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cian persecution five or six years before Origen's death, and lived till the year 343. I have only discovered one of those channels by which the history of our Saviour might be conveyed pure and unadulterat, ed, through those several ages that produced those Pagan Philosophers, whose testimonies I make use of for the truth of our Saviour's history. Some or other of these Philosophers came into the Chriftian faith during its infancy, in the several periods of these three first centuries, when they had such means of informing themselves in all the particulars of our Saviour's history, I must further add, that though I have here only chofen this single link of martyrs, I might find out others among those names which are still extant, that delivered down this account of our Saviour in a successive tradition, till the whole Roman empire became Christian ; as there is no question but numberless series of witnesses might follow one another in the same order, and in as short a chain, and that perhaps in every single Church, had the names and ages of the most eminent primitive Christians, been transmitted to us with the like certainty
XI. But XI. But to give this consideration more force, we must take notice, that the tradition of the first ages of Christianity, had several circumstances peculiar to it, which made it more authentic than any other tradition in any other age of the world. The Christians, who carried their religion through so many general and particular persecutions, were incessantly comforting and supporting one another, with the example and history of our Saviour and his Apostles. It was the subject not only of their folemn assemblies, but of their private visits and conversations. Our virgins, says Tatian, who lived in the second century, discourse over their distaffs on divine subječts. Indeed, when religion was woven into the civil government, and flourished under the protection of the Emperors, mens thoughts and discourses were as they are now, full of fecular affairs; but in the three first centuries of Christianity, men who embraced this religion, had given up all their interests in this world, and lived in a perpetual preparation for the next, as not knowing how soon they might be called to it : so that they had little else to talk
of but the life and doctrines of that divine person, which was their hope, their encouragement, and their glory. We cannot therefore imagine, that there was a single person arrived at any degree of age or consideration, who had not heard and repeated above a thousand times in his life, all the particulars of our Saviour's birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
XII. Especially if we consider, that they could not then be received as Chriftians, till they had undergone several examinations, Persons of riper years, who flocked daily into the Church during the three first centuries, were obliged to pass through many repeated instructions, and give a strict account of their proficiency, before they were admitted to baptism. And as for those who were born of Christian parents, and had been baptised in their infancy, they were with the like care prepared and disciplined for confirmation, which they could not arrive at, till they were found upon examination to have made a sufficient progress in the knowledge of christianity.
XIII. We must further observe, that there was not only in those times this re
ligious conversation among private Christians, but a constant correspondence between the Churches that were established by the Apostles or their successors, in the several parts of the world. If any new doctrine was started, or any fact reported of our Saviour, a strict enquiry was made among the Churches, especially those planted by the Apostles themfelves, whether they had received any such doctrine or account of our Saviour, from the mouths of the Apostles, or the tradition of those Christians, who had preceded the present members of the Churches, which were thus consulted. By this means, when any novelty was published, it was immediately detected and cenfurec.
XIV. St. John, who lived so many years after our Saviour, was appealed to in these emergencies, as the living Oracle of the Church, and as his oral testimony lasted the first century, many have obferved that, by a particular providence of God, several of our Saviour's Disciples, and of the early converts of his religion, lived 10 a very great age, that they might personally convey the truth of the Gospel to those times, which were
very remote from the first publication of it. Of these, besides St. John, we have a remarkable instance in Simeon, who was one of the Seventy set forth by our Saviour to publifh the Gospel before his crucifixion, and a near Kinfman of the Lord. This venerable per. fon, who had probably heard with his own ears our Saviour's prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, presided over the Church established in that city, during the time of its memorable siege, and drew his congregation out, of those dreadful and unparallel'd calamities which befel his countrymen, by following the advice our Saviour had given, when they should see Jerusalem encompassed with armies, and the Roman standards, or abomination of defolation, set up. He lived till the year of our Lord 107, when he was martyr'd under the Emperor Trajan.