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The work before us is the greatest of Tertullian's writings. Thedeeply religious heathen Emperor, M. Aurelius, died in 180, andwas succeeded by his unworthy son, Commodus. He was followedby Septimius Severus, the first of the " Barrack Emperors." in otherwords, of those military adventurers who held the Roman Empiredown to the days of Dioclesian, following one another rapidly, and,with hardly a single exception, dying violent deaths. The goldenage of the Empire was gone, it was the iron age now. But theChristian Church, after a period of silent growth, after worship in
91 Days 13 vostfr
But the African Church was an exception to the general immunity.Much depended everywhere on the disposition of the several pro- consuls towards the faith. There had been laws in existenceagainst it ever since the days of Nero, and it depended altogetheron the various governors whether these laws should stand in abey- ance or be put in vigorous exercise. There were by this time manythousands of believers in Africa; and now heathen fanaticism,which had been long smouldering, broke out. The priestesses ofthe " Dea Coelestis " had raised seditious mobs, and allied heathensand Jews had destroyed Christian churches, and rilled anddesecrated their burial-places. Caricatures of Christ were paradedthrough the streets, and the usual ridiculous charges of incest andcannibalism were brought against his disciples. It was all thiswhich produced Tertullian's Apology.
1 The Cynopae, or Cynopes or Cynocephali, are reported to be a sort of wildmen in the mountains of India, with heads like a dog, Plin. vii. 2 ; and theSciapodes of Aethiopia to be a people of such a monstrous make, that in hotbroiling days lie upon their backs, and cover their whole bodies from the sunwith the shadow of the bottoms of their feet, Plin. vii. 1.
But when I see you adore Larentina,1 a public strumpet, with thesame honours as you do Juno, Ceres, and Diana, methinks I couldwish you had taken into your roll the more noted Lais and Phryne ;2when you inaugurate Simon Magus3 with a statue and inscription,To the most Holy God; when you canonize a certainGanymede4(I know not who), nursed up in apartments at court, although,indeed, your old gods are not of a better family, yet they cannotbut take it very ill that you should offer to make gods at this rate,now-a-days, as much as your forefathers did of old.
vagabond people, banished country and climate, strolling about theworld without any show of government, either divine or human,and so completely miserable that they have not the poor privilegeto visit the Holy Land like strangers, or set a foot upon their nativesoil ; and while the sacred writings did forethreaten these calamities,they did likewise continually inculcate that the time would comeabout the last days when out of every nation and country Godwould choose Himself a people that should serve Him more faith- fully, upon whom He would shed a greater measure of grace inproportion to the merits of the founder of this new worship. Theproprietor therefore of this grace, and the master of this institution,this Son of Righteousness and tutor of mankind, was declared theSon of God; but not so that this begotten of God might blushat the name of Son, or the mode of His generation; for it wasnot from any incestuous mixture of brother and sister, not fromany violation of a god with his own daughter, or another man'swife, in the disguise of a serpent, or a bull, or a shower ofgold. These are the modes of generation with your Jove, andthe offspring of deities you worship ; but the Son of God weadore had a mother indeed, but a mother without uncleanness,without even that which the name of mother seems to imply, forshe was a pure virgin. But I shall first set forth the nature ofHis substance in order to make you apprehend the manner of Hisnativity.
Christ then being taken down from the cross, and laid in a sepulchre,the Jews beset it round with a strong guard of soldiers, forearmingthem with the strictest caution that His disciples should not comeand steal away the body unawares, because He had foretold thatHe would rise again from the dead on the third day. But lo ! onthe third day, a sudden earthquake arose, and the huge stone wasrolled from the mouth of the sepulchre, and the guard struck withfear and confusion; not one disciple appearing at the action, andnothing found in the sepulchre, but the spoils of death, the linenclothes He was buried in. Nevertheless, the chief priests, whoseinterest it was to set such a wicked lie on foot, in order to reclaimthe people from a faith which must end in the utter ruin of theirincomes and authority among them, gave out that His disciplescame privily and stole Him away. For after the resurrection Christthought not fit to make a public entry among the people,1 becauseHe would not violently redeem such obstinate wretches from error,and that a faith which proposes infinite rewards should labour undersome difficulties, that believing might be a virtue, and not anecessity. But with some of His disciples He did eat and drinkforty days in Galilee, a province of Judea, instructing them in allthey should teach,2 and then having ordained them to the office ofpreaching those instructions all over the world, He was parted fromthem by a cloud, and so received up before them into heaven,much more truly than what your Proculus's report of Romulus, andsome others of your deified kings. Pilate, who in his conscience
dint and merits of their religion ; and consequently that theirs werethe right gods, inasmuch as they who served them out-flourished allothers in glory, as much as they surpassed them in devotion tothese deities; and this surpassing figure, no doubt, was the returnyour own Roman gods made you for their worship; and theseproper gods, who have thus enlarged your borders must be Ster-culus, and Mutunus, and Larentina; for it is not to be imaginedthat strange gods should find in their hearts to be greater friends toa strange nation than to their own; and that they should makeover their own native soil, in which they were bred, and born, andburied, and deified, to an outlandish people. Let Cybele see to it,whether she transplanted her affections to Rome for the sake of herbeloved countrymen the Trojans, screened from the Grecian armsI warrant by her divine protection; let her say whether she wentover to the Romans upon this view, as foreseeing them the peoplethat would revenge her upon her enemies, and one day triumphover Greece, as Greece had done over Troy; and to prove thatshe did go over to the Romans upon this prospect, she hasgiven a most glorious instance of her foresight in our age, for M.Aurelius being taken off at Sirmium the seventeenth day of March,1her chief priest and eunuch on the twenty-fourth day of the samemonth, having lanced his arms, and let out his impure blood uponthe altar, offered up his usual vows for the life of the emperor, whowas dead some days before. O leaden-heeled couriers ! O drowsydispatches ! not to give Cybele notice before the emperor was dead ;in good troth, Christians must make a little merry with such a goddess.
because we have nothing to blush for in our devotion; and withouta prompter,1 because we pray with our hearts rather than ourtongues; and in all our prayers are ever mindful of all ouremperors and kings wheresoever we live, beseeching God for everyone of them without distinction, that He would bless them withlength of days and a quiet reign, a well-established family, a stout
about in troops like mad into all the confusions of injury, im- pudence and lust, their heated imagination prompts them to. Issuch a scene of public shame a proper expression of public joy ?And are these becoming practices upon an holy day, which uponany day are abominable? Shall they who seem so mighty devoutfor Caesar's safety be so mighty drunk for Caesar's safety too ?Shall licentiousness pass for loyalty, and luxury for religion ? Ohthe just condemnation of Christians ! For why should we dare tobe so singularly sober, chaste, and honest upon Caesar's birthday,and be so unfashionably religious in discharging our vows andrejoicings for him ? When all the world has given such a loose tojoy, why do we not do so too, and darken our gates with laurels,1and put out the day with illuminations ? For certainly it is a veryfine figure to see your houses upon holy days dressed up in thefashion of the stews.
But touching the religion upon these sacred festivals to Caesar,who is the second majesty next to God, and upon whose account weare convened as guilty of a second sacrilege, for not celebratingthese days according to your modes of worship, which temperance,modesty, and chastity will not permit us to do. I would set thismatter, I say, in a better light, and lay before you your own allegi- ance and sincerity, that we may judge whether they are not moreto blame in this point than Christians, who will not have us treatedas Romans, but as enemies of the State.
teachers, who dare tax that glorious doctrine of patient suffering, as brutish andirrational ; and though it be expressly said, I Pet. ii. 21, that Christ bysuffering for us left us His example how to follow His steps, which was followedby a glorious cloud of witnesses, yet in these last days, what a brood hathsprung up 'of men who are lovers of their own selves, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness,but denying the power thereof, who creep into houses, and lead captive sillywomen laden with sins !' It is our sins that provoked God to open the bottom- less pit, and let loose such locusts; but were we turning to God, and repentingof the works of our own hands, we might hope that their power should be takenfrom them, and that their folly should be made known unto all men." Thus thatgreat prelate.