Page images

the Jews had the predictions of their own prophets, and saw, or might see, the completion of many of them in the person of Christ: but the Pagans would be less affected by that argument, till they were better acquainted with the history of the Jews and of their sacred books. He who in those early times preached to the Jews, might also appeal to the miracles of Christ and of the apostles, which they or their fathers had seen ; but the remoter Gentiles were strangers to these things, and a few sensible proofs of the extraordinary powers of the Holy Spirit would to them have been more satisfactory.

We have not any pretence to reject the testimony of Eusebius as to the fact, that the gospel was preached by disciples of the apostles; and we have this to confirm it, that according to all antient history, Christianity, after the death of the apostles, continued to increase and to get ground in various regions.

This brings the probability of miracles down to the beginning of the second century, in the middle of which Justin Martyr says, There are prophetic gifts amongst us even until now, παρα γαρ ημίν και μέχρι νυν προφητικα χαρίσματα έστιν" and amongst these gifts he reckons up miraculous powers, as healing the sick, casting out evil spirits, &c. p. 315. 330. His words imply an opinion that such gifts were not only exercised in his time, but had been continued down to his time; and he may be justly supposed to speak the sense of his contemporary Christians : and that is all that I cite him for.

It seems probable, that if we had a full and authentic history of the propagation of the gospel, from the time of the apostles to the middle of the second century, composed by, eye-witnesses and by the preachers of Christianity, we should find miracles wrought for the conversion of the Pagans. But from A. D. 70 to 150 is a dark interval, and we have very short accounts of the transactions of those days, unless we should accept of groundless rumours and frivolous tales.

ST. JOHN was banished by Domitian, A. D. 94. Ter. tullian, and others upon his credit, say that he was put into à vessel of boiling oil; which story Jerom repeats with a

few embellishments of his own. See Le Clerc, Hist. Eccl. p. 508. The apostle came out unhurt, says Tertullian. He came out stronger and healthier than he went in, says Jerom, who perhaps had in his thoughts Æson coming out of Medea's kettle;

« barba comæque,
Canitie posita, nigrum rapuere colorein.
Pulsa fugit macies : abeunt pallorque situsque,
Adjectoque cavæ supplentur sanguine venæ ;
Membraque luxuriant. Æson miratur, et olim
Ante quaterdenos hunc se reminiscitur annos.

Ovid. Met. vii. 288.

Eusebius not only mentions not this tradition in his Eccl. History, or in his Chronicon, but in his Demonstratio Evangelica, speaking of the sufferings of the apostles, of the death of Stephen, of James the brother of John, of James the brother of Christ, of Peter, and of Paul, he only says of John, 'Iwarens te mo o Tapadítotally and John is banished and sent into an island.'' iï. p. 116.

Christ had said to James and John, “ Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with;' which possibly gave occasion to the invention of this punishment. The caldron (as a kind of scyphus Herculeus) represented the cup, and the oil the baptism, especially as oil was used in baptism in the days of Tertullian.

The anointing of the baptized person began about his time: it was not practised when Justin Martyr wrote, as appears

from the account which he hath given of this religious rite ; and the story of St. John's caldron might be made in Tertullian's days, to represent a figurative or metaphorical cup, and baptism, or afflictions and martyrdom.

Joannes Ciampini published an explication of an antient marble monument, which he thinks to have been of the sixth century.

It represents, in basso relievo, a huge caldron or vessel, in which are a king and a queen; and a man standing by it pours water upon the head of the king, who is praying, with his hands joined. This he supposes to describe the baptism of some prince, performed by

P. 46.

immersion and superinfusion. See Act. Erudit. 1698.

Tertullian had no small share of credulity; he proves that the soul is corporeal, from the visions of an illuminated sister, who told him that she had seen a soul. De Anima, p. 311. He affirms roundly, • constat,' says he, • Ethnicis quoque testibus ;' that a fine city was seen for forty days, suspended in the air over Jerusalem. This report of some crazy pilgrim, or idle stroller, he adopted, as a proof that the millennium was at hand. Contra Marc. iii. 24. How can one depend upon his testimony in things which are of the preternatural and miraculous kind?

St. John is called a martyr by some antient Christians ; and so he was, when he was banished to an island, and suffered pænam capitalem.'

A. D. 107. CONTEMPORARY with Ignatius was Pa. pias, bishop of Hierapolis, the father of traditions, and a man of small judgment, who wrote an exposition of the discourses of Christ. He was extremely diligent in inquiring what the antients, what Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, John, Matthew, and the rest of the Lord's disciples had said or taught.' Apud Euseb. iii. 39.

Mr. Whiston has somewhere observed, that Papias takes no notice of Paul, and therefore probably was of the sect of the Ebionites, who hated that apostle. His remark is, like many other of his remarks, ingenious; and Papias is said to have made use of the gospel according to the Hebrews, which was received by the Ebionites. Euseb. But yet, in behalf of poor Papias, whom one would rather rank amongst the Simpletons than amongst the Heretics, it might be urged, that, as his design was to collect all the unwritten sayings and actions of Christ, he thought that nothing of that kind could be learned from St. Paul, who had not conversed with the Lord, as Peter, Matthew, &c. And indeed it is scarcely conceivable how Papias could reverence St. John, and yet be an Ebionite, since the gospel of that apostle is so directly against the notions of the Ebionites.

A.D. 116. We have an epistle of Tiberianus, governor of part of Palæstine, and called “ Palæstinæ primæ Præses,' to Trajan, in which he speaks of the invincible obstinacy of the Galilæans, or Christians, under his jurisdiction, with punishing and destroying whom he declares himself quite tired. Pearson, in his Vindic. Ignat. and some late writers, and Dr. Middleton also, treat this epistle as genuine; which is an oversight, since there are so many reasons to think it spurious, as Dodwell has showed, Dissert. Cypr. xi. p. 244. We have it only from Suidas and Malela, two sorry vouchers, and Euscbius knew nothing of it. See Middleton, Inquiry, p. 201. S. Basnage, Annal. ii. p. 38. and particularly Tillemont, who fairly gives it up, and informs us that Valesius accounted it the work of a block. head and an impostor. Eccl. Hist. ii. p. 170. 571. Le Clerc also, though he lets it pass uncensured in his Apostolical Fathers, ii. p. 181. rejects it where he gives an account of that edition: 'Il y a-une relation supposée de Tiberien, gouverneur de la premiere Palestine, à Trajan.' Bibl. A. et M. xxi. 304. So I hope we shall hear no more of it henceforward, either for or against the behaviour of

the martyrs.

QUADRATUS and Aristides wrote Apologies for the Christian religion, and addressed and delivered them to Adrian, A. D. 126. So Eusebius and Jerom inform us. See Tillemont H. E. ii. p. 232.

τούτω Κοδράτος λόγον προσφωνήσας αναδίδωσιν, απολογίαν συντάξας.-και Αριστείδης-απολογίαν επιφωνήσας ’Adplavõ, zataa2017. Euseb. iv. 3. • Quadratus-nonne Adriano Eleusinæ sacra invisenti librum pro nostra reli. gione tradidit, et tantæ admirationi omnibus fuit, ut persecutionem gravissimam illius excellens sedaret ingenium ?' Hieron. Ep. 84. lipoo pwvtīv is to dedicate'a book, which may indeed be done without presenting it. Tοσαύτα βιβλία γράψας, ουδενί των βασιλέων προσεφώνησε, says Diogenes Laertius of Chrysippus. · Some of the Pagan philosophers dedicated some of their books to Origen,' says Eusebius, vi. 19.-τοτε μεν αυτό προσφωνούντων τους εαυτών λόγους,see also Euseb. vii. 20.

Unfortunately, these Apologies are lost. If they could

be retrieved, even at the expense of some homilies and creeds, and controversial writings of the fourth and fifth centuries, it would be a cheap bargain.

It is not to be imagined that all the works of this kind, which were addressed to the emperors, were presented by the authors, or that books in those days were as much spread and as well known as they are now, since the art of printing ; and yet the genteel civility and decency and politeness so observable in the Apology of Athenagorasa, and in that of Melito, (of which a fragment is preserved in Eusebius) seem to imply that they had a design to offer them, or that they expected to have them perused by the emperor. Sce Fabricius, Bibl. Gr. v. 36. and Bayle's Dict. Athenagoras.

• Præsentem sane Cæsaribus fuisse Athenagoram, verba deprecantis ostendunt : Υμείς δε, ώ πάντα εν πάσι φύσει και παιδεία χρηστοι και μέτριοι και φιλάνθρωποι, και της βασιλείας άξιοι, διαλελυμένωμεν τα εγκλήματα- την βασιλικήν κεραλής ÉTIEUT #TE. 'Vos vero, o undequaque in omnibus naturâ simul et disciplinâ boni, moderati, benigni, et imperio digni principes, mihi, obsecro, qui criinina nobis objecta dissolvi, capitibus regiis annuite.' S. Basnage, Annal. ii. p. 161, A weak argument to prove that Athenagoras pronounced his Apology before the emperor! If Basnage had thought twice upon it, he would have blotted it out.

But it is not at all improbable that Quadratus and Aristides delivered their Apologies into Adrian's hand, or at least that those apologies were seen by him; for besides the testimonies of Eusebius and Jeroin, which favour that opinion, it is to be observed that Adrian is represented in history as one whose knowledge was various and extensive, and · who was excessively curious and inquisitive, curiosita'tum omnium explorator, Tertullian Apol. ' He had

studied all magical arts, he had been initiated into Pagan mysteries, and he must have been inclined to know the true nature of Christianity, and to see what the learned of that sect had to say for themselves. Julian, in his Cæsars, banters Adrian for his pragmatical disposition, little thinking

a Tertullian, compared to these two Fathers, in point of address and courtesy, is a very clown; and so is Justin Martyr.

« PreviousContinue »