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It may seem the
fidei eorum qui credunt in Patrem et Filium et Spiritum Sanctum. Adv. Praxeam, 2.
These are perhaps the two most ancient creeds that are extant, and not at all the worse for their antiquity.
Towards the end of the second century, Pantænus, a philosopher and a learned man, went to India to preach the gospel. He is not said to have wrought any miracles there ; but it is related that he found Christians in those countries. Eusebius v. 10.
Narcissus was made bishop of Jerusalem about A. D. 180. The Christians of that country, in the time of Eusebius, preserved the memory of some wonderful works wrought by him, and in his favour, which Eusebius relates, vi. 9, 10, 11, more probable that he should have been enabled to perform miracles, because he is not only represented as a very good man, but he was in some manner, a disciple or successor of the apostles, and an apostolical father; for he was born about A. D. 96. before the death of St John, was made bishop when he was eighty-four years old, and lived to an uncommon age, to a hundred and sixteen at least. But as his miracles stand upon traditionary report in Eusebius, every one may judge of them as he thinks fit.
Narcissus is said to have turned water into oil ; but the change of water into oil to supply the churchlamps, has the air of a miracle performed upon an occasion rather too slender. Let us therefore leave it in ambiguo.
This miracle calls to mind a story related by Dio, xlviii. Orosius vi, and Eusebius in his Chronicon, that, in the time of Augustus, a fountain of oil burst out at Rome, and flowed for a whole day. In natural . history there are accounts of greazy and bituminous
springs, where something like oil has floated on the water. Pliny xxxi. p. 549. and Harduin, in his notes, mention many such fountains, qui explent olei vicem, and, quorum aqua lucernce ardeunt. So that this report of Dio, de, should not rashly be ranked with the appearance of Custor and Pollux, the man with the red beard, and other prodigies of the like nature,
An anonymous writer of the second century says, that Natalis, a confessor, having accepted of a bishoprick amongst the heretics, was severely scourged all night by angels, and the next morning repented and returned to the church, Apud, Euseb. v. 28. The testimony of this unknown writer cannot be of great authority : but the story seems to bave given the hint to Jerom to feign that he also underwent the same discipline for studying profane authors, Cicero, Virgil, &c. Upon which one of the Italian Ciceronians hath obseryed, that if Jerom was whipped for being a Ciceronian, that is for writing altogether in the style and manner of Cicero, he suffered what he did not de. serve, * and might have pleaded Not guilty.
Of all the Latin fathers Lactantius would have been entitled to the most stripes ; as being by far the purest and politest writer; but he escaped this punishment: he was not whipped, he was only starved. Lactuntils, vir omnium suo teinpore eruditissimus, sed adeo pauper, ut plerumque etiam necessarüs indiguerit. Hie, ronymus Chron.
I mention not this as any thing extraordinary or wonderful ; not as one of the miracles of the fourth century : for poverty is a disease which rages as much andas frequently in the Republic of Letters, as the Plague in Constantinople. The motto of the Republic was given to it by Terence : it is,
A a 4
• Yet he was a very good writer, for the time in which he lived.
Modo liceat vivere : est spes. Quce? Nos esuritu
From the death of Severus, A. D. 211. to Decius, A. D. 249. the Christians enjoyed a calm with little interruption : but prosperity is often a greater trial than adversity ; a relaxation of discipline and a corruption of manners ensued. Cyprian, De Lapsis, complains of it heavily, and describes it in very strong terms, which yet may perhaps require some abatement, though other writers concur in a great measure with him. His vehement temper, his indignation against vice, and his African eloquence might induce him to make free with a figure called exaggeration. But the number of Christians who fell from the faith in the Decian persecution shews that there had been a preceding degeneracy. As the Christians and the Pagans had dwelt quietly together in civil society, they learned something of each other, and the former grew too compliant to worldly fashions, and suffered from the contagion of bad example. In the time of Tertullian, if not before, there were some Christian soldiers, and it is hard to conceive how they could maintain their innocence in that station, and avoid such dissimulation, and such practices * as were scarcely allowable. It is to be supposed that the Christians kept out of the army as much as they could ; which they might the more easily do, because the Roman service was attended with many profits,
Religio tota castrensis Signa veneratur, Signa jurat, Signa omnibus Düs przeponit. Tertullian. Apol. Afterwards the Christian soldiers worshipped their Labarum.
advantages, and privileges, and so the army was suupplied and recruited with the less difficulty, and the officers were usually cautious in accepting those who offered themselves, and required testimonials of their being duly and legally qualified; but to be sure it must have happened sometimes that Christians were not left to their option, that a refusal would have been criminal, and that they must have listed, or have offended against the civil laws. In such cases they might think it permitted to them to enter into the service, though hardly as volunteers; but in this point, from the time of Tertullian, they grew less and less scrupulous,
Eusebius highly commends the behaviour of the Christian soldiers, who in the reign of Diocletian suffered themselves to be turned out, rather than renounce their religion, and at the same time represents their station as very honourable and very profitable, and producing τιμήν, δόξαν, ευπραγίαν. viii. 4. Martin was ordered by his father, who had served in the army, to list himself (as the laws required) about A. D. 356. cum edictum esset a regibus ut veteranorum filü ad militiam scriberentur. Sulpit. Sever. Vit. Mart. c. 2. The arıny was chiefly composed of citizens, who had some fortunes, more or less, and whose names were in the public registers ; nor did the Romans usually admit aliens, or beggars, or bankrupts, or slaves, or freed-men into the land service, though in chusing marines they were not nice and scrupulous. They who refused to serve, when they were summoned, unless they had an exemption or a lawful excusc, were severely punished. But the stipends, the rewards, the privileges, the promotions, and the military genius of the Romans, made it easy enough
to find soldiers. See Lipsius de Milit. Rom. and particularly the Theod. Code, I. vii. p. 251, &c.
Towards the middle of the third century, one Paul fled from the persecution, for which he deserves to be commended ; and quitting all that he had, retired to the deserts, and contracting a love of solitude and a dislike of the world, lived there alone, as it is said, ninety years. This hermit unfortunately set an example, which was followed by too many, and he may be considered as a kind of father and founder of the Monks. Jerom wrote his life ; his romance, I should say, as also that of Hilarion, who became a monk in the beginning of the fourth century, when Antony was propagating monkery in Egypt, and gathering disciples.
Tillemont hath made two extraordinary concessions concerning Jerom, that he was more disposed to augment than to diminish miracles, and that exactness was no part of his character. ' H. E. vii. p. 669. not. And Du Pin observes that Jeroin's Life of Paul contains things qui sont fort peu croiables.
About the same time began the schism of the No. vations, which lasted two hundred years, and then dwindled away. Their distinguishing character was that they would not receive into the church penitent sinners, and those who lapsed in time of persecution. They are also said to have condemned second marriages. There were at the end of the sixth century some people in Alexandria called Novations, who refused to honour the reliques of the martyrs, and therefore were accused of despising the saints, and of making a jest of martyrdom, according to the stupid jargon of the times. Tillemont, H. E. ii. p. 475. Origen was born A. D. 185, and died about 253.