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first three centuries. Within one hundred
years after Christ's ascension, Quadratus 1. and Aristides, whose works, except some
few fragments of the first, are lost; and, about twenty years afterwards, Justin Martyr, whose works remain, presented apologies for the Christian religion to the Roman emperors ; Quadratus and Arisa tides to Adrian, Justin to Antoninus Pius, and a second to Marcus Antoninus. Me- . lito, bishop of Sardis, and Apollinaris, bishop of Hierapolis, and Miltiades, men of great reputation, did the same to Marcus Antoninus, twenty years afterwards*: and ten years after this, Apollonius, who suffered martyrdom under the emperor Commodus, composed an apology for his faith, which he read in the senate, and which was afterwards published-t. Fourteen years after the apology of Apollonius, Tertullian addressed the work which now remains under that name to the governors of provinces in the Roman enipire; and, about the same time, Minucius Felix com
* Euseb. Hist. lib. iv, c. 26. See also Lardner, vol. ii.
+ Lardner, vol, ii, p. 687.
posed a defence of the Christian religion, which is still extant; and, shortly after the conclusion of this century, copious defences of Christianity were published by Arnobius and Lactantius.
Reflections upon the preceding account.
In viewing the progress of Christianity, our first attention is due to the number of converts at Jerusalem, immediately after its Founder's death; because this success was a success at the time, and upon the spot, when and where the chief part of the history had been transacted.
We are, in the next place, called upon to attend to the early establishment of numerous Christian societies in Judea and Galilee; which countries had been the scene of Christ's miracles and ministry, and where the memory of what had passed, and the knowledge of what was alleged, must have yet been fresh and certain.
We are, thirdly, invited to recollect the success of the apostles and of their com
panions, at the several places to which they came, both within and without Judea; because it was the credit given to original witnesses, appealing for the truth of their accounts to what themselves had seen and heard. The effect also of their preaching strongly confirms the truth of what our history positively and circumstantially relates, that they were able to exhibit to their hearers supernatural attestations of their mission.
We are, lastly, to consider the subsequent growth and spread of the religion, of which we receive successive intimations, and satisfactory, through general and occasional, accounts, until its full and final establishment.
In all these several stages, the history is without a parallel: for it must be observed, that we have not now been tracing the progress, and describing the prevalency, of an opinion, founded upon philosophical or critical arguments, upon mere deductions of reason, or the construction of ancient writings (of which kind are the several theories which have, at different times,
gained possession of the public mind in various departments of science and literature; and of one or other of which kind are the tenets also which divide the various sects of Christianity); but that we speak of a system, the very basis and postulatum of which was a supernatural character ascribed to a particular person; of a doctrine, the truth thereof depended entirely upon the truth of a matter of fact then récént. “ To establish a new religion, even amongst a few people, or in one single nation, is a thing in itself exceedingly difficult. To reform some corruptions which
have spread in a religion, or to make new regulations in it, is not perhaps so hard, when the main and principal part of that religion is preserved entire and unshaken; and yet this very often cannot be accomplished without an extraordinary concurrence of circumstances, and may be attempted a thousand times without success. But to introduce a new faith, a new way of thinking and acting, and to persuade many nations to quit the religion in which their ancestors have lived and died, which had been delivered down to them from