Thus far of ye almost incredible difference of ye Barbarians & Romans in those principal Christian virtues, Charity, Abstinence from pleasures & Chastity. In ye next place we will compare them in respect of persecuting, & here if we consider persecution according to ye notion of \which/ persecutors co|fr|ame to colour over their persecuting, wch is that ye true Church may punish men by ye temporary sword for error in Faith: it must be granted yt if ye Barbarians were ye true Church then ye Homousians during Theodosius's reign & afterwards were very great persecutors & ye Barbarians none at all. But this is but to return their own argument upon those who are so blind & wicked as to {condemn} applaud that for piety in them selves wch they condemn \cry out against/ in others for {wickedness}. We are not to measure Persecution by ye rule of Persecutors. The Magistrate may punish or cut off {illeg} any for their vices or evil actions but not professors of Christianity for erronious opinions, least they pluck up ye Wheat wth ye Tares. The Church may reprove or excommunicate these but she has as little power to authority to guide ye arm of ye Magistrate as to handle his sword: for this is but to make her self ye judge & him but ye executioner. In short Whatsoever wears sheeps Shee may excommunicate f|b|ut not force into communion. Christ never instituted that a means of her propagation & preservation. If we would have them once with us we <1v> must {not} use ye proper means to beget faith in them, & not urge them by violence to do what is contrary to their perswasion, seing whatsoever is not of faith is sin.[1] By violence a Church may increase her numbers but ever allays & debases her self with impure mixtures, force prevailing with none but Hypocrites. And this I take to be ye chief reason of ye great wickedness of ye Romans wch ensued Theodosius's reign, his persecution squeezing out ye cons{cien}cious & filling ye persecuting church \only/ with ye Hipocrytical part of ye Empire. Every Persecutor is a Wolf Matth 10.16, 17, & every Christian that preaches it is one of ye fals Prophets called Wolfs in sheeps cloathing Math 7.     These are ye Christians of whom he said Then shall many be offended & shall betray one another & shall hate one another Matth 24. And to all such belongs that reprehension. Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. Luke 9. In short: whatsoever wears sheeps cloathing if it be as ravenous as a wolf it betrays it self by it's ravenousness to be no sheep. The Wolves may worry ye sheep but Christ never taught ye sheep to worry ye wolves. By their ravenousness we are to know them & not to excuse their ravenousness by pretending they are sheep. For 'tis our Saviour's rule speaking of these wolfs, to judge ye tree by ye fruit & not ye fruit by the tree. Matth. 7.

Hence then we have another character of a true Church. For you have already heard how vehement persecutors ye Homoüsians were in Theodosius's reign & afterwar besides what they did afterwards; but ye Barbarians were so free from it that Salvian 40 years after their breaking into the <2r> Empire wrote thus of ye \general/ state of ye west. Dicit fortè aliquis, non id esse nunc temporis ut pro Christo nos perferamus quæ tunc Apostoli pertulerunt. Verum est. Non enim sunt Principes Pagani, non Tyranni persecutores, non sanguis sanctorum funditur, nec fides supplicijs comprobatur – – – – – et ideo cùm et Principes Christiani sint, & Persecutio nulla sit & religio non inquietetur, qui ad probandum fidem experimentis durioribus non compellimus inferioribus saltem officijs domino plus placere debemus. Salv. lib. 3 De Gub. Dei. This was ye generall moderation of ye Babrbarians for ye first 40 years of their conquests: wch was ye more admirable in that they absteined from pers retaliliating {sic} persecution on those that had so highly provoked them by it. They shewed themselves Christians in absteining from persecuting: It was more for Conquered|r|s not to persecute a conquered people, but not to retaliate persecution on their conquered persecutors was a high instance of Christian Principles.

This is enough to shew the temper of their religion at ye f their first breaking into ye Empire: though if we should prosecute it to later times when their religion abated began more & more to decay, we should find them generally less persecutors then reigning Christians used to be in any ages since. The a[2] Ostrogoths never persecuted. (Procop. de {illeg} de Bel. Got. l      ) The Visigoths are not accused for it till ye reign of Evarix & he did no more then to b[3] make a law that at ye death of each of their Priests ye Church where that Priest officiated, should be taken from them |no successors should be created to their Bishops dying|: wch <2v> Law together wth ye Persecution ceased wth his reign. The Vandals I reccon began not to persecute till Hunneric A C. 484. For Geiseric was rather a Tyrant then a persecutor being as cruel to those of his own religion as to others, & making no Law against ye Homousian Religion as he must have done to raise a national persecution. But whatever ye later times were when ye Barbarians began to degenerate & imitate ye Romans, its enough as I said to shew ye temper of their Religion while influenced by those Roman Christians whom ye Theodosian persecution had made fly to them, that at their first Conquests & for 40 years after, besides some time after Salvian wrote they persecuted not at all, & afterwards not so much as ye Romans: no not ye Vandals if acquitted from ye forgeries of ye Moncks whose custome it has ever been to cry up Malefactors \of their own party/ for Martyrs.

We have seen out of Salvian how much the Barbarians transcended ye Romans in their duty towards man: let us now see out of ye same Salvian how much they differed in piety & devotion towards God. Dicit Deus – – –

[1] Rom 14.23

[2] a. Procop. de Bel. Got.

[3] b Consule Sidonij Epist 6. lib. 7, eodem tempore scriptam. Nam fabulas Monachorum de hujus æque ac aliorum persecutionibus planè contexuit Gregorius Turonensis ut mihi videtur.

© 2020 The Newton Project

Professor Rob Iliffe
Director, AHRC Newton Papers Project

Scott Mandelbrote,
Fellow & Perne librarian, Peterhouse, Cambridge

Faculty of History, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2RL - newtonproject@history.ox.ac.uk

Privacy Statement

  • University of Oxford
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • JISC