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markable for being the only person of rank and distinction who appears to have suffered death, during the whole course of this general persecution/ under Mai- The revolt of Maxentius immediately restored entius; peace to the churches of Italy and Africa; and the same tyrant who oppressed every other class of his subjects, shewed himself just, humane, and even partial, towards the afflicted Christians. He depended on their gratitude and affection, and very naturally presumed, that the injuries which they had suffered, and the dangers which they still apprehended from his most inveterate enemy, would secure the fidelity of a party already considerable by their numbers and opulence.1 Even the conduct of Maxentius towards the bishops of Rome and Carthage may be considered as the proof of his toleration, since it is probable that the most orthodox princeswould adopt the same measures with regard to their established clergy. Marcellus, the former of those prelates, had thrown the capital into confusion, by the severe penance which he imposed on a great number of Christians, who, during the late persecution, had renounced or dissembled their religion. The rage of faction broke out in frequent and violent seditions; the blood of the faithful was shed by each other's hands; and the exile of Marcellus, whose prudence seems to have been less eminent than his zeal, was found to be the only measure capable of restoring peace to the distracted church of Rome.h The behaviour of Mensurius, bishop of Carthage, appears to have been still more reprehensible. A deacon of that city had published a libel against the emperor. The offender took refuge in the episcopal palace; and though it was somewhat early to advance any claims of ecclesiastical immunities, the bishop refused to deliver him up to the officers of justice. For this treasonable resistance, Mensurius was summoned to court, and instead of receiving a legal sentence of death or banishment, he was permitted, after a short examination, to return to his diocess.1 Such was the happy condition of the Christian subjects of Maxentius, that whenever they were desirous of procuring for their own use any bodies of martyrs, they were obliged to purchase them from the most distant provinces of the east. A story is related of Aglae, a Roman lady, defended from a consular family, and possessed of so ample an estate, that it required the management of seventy-three stewards. Among these, Boniface was the favourite of his mistress; and as Aglae mixed love with devotion, it is reported that he was admitted to share her bed. Her fortune enabled her to gratify the pious desire of obtaining some sacred relics from the east. She intrusted Boniface with a considerable sum of gold, and a large quantity of aromatics; and her lover, attended by twelve horsemen and three covered chariots, undertook a remote pilgrimage, as far as Tarsus in Cilicia.k in niyri- The sanguinary temper of Galerius, the first theeait* and principal author of the persecution,was forunderGa- midable to those Christians, whom their mis
f Eusebius, lib. B.c. 11. Grater, Inscript. p. 1171. No. 18. Ruffinus has mistaken the office of Adauctus, as well as the place of his martyrdom.
c Eusebius, lib. 8. c. 14. But as Maxentius was vanquished by Constantine, it suited the purpose of Lactantius to place his death among those of the persecutors. b The epitaph of Marcellus is to be found in Grater, Inscrip. p. 1172. No. 3. and it contains all that we know of his history. Marcellinus and Marcellus, whose names follow in the list of popes, are supposed by many critics to be different persons; but the learned abb£ do Longuerue was convinced that they were, one and the same.
Veridicus rector lapsis quia crimina Here
Pradixit miseris, fuit omnibus hostis amarus.
Hinc furor, hinc odium; sequitur discordia, lites,
Seditio, caedes: solvuntur fcedera pacis.
Crimen ob alterius, Christum qui in pace negavit
Finibus expulsus patrias est fentate tyranni.
lenus and _
Manmian. fortunes had placed within the limits of his dominions; and it may fairly be presumed, that many persons of a middle rank, who were not confined by the chains either of wealth or of poverty, very frequently deserted their native country, and sought a refuge in the milder climate of the west. As long as he commanded only the armies and provinces of Illyricum, he could with difficulty either find or make a considerable number of martyrs, in a warlike country, which had entertained the missionaries of. the gospel with more coldness and reluctance than any other part of the empire.1 But when Galerius had obtained the supreme power and the government of the east, he indulged in their fullest extent his zeal and cruelty, not only in the provinces of Thrace and Asia, which acknowledged his immediate jurisdiction, but in those of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, where Maximian gratified his own inclination, by yielding a rigorous obedience to the stern commands of his benefactor.TM The frequent disappointments of his ambitious views, the experience of six years of persecution, and the salutary reflections which a lingering and painful distemper suggested to the mind of Galerius, at length convinced him that the most violent efforts of despotism are insufficient to extirpate a whole people, or to subdue their religious prejudices. Desirous of repairing the mischief that he had occasioned, he published in his own name, and in those of Licinius and Constantine, a general edict, which, after a pompous recital of the imperial titles, proceeded in the following manner:
Haec breviter Damasus voluit comperta referre:
We may observe that Damasns was made bishop of Rome, A.D. 366.
1 Optatus contr. Donatist. lib. 1. c. 17,18.
k The Acts of the Passion of St. Boniface, which abound in miracles and declamation, are published by Ruinart, (p. 283—291.) both in Greek and Latin, from the authority of very ancient manuscripts.
Among the important cares which have occupied our minds for the utility and preservation of toleration, the empire, it was our intention to correct and re-establish all things according to the ancient laws and public discipline of the Romans. We were particularly
1 During the four first centuries, there exist few traces of either bishops or bishoprics in the western Illyricurn. It has been thought probable that the primate of Milan extended his jurisdiction over Simrium, the capital of that great province. See the Geographia Sacra of Charles de St. Paul, p. 68—76. with the observations of Lucas Holstenius.
m The eighth book of Eusebius, as well as the supplement concerning the martyrs of Palestine, principally relate to the persecution of Galerius and Maximian. The general lamentations with which Lactantius opens the fifth book of his Divine Institutions allude to their cruelty.
desirous of reclaiming into the way of reason and nature the deluded Christians who had renounced the religion and ceremonies instituted by their fathers; and, presumptuously despising the practice of antiquity, had invented extravagant taws and opinions according to the dictates •of their fancy, and had collected a various society from the different provinces of our empire. The edicts which we have published to enforce the worship of the gods having exposed many of the Christians to danger and dis tress, many having suffered death, and many more, who still persist in their impious folly, being left destitute of any public exercise of religion, we are disposed to extend to those unhappy men the effects of our wonted clemency. We permit them therefore freely to profess their private opinions, and to assemble in their conventicles without fear or molestation, provided always that they preserve a due respect to the established laws and government. By another rescript we shall signify our intentions to the judges and magistrates; and we hope that our indulgence will engage the Christians to offer up their prayers to the Deity whom they adore, for our safety and prosperity, for their own, and for that of the republic? It is not usually in the language of edicts and manifestoes that we should search for the real character or the secret motives of princes; but as these were the words of a dying emperor, his situation, perhaps, may be admitted as a pledge of his sincerity.
Peace of When Galerius subscribed this edict of tolethecnuich. ration, he was well assured that Licinius would readily comply with the .inclinations of his friend and benefactor, and that any measures in favour of the Christians would obtain the approbation of Constantine: but the emperor would not venture to insert in the preamble the name of Maximian, whose consent was of the greatest importance, and who succeeded a few days afterward to the provinces of Asia. In the first six months, however, of his new reign, Maximian affected to adopt the prudent councils of his predecessor; and though he never condescended to secure the tranquillity of the church by a public edict, Sabinus, his praetorian prefect, addressed a circular letter to all the governors and magistrates of the provinces, expatiating on the imperial clemency, acknowledging the invincible obstinacy of the Christians, and directing the officers of justice to cease their ineffectual prosecutions, and to connive at the secret assemblies of those enthusiasts. In consequence of these orders, great numbers of Christians were released from prison, or delivered from the mines. The confessors, singing hymns of triumph, returned into their own countries; and those who had yielded to the violence of the tempest solicited with tears of repentance their readmission into the bosom of the church.*
'< KuM"!,ius (lib. 8. c. 17.) has given us a Greek version, and Lactantius (de M. P. c. 34.) the Latin original, of this memorable edict. Neither of these writers seems to recollect how directly it contradicts whatever they have just affirmed of the remorse and repentance of Galerius.
Maiimian But this treacherous calm was of short duraprepares tion • nor could the Christians of the east place
to renew » i •
the perse- any confidence in the character ot their sovereign. Cruelty and superstition were the ruling passions of the soul of Maximian. The former suggested the means, the latter pointed out the objects, of persecution. The emperor was devoted to the worship of the gods, to the study of magic, and to the belief of oracles. The prophets or philosophers whom he revered, as the favourites of heaven, were frequently raised to the government of provinces, and admitted into his most secret councils. They easily convinced him, that the Christians had been indebted for their victories to their regular discipline, and that the weakness of Polytheism had principally flowed from a want of union and subordination among the ministers of religion. A system of government was therefore instituted, which was evidently copied from the policy of the church. In all the great
'Eusebius, lib. 9. c. 1. He inserts the epistle of the prefect.