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might serve as lights to illuminate the night. Nero lent his own gardens for these executions, and exhibited at the same time a mock Circensian entertainment; being a spectator of the whole, in the dress of a charioteer, sometimes mingling with the crowd on foot, and sometimes viewing the spectacles from his car. This conduct made the sufferers pitied; and though they were criminals, and deserving the severest punishments, yet they were considered as sacrificed, not so much out of a regard to the public good, as to gratify the cruelty of one man.”
Our concern with this passage at present is only so far as it affords a presumption in support of the proposition which we maintain, concerning the activity and sufferings of the first teachers of Christianity. Now, considered in this view, it
three things: 1st, that the Founder of the institution was put to death ; 2dly, that in the same country in which he was put to death, the religion, after a short check, broke out again and spread; 3dly, that it so spread, as that, within thirty-four years
from the Author's death, a very great number of Christians (ingens eorum multitudo) were found at Rome.
From which fact, the two following inferences may be fairly drawn : first, that, if, in the
of thirtyfour years
from its commencement, the religion had spread throughout Judea, had extended itself to Rome, and there had numbered a great multitude of converts, the original teachers and missionaries of the institution could not have been idle; secondly, that when the Author of the undertaking was put to death as a malefactor for his attempt, the endeavours of his followers to establish his religion in the same country, amongst the same people, and in the same age,
could not but be attended with danger.
Suetonius, a writer contemporary with Tacitus, describing the transactions of the same reign, uses these words; “ Affecti suppliciis Christiani, genus hominum superstitionis novæ et maleficæ *.” The Christians, a set of men of a new and mischievous (or magical) superstition, were punished.
* Suet. Nero. cap. 16.
Since it is not mentioned here that the burning of the city was the pretence of the punishment of the Christians, or that they were the Christians of Rome who alone suffered, it is probable that Suetonius refers to some more general persecution than the short and occasional one which Tacitus describes.
Juvenal, a writer of the same age with the two former, and intending, it should seem, to commemorate the cruelties exercised under Nero's government, has the following lines
“ Pone Tigellinum, tædâ lucebis in illâ,
Quâ stantes ardent, qui fixo gutture fumant,
“ Describe Tigellinus . (a creature of Nero), and
shall suffer the same punishment with those who stand burning in their own flame and smoke, their head being held up by a stake fixed to their chin, till they make a long stream of blood and melted sulphur on the ground.”
* Sat. i. ver. 155.
+ Forsan " deducis."
If this passage were considered by itself, the subject of allusion might be doubtful; but, when connected with the testimony of Suetonius, as to the actual punishment of the Christians by Nero, and with the account given by Tacitus of the species of punishment which they were made to undergo, I think it sufficiently probable, that these were the executions to which the poet refers.
These things, as has already been observed, took place within thirty-one years after Christ's death, that is, according to the course of nature, in the lifetime, probably, of some of the apostles, and certainly in the lifetime of those who were converted by the apostles, or who were converted in their time. If then the Founder of the religion was put to death in the execution of his design : if the first race of converts to the religion, many of them, suffered the greatest extremities for their profession; it is hardly credible, that those who came between the two, who were companions of the Author of the institution during his life, and the teachers and propagators of the institution after his death, could go about their undertaking with ease and safety.
The testimony of the younger Pliny belongs to a later period; for although he was contemporary with Tacitus and Suetonius, yet his account does not, like theirs, go back to the transactions of Nero's reign, but is confined to the affairs of his own time. His celebrated letter to Trajan was written about seventy years after Christ's death; and the information to be drawn from it, so far as it is connected with our argument, relates principally to two points : first, to the number of Christians in Bithynia and Pontus, which was so considerable as to induce the governor of these provinces to speak of them in the following terms : Multi, omnis ætatis, utriusque sexûs etiam ;--neque enim civitates tantum, sed vicos etiam et agros, superstitionis istius contagio pervagata est. “ There are many of every age and of both sexes ;- nor has the contagion of this-su