Abbildungen der Seite

with hoofs and claws, or speared with stings, while others are swift of foot or of wing? But, above all, the beautiful structure of man most plainly speaks a God ;-man of stature erect, and countenance elevated, with eyes placed above like sentinels, watching within the tower, over the other senses.

Again : Adverting to the accusation that the Christians were in general a poor and despised people, their Apologist replies : “That the generality of us are poor is not our dishonour but our glory. The mind, as it is dissipated by luxury, so it is strengthened by frugality. But how can a man be poor who wants for nothing, who covets not what is another's, who is rich towards God ? That man is rather poor, who, when he has much, desires more. No man can be so poor as when he was born. The birds live without any patrimony; the beasts find pasture every day, and we feed upon them. Indeed, they are created for our use, which, while we do not covet, we enjoy. That man goes happier to heaven who is not cumbered with an unnecessary load of riches. Did we think estates to be useful to us, we would supplicate them from God, who, being Lord of all, would grant us what is necessary. But we rather choose to contemn riches than to possess them, preferring innocence and patience before them, and desiring rather to be virtuous than prodigal. Our courage is increased by infirmities, and affliction is often the school of virtue.”

These are golden observations, and I can truly say that I never read them but with increased pleasure and admiration. Dr. Lardner, speaking of the work from which I have taken them, says, “ It is a monument of the author's ingenuity, learning, and eloquence. And the conversion of a man of his great natural and acquired abilities to the Christian religion, together with his public and courageous defence of it, notwithstanding the many worldly temptations to the contrary which he must have met with at that time, especially in his station, as they give an advantageous idea of his virtue, so they likewise afford a verp pleasing argument in favour of the truth of our religion."

I know that certain sceptical writers have laboured to decry the apologies of the Christian Fathers, on the ground that the writers did not take sufficient pains in all cases to sift reports, and sometimes allowed themselves to be imposed upon by fabu

REFLECTIONS ON PRIMITIVE CHRISTIANITY. 239 lous statements. But surely it is the part of candour to make allowance for the harassing series of obstacles which often checked investigation, in an age when tyranny leaned hard upon the Christians. These Apologies assume a tone as open and manly, as devoid of subterfuges and sophisms, as full of earnestness and piety, as any unprejudiced examiner can expect. That their wanner is occasionally injudicious, cannot be denied ; but this very absence of discretion frequently arises from that simplicity which is a stranger to fraud. A full consciousness of innocence is the pervading feature of their writings.

In concluding the present Lecture, suffer me to resume, for a few moments, the language of appeal and expostulation. “I speak as unto wise men-judge ye what I say.” I appeal to your judgments whether the Gospel be a cunningly devised fable as some would persuade the world. Let me recapitulate a few facts on which I would rest the appeal. Observe, I beseech you, that the Christian religion was every where introduced in opposition to the sword of the magistrate, the craft of the priest, the pride of the philosopher, the passions and prejudices of the people. What think you could surmount all these difficulties, except the power of truth, attended by the over-ruling providence of its great author ? This religion was not propagated in the dark, nor delivered out by piecemeal, as is usual with impostures, but it courted publicity and examination, as the greatest favour that could be done it-mankind were not cheated into the belief of it, but received it upon the fullest conviction and after proper examination. The Gospel was first preached in Jerusalem, where its divine author was crucified, and there it was received by multitudes as the most welcome tidings that ever reached their ears. It then spread throughout the whole land of Judæa ; thence it made its way into the most noted countries and cities of the world-Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus--the seats of philosophy and the favourite schools of learning : at a time too when these things were cultivated to the highest perfection, and in an age the most enlightened. And, though it is perfectly true that the greater number of its converts were persons in the humbler ranks of life, yet we find among the converts to Christianity, even in the earliest age, a number of men who were distinguished by their station, office, genius, education, and rank-men of refined sense and superior abilities—every way qualified to judge of it, and whose conversion gave a lustre to the triumphs of the Gospel. But look, I beseech you, what their reception of the Gospel led them to! It was not merely to a change of religious opinions it was attended with a total change of conduct-a thorough reformation of manners—an entire renunciation of the world as their portion. Amidst an infinity of temptations they became pious, just, charitable, chaste, temperate, meek, humble, heavenly-minded, after having been the reverse of all this. The change indeed was such, in a thousand instances, as to astonish their Pagan neighbours, who were led to look upon it as something supernatural. And then, to crown the whole, see what it exposed them to a state of unspeakable suffering in their persons, their reputation, and property, and in innumerable instances the loss of life itself. Not only were the Christians excluded from all public offices and honours, but whenever a persecution arose—and during the second and third centuries the intervals of tranquillity were short-they were insulted and abused by the rabble, who, viewing them as Atheists, often took the law into their own hands and executed upon them summary vengeance. By the heathen magistrates they were subjected to heavy fines and imprisonment—their goods were confiscated—they were proscribed, banished, condemned to work in the mines, exposed to the wild beasts in the theatres for the diversion of the people, tortured, crucified, placed in hot chairs, impaled, burnt alive! In a word, they were made to undergo all the torments which cruelty and barbarity inflamed by rage could invent-torments the bare mention of which excites horror in the human mind. But the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church. The Christian church frequently resembled the bush which Moses beheld in the neighbourhood of Mount Horeb, which was in one entire flame, yet the bush was not consumed. Like the palm-tree, the greater the pressure upon it, the higher it rose. How shall we account for these things ? The cause is of God and not of man.


Some account of the Life and Writings of Tertullian-His Trea

tise on the Resurrection-Apology for the Christians-His minor pieces-Eulogy of Vincentius Lirinensis on Tertullian's learning Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas, &c.A. D. 200.

· My design, in the present Lecture, is to submit to you some account of the state of the Christian profession in the times of Tertullian, viz. about the year 200, which is the period assigned him by the writers on Ecclesiastical History. I shall begin with a brief sketch of his biography, and then proceed to some account of his writings, among which his “ Apology for the Christians” holds a distinguished place. He was a man of exemplary piety, and of the most decided attachment to the cause and kingdom of Christ; and, as hath been remarked by the present bishop of Lincoln, in a late publication, “whether we consider the testimony borne to the genuineness and integrity of the books of the New Testament, or the information relating to the doctrine, discipline, and rites of the primitive church, Tertullian's writings form a most important link in that chain of tradition which connects the apostolic age with our own."*

TERTULLIAN, whose Latin name was Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, was born at Carthage, the capital city of Africa, about the middle of the second century. His father was a military officer under the proconsul of Africa, a post of no great consideration ; yet he appears to have conferred upon his

* Ecclesiastical History of the second and third centuries, p. 39, 2nd edition.


son the advantages of a liberal education, and it is probable he did it with the view of his following the legal profession, though there is no satisfactory evidence of his ever having gone to the bar, or practised as a professional lawyer. He has, however, given proof in his various publications of an intimate acquaintance with the Roman laws, and of his having read the Greek and Roman poets, historians, orators, philosophers, and other heathen writers. The Latin was, of course, his mother tongue ; nevertheless, his skill in Greek was so considerable that he wrote several books in that language. Whether his father made any profession of Christianity, and trained up his son in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, is uncertain ; but the contrary seems the more probable inference to deduce from his father's rank and station as a soldier. We have no particular account of the time or circumstances of Tertullian's conversion ; neither have we of the principal occurrences of his life. Dr. Allix places his birth about the year 150; others, at 160 ;-his conversion to Christianity about 185—his marriage about 186 -his appointment to the elder 's office, in the church of Carthage, about 192-his adoption of the opinions of Montanus about 199—and his death about 220; but the exactness of any of these dates cannot be depended upon.

The number and value of his publications entitle him to be regarded as the most considerable of the Latin fathers now remaining, and from them may be collected more information concerning the actual state of Christianity, at the end of the second century, than from any other source to which we have access. He is described to us as a man of a lively fancy and extensive knowledge ; but of a severe temper. According to Lactantius, who was a very competent judge, his style of composition is “rugged, unpolished, and.very obscure ;" yet Dr. Cave observes, that “it is lofty and masculine, carrying a kind of majestic eloquence along with it, which gives a pleasant relish to the judicious and inquisitive reader.” He wrote a great number of books, some of which are lost, but several are still extant, and among them is his masterly “ Apology for the Christians,” as well as other performances which are edifying and instructive. Though he was constitutionally vehement and positive, there appear in his writings frequent indications of real

« ZurückWeiter »