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be easily accommodated to similar events which stand upon the records of history, down to our times, and their effects will probably be felt by many who are yet


1. The doctrine of the cross perhaps was, and always will be, the capital offence. The Christians professed to place all their hopes on the actions and sufferings of one who died, to all appearance, like a common malefactor. This, considered in one view, was thought such a kind and degree of infatuation, as provoked the most sovereign and universal contempt; and, in another view, it raised a grave concern for the interests of morality and virtue in those whose pride was flattered by their own empty declamations on those sounding topics. Every thing that was evil, they thought, might be expected from men who openly declared that they hoped for eternal happiness, not for their own works, which in this connexion they depreciated and renounced, but on account of the righteousness and mediation of another. If it was possible that Christians could maintain that course of conduct which the Gospel requires, and at the same time conceal the principles and motives on which they act, they might, perhaps, come off more easily with the world; for the justice, temperance, goodness, and truth which become their high calling, are suited to conciliate peace with all men. But their principles must not, cannot, be concealed. Those who know and love Jesus, and are sensible of their immense obligations to him, will glory in him, and in him only; they will avow, that it is not by their own power or holiness that they escape the pollutions of the world, but that they derive all their strength from faith in his blood, and from the supports of his grace. They dare not conceal this, nor do they

desire it, though they are sensible that the world, whether it bears the name of Heathen or Christian, will hate and despise them for it.


2. The Romans, though attached to their old system of idolatry, were not averse to the admission of new divinities, upon the ground of what a modern writer calls, a spirit of intercommunity; that is, every one had liberty to adopt what worship he pleased, provided due honour was given to the ancient establishments. The votaries of the Egyptian, Roman, and Syrian deities, while they paid some peculiar regard to their own favourites, indulged each other in a mutual acknowledgment of the rest; but the religion of Jesus was absolutely incompatible with them all, would admit of no competition, and his followers could not avoid declaring, upon all occasions, that " they were no gods that were made with hands." On this account they were considered as a most uncharitable, proud, and narrow, hearted sect; as the Jews, for the same reason, had been before them. And thus it will always be. Nothing will more effectually secure a man in the peaceful possession of his own errors, than his pleadings for the indifference of error in general, and allowing those who most widely differ from him to be all right in their own way; and this lukewarm comprehension, which is a principal part of that pretended candour and charity for which our own times are so remarkable, preserves a sort of intercourse or confederacy amongst multitudes, who are hardly agreed in any one thing but their joint opposition to the spirit and design of the Gospel. But they who love the truth cannot but declare against every deviation from it; they are obliged to decline the proposed intercommunity, and to vindicate the commands and institutions of God from

the inventions and traditions of men: they not only build for themselves upon the foundation which God has laid in Zion, but they are free to profess their belief, that "other foundation can no man lay;" that "there is no other name given under heaven by which a "sinner can be saved," and that none can have an interest in this name but by that faith which purifies the heart, works by love, and overcomes the world: therefore they always have been, and always will be, hated, as uncharitable and censorious; and are sure to be treated accordingly, so far as opportunity and circumstances will permit those who think themselves aggrieved to discover their resentment.

3. The wisest and most respectable characters among the Heathen rulers, either for reasons of state, or from their own superstition, were generally the most solicitous to preserve the old religion from innovations. The history of mankind furnishes us with frequent proofs, that persons, in other respects of the greatest penetration and genius, have often been as blindly devoted to the absurdities of a false religion as the weakest among the vulgar; or if they had seen the folly of many things that have the sanction of antiquity and custom, yet the maxims of a false policy, and that supposed connexion and alliance between the established religion and the welfare of the state, which has been instilled into them from their infancy, induce them to think it their interest, if not their duty, to keep up the same exterior, and to leave things as they found them. Trajan seems to have been influenced by these considerations. He was zealous for the Heathen system, in which he had been educated, and regarded it, (as the Romans were accustomed to do,) as the basis, or at least the chief security, of the government. The Christians therefore were to be

punished, not only for their obstinacy in maintaining their own opinions, but as being eventually enemies to the state; for though their conduct was peaceable, and they paid a cheerful obedience to laws and governors, while they did not interfere with that obedience they owed to Christ their supreme Lord, yet their doctrines, which struck at the very root of idolatry, made them accounted dangerous to society, and deserving to be exterminated from it.

4. These suspicions were strengthened by the great success and spread the Gospel obtained in this first century. Within the compass of a few years it had extended to almost every part of the Roman empire. In this view it appeared formidable, and called for a speedy and vigorous suppression, before it should become quite insuperable by the accession of fresh strength and numbers. But the event did not answer their expectation. Believers grew and multiplied, in defiance of all the cruelties exercised upon them: the numbers and constancy of the sufferers, and the gentle spirit of meekness, forgiveness, and love, which they discovered, often made lasting impressions upon the people, sometimes upon their tormentors and judges; and, by the blessing of God upon their doctrine, thus powerfully recommended by their conduct, and sealed by their blood, new converts were continually added to the church.

5. When it was thus determined to extirpate, if possible, these odious and dangerous people, pretexts and occasions were always ready; slanderous reports concerning their tenets and assemblies were industriously promoted and willingly believed. Some of these took their rise from misapprehension; some were probably invented by those who apostatized from the church, who, to justify themselves, as well as to evince their

sincerity, pretended to make discoveries of horrid evils that prevailed amongst them, under the disguise of religion. Many, who would not have invented such stories themselves, were, however, well pleased to circulate what they had heard, and took it for granted that every thing was true which confirmed the opinion they had before entertained of this pestilential and despicable sect. But neither violence nor calumny could prevail against the cause and people of God and his Christ: they were supported by an almighty arm; and though many had the honour to lay down their lives in this glorious cause, many more were preserved by his providence in the most dangerous circumstances.

The Gospel of Christ, though contradictory to the received opinions, laws, customs, and pursuits of every place where it appeared, though unsupported either by arts or arms, though opposed by power and policy on every side, in a space of about sixty-six years from our Lord's ascension, (according to the promise he gave his disciples,) had spread successively from Jerusalem, through Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the earth. Christians were to be found in every province where the Roman power ruled, and in most of their principal cities; and though not many noble, mighty, or wise were called, yet some there were, and the power of the grace of Jesus was displayed in every rank of life. Courtiers, senators, and commanders, notwithstanding the difficulty of their situation, were not ashamed of his cross; and some of the learned obtained that peace and happiness, by embracing his Gospel, which they had sought to no purpose in the vain intricacies of a false philosophy. Nor was the success of the Gospel confined within the limits of the Roman empire, but extended eastward to Parthia and Babylon, where the Roman eagles were not acknowledged. We

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