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fashionable to despise religion. For on all subjects, which are esteemed of moment, common sense hath ever dictated to mankind to hold coun. cils; and politics, agriculture, and the fine arcs have their councils continually. Not to be care ried away by the torrent of the times I think it to be an historian's duty. Men who follow fashion will gain the reputation of being sensible and judicious, without either learning, induftry, or reflection. This makes the temptation so strong. I shail venture however to affirm, that all religious councils are not foolish, because many have been .fo. That at Jerusalem* was worth more than all the wealth and power of the Roman empire; in this way also we have seen Cyprian to have served the church substantially, though in one instance he failed: and the council which dictated the letter concerning Paul will deserve, under God, the thanks of the church of Christ to the end of the world. Çircumstanced as Paul was, superior in artifice, eloquence, and capacity, supported by civil power and uncontrouled in his own diocese, nothing seemed so likely to weaken his influence and encourage the true disciples of Christ as the concurrent testimony of the christian world alsembled against him. And though it may be difficult for the softness of sceptical politeness to · relish the blunt tone of the council, there seems to me evident marks of the fear of God, christian gravity, and confcientious regard to truth in their proceedings. Common, no doubt, must rumours have been of Paul's actual lewdness in Antioch! But for want of specific proof the council check themselves, and affert no more than what they know. True, they did no more than they ought, but had they been overheated with malice they would have exaggerated. It is grievous to seę.

See Afts of the Apostles.

this first instance of a christian bishop fo Thame. fully secular, and that on the most authentic evidence; bụt it is pleasant to see so many lhewing a becoming zeal for truth and holiness.

Dionysius of Rome died also this year. His successor Felix wrote an epistle to Maximus of Alexandria, in which he speaks thus, probably on account of Paul's heresy : “ We believe that our Saviour Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary; we believe that he himself is the eternal God and the Word, and not a man whom God hath taken into himself, so as that man should be distinct from him; for the Son of God being perfect God, was also made perfect man, being incarnate of the Virgin *

For two or three years Paul supported himself in the poffeffion of the mother-church of Antioch, and of the episcopal house, and of course of fo much of the revenues as depended not on voluntary contributions of the people, by the favour of Zenobia. A party he doubtless had among the people; but the horror which Socinianism, then at least, excited through the christian world, as well as the flagitiousness of his life, render it impossible that he should have had the hearts of the christians of Antioch at large; and Zenobia being conquered by the Emperor Aurelian, a change took place; the christians complained; Aurelian looking on Rome and Italy as in all things a guide to the rest of the world, ordered that the controversy should be decided according to the senciments of their bishops. Of course Paul was fully expelled, and we hear no more of him in history.

Aurelian hitherto had been the friend of chriftians; but pagan superstition and its abettors drove him at length into measures of persecution. The

christians • Conc. Eph.-See Fleury, book 8, chap. 4.


christians were in full expectation of fanguinary treatment, when his death prevented his designs, in the year two hundred and seventy-five.

Tacitus the successor of Aurelian, after a short reign, left the empire to Probus, in whose second year, A. D. two hundred and seventy-seven, appeared the monstrous heresy of Mancs, whose fundamental principle was to account for the origin of evil, by the admission of two first causes independant of each other. But I write not a history, of heresies; it has been performed but too acculrately by many, while we have very scanty information of the progress of true religion. This heresy continued long to infest the church, and necessity will oblige me hereafter, if this work be continued, to notice it more distinctly.

Eusebius gives us here the names and characters of several bishops, who successively held several fees. He speaks highly of the learning and philosophy of some, and of the moral good qualities of others. Of Painphilus, a minister in Cæsarea of Palestine, he speaks with all the ardour of affection; but the best thing he afferts of him is, that he suffered much in persecution, and was martyred at last. But this must have been in Dioclelian's persecution, the time of which begins just after the limits prescribed to this volume.

After Probus, Carus, and his two sons, Dioclefian began to reign in the year two hundred and eighty-four. For about eighteen years this einperor was extremely indulgent to the christians. His wife Prisca and daughter Valeria were christians in some sense secretly. The eunuchs of his palace and his most important officers were christians, and with their wives and families openly professed the gospel. Christians held honourable offices in various parts of the enipire; innumerable



erowds attended christian worship; the old buildings could no longer receive them, and in all cities wide and large edifices were erected *

If Christ's kingdom had been of this world, and its strength and beauty were to be measured by secular prosperity, we should here fix the æra of its greatness. But, on the contrary, the æra of of its decline must be dateci during the pacific time of Dioclefian. During this whole century the work of God in purity and power had been declining; the connection with philofophers had been one of the principal caules; outward peace and fecular advantages now completed the corruption; discipline, which had been too ftrict, was now relaxed exceedingly ; bishops and people were in a state of malice, anci quarrels without end were fomented one anong another; and ambition and covetousness had now the ascendency pretty generally in the christian church. Some there doubtless were who mourned in secret and Itrove in vain to stop the abounding torrent of evil. The truth of this account feems much confirmed by the extreme dearth of real christian excellencies from the death of Dionysius. None seem, for the space of thirty years, to have arisen in the room of Cyprian, Firmilian, Gregory, and Dionysius. No bishop or paitor of eminence for piety, zeal, and labours appeared. Christian worThip was yet conttantly attended to; the number of nominal converts was increasing; but the faith of Christ itself appeared now an ordinary business, and here ended as far as appears, that great first out-pouring of the Spirit of God, which began at the Day of Pentecoit. Human depravity ipread a general decay of godlinels through the church, and one generation of men elapsed with hardly

any * Eufeb, book 8, chap. I.




any proofs of the spiritual presence of Christ with his church.

The observation of Eusebius, who honestly confesses this declension, is judicious. “ The heavy hand of God's judgments began softly, by little and little, to visit us after his wonted manner, so that the perfecution which was raised againft us took its first rise from the christians who were in military service. But we were not at all moved with his hand, nor took any pains to return to God, but heaped fin upon fin, thinking, like careless epicureans, that God cared not for, nor would ever visit us for our sins. And our pretended shepherds, laying aside the rule of godliness, practised among themselves contention and division." He goes on to observe that the dreadful persecution of Dioclefian was then indicted on the church, as a juft punishment and the most proper chattisement for their iniquities.

Toward the end of the century, Dioclefian practising the superstitious rites of divination, and understanding or guessing from the ill success of his sacrifices, that the presence of a christian servant, who made on his forehead the sign of the cross, was the cause, ordered not only those who were present, but all in his palace to sacrifice, or in cale of refusal to be scourged with whips *. He wrote also to the officers of his armies to con. strain all the soldiers to sacrifice, or to discharge the disobedient from the service. This is what Eufebius alludes to in the foregoing passage; and many resigned rather than sacrifice. For christian truth was not yet lost, nor was the decay universal. Very few were put to death on this account. The story of Marcellus is remarkable f. Mr. Gibbon L 1 2

has * Lactantius de morte perfecut. | A&a fincera, Fleury, book 8, chap. 27.

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