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and censure ; and of those which are of a better stamp, some seem to have been drawn up by persons, wlio, through excessive veneration of the departed saints, and a love of the marvellous, or other motives, have inserted false embellishments, and then the transcribers have made interpolations of the same kind. The authors of pious frauds are foolish knaves, who do irreparable mischief to the cause which they want to recommend.
The copies which we have of the ancient Acts of Perpetua und Felicitus differ considerably. See Tillemont, H. E. iii. 137. and Basnage Ann. ii. p. 22 4. “The African style of these acts shews their antiquity, “and they relate what Perpetua suffered in prison, "and some of her dreams, written, if we may believe “the author of the acts, by herself, and also a dream “ of Saturus, who suffered at the same time. In the
dream of Perpetua we see some beginnings of the opinion of purgatory, and of praying for those who
are in it, as the commentators have not failed to ob“serve. The question is, whether they are really the “ words of Perpetua, of which it is impossible to be “ certain. These notions might indeed have been in
some ineasure introduced amongst the common
people, and Perpetua might have had a dream con“ formable to such current notions : but nothing
obliges us to believe that all the dreams of martyrs “ were revelations, or that this in particular was of " that kind.” Le Clerc Bibl. Chois. xxvi. 220.
The behaviour of the martyrs related in those acts, as it is circumstantial and probable, so is it affecting and edifying ; but their visions and revelations seem to be partly of the enthusiastic kind, and such as might be expected from the disciples of Montanus. Per
haps the writer, who is supposed by many to have been a Montanist, and the transcribers, enlarged and adulterated that part of the account, either to propagate some favourite notions of their own, or to omit nothing that they had gathered from rumour and common report. This I am inclined to suppose, in respect and reverence for these holy martyrs ; but what we much wish, we easily believe, and that perhaps may be my case.
In some of the ancient acts of the martyrs, and in ecclesiastical historians, we have well attested examples of heroic faith and fortitude, and of love stronger than cleath, which would affect even the coldest heart, and which Joseph Scaliger, a man of good taste, a clear judgment, and no superstition, could never read without being greatly moved. Eorum lectione piorum animus ita ufficitur, ut nunquam satur inde recedat : quod quidem ita esse, unusquisque pro captu suo et conscientiæ modo sentire potest.
Certe ego nihil unquam in Historia Ecclesiastica vidi, a cujus lectione commotior recedam, ut non amplius meus esse videar. Anim. in Euseb. p. 121.
Justin Martyr, whilst he was a pagan, concluded very candidly and reasonably, from the courage and constancy of the persecuted Christians, that they could not be profigate and debauched people ; and his Pagan and Platonic judgment on this point was better than the ecclesiastical judgment of several Christian writers. Και δ αυτός εγω, τοϊς Πλάτωνος χαίρων διδάγμασι, διαβαλλομένες ακέων Χρισιανός, ορων δε αφύζες προς θάνατον, και σαν1α τα άλλα νομιζόμενα φοβερα, ενενός, αδυνατον είναι εν κακία και φιandoviç var de xeiv autós. Nam et ego ipse, cum Platonis lisciplina delectarer, audiremque criminationes quæ in Christiunos jactabuntur, mortem autem, ceteraque omnia
quce terribilia putantur, minime eos formid-re viderem, stutni ipse mecum fieri huuguaquam posse, ilt in vitiorum pravitate et voluptatum amore virerent. Apol. 11.
The Christians, that is, the wise and prudent part of them, were of opinion, that as it was their duty to suffer any torments rather than dissemble or deny their religion, so was it also to avoid persecution, and never to expose themselves uncalled to so hard a trial. Mention is made in the epistle of the church of Smyra, and in other ancient records, of some rash and presumptuous Christians, who offered themselves to martyrdom, and who, when they were condemned, lost all courage and deserted their cause ; whilst others, who had been diffident of themselves, and had retired, being discovered and seized, died in a most Christiam manner. This also was perfectly suitable to our Saviour's doctrine and promises, who required humility and prudence from his disciples. Peter made bolder professions of fortitude and fidelity than any of the apostles, and therefore he alone fell away in the dark hour of temptation, and denied his master.
This wonderful behaviour of the ancient Christians may justly be accounted a proof of the truth of our religion, and we should deserve to be blamed and despised if we parted with it, and gave it np tamely upon account of a few objections. Objections may be made even to demonstrations, and
Nihil est tam bonum, quin dicenilo malum effici possit. The increase of Christianity under all these discouragements, and this cloud of afilictions is another argument of the same kind, and a subject highly worthy of consideration : Adeone levis res et fitilis ruletur Religio Christiana, aut tam vulguris tumque similis reruen quotidianarun progressio ejus el propagatio, ut qroris hominem (inon jam Christianum dico, sed vel ab omni religione alienum, vel ab ea alienissimum) exquirere pudeat quales homines essent, qua ductrina, quo ingenio, qua
disputundi scientia, qua facultate dicendi instructi, qui gravibus illis et constantibus Romanis persuadere potuerint, relictis et repudiatis Düs suis, quos se nunquam aut impune neglexisse, aut frustra gravissimis reipublice temporibus in cocusse majores omnibus monumentis proclamabant et testabantur, hominum et barbarorum et a se devictorum et Judeorum deum, hominemque simul Judæum a popularibus suis paulo ante servili supplicio necatum, venerari; qui tot tamque dispares nationes, alias immanitate efferatas, alias moribus et disciplina inflatas, alias korrida quudum et agresti virtute feroces, alias luxu et licentia petulantes, alias victoriis et imperio insolentes, alias diuturna servitute fractas et debilitatas, alias ignorantia et tarditate, alius doctrinæ et ingenii fama indociles, ita flexerint et mutaverint, ut religioni patriæ novam et externam, ut omni licentice libertatique vivendi ( quicum prioribus fere religionibus summa pax et concordia fuit) citam rigidam et severam et omnin voluptatis vel confinia anrie fugientem, virtutesque quorum ne nomina quidem antea auditerant, ut denique paupertatem divitis, odium gratir, contemtionem honori, exilium patrice, mortem vitæ anteferrent. Thirlby, Dedic. Just. M. These reflections are as just as they are elegant, and the inference which the reader onght to make from them is, that a change, so happy, so extensive, and so surprising, could have been effected by nothing less than the divine will and assistance.
The progress of Christianity, says Moyle, considering its lute rise, and the constant opposition it met with, is ezen, on my moderate computation, prodigious, and to be dccounted for by nothing but the divine providence, as I
may one day shew at large on another occasion. Thunder. Legion, p. 327.
The alteration also which Christianity made in the manners of men, and the stop which it put to polygamy,
is very remarkable. Ούτε οι εν Παρθία Χριςιανοί σολυγαμήσι Πάρθοι υπάρχοντες,-ύχ οι εν Περσίδι γαμεσι τας θυγαέρας αυτών, Πέρσαι όντες: ο σαρα Βακήρους και Γάλλοις φθείρεσι τυς γάμες-αλλ' όπε είσιν, έτε υπό των κακώς κειμένων νόμων και εθών yoxw114r. Nec in Parthia Christiani, Parthi licet, pluribus utuntur uxoribus, nec in Perside, Persce licet, filias ucores ducunt, nec apud Bactros aut Gallos nuptiarum honestatem et jura contaminant, -Ita ubicumque degunt, nec legum morumque sceleratorum improbitate vincuntur. Bardesanes, apud Euseb. Proep. Evang. vi. 10. in his dis. course against astrological fate. Thus, according to this ingenius philosopher, the Christians of all countries retained the good qualities, and rejected the reigning vices of the several nations of which they were natives.
“ The law which permits only one wife, is conform" able to the nature of the European, but not to the “nature of the Asiatic climate. It is for this reason " that Mohammedism found so easy an admission in
Asia, and such difficulty to extend itself in Europe ; " that Christianity hath maintained itself in Europe, “ and hath been destroyed in Asia ; and that the Mo“ lammedans have made so much, and the Christians * so little progress in China.
- In the time of Justinian, many philosophers, un
easy at the restraint laid upon them by Christian “ laws, retired into Persia, to Chosroes. What in“ duced them most, says Agathias, was, that poly
gamy was there permitted to men who did not ab“ stain even from adultery.