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the work of Tatian. “Nothing is known of his death.” The only work of his remaining extant is an Oration to the Greeks (III. 4, 8-10, 20). Hegesippus is an historian on whom Eusebius has much relied. “Our principal source of information in regard to Hegesippus is Eusebius. The historian derived all his knowledge of Hegesippus from his own work.” He adverts to games in honour of Antinous, the favourite slave of Hadrian, as having been instituted in his day. This would place him in the time of Hadrian. Eusebius alleges that he “lived during the time of the first succession of the apostles." He carries him on to the era of Marcus Aurelius. The work of Hegesippus is not now extant, and we are dependent upon the reports thereof by Eusebius (III. 182-184). Dionysius of Corinth is of the same alleged period. “The only information which we have with regard to this Dionysius is derived from Eusebius, and relates almost exclusively to his letters.” His writings have not been preserved. Dionysius is said to have mentioned Pinytus, Phillippus, and Soter as writers of the time of Aurelius, and Eusebius adds the names of Modestus and Musanus. Nothing, however, is known of any of these (III. 214, 218, 219). We come now to Melito, to whose statement that the Christians had not suffered persecution in the earlier times preceding him I have already had occasion to advert. He is said to have addressed an apology to Marcus Aurelius. “We know nothing of his life, except that he went, as he tells us himself, to the East.” “Our principal authority in regard to the works of Melito is Eusebius” (III. 221-223). Apollinaris also is said to have presented an apology to Marcus Aurelius. Nothing is known of him but that he is mentioned by Eusebius, who cites Serapion (III. 240). There is furthermore a letter said to have been addressed by the churches in Vienna and Lugdunum to the brethren in Asia (Minor) and Phrygia, respecting a violent persecution of the Christians represented to have broken out in Gaul. In his Chronicon Eusebius states this to have occurred in the seventh year of Marcus Aurelius, and in his history in the seventeenth. For extracts from this letter we are dependent on Eusebius. “The style of the letter,” Dr Donaldson observes, “is loose. It abounds in antitheses and strong expressions. It also mixes up incongruous figures.
brethren in the churchermore a
Its statements are not, therefore, to be looked on as cold historical accuracies.” Dr Donaldson at the same time accepts the production as a genuine representation by some one, it is not known whom, in behalf of the churches in question (III. 250, 251, 256, 262).
Some of those who are said to have been of the time of Marcus Aurelius are traced onwards to that of his successor Commodus. One of these is Theophilus. “Our information with regard to Theophilus is derived from his own work, and from the short notice which Eusebius gives of him and his writings. We do not know where he was born.” “Theophilus mentions the death of Marcus Aurelius, but says nothing of the death of Commodus." He gives the age of the world from the creation as 5695 years, which corresponds with the year of the death of Marcus Aurelius (Donaldson, III. 63-66). Another is Athenagoras, of whom we know only through Philip Sidetes and the inscription prefixed in the manuscripts to his writings. Philip of Sida was a Christian writer of the fifth century (Smith, Dict.), removed thus by two centuries and a half from the era of Marcus Aurelius. Dr Donaldson considers him unreliable as an historian. The inscription purports that Athenagoras addressed the emperors Marcus Aurelius, and Commodus. “At what time this inscription was written, and on what authority, are matters entirely unknown.” “He speaks of the emperors as surpassing all, as much in the extent and accuracy of their learning as in prudence and power; and as excelling all in piety to the real godhead.” “Every nation,” he is represented as saying to the emperors, “throughout your dominions follows its own customs without hindrance. The inhabitant, for instance, of Ilium regards Hector as a god; the Lacedæmonian worships Agamemnon. Everywhere the people offer what sacrifices they like to whatever god they like. This you and your laws permit, since ye deem it impious that one should not believe in a god, but necessary that each should worship the gods of his choice, that men may be restrained from vice by fear of the gods. The whole world thus enjoys deep peace. On Christians alone ye have not bestowed sufficient care, allowing us to be persecuted and plundered on no other pretence than that we bear the name of Christ. And it is not merely our
There is a work a with the writings of
with regard to this
goods that our enemies desire, but they wish to deprive us of life. We make no objection to being punished if we are found guilty ; but if the only proof of the accusation hurled against us is our name, it is the duty of your philanthropic monarchs to repel the accusation by law” (III. 107-109, 125). There is a work attributed to Hermias in which it is thought an acquaintance with the writings of Justin Martyr and Tatian is shown. “All the guesses made with regard to this Hermias are baseless, and the fragment of his work gives no clear indication of any date or circumstance in his life” (III. 179).
It is observable how many of the writers in the group we have now had in view are made to cluster round the name of Marcus Aurelius. And of these Justin introduces him in his Apology, and three others, namely Athenagoras, Melito, and Apollinaris, in like manner come before him with formal appeals in behalf of their co-religionists the Christians. The letter imputed to the churches in Gaul attributes to him an order sanctioning the proceedings taken there in the instance of those who adhered to the Christian faith (Donaldson III. 274); that is they might be tortured, fastened into iron chairs and burnt to death, or destroyed by being cast before wild beasts. I have already had occasion to observe that the alleged existence in all important cities of chains of bishops holding office in undisturbed succession, and the very productions of these apologists, forbid the idea, that in these times to be known as a Christian, of itself entailed the forfeiture of life. There is an incident in the career of Marcus Aurelius, as made use of by the Christians, which also wars against the imputation that he was a party to the alleged intolerance and persecution. This is the circumstance of what has been designated The Thundering Legion. An opportune shower of rain in one of his military expeditions saved his army from drought, and enabled them to gain an important victory over their enemies. The Latin writers ascribed this deliverance to the enchantments of magicians, or the prayers of their emperor. The Christian writers allege that it was due to the prayers of Christian soldiers in one of his legions, who threw themselves on their knees, according to their usage, when drawn up in battle array before the enemy, and called
down the blessing. “There are epistles of the most learned emperor Marcus still extant,” says the unhesitating Tertullian, “in which he himself bears testimony, that when his army was ready to perish for want of water, it was saved by the Christians” (Euseb., Ec. Hist. v. 5). If Christians were admitted into the imperial army and allowed openly to practise their adorations, it is apparent that the sect enjoyed free toleration in the reign of this emperor. The incident in question is said to have occurred in the year 174, in a contest with the Quadi (Smith, Dict.), and is therefore associated with the latter portion of his reign. Dr Smith, however, accepts all the current declarations of persecutions in this reign, including even the unrecorded martyrdom of Justin, and the mythical account of the immolation of Polycarp. At the same time he shows that the personal character of the emperor was other than that belonging to a persecutor. He bore, he says, the distinctive epithet of “the philosopher.” When a child, Hadrian playfully designated him Verissimus, “as a tribute to the sincerity and truthfulness of his disposition;" when Cassius sought to usurp his throne, his “forgiving temper” and “lenity ” were manifested towards all concerned in the attempt. The “leading feature” in his character was his “devotion to philosophy and literature.” “In jurisprudence especially, he laboured throughout life with great activity, and his constitutions are believed to have filled many volumes.” Is it possible that the edicts of such a man could have been directed to the destruction of an innocent race practising godliness in their own form? “The education and pursuits of M. Aurelius exercised the happiest influence upon a temper and disposition naturally calm and benevolent.” “He was firm without being obstinate; he steadily maintained his own principles without manifesting any overweening contempt for the opinions of those who differed from himself; his justice was tempered with gentleness and mercy.” “In public life, he sought to demonstrate practically the truth of the Platonic maxim, ever on his lips, that those states only could be truly happy which were governed by philosophers, or in which the kings and rulers were guided by the tenets of pure philosophy.” “No monarch was ever more widely or more deeply beloved. The people believed that he had been sent down by the gods, for a time, to bless mankind, and had now returned to the heaven from which he descended.” Surely this was not the man to have authorized the alleged persecutions in Gaul, or to have called forth the efforts of the so-called Apologists.
The Jewish historians, as I have endeavoured to show, by their silence, exclude the possibility of the Christian movement having taken effect in the first century of the asserted Christian era, and the testimony of the reputed Christian authors must be considered, in an historical point of view, as an absolute blank to the reign of Commodus, or for a hundred and fifty years from the asserted death of Christ. After this, the writers of note were Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Irenæus, Origen, and Hippolytus, who are said to have flourished from A.D. 180 to 222; and Cyprian and Dionysius, stated to be of A.D. 250 and 254. There were also certain noted so-called heretics of an alleged earlier time, as Menander, Saturninus, Basilides, Valentinus, Cerdon, and Marcion. The whole, I believe, depend on the sole authority of Eusebius for the times they lived in. Of all these writers Irenæus is the most important for the cause of Christianity, and unfortunately none of them present a more dubious aspect as to true being and era than he does. He associates himself in his youth with the mythical Polycarp, who is alleged to have been contemporary with the apostles, and is traceable to the time of Victor, the asserted thirteenth bishop of Rome, or, according to the current chronology, A.D. 192 (Euseb., Ec. Hist. iv. 14; v. 24). His personal testimony must therefore be spread over something like a hundred years. The probability is that these writers, on whom Eusebius depends, lived much nearer than stated to his own time ; otherwise, we have him working out his history provided with testimonies for the earlier ages, and devoid thereof for approaching a century when he arrives at his own period.
The case for Christianity thus is, that in the early portion of the fourth century we have the system openly recognized and established through the efforts of the sanguinary Constantine, supported by the unreliable Eusebius; that what occurred before their time is shadowy and uncertain ; and that the utmost that can be done is to point to a class of possibly reliable literature which may show the existence of the creed during an antecedent period of a century and a half, beyond