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seven bishops, and in 330 the schismatic Donatists alone held a council of two hundred and seventy bishops.
In Europe the labors of Paul extended Christianity into Macedonia and Greece, strengthened its position at Rome, and, according to an early belief, helped also to introduce it into Spain. Of the early stages of Christian history in Spain, no definite information is at hand; but the references of Irenæus and Tertullian, and the fact that the council of Elvira, in 305 or 306, was able to convene nineteen bishops, show that the gospel won early trophies in that land.
Gaul was probably evangelized from Asia Minor, near the middle of the second century. Flourishing churches existed at Lyons and Vienne in the time of Marcus Aurelius. According to Gregory of Tours, about the middle of the third century seven missionaries from Rome came into Gaul, one of whom, Dionysius, became Bishop of Paris. From Irenæus, Bishop of Lyons, we learn that Christianity won converts from the Germans.3 He probably referred, however, to Germans under Roman rule, and not to the tribes beyond the Rhine.
Christianity came to Britain soon after its establishment in Gaul; at least, Tertullian in his day, as we have seen, was able to witness that it was already to be found in the British Isles. The account of the AngloSaxon historian Beda indicates that missionaries from Rome were the evangelizing agency. He says: “Whilst Eleutherus presided over the Roman Church, Lucius, king of the Britons, sent a letter to him, entreating that by his command he might be made a Christian. He soon obtained his pious request; and the Britons pre1 Cont. Hær., i. 10. 2. 3 Adv. Judæos, vii. 3 Cont. Hær., i. 10. 2.
served the faith which they had received, uncorrupted and entire, in peace and tranquillity, until the time of the Emperor Diocletian.”i Beda's narrative, however, is founded on unreliable documents, and lacks historical probability. The connection between the early British Church and Rome was by no means intimate.
Thus Christianity in the first three centuries penetrated into every corner of the Roman Empire, and in some directions passed beyond its bounds. What proportion of the population of the Empire it numbered among its adherents at the beginning of the fourth century cannot be stated with any degree of satisfaction. Estimates vary widely, from the “one-twentieth" of Gibbon to the “one-half" of Staudlin. The latter is probably much too high, the former somewhat too low. Forbearing to name exact figures, we may content ourselves with the indubitable fact that the real strength of the Christians was much in excess of their relative numbers. Already, in confidence and hope, in moral and intellectual strength, they had become the rightful masters of the Empire.
II. - THE ATTACKS OF HEATHEN POWER.
“ Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matt. x. 34). “Ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake” (Mark xiii. 13). Such was the prospect with which the Christians started forth. Such for long centuries was their experience in the world. It could not have been otherwise. An absolute antagonism existed between the Christians and the world of that age, between the spiritual empire of Christianity and the heathen Roman empire. No settlement was possible save by the surrender of the one or the other.
1 Book I., chap. iv. 2 Haddan and Stubbs, Councils, I. 25, 26.
Though heathen Rome tolerated very many religions, her intolerance toward Christianity was not properly an exception to her general policy. Her tolerance in no case was rendered unconditionally. She recognized no universal maxim with respect to the rights of the individual conscience. On the contrary, she steadfastly asserted that it was her prerogative to supervise the worship of the individual. Her most enlightened statesmen were agreed upon this point. Cicero lays down the following as a fundamental rule of administration: “Let no one have any gods by himself; neither to new or strange gods, unless they have been publicly adopted, let any private worship be offered.”1 Mæcenas is reported to have given this advice to Augustus: “ Revere the gods in every way according to ancestral laws, and compel others so to revere them. Those, however, who introduce any thing foreign in this respect, hate and punish, not only for the sake of the gods, - want of reverence toward whom argues want of reverence toward every thing else, - but because such, in that they introduce new divinities, mislead many to adopt also foreign laws. Thence come conspiracies and secret leagues which are in the highest degree opposed to monarchy." The distinguished jurist, Julius Paulus, lays down as a fundamental article of Roman law : “Such as introduce new religions, whose bearing and nature are not understood, by which the minds of men are disquieted, should, if they are of the higher ranks, be transported; if of the lower, be punished with death.”] The right to persecute on the score of religious practice could not be more definitely asserted. That right was wrapped up with the Roman conception of the State. To the Roman, the State was the supreme idea. He knew practically nothing about a divine kingdom above and beyond this. If of a believing disposition, he worshipped the ancestral gods as patrons of the State and guardians of its eternal dominion; if sceptical, he was still strongly inclined to insist upon their worship as a thing of political necessity, a means of binding the less intelligent ranks to their allegiance to the State. A state religion was in general counted an essential factor of a state policy. Beyond the limits of this, a wide license might be granted. One polytheistic system can easily make concessions to another. Hence, Rome allowed conquered nations to retain the worship of their own gods. The Jew, for example, was free to worship Jehovah. But none were counted free to assail or to endanger the state religion. The Jew was prohibited by law from making proselytes from heathen Romans. Those who had an ancient national religion of their own were expected at least to be neutral. Those who had no religion that could claim such ancient and national associations might be called upon to show positive deference to the state religion. Now, as the Christians had never existed as a nation and developed a national religion, they seemed the least of all entitled to special privilege or exemption. Their stubborn refusal to make any concession to the state religion appeared to the rulers, at least to those of a truly Roman cast, as a piece of arrogant assumption, and a clear evidence of insubordination. This impression was much strengthened by the bond of unity which the Christians exhibited. They showed themselves to be one in a more emphatic sense than any other body of men. They stood before the government as an independent, close-bound association, an association animated also by a peculiar confidence and aggressiveness. An unwonted air of certitude was assumed by them. They did not ask doubtfully, with the sceptical philosophers of the age, What is truth? but proclaimed their undoubted possession of the truth in the gospel. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life, declare we unto you” (1 John i. 1-3). Claiming to represent the absolute religion, they appeared as the uncompromising foes of heathen idolatry, and aliens to the State so far as the State was linked with that idolatry. This explains why the most sweeping persecutions were urged on by some of the best of the emperors ; for just those emperors who aspired to a vigorous and comprehensive administration felt obliged to oppose Christianity as foreign to the State, a system that utterly refused to amalgamate with their heathen institutions.
1 De Legibus, ii. 8.
State policy, however, was far from being the only inciting cause to persecution. With the great mass of the people, blind prejudice, jealousy, superstitious fears, or material interests were the leading motives. They estimated the subject merely from a surface view. That the Christians were a peculiar class, holding themselves