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perstition seized cities only, but smaller towns also, and the open country.” Great exertions must have been used by the preachers of Christianity to produce this state of things within this time. Secondly, to a point which has been already noticed, and which I think of importance to be observed, namely, the sufferings to which Christians were exposed, without any public persecution being denounced against them by sovereign authority. For, from Pliny's doubt how he was to act, his silence concerning any subsisting law on the subject, his requesting the emperor's rescript, and the emperor, agreeably to his request, propounding a rule for his direction, without reference to any prior rule, it may be inferred, that there was, at that time, no public edict in force against the Christians. Yet from this same epistle of Pliny it appears,
“that accusations, trials, and examinations, were, and had been, going on against them in the provinces over which he presided; that schedules were delivered by anonymous, informers, containing the names of persons who were suspected of holding or of favouring the religion ; that, in consequence of these informations, many had been apprehended, of whom some boldly avowed their profession, and died in the cause ; others denied that they were Christians': others, acknowledging that they had once been Christians, declared that they had long ceased to be such." All which demonstrates, that the profession of Christianity was at that time in that country at least) attended with fear and danger : and yet this took place without any edict from the Roman sovereign, commanding or authorizing the persecution of Christians. This observation is farther confirmed by a rescript of Adrian to Minucius Fundanus, the pro-consul of Asia *: from which rescript it appears that the custom of the people of Asia was to proceed against the Christians with tumult and uproar. This disorderly practice, I say, is recognized in the edict, because the emperor enjoins, that, for the future, if the Christians were guilty, they should be legally brought to trial, and not be pursued by importunity and clamour.
Martial wrote a few years before the younger Pliny; and, as his manner was, made the sufferings of the Christians the subject of his ridicule *. Nothing, however, could show the notoriety of the fact with more certainty than this does. Martials testimony, as well indeed as Pliny's, goes also to another point, vize that the deaths of these men were martyrdoms in the strictest sense, that is to say, were so voluntary, that it was in their power, at the time of pronouncing the sentence, to have averted the execution, by consenting to join in heathen sacrifices.
The constancy, and by consequence the sufferings of the Christians of this period, is also referred to by Epictetus, who imputes their intrepidity, to madness, or to a kind of fashion or habit; and about fifty years
* In matutinâ nuper spectatus arena
Mucius, imposuit qui sua membra focis,
Abderitanæ pectora plebis habes ;
Ure + manum : plus est dicere, Non facio.
afterwards, by Marcus Aurelius, who ascribes it to obstinacy. “Is it possible (Epictetus asks) that a man may arrive at this temper, and become indifferent to those things, from madness or from habit, as the Galileans*”:';“ Let this preparation of the mind (to die) arise from its own judgment, and not from obstinacy like the Christians t."
There is satisfactory evidence that many; professing to be original witnesses of the Christian miracles, passed their lives in labours, dangers, and sufferings, voluntarily undergone in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and solely in consequence of their belief of those accounts ; and that they also submitted, from the same motives, to new rules of conducť.
Of the primitive condition of Christianity, à distant only and general view can be acquired from heathen writers. It is in our own books that the detail and interior of the transaction must be sought for. And this is nothing different from what might be expected. Who would write a history of Christianity, but a Christian ? Who was likely to record the travels, sufferings, labours, or successes of the apostles, but one of their own number, or