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very beautifully that the principles of law are divine and eternal, and independent of human enactment, because they are but the will of the Deity”; but the Roman law considered the magistrate to be the dispenser and the interpreter of that divine will ; and neither King, Consul, Dictator, Tribune, Senate, nor Emperor, ever appear to have once thought of the great principle of Christianity, upon which the whole Catholic Church of Christ, (considered as a society of persons, who have exercised their reason, and believe because they have done so,) is, and must be built; namely, that every individual, as the guardian of his own soul, and as the friend of the souls of others, is empowered to form and to submit his religious faith to others'. The laws of Pagan Rome, notwithstanding the theory of its greatest orator and philosopher, taught the people (A.U.c. 445) that whatever might be the national distresses, no new modes of propitiating the Deity were to be allowed; the gods of Rome alone ought to be worshipped; and that worship ought only to be offered according to the customs observed by their ancestors *. Neither was this law temporary nor occasional. Similar enactments were made when the Senate was justly alarmed at the progress of immorality at Rome under the influence of the initiators of the people into the mysteries and rites of the Bacchanals. The Consul then reminded the assembled Senate that their ancestors prohibited any foreign religious rites ; that they banished wandering sacrificers and diviners from the assemblies of the people, whether in the circus, the city, or the forum ; that they burned their books, and abolished every form of worship, but that which the laws of Rome established : for this severity was the only means of preventing the destruction of religion. The nearest approach to toleration, however,
mentem esse dicebant, omnia ratione aut cogentis, aut vetantis Dei; ex qua illa lex, quam Dii humano generi dederunt, recte est laudata. Est enim ratio mensque sapientis, ad jubendum, et ad deterrendum idonea
Neque enim esse mens divina sine ratione potest, nec ratio divina non hanc vim in rectis pravisque sanciendis habere : nec quia nusquam erat scriptum, ut contra omnes hostium copias in ponte unus assisteret, a tergoque pontem interscindi juberet, idcirco minus Coclitem illum rem gessisse tantam, fortitudinis lege atque imperio putabimus : nec si regnante Tarquinio nulla erat Romæ scripta lex de stupris, idcirco non contra illam legem sempiternam Sex. Tarquinius vim Lucretiæ attulit.—Cicero, De Legibus, lib. ii. & iv. Opp. iv. 332, 333, edit. Lutet. fol. 1565.
? Quamobrem lex vera atque princeps, apta ad jubendum, et ad vetandum, ratio est recta summi Jovis.—Cicero, De Legibus, lib. ii. Siv.
3 Even Dio Chrysostom, who makes the general religious sense of all mankind, the jugutos äraolv å vOpú TOLÇénivora, to be the first source of religion, never imagines that the expression of opinions resulting from the participation by an individual of this universal sense is to be permitted.-Rose's Neander, Church of the first three Centuries, vol. i. page 81.
4 Nec corpora modo affecta tabo, sed animos quoque multiplex religio, et pleraque externa, invasit; novos ritus sacrificando, vaticinando inferentibus in domos, quibus quæstui sunt capti superstitione animi: donec publicus jam pudor ad primores civitatis pervenit, cernentes in omnibus vicis sacellisque peregrina atque insolita piacula pacis Deûm exposcendæ. Datum inde negotium Ædilibus, ut animadverterent, ne qui, nisi Romani Dii, neu quo alio more, quam patrio, colerentur.—Livy, lib. iv. cap. xxx. tom. i. p. 378, edit. Amst. 1678.
5 Quoties hoc patrum avorumque ætate negotium est magistratibus datum, ut sacra externa
was made at this time. After the criminals were punished, a clause was added to the law, that if any person deemed the observance of such religious ceremonies required by the gods, and essential to the right performance of his duty to them; he might petition the Prætor, and the Prætor might lay the case before a full Senate; and permission might be granted that five persons might be present, with their consent, at a foreign sacrifice, provided they had no common fund set apart for religious services; nor a president over their sacred rites, nor an appointed priest. This, in fact, amounted to a prohibition; and can scarcely be called an exception to the general law, which is expressly quoted by Valerius Maximus as the common law of Rome'. The same exclusive principle is laid down by Cicero as one of the fundamental laws of antiquity. He deemed it essential to the safety and peace of the state, that no man should be permitted to pay homage to any gods but those which are acknowledged and recognized by the state ; and that the temples in which they worship should be those only which their ancestors allowed. So we may interpret the words. Even in their own families they were to observe only the ancient rites & of religion. And other laws of the same nature might be referred to, as proving the same point, namely, that the abstract privilege granted to every soul of man to inquire, think, form, and express his own religious conclusions from the
fieri vetarent, sacrificulos vatesque foro, circo, urbe prohiberent, vaticinos libros conquirerent comburerentque, omnem disciplinam sacrificandi, præterquam more Romano, abolerent? Judicabant enim prudentissimi viri omnis divini humanique juris, nihil æque dissolvendæ religionis esse, quam ubi non patrio, sed externo ritu sacrificaretur.—Livy, lib. xxxix. cap. xvi. tom. iii. P. 578, edit. Amst. 1678.
6 Scnatus consulto cautum est, si quis tale sacrum solenne et necessarium duceret, nec sine religione et piaculo se id omittere posse, apud prætorem urbanum profiteretur, prætor senatum consuleret, si ei permissum esset, cum in senatu centum non minus essent, ita id sacrum faceret, dum ne plus quinque sacrificio interessent; neu qua pecunia communis, neu quis magister sacrorum, aut sacerdos esset.—Livy, lib. xxxix. cap. xviii. tom. iii. p. 581, edit. Amst. 1678.
? I subjoin the Summary of the Laws on Religion, given by Valerius. He wrote in the reign of Tiberius.
De peregrina religione rejecta.
1. BACCHANALIUM sacrorum mos novus institutus, cum ad perniciosam vesaniam iretur, sublatus est.
Lutatius, qui primum Punicum bellum confecit, a senatu prohibitus est, sortes Fortuna Prænestinæ adire. Auspiciis enim patriis, non alienigenis, rempublicam administrari oportere judicabant.
2. C. Cornelius Hispallus prætor peregrinus, M. Popilio Lænate, Cn. Calpurnio Coss., edicto Chaldæos intra decimum diem abire ex Urbe atque Italia jussit ; levibus et ineptis ingeniis, fallaci siderum interpretatione, quæstuosam mendaciis suis caliginem injicientes. Idem, qui Sabazii Jovis cultu simulato mores Romanos inficere conati sunt, domos suas repetere coëgit.
3. L. Æmilius Paulus consul, cum senatus Isidis et Serapidis fana diruenda censuisset, eaque nemo opificum attingere auderet, posita prætexta securim arripuit, templique ejus foribus inflixit.—Valerius Maximus, lib. i. cap. iii. p. 39, edit. Lugd. Bat. 1670.
& Separatim nemo habessit Deos: neve novos, sed nec advenas, nisi publice adscitos, privatim colunto. Constructa a patribus delubra in urbibus habento.
Ritus familiæ patrumque servanto.-Cicero, De Legibus, lib. ii. cap. viii. p. 334.
VOL. II. PART IV.
evidence which Revelation, Reason, and the Church submit to him, was totally unknown to Pagan and Heathen Romeo.
Such, then, were the laws of the empire when Christianity began its aggressions on the mass of immorality and corruption which had overspread the world. The whole family of man had apostatized from the ancient patriarchism and the worship of the one Creator, to follow the innumerable superstitions, which, however uniform or diversified, or gross or elegant, or vulgar or refined, were all united in this one point; that they continued the curse upon the soul by separating morality from religion, and alienating the spirit of man from his only happiness. Under the influence of such laws', Christianity may be justly said to have been in one constant state of persecution. Thirty-four emperors ruled from Tiberius to Constantine. The nature, extent, and intensity of the persecution, or persecutions, have been gravely and fiercely discussed ?
The number of the greater or more active persecutions have been fixed at ten, or at six; but under the influence of such laws, the professors of the Christian faith were subject to constant, unwearied, unintermitted persecution, arising from the same combined causes, and variously ending in exile, misery, and death. As it was with the Master, so it was with His followers. Whether the laws against their faith were enforced or not by the Edicts of the Emperors, it was with them as with Christ and His immediate Disciples. No actual Edict was issued by Tiberius to cause the crucifixion of Christ. No such Edict was necessary to cause the persecution of His followers. The public law was their persecutor, and the populace clamoured for their destruction. The philosopher derided them and encouraged the populace. The Pagan devotee, who sought the favour and protection of his idle deities, swelled the cry against them. Sometimes the Magistrates tempered with clemency the severity of the imperial decrees. Sometimes the Emperor checked the cruelty of the Magistrate, while the executioner and soldier were alike at hand; as unconscious of cruelty as the hook, the sword, or the fire with which their victims were exterminated, to accomplish the decree either of the superior or inferior Magistrate. Neither was it till the Edict of Gallienus (260) that the common reproach of the vulgar was removed. “ The law does not license vou. The law does not sanction your secret meetings. The law does not recognize your ceremonies, rites, and faith'."-But as Christ by His patience and endurance, and by
9 Neander, vol. i. p. 80, &c., has collected many. The whole of his chapter on this subject will amply repay perusal.
1 One of the best summaries of these laws, and of the account also of the state of the early Church, and of the empire under their influence, is that of Neander, History of the Christian Religion, &c. &c. &c., vol. i. p. 80-180.
2 The names of Kortholt (De Decem Persecutionibus), Ruinart (Acta Sincera Prim. Martyrum), Dodwell (xith Dissertation on Cyprian), Gibbon (with Guizot’s and Milman's notes on the celebrated xvith Chapter), Bishop Kaye (Lectures on Tertullian, 114–158), will occur to the student.
3 “Non licet esse vos,” says Tertullian, was the common language of the populace. I refer the student to Neander on this point.
withholding the exercise of His Divine power, by which He might have inflicted personal torments upon His very enemies when they were subjecting Him to sufferings and death, went forth conquering and to conquer; so did His followers proceed from the seventy places, countries, and districts, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as the first scenes of their labours *; secretly or openly, abroad or at home, by their lives and by their teaching, effectually and surely conquer the conquerors of the world. They neither rebelled against princes nor conspired against governments, nor repelled force by force; yet they were persecuted till the world was threatened with a return to barbarism; and the very
civilization of the empire was threatened with destruction if the persecutions were continued. The toleration of Christianity, therefore, was enforced upon their imperial rulers by severe necessity and prudent policy; before it was sanctioned by the wavering conclusions, or the religious principles, or the public profession of Constantine. This permission of toleration may be undoubtedly imputed to worldly motives alone. The decision of Constantine, and his probably sincere conversion to the imperfect Christianity which permitted him to combine much of his former veneration for Paganism with his new homage to Christ, can only be imputed to the motives declared by himself, asserted by his biographer, and confirmed by his whole history. Constantine declared that his first impressions in favour of Christianity were produced by the answer of one of the Pagan sacrificers to the question, -—“who those just men might be against whom the persecuting Edicts were enacted 6."
• Consult Fabricius, Salutaris Lux Evangelii toti Orbi per Divinam Gratiam exoriens, &c. Hamburgh, 1771, p. 83–92.
5 Euseb. Vit. Const. lib. ii. c. li. ηκροώμην τότε κομιδή παίς υπάρχων, πως ο κατ' εκείνο καιρού παρά τους Ρωμαίων αυτοκράτορσιν έχων τα πρωτεία, δείλαιος, αληθώς δεέλαιος, πλάνη την ψυχήν ηπατημένος, παρά των δορυφορούντων αυτόν, τίνες αν είεν οι προς τη γη δίκαιοι πολυπραγμονών επυνθάνετο, και τις των περί αυτόν θυηπόλων αποκριθείς, Χριστιανοί δήπουθεν έφη. This has not been sufficiently observed by his biographers. His conversion has been attributed to the supposition that he saw the shining cross in the heaven. But he had long been previously " disposed to protect and embrace Christianity, which his "father indeed had greatly favoured.” (Jortin, Rem. on Eccles. Hist. vol. iii. p. 159); and this disposition was produced by the cause I mention.
We still require a good dissertation on the early persecutious, and on their gradual effect upon the Pagans. It does not seem to be generally known, that whatever were the laws of Rome respecting the licitæ or illicitæ religiones, repeated edicts were published by the Emperors in favour of Christianity. The arguments of Gibbon (chap. xvi. Milman’s ed. vol. ii. p. 447) compel us to reject the tradition preserved by Tertullian, that Tiberius, on the report of Pontius Pilate, requested the Senate to place Christ among the gods of Rome ; but the same patient suffering which excited in Pilate, pity, surprise, and desire to release Christ Himself, seems to have been felt by other magistrates. As Pilate felt but contempt at the clamour of the Jews, when he said, “Behold your king,” so Domitian 1 despised and released the reputed relatives
1 Euseb. Ηist. Eccl. iii. 20. Τούτους [εε. τους από γένους Δαβίδ] ο Ίουόκατος ήγαγε προς Δομετιανόν καίσαρα, εφοβείτο γαρ την παρουσίας του Χριστού ως και Ηρώδης .... 'Εφ' οίς μηδέν αυτών κατεγνωκότα τον Δομετιανόν, αλλά και ως ευτελών καταφρονήσαντα, ελευθέρους uèy aúto's áveivai.—Tom. i. p. 226. ed. Heinich.
His father had protected the Christians in Britain. The tyrant who suspected his father and oppressed himself, persecuted the Christians. He observed the firmness, the devotion, the holiness, the patience of these just men. They were not free from human infirmities; but they were neither cruel, revengeful, licentious, nor abominable as were their persecutors; and he was un
unavoidably impressed with admiration at the contrast. This seems to have been the foundation of his change. He was ignorant of the true God; but there can be no reason to doubt either his own declaration, that he favourably observed the conduct of the Christians ; neither may we doubt the testimony of Eusebius“, that he remarked the miserable end of many of the Emperors who had been most devoted to the service of the Gods of Paganism; and that he sought, therefore, some other Deity whom he might worship and implore to be propitious to him. He remembered, says Eusebius, the prosperity of his father, who had hesitated to worship the Gods of Paganism, who condemned
of our Saviour. The rescript of Trajan to Pliny, implies the consciousness of perfect safety to the State, whatever might be the secret meetings of the scattered Christians 2. The Edict of Antonine is not supposed to be genuines. The Edict of Gallienus * merely commanded that none should injure (@ote undeva vpiv ivoxiciv) the Christians, and that their cemeteries, koluntípia, be restored 5. Maxentius found the Christians at Rome so powerful, that he courted them by affecting to be a Christian, and commanded the suspension of the persecutions-τον κατά Χριστιανών ανείναι προστάττει διωγμόν, ευσέβειαν επιμορφάζωνTrv kal' nuās notiv— kaOuterpivato.- Euseb. viii. 14. The Notes of Gibbon, Milman, and Guizot, on the character of Maxentius, should be read.–Gibbon, ch. xvi. The Edict of the dying Galerius (311), confessed the impossibility of restoring Paganism, by acknowledging that, though he had desired to restore the old religion, he found it advisable to grant to the Christian Society in all parts of the empire, the freedom of possessing their private opinions 6. Two years after, the Edict of Milan was published, and the doctrine of toleration became, for a time, a principle of the Roman law.
I may observe here, that the student will derive much instruction from comparing the references and remarks of Guizot and Milman on Gibbon ; though neither they nor the sneering infidel upon whose labours they comment, display the least proof of that high spiritualmindedness which the men of the world call weakness. With all their care on the subject of references, however, the student will sometimes be misled when he endeavours to verify them. For instance: in the notes of Gibbon on this very Edict of Milan, an author is quoted by Gibbon, who, strange to say, had no existence ; and neither Milman nor Guizot have observed the incorrectness. After quoting Lactantius in note 14, reference is made to Cæcilius ; and in note 15, reference is again made to Cæcilius : whereas Cæcilius is but the prenomen of Lactantius, whose name was Lucius Cæcilius Lactantius Firmianus.
6 Vit. Const. ii. 54. In the Edict which Constantine addressed to the provinces of the East, he gives an interesting account of the reasonings which passed through his own mind, and induced him to embrace Christianity. One of these reasons was, that he could not but notice that those persons who had been most forward in persecuting the Christians, and had consulted the oracles to find authority for so doing, were punished by God for their cruelty and irreligion. ? Gibbon, ch, xvi.
3 Milman's Notes on Gibbon’s xvith chapter. 4 Euseb. vii. 13.
5 Euseb, vii. 13. 6 αφορώντες εις την ημετέραν φιλανθρωπίαν και την διηνεκή συνήθειαν, δι' ής ειώθαμεν άπασιν ανθρώπους συγγνώμην απονέμειν, .... ίνα αύθις ώσι Χριστιανοί, και τους οίκους εν οίς συνήγοντο, συνθώσιν ούτως, ώστε μηδέν υπεναντίον της επιστήμης αυτούς πράττειν. Euseb. Hist. Eccl. viii. 17. tom. iii. p. 76.