« PreviousContinue »
he have been satisfied with desiring that Christ might be wore shipped in common with the other Pagan divinities, that the rites of Christianity might be incorporated with the other religious constitutions of Rome? The honors of deification, we Well know, were decreed by a false and a dangerous appreciation of worth. To have classed Jesus Christ with the monsters who found a place in the Pantheon, was a proposal utterly inconsistent with a rational belief in his divine mission. The prohibition which he afterwards issued against the enemies of Christianity is no proof of his conversion : such a conduct is reconcileable with a disbelief in any religion. Those princes who have equally despised all modes of faith, have been forward to proclaim universal toleration, and to inculcate religious moderation. Nor have there been wanting instances of men who have professed to respect the Christian faith, but who have never joined any communion of Christians. The motives which prompted Tiberius might be those of policy; yet if we cannot satisfactorily explain them, we have no right to interpret his conduct in any other light than it was viewed by the early fathers. If he had been sincerely and publicly a Christian, these first defenders of our religion would have been induced by every consideration to declare the important truth without equivocation and reserve.
If this be the case, with respect to the friends of Christianity, we must also affirm that its enemies would have been equally impelled to proclaim the fact. They would have been eager to add to the other vices of Tiberius that of bis being a follower of the "new and mischievous superstition” which first appeared in his reign. When Tacitus sperks of the Christian Religion, he uses no anbiguous phrases, but plainly and without ceremony reprobates it as a grievous pest. He could have no motive of a sivister kind to conceal or disguise the conversion of Tiberius : on the contrary, the circumstance would have furnished him with an opportunity to add another shade - to his sombre portraiture of that monarch. Yet as Mr. R. imagines that he has discovered many proofs of the Christianity of Tiberius in Pagan writers, it would be injustice to pass thein over without comment. We must previously however express our opinion, that the passages most to his purpose are barely a confirmation of the favourable sentiments which the Roman Emperor entertained of the Christian faith, and of the protection which he afforded to įts followers against the inalice of the Jews and Ileathens. In this point of view they are valuable, and we cheerfully bestow our commendations on the industry and acuteness which the author generally displays in the arrangement and concentration of his evidence. N Q
The first passage which we shall mention is the well known . citation from Tacitus, in the 15th Book of his Annals. "Re. pressaque in præsens exitiabilis superstitio rursus erumpebat non modo per Judæam originem ejus mali sed per urbem etiam.' " The historian here confessedly describes Christianity as a destructive superstition; he states, that soon after its promulgation, it was for a time repressed; but that afterwards it again broke out; and spread itself not only over Judea, but in Rome. In the first Book of his Annals, he has this remarkable paragraph.
" Haud pigebit referre in Falanio et Rubrio prætentata cri-
We think with Mr. R. that the similarity in the diction
“ As Tiberius appears in the year 775, to have permitted the
to order a man, who had been accused of conspiring against him,
We are also willing to bestow unqualified approbation, on
Thus far we can follow our author in his reasoning, but he now leaves us at a great distance. We can by no means agree as to the motive assigned by Mr. Rendle, for the secession of Tiberiùs from Rome, and his residence at Capreæ, and we shall state this reason in his own words.
« Grief then for the loss of his only son, and two or three very old friends, seems to be the only cause of his retiring from Home, and remaining so long in Campania; that is, from the year 779, or nearly the end of 780, if not till 781, in which last mentioned year he was 70, and Christ was rather early in that year preached at Rome. If then, grief was his complaint, and it was when the disaster of Fidenæ happened, so far abated, that the Senate began to expect his return, when V. Quinctilius his kinsman was accused, and in hopes that he would counteract the then enormously increasing prevalence of accusers, why did he instead of returning withdraw to Capreæ; and though requested by the Senate again and again to return, in order to counteract
tus the internal alarm, refuse to comply with their requests, and even to consent to an interview with them on the coast of Campanja?
In that year we have seen Christ suffered ; and, as Clemens of Rome says, in the spring of that year, his faith began to be preached at Rome, and, as both Tacitus and Tertullian say, under the patronage of Tiberius, and, as the same two writers say, great opposition was made to it, and, of course to Tiberius, both by a ma. jority of the Senate and of the people ; how, then, as all this happened in the course of the year 781, are we to be sure that Tiberius may nut have retired for personal safety? Of this at least we seem to be pretty well assured, and even by Tacitus, that Tiberius who used, without any 'attendant to enter the Senate, then, for the first time, complained to the father's by letter, that his life was in danger--that he suspected the plots of his enemies, and would not go as usual to the Senate, not even with a guard, nor be seen by them on the opposite coast ; and that some of them from that time, took the liberty to speak disrespectfully of him, even in the Senate ; and others, among whom were even condemned persons, used to write any thing however scurrilous against him, and to publish it in the most frequented places; and not only of all this do we seem to be assured, but of this also; that the practice of accusing persons, for what we know not, unless it were for not worshipping Tiberius, began then to be in fashion, and that Tibérits refused the honor voted by the Senate to his mother ni coelestis religio decerneretur." P. 124
As to the ni cælestis religio decerneretur, on which the author lays so much stress in several places of his work, we must observe that Mr. R. labours with no
common solicia turle, to proselytize not only Tiberius, but many of his re, sations, and particularly his mother Livia, at that time, aged eighty-four: The proof of ther Christianity, he finds in the following passage of Tacitus.
"honorésque memoride ejus ab Senatu large decretos quasi per modestiam imminuit, paucis admodum receptis addito, ne coelestis religio decerneretur, sic ipsam maluisse.”
Now in our simplicity, we really should have thought that no two persons could have differed in their interpretation of this passage. The historian, as we suppose, intends to say that Tiberius from a pretended modesty, diminished the honor's which the Senate had liberally decreed to the memory of his mother, subjoining, that divine worship should not be decreed to her, because such was 'her wish. But as this construction does not accord with Mr. Ri's notions, he contends that ni should be substituted for ne. Thus, to adopt his own words, the meaning of Tacitus will be this.
“ Tiberius who in the year before 'had proposed it to the Senate, to authorise the worship of Christ, and had the mortification to see his proposal rejected, declared that it was his
mother's last command.; that but few of the honors which the Senate intended to decree to her memory should be accepted, ni, unless they would at the same time decree celestial religion, that is, decree that Christ should be worshipped.” P. 134.
In effect, Livia is made by Tiberius to say to the Senate, “ I will not accept divine honors, unless you will decree a religion, which absolutely prohibits any mortal to accept them." We presude Mr. R. may defend this absurdity, by alledging, that Tiberius has pụt it into the mouth of an old woman.
The cause of the retirement of Tiberius, we never can imagine, was in consequence of his disagreement with the Senale concerning the worship of Christ. In his seclusion at Lapreæ, we find him not, as Mr. R. supposes, conversing with the apostolic teachers, but " cum grege Chaldæa." Yet with our author nothing is so easy. as to discover Christianity both in the Chaldæan astrology, and in the Druidical immoļations. We even find him transforming the Cyrenians into Christians.
- Strabo says of the Cyrenians, that they held an heresy, which Anniceris was in his time desirous of rectifying. Kai 'Avvizágos ο δοκών επανορθώσαι την Κυρηνιάκης αίρεσιν, και παραγαγείν αντ' αυτής The Avvikeçsçr. But who ever heard of any heresy before the publication of Christianity? And who does not know that men of Cyrene are said to have been the first publishers of it?" P. 400.
We must informn Mr. R. that heresy was heard of before the introduction of Christianity. The word wipeois is used to denote both the variety of philosophical dogmata of Paganism, and of theological tenets in the Jewish Church. Wlien applied to these, it is sometimes taken in a favourable sense; whereas when predicated of Christian division, it always indicates a defection from the Catholic faith. Has our author read his Josephus, and forgotten that writer's account of Jewish sects (alpegels ;) or Epiphanius, or Hegesippus, and their enumeration of Jewish sects subsisting at the appearance of our Lord ? We find St. Paul declaring of himself, “ According to the strictest sect of our(i. e. the Jewish religion) Mata Tn axşıbesétny αίρεσιν της ημετέρας θρησκείας, I lived a Pliarisee.”
Before we quit this part of the subject, we must communicate to our readers an important discovery, made by our author, suggested by the following verses written against Tiberius, and preserved by Suetonius;
Asper et immitis, breviter vix omnia dicam?
Dispeream si te mater amare potest,