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his noblest monument subsists in his immortal writings; which, the more they are studied, and the better they are understood, the more will they be admired to the latest posterity, for the most sublime and beautiful, the most pathetic and impressive, the most learned and profound specimens of Christian piety, oratory, and philosophy *.
The following masterly observations on Paul's moral character, drawn from his letters, (and what better evidence than a man's own letters can be desired ?) are furnished by the acute Dr. Paley, p. 410-424.
"St. Paul's letters furnish evidence of the soundness and sobriety of his judgment. His caution in distinguishing between the occasional suggestions of inspiration, and the ordinary exertions of his natural understanding, is without example in the history of human enthusiasm. His morality is every where calm, pure, and rational; adapted to the condition, the activity, and the business of social life, and of its various relations; free from the overscrupulousness and austerities of superstition and from (what was more perhaps to be apprehended,) the abstractions of quietism, and the soarings or extravagancies of fanaticism. His judgment concerning a hesitating conscience, his opinion of the moral indifferency of many actions, yet of the prudence, and even the duty of compliance, where non-compliance would produce evil effects upon the minds of the persons who observed it, is as correct and just, as the most liberal and enlightened moralist could form at this day. The accuracy of modern ethics has found nothing to amend in these determinations.
“What Lord Lyttleton has remarked of the preference ascribed by St. Paul to inward rectitude of principle above every other religious accomplishment, is very material to our present purpose,- Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal,' &c. 1 Cor. xiii. 1—3— Did ever enthusiast prefer that universal benevolence, meant by charity here, (which, we may add, is attainable by every man,) to faith and to miracles? to those religious opinions which he had embraced? and to those supernatural graces and gifts which he imagined he had acquired? nay, even to the merit of martyrdom? Is it not the genius of enthusiasm to set moral virtues infinitely below the merit of faith? and, of all moral virtues, to value that least, which is most particularly enforced by St. Paul,—a spirit of candour, moderation, and peace? Certainly, neither the temper nor the opinions of a man subject to fanatic delusions, are to be found in this passage.
"His letters, indeed, every where discover great zeal and earnestness in the cause in which he was engaged: that is to say, he was convinced of the truth of what he taught, he was deeply impressed (but not more so than the occasion merited,) with a sense of its importance. This produces a corresponding animation and solicitude in the exercise of his ministry. But would not these considerations, supposing them to have been well founded, have holden the same place, and produced the same effect, in a mind the strongest and the most sedate?
"Here then we have a man of liberal attainments, and in other respects of sound judg ment, who had addicted his life to the service of THE GOSPEL. We see him, in the prosecution of his purpose, travelling from country to country, enduring every species of hardship, encountering every extremity of danger; assaulted by the populace, punished by the magistrates, scourged, beat, stoned, left for dead; expecting, wherever he came, a renewal of the same treatment, and the same dangers; yet, when driven from one city, preaching in the next; spending his whole life in the employment, sacrificing to it his pleasures, his ease, his safety; persisting in this course to old age, unaltered by the
Clemens Romanus, the intimate friend of these illustrious Apostles and fellow labourers in the Lord, thus pronounced the panegyric of both.
"Omitting ancient examples of noble wrestlers for the faith, let us proceed to modern, in our own age; to those faithful and most upright pillars of the Church, who through [false] zeal and envy, underwent persecution, even to a cruel death: let us place before our eyes the prime Apostles. Peter, through unjust zeal, endured not one nor two, but many labours, and is gone to his merited place of glory. Paul, likewise, through [unjust] zeal, gained the prize of patience, after he had borne chains seven times, been scourged, stoned, and had proclaimed the Gospel, both in the east and in the west, he obtained the glorious reward of his faith; for after he had taught the whole world righteousness, even to the extremity of the west, and testified before kings, he was released from the world, and went to the holy place; becoming the greatest pattern of patience." Epist. I. ad Corinth. § 5. Coteler. I. p. 148.
Clemens here speaks rather rhetorically of Paul's travels to the western extremity of Europe. He might, however, have preached by proxy in those countries, by the Gallic, British, and Spanish converts he made at Rome, during his first visit: and as they preached his doctrine, their success might fairly be attributed to him ultimately. That the Gospel was early planted in those countries, we learn from ecclesiastical history. And of the purity of the primitive British Church, in particular, an advantageous specimen was given at the time the Romish missionary, Austin the Abbot, was sent thither, about A.D. 601, in the foregoing analysis of Daniel's visions, Vol. II. p. 502, 503.
FIRST ROMAN PERSECUTION.
This took place soon after the martyrdom of Paul and Peter *,
experience of perverseness, ingratitude, prejudice, desertion; unsubdued by anxiety, want, labour, persecutions; unwearied by long confinement, undismayed by the prospect of death!"-Such was St. Paul.
See also Lord Barrington's critical comparison of Paul, with the first and greatest of the Apostles of the circumcision, Peter and John, to whom he was not a whit inferior in miracles, revelation, and proph cies.
The foregoing account of Peter's apostolical labours in the west, furnishes a satisfactory solution of the cause of his martyrdom at Rome; like those of Paul in the east, and in the capital of the Roman empire. The same accusations might have followed him from the Roman magistrates in Spain, as did follow Paul from those of proconsular Asia.
who became the first fruits; and it raged at Rome during the Consulate of C. Læcanius and M. Licinius, A.D. 64 and A.D. 65, according to Tacitus. Nero falsely accusing the Christians, and transferring to them the public odium, for having set fire himself to Rome. "At first they were apprehended who confessed themselves Christians; and then, by their information, a vast multitude; who were convicted, not so much for being incendiaries, as for their hatred of the human race*. Cruel mockeries were annexed to their executions: insomuch, that they were clad in the skins of wild beasts, and torn to pieces by dogs, or they were crucified, or they were covered with combustibles, and set fire to, when day-light failed, to serve as torches by night, in Nero's gardens; which he had offered for the spectacle during the Circensian games, dressed himself as a coachman, and mixed with the populace. So that "notwithstanding the wickedness of the sufferers, deserving the severest punishments, (says Tacitus,) public commiseration was excited, as if they were destroyed, not so much for the common weal, as to glut the cruelty of an individual." Annal. XV. 44.
The Roman historians, indeed, were greatly prejudiced against Christianity. Tacitus calls it in this place, "a pernicious superstition;" and Suetonius, " a new, pernicious, or magical superstition." This persecution was not confined to Rome, but raged also in the provinces, as we learn from the following inscription to the Emperor Nero, found in the ruins of the village
And the inscription found in the province of Lusitania, (noticed in the text,) might have originated from Peter's martyrdom, and the subsequent persecution of the Christians there.
* Brotier ingeniously conjectures, that the Christians might have been killed by the Pagans, as misanthropes, or "haters of mankind," 1. From OUR LORD's figurative declaration, understood literally, "Whosoever cometh to ME, and hateth not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, yea, and his own life also, cannot be my disciple," Luke xiv. 26. And 2. from the unaccommodating genius, and exclusive deportment of Christianity towards the idolatry and polytheism of the heathens; devoting the wilful worshippers of false gods, every where, who should not repent and forsake them, and turn to THE TRUE GOD and JESUS CHRIST, to future judgment, and eternal damnation, in the flames of hell. A doctrine inculcated in Paul's Epistles to the Romans and Corinthians. See Brotier's Dissertation. Tacit. Vol. II. p. 494.
+ Juvenal mentions this horrid spectacle as the punishment of offending Tigellinus, the favourite freedman of Nero :
Pone Tigellinum, tedá lucebis in illâ,
Quâ stantes ardent, qui fixo gutture fumant. SAT. I. 155.
of Marcosia, in Lusitania or Portugal. Apud Gruter. p. 238, n. 9, or Lardner, VII. p. 248.
NERONI. CL. CAIS. AUG. PONT. MAX. OB PROVINC. LATRONIB. ET HIS. QUI. NOVAM GENERI HUM. SUPERSTITION. INCULCAB. PURGATAM.
"To Nero Claudius Cæsar Augustus, chief Pontiff,
And of [Christians,] who inculcated
A new superstition to the human race *"
This persecution was followed, in the autumn of A.D. 65, according to Tacitus, by supernatural tempests and pestilence.
"A year polluted by so many crimes, was marked by tempests and diseases, inflicted by the gods. The Campania was laid waste by a hurricane, which demolished villas, plantations, and fruits every where, and extended its ravages to the vicinity of the city (Rome), where all descriptions of people were wasted by the violence of pestilence, without any perceptible inclemency of the weather. The houses were emptied of inhabitants, the highways filled with carcases. No sex or age escaped the danger. Slaves and free alike, were rapidly extinguished, amid the lamentations of their wives and children; who, during their attendance, while weeping over them, were often burned upon the same funeral pile themselves. The destruction of Roman knights and senators, however promiscuous, was less lamented; as if, in the common mortality, they only anticipated the cruelty of the prince." Annal. XV. 13.
These are curious and valuable records of professed enemies to Christianity, undesignedly vouching the DIVINE vengeance upon the atrocious murderers of his chosen saints.
Nero himself, that fantastic monster of cruelty t, was, not
Mosheim, and others, doubt the genuineness of this inscription, as not sufficiently established on the authority of Cyriacus Anconitanus, the first publisher; especially as the stone itself is not now to be found, and is not noticed by Spanish writers of eminence. But the style, as justly remarked by Lardner, is perfectly agreeable to Tacitus and Suetonius, and the earliest heathen writers who have mentioned the Christians. Lardner, VII. p. 249.
+ Plutarch has a fine reflection on the mischievous effects of adulation to princes. "What made Nero erect his tragic theatre, and wear the mask and buskins, as an actor, but the plaudits of adulators? Were not Kings in general styled, while they sang, Apollos? while drunk, Bacchuses? while wrestling at the games, Hercules? and delighting in these titles, led on by flattery to the lowest depravity." Plutarch. Vol. II.
long after, himself pursued by Divine justice, and perished miserably in a tumultuous conspiracy, June 9, A.D. 68. And the Romans were harassed with intestine wars by his successors, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, who all were slain likewise, or destroyed themselves, to make way for Vespasian. So true is our Lord's observation, that "they who use the sword of religious persecution, shall perish by the sword!"
This broke out in the same ominous year, A.D. 65, in Judea, occasioned by the mal-administration of Florus. Josephus, Ant. xx. 11, 1. Vita. § 6*.
The first commencement of the war was the refusal of Eleazar, the son of the high priest Ananias, (" that whited wall,") to offer sacrifices in the temple, for the prosperity of the Roman empire; in spite of the remonstrances of many of the chief priests and nobles, not to omit this customary mark of allegiance. Bell. Jud. II. 17, 2.
The public animosity against Florus being very great, for plundering the sacred treasury, and for other cruelties, and the insurrection increasing at Jerusalem, Cestius Gallus, president of Syria, marched with a powerful army into Judea, and committed great ravages on his way to the city. He encamped before it for three days; and set fire, on the fourth day, to Bezetha, or the northern suburb; but withdrew, dissuaded by the emissaries of Florus; when, if he had attacked the city itself, during the consternation of the seditious, he might have easily taken it, and put an end to the war at once. But GOD, says the Jewish historian, "for the wickedness of the people, suffered not the war to come to an end at that time. For the seditious, taking courage again, pursued Cestius in his retreat, harassed, and at length routed his army with great slaughter, on the eighth day of November, in the twelfth year of Nero," (A.D. 65.) "After the disaster of Cestius, many of the distinguished Jews quitted the city, like a sinking ship," says Josephus. Bell. Jud. II. 20, 1. These were principally the Christians, obeying our Lord's warning, Matt. xxiv. 15, 16, Luke xxi. 20, 21. We may learn from this passage, among many others, that Josephus was neither hostile to the Christians, nor unacquainted with the evangelical
* Duravit tamen patientia Judæis, usque ad Gessium Florum, procuratorem. Sub co bellum ortum. Tacit. Hist. v. 10.