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sentence, that, when properly read and understood, betrays the Writer to have had any suspicion, that Jesus was the Mefliah, or even a Teacher sent from God. On the other hand, some expreilions, he says, plainly imply him to have been perfuaded of the contrary; and the whole, taken together, seems to be the composition of a person, perfectly satisfied, that the Christian scheme could not be true : astonished, however, at some amazing appearances in its favour, but artfully evading the force of them, avoiding to enter into the merits of the affair, and yet affecting to give a seemingly płausible account of its original.
A short view of the whole paragraph, he says, will best illustrate and confirm what he advances : it may be fairly rendered, he thinks, in the following manner. But about this tine appears one Jesus, a man of great abilities, if indeed she may be properly stiled a mere man. For he was a worker of wonders, a teacher of people, who embraced his new and 'extraordinary doctrines with eagerness. And he led away inany, not only of the Jews, but also of the Gentiles after him.
Tlvis was the person so well known by the name of Christ, And though Pilate, upon the impeachment brought by the principal persons of our nation against him, caused him to be crucified, they who had before entertained an affection for him, did not desist. For he appeared to them to be alive again on the third day; their own preachers at least having reported both these and numberless other wonderful things concerning him. And the feet of the Christians, who received their deno'mination from this person, are not extinct even to this day.
Dr. Lardner makes some very pertinent observations on this new turn given to the passage in question, and on what the Author of the Differtation farther advances in support of his opinion, and then proceeds to consider some objections contained in a letter received from a learned friend, who efpouses the same side of the question with the Author of the Differtation. After this, he sums up the whole argument with some additional remarks, and concludes with observing, that it is the wisdom and the interest of Christians to adhere to, and improve the genuine works of Josephus, instead of endeavouring to vindicate passages, which are so justly suspected to be interpolations.
We now proceed to the work itself, in the first chapter of which, we have a very full and particular account of Pliny's letter to Trajan, and Trajan's rescript, with notes, obfervations, and the opinions of several learned men concerning them. Some have aggravated the severity of Trajan, others have extolled his moderation beyond measure ; Dr. Lardner represents his character and that of Pliny with great freedom and impartiality ; seeins to take pleasure in displaying the amiable part of
their character, and to censure what was wrong in their conduet with tenderness and reluctance.
Towards the conclufion of this long chapter, we have the following general remarks. **' 1. These epistles are justly esteemed by learned men, as very valuable. They are the only authentic accounts of the persecution in Pontus and Bithynia, which we have. Indeed those epistles have been referred to by. Tertullian, and Eufebius, and other later writers. But we bave no history of it by any Christian writer, who lived at that time. Whence this has come to pass, cannot be certainly said. We may regret it, but we cannot help it, and should acquiefce, and improve what we have, as well as we can.
• 2. We see here one ground of offence against Christians. They drew men off from the worship of the Heathen deities. Their temples were not so much frequented, as formerly. The Priests, and all who had a dependence upon the temples, the facrificers, the statuaries, the painters, the engravers, and others, were deprived of their wonted gain. This must have made the Christians many fierce enemies in all parts. An early -instance of this kind is recorded by St. Luke, Acts. xix. 23.
3. Here is a remarkable evidence of the great progress of the Chriftian religion in a short space. There never was any such thing as Christianity heard of in the world, before the reign of Tiberius. It was not fourscore years,
since the crucifixion of Jesus, when Pliny wrote this letter, nor seventy years, fince the disciples of Jesus began to make any mention of him to Gentiles. And yer there were at this time great numbers of men, whom Pliny once and again plainly calls Christians, in that part of Asia, where he presided, at a great distance from Judea. Christians there were every where, throughout the whole extent of his province, in cities, in villages, and in the open country. There were persons of all ages, of every rank and condition, and of each fex, and some Roman citizens, who had embraced this principle. They abounded so much in those parts, that there was a visible desertion of the temples. Beasts, brought to market for victims, had few purchasers. The annual sacred folemnities were much neglected. So many were accused, and were in danger of suffering upon account of the prevalence of this opinion, as gave the President no small concern.
. Moreover, there were not only many at this time, who bore that name: but there had been such people there a good while: some several years before: and one, or more, broughe before Pliny, bad professed Christianity and forsaken it, twenty years before. By which we are assured, that there were Christians here before the year of our Lord ninety, and within Rev. Jan. 1766.
fixty years after the crucifixion of Jesus. And indeed the great number of Christians found in this country by Pliny affords good reason to believe, that Christianity had been planted there many years before his arrival. Such an increase must have been the work of time.
I do not say, nor think, that the Christians were the majority of the people in Pontus and Bithynia. But I suppose we may conclude from what Pliny writes, that there were then many Chriftians in every part of those countries.
4. They who were called Christians, were very resolute, and steady in this profession. Which must have been owing to fome cauie or other. Jesus had been crucified, as a malefactor. And there were great numbers of men, who had a great refpe&t' for him, and could not by any means be compelled, as Pliny. was afured, to speak ill of him. And this Governor found those informations, which had been given him, to be true. For there were men brought before him, who, when he interrogated them, whether they were Christians, confefled they were. And though threatened by him with death, they persevered in that confession, and therefore were by him ordered away for execution.
. It is reasonable to think, that this was owing to some-authentic informations, which they had received concerning Jiefus, and his exemplary life, and excellent doctrine, confirmed by miraculous works, and a full persuasion of the truth of them, as also of his returrection from the dead, and his exaltation to power and dominion after his crucifixion.
• It could not well be owing to any thing, but such evidences of these things, as are contained in the books of the New Testament. What else could have induced so many men to take upon them the name of Christ, and profess themselves to be his followers? though all men knew, he had fuffered an ignominious death? . They lived near enough to the time of jesus, to know, whether there had been any extraordinary 2ppearances in his favour, during bis abode on this carth, at his death, and after it, Without credible information of some such things, it is unaccountable, that any number of men hould take us on the in this profession, and persevere in it, notwithstanding the many difficulties, to which they were expored.
"If it nould le faid, they were not all constant: there were fome, who abandoned this profeffion. It is allowed. Sure fuch. there were. But they seem to have been but few, in compari!on of those who persevered. For Pliny saw, that great numbers of all sorts of people were exposed to danger. Befides, the constance of a few, in such a case, as this, is of more weight than the inconstance of many. There were many
temptations to renounce this profeffion, even contrary to conviêion. But there were no worldly inducements of any kind, to perfist in it. Untteadiness might be owing to worldly con liderations': perseverance could be owing to nothing, but a firm persuasion of the truth.
• 5. We are here assured of divers important things con. cerning the religious belief and worship of the first Christians, in which they agree with the principles and precepts delivered in the New Testament.
'1.) They d fo wned all the gods of the Heathens. They would not worship 'the images of the Emperors, or of theit Gods. The peo; le who embraced this religion, forsook tha Heathen temples and altars, and offered there no facrifices,
2.) They met together on a stated day, undoubtedly mean ing Sunday, or the Lord's day, on which Jesus Christ our Saviour rofe froin the dead. And we are assured by Justin Mar tyr, in his Apology, writ not very many years after this time, that this was the practice of all Christians in general.
* 3.) When they were assembled, as Pliny says, they sang bymn to Christ, as a God. And also engaged themselves, as by an sath, not to commit theft, or robbery, or adultery, never to falsify tbeir word, or betray any trust committed to them,
" Which account is much to the honour of these ChriNians. Their religion did not lie in abstruse speculations, of numerous rites and ceremonies, but in the worship of the one God, through Jesus Christ, and the practice of moral virtue.
4.) The Christians in Pontus and Bithynia had love feasts, or Agapai, as they are also sometimes called. Many other Christians had the like, as we learn from Tertullian. Those of the Christians in Bithynia were not held at the same time with their more folemn worship, but afterwards.
'And for avoiding offence they had omitted them.
* 5.) They also had church-officers. Pliny expressly mnentions two wonen, who were Minister's, or Deaconnesses, whom he also calls maid jervants. But, as before hinted," he might be mistaken about their condition.
Whence it came to pass, that he has mentioned no other officers anong the Christians, such as Bifhops, or Presidents, or Elders, or Deacons, cannot be faid. But it may be allowed, that the persons pitched upon by him, to be examina by torture, were as likely' as any to answer his purpose, of ons taining a knowlege of their secret practices, if the Christians bad any such among them.
6. We are here allured of the innocence and virtue of the first Christians. Both these episties, that of Pliny, and that of Trajan, bear testimony to their innocence, in iter losdemin worlhip, in their meal, fome time afterward, and in theit
whole lives. There was not any crime, beside that of their religion, proved against any of those that were brought before Pliny. Even their accusers and prosecutors appear not to have alleged any thing else against them, but that they were Christians. He examined deserters. He put to the torture two women, who were ministers, or deaconnesses. And yet he discovered nothing but what was quite harmless. The only charge against them is, an absurd superstition, and obftinacy therein.
Trajan's rescript affords as strong proof of the innocence of these men. He knew not of any offence they were guilty of, excepting only, their not supplicating to the Gods. He forbids inquiries to be made after them. And he allows pardon to those who would give proof, of their renouncing Christianity, by a public act of worship paid to the Gods, then generally received.
· The honcsty and innocence of these men, oblige us to pay a great regard to their belief and profession of the Christian religion. If they were sober and discreet, before they embraced it, may hence argue,
that there were then such evidences of its truth, as approved themselves to serious persons. If they are supposed to have been in fore time vicious and irregular, here is a strong proof of the truth and goodness of Christianity, in that it had so great an influence on mens minds at a time when they might easily know, whether it was well-grounded or not. Either way, it is an honour to these principles, that they who embraced them, maintained such innocence in their lives, that their enemies, by the stricteft inquiries, could discover nothing criminal in them.
• 7. At the fame time, that these Christians appear resolute in their adherence to Christ, and his doctrine, and will by no means be compelled to give religious worship to the Emperors, or the Heathen Deities, they pay due obedience to the orders of the civil magistrate. Their evening-meeting for partaking together in a common meal, was not a sacred ordinance of the Christian institution. When therefore Pliny published an ediet forbidding assemblies, which was cften done by the Roman Governors of provinces, becaufe of the licentious practices, which usually attended them, there Christians forbore those meetings, though they had not been used to commit any disorders in them.'
In the second chapter of this volume, (the tenth of the Collection) we have an account of Epictetus the Stoic Philosopher. --'Epictetus,' says our Author, was not unattentive to things that passed in the world about him, in his own time : as all must be tensible, who read his discourses. Nevertheless the Christians are not mentioned at all, or very feldom. It is