.
k It is difficult (says Plato) to attain, and dangerous to publish, the knowledge of the true God. See the Theologie des Philosophes, in the abW d'Olivet's French translation of Tally de Natura Deurmn, torn. 1. p. 175.