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conferred fame. This precedent, and perhaps some imperial rescript, which was issued in consequence of it, appeared to authorize the governors of provinces, in punishing with death the refusal of the Christians to deliver up their sacred books. There were undoubtedly many persons who embraced this opportunity of obtaining the crown of martyrdom ; but there were likewise too many who purchased an ignominious life, by discovering and betraying the Holy Scripture into the hands of infidels. A great number even of bishops and pres. byters acquired, by this criminal compliance, the opprobrious epithet of traditors; and their offence was productive of much present scandal, and of much future discord, in the African church.
The copies, as well as the versions, of Scripture were already so multiplied in the empire,
that the most severe inquisition could no longer be attended with any fatal consequences; and even the sacrifice of those volumes, which, in every congregation were preserved for public use, required the consent of some treacherous and unworthy Christians. But the ruin of the churches was easily effected by the authority of the government, and by the labour of the Pagans, In some provinces, however, the magistrates contented themselves with shutting up the places of religious worship. In others, they more literally complied with the terms of the edict; and after taking away the doors, the benches, and the pulpit, which they burnt, as it were in a funeral-pile, they completely demolished the remainder of the edifice. It is perhaps to this melancholy occa,
Demolition of the churches.
a See the Acta Sincera of Ruinart, p. 353: those of Fælix of Thibara, or Tibiur, appear much less corrupted than in the other editions, which afford a lively specimen of legendary licence.
* See the first book of Optatus of Milevis against the Donatists at Paris, 1700. Edit. Dupin. He lived under the reign of Valens.
The ancient monuments, published at the end of Optatus, p. 261, &c. describe, in a very circumstantial manner, the proceedings of the governors in the destruction of churches. They made a minute inventory of the plate, &c. which they found in them. That of the church at Cirta, in Numidia, is still extant. It con sisted of two chalices of gold, and six of silver; six urns, one kettle, seven lamps,
sion, that we should apply a very remarkable story, which is related with so many circumstances of variety and improbability, that it serves rather to excite than to satisfy our curiosity. In a small town in Phrygia, of whose name as well as situation we are left ignorant, it should seem, that the magistrates and the body of the people had embraced the Christian faith; and as some resistance might be apprehended to the execution of the edict, the governor of the province was supported by a numerous detachment of legionaries. On their approach the citizens threw themselves into the church, with the resolution either of defending by arms that sacred edifice, or of perishing in its ruins. They indignantly rejected the notice and permission which was given to them, to retire, till the soldiers, provoked by their obstinate refusal, set fire to the building on all sides, and consumed, by this extraordinary kind of martyrdom, a great number of Phrygians, with their wives and children.” Subsequent
Some slight disturbances, though they were edicts. 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. The resentment, or the fears, of Diocletian, at length transported him beyond the bounds of moderation, which he
all likewise of silver ; besides a large quantity of brass utensils and wearing apparel.
? Lactantius (Institut. Divin. 5. 11.) confines the calamity to the conventiculum, with its congregation. Eusebius (8. 11.) extends it to a whole city, and introduces something very like a regular siege. His ancient Latin translator, Ruffinus, adds the important circumstance of the permission given to the inhabitants of retiring from thence. As Phrygia reached to the confines of Isauria, it is possible that the restless temper of those independent barbarians may have contributed to this misfortune.
a Eusebius, lib. 8. 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 (lib. 9. c. 8.) as well as from Moses of Chorene, (Hist. Armen. lib. 2. c. 77, &c.) it may be inferred, that Christianity was already introduced into Armenia.
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 gods. This rigorous order was extended, by a subsequent edict, to the whole body of Christians, who were exposed to a violent and general persecution. 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 against all 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. General
Diocletian had no sooner published his edicts idea of the 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
b. See Mosheim, p. 938. The text of Eusebius very plainly shews that the govemors whose powers were enlarged, not restrained, by the new laws, could punish with death the most obstinate Christians as an example to their brethren.
c Athanasius, p. 833. ap. Tillemont, Mem. Ecclesiast. tom. 5. part 1. p. 90.
in the western
idea of this important period of ecclesiastical history, unless we separately consider the state of Christianity, in the different parts of the empire during the space of ten years, which elapsed between the first edicts of Diocletian and the final peace of the church.
The mild and humane temper of Constantius
was averse to the oppression of any part of his provinces
subjects. The principal offices of his palace were Constan- exercised by Christians. He loved their persons, Constan- esteemed their fidelity, and entertained not any tine;
dislike to their religious principles. But as long as Constantius remained in the subordinate station of Cæsar, it was not in his power openly to reject the edicts of Diocletian, 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 probably include those of Britain) were indebted for the singular tranquillity which they enjoyed, to the gentle interposition of their sovereign. But Datianus, the president or governor of Spain, actuated either by zeal or policy, chose rather to execute the public edicts of the emperors, than to understand the secret intentions of Constantius; and it can scarcely be doubted, that his provincial administration was stained with the blood of a few martyrs.The elevation of Constantius to the supreme and
a Eusebius, lib. 8. c. 13. Lactantius de M. P. c. 15. Dodwell (Dissertat. Cyprian. 11. 75.) represents them as inconsistent with each other. But the former evidently speaks of Constantius in the station of Cæsar, and the latter of the sam prince in the rank of Augustus.
e Datianus is mentioned in Gruter's Inscriptions, as having determined the limits between the territories of Pax Julia, and those of Ebora, both cities in the southern part of Lusitania. If we recollect the neighbourhood of those places to Cape St. Vincent, we may suspect that the celebrated deacon and martyr of that name has been inaccurately assigned by Prudentius,&c. to Saragossa, or Valentia. See the pompous history of his sufferings, in the Memoires de Tillemont, tom. 5. part 2. p. 58–85. Some critics are of opinion, that the department of Constantius, as Cæsar, did not include Spain, which still continued under the immediate jurisdiction of Maximian.
independent dignity of Augustus, gave a free scope to the exercise of his virtues; and the shortness of his reign did not prevent him from establishing a system of toleration, of which he left the precept and the example to his son Constantine. His fortunate son, from the first moment of his accession, declaring himself the protector of the church, at length deserved the appellation of the first emperor who publicly professed and established the Christian religion. The motives of his conversion, as they may variously be deduced from benevolence, from policy, from conviction, or from remorse; and the progress of the revolution, which under his powerful influence, and that of his sons, rendered Christianity the reigning religion of the Roman empire, will form a very interesting and important chapter in the third volume of this history. At present it may be sufficient to observe, that every victory of Constantine was productive of some relief or benefit to the church. in Italy and
The provinces of Italy and Africa experienced Africa, a short but violent persecution. The rigorous under Maximian and edicts of Diocletian were strictly and cheerfully Severus;
executed by his associate Maximian, who had long hated the Christians, and who delighted in acts of blood and violence. In the autumn of the first year of the persecution, the two emperors met at Rome to celebrate their triumph; several oppressive laws appear to have issued from their secret consultations, and the diligence of the magistrates was animated by the presence of their sovereigns. After Diocletian had divested himself of the purple, Italy and Africa were administered under the name of Severus, and were exposed, without defence, to the implacable resentment of his master Galerius. Among the martyrs of Rome, Adauctus deserves the notice of posterity. He was of a noble family in Italy, and had raised himself, through the successive honours of the palace, to the important office of treasurer of the private demesnes. Adauctus is the more re