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When Jesus Christ made his appearance on earth, a great part of the world was subject to the Roman empire. This empire was much the largest temporal monarchy that had ever existed ; so that it was called all the world, Luke ii. 1. The time when the Romans first subjugated the land of Judea was between sixty and seventy years before Christ was born; and soon after this, the Roman empire rose to its greatest extent and splendour. To this government the world continued subject till Christ came, and many hundred years afterwards. The remote nations, that had submitted to the yoke of this mighty empire, were ruled either by Roman governors, invested with temporary commissions, or by their own princes and laws, in subordination to the republic, whose sovereignty was acknowledged, and to which the conquered kings, who were continued in their own dominions, owed their borrowed majesty.' At the same time, the Roman people, and their venerable senate, though they had not lost all shadow of liberty, were yet in reality reduced to a state of servile submission to Augustus Cæsar, who, by artifice, perfidy and bloodshed, attained an enormous degree of power, and united, in his own

person, the pompous titles of emperor, pontiff, censor, tribune of the people; in a word, all the great offices of the state.

As most of those valuable documents which could be depended upon, concerning the success and extent of the gospel among the Gentiles, in this early age of Christianity, were destroyed either by the pagan persecutors, or Gothic barbarians, it is impossible to ascertain the precise limits of the kingdom of Christ. It is quite certain, however, that through the instrumentality of St. Paul, the Christian religion was received both in Athens and Rome; the former of which beheld his triumph in their seats of learning and justice, and the latter saw the banner of the oross on the palaoe gates of their emperor.

From the Acts of the Apostles, which is the only account that can be relied



appears that by the preaching of Christ crucified, the worship of heathen deities in many parts of Asia and Europe was entirely abolished. In the year 64, Nero, the Emperor of Rome, a cruel and bloody tyrant, commenced a furious persecution against the church of God. It is probable that this persecution raged as far as the Roman authority itself extended; the number of the victims, therefore, must have been immense.

After this tyrant had lived for some time under the horrors of his guilty conscience, he was condemned, by the senate, to be put into the pillory, there to be scourged to death ; but in the year 68, after several pysillanimous efforts, he put an end to his life.

During the reign of Vespasian, the year 70, Jerusalem was taken by his son Titus.

Domitian, who was nearly equal to Nero in cruelty, renewed the persecution in the year 94; but it was of short duration, as he was put to death by his own soldiers. In the reign of Domitian, St. John the Apos. tle was banished to the isle of Patmos,

It is a melancholy reflection, that error soon reared įts hundred heads in the church of God, and the Epissles of St. John were particularly directed against those

heretics, who may be classed under the general term of Gnostics, and who, with their many absurdities, denied the Godhead of our blessed Lord. They likewise denied that he was clothed with a real body, asserting that this, together with his sufferings and trials, as stated in the Scriptures, were only in appearance. They also held, that the world was created by a malevolent being, and that rational souls were imprisoned in corrupt matter by the power of malignant spirits, contrary to the Supreme Will, who, they expected, would send a messenger to rescue miserable mortals from the chains of these usurpers. Perceiving Christ's miracles, and

therefore concluding him to be the expected messen- ger, they were induced to embrace Christianity; or

rather, to corrupt the doctrines and precepts of Christ, to reconcile them with their own tenets.


As it is well known, that at this time the greatest part of the world had been subjugated to the Roman authority, the circumstances of the church of God must consequently have been materially affected by the disposition of the Roman emperors towards it. It appears necessary, therefore, to take a view of the respective reigns of those persons into whose hands the government of the world fell.

This century began with the emperor Trajan, who can only be reproached with persecuting the Christians, on whom he had been prevailed to look with an evil eye. But this persecution was of short duration ; for Pliny, the younger, who was then consul of Bythinia, where a great number of Christians resided, having written to the emperor a very elegant letter, in which he bears witness to the innocence of the first Christians' lives, Trajan stopped the proceedings against them. During his reign, Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, suffered martyrdom.

He died Anno Domini 117, after a reign of nineteen years, and was succeeded by Adrian, during whose reign the ruin of the Jews was completed. Rufus, President of Judea, having engaged them under a mad leader, named Barchobebas, (or the son of the star,) slew many thousands, not sparing even women and children ; and forbade the survivors from coming within sight of Jerusalem. This Barchobebas asserted that he was the Messiah of the Jews, and the star predicted by the Prophet Balaam. The Jews flocked to him in crowds, verifying the prediction of our Lord Jesus Christ, “I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive."

Adrian, after having reigned upwards of twenty years, was succeeded by Antoninus, during whose reign Christianity continued to spread in the surrounding countries, notwithstanding persecutions were very frequent throughout the whole Roman empire. Justin Martyr, a celebrated philosopher, who had embraced Christianity, became their advocate ; and, in an apology which he presented to the emperor, so affectingly represented their case, that a rescript was issued, forbidding their punishment, unless for crimes. against the state; nor was the profession of Christianity to be considered as such. This holy man, whose works are still extant, was at last burnt alive at Rome, for the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Antoninus had chosen two successors, who, after his death, reigned jointly; viz. Marcus Aurelius Antoninus and Lucius Ælius Verus, which was the first instance of two emperors reigning at the same time. Ælius Verus was fond of ease and voluptuousness; but by nature averse to cruelty and injustice. After a reign of little more than eight years, he died of an apoplexy, leaving the empire to Marcus Aurelius, who countenanced accusations against Christians, under any form. During his reign, Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, added new credit to the cause of Christ, by his triumphant martyrdom.' The renowned apologist, Justin Pothe

nus, Bishop of Lyons, and many other eminent men, suffered martyrdom in this reign. A learned Christian, named Athenagorias, addressed to him a masterly apology for the Christian religion ; and it is presumed that his remonstrances had the desired effect, and convinced the emperor of the innocence of the unjustly persecuted Christians. The next emperor was Commodus, during whose reign the churches increased, and many characters of the first consequence were added to the Lord, particularly at Rome. But here, Apollonius, a senator, was accused of Christianity, and with much eloquence and boldness defended his profession before the senate; for which he was condemned to death.

Severus, who was the last emperor of this century, was an implacable enemy to Christianity. During his reign, seas of sacred blood were shed in Asia and Egypt; but at Alexandria (which Eusebius calls the noblest stadium of God) the greater number of victims fell. Some were fastened to crosses ; others torn to pieces with nails of iron; -others were exposed to wild beasts; and others burned alive.

Amongst a great number of renowned sufferers, are to be reckoned Leonides, the father of Origen, Irenæus, Bishop of Lyons, and a celebrated Christian lady, named Potamiaena, who gained immortal dignity by her sufferings.

Tertullian, a native of Carthage, stood up as an apologist for the Christians at this time, and essentially contributed to the advancement of the best of causes.

The second century closed amidst the infernal triumphs of persecution.

THIRD CENTURY. The respite which the death of Severus afforded to the church, was but partial. Under the reign of his son, Caracalla, the Christians in Africa suffered greatly, by the instigation of Scapula, the proconsul of that province, whose cruelties roused the spirit of Tertul-

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