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after his first contest in the amphitheatre, that Alcibiades did ill not to use the creatures of God, and gave an occasion of scandal to others. * Alcibiades was hence induced to change his diet, and partake of the bounty of God with thanksgiving. In truth, these martyrs appear to have been not left deftitute of the grace of God, but to have indeed been favoured with the influences of the Holy Ghost.--Eusebius tells us also of an epistle directed by these martyrs to Eleutherus the Bishop of Rome, in which they give a very honourable encomium of Irenæus the presbyter. Of him we shall have occasion to speak more hereafter. He was appointed successor to Pothinus, outlived the storm, and governed the church afterwards with much ability and success. The letter to the churches of Asia and Phrygia, of which Eusebius has given us such large and valuable extracts, feems to give a strong idea of his piety and judgment.
The superstitions which afterwards broke out with so much strength, and like a strong mist so long obscured the light of the church, appear not to have tarnished the glory of those Gallic martyrs. The case of Alcibiades, and the wholesome check which the Divine goodness put to his wellmeant austerities, demonstrate that excesses of this nature had not yet gained any remarkable afcendancy in the church. And the description of the humility and charity of the martyrs shews a spirit much fuperior to that which we shall have occasion, with regret, to notice in some succeeding, annals of martyrdom. In a word, the power of Divine Grace appears little less than apoftolical in the church at Lyons. The only disagreeable circumstance in the whole narrative is the too Aorid and tumid stile, peculiar to the Asiatic
Greeks, Greeks, and which Cicero, in his Rhetorical works, so finely contrasts to the Attic neatness and purity. In a translation it seems scarce poffible to do justice to thoughts extremely evangelical and spiritual, clothed originally in so tawdry a garb. Yet under this great disadvantage a difcerning eye will see much of the unction of real godliness. At first sight we are struck with the difference between primitive scriptural christianity, and that affectation of rational divinity, which has so remarkably gained the ascendant in Christendom in our times. In the account we have read, the good influence of the Holy Spirit on the one hand, and the evil influence of Satan on the other, are brought forward every where to our view. In our times both are concealed, or almost annihilated, and nothing appears but what is merely human. Whether of the two methods is most agreeable to the scripture, must be obvious to every serious and honest enquirer. Christ's kingdom, in the narrative before us, appears indeed spiritual and divine; christian faith, hope, and charity, do their work under the direction of his Spirit; christians are humble, meek, heavenly. minded, patient, sustained continually with aid invisible, and
you see Satan actively, but unsucceflfully, engaged against them. In modern christian religion, what a different taste and spirit! every thing is of this world! policy, ambition, the difplay and parade of learning and argument, the belief of Satanic influence ridiculed always as weak superstition, and natural reafon and self-sufficiency triumphing without measure, leave no room for the exhibition of the work of God and the power of the Holy Ghost !
CH A P. CH A P. VII,
THE STATE OF CHRISTIANS UNDER THE REIGNS OF
COMMODUS, PERTINAX, AND JULIAN, AND THE
"HE reigns of the two last-mentioned Em
perors which close the century are fort, and contain no christian memoirs. That of Commodus is remarkable for the peace granted to the church of Christ through the world. * The means which Divine Providence used for this purpose is still more so. Marcia, a woman of low rank, was the favourite concubine of this Emperor. She had on some account, not now understood, a predilection for the christians, and employed her interest with Commodus in their favour. I He was himself the most vicious and profligate of all mortals, though the son of the grave Marcus Antoninus. Those who looked at secular objects and moral decorum alone, might regret the change of Emperors. In one particular point only. Commodus was more just and equitable than his father. The church of Christ is as ab: horrent in its plan and spirit from moral Philosophers as from Debauchees, and though friendly to every thing virtuous and laudable in society, has a taste peculiarly its own.
And the power and goodness of God in making even such wretched characters as Commodus and Marcia to stem the torrent of persecution, and to afford a breathing time of 12 years under the son, after 18 years of the most cruel sufferings under the Father, deserve
1 2 1
Euseb. B. s. C. 19.
| Dion Caffius.
to be remarked. The gospel now flourished abundantly, and many of the nobility of Rome, with their whole families, embraced it. Such a circumstance would naturally excite the envy of the great. The Roman Senate felt its dignity defiled by innovations, which to them appeared to the laft degree contemptible, and to this malignant source, I think, is to be ascribed the only instance of persecution in this reign.
Apollonius, a person renowned for learning and philosophy at that time in Rome, was a sin cere christian, and as a christian was accused by an informer before Perennis the judge, a person of considerable influence in the reign of Commodus. The law of Antoninus Pius had enacted grievous punishments against the accusers of christians. One cannot suppose his edict had any force during the reign of his fucceffor, but under Commodus it was revived, or rather a new one still more severe was enacted, that the accusers should be put to death. Perennis sentenced the accuser accordingly, and his legs were broken. Thus far he seems to have obeyed the dictates of the law; in what follows he obeyed the dictates of his own malice, or rather that of the Senate, He begged of the prisoner with much earneftness, that he would give an account of his faith before the Senate and the Court. Apollonius complied, and delivered an apology for christianity ; in consequence of which, by a decree of the Senate, he was beheaded. It is not quite easy to account for this procedure. It is perhaps the only trial we read of in which both accuser and accused suffered judicially. Eusebius observes, that the laws were still in force, commanding christians to be put to death who had been presented before the tribunal. But Adrian, or certainly Antoninus Pius, had abrogated this iniquitous edict of Trajan. Under Marcus it might be revived, as what cruelty against christians might not be expected, under' him? Now Commodus, by menacing persecutors with death, might suppose he had sufficiently secured the christians. Yet, if a formal abrogation of the law against christians had been neglected, one may see how Apollonius came to suffer as well as his adversary. In truth, had he been silent, he probably had saved his life. Insidious artifices, under the pretence of much respect and desire of information, seem to have drawn him into a measure which cost him his life. However he died in a cause able to bear him out even beyond the limits of time!
the * Euseb. ibid.
There is a remarkable story of one Peregrinus, which we meet with in the works of Lucian, which, as it falls in with this century, and throws light on the character of christians who then lived, deserves to be here introduced. “In his youth he fell into shameful crimes, for which he was near losing his life in Armenia and Asia. I will not dwell on those crimes ; but I am persuaded that what I am about to say is worthy of attention. There is none of you but know that being chagrined that his father was still alive after being turned of sixty years of age, he strangled him. The rumour of so black a crime being spread abroad, he betrayed his guilt by his fight. He wandered about in divers countries to conceal the place of his retreat, till, upon coming into Judea, he learnt the admirable doctrine of the christians, by conversing with their priests and teachers. In a little time he shewed them that they were but children compared to him ; for he became not only a prophes, but the head of their congregation ; in a word, he