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minate it, yet doth it flourish more and more*" Origen, who follows Tertullian at the distance of only thirty years, delivers nearly the same account: "In every part of the world," says he, "throughout all Greece, and in all other nations, there are innumerable and immense multitudes, who, having left the laws of their country, and those whom they esteemed gods, have given themselves up to the law of Moses, and the religion of Christ; and this not without the bitterest resentment from the idolaters, by whom they were frequently put to torture, and sometimes to death: and it is wonderful to observe, how, in so short a time, the religion has increased, amidst punishment and death, and every kind of torture." In another passage, Origen draws the following candid comparison between the state of Christianity. in his time, and the condition of its more primitive ages: By the good providence of God, the Christian religion has so flourished and increased continually, that it is now preached freely without molestation,
* Clem. Al. Strom. lib. vi, ad fin.
† Orig. in Cels. lib. i.
although there were a thousand obstacles to the spreading of the doctrine of Jesus in the world. But as it was the will of God that the Gentiles should have the benefit of it, all the counsels of men against the Christians were defeated: and by how much the more emperors and governors of provinces, and the people every where, strove to depress them; so much the more have they increased, and prevailed exceedingly *"
It is well known, that within less than eighty years after this, the Roman empire became Christian under Constantine: and it is probable that Constantine declared himself on the side of the Christians, because they were the powerful party; for Arnobius, who wrote immediately before Constantine's accession, speaks of the whole world as filled with Christ's doctrine, of its diffusion throughout all countries, of an innumerable body of Christians in distant provinces, of the strange revolution of opinion of men of the greatest ge
nius, orators, grammarians, rhetoricians, lawyers, physicians, having come over to the institution, and that also in the face of threats, executions, and tortures *." And not more than twenty years after Constantine's entire possession of the empire, Julius Firmicus Maternus calls upon the emperors Constantius and Constans to extirpate the relics of the ancient religion; the reduced and fallen condition of which is described by our author in the following words: "Licèt adhuc in quibusdam regionibus idololatriæ morientia palpitent membra; tamen in eo res est, ut à Christianis omnibus terris pestiferum hoc malum funditùs amputetur:" and in another place, " Modicum tantum superest, ut legibus vestris -extincta idololatriæ pereat funesta contagio." It will not be thought that we quote this writer in order to recommend, his temper or his judgement, but to show the comparative state of Christianity and of Heathenism at this period. Fifty years
* Arnob. in Gentes, 1. i. p. 27. 9. 24. 42. 44. edit. Lug. Bat. 1650.
+ De Error. Profan. Relig, c. xxi. p. 172, quoted by Lardvol. viii. P. 262.
afterwards, Jerome represents the decline of Paganism in language which conveys the same idea of its approaching extinction: "Solitudinem patitur et in urbe gentilitas. Dii quondam nationum, cum bubonibus et noctuis, in solis culminibus remanserunt*." Jerome here indulges a triumph, natural and allowable in a zealous friend of the cause, but which could only be suggested to his mind by the consent and universality with which he saw the religion received. "But now," says he, “ the passion and resurrection of Christ are celebrated in the discourses and writings of all nations. I need not mention Jews, Greeks, and Latins. The Indians, Persians, Goths, and Egyptians, philosophize, and firmly believe the immortality of the soul, and future recompenses, which, before, the greatest philosophers had denied, or doubted of, or perplexed with their disputes. The fierceness of Thracians and Scythians is now softened by the gentle sound of the Gospel; and every where Christ is all in all." Were therefore the
* Jer. ad Lect, ep. 5. 7.
† Jer. ep. 8. ad Heliod.
motives of Constantine's conversion ever so problematical, the easy establishment of Christianity, and the ruin of Heathenism, under him and his immediate successors, is of itself a proof of the progress which Christianity had made in the preceding period. It may be added also, "that Maxentius, the rival of Constantine, had shown himself friendly to the Christians. Therefore of those who were contending for worldly power and empire, one actually favoured and flattered them, and another
be suspected to have joined himself to them, partly from consideration of interest: so considerable were they become under external disadvantages of all sorts*." This at least is certain, that, throughout the whole transaction hitherto, the great seemed to follow, not to lead, the public opinion.
It may help to convey to us some notion of the extent and progress of Christianity, or rather of the character and quality of many early Christians, of their learning
* Lardner, vol. vii. p. 380.