Posted on April 27, by Scott Alexander I.
WHAT an unaccountable thing is it for so many men to blindfold themselves on purpose to fall foul upon Christianity! And to such a degree that they cannot talk about the noted probity of any Christian without allaying his character with a dash of his religion!
I will tell you what says anotherI wonder that Lucius the philo- sopher is all of a sudden turned Christian. And none has sense enough in his passion to put the question right, and argue in this manner.
Is not Caius so good, and Lucius so wise, merely from the influence of their religion? Or was it not the probity The issue of self respect in philadelphia and the reasons behind girls disrespect for themselves one, and the wisdom of the other, that prepared the way, and brought them over to be Christians?
Thus indeed they praise what they know, but vilify what they know not; they blot the fairest examples of virtue shining in their very eyes, because of a religion they are entirely in the dark about; whereas certainly, by all the rules of reason, we ought to judge of the nature of causes we see not, by the effects we see, and not pre-condemn apparent goodness for principles we understand not.
Others, discoursing of some persons, whom they knew to be vagrants, and infamously lewd before they came over to our religion, drop their praises upon them in such a manner, that they stigmatize them with their very compliments; so darkened are they with prejudice that they blunder into the commendation of the thing they would condemn.
For say they how wanton, and how witty was such a woman! Some others are arrived to that pitch of aversion to the very name of Christian, that they seem to have entered into covenant with hatred, and bargained to gratify this passion at the expense of all the satisfactions of human life, acquiescing in the grossest of injuries rather than the hated thing of Christian should come within their doors.
The husband, now cured of all his former jealousy by his wife's conversion to Christianity, turns her and her new modesty out of doors together, choosing to dwell with an adulteress sooner than a Christian; the father, so tender of the undutiful son in his Gentile state, disinherits him now when he becomes obedient by becoming a Christian; the master, heretofore so good to his unfaithful slave, discards him now upon his fidelity and his religion.
So that the husband had rather have his wife false, the father his son a rebel, the master his servant a rogue, than Christians and good: Now, therefore, if all this odium arises purely upon the account of our name, pray tell me how a poor name comes to be thus to blame, or a simple word to be a criminal?
Unless it be that the word is barbarous, or sounds ominously, reproachfully, or obscenely. But Christians is a Greek word, and means nothing more than a disciple of Christ, which by interpretation is the Anointed; and when you misname it Chrestian1 for so far are you from under- standing our religion, that as yet you know not our true nameeven then it implies nothing worse than a benignity and sweetness of temper; thus outrageous are you at the sound of a name as inoffen- sive and harmless as those who bear it.
But do men use to let loose their passions at this rate against any sect merely from the name of its founder? Is it a new thing for scholars to be named from their masters?
Is it not from hence that philosophers are called Platonists, Epicureans, Pythagoreans, etc.? Do not the Stoics and academics derive their names from the porch or academy,2 the places where they meet and discourse together? And do not 1 Sed et cum perperam Chrestianus pronunciatur a vobis.
See the notes upon Justin's First Apol. Tertullian's Apology for the Christians. In a word, before we give entertainment to hatred against any sect whatever, upon account of its name, we ought in the first place to have competently examined the nature of the institution, and traced out its qualities from the author, or the author from them ; but both these ways of inquiry are quite neglected, and our enemies storm and fire at a word only.
Our heavenly Master and His heavenly religion are both unknown, and both condemned, without any other considera- tion but that of the bare name of Christian. THUS far I have been something severe, as it were, by way of preface, to make men sensible if I could of the injustice of the 1 Erasistratus.
This physician is mentioned by our Tertullian, lib. A noted grammarian of Alexandria, Aristotle's contemporary, tutor to the son of Ptolemy Philometer, celebrated by Tully, ad Appium Pulchrum, lib. An epicure of famous memory, styled by Pliny Nepotum omnium altissimus Gurges ; and so again by Juvenal: And here I shall not only refute the objections against us, but retort those very objections against the objectors themselves, to let the world see that Christians are not the men they take them to be, nor sullied with those crimes they are conscious of in themselves; and to sec also whether I can make our accusers blush, not by charging them in general, as the worst of men accusing the best, but supposing us both upon the level of iniquity.
I shall touch upon all the particulars we are taxed with for committing in private, and for which we are publicly branded as immoral, superstitious, damnable, and ridiculous; these very crimes, I say, which you grant we have not the forehead to do without the protection of darkness, we find our enemies hardy enough to commit in the face of the sun.
But because we meet you with unanswerable truth at all your turnings, your last resort is to the authority of the laws, as more inviolable than truth itself; and it being so frequently in your mouths, either that nothing ought to be revoked after once con- demned by law; or that your sworn obedience is a necessity upon your actions, weightier than that of justice.
I shall first enter upon the obligation due to human laws with you who are the sworn protectors of them. First then, when you rigidly insist upon this, that Christianity is against law, and prescribe against dispensing one jot with the letter upon any considerations of equity, this, I say, is acting iniquity by law; and you sit rather like tyrants than judges of a court, willing a thing to be unlawful, because you will, and not because it is so.
But if your will is regulated by the measures of good and evil, and you forbid a thing because it ought to be forbidden, then certainly, by this rule of right reason, you cannot license evil, nor forbid the obligations of doing good.
If I find a prohibition issued out against the laws of nature, do not I conclude such a prohibition to be invalid? Whereas, if the matter of it be lawful, I never dispute my obedience,1 nor think it strange 1 Quod si malum esset, jure prohiberet. Here we have the measures of obedience due to human laws briefly stated byTertullian: Is it so strange to see mortals out of the way in making laws, and wiser upon experience, and repealing what they once approved?
Did not the laws even of Lycurgus suffer amendments? Was not their severity sweetened by the Spartans, and better accommodated to civil use? And did not this alteration go so near the great law- giver's heart that he quitted his country in a pet, and pined himself to death, being his own judge and his own executioner?
Does not your experience light you every day to the mistakes and rubbish of antiquity? And have you not cut down a huge and horrid wood of old laws, and planted the new edicts and rescripts of the emperors in their stead?The idea that a work of art can just BE, is an appealing one.
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