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[Page 1]A VINDICATION, &c. &c.

PERHAPS it may be necessary to in­form the Public, that not long since an Examination of the Fifteenth and Six­teenth Chapters of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was published by Mr. Davis. He styles himself a Bachelor of Arts, and a Member of Baliol College in the University of Oxford. His title-page is a de­claration of war, and in the prosecution of his religious crusade, he assumes a privilege of disregarding the ordinary laws which are re­spected in the most hostile transactions between civilized men or civilized nations. Some of the harshest epithets in the English language are repeatedly applied to the historian, a part [Page 2] of whose work Mr. Davis has chosen for the object of his criticism. To this author Mr. Davis imputes the crime of betraying the con­fidence and seducing the faith of those readers, who may heedlessly stray in the flowery paths of his diction, without perceiving the poisonous snake that lurks concealed in the grass. Latet anguis in herbâ. The Examiner has assumed the province of reminding them of ‘the unfair proceedings of such an insidious friend, who offers the deadly draught in a golden cup, that they may be less sensible of the danger1. In order to which, Mr. Davis has selected several of the more notorious instances of his misrepresentations and errors; reducing them to their respective heads, and subjoining a long list of almost incredible inaccuracies: and such striking proofs of servile plagiarism, as the world will be surprised to meet with in an author who puts in so bold a claim to originality and extensive reading2?’ Mr. Davis prosecutes this attack through an octavo volume of not less than two hundred and eighty-four pages with the same implacable spirit, per­petually charges his adversary with perverting the ancients, and transcribing the moderns; and inconsistently enough imputes to him the opposite crimes of art and carelessness, of gross [Page 3] ignorance and of wilful falsehood. The Exa­miner closes his work3 with a severe reproof of those feeble critics who have allowed any share of knowledge to an odious antagonist. He pre­sumes to pity and to condemn the first historian of the present age, for the generous approba­tion which he had bestowed on a writer who is content that Mr. Davis should be his enemy, whilst he has a right to name Dr. Robertson for his friend.

When I delivered to the world the First Vo­lume of an important History, in which I had been obliged to connect the progress of Chris­tianity with the civil state and revolutions of the Roman Empire, I could not be ignorant that the result of my inquiries might offend the interest of some and the opinions of others. If the whole work was favourably received by the Public, I had the more reason to expect that this obnoxious part would provoke the zeal of those who consider themselves as the Watchmen of the Holy City. These expecta­tions were not disappointed; and a fruitful crop of Answers, Apologies, Remarks, Exa­minations, &c. sprung up with all convenient speed. As soon as I saw the advertisement, I generally sent for them; for I have never af­fected, indeed I have never understood, the [Page 4] stoical apathy, the proud contempt of criti­cism, which some authors have publicly pro­fessed. Fame is the motive, it is the reward, of our labours; nor can I easily comprehend how it is possible that we should remain cold and indifferent with regard to the attempts which are made to deprive us of the most va­luable object of our possessions, or at least of our hopes. Besides this strong and natural impulse of curiosity, I was prompted by the more laudable desire of applying to my own, and the public, benefit, the well-grounded cen­sures of a learned adversary; and of correcting those faults which the indulgence of vanity and friendship had suffered to escape without obser­vation. I read with attention several criticisms which were published against the Two last Chap­ters of my History, and unless I much deceive myself, I weighed them in my own mind with­out prejudice and without resentment. After I had clearly satisfied myself that their principal objections were founded on misrepresentation or mistake, I declined with sincere and disinte­rested reluctance the odious task of controversy, and almost formed a tacit resolution of com­mitting my intentions, my writings, and my adversaries to the judgment of the Public, of whose favourable disposition I had received the most flattering proofs.

[Page 5] The reasons which justified my silence were obvious and forcible: the respectable nature of the subject itself, which ought not to be lightly violated by the rude hand of controversy; the inevitable tendency of dispute, which soon de­generates into minute and personal altercation; the indifference of the Public for the discussion of such questions as neither relate to the busi­ness nor the amusement of the present age. I calculated the possible loss of temper and the certain loss of time, and considered, that while I was laboriously engaged in a humiliating task, which could add nothing to my own reputa­tion, or to the entertainment of my readers, I must interrupt the prosecution of a work which claimed my whole attention, and which the Public, or at least my friends, seemed to re­quire with some impatience at my hands. The judicious lines of Dr. Young sometimes offered themselves to my memory, and I felt the truth of his observation, That every author lives or dies by his own pen, and that the unerring sentence of Time assigns its proper rank to every composition and to every criticism, which it preserves from oblivion.

I should have consulted my own ease, and perhaps I should have acted in stricter confor­mity to the rules of prudence, if I had still persevered in patient silence. But Mr. Davis may, if he pleases, assume the merit of extort­ing [Page 6] from me the notice which I had refused to more honourable foes. I had declined the consideration of their literary Objections; but he has compelled me to give an answer to his crimi­nal Accusations. Had he confined himself to the ordinary, and indeed obsolete charges of impi­ous principles, and criminal intentions, I should have acknowledged with readiness and pleasure that the religion of Mr. Davis appeared to be very different from mine. Had he contented himself with the use of that style which decency and politeness have banished from the more liberal part of mankind, I should have smiled, perhaps with some contempt, but without the least mixture of anger or resentment. Every animal employs the note, or cry, or howl, which is peculiar to its species; every man ex­presses himself in the dialect the most congenial to his temper and inclination, the most fami­liar to the company in which he has lived, and to the authors with whom he is conversant; and while I was disposed to allow that Mr. Davis had made some proficiency in Ecclesi­astical Studies, I should have considered the difference of our language and manners as an unsurmountable bar of separation between us. Mr. Davis has overleaped that bar, and forces me to contend with him on the very dirty ground which he has chosen for the scene of [Page 7] our combat. He has judged, I know not with how much propriety, that the support of a cause, which would disclaim such unworthy assistance, depended on the ruin of my moral and literary character. The different misrepresentations, of which he has drawn out the ignominious ca­talogue, would materially affect my credit as an historian, my reputation as a scholar, and even my honour and veracity as a gentleman. If I am indeed incapable of understanding what I read, I can no longer claim a place among those writers who merit the esteem and confidence of the Public. If I am capable of wilfully perverting what I understand, I no longer deserve to live in the society of those men, who consider a strict and inviolable ad­herence to truth, as the foundation of every thing that is virtuous or honourable in human nature. At the same time, I am not insensible that his mode of attack has given a transient pleasure to my enemies, and a transient uneasi­ness to my friends. The size of his volume, the boldness of his assertions, the acrimony of his style, are contrived with tolerable skill to confound the ignorance and candour of his readers. There are few who will examine the truth or justice of his accusations; and of those persons who have been directed by their edu­cation to the study of ecclesiastical antiquity, [Page 8] many will believe, or will affect to believe; that the success of their champion has been equal to his zeal, and that the serpent pierced with an hundred wounds lies expiring at his feet. Mr. Davis's book will cease to be read (perhaps the grammarians may already reproach me for the use of an improper tense); but the oblivion towards which it seems to be hasten­ing, will afford the more ample scope for the artful practices of those, who may not scruple to affirm, or rather to insinuate, that Mr. Gibbon was publickly convicted of falsehood and misrepresentation; that the evidence pro­duced against him was unanswerable; and that his silence was the effect and the proof of con­scious guilt. Under the hands of a malicious surgeon, the sting of a wasp may continue to fester and inflame, long after the vexatious little insect has left its venom and its life in the wound.

The defence of my own honour is undoubt­edly the first and prevailing motive which urges me to repel with vigour an unjust and unpro­voked attack; and to undertake a tedious vindication, which, after the perpetual re­petition of the vainest and most disgusting of the pronouns, will only prove that I am innocent; and that Mr. Davis, in his charge, has very frequently subscribed his [Page 9] own condemnation. And yet I may presume to affirm, that the Public have some interest in this controversy. They have some interest to know whether the writer whom they have ho­noured with their favour is deserving of their confidence, whether they must content them­selves with reading the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as a tale amusing enough, or whether they may venture to receive it as a fair and authentic history. The general persuasion of mankind, that where much has been positively asserted, something must be true, may contribute to encourage a secret suspicion, which would naturally diffuse itself over the whole body of the work. Some of those friends who may now tax me with imprudence for taking this public notice of Mr. Davis's book, have perhaps already condemned me for silently acquiescing under the weight of such serious, such direct, and such circumstantial imputa­tions.

Mr. Davis, who in the last page of his4 Work appears to have recollected that modesty is an amiable and useful qualification, affirms, that his plan required only that he should consult the authors to whom he was directed by my references; and that the judgment of riper [Page 10] years was not so necessary to enable him to execute with success the pious labour to which he had devoted his pen. Perhaps before we separate, a moment to which I most servently aspire, Mr. Davis may find that a mature judg­ment is indispensably requisite for the successful execution of any work of literature, and more especially of criticism. Perhaps he will dis­cover, that a young student who hastily con­sults an unknown author, on a subject with which he is unacquainted, cannot always be guided by the most accurate reference to the knowledge of the sense, as well as to the sight of the passage which has been quoted by his adversary. Abundant proofs of these maxims will hereafter be suggested. For the present, I shall only remark, that it is my intention to pursue in my defence the order, or rather the course, which Mr. Davis has marked out in his Examination; and that I have num­bered the several articles of my impeachment according to the most natural division of the subject. And now let me proceed on this hostile march over a dreary and barren desert, where thirst, hunger, and intolerable weari­ness, are much more to be dreaded, than the arrows of the enemy.



‘The remarkable mode of quotation which Mr. Gibbon adopts must immediately strike every one who turns to his notes. He some­times only mentions the author, perhaps the book; and often leaves the reader the toil of finding out, or rather guessing at the pas­sage. The policy, however, is not without its design and use. By endeavouring to de­prive us of the means of comparing him with the authorities he cites, he flattered himself, no doubt, that he might safely have recourse to misrepresentation 5.’ Such is the style of Mr. Davis; who in another place6 mentions this mode of quotation ‘as a good artifice to escape detection;’ and applauds, with an agreeable irony, his own labours in turning over a few pages of the Theodosian Code.

I shall not descend to animadvert on the rude and illiberal strain of this passage, and I will frankly own that my indignation is lost in asto­nishment. The Fifteenth and Sixteenth Chap­ters of my History are illustrated by three hundred and eighty-three Notes; and the nakedness of a few Notes, which are not ac­companied by any quotation, is amply com­pensated by a much greater number, which contain two, three, or perhaps four distinct [Page 12] references; so that upon the whole my stock of quotations which support and justify my facts cannot amount to less than eight hundred or a thousand. As I had often felt the incon­venience of the loose and general method of quoting which is so falsely imputed to me, I have carefully distinguished the books, the chap­ters, the sections, the pages of the authors to whom I referred, with a degree of accuracy and attention, which might claim some gratitude, as it has seldom been so regularly practised by any historical writers. And here I must con­fess some obligation to Mr. Davis, who, by staking my credit and his own on a circum­stance so obvious and palpable, has given me so early an opportunity of submitting the merits of our cause, or at least of our characters, to he judgment of the Public. Hereafter, when I am summoned to defend myself against the imputation of misquoting the text, or misrepresenting the sense of a Greek or La­tin author, it will not be in my power to com­municate the knowledge of the languages, or the possession of the books, to those readers who may be destitute either of one or of the other, and the part which they are obliged to take between assertions equally strong and per­emptory, may sometimes be attended with doubt and hesitation. But in the present in­stance, [Page 13] every reader who will give himself the trouble of consulting the First Volume of my History, is a competent judge of the question. I exhort, I solicit him to run his eye down the coloumns of Notes, and to count how many of the quotations are minute and particular, how few are vague and general. When he has satisfied himself by this easy computation, there is a word which may naturally suggest it­self; an epithet, which I should be sorry either to deserve or use; the boldness of Mr. Davis's assertion, and the confidence of my appeal will tempt, nay, perhaps, will force him to apply that epithet either to one or to the other of the adverse parties.

I have confessed that a critical eye may dis­cover some loose and general references; but as they bear a very inconsiderable proportion to the whole mass, they cannot support, or even ex­cuse a false and ungenerous accusation, which must reflect dishonour either on the object or on the author of it. If the examples in which I have occasionally deviated from my ordinary practice were specified and examined, I am persuaded that they might always be fairly attri­buted to some one of the following reasons. 1. In some rare instances, which I have never attempted to conceal, I have been obliged to adopt quotations which were expressed with less accuracy than I could have wished. 2. I may have accidentally recollected the sense of a [Page 14] passage which I had formerly read, without being able to find the place, or even to tran­scribe from memory the precise words. 3. The whole tract (as in a remarkable instance of the second Apology of Justin Martyr) was so short, that a more particular description was not re­quired. 4. The form of the composition sup­plied the want of a local reference; the pre­ceding mention of the year fixed the passage of of the annalist, and the reader was guided to the proper spot in the commentaries of Grotius, Valesius or Godefroy, by the more accurate cita­tion of their original author. 5. The idea which I was desirous of communicating to the reader, was sometimes the general result of the author or treatise that I had quoted; nor was it pos­sible to confine, within the narrow limits of a particular reference, the sense or spirit which was mingled with the whole mass. These mo­tives are either laudable or at least innocent. In two of these exceptions my ordinary mode of citation was superfluous; in the other three it was impracticable.

In quoting a comparison which Tertullian had used to express the rapid increase of the Marcionites, I expressly declared that I was obliged to quote it from memory7 If I have been guilty of comparing them to bees instead of wasps, I can however most sincerely disclaim [Page 15] the sagacious suspicion of Mr. Davis8, who imagines that I was tempted to amend the simile of Tertullian from an improper partiality for those odious Heretics.

A rescript of Diocletian, which declared the old law (not an old law9), had been alleged by me on the respectable authority of Fra-Paolo. The Examiner, who thinks that he has turned over the pages of the Theodosian Code, in­forms1 his reader that it may be found, l. vi. tit. xxiv. leg. 8.; he will be surprised to learn that this rescript could not be found in a code where it does not exist, but that it may distinctly be read in the same number, the same title, and the same book of the CODE OF JUSTINIAN. He who is severe should at least be just: yet I should probably have disdained this minute ani­madversion, unless it had served to display the general ignorance of the critic in the History of the Roman Jurisprudence. If Mr. Davis had not been an absolute stranger, the most treacherous guide could not have persuaded that a rescript of Diocletian was to be found in the Theodosian Code, which was designed only to preserve the laws of Constantine and his suc­cessors. Compendiosam (says Theodosius him­self) Divalium Constitutionum scientiam, ex D. Constantini temporibus roboramus. (Novell. ad calcem Cod. Theod. l. i. tit. i. leg. 1.)



Few objects are below the notice of Mr. Davis, and his criticism is never so formidable as when it is directed against the guilty cor­rector of the press, who on some occasions has shewn himself negligent of my fame and of his own. Some errors have arisen from the omis­sion of letters; from the confusion of cyphers, which perhaps were not very distinctly marked in the original manuscript. The two of the Roman, and the eleven of the Arabic, numerals have been unfortunately mistaken for each other; the similar forms of a 2 and a 3, a 5 and a 6, a 3 and a 8, have improperly been transposed; Antolycus for Autolycus, Idolatria for Idololatria, Holsterius for Holstenius, had escaped my own observation, as well as the diligence of the person who was em­ployed to revise the sheets of my History. These important errors, from the indulgence of a deluded Public, have been multiplied in the numerous impressions of three different editions; and for the present I can only lament my own defects, whilst I deprecate the wrath of Mr. Davis, who seems ready to infer that I cannot either read or write. I sincerely ad­mire his patient industry, which I despair of being able to imitate; but if a future edition should ever be required, I could wish to ob­tain, on any reasonable terms, the services of so useful a corrector.



Mr. Davis had been directed by my refer­ences to several passages of Optatus Milevita­nus2, and of the Bibliotheque Ecclesiastique of M. Dupin3. He eagerly consults those places, is unsuccessful, and is happy. Sometimes the place which I have quoted does not offer any of the circumstances which I had alleged, sometimes only a few; and sometimes the same passage exhibit a sense totally adverse and re­pugnant to mine. These shameful misrepre­sentations incline Mr. Davis to suspect that I have never consulted the original (not even of a common French book!) and he asserts his right to censure my presumption. These important charges from two distinct articles in the list of Misrepresentations; but Mr. Davis has amused himself with adding to the slips of the pen or of the press, some complaints of his ill success, when he attempted to verify my quotations from Cyprian and from Shaw's Travels4.

The success of Mr. Davis would indeed have been somewhat extraordinary, unless he had consulted the same editions, as well as the same places. I shall content myself with mention­ing [Page 18] the editions which I have used, and with assuring him, that if he renews his search, he will not, or rather, that he will be, disap­pointed.

Mr. Gibbon's Editions.Mr. Davis's Editions.
Optatus Milevitanus, by Dupin, fol. Paris, 1700.Fol. Antwerp, 1702.
Dupin, Bibliotheque Ecclesias­tique, 4to Paris, 1690.8vo. Paris. 1687.
Cypriani Opera, Edit. Fell, fol. Amsterdam, 1700.Most probably Oxon. 1682.
Shaw's Travels, 4to. London, 1757.The folio Edition.



The nature of my subject had led me to mention, not the real origin of the Jews, but their first appearance to the eyes of other na­tions; and I cannot avoid transcribing the short passage in which I had introduced them. ‘The Jews, who under the Assyrian and Per­sian monarchies had languished for many ages the most despised portion of their slaves, emerged from their obscurity under the successors of Alexander. And as they multiplied to a surprising degree in the East, and afterwards in the West, they soon ex­cited the curiosity and wonder of other na­tions5.’ This simple abridgment seems in its turn to have excited the wonder of Mr. Davis, whose surprise almost renders him eloquent. [Page 19]What a strange assemblage,’ says he, ‘is here. It is like Milton's Chaos, without bound, without dimension, where time and place are lost. In short, what does this dis­play afford us, but a deal of boyish co­louring to the prejudice of much good his­tory6.’ If I rightly understand Mr. Davis's language, he censures, as a piece of confused declamation, the passage which he has pro­duced from my history; and if I collect the angry criticisms which he has scattered over twenty pages of controversy7, I think I can discover that there is hardly a period, or even a word, in this unfortunate passage, which has obtained the approbation of the Examiner.

As nothing can escape his vigilance, he cen­sures me for including the twelve tribes of Is­rael under the common appellation of JEWS8, and for extending the name of ASSYRIANS to the subjects of the Kings of Babylon9; and again censures me, because some facts which are affirmed or insinuated in my text, do not agree with the strict and proper limits which he has assigned to those national denominations. The name of Jews has indeed been established by the scepter of the tribe of Judah, and, in the times which precede the captivity, it is used in the more [Page 20] general sense with some sort of impropriety; but surely I am not peculiarly charged with a fault which has been consecrated by the con­sent of twenty centuries, the practice of the best writers, ancient as well as modern (see Josephus and Prideaux, even in the titles of their respective works), and by the usage of mo­dern languages, of the Latin, the Greek, and, if I may credit Reland, of the Hebrew itself (see Palestin, l. i. c. 6.). With regard to the other word, that of Assyrians, most as­suredly I will not lose myself in the labyrinth of the Asiatic monarchies before the age of Cyrus; nor indeed is any more required for my justification, than to prove that Babylon was considered as the capital and royal seat of Assyria. If Mr. Davis were a man of learn­ing, I might be morose enough to censure his ignorance of ancient geography, and to over­whelm him under a load of quotations, which might be collected and transcribed with very little trouble: But as I must suppose that he has received a classical education, I might have expected him to have read the first book of Herodotus, where that historian describes, in the clearest and most elegant terms, the situ­ation and greatness of Babylon: [...] [Page 21] (Clio, c. 178.) I may be surprised that he should be so little conversant with the Cyropoedia of Xenophon, in the whole course of which the King of Babylon, the adversary of the Medes and Persians, is repeatedly men­tioned by the style and title of THE ASSYRIAN, [...] (l. ii. p. 102, 103, Edit. Hutchinson.) But there remains something more: and Mr. Davis must apply the same reproaches of inaccuracy, if not ignorance, to the Prophet Isaiah, who, in the name of Jehovah, announcing the down­fal of Babylon and the deliverance of Israel, declares with an oath; ‘And as I have pur­posed the thing shall stand: to crush the ASSYRIAN in my land, and to trample him on my mountains. Then shall his yoke de­part from off them; and his burthen shall be removed from off their shoulders.’ (Isaiah, xiv. 24, 25. Lowth's new translation. See likewise the Bishop's note, p. 98.)

The jealousy which Mr. Davis affects for the honour of the Jewish people will not suffer him to allow that they were slaves to the conquerors of the East; and while he acknowledges that they were tributary and dependent, he seems desirous of introducing, or even inventing, some milder expression of the state of vassal­age [Page 22] and subservience 1; from whence Tacitus as­sumed the words of despectissima pars servientium. Has Mr. Davis never heard of the distinction of civil and political slavery? Is he ignorant that even the natural and victorious subjects of an Asiatic despot have been deservedly marked with the opprobrious epithet of slaves by every writer acquainted with the name and advan­tage of freedom? Does he not know that un­der such a government, the yoke is imposed with double weight on the necks of the van­quished, as the rigour of tyranny is aggra­vated by the abuse of conquest. From the first invasion of Judaea by the arms of the As­syrians, to the subversion of the Persian mo­narchy by Alexander, there elapsed a period of above four hundred years, which included about twelve ages or generations of the human race. As long as the Jews asserted their in­dependence, they repeatedly suffered every ca­lamity which the rage and insolence of a vic­torious enemy could inflict; the throne of David was overturned, the temple and city were re­duced to ashes, and the whole land, a circum­stance perhaps unparalleled in history, remained three-score and ten years without inhabitants, and without cultivation. (2 Chronicles, xxxvi. 21.) According to an institution which has [Page 23] long prevailed in Asia, and particularly in the Turkish government, the most beautiful and ingenious youths were carefully educated in the palace, where superior merit sometimes introduced these fortunate slaves to the favour of the conqueror, and to the honours of the state. (See the book and example of Daniel.) The rest of the unhappy Jews experienced the hardships of captivity and exile in distant lands, and while individuals were oppressed, the na­tion seemed to be dissolved or annihilated. The gracious edict of Cyrus was offered to all those who worshipped the God of Israel in the temple of Jerusalem; but it was accepted by no more than forty-two thousand persons of either sex and of every age, and of these about thirty thousand derived their origin from the Tribes of Judah, of Benjamin, and of Levi. (See Ez­ra, i. Nehemiah, vii. and Prideaux's Connec­tions, vol. i. p. 107. fol. Edit. London, 1718.) The inconsiderable band of exiles, who returned to inhabit the land of their fathers, cannot be computed as the hundred and fiftieth part of the mighty people, that had been numbered by the impious rashness of David. After a sur­vey, which did not comprehend the Tribes of Levi and Benjamin, the Monarch was assured that he reigned over one million five hundred and seventy thousand men that drew sword (2 Chro­nicles, [Page 24] xxi. 1—6), and the country of Judaea must have contained near seven millions of free inhabitants. The progress of restoration is always less rapid than that of destruction; Je­rusalem, which had been ruined in a few months, was rebuilt by the slow and inter­rupted labours of a whole century; and the Jews, who gradually multiplied in their na­tive seats, enjoyed a servile and precarious ex­istence, which depended on the capricious will of their master. The books of Ezra and Ne­hemiah do not afford a very pleasing view of their situation under the Persian Empire; and the book of Esther exhibits a most extraordi­nary instance of the degree of estimation in which they were held at the Court of Susa. A Minister addressed his King in the following words, which may be considered as a Com­mentary on the despectissima pars servientium of the Roman historian; ‘And Haman said to King Ahasuerus, there is a certain people scattered abroad, and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people, neither keep they the King's laws; therefore it is not for the King's profit to suffer them. If it please the King let it be written that they may be destroyed; and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of [Page 25] those that have the charge of the business to bring it to the King's treasuries. And the King took his ring from his hand, and gave it to Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews enemy. And the King said unto Haman, The silver is given unto thee: the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee.’ (Esther, iii. 8—11.) This trifling favour was asked by the Minister, and granted by the Monarch, with an easy in­difference, which expressed their contempt for the lives and fortunes of the Jews; the business passed without difficulty through the forms of office; and had Esther been less lovely, or less beloved, a single day would have consummated the universal slaughter of a submissive people, to whom no legal defence was allowed, and from whom no resistance seems to have been dreaded. I am a stanger to Mr. Davis's poli­tical principles; but I should think that the epithet of slaves, and of despised slaves, may, without injustice, be applied to a captive na­tion, over whose heads the sword of tyranny was suspended by so slender a thread.

The policy of the Macedonians was very different from that of the Persians; and yet Mr. Davis, who reluctantly confesses that the Jews were oppressed by the former, does not understand how long they were favoured and [Page 26] protected by the latter2. In the shock of those revolutions which divided the empire of Alex­ander, Judaea, like the other provinces, expe­rienced the transient ravages of an advancing or retreating enemy, who led away a multitude of captives. But in the age of Josephus, the Jews still enjoyed the privileges granted by the Kings of Asia and Egypt, who had fixed nu­merous colonies of that nation in the new cities of Alexandria, Antioch, &c. and placed them in the same honourable condition ( [...]) as the Greeks and Macedonians them­selves. (Joseph. Antiquat. l. xii. c. 1. 3. p. 585. 596. Vol. i. edit. Havercamp.) Had they been treated with less indulgence, their settlement in those celebrated cities, the seats of commerce and learning, was enough to introduce them to the knowledge of the world, and to justify my absurd proposition, that they emerged from obscurity under the successors of Alexander.

Under the reign of those princes who oc­cupy the interval between Alexander and Au­gustus, the Jews asserted their civil and reli­gious rights against Antiochus Epiphanes, who had adopted new maxims of tyranny, and the age of the Machabees is perhaps the most glorious period of the Hebrew annals. Mr. Davis, who on this occasion is bewildered by the sub­tlety of Tacitus, does not comprehend why [Page 27] the historian should ascribe the independence of the Jews to three negative causes, ‘Mace­donibus invalidis, Parthis nondum adultis, et Romani procul aberant.’ To the under­standing of the critic, Tacitus might as well have observed that the Jews were not destroyed by a plague, a famine, or an earthquake; and Mr. Davis cannot see, for his own part, any reason why they might not have elected Kings of their own two or three hundred years be­fore3. Such indeed was not the reason of Ta­citus; he probably considered that every na­tion, depressed by the weight of a foreign power, naturally rises towards the surface, as soon as the pressure is removed; and he might think that, in a short and rapid history of the independence of the Jews, it was suffi­cient for him to shew that the obstacles did not exist, which, in an earlier or in a later period, would have checked their efforts. The curi­ous reader, who has leisure to study the Jewish and Syrian history, will discover that the throne of the Asmonaean Princes was con­firmed by the two great victories of the Parthians over Demetrius Nicator, and Antiochus Sidetes (See Joseph. Antiquitat. Jud. l. xiii. c. 5, 6. 8, 9. Justin, xxxvi. 1. xxxviii. 10. with Usher and Prideaux, before Christ 141 and 130); and the expression of Tacitus, the more closely it is examined, will be the more rationally admired.

[Page 28] My Quotations4 are the object of Mr. Da­vis's criticism5, as well as the Text of this short, but obnoxious passage. He corrects the error of my memory, which had suggested servitutis instead of servientium; and so natural is the al­liance between truth and moderation, that on this occasion he forgets his character, and can­didly acquits me of any malicious design to misrepresent the words of Tacitus. The other references, which are contained in the first and second Notes of my Fifteenth Chapter, are connected with each other, and can only be mistaken after they have been forcibly sepa­rated. The silence of Herodotus is a fair evi­dence of the obscurity of the Jews, who had escaped the eyes of so curious a traveller. The Jews are first mentioned by Justin, when he relates the siege of Jerusalem by Antiochus Si­detes; and the conquest of Judaea, by the arms of Pompey, engaged Diodorus and Dion to introduce that singular nation to the ac­quaintance of their readers. These epochs, which are within seventy years of each other, mark the age in which the Jewish people, emerging from their obscurity, began to act a part in the society of nations, and to excite the curiosity of the Greek and Roman histo­rians. For that purpose only, I had appealed to the authority of Diodorus Siculus, of Justin, or rather of Trogus Pompeius, and of Dion [Page 29] Cassius. If I had designed to investigate the Jewish Antiquities, reason, as well as faith, must have directed my inquiries to the Sacred Books, which, even as human productions, would deserve to be studied as one of the most curious and original monuments of the East.


I shall begin this article by the confession of an error which candour might perhaps excuse, but which my Adversary magnifies by a pathe­tic interrogation. ‘When he tells us, that he has carefully examined all the original ma­terials, are we to believe him? or is it his design to try how far the credulity and easy disposition of the age will suffer him to pro­ceed unsuspected and undiscovered6?’ Quo­usque tandem abuteris Catilina patientiâ nostrâ?

In speaking of the danger of idolatry, I had quoted the pictoresque expression of Tertullian, ‘Recogita sylvam et quantae latitant spinae,’ and finding it marked c. 10 in my Notes, I hastily, though naturally, added de Idololatria, instead of de Corona Militis, and referred to one Treatise of Tertullian instead of another7. And now let me ask in my turn, whether Mr. Davis had any real knowledge of the passage which I had misplaced, or whether he made an ungenerous use of his advantage, to insinuate [Page 30] that I had invented or perverted the words of Tertullian? Ignorance is less criminal than malice, and I shall be satisfied if he will plead guilty to the milder charge.

The same observation may be extended to a passage of Le Clerc, which asserts, in the clearest terms, the ignorance of the more an­cient Jews with regard to a future state. Le Clerc lay open before me, but while my eye moved from the book to the paper, I tran­scribed the reference c. 1. sect. 8. instead of sect. 1. c. 8. from the natural, but erroneous persuasion, that Chapter expressed the larger, and Section the smaller division8: and this dif­ference, of such trifling moment and so easily rectified, holds a distinguished place in the list of Misrepresentations which adorn Mr. Davis's table of Contents9. But to return to Tertul­lian.

The infernal picture, which I had produced1 from that vehement writer, which excited the horror of every humane reader, and which even Mr. Davis will not explicitly defend, has furnished him with a few critical cavils2. Happy should I think myself, if the materials of my History could be always exposed to the Examination of the Public; and I shall con­tent [Page 31] myself with appealing to the impartial Reader, whether my Version of this Passage is not as fair and as faithful as the more literal translation which Mr. Davis has exhibited in an opposite column. I shall only justify two expressions which have provoked his indigna­tion. 1. I had observed that the zealous Afri­can pursues the infernal description in a long variety of affected and unfeeling witticisms; the instances of Gods, of Kings, of Magi­strates, of Philosophers, of Poets, of Trage­dians introduced into my Translation. Those which I had omitted relate to the Dancers, the Charioteers, and the Wrestlers; and it is al­most impossible to express those conceits which are connected with the language and manners of the Romans. But the reader will be suffi­ciently shocked, when he is informed that Ter­tullian alludes to the improvement which the agility of the Dancers, the red livery of the Charioteers, and the attitudes of the Wrestlers, would derive from the effects of fire. ‘Tunc histrioanes cognoscendi solutiores multo per ignem; tunc spectandus Auriga in flammea rota totus ruber. Tunc Xystici contem­plandi, non in Gymnasiis, sed in igne jacu­lati.’ 2. I cannot refuse to answer Mr. Davis's very particular question, Why I appeal to Tertullian for the condemnation of the wisest and most virtuous of the Pagans? Because [Page 32] I am inclined to bestow that epithet on Trajan and the Antonines, Homer and Euripides, Plato and Aristotle, who are all manifestly in­cluded within the fiery description which I had produced.

I am accused of misquoting Tertullian ad Scapulam3, as an evidence that Martyrdoms were lately introduced into Africa4. Besides Tertullian, I had quoted from Ruinart (Acta Sincera, p. 84.) the Acts of the Scyllitan Mar­tyrs; and a very moderate knowledge of Ec­clesiastical History would have informed Mr. Davis, that the two authorities thus connected establish the proposition asserted in my Text. Tertullian, in the above-mentioned Chapter, speaks of one of the Proconsuls of Africa, Vi­gellius Saturninus, ‘qui primus hic gladium in nos egit;’ the Acta Sincera represent the same Magistrate as the Judge of the Scyllitan Martyrs, and Ruinart, with the consent of the best Critics, ascribes their sufferings to the persecution of Severus. Was it my fault if Mr. Davis was incapable of supplying the in­termediate ideas?

Is it likewise necessary that I should justify the frequent use which I have made of Tertul­lian? His copious writings display a lively and interesting picture of the primitive Church, [Page 33] and the scantiness of original materials scarcely left me the liberty of choice. Yet as I was sensible, that the Montanism of Tertullian is the convenient screen, which our orthodox Divines have placed before his errors, I have, with peculiar caution, confined myself to those works which were composed in the more early and sounder part of his life.

As a collateral justification of my frequent appeals to this African Presbyter, I had intro­duced, in the third edition of my History, two passages of Jerom and Prudentius, which prove that Tertullian was the master of Cyprian, and that Cyprian was the master of the Latin Church5. Mr. Davis assures me, however, that I should have done better not to have ‘added this note6, as I have only accumu­lated my inaccuracies.’ One inaccuracy he had indeed detected, an error of the press, Hie­ronym. de Viris illustribus, c. 53 for 63; but this advantage is dearly purchased by Mr. Da­vis. [...], which he produces as the original words of Cyprian, has a braver and more learned sound, than Da magistrum; but the quoting in Greek a sentence which was pro­nounced, and is recorded in Latin, seems to bear the mark of the most ridiculous pedantry; [Page 34] unless Mr. Davis, consulting for the first time the Works of Jerom, mistook the Version of Sophronius, which is printed in the opposite column, for the Text of his original Author. My reference to Prudentius, Hymn. xiii. 100. cannot so easily be justified, as I presumptu­ously believed that my critics would continue to read till they came to a full stop. I shall now place before them, not the first verse only, but the entire period, which they will find full, express, and satisfactory. The Poet says of St. Cyprian, whom he places in Heaven,

Nec minus involitat terris, nec ab hoc recedit orbe:
Disserit, eloquitur, tractat, docet, instruit, prophetat;
Nec Libyae populos tantum regit, exit usque in ortum
Solis, et usque obitum; Gallos fovet, imbuit Britannos,
Presidet Hesperiae, Christum serit ultimis Hibernis.



On the subject of the imminent dangers which the Apocalypse has so narrowly escaped7, Mr. Davis accuses me of misrepresenting the sentiments of Sulpicius Severus and Fra-Paolo8, with this difference, however, that I was incapable of reading or understanding the text of the Latin author; but that I wilfully perverted the sense of the Italian historian. [Page 35] These imputations I shall easily wipe away, by shewing that, in the first instance, I am proba­bly in the right, and that in the second, he is certainly in the wrong.

1. The concise and elegant Sulpicius, who has been justly styled the Christian Sallust, after mentioning the exile and Revelations of St. John in the Isle of Patmos, observes (and surely the observation is in the language of complaint), ‘Librum sacrae Apocalypsis, qui quidem a plerisque aut stulte aut impie non recipitur, conscriptum edidit.’ I am found guilty of supposing plerique to signify the greater number; whereas Mr. Davis, with Stephens's Dictionary in his hand, is able to prove that plerique has not always that extensive meaning, and that a classic of good authority has used the word in a much more limited and qualified sense. Let the Examiner therefore try to ap­ply his exception to this particular case. For my part, I stand under the protection of the general usage of the Latin language, and with a strong presumption in favour of the justice of my cause, or at least of the innocence and fair­ness of my intentions; since I have translated a familiar word according to its acknowledged and ordinary acceptation.

But, ‘if I had looked into the passage, and found that Sulpicius Severus there expressly [Page 36] tells us, that the Apocalypse was the work of St. John, I could not have committed so unfortunate a blunder, as to cite this Father as saying That the greater number of Chris­tians denied its Canonical authority9.’ Unfortunate indeed would have been my blunder, had I asserted that the same Chris­tians who denied its Canonical authority, ad­mitted it to be the work of an Apostle. Such indeed was the opinion of Severus himself, and his opinion has obtained the sanction of the Church; but the Christians whom he taxes with folly or impiety for rejecting this sacred book, must have supported their error by at­tributing the Apocalypse to some uninspired writer; to John the Presbyter, or to Cerinthus the Heretic.

If the rules of grammar and of logic autho­rise, or at least allow me to translate plerique by the greater number, the Ecclesiastical History of the fourth century illustrates and justifies this obvious interpretation. From a fair compari­son of the populousness and learning of the Greek and Latin Churches, may I not con­clude that the former contained the greater number of Christians qualified to pass sentence on a mysterious prophesy composed in the Greek language? May I not affirm, on the [Page 37] authority of St. Jerom, that the Apocalypse was generally rejected by the Greek Churches? ‘Quod si eam (the Epistle to the Hebrews) Latinorum consuetudo non recipit inter Scripturas Canonicas; nec Graecorum Ec­clesiae Apocalypsim Johannis eadem libertate suscipiunt. Et tamen nos utramque suscipi­mus, nequaquam hujus temporis consuetu­dinem, sed veterum auctoritatem sequentes.’ Epistol. ad Dardanum, tom. iii. p. 68.

It is not my design to enter my farther into the controverted history of that famous book; but I am called upon1 to defend my Remark that the Apocalypse was tacitly excluded from the sacred canon by the council of Laodicea (Ca­non LX.) To defend my Remark, I need only state the fact in a simple, but more parti­cular manner. The assembled Bishops of Asia, after enumerating all the books of the Old and New Testament which should be read in churches, omit the Apocalypse, and the Apo­calypse alone; at a time when it was rejected or questioned by many pious and learned Chris­tians, who might deduce a very plausible ar­gument from the silence of the Synod.

2. When the Council of Trent resolved to pronounce sentence on the Canon of Scripture, [Page 38] the opinion which prevailed, after some debate, was to declare the Latin Vulgate authentic and almost infallible; and this sentence, which was guarded by formidable Anathemas, secured all the books of the Old and New Testament which composed that ancient version, ‘che si dichiarassero tutti in tutte le parte come si trovano nella Biblia Latina, esser di Divina è ugual autorita.’ (Istoria del Concilio Tridentino, l. ii. p. 147. Helmstadt (Vicen­za) 1761.) When the merit of that version was discussed, the majority of the Theologians urged, with confidence and success, that it was absolutely necessary to receive the Vulgate as authentic and inspired, unless they wished to abandon the victory to the Lutherans, and the honours of the Church of the Grammarians. ‘In contrario della maggior parte dè Teo­logi era detto . . . . che-quest nuovi Gram­matici confonderanno ogni cosa, e sarà far­gii giudici e arbitri della fede; e in luogo dè Teologi e Canonisti, converrà tener il primo conto nell' assumere a Vescovati e Cardinalati dè pedanti.’ (Istoria del Con­cilio Tridentino, I. ii. p. 149.) The sagacious Historian, who had studied the Council, and the judicious Le Courayer, who had studied his Author (Historie du Concile de Trente, tom. i. p. 245. Londres 1736) consider this ridiculous [Page 39] reason as the most powerful argument which influenced the debates of the Council: But Mr. Davis, jealous of the honour of a Synod which placed tradition on a level with the Bi­ble, affirms that Fra-Paolo has given another more substantial reason on which these Popish Bishops built their determination, That after dividing the books under their consideration into three classes; of those which had been al­ways held for divine; of those whose authenti­city had formerly been doubted, but which by use and custom had acquired canonical autho­rity; and of those which had never been pro­perly certified; the Apocalypse was judiciously placed by the Fathers of the Council in the second of these classes.

The Italian passage which, for that purpose, Mr. Davis had alleged at the bottom of his page, is indeed taken from the text of Fra-Paolo: but the reader who will give himself the trouble, or rather the pleasure, of perusing that incompa­rable historian, will discover that Mr. Davis has only mistaken a motion of the opposition for a measure of the administration. He will find that this critical division, which is so erro­neously ascribed to the public reason of the Council, was no more than the ineffectual pro­posal of a temperate minority, which was soon over-ruled by a majority of artful Statesmen, bigotted Monks, and dependent Bishops.

[Page 40] ‘We have here an evident proof that Mr. Gibbon is equally expert in misrepresenting a modern as an ancient writer, or that he wilfully conceals the most material reason, with a design, no doubt, to instil into his Reader a notion, that the authenticity of the Apocalypse is built on the slightest foun­dation2.’



I had cautiously observed (for I was apprised of the obscurity of the subject) that the Epistle of Clemens does not lead us to discover any traces of Episcopacy either at Corinth or Rome3. In this observation I particularly alluded to the republican form of salutation, ‘The Church of God inhabiting Rome, to the Church of God inhabiting Corinth;’ without the least mention of a Bishop or President in either of those ecclesiastical assemblies.

Yet the piercing eye of Mr. Davis4 can dis­cover not only traces, but evident proofs of Episcopacy, in this Epistle of Clemens; and he actually quotes two passages, in which he distinguishes by capital letters the word BI­SHOPS, whose institution Clemens refers to the Apostles themselves. But can Mr. Davis hope to gain credit by such engregious triffing? While we are searching for the origin of Bi­shops, [Page 41] not merely as an ecclesiastical title, but as the peculiar name of an order distinct from that of Presbyters, he idly produces a passage, which, by declaring that the Apostles esta­blished in every place Bishops and Deacons, evi­dently confounds the Presbyters with one or other of those two ranks. I have neither in­clination nor interest to engage in a contro­versy which I had considered only in an historical light; but I have already said enough to shew, that there are more traces of a disingenuous mind in Mr. Davis, than of an Episcopal Or­der in the Epistle of Clemens.



Perhaps, on some future occasion, I may examine the historical character of Eusebius; perhaps I may enquire, how far it appears from his words and actions that the learned Bishop of Caesarea was averse to the use of fraud, when it was employed in the service of Religion. At present I am only concerned to defend my own truth and honour from the re­proach of misrepresenting the sense of the Ec­clesiastical Historian. Some of the charges of Mr. Davis on this head are so strong, so pointed, so vehemently urged, that he seems to have staked, on the event of the trial, the merits of our respective characters. If his assertions are true, I deserve the contempt of learned, and [Page 42] the abhorrence of good, men. If they are false, * * * * * * *

1. I had remarked, without any malicious in­tention, that one of the seventeen Christians who suffered at Alexandria was likewise accused of robbery5. Mr. Davis6 seems enraged be­cause I did not add that he was falsely accused, takes some unnecessary pains to convince me that the Greek word [...] signifies falso accusatus, and ‘can hardly think that any one who had looked into the original, would dare thus absolutely to contradict the plain testimony of the author he pretends to fol­low.’ A simple narrative of this fact, in the relation of which Mr. Davis has really sup­pressed several material circumstances, will af­ford the clearest justification.

Eusebius had preserved an original letter from Dionysius Bishop of Alexandria to Fabius Bishop of Antioch, in which the former re­lates the circumstances of the persecution which had lately afflicted the capital of Egypt. He allows a rank among the martyrs to one Ne­mesion, an Egyptian, who was falsely or ma­liciously accused as a companion of robbers. Before the Centurion he justified himself from [Page 43] this calumny, which did not relate to him: but being charged as a Christian, he was brought in chains before the Governor. That unjust magistrate, after inflicting on Nemesion a double measure of stripes and tortures, gave or­ders that he should be burnt with the robbers. (Dionys. apud Euseb. l. vi. c. 41.)

It is evident that Dionysius represents the religious sufferer as innocent of the criminal accusation which had been falsely brought against him. It is not less evident, that what­ever might be the opinion of the Centurion, the supreme magistrate considered Nemesion as guilty, and that he affected to shew, by the measure of his tortures, and by the compa­nions of his execution, that he punished him, not only as a Christian, but as a robber. The evidence against Nemesion, and that which might be produced in his favour, are equally lost; and the question (which fortu­nately is of little moment) of his guilt or in­nocence rests solely on the opposite judgments of his ecclesiastical and civil superiors. I could easily perceive that both the Bishop and the Governor were actuated by different passions and prejudices towards the unhappy sufferer; but it was impossible for me to decide which of the two was the most likely to indulge his pre­judices and passions at the expence of truth. In this doubtful situation, I conceived that I had acted with the most unexceptionable [Page 44] caution, when I contented myself with ob­serving that Nemesion was accused; a circum­stance of a public and authentic nature, in which both parties were agreed.

Mr. Davis will no longer ask, ‘what pos­sible evasion then can Mr. Gibbon have re­course to, to convince the world that I have falsely accused him of a gross misrepresenta­tion of Eusebius?’

2. Mr. Davis7 charges me with falsifying (falsifying is a very serious word) the testimony of Eusebius; because it suited my purpose to magnify the humanity and even kindness of Maxentius towards the afflicted Christians8. To support this charge, he produces some part of a chapter of Eusebius, the English in his text, the Greek in his notes, and makes the Ecclesiastical Historian express himself in the following terms: ‘Although Maxentius at first favoured the Christians with a view of popularity, yet afterwards, being addicted to magic, and every other impiety, HE ex­erted himself in persecuting the Christians, in a more severe and destructive manner than his predecessors had done before him.’

If it were in my power to place the volume and chapter of Eusebius (Hist. Eccles. l. viii. c. 14.) before the eyes of every reader, I should [Page 45] be satisfied and silent. I should not be under the necessity of protesting, that in the passage quoted, or rather abridged, by my adversary, the second member of the period, which alone contradicts my account of Maxentius, has not the most distant reference to that odious tyrant. After distinguishing the mild conduct which he affected towards the Christians, Eusebius proceeds to animadvert with becoming serverity on the general vices of his reign; the rapes, the murders, the oppression, the promiscuous massacres, which I had faithfully related in their proper place, and which the Christians, not in their religious, but in their civil capa­city, must occasionally have shared with the rest of his unhappy subjects. The Ecclesiastical Historian then makes a transition to another tyrant, the cruel Maximin, who carried away from his friend and ally Maxentius the prize of superior wickedness; for HE was addicted to magic arts, and was a cruel persecutor of the Christians. The evidence of words and facts, the plain meaning of Eusebius, the concurring testimony of Caecilius or Lactantius, and the superfluous authority of Versions and Commen­tators, establish beyond the reach of doubt or cavil, that Maximin, and not Maxentius, is stigmatized as a persecutor, and that Mr. Davis alone has deserved the reproach of falsifying the testimony of Eusebius.

[Page 46] Let him examine the chapter on which he founds his accusation. If in that moment his feelings are not of the most painful and humi­liating kind, he must indeed be an object of pity.

3. A gross blunder is imputed to me by this polite antagonist9, for quoting under the name of Jerom, the Chronicle which I ought to have described as the work and property of Euse­bius1; and Mr. Davis kindly points out the occasion of my blunder, That it was the conse­quence of my looking no farther than Dodwell for this remark, and of not rightly under­standing his reference. Perhaps the Historian of the Roman Empire may be credited, when he affirms that he frequently consulted a Latin Chronicle of the affairs of that Empire; and he may the sooner be credited, if he shews that he knows something more of this Chronicle besides the name and the title-page.

Mr. Davis, who talks so familiarly of the Chronicle of Eusebius, will be surprised to hear that the Greek original no longer exists. Some chronological fragments, which had suc­cessively passed through the hands of Africanus and Eusebius, are still extant, though in a very corrupt and mutilated state, in the compila­tions of Syncellus and Cedrenus. They have [Page 47] been collected, and disposed by the labour and ingenuity of Joseph Scaliger; but that proud Critic, always ready to applaud his own suc­cess, did not flatter himself, that he had re­stored the hundredth part of the genuine Chro­nicle of Eusebius. ‘Ex eo (Syncello) omnia Eusebiana excerpsimus quae quidem depre­hendere potuimus; quae, quanquam ne cen­tesima quidem pars eorum esse videtur quae ab Eusebio relicta sunt, aliquod tamen justum volumen explere possunt.’ (Jos. Scaliger Animadversiones in Graeca Eusebii in Thesauro Temporum, p. 401. Amstelod. 1658. While the Chronicle of Eusebius was perfect and entire, the second book was translated into Latin by Jerom, with the freedom, or rather licence, which that voluminous Author, as well as his friend or enemy Rufinus, always assumed. ‘Plurima in vertendo mutat, infulcit, praeterit,’ says Scaliger himself, in the Prolegomena, p. 22. In the persecution of Aurelian, which has so much offended Mr. Davis, we are able to dis­tinguish the work of Eusebius from that of Jerom, by comparing the expressions of the Ecclesiastical History with those of the Chro­nicle. The former affirms, that, towards the end of his reign, Aurelian was moved by some councils to excite a persecution gainst the Christians; that his design occa­sioned [Page 48] a great and general rumour; but that when the letters were prepared, and as it were signed, Divine Justice dismissed him from the world. [...] Euseb. Hist. Eccles. l. vii. c. 30. Where­as the Chronicle relates, that Aurelian was killed after he had excited or moved a perse­cution against the Christians, ‘cum adversum nos persecutionem movisset.’

From this manifest difference I assume a right to assert; first, the expression of the Chronicle of Jerom, which is always proper, became in this instance necessary; and secondly, that the lan­guage of the Fathers is so ambiguous and in­correct, that we are at a loss how to determine how far Aurelian had carried his intention be­fore he was assassinated. I have neither per­verted the fact, nor have I been guilty of a gross blunder.



‘The persons accused of Christianity had a convenient time allowed them to settle their domestic concerns, and to prepare their answer1.’ This observation had been sug­gested, [Page 49] partly by a general expression of Cyprian (de Lapsis, p. 88. Edit. Fell. Amstelod. 1700.) and more especially by the second Apology of Justin Martyr, who gives a particular and cu­rious example of this legal delay.

The expressions of Cyprian, ‘dies negan­tibus praestitutus, &c.,’ which Mr. Davis most prudently suppresses, are illustrated by Mosheim in the following words: ‘Primum qui delati erant aut suspecti, illis certum dierum spa­tium judex definiebat, quo decurrente, se­cum deliberare poterant, utrum profiteri Christum an negare mallent; explorandae fidei praefiniebantur dies, per hoc tempus liberi manebant in domibus suis; nec impediebat aliquis quod ex consequentibus apparet, ne fugâ sibi consulerent. Satis hoc erat huma­num.’ (De Rebus Christianis ante Constan­tinum, p. 480.) The practice of Egypt was sometimes more expeditious and severe; but this humane indulgence was still allowed in Africa during the persecution of Decius.

But my appeal to Justin Martyr is encoun­tered by Mr. Davis with the following declara­tion2: ‘The reader will observe, that Mr. Gibbon does not make any reference to any section or division of this part of Justin's work; [Page 50] with what view we may shrewdly suspect, when I tell him, that after an accurate perusal of the whole second Apology, I can boldly affirm, that the following instance is the only one that bears the most distant similitude to what Mr. Gibbon relates as above on the authority of Justin. What I find in Justin is as follows: "A woman being converted to Christianity, is afraid to associate with her husband, because he is an abandoned repro­bate, lest she should partake of his sins. Her husband, not being able to accuse her, vents his rage in this manner on one Ptolemaeus, a teacher of Christianity, and who had con­verted her, &c. Mr. Davis then proceeds to relate the severities inflicted on Ptolemaeus, who made a frank and instant profession of his faith: and he sternly exclaims, that if I take every opportunity of passing encomiums on the humanity of Roman magistrates, it is incum­bent on me to produce better evidence than this.

His demand may be easily satisfied, and I need only for that purpose transcribe and translate the words of Justin, which immediately pre­cede the Greek quotation alleged at the bottom of my adversary's page. I am possessed of two editions of Justin Martyr, that of Cambridge, 1768, in 8vo, by Dr. Ashton, who only pub­lished [Page 51] the two Apologies; and that of all his works, published in fol. Paris, 1742, by the Benedictines of the Congregation of St. Maar: the following curious passage may be found, p. 164, of the former, and p. 89 of the latter Edition. [...] ‘He brought an accusation against her, saying, that she was a Christian. But she presented a petition to the Emperor, praying that she might first be allowed to settle her domestic concerns; and promising, that after she had settled them, she would then put in her answer to the accusation. This you granted.’

I disdain to add a single reflection: nor shall I qualify the conduct of my adversary with any of those harsh epithets, which might be inter­preted as the expressions of resentment, though I should be constrained to use them as the only words in the English language, which could accurately represent my cool and unprejudiced sentiments.



In stating the toleration of Christianity du­ring the greatest part of the reign of Diocle­tian, I had observed3, that the principal eunuchs of the palace, whose names and offices were particularly specified, enjoyed, with their wives and children, the free exercise of the Christian religion. Mr. Davis twice affirms4, in the most deliberate manner, that this pretended fact, which is asserted on the sole authority, is contradicted by the positive evidence, of Lac­tantius. In both these effirmations Mr. Davis is inexcusably mistaken.

1. When the storms of persecution arose, the Priests, who were offended by the sign of the Cross, obtained leave of the Emperor, that the profane, the Christians, who accompanied him to the Temple, should be compelled to offer sacrifice; and this incident is mentioned by the Rhetorician, to whom I shall not at present refuse the name of Lactantius. The act of idolatry, which at the expiration of eighteen years was required of the officers of Dioletian, is a manifest proof that their religious freedom had hitherto been inviolate, except in the single instance of waiting on their master to the [Page 53] Temple; a service less criminal, than the pro­fane compliance for which the Minister of the King of Syria solicited the permission of the Prophet of Israel.

2. The reference which I made to Lac­tantius expressly pointed out this exception to their freedom. But the proof of the toleration which they enjoyed, was built on a different testimony, which my disingenuous adversary has concealed; an ancient and curious instruction, composed by Bishop Theonas, for the use of Lucian and the other Christian eunuchs of the palace of Diocletian. This authentic piece was published in the Spicilegium of Dom Luc d'Acheri; as I had not the opportunity of con­sulting the original, I was contented with quot­ing it on the faith of Tillemont, and the refer­ence to it immediately precedes (ch. xvi. note 133.) the citation of Lactantius (note 134).

Mr. Davis may now answer his own question, ‘What apology can be made for thus assert­ing, on the sole authority of Lactantius, facts which Lactantius so expressly denies?’



‘I have already given a curious instance of our Author's asserting, on the authority of Dion Cassius, a fact not mentioned by that Historian. I shall now produce a very sin­gular proof of his endeavouring to conceal [Page 54] from us a passage really contained in him4.’ Nothing but the angry vehemence with which these charges are urged, could engage me to take the least notice of them. In themselves they are doubly contemptible: they are trifling, and they are false.

1. Mr. Davis5 had imputed to me as a crime, that I had mentioned, on the sole testi­mony of Dion (l. lxviii. p. 1145.), the spirit of rebellion which inflamed the Jews, from the reign of Nero to that of Antoninus Pius6, whilst the passage of that Historian is confined to an insurrection in Cyprus and Cyrene, which broke out within that period. The Reader who will cast his eye on the Note (ch. xvi. note 1.) which is supported by that quotation from Dion, will discover that it related only to this particular fact. The ge­neral position, which is indeed too notorious to require any proof, I had carefully justified in the course of the same paragraph; partly by another reference to Dion Cassius, partly by an allusion to the well-known History of Jose­phus, and partly by several quotations from the learned and judicious Basnage, who has ex­plained, in the most satisfactory manner, the principles and conduct of the rebellious Jews.

[Page 55] 2. The passage of Dion, which I am accused of endeavouring to conceal, might perhaps have remained invisible, even to the piercing eye of Mr. Davis, if I had not carefully re­ported it in its proper place: and it was in my power to report it, without being guilty of any inconsiderate contradiction. I had observed, that, in the large history of Dion Cassius, Xi­philin had not been able to discover the name of Christians: yet I afterwards quote a passage in which Marcia, the favourite Concubine of Commodus, is celebrated as the Patroness of the Christians. Mr. Davis has transcribed my quotation, but he has concealed the important words which I now distinguish by Italics (ch. xvi. note 106. Dion Cassius, or rather his ab­breviator Xiphilin, l. lxxii. p. 1206.) The re­ference is fairly made and cautiously qualified; I am already secure from the imputations of fraud or inconsistency; and the opinion which attributes the last-mentioned passage to the Ab­breviator, rather than to the original Historian, may be supported by the most unexception­able authorities. I shall protect myself by these of Reimar (in his Edition of Dion Cassius, tom. ii. p. 1207. note 34.), and of Dr. Lard­ner; and shall only transcribe the words of the7 [Page 56] latter, in his Collection of Jewish and Heathen testimonies, vol. iii. p. 57.

‘This paragraph I rather think to be Xi­philin's than Dion's. The style at least is Xiphilin's. In the other passages before quoted, Dion speaks of Impiety, or Atheism, or Judaism; but never useth the word Chris­tians. Another thing that may make us doubt whether this observation be entirely Dion's, is the phrase, "it is related ( [...])." For at the beginning of the reign of Commodus, he says, "These things, and what follows, I write not from the report of others, but from my own knowledge and observation." However, the sense may be Dion; but I wish we had also his style with­out any adulteration.’ For my own part, I must, in my private opinion, ascribe even the sense of this passage to Xiphilin. The Monk might eagerly collect and insert an anec­dote which related to the domestic history of the church; but the religion of a courtezan must have appeared an object of very little moment in the eyes of a Roman Counsul, who, at least in every other part of his history, disdained or neglected to mention the name of the Chris­tians.

‘What shall we say now? Do we not dis­cover the name of Christians in the History [Page 57] of Dion? With what assurance then can Mr. Gibbon, after asserting a fact manifestly untrue, lay claim to the merits of diligence and accuracy, the indispensable duty of an Historian. Or can he expect us to credit his assertion, that he has carefully examined all the original materials8?’

Mr. Gibbon may still maintain the character of an Historian; but it is difficult to conceive how Mr. Davis will support his pretensions, if he aspires to that of a Gentleman.

I almost hesitate whether I should take any notice of another ridiculous charge which Mr. Davis includes in the article of Dion Cassius. My adversary owns, that I have occasionally produced the several passages of the Augustan History which relate to the Christians, but he fiercely contends that they amount to more than six lines 9. I really have not measured them: nor did I mean that loose expression as a precise and definite number. If, on a nicer survey, those short hints, when they are brought together, should be found to exceed six of the long lines of my folio edition, I am con­tent that my critical Antagonist should substi­tute eight, or ten, or twelve, lines: nor shall I think either my learning or my veracity much interested in this important alteration.


PLINY, &c.

After a short description of the unworthy conduct of those Apostates who, in a time of persecution, deserted the Faith of Christ, I produced the evidence of a Pagan Proconsul1, and of two Christian Bishops, Pliny, Dionysius of Alexandria, and Cyprian. And here the unforgiving Critic remarks, ‘That Pliny has not particularized that difference of conduct (in the different Apostates) which Mr. Gib­bon here describes: yet his name stands at the head of those Authors whom he has cited on the occasion. It is allowed indeed that this distinction is made by the other Authors; but as Pliny, the first referred to by Mr. Gibbon, gives him no cause or rea­son to use them, (I cannot help Mr. Davis's bad English) ‘it is certainly very repre­hensible in our Author, thus to confound their testimony, and to make a needless and improper reference2.’

A criticism of this sort can only tend to ex­pose Mr. Davis's total ignorance of historical composition. The Writer who aspires to the name of Historian, is obliged to consult a va­riety of original testimonies, each of which, [Page 59] taken separately, is perhaps imperfect and par­tial. By a judicious re-union and arrangement of these dispersed materials, he endeavours to form a consistent and interesting narrative. Nothing ought to be inserted which is not proved by some one of the witnesses; but their evidence must be so intimately blended to­gether, that as it is unreasonable to expect that each of them should vouch for the whole, so it would be impossible to define the boundaries of their respective property. Neither Pliny, nor Dionysius, nor Cyprian, mention all the circumstances and distinctions of the conduct of the Christian Apostates; but if any of them was withdrawn, the account which I have given would, in some instance, be defective.

Thus much I thought necessary to say, as several of the subsequent misrepresentations of Orosius, of Bayle, of Fabricius, of Gregory of Tours, &c.3, which provoked the fury of Mr. Davis, are derived only from the ignorance of this common historical principle.

Another class of Misrepresentations, which my Adversary urges with the same degree of vehemence (see in particular those of Justin, Diodorus Siculus, and even Tacitus), requires the support of another principle which has not [Page 60] yet been introduced into the art of criticism; that when a modern historian appeals to the authority of the ancients for the truth of any particular fact, he makes himself answerable, I know not to what extent, for all the circum­jacent errors or inconsistencies of the authors whom he has quoted.



I am accused of throwing out a false accu­sation against this Father3, because I had ob­served4 that Ignatius, defending against the Gnostics the resurrection of Christ, employs a vague and doubtful tradition, instead of quot­ing the certain testimony of the Evangelists: and this observation was justified by a remark­able passage of Ignatius, in his Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, which I cited according to the volume and the page of the best edition of the Apostolical Fathers, published at Amster­dam, 1724, in two volumes in folio. The Criticism of Mr. Davis is announced by one of those solemn declarations which leave not any refuge, if they are convicted of falsehood. ‘I cannot find any passage that bears the least affinity to what Mr. Gibbon observes, in the whole Epistle, which I have read over more than once.’

[Page 61] I had already marked the situation; nor is it in my power to prove the existence of this passage, by any other means than by producing the words of the original. [...] ‘I have known, and I believe, that after his resurrection likewise he existed in the flesh: And when he came to Peter, and to the rest, he said unto them, Take, handle me, and see that I am not an incorporeal daemon or spirit. And they touched him and believ­ed.’ The faith of the Apostles confuted the impious error of the Gnostics, which attributed only the appearances of a human body to the Son of God: and it was the great object of Ignatius, in the last moments of his life, to secure the Christians of Asia from the snares of those dangerous Heretics. According to the tradition of the modern Greeks, Ignatius was the child whom Jesus received into his arms (See Tillemont Mem. Eccles. tom. ii. part ii. p. 43.); yet as he could hardly be old enough to remember the resurrection of the Son of God, he must have derived his knowledge either from our present Evangelists, or from some Apocryphal Gospel, or from some un­written tradition.

[Page 62] 1. The Gospels of St. Luke and St. John would undoubtedly have supplied Ignatius with the most invincible proofs of the reality of the body of Christ, when he appeared to the Apostles after his resurrection: but neither of those Gospels contain the characteristic words of [...], and the important cir­cumstance that either Peter, or those who were with Peter, touched the body of Christ and believed. Had the Saint designed to quote the Evangelist on a very nice subject of contro­versy, he would not surely have exposed him­self by an inaccurate, or rather by a false re­ference, to the just reproaches of the Gnostics. On this occasion, therefore, Ignatius did not employ, as he might have done, against the Heretics, the certain testimony of the Evan­gelists.

2. Jerom, who cites this remarkable passage from the Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans (See Catalog. Script. Eccles. in Ignatio, tom. i. p. 273. edit. Erasm. Basil 1537), is of opinion that it was taken from the Gospel which he him­self had lately translated: and this, from the comparison of two other passages in the same Work (in Jacob. et in Matthaeo, p. 264), ap­pears to have been the Hebrew Gospel, which was used by the Nazarenes of Beraea, as the genuine composition of St. Matthew. Yet Jerom mentions another Copy of this Hebrew [Page 63] Gospel (so different from the Greek Text), which was extant in the library formed at Cae­sarea, by the care of Pamphilus: whilst the learned Eusebius, the friend of Pamphilus and the Bishop of Caesarea, very frankly declares (Hist. Eccles. l. iii. c. 36.), that he is ignorant from whence Ignatius borrowed those words, which are the subject of the present Enquiry.

3. The doubt which remains, is only whe­ther he took them from an Apocryphal Book, or from unwritten tradition: and I thought my­self safe from every species of Critics, when I embraced the rational sentiment of Casaubon and Pearson. I shall produce the words of the Bishop. ‘Praeterea iterum observandum est, quod de hac re scripsit Isaacus Casaubonus, Quinetiam fortasse verius, non ex Evangelio Hebraico, Ignatium illa verba descripsisse, verum traditionem allegasse non scriptam, quae postea in literas suerit relata, et Hebraico Evangelio, quod Matthaeo tribuebant; inserta. Et hoc quidem mihi multo verisimilius videtur.’ (Pearson. Vindiciae Ignatianae, part ii. c. ix. p. 396. in tom. ii. Patr. Apostol.)

I may now submit to the judgment of the Public, whether I have looked into the Epistle which I cite with such a parade of learning, and how profitably Mr. Davis has read it over more than once.



The learning and judgment of Mosheim had been of frequent use in the course of my Historical Inquiry, and I had not been wanting in proper expressions of gratitude. My vexa­tious Adversary is always ready to start from his ambuscade, and to harass my march by a mode of attack, which cannot easily be recon­ciled with the laws of honourable war. The greatest part of the Misrepresentations of Mo­shiem, which Mr. Davis has imputed to me5, are of such a nature, that I must indeed be humble, if I could persuade myself to bestow a moment of serious attention on them. Whether Mosheim could prove that an absolute com­munity of goods was not established among the first Christians of Jerusalem; whether he sus­pected the purity of the Epistles of Ignatius; whether he censured Dr. Middleton with tem­per or indignation (in this cause I must chal­lenge Mr. Davis as an incompetent judge); whether he corroborates the whole of my de­scription of the prophetic office; whether he speaks with approbation of the humanity of Pliny, and whether he attributed the same sense to the malefica of Suetonius, and the exitiabilis of Tacitus. These questions, [Page 65] even as Mr. Davis has stated them, lie open to the judgment of every reader, and the super­fluous observations which I could make, would be an abuse of their time and of my own. As little shall I think of consuming their patience, by examining whether Le Clerc and Mosheim labour in the interpretation of some texts of the Fathers, and particularly of a passage of Ire­naeus, which seem to favour the pretensions of the Roman Bishop. The material part of the passage of Irenaeus consists of about four lines; and in order to shew that the interpretations of Le Clerc and Mosheim are not laboured, Mr. Davis abridges them as much as possible in the space of twelve pages. I know not whether the perusal of my History will justify the suspicion of Mr. Davis, that I am secretly inclined to the interest of the Pope: but I cannot discover how the Protestant cause can be affected, if Ire­naeus in the second, or Palavicini in the seven­teenth century, were tempted, by any private views, to countenance in their writings the system of ecclesiastical dominion, which has been pursued in every age by the aspiring Bishops of the Imperial city. Their conduct followed the revolutions of the Christian Republic, but the same spirit animated the haughty breasts of Victor the First, and of Paul the Fifth.

There still remain one or two of these im­puted Misrepresentations, which appear, and [Page 66] indeed only appear, to merit a little more at­tention. In stating the opinion of Mosheim with regard to the progress of the Gospel, Mr. Davis boldly declares, ‘that I have altered the truth of Mosheim's history, that I might have an opportunity of contradicting the be­lief and wishes of the Fathers6.’ In other words, I have been guilty of uttering a mali­cious falsehood.

I had endeavoured to mitigate the sanguine expression of the Fathers of the second century, who had too hastily diffused the light of Christi­anity over every part of the globe, by ob­serving, as an undoubted fact, ‘that the Bar­barians of Scythia and Germany, who sub­verted the Roman Monarchy, were involved in the errors of Paganism; and that even the conquest of Iberia, of Armenia, or of Aethiopia, was not attempted with any de­gree of success, till the scepter was in the hands of an orthodox Emperor7.’ I had referred the curious reader to the fourth cen­tury of Mosheim's General History of the Church: Now Mr. Davis has discovered, and can prove, from that excellent work, ‘that Christianity, not long after its first rise, had been introduced into the less as well as greater Armenia; that part of the Goths, [Page 67] who inhabited Thracia, Maesia, and Dacia, had received the Christian religion long be­fore this century; and that Theophilus, their Bishop, was present at the Council of Nice8.’

On this occasion, the reference was made to a popular work of Mosheim, for the satisfac­tion of the reader, that he might obtain the ge­neral view of the progress of Christianity in the fourth century, which I had gradually acquired by studying with some care the Ecclesiastic Antiquities of the Nations beyond the limits of the Roman Empire. If I had reasonably sup­posed that the result of our common inquiries must be the same, should I have deserved a very harsh censure for my unsuspecting confi­dence? Or if I had declined the invidious task of separating a few immaterial errors, from a just and judicious representation, might not my respect for the name and merit of Mosheim, have claimed some indulgence? But I disdain those excuses, which only a candid adversary would allow. I can meet Mr. Davis on the hard ground of controversy, and retort on his own head the charge of concealing a part of the truth. He himself has dared to suppress the words of my text, which immediately followed his quotation. ‘Before that time the various [Page 68] accidents of war and commerce might indeed diffuse an imperfect knowledge of the Gospel among the tribes of Caledonia, and among the borderers of the Rhine, the Danube, and the Euphrates;’ and Mr. Davis has likewise suppresed one of the justificatory Notes on this passage, which expressly points out the time and circumstances of the first Gothic con­versions. These exceptions, which I had cau­tiously inserted, and Mr. Davis has cautiously concealed, are superfluous for the provinces of Thrace, Maesia, and the Lesser Armenia, which were contained within the precincts of the Ro­man Empire. They allow an ample scope for the more early conversion of some independent districts of Dacia and the Greater Armenia, which bordered on the Danube and Euphrates; and the entire sense of this passage, which Mr. Davis first mutilates and then attacks, is per­fectly consistent with the original text of the learned Mosheim.

And yet I will fairly confess, that after a nicer inquiry into the epoch of the Armenian Church, I am not satisfied with the accuracy of my own expression. The assurance that the first Christian King, and the first Archbishop, Tiridates, and St. Gregory the Illuminator, were still alive several years after the death of Constantine, inclined me to believe, that the conversion of Armenia was posterior to the au­spicious [Page 69] Revolution, which had given the scep­ter of Rome to the hands of an orthodox Em­peror. But I had not enough considered the two following circumstances. 1. I might have recollected the dates assigned by Moses of Cho­rene, who, on this occasion, may be regarded as a competent witness. Tiridates ascended the throne of Armenia in the third year of Dio­cletian (Hist. Armeniae, l. ii. c. 79. p. 207.), and St. Gregory, who was invested with the Episcopal character in the seventeenth year of Tiridates, governed almost thirty years the Church of Armenia, and disappeared from the world in the forty-sixth year of the reign of the same Prince. (Hist. Armeniae, l. ii. c. 88. p. 224, 225.) The consecration of St. Gre­gory must therefore be placed A. D. 303, and the conversion of the King and kingdom was soon atchieved by that successful missionary. 2. The unjust and inglorious war which Maxi­min undertook against the Armenians, the an­cient faithful allies of the Republic, was evi­dently derived from a motive of superstitious zeal. The historian Eusebius (Hist. Eccles. l. ix. c. 8. p. 448. edit. Cantab.) considers the pious Armenians as a nation of Christians, who bravely defended themselves from the hostile oppression of an idolatrous tyrant. Instead of maintaining ‘that the conversion of Armenia was not attempted with any degree of success [Page 70] till the scepter was in the hands of an ortho­dox Emperor,’ I ought to have observed, that the seeds of the faith were deeply sown during the season of the last and greatest perse­cution, that many Roman exiles might assist the labours of Gregory, and that the renowned Tiridates, the hero of the East, may dispute with Constantine the honour of being the first Sovereign who embraced the Christian religion.

In a future edition, I shall rectify an expres­sion which, in strictness, can only be applied to the kingdoms of Iberia and Aethiopia. Had the error been exposed by Mr. Davis himself, I should not have been ashamed to correct it; but I am ashamed at being reduced to contend with an adversary who is unable to discover, or to improve his own advantages.

But instead of prosecuting any inquiry from whence the public might have gained instruc­tion, and himself credit, Mr. Davis chuses to perplex his readers with some angry cavils about the progress of the Gospel in the second century. What does he mean to establish or to refute? Have I denied, that before the end of that period Christianity was very widely diffused both in the East and in the West? Has not Justin Martyr affirmed, without exception or limitation, that it was already preached to every nation on the face of the earth? Is that proposition true at present? Could it be true in [Page 71] the time of Justin? Does not Mosheim acknow­ledge the exaggeration? ‘Demus, nec enim quae in occulos incurrunt infitiari audemus, esse in his verbis exaggerationis nonnihil. Certum enim est diu post Justini aetatem, multas orbis terrarum gentes cognitione Christi caruisse.’ (Mosheim de Rebus Christi­anis, p. 203.) Does he not expose (p. 205.) with becoming scorn and indignation, the false­hood and vanity of the hyperboles of Tertul­lian? ‘bonum hominem aestu imaginationis elatum non satis adtendisse ad ea quae litteris consignabat.’

The high esteem which Mr. Davis expresses for the writings of Mosheim, would alone con­vince how little he has read them, since he must have been perpetually offended and dis­gusted by a train of thinking, the most repug­nant to his own. His jealousy, however, for the honour of Mosheim, provokes him to ar­raign the boldness of Mr. Gibbon, who pre­sumes falsely to charge such an eminent man with unjustifiable assertions 9. I might observe, that my style, which on this occasion was more modest and moderate, has acquired, perhaps undesignedly, an illiberal cast from the rough hand of Mr. Davis. But as my veracity is im­peached, I may be less solicitous about my po­liteness; [Page 72] and though I have repeatedly declined the fairest opportunities of correcting the errors of my predecessors, yet as long as I have truth on my side, I am not easily daunted by the names of the most eminent men.

The assertion of Mosheim, which did not seem to be justified1 by the authority of Lac­tantius, was, that the wise and daughter of Di­ocletian, Prisca and Valeria, had been pri­vately baptized. Mr. Davis is sure that the words of Mosheim, ‘Christianis sacris clam initiata,’ need not be confined to the rite of baptism; and he is equally sure, that the re­ference to Mosheim does not lead us to dis­cover even the name of Valeria. In both these assurances he is grossly mistaken; but it is the misfortune of controversy, that an error may be committed in three or four words, which cannot be rectified in less than thirty or forty lines.

1. The true and the sole meaning of the Christian initiation, one of the familiar and fa­vourite allusions of the Fathers of the fourth century, is clearly explained by the exact and laborious Bingham. ‘The baptized were also styled [...], which the Latins call initiati, the initiated, that is admitted to the use of the sacred offices, and knowledge [Page 73] of sacred mysteries of the Christian Religion. Hence came that form of speaking so fre­quently used by St. Chrysostom, and other ancient writers, when they touched upon any doctrines or mysteries which the Cate­chumens understood not [...], the initiated know what is spoken. St. Ambrose writes a book to these initiati; Isidore of Pelusium, and Hesychius call them [...] and [...]. Whence the Catechumens have the contrary names, [...], [...], [...], the uniniti­ated or unbaptized.’ (Antiquities of the Christian Church, l. i. c. 4. No 2. vol. i. p. 11. fol. edit.) Had I presumed to suppose that Mosheim was capable of employing a technical expression in a loose and equivocal sense, I should indeed have violated the respect which I have always entertained for his learning and abilities.

2. But Mr. Davis cannot discover in the text of Mosheim the name of Valeria. In that case Mosheim would have suffered another slight inaccuracy to drop from his pen, as the passage of Lactantius, ‘sacrificio pollui coë­git,’ on which he founds his assertion, in­cludes the names both of Prisca and Valeria. But I am not reduced to the necessity of accu­sing another in my own defence. Mosheim has [Page 74] properly and expressly declared that Valeria imitated the pious example of her mother Pris­ca, ‘Gener Diocletiani uxorem habebat Vale­riam matris exemplum pietate erga Deum imitantem et a cultu fictorum Numinum alienam.’ (Mosheim, p. 913.) Mr. Davis has a bad habit of greedily snapping at the first words of a reference, without giving himself the trouble of going to the end of the page or paragraph.

These trifling and peevish cavils would, per­haps, have been confounded with some criticisms of the same stamp, on which I had bestowed a slight, though sufficient notice, in the begin­ning of this article of Mosheim; had not my attention been awakened by a peroration worthy of Tertullian himself, if Tertullian had been devoid of eloquence as well as of moderation— ‘Much less does the Christian Mosheim give our infidel Historian any pretext for inserting that illiberal malignant insinuation, "That Christianity has, in every age, acknowledged its important obligations to FEMALE devo­tion;" the remark is truly contemptible 2.’

It is not my design to fill whole pages with a tedious enumeration of the many illustrious examples of female devotions, which, in every age, and almost in every country, have pro­moted [Page 75] the interest of Christianity. Such in­stances will readily offer themselves to those who have the slightest knowledge of Ecclesia­stical History; nor is it necessary that I should remind them how much the charms, the influ­ence, the devotion of Clotilda, and of her great-grand-daughter Bertha, contributed to the conversion of France and England. Reli­gion may accept, without a blush, the services of the purest and most gentle portion of the human species: but there are some advocates who would disgrace Christianity, if Christianity could be disgraced, by the manner in which they defend her cause.



As I could not readily procure the works of Gregory of Nyssa, I borrowed3 from the accu­rate and indefatigable Tillemont, a passage in the Life of Gregory Thaumaturgus, or the Wonder-worker, which affirmed that when the Saint took possession of his Episcopal See, he found only SEVENTEEN Christians in the city of Neo-Caesarea, and the adjacent country, ‘Les environs, la Campagne, le pays d'alentour.’ (Mem. Eccles. Tom. iv. p. 677. 691. Edit. Brusselles, 1706). These expressions of Til­lemont, to whom I explicitly acknowledged [Page 76] my obligation, appeared synonymous to the word Diocese, the whole territory intrusted to the pastoral care of the Wonder-worker, and I added the epithet of extensive; because I was apprised that Neo-Caesarea was the capital of the Polemoniac Pontus, and that the whole kingdom of Pontus, which stretched above five hundred miles along the coast of the Eux­ine, was divided between sixteen or seventeen Bishops. (See the Georgraphia Ecclesiastica of Charles de St. Paul, and Lucas Hostenius, p. 249, 250, 251.) Thus far I may not be thought to have deserved any censure; but the omission of the subsequent part of the same passage, which imports that at his death the Wonder-worker left no more than seventeen Pagans, may seem to wear a partial and suspi­cious aspect.

Let me therefore first observe, as some evi­dence of an impartial disposition, that I easily admitted, as the cool observation of the philo­sophic Lucian, the angry and interested com­plaint of the false prophet Alexander, that Pontus was filled with Christians. This com­plaint was made under the reigns of Marcus or of Commodus, with whom the impostor so admirably exposed by Lucian was contempo­rary: and I had contented myself with remark­ing that the numbers of Christians must have [Page 77] been very unequally distributed in the several parts of Pontus, since the diocese of Neo-Cae­sarea contained, above sixty years afterwards, only seventeen Christians. Such was the in­considerable flock which Gregory began to feed about the year two hundred and forty, and the real or fabulous conversions ascribed by that Wonder-working Bishop during a reign of thirty years, are totally foreign to the state of Christianity in the preceding century. This obvious reflection may serve to answer the objection of Mr. Davis4, and of another adversary5, who on this occasion is more li­beral than Mr. Davis of those harsh epithets so familiar to the tribe of Polemics.



‘Mr. Gibbon says6, "Pliny was sent into Bithynia (according to Pagi) in the year 110.’

‘Now that accurate Chronologer places it in the year 102. See the fact recorded in his Critica-Historico-Chronologica in Annales C. Baronii, A. D. 102. p. 99. saec. ii. § 3.’

[Page 78] ‘I appeal to my reader, Whether this anachronism does not plainly prove that our Historian never looked into Pagi's Chronology, though he has not hesitated to make a pompous reference to him in his note7?’

I cannot help observing, that either Mr. Davis's Dictionary is extremely confined, or that in his Philosophy all sins are of equal magnitude. Every error of fact or language, every instance where he does not know to re­concile the original and the reference, he ex­presses by the gentle word of misrepresentation. An inaccurate appeal to the sentiment of Pagi, on a subject where I must have been perfectly disinterested, might have been styled a lapse of memory, instead of being censured as the effect of vanity and ignorance. Pagi is neither a difficult nor an uncommon writer, nor could I hope to derive much additional fame from a pompous quotation of his writings which I had never seen.

The words employed by Mr. Davis, of fact, of record, of anachronism, are unskilfully cho­sen, and so unhappily applied, as to betray a very shameful ignorance, either of the English language, or of the nature of this Chronologi­cal Question. The date of Pliny's govern­ment of Bithynia is not a fact recorded by any ancient writer, but an opinion which modern [Page 79] critics have variously formed, from the consi­deration of presumptive and collateral evidence. Cardinal Baronius placed the consulship of Pliny one year too late; and, as he was per­suaded the old practice of th republic still subsisted, he naturally supposed that Pliny obtained his province immediately after the expiration of his consulship. He therefore sends him into Bithynia in the year which, according to his erroneous computation, co­incided with the year one hundred and four, (Baron. Annal. Eccles. A. D. 103. No 1. 104. No 1), or, according to the true chro­nology, with the year one hundred and two, of the Christian Aera. This mistake of Baronius, Pagi, with the assistance of his friend Cardinal Noris, undertakes to correct. From an accurate parallel of the Annals of Trajan and the Epistles of Pliny, he deduces his proofs that Pliny remained at Rome several years after his Consulship: by his own inge­nious, though sometimes fanciful theory, of the imperial Quinquennalia, &c. Pagi at last discovers that Pliny made his entrance into Bithynia in the year one hundred and ten. ‘Plinius igitur anno Christi CENTESIMO DE­CIMO Bithyniam intravit.’ Pagi, tom. i. p. 100.

I will be more indulgent to my adversary than he has been to me. I will admit, that he [Page 80] has looked into Pagi; but I must add, that he has only looked into that accurate Chronologer. To rectify the errors, which, in the course of a laborious and original work, had escaped the diligence of the Cardinal, was the arduous task which Pagi proposed to execute: and for the sake of perspicuity, he distributes his criticisms according to the particular dates, whether just or faulty, of the Chronology of Baronius him­self. Under the year 102, Mr. Davis con­fusedly saw a long argument about Pliny and Bithynia, and without condescending to read the Author whom he pompously quotes, this hasty Critic imputes to him the opinion which he had so laboriously destroyed.

My readers, if any readers have accompani­ed me thus far, must be satisfied, and indeed satiated, with the repeated proofs which I have made of the weight and temper of my adver­sary's weapons. They have, in every assault, fallen dead and lifeless to the ground: they have more than once recoiled, and dangerously wounded, the unskilful hand that had presumed to use them. I have now examined all the misrepresentations and inaccuracies, which even for a moment could perplex the ignorant, or deceive the credulous; the few imputations which I have neglected, are still more palpably false, or still more evidently trifling, and even [Page 81] the friends of Mr. Davis will scarcely continue to ascribe my contempt to my fear.


The first part of his Critical Volume might admit, though it did not deserve, a particular reply. But the easy, though tedious compila­tion, which fills the remainder8, and which Mr. Davis has produced as the evidence of my shameful plagiarisms, may be set in its true light by three or four short and general reflex­ions.

I. Mr. Davis has disposed, in two columns, the passages which he thinks proper to select from my Two last Chapters, and the corre­sponding passages from Middleton, Barbeyrac, Beausobre, Dodwell, &c. to the most import­ant of which he had been regularly guided by my own quotations. According to the opi­nion which he has conceived of literary pro­perty, to agree is to follow, and to follow is to steal. He celebrates his own sagacity with loud and reiterated applause, declares with infinite facetiousness, that if he restored to every au­thor the passages which Mr. Gibbon has purloined, he would appear as naked as the proud and gaudy Daw in the Fable, when each bird had plucked away its own plumes. Instead of being angry with Mr. Davis for the parallel which he has extended to so great a [Page 82] length, I am under some obligation to his industry for the copious proofs which he has furnished the reader, that my representation of some of the most important facts of Ecclesiasti­cal Antiquity, is supported by the authority or opinion of the most ingenious and learned of the modern writers. The Public may not, perhaps, be very eager to assist Mr. Davis in his favourite amusement of depluming me. They may think that if the materials which compose my Two last Chapters are curious and valuable, it is of little moment to whom they properly belong. If my readers are satisfied with the form, the colours, the new arrangement which I have given to the labours of my pre­decessors, they may perhaps consider me not as a contemptible Thief, but as an honest and industrious Manufacturer, who has fairly pro­cured the raw materials, and worked them up with a laudable degree of skill and success.

II. About two hundred years ago, the Court of Rome discovered that the system which had been erected by ignorance must be defended and countenanced by the aid, or at least by the abuse, of science. The grosser legends of the middle ages were abandoned to contempt, but the supremacy and infallibility of two hundred Popes, the virtues of many thousand Saints, and the miracles which they either performed [Page 83] or related, have been laboriously consecrated in the Ecclesiastical Annals of Cardinal Baro­nius. A Theological Barometer might be formed, of which the Cardinal and our coun­tryman Dr. Middleton should constitute the opposite and remote extremities, as the former sunk to the lowest degree of credulity, which was compatible with learning, and the latter rose to the highest pitch of scepticism, in any wise consistent with Religion. The interme­diate gradations would be filled by a line of ecclesiastical critics, whose rank has been fixed by the circumstances of their temper and stu­dies, as well as by the spirit of the church or society to which they were attached. It would be amusing enough to calculate the weight of prejudice in the air of Rome, of Oxford, of Paris, and of Holland; and sometimes to ob­serve the irregular tendency of Papists towards freedom, sometimes to remark the unnatural gravitation of Protestants towards slavery. But it is useful to borrow the assistance of so many learned and ingenious men, who have viewed the first ages of the Church in every light, and from every situation. If we skilfully combine the passions and prejudices, the hostile motives and intentions, of the several theologians, we may frequently extract knowledge from cre­dulity, moderation from zeal, and impartial [Page 84] truth from the most disingenuous controversy. It is the right, it is the duty of a critical histo­rian to collect, to weigh, to select the opinions of his predecessors; and the more diligence he has exerted in the search, the more rationally he may hope to add some improvement to the stock of knowledge, the use of which has been common to all.

III. Besides the ideas which may be sug­gested by the study of the most learned and ingenious of the moderns, the historian may be indebted to them for the occasional com­munication of some passages of the ancients, which might otherwise have escaped his know­ledge or his memory. In the consideration of any extensive subject, none will pretend to have read all that has been written, or to recollect all that they have read: nor is there any dis­grace in recurring to the writers who have pro­fessedly treated any questions, which in the course of a long narrative we are called upon to mention in a slight and incidental manner. If I touch upon the obscure and fanciful theo­logy of the Gnostics, I can accept without a blush the assistance of the candid Beausobre; and when, amidst the fury of contending par­ties, I trace the progress of ecclesiastical domi­nion, I am not ashamed to confess myself the grateful disciple of the impartial Mosheim. [Page 85] In the next Volume of my History, the Reader and the Critic must prepare themselves to see me make a still more liberal use of the labours of those indefatigable workmen who have dug deep into the mine of antiquity. The Fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries are far more voluminous than their predecessors; the writings of Jerom, of Augustin, of Chrysostom, &c. cover the walls of our libraries. The smallest part is of the historical kind: yet the treatises which seem the least to invite the curiosity of the reader, frequently conceal very useful hints, or very valuable facts. The polemic who in­volves himself and his antagonists in a cloud of argumentation, sometimes relates the origin and progress of the heresy which he confutes; and the preacher who declaims against the luxury, describes the manners, of the age; and seasonably introduces the mention of some public calamity, that he may ascribe it to the justice of offended Heaven. It would surely be unreasonable to expect that the historian should peruse enormous volumes, with the un­certain hope of extracting a few interesting lines, or that he should sacrifice whole days to the momentary amusement of his Reader. For­tunately for us both, the diligence of ecclesi­siastical critics has facilitated our inquiries: the compilations of Tillemont might alone be con­sidered [Page 86] as an immense repertory of truth and fable, of almost all that the Fathers have pre­served, or invented, or believed; and if we equally avail ourselves of the labours of con­tending sectaries, we shall often discover, that the same passages which the prudence of one of the disputants would have suppressed or dis­guised, are placed in the most conspicuous light by the active and interested zeal of his adversary. On these occasions, what is the duty of a faithful historian, who derives from some modern writer the knowledge of some ancient testimony, which he is desirous of in­troducing into his own narrative? It is his duty, and it has been my invariable practice, to consult the original; to study with attention the words, the design, the spirit, the context, the situation of the passage to which I had been referred; and before I appropriated it to my own use, to justify my own declaration, ‘that I had carefully examined all the origi­nal materials that could illustrate the subject which I had undertaken to treat.’ If this important obligation has sometimes been im­perfectly fulfilled, I have only omitted what it would have been impracticable for me to per­form. The greatest city in the world is still destitute of that useful institution, a public li­brary; and the writer who has undertaken to [Page 87] treat any large historical subject, is reduced to the necessity of purchasing, for his private use, a numerous and valuable collection of the books which must form the basis of his work. The diligence of his booksellers will not always prove successful; and the candour of his readers will not always expect, that, for the sake of verify­ing an accidental quotation of ten lines, he should load himself with a useless and expen­sive series of ten volumes. In a very few in­stances, where I had not the opportunity of consulting the originals, I have adopted their testimony on the faith of modern guides, of whose fidelity I was satisfied; but on these oc­casions9, instead of decking myself with the borrowed plumes of Tillemont or Lardner, I have been most scrupulously exact in marking the extent of my reading, and the source of my information. This distinction, which a sense of truth an modesty had engaged me to express, is ungenerously abused by Mr. Davis, who seems happy to inform his Readers, that ‘in ONE instance (Chap. xvi. 164. or, in the first edition, 163.) I have, by an unaccount­able oversight, unfortunately for myself, for­got to drop the modern, and that I modestly disclaim all knowledge of Athanasius, but what [Page 88] I had picked up from Tillemont1.’ Without animadverting on the decency of these expres­sions, which are now grown familiar to me, I shall content myself with observing, that as I had frequently quoted Eusebius, or Cyprian, or Tertullian, because I had read them; so, in this instance, I only made my reference to Til­lemont, because I had not read, and did not possess, the works of Athanasius. The pro­gress of my undertaking has since directed me to peruse the Historical Apologies of the Arch­bishop of Alexandria, whose life is a very in­teresting part of the age in which he lived; and if Mr. Davis should have the curiosity to look into my Second Volume, he will find that I make a free and frequent appeal to the writ­ings of Athanasius. Whatever may be the opinion or practice of my adversary, this I ap­prehend to be the dealing of a fair and honour­able man.

IV. The historical monuments of the three first centuries of ecclesiastical antiquity are nei­ther very numerous, nor very prolix. From the end of the Act of the Apostles, to the time when the first Apology of Justin Martyr was presented, there intervened a dark and doubt­ful period of fourscore years; and, even if the Epistles of Ignatius should be approved by the [Page 89] critic, they could not be very serviceable to the historian. From the middle of the second to the beginning of the fourth century, we gain our knowledge of the state and progress of Christianity from the successive Apologies which were occasionally composed by Justin, Athenagoras, Tertullian, Origen, &c; from the Epistles of Cyprian; from a few sincere acts of the Martyrs; from some moral or contro­versial tracts, which indirectly explain the events and manners of the times; from the rare and accidental notice which profane writers have taken of the Christian sect; from the decla­matory Narrative which celebrates the deaths of the persecutors; and from the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, who has preserved some valuable fragments of more early writers. Since the revival of letters, these original ma­terials have been the common fund of critics and historians: nor has it ever been imagined, that the absolute and exclusive property of a passage in Eusebius or Tertullian was acquired by the first who had an opportunity of quoting it. The learned work of Mosheim, de Rebus Christianis ante Constantinum, was printed in the year 1753; and if I were possessed of the pa­tience and disingenuity of Mr. Davis, I would engage to find all the ancient testimonies that he has alleged, in the writings of Dodwell or [Page 90] Tillemont, which were published before the end of the last century. But if I were animated by any malevolent intentions against Dodwell or Tillemont, I could as easily, and as unfairly, fix on them the guilt of Plagiarism, by pro­ducing the same passages transcribed or trans­lated at full length in the Annals of Cardinal Baronius. Let not criticism be any longer dis­graced by the practice of such unworthy arts. Instead of admitting suspicions as false as they are ungenerous, condour will acknowledge, that Mosheim or Dodwell, Tillemont or Baro­nius, enjoyed the same right, and often were under the same obligation, of quoting the pas­sages which they had read, and which were in­dispensably requisite to confirm the truth and substance of their similar narratives. Mr. Davis is so far from allowing me the benefit of this common indulgence, or rather of this common right, that he stigmatizes with the name of Plagiarism a close and literal agreement with Dodwell in the account of some parts of the persecution of Diocletian, where a few chap­ters of Eusebius and Lactantius, perhaps of Lactantius alone, are the sole materials from whence our knowledge could be derived, and where, if I had not transcribed, I must have invented. He is even bold enough (bold is not the proper word) to conceive some hopes of [Page 91] persuading his readers, that in Historian who has employed several years of his life, and several hundred pages, on the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, had never read Orosius, or the Augustan History; and that he was forced to borrow, at second-hand, his quota­tions from the Theodosian Code. I cannot profess myself very desirous of Mr. Davis's ac­quaintance; but if he will take the trouble of calling at my house any afternoon when I am not at home, my servant shall shew him my library, which he will find tolerably well fur­nished with the useful authors, ancient as well as modern, ecclesiastical as well as profane, who have directly supplied me with the mate­rials of my History.

The peculiar reasons, and they are not of the most flattering kind, which urged me to repel the furious and feeble attack of Mr. Davis, have been already mentioned. But since I am drawn thus reluctantly into the lists of contro­versy, I shall not retire till I have saluted, ei­ther with stern defiance or gentle courtesy, the theological champions who have signalized their ardour to break a lance against the shield of a Pagan adversary. The fifteenth and six­teenth Chapters have been honoured with the notice of several writers, whose names and characters seemed to promise more maturity of [Page 92] judgment and learning than could reasonably be expected from the unfinished studies of a Batchelor of Arts. The Reverend Mr. Ap­thorpe, Dr. Watson, the Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Cambridge, Dr. Chelsum of Christ Church, and his associate Dr. Randolph, President of Christ Church College, and the Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity in the University of Oxford, have given me a fair right, which, however, I shall not abuse, of freely declaring my opinion on the subject of their respective criticisms.


If I am not mistaken, Mr. Apthorpe was the first who announced to the Public his in­tention of examining the interesting subject which I had treated in the Two last Chapters of my History. The multitude of collateral and accessary ideas which presented themselves to the Author insensibly swelled the bulk of his papers to the size of a large volume in octavo; the publication was delayed many months be­yond the time of the first advertisement; and when Mr. Apthorpe's Letters appeared, I was surprised to find, that I had scarcely any interest or concern in their contents. They are filled with general observations on the Study of History, with a large and useful catalogue of Historians, and with a variety of reflections, moral and religious, all preparatory to the di­rect [Page 93] and formal consideration of my Two last Chapters, which Mr. Apthorpe seems to re­serve for the subject of a second Volume. I sincerely respect the learning, the piety, and the candour of this Gentleman, and must con­sider it as a mark of his esteem, that he has thought proper to begin his approaches at so great a distance from the fortifications which he designed to attack.


When Dr. Watson gave to the Public his Apology for Christianity, in a Series of Let­ters, he addressed them to the Author of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, with a just confidence that he had considered this important object in a manner not unworthy of his antagonist or of himself. Dr. Watson's mode of thinking bears a liberal and philoso­phic cast; his thoughts are expressed with spirit, and that spirit is always tempered by politeness and moderation. Such is the man whom I should be happy to call my friend, and whom I should not blush to call my an­tagonist. But the same motives which might tempt me to accept, or even to solicit, a pri­vate and amicable conference, dissuaded me from entering into a public controversy with a Writer of so respectable a character; and I em­braced the earliest opportunity of expressing to Dr. Watson himself, how sincerely I agreed [Page 94] with him in thinking, ‘That as the world is now possessed of the opinion of us both upon the subject in question, it may be perhaps as proper for us both to leave it in this state2.’ The nature of the ingenious Pro­fessor's Apology contributed to strengthen the insuperable reluctance to engage in hostile al­tercation which was common to us both, by convincing me, that such an altercation was unnecessary as well as unpleasant. He very justly and politely declares, that a consider­able part, near seventy pages, of his small vo­lume are not directed to me3, but to a set of men whom he places in an odious and con­temptible light. He leaves to other hands the defence of the leading Ecclesiastics, even of the primitive church; and without being very anxious, either to soften their vices and indis­cretion, or to aggravate the cruelty of the Heathen Persecutors, he passes over in silence the greatest part of my Sixteenth Chapter. It is not so much the purpose of the Apologist to examine the facts which have been advanced by the Historian, as to remove the impressions which may have been formed by many of his Readers; and the remarks of Dr. Watson consist more properly of general argumentation than of [Page 95] particular criticism. He fairly owns, that I have expressly allowed the full and irresistible weight of the first great cause of the success of Christianity4, and he is too candid to deny that the five secondary causes, which I had at­tempted to explain, operated with some degree of active energy towards the accomplishment of that great event. The only question which remains between us, relates to the degree of the weight and effect of those secondary causes; and as I am persuaded that our philosophy is not of the dogmatic kind, we should soon ac­knowledge that this precise degree cannot be ascertained by reasoning, nor perhaps be ex­pressed by words. In the course of this en­quiry, some incidental difficulties have arisen, which I had stated with impartiality, and which Dr. Watson resolves with ingenuity and tem­per. If in some instances he seems to have misapprehended my sentiments, I may hesitate whether I should impute the fault to my own want of clearness or to his want of attention, but I can never entertain a suspicion that Dr. Watson would descend to employ the disinge­nuous arts of vulgar controversy.

There is, however, one passage, and one pas­sage only, which must not pass without some [Page 96] explanation; and I shall the more eagerly em­brace this occasion to illustrate what I had said, as the misconstruction of my true meaning seems to have made an involuntary, but unfa­vourable, impression on the liberal mind of Dr. Watson. As I endeavour not to palliate the severity, but to discover the motives, of the Roman Magistrates. I had remarked, ‘it was in vain that the oppressed Believer asserted the unalienable rights of con­science and private judgment. Though his situation might excite the pity, his argu­ments could never reach the understanding, either of the philosophic or of the believing part of the Pagan world5.’ The humanity of Dr. Watson takes fire on the supposed pro­vocation, and he asks me with unusual quick­ness, ‘How, Sir, are the arguments for liberty of conscience so exceedingly inconclusive, that you think them incapable of reaching the understanding even of philosophers6?’ He continues to observe, that a captious ad­versary would embrace with avidity the op­portunity this passage affords of blotting my character with the odious stain of being a Per­secutor; a stain which no learning can wipe out, which no genius or ability can render [Page 97] amiable; and though he himself does not en­tertain such an opinion of my principles, his ingenuity tries in vain to provide me with the means of escape.

I must lament that I have not been success­ful in the explanation of a very simple notion of the spirit both of philosophy and of poly­theism, which I have repeatedly inculcated. The arguments which assert the rights of con­science are not inconclusive in themselves, but the understanding of the Greeks and Romans was fortified against their evidence by an in­vincible prejudice. When we listen to the voice of Bayle, of Locke, and of genuine reason, in favour of religious toleration, we shall easily perceive that our most forcible appeal is made to our mutual feelings. If the Jew was al­lowed to argue with the Inquisitor, he would request that for a moment they might ex­change their different situations, and might safely ask his Catholic Tyrant, whether the fear of death would compel him to enter the syna­as gogue, to receive the mark of circumcision, and to partake of the paschal lamb. As soon as the case of persecution was brought home to the breast of the Inquisitor, he must have sound some difficulty in suppressing the dictates of natural equity, which would insinuate to his conscience, that he could have no right to in­flict [Page 98] those punishments which, under similar circumstances, he would esteem it as his duty to encounter. But this argument could not reach the understanding of a Polytheist, or of an ancient Philosopher. The former was ready, whenever he was summoned, or indeed with­out being summoned, to fall prostrate before the altars of any Gods who were adored in any part of the world, and to admit a vague per­suasion of the truth and divinity of the most different modes of religion. The Philosopher, who considered them, at least in their literal sense, as equally false and absurd, was not ashamed to disguise his sentiments, and to frame his actions according to the laws of his country, which imposed the same obligation on the philosophers and the people. When Pliny declared, that whatever was the opinion of the Christians, their obstinacy deserved pu­nishment, the absurd cruelty of Pliny was excused in his own eye, by the consciousness that, in the situation of the Christians, he would not have refused the religious compliance which he exacted. I shall not repeat, that the Pa­gan worship was a matter, not of opinion, but of custom; that the toleration of the Ro­mans was confined to nations or families who followed the practice of their ancestors; and that in the first ages of Christianity their per­secution [Page 99] of the individuals who departed from the established religion was neither moderated by pure reason, nor inflamed by exclusive zeal. But I only desire to appeal from the hasty ap­prehension to the more deliberate judgment of Dr. Watson himself. Should there still remain any difference of opinion between us, I shall be satisfied, if he will consider me as a sincere, though perhaps unsuccessful, lover of truth, and as a firm friend to civil and ecclesiastical freedom.


Far be it from me, or from any faithful Historian, to impute to respectable societies the faults of some individual members. Our two Universities most undoubtedly contain the same mixture, and most probably the same proportions, of zeal and moderation, of reason and superstition. Yet there is much less dif­ference between the smoothness of the Ionic and the roughness of the Doric dialect, than may be found between the polished style of Dr. Watson, and the coarse language of Mr. Davis, Dr. Chelsum, or Dr. Randolph. The second of these Critics, Dr. Chelsum of Christ Church, is unwilling that the world should forget that he was the first who sounded to arms, that he was the first who furnished the antidote to the poison, and who, as early as the month of October of the year 1776, published his Stric­tures on the Two last Chapters of Mr. Gibbon's [Page 100] History. The success of a pamphlet, which he modestly styles imperfect and ill-digested, encouraged him to resume the controversy. In the beginning of the present year, his Re­marks made their second appearance, with some alteration of form, and a large increase of bulk; and the author, who seems to fight un­der the protection of two episcopal banners, has prefixed, in the front of his volume, his name and titles, which in the former edition he had less honourably suppressed. His confidence is fortified by the alliance and communications of a distinguished Writer, Dr. Randolph, &c. who, on a proper occasion, would, no doubt, be ready to bear as honourable testimony to the merit and reputation of Dr. Chelsum. The two friends are indeed so happily united by art and nature, that if the author of the Remarks had not pointed out the valuable communica­cations of the Margaret Professor, it would have been impossible to separate their respective property. Writers who possess any freedom of mind, may be known from each other by the peculiar character of their style and sentiments; but the champions who are inlisted in the ser­vice of Authority, commonly wear the uniform of the regiment. Oppressed with the same yoke, covered with the same trappings, they heavily move along, perhaps not with an equal pace, in the same beaten track of prejudice and [Page 101] preferment. Yet I should expose my own in­justice, were I absolutely to confound with Mr. Davis the two Doctors in Divinity, who are joined in one volume. The three Critics appear to be animated by the same implacable resentment against the Historian of the Roman Empire; they are alike disposed to support the same opinions by the same arts; and if in the language of the two latter the disregard of politeness is somewhat less gross and indecent, the difference is not of such a magnitude as to excite in my breast any lively sensations of gratitude. It was the misfortune of Mr. Davis that he undertook to write before he had read. He set out with the stock of authorities which he found in my quotations, and boldly ven­tured to play his reputation against mine. Per­haps he may now repent of a loss which is not easily recovered; but if I had not surmounted my almost insuperable reluctance to a public dispute, many a reader might still be dazzled by the vehemence of his assertions, and might still believe that Mr. Davis had detected se­veral wilful and important misrepresentations in my Two last Chapters. But the confederate Doctors appear to be scholars of a higher form and longer experience; they enjoy a certain rank in their academical world; and as their zeal is enlightened by some rays of knowledge, so their desire to ruin the credit of their adver­sary [Page 102] is occasionally checked by the apprehen­sion of injuring their own. These restraints, to which Mr. Davis was a stranger, have con­fined them to a very narrow and humble path of historical criticism; and if I were to correct, according to their wishes, all the particular facts against which they have advanced any ob­jections, these corrections, admitted in their fullest extent, would hardly furnish materials for a decent list of errata.

The dogmatical part of their work, which in every sense of the word deserves that appella­tion, is ill adapted to engage my attention. I had declined the consideration of theologi­cal arguments, when they were managed by a candid and liberal adversary; and it would be inconsistent enough, if I should have refused to draw my sword in honourable combat against the keen and well-tempered weapon of Dr. Watson, for the sole purpose of encountering the rustic cudgel of two staunch and sturdy Po­lemics.

I shall not enter any farther into the cha­racter and conduct of Cyprian, as I am sen­sible that if the opinion of Le Clerc, Mosheim, and myself, is reprobated by Dr. Chelsum and his ally, the difference must subsist, till we shall entertain the same notions of moral virtue and Ecclesiastical power7. If Dr. Randolph [Page 103] will allow that the primitive Clergy received, managed, and distributed the tythes, and other charitable donations of the faithful, the dis­pute between us, will be a dispute of words8. I shall not amuse myself with proving that the learned Origen must have derived from the inspired authority of the Church his know­ledge, not indeed of the authenticity, but of the inspiration of the four Evangelists, two of whom are not in the rank of the Apostles9. I shall submit to the judgment of the Public, whether the Athanasian Creed is not read and received in the Church of England, and whether the wisest and most virtuous of the Pagans1 believed the Catho­lic faith, which [...] in the Athanasian Creed to be [...] necessary for salva­tion. As little shall I think myself interested in the elaborate disq [...] [...] which the Author of the [...] [...]lled a great num­ber of pages, [...]cerning the famous testimony of Josephus, the passages of Irenaeus and The­ophilus, which relate to the gift of miracles, and the origin of circumcision in [...] or in Egypt2. If I have rejected, and rejected with some contempt, the interpolation which pious fraud has very aukwardly inserted in the text [Page 104] of Josephus, I may deem myself secure behind the shield of learned and pious critics (See in particular Le Clerc, in his Ars Critica, part iii. sect. i. c. 15. and Lardner's Testimonies, Vol. i. p. 150, &c.), who have condemned this passage: and I think it very natural that Dr. Chelsum should embrace the contrary opi­nion, which is not destitute of able advocates. The passages of Irenaeus and Theophilus were thoroughly sifted in the controversy about the duration of Miracles; and as the Works of Dr. Middleton may be found in every library, so it is not impossible that a diligent search may still discover some remains of the writings of his adversaries. In mentioning the confession of the Syrians of Palestine, that they had received from Egypt the rite of circumcision, I had sim­ply alleged the testimony of Herodotus, without expressly adopting the sentiment of Marsham. But I had always imagined, that in these doubt­ful and indifferent questions, which have been so­lemnly argued before the tribunal of the Public, every scholar was at liberty to chuse his side, without assigning his reasons; nor can I yet persuade myself, that either Dr. Chelsum, or myself, are likely to enforce, by any new argu­ments, the opinions which we have respectively followed. The only novelty for which I can perceive myself indebted to Dr. Chelsum, is the very extraordinary Scepticism which he in­sinuates concerning the time of Herodotus, [Page 105] who, according to the chronology of some, flou­rished during the time of the Jewish captivity3. Can it be necessary to inform a Divine, that the captivity which lasted seventy years, ac­cording to the prophecy of Jeremiah, was ter­minated in the year 536 before Christ, by the edict which Cyrus published in the first year of his reign (Jeremiah, xxv. 11, 12. xxix. 10. Ezra, i. 1. &c. Usher and Prideaux, under the years 606 and 536.)? Can it be necessary to in­form a man of letters, that Herodotus was fifty-three years old at the commencement of the Peloponnesian war (Aulus Gellius, Noct. Attic. xv. 23. from the Commentaries of Pam­phila), and consequently that he was born in the year before Christ 484, fifty-two years after the end of the Jewish captivity? As this well attested fact is not exposed to the slightest doubt or difficulty, I am somewhat curious to learn the names of those unknown authors, whose chronology Dr. Chelsum has allowed as the specious foundation of a probable hypothe­sis. The Author of the Remarks, does not seem indeed to have cultivated, with much care or success, the province of literary history; as a very moderate acquaintance with that useful branch of knowledge would have saved him from a positive mistake, much less excusable [Page 106] than the doubt which he entertains about the time of Herodotus. He styles Suidas ‘a Heathen writer, who lived about the end of the tenth century4.’ I admit the period which he assigns to Suidas; and which is well ascertained by Dr. Bentley (See his Reply to Boyle, p. 22, 23.) We are led to fix this epoch by the chronology which this Heathen writer has deduced from Adam, to the death of the emperor John Zimisces, A. D. 975: and a crowd of passages might be produced, as the unaswerable evidence of his Christianity. But the most unanswerable of all is the very date, which is not disputed between us. The philo­sophers who flourished under Justinian (See Agathias, l. ii. p. 65, 66.), appear to have been the last of the Heathen writers: and the ancient religion of the Greeks was annihilated almost four hundred years before the birth of Suidas.

After this animadversion, which is not in­tended either to insult the failings of my Ad­versary, or to provide a convenient excuse for my own errors, I shall proceed to select two important parts of Dr. Chelsum's Remarks, from which the candid reader may form some opinion of the whole. They relate to the mi­litary service of the first Christians, and to the [Page 107] historical character of Eusebius; and I shall re­view them with the less reluctance, as it may not be impossible to pick up something curious and useful even in the barren waste of contro­versy.



In representing the errors of the primitive Christians, which flowed from an excess of vir­tue, I had observed, that they exposed them­selves to the reproaches of the Pagans, by their obstinate refusal to take an active part in the civil administration, or military defence of the empire; that the objections of Celsus appear to have been mutilated by his adversary Ori­gen, and that the Apologists, to whom the public dangers were urged, returned obscure and ambiguous answers, as they were unwilling to disclose the true ground of their security, their opinion of the approaching end of the world5. In another place I had related, from the Acts of Ruinart, the action and punishment of the Centurion Marcellus, who was put to death for renouncing the service in a public and seditious manner6.

On this occasion Dr. Chelsum is extremely alert. He denies my facts, controverts my opinions, and, with a politeness worthy of Mr. Davis himself, insinuates that I borrowed the [Page 108] [...] [Page 109] [...] [Page 106] [...] [Page 107] [...] [Page 108] story of Marcellus, not from Ruinart, but from Voltaire. My learned Adversary thinks it highly improbable that Origen should dare to mutilate the objections of Celsus, ‘whose work was, in all probability, extant at the time he made this reply. In such case, had he even been inclined to treat his adversary unfairly, he must yet surely have been with-held from the attempt, through the fear of detec­tion7.’ The experience both of ancient and modern controversy, has indeed convinced me that this reasoning, just and natural as it may seem, is totally inconclusive, and that the generality of disputants, especially in religious contests, are of a much more daring and intre­pid spirit. For the truth of this remark, I shall content myself with producing a recent and very singular example, in which Dr. Chelsum him­self is personally interested. He charges8 me with passing over in ‘silence the important and unsuspected testimony of a Heathen hi­storian (Dion Cassius) to the persecution of Domitian; and he affirms, that I have pro­duced that testimony so far only as it relates to Clemens and Domitilla; yet in the very same passage, follows immediately, that on a like accusation MANY OTHERS were also condemned. Some of them were put to [Page 109] death, others suffered the confiscation of their goods9.’ Although I should not be ashamed to undertake the apology of Nero or Domitian, if I thought them innocent of any particular crime with which zeal or malice had unjustly branded their memory; yet I should indeed blush, if, in favour of tyranny, or even in favour of virtue, I had suppressed the truth and evidence of historical facts. But the Reader will feel some surprize, when he has convinced himself that, in the three editions of my First Volume, after relating the death of Clemens, and the exile of Domitilla, I continue to allege the ENTIRE TESTIMONY of Dion, in the following words: ‘and sentences either of death, or of confiscation, were pronounced against a GREAT NUMBER OF PERSONS who were involved in the SAME accusation. The guilt imputed to their charge, was that of Atheism and Jewish manners; a singular association of ideas which cannot with any propriety be applied except to the Christians, as they were obscurely and imperfectly viewed by the magistrates and writers of that period.’ Dr. Chelsum has not been deterred, by the fear of detection, from this scandalous mutilation of the popular work of a living adversary. But Celsus had been dead [Page 110] above fifty years before Origen published his Apology; and the copies of an ancient work, instead of being instantaneously multiplied by the operation of the press, were separately and slowly transcribed by the labour of the hand.

If any modern Divine should still maintain that the fidelity of Origen was secured by mo­tives more honourable than the fear of detec­tion, he may learn from Jerom the difference of the gymnastic and dogmatic styles. Truth is the object of the one, Victory of the other; and the same arts which would disgrace the sincerity of the teacher, serve only to display the skill of the disputant. After justifying his own practice by that of the orators and philo­sophers, Jerom defends himself by the more respectable authority of Christian Apologists. ‘How many thousand lines, says he, have been composed against Celsus and Porphyry, by Origen, Methodius, Eusebius, Apollinaris. Consider with what arguments, with what slippery problems, they elude the inventions of the Devil; and how in their controversy with the Gentiles, they are sometimes oblig­ed to speak, not what they really think, but what is most advantageous for the cause they defend.’ ‘Origenes, &c. multis versuum millibus scribunt adversus Celsum et Por­phyrium. Considerate quibus argumentis et quam lubricis problematibus diaboli spiritu [Page 111] contexta subvertunt: et quia interdum co­guntur loqui, non quod sentiunt, sed quod necesse est dicunt adversus ea quae dicunt Gentiles.’ (Pro Libris advers. Jovinian. Apolog. Tom. ii. p. 135.)

Yet Dr. Chelsum may still ask, and he has a right to ask, why in this particular instance I suspect the pious Origen of mutilating the ob­jections of his adversary. From a very obvi­ous, and, in my opinion, a very decisive cir­cumstance. Celsus was a Greek philosopher, the friend of Lucian; and I thought that al­though he might support error by sophistry, he would not write nonsense in his own language. I renounce my suspicion, if the most attentive reader is able to understand the design and pur­port of a passage which is given as a formal quotation from Celsus, and which begins with the following words: [...], &c. (Origen contr. Celsum, l. viii. p. 425. edit. Spencer, Cantab. 1677.) I have carefully inspected the original, I have availed myself of the learning of Spencer, and even Bouhereau (for I shall always disclaim the ab­surd and affected pedantry of using without scruple a Latin version, but of despising the aid of a French translation), and the ill success of my efforts has countenanced the suspicion to which I still adhere, with a just mixture of doubt and hesitation. Origen very boldly de­nies, [Page 112] that any of the Christians have affirmed what is imputed to them by Celsus, in this un­intelligible quotation; and it may easily be cre­dited, that none had maintained what none can comprehend. Dr. Chelsum has produced the words of Origen; but on this occasion there is a strange ambiguity in the language of the modern Divine1, as if he wished to insinu­ate what he dared not affirm; and every reader must conclude, from his state of the question, that Origen expressly denied the truth of the accusation of Celsus, who had accused the Chri­stians of declining to assist their fellow-subjects in the military defence of the empire, assailed on every side by the arms of the Barbarians.

Will Dr. Chelsum justify to the world, can he justify to his own feelings, the abuse which he has made even of the privileges of the Gym­nastic style? Careless and hasty indeed must have been his perusal of Origen, if he did not perceive that the ancient Apologist, who makes a stand on some incidental question, admits the accusation of his adversary, that the Chri­stians refused to bear arms even at the com­mand of their Sovereign. " [...]" (Origen, l. viii. p. 427.) He endeavours to palliate this undutiful refu­sal, by representing that the Christians had [Page 113] their peculiar camps, in which they incessantly combated for the safety of the emperor and the empire by lifting up their right hands—in prayer. The Apologist seems to hope that his country will be satisfied with this spiritual aid, and dexterously confounding the colleges of Roman priests with the multitudes which swelled the Catholic Church, he claims for his bre­thren, in all the provinces, the exemption from military service, which was enjoyed by the sacerdotal order. But as this excuse might not readily be allowed, Origen looks forwards with a lively faith to that auspicious Revolu­tion, which Celsus had rejected as impossible, when all the nations of the habitable earth, re­nouncing their passions and their arms, should embrace the pure doctrines of the Gospel, and lead a life of peace and innocence under the immediate protection of Heaven. The faith of Origen seems to be principally founded on the predictions of the Prophet Zephaniah (See iii. 9, 10.); and he prudently observes, that the Prophets often speak secret things ( [...], p. 426.) which may be under­stood by those who can understand them; and that if this stupendous change cannot be ef­fected while we retain our bodies, it may be accomplished as soon as we shall be released from them. Such is the reasoning of Origen: though I have not followed the order, I have [Page 114] faithfully preserved the substance of it; which fully justifies the truth and propriety of my observations.

The execution of Marcellus, the Centurion, is naturally connected with the Apology of Origen, as the former declared by his actions, what the latter had affirmed in his writings, that the conscience of a devout Christian would not allow him to bear arms, even at the com­mand of his Sovereign. I had represented this religious scruple as one of the motives which provoked Marcellus, on the day of a public festival, to throw away the ensigns of his of­fice; and I presumed to observe, that such an act of desertion would have been punished in any government according to martial or even civil law. Dr. Chelsum2 very bluntly accuses me of misrepresenting the story, and of suppressing those circumstances which would have defended the Centurion from the unjust imputation thrown by me upon his conduct. The dispute between the Advocate for Mar­cellus and myself, lies in a very narrow com­pass; as the whole evidence is comprized in a short, simple, and, I believe, authentic nar­rative.

1. In another place I observed, and even pressed the observation, ‘that the innume­rable Deities and rites of Polytheism were [Page 115] closely interwoven with every circumstance of business or pleasure, of public or of private life;’ and I had particularly specified how much the Roman discipline was connected with the national superstition. A solemn oath of fidelity was repeated every year in the name of the Gods and of the genius of the Emperor, public and daily sacrifices were performed at the head of the camp, the legionary was continually tempted, or rather compelled to join in the ido­latrous worship of his fellow-soldiers, and had not any scruples been entertained of the law­fulness of war, it is not easy to understand how any serious Christian could inlist under a ban­ner which has been justly termed the rival of the Cross. "Vexilla aemula Christi." (Ter­tullian de Corona Militis, c. xi.) With regard to the soldiers, who before their conversion were already engaged in the military life, fear, habit, ignorance, necessity might bend them to some acts of occasional conformity; and as long as they abstained from absolute and in­tentional idolatry, their behaviour was excused by the indulgent, and censured by the more rigid casuists. (See the whole Treatise De Co­ronâ Militis.) We are ignorant of the adven­tures and character of the Centurion Marcellus, how long he had conciliated the profession of arms and of the Gospel, whether he was only a Catechumen, or whether he was initiated by [Page 116] the Sacrament of Baptism. We are likewise at a loss to ascertain the particular act of idolatry which so suddenly and so forcibly provoked his pious indignation. As he declared his faith in the midst of a public entertainment given on the birth-day of Galerius, he must have been startled by some of the sacred and convivial rites (Convivia ista profana reputans) of prayers, or vows, or libations, or, perhaps, by the offensive circumstance of eating the meats which had been offered to the idols. But the scruples of Marcellus were not confined to these accidental impurities; they evidently reached the essential duties of his profession; and when before the tribunal of the magi­strates, he avowed his faith at the hazard of his life, the Centurion declared, as his cool and determined persuasion, that it does not become a Christian man, who is the soldier of the Lord Christ, to bear arms for any object of earthly concern. ‘Non enim decebat Christianum hominem molestiis secularibus militare, qui Christo Domino militat.’ A formal declaration, which clearly disengages from each other the different questions of war and idolatry. With regard to both these questions, as they were understood by the pri­mitive Christians, I wish to refer the Reader to the sentiments and authorities of Mr. Moyle, a bold and ingenious critic, who read the Fa­thers [Page 117] as their judge, and not as their slave, and who has refuted, with the most patient candour, all that learned prejudice could sug­gest in favour of the silly story of the thunder­ing legion. (See Moyle's Works, Vol. ii. p. 84—88. 111—116. 163—212. 298—302. 327—341.) And here let me add, that the passage of Origen, who in the name of his bre­thren disclaims the duty of military service, is understood by Mr. Moyle in its true and ob­vious signification.

2. I know not where Dr. Chelsum has im­bibed the principles of logic or morality which teach him to approve the conduct of Marcel­lus, who threw down his rod, his belt, and his arms, at the head of the legion, and pub­licly renounced the military service, at the very time when he found himself obliged to offer sa­crifice. Yet surely this is a very false notion of the condition and duties of a Roman Cen­turion. Marcellus was bound, by a solemn oath, to serve with fidelity till he should be regularly discharged; and according to the sentiments which Dr. Chelsum ascribes to him, he was not released from this oath by any mis­taken opinion of the unlawfulness of war. I would propose it as a case of conscience to any philosopher, or even to any casuist in Europe, Whether a particular order, which cannot be reconciled with virtue or piety, dissolves the [Page 118] ties of a general and lawful obligation? And whether, if they had been consulted by the Christian Centurion, they would not have di­rected him to increase his diligence in the execu­tion of his military functions, to refuse to yield to any act of idolatry, and patiently to expect the consequences of such a refusal? But instead of obeying the mild and moderate dictates of re­ligion, instead of distinguishing between the duties of the soldier and of the Christian, Mar­cellus, with imprudent zeal, rushed forwards to seize the crown of martyrdom. He might have privately confessed himself guilty to the tribune or praefect under whom he served: he chose on the day of a public festival to disturb the order of the camp. He insulted without necessity the religion of his Sovereign and of his country, by the epithets of contempt which he bestowed on the Roman Gods. ‘Deos vestros ligneos et lapideos, adorare contemno, quae sunt idola surda et muta.’ Nay more: at the head of the legion, and in the face of the standards, the Centurion Marcellus openly renounced his allegiance to the Emperors. ‘Exhoc militare IMPERATORIBUS VESTRIS de­sisto;’ From this moment I no longer serve YOUR EMPERORS, are the important words of Marcellus, which his advocate has not thought proper to translate. I again make my appeal to any lawyer, to any military man, Whether, [Page 119] under such circumstances, the pronoun your has not a seditious and even treasonable im­port? And whether the officer who should make this declaration, and at the same time throw away his sword at the head of the regi­ment, would not be condemned for mutiny and desertion by any court-martial in Europe? I am the rather disposed to judge favourably of the conduct of the Roman government, as I cannot discover any desire to take advantage of the indiscretion of Marcellus. The Com­mander of the Legion seemed to lament that it was not in his power to dissemble this rash action. After a delay of more than three months, the Centurion was examined before the Vice-praefect, his superior Judge, who offer­ed him the fairest opportunities of explaining or qualifying his seditious expressions, and at last condemned him to lose his head; not sim­ply because he was a Christian, but because he had violated his military oath, thrown away his belt, and publicly blasphemed the Gods and the Emperors. Perhaps the impartial reader will confirm the sentence of the Vice-Praefect Agricolanus, ‘Ita se habent facta Marcelli, ut haec disciplinâ debeant vindi­cari.’

Notwithstanding the plainest evidence, Dr. Chelsum will not believe that either Origen in [Page 120] Theory, or Marcellus in Practice, could seri­ously object to the use of arms; ‘because it is well known, that far from declining the bu­siness of war altogether, whole legions of Christians served in the Imperial armies8.’ I have not yet discovered, in the Author or Authors of the Remarks, many traces of a clear and enlightened understanding, yet I can­not suppose them so destitute of every reasoning principle, as to imagine that they here allude to the conduct of the Christians who embraced the profession of arms after their religion had obtained a public establishment. Whole legi­ons of Christians served under the banners of Constantine and Justinian, as whole regiments of Christians are now inlisted in the service of France or England. The representation which I had given, was confined to the principles and practice of the Church of which Origen and Marcellus were members, before the sense of public and private interest had reduced the lofty standard of Evangelical perfection to the ordinary level of human nature. In those pri­mitive times, where are the Christian legions that served in the Imperial armies? Our Ec­clesiastical Pompeys may stamp with their foot, but no armed men will arise out of the earth, except the ghosts of the Thundering and the [Page 121] Thebaean legions, the former renowned for a Miracle, and the latter for a Martyrdom. Either the two Protestant Doctors must acqui­esce under some imputations which are better understood than expressed, or they must pre­pare, in the full light and freedom of the eigh­teenth century, to undertake the defence of two obsolete legends, the least absurd of which staggered the well-disciplined credulity of a Franciscan Friar. (See Pagi Critic. ad Annal. Baronii, A. D. 174. tom. i. p. 168.) Very different was the spirit and taste of the learned and ingenuous Dr. Jortin, who after treating the silly story of the Thundering Legion with the contempt it deserved, continues in the fol­lowing words: ‘Moyle wishes no greater penance to the believers of the Thundering Legion, than that they may also believe the Martyrdom of the Thebaean Legion.’ (Moyle's Works, vol. ii. p. 103): to which good wish, I say with Le Clerc (Bibliotheque A. et M. tom. xxvii. p. 193) AMEN.

Qui Bavium non odit, amet tua carmina Maevi.

(Jortin's Remarks on Ecclesiastical History, vol. i. p. 367. 2d edition. London, 1767.)



A grave and pathetic complaint is introduced by Dr. Chelsum, into his preface9, that Mr. Gibbon, who has often referred to the Fathers of the Church, seems to have entertained a ge­neral distrust of those respectable witnesses. The Critic is scandalized at the epithets of scanty and suspicious, which are applied to the materials of Ecclesiastical History; and if he cannot impeach the truth of the former, he censures in the most angry terms the injustice of the latter. He assumes, with peculiar zeal, the defence of Eusebius, the venerable parent of Ecclesiastical History, and labours to rescue his character from the gross misrepresen­tation, on which Mr. Gibbon has openly in­sisted1. He observes, as if he sagaciously foresaw the objection, ‘That it will not be sufficient here to alledge a few instances of apparent credulity in some of the Fathers, in order to fix a general charge of suspicion on all.’ But it may be sufficient to allege a clear and fundamental principle of historical as well as legal Criticism, that whenever we are destitute of the means of comparing the testimonies of the opposite parties, the evidence [Page 123] of any witness, however illustrious by his rank and titles, is justly to be suspected in his own cause. It is unfortunate enough, that I should be engaged with adversaries, whom their ha­bits of study and conversation appear to have left in total ignorance of the principles which universally regulate the opinions and practice of mankind.

As the ancient world was not distracted by the fierce conflicts of hostile sects, the free and eloquent writers of Greece and Rome had few opportunities of indulging their passions, or of exercising their impartiality in the rela­tion of religious events. Since the origin of Theological Factions, some Historians, Am­mianus Marcellinus, Fra-Paolo, Thuanus, Hume, and perhaps a few others, have de­served the singular praise of holding the ba­lance with a steady and equal hand. Inde­pendent and unconnected, they contemplated with the same indifference, the opinions and interests of the contending parties; or, if they were seriously attached to a particular system, they were armed with a firm and moderate temper, which enabled them to suppress their affections, and to sacrifice their resentments. In this small, but venerable Synod of Histo­rians, Eusebius cannot claim a seat. I had acknowledged, and I still think, that his cha­racter [Page 124] was less tinctured with credulity than that of most of his contemporaries; but as his enemies must admit that he was sincere and earnest in the profession of Christianity, so the warmest of his admirers, or at least of his readers, must discern, and will probably ap­plaud, the religious zeal which disgraces or adorns every page of his Ecclesiastical History. This laborious and useful work was published at a time, between the defeat of Licinius and the Council of Nice, when the resentment of the Christians was still warm, and when the Pagans were astonished and dismayed by the recent victory and conversion of the great Con­stantine. The materials, I shall dare to repeat the invidious epithets of scanty and suspicious, were extracted from the accounts which the Christians themselves had given of their own sufferings, and of the cruelty of their enemies. The Pagans had so long and so contemptuously neglected the rising greatness of the Church, that the Bishop of Caesarea had little either to hope or to fear from the writers of the opposite party; almost all of that little which did exist, has been accidentally lost, or purposely de­stroyed; and the candid enquirer may vainly wish to compare with the History of Eusebius, some Heathen narrative of the persecutions of Decius and Diocletian. Under these circum­stances, it is the duty of an impartial judge to [Page 125] be counsel for the prisoner, who is incapabale of making any defence for himself; and it is the first office of a counsel to examine with distrust and suspicion, the interested evidence of the ac­cuser. Reason justifies the suspicion, and it is confirmed by the constant experience of modern History, in almost every instance where we have an opportunity of comparing the mutual complaints and apologies of the religious fac­tions, who have disturbed each other's happi­ness in this world, for the sake of securing it in the next.

As we are deprived of the means of contrast­ing the adverse relations of the Christians and Pagans; it is the more incumbent on us to improve the opportunities of trying the narra­tives of Eusebius, by the original, and some­times occasional testimonies of the more ancient writers of his own party. Dr. Chelsum2 has observed, that the celebrated passage of Ori­gen, which has so much thinned the ranks of the army of Martyrs, must be confined to the persecutions that had already happened. I cannot dispute this sagacious remark, but I shall venture to add, that this passage more immediately relates to the religious tempests which had been excited in the time and coun­try of Origen; and still more particularly to [Page 126] the city of Alexandria, and to the persecution of Severus, in which young Origen successfully exhorted his father, to sacrifice his life and fortune for the cause of Christ. From such unquestionable evidence, I am authorised to conclude, that the number of holy victims who sealed their faith with their blood was not, on this occasion, very considerable: but I cannot reconcile this fair conclusion with the positive declaration of Eusebius, (l. vi. c. 2. p. 258) that at Alexandria, in the persecution of Seve­rus, an innumerable, at least an indefinite mul­titude ( [...]) of Christians were honoured with the Crown of Martyrdom. The advocates for Eusebius may exert their critical skill in prov­ing that [...] and [...], many and few, are synonymous and convertible terms, but they will hardly succeed in diminishing so palpable a contradiction, or in removing the suspicion which deeply fixes itself on the historical cha­racter of the Bishop of Caesarea. This unfor­tunate experiment taught me to read, with becoming caution, the loose and declamatory style which seems to magnify the multitude of Martyrs and Confessors, and to aggravate the nature of their sufferings. From the same motives I selected, with careful observation, the more certain account of the number of persons who actually suffered death in the pro­vince [Page 127] of Palestine, during the whole eight years of the last and most rigorous persecution.

Besides the reasonable grounds of suspicion, which suggest themselves to every liberal mind, against the credibility of the Ecclesiastical Historians, and of Eusebius, their venerable leader, I had taken notice of two very remark­able passages of the Bishop of Caesarea. He frankly, or at least indirectly, declares, that in treating of the last persecution, ‘he has re­lated whatever might redound to the glory, and suppressed all that could tend to the disgrace, of Religion3.’ Dr. Chelsum, who, on this occasion, most lamentably exclaims that we should hear Eusebius, before we utter­ly condemn him, has provided, with the assist­ance of his worthy colleague, an elaborate defence for their common patron; and as if he were secretly conscious of the weakness of the cause, he has contrived the resource of in­trenching himself in a very muddy soil, behind three several fortifications, which do not ex­actly support each other. The advocate for the sincerity of Eusebius maintains: 1st, That he never made such a declaration: 2dly, That he had a right to make it: and, 3dly, That he did not observe it. These separate and [Page] [...] [Page] [...] [Page 126] [...] [Page 127] [...] [Page 128] almost inconsistent apologies, I shall separately consider.

1. Dr. Chelsum is at a loss how to recon­cile,— I beg pardon for weakening the force of his dogmatic style; he declares that, ‘It is plainly impossible to reconcile the express words of the charge exhibited, with any part of either of the passages appealed to in support of it4.’ If he means, as I think he must, that the express words of my text can­not be found in that of Eusebius, I congratu­late the importance of the discovery. But was it possible? Could it be my design to quote the words of Eusebius, when I reduced into one sentence the spirit and substance of two diffuse and distinct passages? If I have given the true sense and meaning of the Ecclesiastical Historian, I have discharged the duties of a fair Interpreter; nor shall I refuse to rest the proof of my fidelity on the translation of those two passages of Eusebius, which Dr. Chelsum produces in his favour5. ‘But it is not our part to describe the sad calamities which at last befel them (the Christians), since it does not agree with our plan to relate their dis­sentions and wickedness before the persecu­tion; on which account we have determined to relate nothing more concerning them than [Page 129] may serve to justify the Divine Judgment. We therefore have not been induced to make mention either of those who were tempted in the persecution, or of those who made utter shipwreck of their salvation, and who were sunk of their own accord in the depths of the storm; but shall only add those things to our General History, which may in the first place be profitable to our­selves, and afterwards to posterity.’ In the other passage, Eusebius, after mentioning the dissentions of the Confessors among themselves, again declares that it is his intention to pass over all these things. ‘Whatsoever things, (continues the Historian, in the words of the Apostle, who was recommending the practice of virtue) whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are of good re­port, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise; these things Eusebius thinks most suitable to a History of Martyrs;’ of wonderful Martyrs, is the splendid epithet which Dr. Chelsum had not thought proper to trans­late. I should betray a very mean opinion of the judgment and candour of my readers, if I added a single reflection on the clear and ob­vious tendency of the two passages of the Ec­clesiastical Historian. I shall only observe, that the Bishop of Caesarea seems to have claim­ed [Page 130] a privilege of a still more dangerous and extensive nature. In one of the most learned and elaborate works that antiquity has left us, the Thirty-second Chapter of the Twelfth Book of his Evangelical Preparation bears for its title this scandalous Proposition, ‘How it may be lawful and fitting to use falsehood as a me­dicine, and for the benefit of those who want to be deceived.’ [...] (p. 356, Edit. Graec. Rob. Ste­phani, Paris 1544.) In this chapter he al­leges a passage of Plato, which approves the occasional practice of pious and salutary frauds; nor is Eusebius ashamed to justify the senti­ments of the Athenian philosopher by the ex­ample of the sacred writers of the Old Testa­ment.

2. I had contented myself with observing, that Eusebius had violated one of the funda­mental laws of history, Ne quid veri dicere non audeat; nor could I imagine, if the fact was allowed, that any question could possibly arise upon the matter of right. I was indeed mis­taken; and I now begin to understand why I have given so little satisfaction to Dr. Chelsum, and to other critics of the same complexion, as our ideas of the duties and the privileges of an historian appear to be so widely different. It [Page 131] is alleged, that ‘every writer has a right to chuse his subject, for the particular benefit of his reader; that he has explained his own plan consistently; that he considers himself, according to it, not as a complete historian of the times, but rather as a didactic writer, whose main object is to make his work like the Scriptures themselves, PROFITABLE FOR DOCTRINE; that as he treats only of the af­fairs of the Church, the plan is at least ex­cusable, perhaps peculiarly proper; and that he has conformed himself to the principal duty of an historian, while, according to his immediate design, he has not particularly related any of the transactions which could tend to the disgrace of religion6.’ The historian must indeed be generous, who will conceal, by his own disgrace, that of his coun­try, or of his religion. Whatever subject he has chosen, whatever persons he introduces, he owes to himself, to the present age, and to posterity, a just and perfect delineation of all that may be praised, of all that may be ex­cused, and of all that must be censured. If he fails in the discharge of his important office, he partially violates the sacred obligations of truth, and disappoints his readers of the instruction [Page 132] which they might have derived from a fair parallel of the vices and virtues of the most il­lustrious characters. Herodotus might range without controul in the spacious walks of the Greek and Barbaric domain, and Thucydides might confine his steps to the narrow path of the Peloponnesian war; but those historians would never have deserved the esteem of poste­rity, if they had designedly suppressed or tran­siently mentioned those facts which could tend to the disgrace of Greece or of Athens. These unalterable dictates of conscience and reason have been seldom questioned, though they have been seldom observed; and we must sincerely join in the honest complaint of Melchior Ca­nus, ‘that the lives of the philosophers have been composed by Laertius, and those of the Caesars by Suetonius, with a much stricter and more severe regard for historic truth, than can be found in the lives of saints and martyrs, as they are described by Catholic writers.’ (See Loci Communes, l. xi. p. 650, apud Clericum, Epistol. Critic. v. p. 136.) And yet the partial representation of truth is of far more pernicious consequence in ecclesiastical than in civil history. If Laertius had concealed the defects of Plato, or if Sue­tonius had disguised the vices of Augustus, we should have been deprived of the knowledge [Page 133] of some curious, and perhaps instructive facts, and our idea of those celebrated men might have been more favourable than they deserved; but I cannot discover any practical inconve­niencies which could have been the result of our ignorance. But if Eusebius had fairly and circumstantially related the scandalous dissen­tions of the Confessors; if he had shewn that their virtues were tinctured with pride and obstinacy, and that their lively faith was not exempt from some mixture of enthusiasm; he would have armed his readers against the ex­cessive veneration for those holy men, which imperceptibly degenerated into religious wor­ship. The success of these didactic histories, by concealing or palliating every circumstance of human infirmity, was one of the most effi­cacious means of consecrating the memory, the bones, and the writings of the saints of the pre­vailing party; and a great part of the errors and corruptions of the Church of Rome may fairly be ascribed to this criminal dissimulation of the ecclesiastical historians. As a Protestant Divine, Dr. Chelsum must abhor these corrup­tions; but as a Christian, he should be careful lest his apology for the prudent choice of Euse­bius should six an indirect censure on the un­reserved sincerity of the four Evangelists. In­stead of confining their narrative to those things [Page 134] which are virtuous and of good report, instead of following the plan which is here recommended as peculiarly proper for the affairs of the Church, the inspired writers have thought it their duty to relate the most minute circumstances of the fall of St. Peter, without considering whether the behaviour of an Apostle, who thrice de­nied his Divine Master, might redound to the honour or to the disgrace of Christianity. If Dr. Chelsum should be frightened by this un­expected consequence, if he should be desirous of saving his faith from utter shipwreck, by throwing over-board the useless lumber of me­mory and reflection, I am not enough his ene­my to impede the success of his honest endea­vours.

The didactic method of writing history is still more profitably exercised by Eusebius in ano­ther work, which he has intitled, The Life of Constantine, his gracious patron and benefac­tor. Priests and poets have enjoyed in every age a privilege of flattery; but if the actions of Constantine are compared with the perfect idea of a royal saint, which, under his name, has been delineated by the zeal and gratitude of Eusebius, the most indulgent reader will confess, that when I styled him a courtly Bi­shop 7, I could only be restrained by my respect [Page 135] for the episcopal character from the use of a much harsher epithet. The other appellation of a passionate declaimer, which seems to have sounded still more offensive in the tender ears of Dr. Chelsum8, was not applied by me to Eusebius, but to Lactantius, or rather to the author of the historical declamation, De mor­tibus persecutorum; and indeed it is much more properly adapted to the Rhetorician, than to the Bishop. Each of those authors was alike studious of the glory of Constantine; but each of them directed the torrent of his invectives against the tyrant, whether Maxentius or Lici­nus, whose recent defeat was the actual theme of popular and Christian applause. This simple observation may serve to extinguish a very trifling objection of my critic, That Eusebius has not represented the tyrant Maxentius under the character of a Persecutor.

Without scrutinizing the considerations of interest which might support the integrity of Baronius and Tillemont, I may fairly observe, that both those learned Catholics have ac­knowledged and condemned the dissimulation of Eusebius, which is partly denied, and partly justified, by my adversary. The honourable reflection of Baronius well deserves to be tran­scribed. [Page 136] ‘Haec (the passages already quoted) de suo in conscribendà persecutionis historia Eusebius; parum explens numeros sui mu­neris; dum perinde ac si panegyrim scribe­ret non historiam, triumphos dumtaxat mar­tyrum atque victorias, non autem lapsus jacturamque fidelium posteris scripturae mo­numentis curaret.’ (Baron. Annal. Eccle­siast. A. D. 302, No 11. See likewise Tille­mont, Mem. Eccles. tom, v. p. 62. 156; tom. vii. p. 130.) In a former instance, Dr. Chelsum appeared to be more credulous than a Monk: on the present occasion, he has shewn himself less sincere than a Cardinal, and more obstinate than a Jansenist.

3. Yet the advocate for Eusebius has still another expedient in reserve. Perhaps he made the unfortunate declaration of his partial de­sign, perhaps he had a right to make it; but at least his accuser must admit, that he has saved his honour by not keeping his word; since I myself have taken notice of THE COR­RUPTION OF MANNERS AND PRINCIPLES among the Christians, so FORCIBLY LAMENTED by Eu­sebius9. He has indeed indulged himself in a strain of loose and indefinite censure, which may generally be just, and which cannot be per­sonally [Page 137] offensive, which is alike incapable of wounding or of correcting, as it seems to have no fixed object or certain aim. Juvenal might have read his satire against women in a circle of Roman ladies, and each of them might have listened with pleasure to the amusing descrip­tion of the various vices and follies, from which she herself was so perfectly free. The moralist, the preacher, the ecclesiastical histo­rian, enjoy a still more ample latitude of in­vective; and as long as they abstain from any particular censure, they may securely expose, and even exaggerate, the sins of the multitude. The precepts of Christianity seem to inculcate a style of mortification, of abasement, of self­contempt; and the hypocrite who aspires to the reputation of a saint, often finds it conve­nient to affect the language of a penitent. I should doubt whether Dr. Chelsum is much acquainted with the comedies of Moliere. If he has ever read that inimitable master of hu­man life, he may recollect whether Tartusse was very much inclined to confess his real guilt, when he exclaimed,

Oui, mon Frere, je suis un merchant, un coupable;
Un malheureux pécheur, tout plein d'iniquite;
Le plus grand scelerat qui ait jamais été.
Chaque instant de ma vie est chargé de souillures,
Elle n'est qu'un amas de crimes et d'ordures.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
[Page 138] Oui, mon cher fils, parlez, traitez moi de perfide,
D'infame, de perdu, de voleur, d'homicide;
Accablez moi de noms encore plus detestés:
Je n'y contredis point, je les ai merités,
Et j'en veux à genoux souffrir l'ignominie,
Comme une honte due aux crimes de ma vie:

It is not my intention to compare the cha­racter of Tartuffe with that of Eusebius; the former pointed his invectives against himself, the latter directed them against the times in which he had lived: but as the prudent Bishop of Caesarea did not specify any place or person for the object of his censure, he cannot justly be accused, even by his friends, of violating the profitable plan of his didactic history.

The extreme caution of Eusebius, who de­clines any mention of those who were tempted and who fell during the persecution, has coun­tenanced a suspicion that he himself was one of those unhappy victims, and that his tenderness for the wounded fame of his brethren arose from a just apprehension of his own disgrace. In one of my notes1, I had observed, that he was charged with the guilt of some criminal compliances, in his own presence, and in the Council of Tyre. I am therefore accountable for the reality only, and not for the truth, of the accusation: but as the two Doctors, who [Page 139] on this occasion unite their forces, are angry and clamorous in asserting the innocence of the Ecclesiastical Historian2, I shall advance one step farther, and shall maintain, that the charge against Eusebius, though not legally proved, is supported by a reasonable share of pre­sumptive evidence.

I have often wondered why our orthodox Divines should be so earnest and zealous in the defence of Eusebius; whose moral character cannot be preserved, unless by the sacrifice of a more illustrious, and, as I really believe, of a more innocent victim. Either the Bishop of Caesarea, on a very important occasion, vio­lated the laws of Christian charity and civil justice, or we must fix a charge of calumny, almost of forgery, on the head of the great Athanasius, the standard-bearer of the Ho­moousian cause, and the firmest pillar of the orthodox doctrine. In the Council of Tyre, he was accused of murdering, or at least of mutilating, a Bishop, whom he produced at Tyre alive and unhurt (Athanas. tom. i. p. 783. 786.); and of sacrilegiously breaking a consecrated chalice, in a village where nei­ther church, nor altar, nor chalice, could pos­sibly have existed. (Athanas. tom. i. p. 731, [Page 140] 732. 802.) Notwithstanding the clearest proofs of his innocence, Athanasius was oppressed by the Arian faction; and Eusebius of Caesarea, the venerable father of ecclesiastical history, conducted this iniquitous prosecution from a motive of personal enmity. (Athanas. tom. i. p. 728. 795. 797.) Four years afterwards, a national council of the Bishops of Egypt, forty-nine of whom had been present at the Synod of Tyre, addressed an epistle or manifesto in fa­vour of Athanasius to all the Bishops of the Christian world. In this epistle they assert, that some of the Confessors, who accompanied them to Tyre, had accused Eusebius of Caesa­rea of an act relative to idolatrous sacrifice. [...] (Atha­nas. tom. i. p. 728.) Besides this short and authentic memorial, which escaped the know­ledge or the candour of our confederate Doc­tors, a consonant but more circumstantial nar­rative of the accusation of Eusebius may be found in the writings of Epiphanius (Haeres. lxviii. p. 723, 724.), the learned Bishop of Salamis, who was born about the time of the Synod of Tyre. He relates, that, in one of the sessions of the Council, Potamon, Bishop of Heracica in Egypt, addressed Eusebius in the following words: ‘How now, Eusebius, can [Page 141] this be borne, that you should be seated as a judge, while the innocent Athanasius is left standing as a criminal? Tell me, continued Potamon, were we not in prison together during the persecution? For my own part, I lost an eye for the sake of the truth; but I cannot discern that you have lost any one of your members. You bear not any marks of your sufferings for Jesus Christ; but here you are, full of life, and with all the parts of your body sound and entire. How could you contrive to escape from prison, unless you stained your con­science, either by actual guilt or by a cri­minal promise to our persecutors.’ Euse­bius immediately broke up the meeting, and discovered by his anger, that he was confound­ed or provoked by the reproaches of the Con­fessor Potamon.

I should despise myself, if I were capable of magnifying, for a present occasion, the autho­rity of the witness whom I have produced. Po­tamon was most assuredly actuated by a strong prejudice against the personal enemy of his Pri­mate; and if the transaction to which he al­luded had been of a private and doubtful kind, I would not take any ungenerous advantage of the respect which my Reverend Adversaries must entertain for the character of a Confessor. [Page 142] But I cannot distrust the veracity of Potamon, when he confined himself to the assertion of a fact, which lay within the compass of his per­sonal knowledge: and collateral testimony (see Photius, p. 296, 297.) attests, that Eusebius was long enough in prison to assist his friend, the Martyr Pamphilus, in composing the first five books of his Apology for Origen. If we admit that Eusebius was imprisoned, he must have been discharged, and his discharge must have been either honourable, or criminal, or innocent. If his patience vanquished the cruelty of the Tyrant's Ministers, a short relation of his own confession and sufferings would have formed an useful and edifying Chapter in his Didactic History of the Persecution of Palestine; and the Reader would have been satisfied of the veracity of an Historian who valued truth above his life. If it had been in his power to justify, or even to excuse, the manner of his discharge from prison, it was his interest, it was his duty, to prevent the doubts and suspicions which must arise from his silence under these delicate circumstances. Notwithstanding these urgent reasons, Eusebius has observed a profound, and perhaps a prudent, silence: though he fre­quently celebrates the merit and martyrdom of his friend Pamphilus (p. 371. 394. 419. 427. Edit. Cantab.), he never insinuates that he was [Page 143] his companion in prison; and while he copi­ously describes the eight years persecution in Palestine, he never represents himself in any other light than of a spectator. Such a con­duct in a Writer, who relates with a visible sa­tisfaction the honourable events of his own life, if it be not absolutely considered as an evi­dence of conscious guilt, must excite, and may justify, the suspicions of the most candid Critic.

Yet the firmness of Dr. Randolph is not shaken by these rational suspicions; and he condescends, in a magisterial tone, to inform me, ‘That it is highly improbable, from the general well-known decision of the Church in such cases, that had his apostacy been known, he would have risen to those high honours which he attained, or been admitted at all indeed to any other than lay-com­munion.’ This weighty objection did not surprize me, as I had already seen the substance of it in the Prolegomena of Valesius; but I safely disregarded a difficulty which had not appeared of any moment to the national coun­cil of Egypt; and I still think that an hundred Bishops, with Athanasius at their head, were as competent judges of the discipline of the fourth Century, as even the Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity in the University of Ox­ford. As a work of supererogation, I have [Page 144] consulted, however, the Antiquities of Bing­ham (see l. iv. c. 3. s. 6, 7. vol. i. p. 144, &c. fol. Edit.), and found, as I expected, that much real learning had made him cautious and modest. After a careful examination of the facts and authorities already known to me, and of those with which I was supplied by the di­ligent Antiquarian, I am persuaded that the theory and the practice of discipline were not invariably the same, that particular examples cannot always be reconciled with general rules, and that the stern laws of justice often yielded to motives of policy and convenience. The temper of Jerom towards those whom he considered as Heretics was fierce and unfor­giving; yet the Dialogue of Jerom against the Luciferians, which I have read with infinite pleasure (tom. ii. p. 135—147. Edit. Basil. 1536.), is the seasonable and dextrous per­formance of a Statesman, who felt the expe­diency of soothing and reconciling a numerous party of offenders. The most rigid discipline, with regard to the Ecclesiastics who had fallen in time of persecution, is expressed in the 10th Canon of the Council of Nice; the most re­markable indulgence was shewn by the Fathers of the same Council to the lapsed, the degraded, the schismatic Bishops of Lycopolis. Of the penitent sinners, some might escape the shame [Page 145] of a public conviction or confession, and others might be exempted from the rigour of cle­rical punishment. If Eusebius incurred the guilt of a sacrilegious promise (for we are free to accept the milder alternative of Potamon), the proofs of this criminal transaction might be suppressed by the influence of money or fa­vour; a seasonable journey into Egypt might allow time for the popular rumours to subside. The crime of Eusebius might be protected by the impunity of many Episcopal Apostates (see Philostorg. l. ii. c. 15. p. 21. Edit. Go­thofred.); and the Governors of the Church very reasonably desired to retain in their ser­vice the most learned Christian of the Age.

It is not without some mixture of mortifi­cation and regret, that I now look back on the number of hours which I have consumed, and the number of pages which I have filled, in vindicating my literary and moral character from the charge of wilful Misrepresentations, gross Errors, and servile Plagiarisms. I cannot derive any triumph or consolation from the oc­casional advantages which I may have gained over three adversaries, whom it is impossible for me to consider as objects either of terror or of esteem. The spirit of resentment, and every other lively sensation, have long since been extinguished; and the pen would long [Page 146] since have dropped from my weary hand, had I not been supported in the execution of this ungrateful task, by the consciousness, or at least by the opinion, that I was discharging a debt of honour to the Public and to myself. I am impatient to dismiss, and to dismiss FOR EVER, this odious controversy, with the suc­cess of which I cannot surely be elated; and I have only to request, that as soon as my Readers are convinced of my innocence, they would forget my vindication.


WHILE the sheets of this Vindication were in the press, I was informed that an anonymous pamphlet, under the title of A Few Remarks, &c. had been published against my History in the course of the last summer. The unknown writer has thought proper to di­stinguish himself by the emphatic, yet vague, appellation of A GENTLEMAN: but I must la­ment that he has not considered, with becoming attention, the duties of that respectable charac­ter. I am ignorant of the motives which can urge a man of a liberal mind, and liberal man­ners, to attack without provocation, and with­out tenderness, any work which may have con­tributed to the information, or even to the amusement of the public. But I am well con­vinced, that the author of such a work, who boldly gives his name and his labours to the world, imposes on his adversaries the fair and honourable obligation of encountering him in open day-light, and of supporting the weight of their assertions by the credit of their names. [Page 148] The effusions of wit, or the productions of rea­son, may be accepted from a secret and un­known hand. The critic who attempts to injure the reputation of another, by strong im­putations which may possibly be false, should renounce the ungenerous hope of concealing behind a mask the vexation of disappointment, and the guilty blush of detection.

After this remark, which I cannot make without some degree of concern, I shall frankly declare, that it is not my wish or my inten­tion to prosecute with this Gentleman a lite­rary altercation. There lies between us a broad and unfathomable gulph; and the heavy mist of prejudice and superstition, which has in a great measure been dispelled by the free in­quiries of the present age, still continues to in­volve the mind of my Adversary. He fondly embraces those phantoms (for instance, an ima­ginary Pilate1), which can scarcely find a shelter in the gloom of an Italian convent; and the resentment which he points against me, might frequently be extended to the most en­lightened of the PROTESTANT, or, in his opi­nion, of the HERETICAL critics. His observa­tions are divided into a number of unconnected paragraphs, each of which contains some quo­tation from my History, and the angry, yet commonly trifling expression of his disapproba­tion [Page 149] and displeasure. Those sentiments I can­not hope to remove; and as the religious opi­nions of this Gentleman are principally founded on the infallibility of the Church2, they are not calculated to make a very deep impression on the mind of an English reader. The view of facts will be materially affected by the conta­gious influence of doctrines. The man who re­fuses to judge of the conduct of Lewis XIV. and Charles V. towards their Protestant sub­jects3, declares himself incapable of distin­guishing the limits of persecution and tolera­tion. The devout Papist, who has implored on his knees the intercession of St. Cyprian, will seldom presume to examine the actions of the Saint by the rules of historical evidence and of moral propriety. Instead of the homely likeness which I had exhibited of the Bishop of Carthage, my Adversary has substituted a life of Cyprian4, full of what the French call onction, and the English, canting (See Jortin's Remarks, Vol. ii. p. 239.): to which I can only reply, that those who are dissatisfied with the principles of Mosheim and Le Clerc, must view with eyes very different from mine, the Ecclesiastical History of the third century.

It would be an endless discussion (endless in every sense of the word), were I to examine the cavils which start up and expire in every page [Page 150] of this criticism, on the inexhaustible topic of opinions, characters, and intentions. Most of the instances which are here produced, are of so brittle a substance that they fall in pieces as soon as they are touched: and I searched for some time before I was able to discover an ex­ample of some moment where the Gentleman had fairly staked his veracity against some po­sitive fact asserted in the two last Chapters of my History. At last I perceived that he has absolutely denied5 that any thing can be ga­thered from the Epistles of St. Cyprian, or from his treatise De Unitate Ecclesiae, to which I had referred, to justify my account of the spiritual pride and licentious manners of some of the Confessors6. As the numbers of the Epistles are not the same in the edition of Pamelius and in that of Fell, the Critic may be excused for mistaking my quotations, if he will acknow­ledge that he was ignorant of ecclesiastical history, and that he never heard of the troubles excited by the spiritual pride of the Confessors, who usurped the privilege of giving letters of communion to penitent sinners. But my re­ference to the treatise De Unitate Ecclesiae was clear and direct; the treatise itself contains only ten pages, and the following words might be distinctly read by any person who under­stood the Latin language. "Nec quisquam [Page 151] miretur, dilectissimi fratres, etiam de confesso­ribus quosdam ad ista procedere, inde quoque aliquos tam nefanda tam gravia peccare. Ne­que enim confessio immunem facit ab insidiis diaboli; aut contra tentationes, et pericula, et incursus atque impetus seculares adhuc in se­culo positum perpetuâ securitate defendit: ce­terum nunquam in confessoribus, fraudes, et stupra, et adulteria postmodum videremus, quae nunc in quibusdam videntes ingemiscimus et dolemus." This formal declaration of Cyprian, which is followed by several long periods of admonition and censure, is alone sufficient to expose the scandalous vices of some of the Con­fessors, and the disingenuous behaviour of my concealed adversary.

After this example, which I have fairly chosen as one of the most specious and import­ant of his objections, the candid Reader would excuse me, if from this moment I declined the Gentleman's acquaintance. But as two topics have occurred, which are intimately connected with the subject of the preceding sheets, I shall insert them in this place, and desire that they may be read as the conclusion of the fourth article of my answers to Mr. Davis, and of the first article of my reply to the confederate Doc­tors, Chelsum and Randolph.

PAGE 29.

I stand accused, though not indeed by Mr. Davis, for profanely depreciating the promised Land, as well as the chosen People. The Gentle­man without a name has placed this charge in the front of his battle1, and if my memory does not deceive me, it is one of the few re­marks in Mr. Apthorpe's book, which have any immediate relation to my History. They seem to consider as a reproach, and as an un­just reproach, the idea which I had given of Palestine, as of a territory scarcely superior to Wales in extent and fertility2; and they strangely convert a geographical observation into a theological error. When I recollect that the imputation of a similar error was em­ployed by the implacable Calvin, to precipi­tate and to justify the execution of Servetus, I must applaud the felicity of this country, and of this age, which has disarmed, if it could not mollify, the fierceness of ecclesiastical cri­ticism (see Dictionnaire Critique de Chauffepié, tom. iv. p. 223).

As I had compared the narrow extent of Phoenicia and Palestine with the important bles­fings which those celebrated countries had dif­fused over the rest of the earth, their minute size [Page 153] became an object not of censure but of praise. ‘Ingentes animos angusto in pectore versant.’ The precise measure of Palestine was taken from Templeman's Survey of the Globe: he allows to Wales 7011 square English miles, to the Morea, or Peloponnesus, 7220, to the Se­ven United Provinces 7546, and to Judaea or Palestine 7600. The difference is not very considerable, and if any of these countries has been magnified beyond its real size, Asia is more liable than Europe to have been affected by the inaccuracy of Mr. Templeman's maps. To the authority of this modern survey, I shall only add the ancient and weighty testimony of Jerom, who passed in Palestine above thirty years of his life. From Dan to Bershebah, the two fixed and proverbial boundaries of the Holy Land, he reckons no more than one hundred and sixty miles (Hieronym. ad Dardanum, tom. iii. p. 66), and the breadth of Palestine cannot by any expedient be stretched to one half of its length (see Reland, Palestin. l. ii. c. 5. p. 421).

The degrees and limits of fertility cannot be ascertained with the strict simplicity of geo­graphical measures. Whenever we speak of the productions of the earth in different cli­mates, our ideas must be relative, our expres­sions vague and doubtful; nor can we always [Page 154] distinguish between the gifts of Nature and the rewards of Industry. The Emperor Fre­derick II. the enemy and the victim of the Clergy, is accused of saying, after his return from his Crusade, that the God of the Jews would have despised his promised land, if he had once seen the fruitful realms of Sicily and Naples (see Giannone Istoria Civile del Regno di Napoli, tom. ii. p. 245). This raillery, which malice has perhaps falsely imputed to Frederick, is inconsistent with truth and piety; yet it must be confessed, that the soil of Pale­stine does not contain that inexhaustible, and as it were spontaneous principle of secundity which under the most unfavourable circum­stance has covered with rich harvests the banks of the Nile, the fields of Sicily, or the plains of Poland. The Jordan is the only navigable river of Palestine: a considerable part of the narrow space is occupied, or rather lost, in the Dead Sea, whose horrid aspect inspires every sensation of disgust, and countenances every tale of horror. The districts which border on Arabia partake of the sandy quality of the ad­jacent desert. The face of the country, except the sea-coast and the valley of the Jordan, is covered with mountains, which appear for the most part as naked and barren rocks; and in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem there is a real [Page 155] scarcity of the two elements of earth and wa­ter (see Maundrel's Travels, p. 65, and Re­land Palestin. tom. i. p. 238—395). These disadvantages, which now operate in their fullest extent, were formerly corrected by the labours of a numerous people, and the active protection of a wise government. The hills were cloathed with rich beds of artificial mould, the rain was collected in vast cisterns, a sup­ply of fresh water was conveyed by pipes and aqueducts to the dry lands, the breed of cattle was encouraged in those parts which were not adapted for tillage, and almost every spot was compelled to yield some production for the use of the inhabitants. (See the same testimonies and observations of Maundrel and Reland).

—Pater ipse colendi
Haud facilem esse viam voluit, primusque per artem
Movit agros; curis acuens mortalia corda
Nec torpere gravi passus SUA REGNA veterno.

Such are the useful victories which have been atchieved by MAN on the lofty mountains of Switzerland, along the rocky coast of Genoa, and upon the barren hills of Palestine; and since Wales has flourished under the influence of English freedom, that rugged country has surely acquired some share of the same indus­trious merit and the same artificial fertility. [Page 156] Those Critics who interpret the comparison of Palestine and Wales as a tacit libel on the for­mer, are themselves guilty of an unjust satire against the latter of those countries. Such is the injustice of Mr. Apthorpe and of the ano­nymous Gentleman: but if Mr. Davis (as we may suspect from his name) is himself of Cam­brian origin, his patriotism on this occasion has protected me from his zeal.

PAGE 121.

Yet I shall not attempt to conceal a formi­dable army of Christians and even of Martyrs, which is ready to inlist under the banners of the confederate Doctors, if they will accept their service. As a specimen of the extravagant legends of the middle age, I had produced the instance of ten thousand Christian soldiers sup­posed to have been crucified on Mount Ararat, by the order either of Trajan or Hadrian1. For the mention and for the confutation of this story, I had appealed to a Papist and a Pro­testant, to the learned Tillemont (Mem. Ec­clesiast. tom. ii. part ii. p. 438), and to the diligent Geddes (Miscellanies, vol. ii. p. 203), and when Tillemont was not afraid to say that there are few histories which appear more fa­bulous, [Page 157] I was not ashamed of dismissing the Fa­ble with silent contempt. We may trace the de­grees of fiction as well as those of credibility, and the impartial Critic will not place on the same level the baptism of Philip and the donation of Constantine. But in considering the crucifix­ion of the ten thousand Christian soldiers, we are not reduced to the necessity of weighing any internal probabilities, or of disproving any external testimonies. This legend, the ab­surdity of which must strike every rational mind, stands naked and unsupported by the authority of any writer who lived within a thousand years of the age of Trajan, and has not been able to obtain the poor sanction of the uncorrupted Martyrologies which were framed in the most credulous period of Ecclesiastical History. The two Protestant Doctors will probably re­ject the unsubstantial present which has been offered them; yet there is one of my adversa­ries, the annonymous Gentleman, who boldly de­clares himself the votary of the ten thousand Martyrs, and challenges me ‘to discredit a FACT which hitherto by many has been looked upon as well established2.’ It is pity that a prudent confessor did not whisper in his ear, that, although the martyrdom of [Page 158] these military Saints, like that of the eleven thousand Virgins, may contribute to the edifi­cation of the faithful, these wonderful tales should not be rashly exposed to the jealous and inquisitive eye of those profane Critics, whose examination always precedes, and some­times checks, their Religious Assent.



  • Page 6. Line 7. for criminal, read mischievous.
  • Page 21. Line 8. for [...], read [...]
  • Page 39. Line 18. for had, read has.
  • Page 48. Line 14. after first, insert that.
  • Page 74. Line 27. for devotions, which, read Saints, who.
  • Page 76. Line 11. for Hostenius, read Holstenius.
  • Page 77. Line 7. for by, read to.
  • Page 79. Line 5. after persuaded, insert that.
  • Page 81. Line 21. after applause, insert and.
  • Page 97. Line 17. for was, read were.
  • Page 97. Line 22. read synagogue.

N. B. If any other errors of the press should be detected, I can only im­plore the mercy of my Critics; and I must now lament that the name, or rather the provincial appellation of HOLSTENIUS (Luke of Holstein) should again have been mistaken by the Printer.

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