they ?pervaded not merely the cities but the villages and country places, so that the temples were nearly deserted.? Tertullian (160-230) writes: ?We are but of yesterday, and yet we have filled all your places, your cities, your islands, your castles, your towns, your council-houses, even your camps, your tribes, your senate, your forum. We have left you nothing but your temples.? In the time of the emperor Valerian (253-268), the Christians constituted half the population of Rome. The conversion of the emperor Constantine (272-337) brought the whole empire, only 300 years after Jesus? death, under the acknowledged sway of the gospel. See McIlvaine and Alexander, Evidences of Christianity.
B. The wonder is the greater when we consider the obstacles to the progress of Christianity:
(a) The skepticism of the cultivated classes;
(b) the prejudice and hatred of the common people; and
(c) the persecutions set on foot by government.
(a) Missionaries even now find it difficult to get a hearing among the cultivated classes of the heathen. But the gospel appeared in the most enlightened age of antiquity ? the Augustan age of literature and historical inquiry. Tacitus called the religion of Christ ?exitiabilis superstitio? ? ?quos per flagitia invisos vulgus Christianos appellabat.? Pliny: ?Nihil aliud inveni quam superstitionem pravam et immodicam.? If the gospel had been false, its preachers would not have ventured into the centers of civilization and refinement; or if they had, they would have been detected.
(b) Consider the interweaving of heathen religions with all the relations of life. Christians often had to meet the furious zeal and blind rage of the mob, ? as at Lystra and Ephesus.
(c) Rawlinson, in his Historical Evidences, claims that the Catacombs of Rome comprised nine hundred miles of streets and seven million graves within a period of four hundred years ? a far greater number than could have died a natural death ? and that vast multitudes of these must have been massacred for their faith. The Encyclopedia Britannica, however, calls the estimate of De Marchi, which Rawlinson appears to have taken as authority, a great exaggeration. Instead of nine hundred miles of streets, Northcote has three hundred fifty. The number of interments to correspond would be less than three million. The Catacombs began to be deserted by the time of Jerome. The times when, they were universally used by Christians could have been hardly
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