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might seeni to promise; the Nave of his passions, and led away by every sudden feeling that seized his imagination, yet too philosophical to perse
And christians, as a set of new philofo. phers, found a complete toleration under a prince whole conscience seems to have fet him free from the influence of any religion.
FROM THE REIGN OF GALLIENUS TO THE END OF
HE general history of the church of Christ
for the remaining forty years affords no great quantity of materials. After having collected them into this chapter in order, it may be proper to reserve, to a distinct consideration, the lives of some particular persons, and other matters which belong not to the thread of history.
We behold now a new scene; christians legally tolerated under a pagan governinent for forty years. The example of Gailienus was followed by the successive emperors to the end of the century, violated only in one instance, the effect of which was prefently diffipated by the hand of Providence. This is not a scene for the growth of grace and holiness; in no time since the Apostles was there ever so great a decay; nor can we shew much of any very lively christianity in all this period.
Those are however ill informed in the nature of things, who suppose that there was literally no persecution all this time, Christians are never, in
the best times, without their share of it; nor is it in the power of the best governments to protect men of godliness from the malice of the world in all cases. We saw an instance of this in the reign of Commodus ; fee another under the reign of Gallienus. Ac Cæsarea in Palestine there was one Marinus a soldier of great bravery, of noble family, and very opulent. The office of centurion being vacant, Marinus was called to it. Another soldier came before the tribunal, and said that by the laws Marinus was incapacitated, because he was a christian and did not do facrifice to the emperors, but that he himself, as next in rank, ought to have it.
Achæus the governor asked Marinus what was his religion; on which he con. feffed himself a chriftian. The governor gave him three hours space to deliberate. Upon this Theotecnes, bishop of Cæsarea, calls Marinus from the tribunal, takes him by the hand, and leads him to the church, shews him the sword that hung by his side, and a New Testament which he pulled out of his pocket, and bids him choose which of the two he liked best. Marinus, stretching out his right hand, cakes up the Holy Scripture. “ Hold fast then," said Theotecnes, “ cleave to God, and what you have chosen you shall enjoy, being strengthened by him, and depart in peace. After he had returned thence he was by the crier's voice ordered to appear again at the bar, the time of three hours being expired. There he manfully confessed the faith of Christ, heard the sentence of condemnation, and was beheaded.
Without more acquaintance with the particular institutes of Roman law on this subject, it is not ealy to reconcile this proceeding with the edict of Gallienus. Perhaps the act of Achæus
was illegal, or some particular military law might stand against the martyr. The fact however rests on the best authority, and the profession of arms had ftill those among them who loved Jesus, since the days of Cornelius.
The greatest luminary in the church at this time was Dionysius of Alexandria. His works are loft; but a few extracts of them preserved by Eufebius have been given, and some few more may here be introduced. Speaking of the Sabellian heresy, which had now made its appearance, he says:
* « As many brethren have sent their books and disputations in writing to me concerning the impious doctrine lately fown at Pentapolis in Prolemais, containing many blasphemies against the Almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and also much infidelity concerning his only begotten Son, the first begotten of every creature, and the word incarnate, and also senseless ignorance of the Holy Ghost, some of them I have transcribed and sent the copies to you.”
This is the first account of the origin of Sabel. lianism, a plausible corruption, no doubt, perhaps the most so of all those which oppose the mystery of the Trinity. But like all the rest is fails for want of scripture evidence, and shews itself only to be a weak attempt to lower to human reason, what was never meant to be amenable to its tribunal. The careful distinctions of Dionysius, in recounting the persons of the Trinity, were very proper in speaking of an herefy which confounds the persons, and leaves them nothing of those distinct characters on which the nature of the gospel so much depends.
* Book 7, chap. 3.
This bilhop also delivers his sentiments in the controversy concerning the re-baptizing of heretics against the practice, and he condemns with great feverity the Novatian schism, because, says he, “ it charges the most loving and merciful God with unmercifulness." Yet in the former subject he confesses himself staggered, for the present at least, in his opinion by a certain fact. 5. When the brethren were gathered together, a certain person allowed to be found in the faith, an ancient minister of the clergy, before my time, being present when some were baptized, and hearing the interrogatories and responses, came to me weeping and wailing, and falling proftrate at my feet, protested that the baptism which he had re. ceived being heretical, could not be the true baptism, and had no agreement with that which was in use among us, being full of impiety and blafphemy. He owned that the distress of his conscience was extreme, that he durst not presume to
eyes to God, because he had been baptized with profane words and rites. He begged therefore to be baptized, which I durst not do, but told him that frequent communion many times administered mighi suffice him. When he had heard thanksgiving founded in the church, and had sung to it Amen; when he had been present at the Lord's table, and had stretched forth his hand to receive the holy food, and had communicated, and of a long time had been partaker of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, I durft not re-baptize him, but bade him be of good cheer and of a sure faith, and boldly approach to the communion of saints. NotwithItanding all this, the man mourneth continually, his horror keeps him from the Lord's table, and Kk 2
he * Book 7, chap. 7.
he scarce with much intreaty can join in the prayers of the church."
We have no farther account of this matter. The man was one of thofe whom there is all reason to believe the God of Grace would in due time relieve The detestation of heresy, and the marked distinction of crue christianity from it, were as yet in some circumstances carried into an extreme Dile cipline was hitherto not neglected in the church: On the whole, it was, as I have observed, excesive even to superstition. Satan's temptations are ever ready to drive into despair truly penitent and contrite fpirits. The whole story breathes a spirit the very antipode to the licentious boldness of our times, and marks the peculiar' character of the piety of the age of Dionysius, sincere, but mixt with superstition *
The celebration of the feast of Easter and of other holy days forms the subject of another of his epistles. It will suffice just to have mentioned this..
Dionysius had now returned from exile to Alexandria, and found it involved in the horrors of a civil War. On the feast of Eater, as if he was still in banishment, he wrote to his people, who were in another parc of the city, with which he could have no intercourfe. Writing to Hierax an Egyptian bishop at some distance, he says, “ It is not to be wondered at, that it is difficult for me to converse by epiftles with those ar a diítance, when I find myfeif here precluded from having any intercourse with my own bowels. I am constrained to write to them, though citizens of the same church, and how my writings may be .conveyed to them feems difficult. A man may more easily travel from east to weit than from Alexandria
to * Eufeb. book 7, chap. 8.- See Greek.