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has undertaken to justify his death, representing him as punished purely for defertion and military disobedience, in his usual manner suppressing or disguising facts. But the truth is, his death was the effect of a partial persecution, and his conscience was not burdened merely with being a foldier (it was no uncommon thing for christians to serve in the armies at that time, but with the introduction of new rules subversive of chriftianity For those who ordered christian soldiers to sacrifice knew that in fact they ordered them to renounce christianity.
It was in the year two hundred and ninetyeight, at Tangier in Mauritania, while every one was employed in feasting and sacrifices, that Marcellus the centurion took off his belt, threw down his vine-branch and his arms, and added, “I will not fight any longer under the banner of your emperor, or serve your gods of wood and ftone. If the condition of a foidier is luch that he is obliged to facrifice to gods and emperors, I abandon the vine-branch and the beli, and quit the service.” “ We plainly see the cause (lays Fleury) that forced the chriftians to defert, they being obliged to partake in idolatrous worship.” The man wis ordered to be beheaded. And one Caisianus the register, who was to take down the sentence, cried out aloud that he was shocked at its injustice. Marcellus smiled for joy, foreseeing that Caffianus would be his fellow-martyr, as in fact he was martyred also a month afrer.
When I read this fiory toward the conclusion of Gilbon's first vol. I thoughi, by his narrative, that Marcellus had suffered on principles of modern quakeriím. I might have aired this also to the list of his perversions *, had it then attracted
See Miloer's Gibbon.
jný attention. I need add nó further remarks ; every reader, who pays the least attention to candour and common sense, fees the principles for which Marcellus suffered.
It seems these preliininaries to the persecution, with which the next century opens, did not affect the minds of christians in general; nor was the spirit of
prayer stirred up among them, a certain fign of long and obstinate decay in godliness. Yet there must have been a deep secret departure from the lively faith of the gospel. Origenism and the learning and philosophy connected with it were extremely falhionable. We may justly conclude then, that the sermons of christian paitors had more in general of a moral and philosophical cast, than any thing purely christian. In truth, justification by faith, and hearty conviction of fin, and the Spirit's influences, I hear little or nothing of all this seafon. Morals, I doubt not, were preached; but christian men continued in life immoral and scandalous. The state of the church of England from Charles the ad, down to the iniddle of the last reign, full of party and faction and animosities and love of the world, yet adorned with learning and full of morality in its public ministrations, seems very much to resemble that of the christian church in manners and piety from the death of Dionysius to the end of the century. In one instance there was a great difference, superstition was much stronger in the. ancient church; but being enlisted in the service of self-righteousness, and the faith of Christ and the love of God being much buried under it, this diversity does not affect the general likeness.
. God, who had exercised long patience, declared at length in the course of his providence, Because I have' purged thee, and thou wast not
purged, thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more, till I have caused my fury to reft
But this scene, which introduced quite a new face on the church, and was quickly followed by several furprising revolutions, belongs to the next century
SOME ACCOUNT OF GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, THE
OGNOSTUS, AND DIONYSIUS OF ROME.
THESE three persons are all whom I can find
belonging to the third century, to whom fufficient justice has not been done already. Of the two last indeed I have scarce any thing to say. Of the first more is recorded. His life was written by Gregory of Nyffen, and though some al. lowance must be made for the growth of superftiticus credulity in his days, yet that all the miraculous powers ascribed to Gregory are fictitious it would be unreasonable to affert. The concurrent teftimony of antiquity and the very name of Thaumaturgus evince the contrary, I shall endeavour to steer as clear of errors on both sides as I can, in putting down every thing that may seem valuable concerning this great man. A small account of him is in Eusebiust. Cave and Fleury have also collected the most material things of him from Gregory Nyssen's narrative, and from the former I shall chiefly collect the account.
Exek, xxiv. 13.
He was born at Neocæsarea, the metropolis of Cappadocia; his father, zealous for paganism, took care to educate him in idolatry and the learning of the Gentile world. He loft his fa, ther when he was fourteen years of age. His mother took care to complete his education and that of his brother Athenodorus, afterwards a christian bishop, as well as himself. He travelled to Alexandria to learn the placonic philosophy, where he was equally remarkable for strictness of life and close attention to his studies. He afterwards put himself under the tuition of the renowned Origen, who then taught at Cæfarea in Palestine, with his brother Athenodorus, and Firmilian, a Cappadocian gentleman, with whom he contracted an intimate friendship:
This is the Cappadocian bishop whom we have repeatedly had occasion to mention. With Origen the two brothers continued five years, and were persuaded by him to study the holy scriptures; and no doubt is to be made, but that the most affiduous pains were urged by that zealous teacher to ground them in the belief of christianity. On his departure he delivered an eloquent speech, in praise of Origen, before a numerous auditory, a testimony at once of his gratitude and powers of rhetoric.
There is still extant a letter written by Origen to him after he had left him*, in which he exhorts him to apply his knowledge to the promotion of christianity The best thing in it is, that he advises him to pray fervently and seriously for the illumination of the Holy Spirit.
Being now returned to Neocæsarea, he gave hinseit much to prayer and retirement, and no doubt was in secret prepared and disciplined for the important work to which he was soon after
called. * Origen Philocab. C. 13.
called. Neocæsarea was large and populous, but full of idolatry, the very seat of Satan, so thať christianity scarce could gain any entrance into it. Phædimus, bishop of Amasea, a neighbouring city, grieved to see its situation, and hoping much from the piety and capacity of young Gregory, took pains to engage him in the work of the ministry there. Gregory, from pure modefty, took pains to elude his designs, but was at length -prevailed on to accept the charge.
The scene was arduous. He had a church to found, before he could govern it, there being not above seventeen profeffors of christianity there. I do not believe the vision which bis namesake of Nyssen tells of his receiving a creed from John the Evangelist and the Virgin Mary. He seems to have been imposed on by the superstitious fpirit, then too prevalent. But as he assures us the original, written with his own hand, was preserved in the church of Neocæsarea in his time, and this is a matter of fact of which any person might judge'; as the creed itself contains nothing but what is very agreeable to the language of the fathers of the third century, and we have already seen the exact pains which they took in guarding the doctrine of the Trinity against heresies, I apprehend it to be really his; though when the reader has confidered it, he will not be surprised at the industry * with which in our times its credit has been impeached. And the whole will deserve to be set down at length, because the orthodoxy of Gregory has been unreasonably called in question, against the express testimony of Eusebius, who, we have seen above, represents him as one of the opposers of Paul of Samosata, at the first council.
* See Lardner's Credibility.