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deal of virulence and contempt, much after the manner that
should not be so much as the name of Christian left in the
in heaven ; Michael and his angels fought, and the dragon fought and his angels.” 2. I would take notice what success the gospel had in the world before the time of Constantine, notwithstanding all this opposition.....Though the learning and power of the Roman empire were so great, and both were employed to the utmost against Christianity to put a stop to it, and to root it out for so long a time, and in so many repeated attempts ; yet all was in vain, they could neither root it out, nor put a stop to it.... But still, in spite of all that they could do, the kingdom of Christ wonderfully prevailed, and Satan's Heathen kingdom mouldered and consumed away before it, agreeably to the words of the text, “ The moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool.” And, it was very observable, that for the most part the more they persecuted the church, the more it increased ; insomuch that it became a common saying, The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Herein the church of Christ proved to be like a palm tree ; of which tree it is remarked, that the greater weight is laid upon it, or hung to its branches, the more it grows and flourishes; on which account probably the church is compared to a palm tree in Cant. vii. 7. “This thy stature is like to a palm tree.” Justin Martyr, an eminent father in the Christian church, who lived in the age next after the apostles, in some writings of his, which are yet extant, says, that in his days there was no part of mankind, whether Greeks or barbarians, or by what name soever they were called, even the most rude and unpolished nations, where prayers and thanksgivings were not made to the great Creator of the world, through the name of the crucified Jesus. Tertullian, another eminent father in the Christian church, who lived in the beginning of the following age, in some of his writings which are yet extant, sets forth how that in his day the Christian religion had extended itself to the utmost bounds of the then known world, in which he reckons Britain, the country of our forefathers; and thence demonstrates, that the kingdom of Christ was then more extensive than any of the four great monarchies ; and moreover says that though the Christians were as strangers of no long standing, yet they had filled all places of the Roman dominions, their cities, islands, castles, corporations, councils, armies, tribes, the palace, senate, and courts of judicature ; only they had left to the Heathen their temples; and that if they should all agree to retire out of the Roman empire, the world would be amazed at the solitude and desolation that would ensue upon it, there would be so few left ; and that the Christians were enough to be able easily to defend themselves, if they were disposed to rise up in arms against the Heathen magistrates. And Pliny, a Heathen who lived in those days, says multitudes of each sex, every age and quality, were become Christians; this superstition, says he, having infected and overrun not the city only, but towns and countries, the temples and sacrifices are generally desolate and forsaken. And it was remarked by both Heathen and Christian writers in those days, that the famous Heathen oracles in their temples, where princes and others for many past ages had been wont to inquire and receive answers with an audible voice from their gods, which were indeed answers from the devil ; I say, those oracles were now silenced and struck dumb, and gave no more answers; and particularly the oracle at Delphos, which was the most famous Heathen oracle in the whole world, which both Greeks and Romans used to consult, began to cease to give any answers, even from the birth of Christ ; and the false deity who was worshipped, and used to give answers from his oracle in that temple, being once inquired of why he did not now give answers as he was wont to do Made this reply, as several Heathen historians who lived about those times relate, There is an hebrew boy, says he, who is king of the gods, who has commanded me to leave this house, and be gone to hell, and therefore you are to expect no more answers. And many of the Heathen writers who lived about that time speak much of the oracles being silenced, as a thing at which they wondered, not knowing what the cause should be. Plutarch, a Heathen writer of those times, wrote a particular treatise about it, which is still extant. And Porphyry, one of the Heathen writers before
mentioned, who opposed the Christian religion, in his writings has these words: “It is no wonder if the city for these so. many years has been overrun with sickness; Esculapius, and the rest of the gods, having withdrawn their converse with men; for since Jesus began to be worshipped, no man has received any public help or benefit by the gods.” Thus did the kingdom of Christ prevail against the king, dom of Satan. 3. I now proceed to take notice of the peculiar circumstances of tribulation and distress just before Constantine the Great came to the throne. This distress they suffered under the tenth Heathen persecution, which, as it was the last, so it was by far the heaviest and most severe. The church before this, after the ceasing of the ninth persecution, had enjoyed a time of quietness for about forty years together ; but abusing their liberty, began to grow cold and lifeless in religion and carnal, and contentions prevailed among them ; by which they offended God to suffer this dreadful trial to come upon them. And Satan having lost ground so much, notwithstanding all his attempts, now seemed to bestir himself with more than ordinary rage. Those who were then in authority set them
selves with the utmost violence to root out Christianity,
by burning all Bibles, and destroying all Christians; and therefore they did not stand to try or convict them in a formal process, but fell upon them wherever they could ; sometimes setting fire to houses where multitudes of them were assembled, and burning them all together ; and at other times slaughtering multitudes together ; so that sometimes their persecutors were quite spent with the labor of killing and tormenting them ; and in some populous places, so many were slain together, that the blood ran like torrents. It is related, that seventeen thousand martyrs were slain in one month’s time ; and that during the continuance of this persecution, in the province of Egypt alone, no less than one hundred and fortyfour thousand Christians died by the violence of their persecutors, besides 700,000 that died through the fatigues of banishment, or the public works to which they were condemned.