Page images
PDF
EPUB

the same sentiments as Marcellus, and like him to have suffered death.

It may not, perhaps, be necessary to cite any other instances, as opposed to that of Marinus, to the point in question. But as another occurs, which may

be related in few words, I will just mention it in this place: Martin, of whom Sulpicius Severus says so much, had been bred to the profession of arms, but on his conversion to Christianity declined it. In the answer, which he gave to Julian the Apostate for his conduct on this occasion, we find him making use only of these words : “ I am a Christian, and therefore I cannot fight.”

Now this answer of Martin is detached from all notions of idolatry. The unlawfulness of fighting is given as the only motive for his resignation. And there is no doubt that the unlawfulness of fighting was as much a principle of religion in the early times of Christianity, as the refusal of sacrifice to the Heathen gods; and that they operated equally to prevent men from entering into the army, and to drive them out of it on their conversion. Indeed these principles generally went together, where

the

the profession of arms presented itself as an occupation for a Christian. He, who refused the profession on account of the idolatry connected with it, would have refused it on account of the unlawfulness of fighting. And he, who refused it on account of the guilt of fighting, would have refused it on account of the idolatrous services it required. In the early times of Christianity each of them was a powerful impediment to a military life.

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

army, and that they left it after their conversion, on account of one among other

persuasions that it was unlawful for them to fight, I must examine their practice as it related to this subject still further; or I must trace it down to a later period, before I can show how the Quakers make the practice of those early times support the meaning of the scriptural passages, which they advance in favour of their tenet on war. It may

be considered as a well-founded proposition, that as the lamp of Christianity burned bright in those early times, so those, who were illuminated by it, declined the military profession; and that as its flames shone less clear, they had less objection to it. Thus, in the two first centuries, when Christianity was the purest, there were no Christian soldiers. In the third century, when it became less pure, there is frequent mention of such soldiers. And in the fourth, when its corruption was fixed, Christians entered upon the profession of arms with as little hesitation as they entered upon any other occupation in life. That there were no Christian soldiers in

the

VOL. III.

F

the first and second centuries has already been made apparent.

That Christianity also was purest in these times there can be no doubt. Let us look at the character, which is given of the first Christians by Athenagoras, Justin Martyr, Minucius Felix, and others of the early Christian writers. According to these, they were plain and neat in their apparel, and frugal in their furniture. They were temperate in their eating and drinking. They relinquished all the diversions of the times; in which they saw any tendency to evil. They were chaste in their conversation, tempering mirth with gravity. They were modest and chaste in their deportment and manners. They were punctual to their words and engagements. They were such lovers of truth, that, on being asked if they were Christians, they never denied it, though death was the consequence of such a religious profession. They loved each other as brethren, and called one another by that name. They were kind and courteous, and charitable beyond all example, to others. They abstained from all manner of violence.

They

They prayed for those, who persecuted them. They were patterns of humility and patience. They made no sacrifice of their consciences, but would persevere in that which was right, never refusing to die for their religion. This is the character, which is uniformly given of them by the Christian writers of those times.

That their conduct was greatly altered in the third century, where we are now to view it, we may collect from indisputable authority. I stated in a former section, that a Christian soldier was punished for refusing to wear a garland, like the rest of his comrades, on a public occasion. This man, it appears, had been converted in the army, and objected to the ceremony on that. account. Now Tertullian tells us that this soldier was blamed for his unseasonable zeal, as it was called, by some of the Christians of that time, though all Christians before considered the wearing of such a garland as unlawful and profane. - In this century there is no question but the Christian discipline began to relax. To the long peace that the Church enjoyed, from the death of Antoninus to the tenth year of Severus, is to be ascribed

the

F 2

« PreviousContinue »