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satisfied from their poverty, for they only supported themselves by the labour of their hands, that they were not likely to be his rivals, dismissed them with contempt.
Whilst Domitian was indulging in luxury and vice at Rome, the news of Agricola's successes filled him with envy. This general had overcome Galgacus, a British chief, who had gathered an army of thirty thousand men; and, in a great measure, subdued the people of Caledonia, the ancient name for Scotland. The fleet under his command had also discovered that Great Britain was an island, and, in sailing round it, they went as far as the Orkney Isles. Domitian, by this intelligence, was roused from his indolence, and paid a visit to Gaul. On his return he boasted he had conquered the independent tribes of Germany, though he had never seen them; and, entering the city with a long train of slaves, purposely dressed in the Gernian fashion, he desired a triumph, and took the surname of Germanicus. Nor was this all ; he recalled Agricola from the province he had governed with justice, and obliged him to end his life in retirement.
The loss of this able general was soon felt, as the empire was invaded by the Sarmatians of Europe and Asia, and the Dacians, a barbarous people inhabiting a region now comprehended in Turkey and Hungary. Decebalus, king of the Dacians, long contended with the Roman armies ; and Domitian only got rid of the barbarians for a little while by giving them large sums of money. Yet, after they had withdrawn, the weak emperor expected to be treated as a victor, and worshipped as a god; and, since the poor heathens imagined there were gods in hell, as well as in heaven, Domitian might have fitly represented one of their infernal deities. His cruelties led to a revolt of the troops in Upper Germany, and the proclamation of their commander, emperor. But his defeat increased the pride and inhumanity of Domitian; and he treated not only the offending parties, but his most innocent subjects, in a savage manner, inventing cruel tortures to discover those who belonged to the party of his adversary, A.D. 89.
It was Domitian's custom to treat with particular marks of favour those whom he intended to destroy, and to use the most gentle language towards a person whom he was about to sentence to death. Thus, it is said, he sent the steward of his house a dish from his own supper-table and ordered him to be
PERSECUTION UNDER DOMITIAN.
crucified in the morning; and carried another with him in his litter the very day of his execution. We can, therefore, imagine the terror of the senators, whom he had often threatened to destroy, when they were invited one night to sup at the palace, and the emperor himself welcomed them at the gates. Their horror increased when they were conducted into a hall hung with black, and lighted by a few lamps which just enabled them to see a number of funeral couches with their own names inscribed upon them. They were soon surrounded by a number of men having their bodies blackened, each holding a lighted torch in one hand, and a sword in the other. These frightful figures danced round the astonished guests; and, while they expected nothing but death, a servant entered and told them they had the emperor's permission to return home. But, in other cases, Domitian's cruelties were real, and becoming gradually more hardened, he delighted to be present at the execution of his commands, and the sight of the tyrant, flushed with intemperance, added to the agony of the sufferers.
In A.D. 95, after a rest of thirty years, the Christians again became objects of imperial persecution. It is said, the apostle John was brought before Domitian and thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil by his command; but, as his life was miraculously preserved, he was banished to Patmos, and probably condemned to labour in the mines there. Flavius Clemens, Domitian's cousin and the consul of Rome, was one of the martyrs at this period. After his conversion, he was entirely unfitted for the office he held, as the loss of his former ambition and his aver. sion to the worldliness and evil around him, soon brought upon him the accusation of slothfulness and neglect of the duties of his station. Many Christians suffered death during this persecution ; others were banished, or deprived of their possessions; but the death of Domitian put an end to their sufferings in about two years. This wretched emperor's fears had increased with his cruelties; and he suffered dreadfully at times from the accusations of conscience and the dread of assassination. It is said, he had a wall of shining stones built round the terrace where only he dared to walk when alone, in order that he might observe by the reflection whether any one was behind him. His wife Domitia, whom he sometimes caressed and sometimes threatened, at length bribed one of his household to murder him whilst he was taking his morning bath, as
she was informed he intended to have her put to death with many others. Thus perished the last of the twelve Cæsars, A.D. 97.
Nerva, a native of Crete, the first foreigner who became master of the Roman empire, was chosen by the Senate as emperor, on the day that Domitian was murdered. The late tyrant was refused the common funeral honours; and all his statues of gold and silver were melted down for the public treasury. Nerva's conduct is spoken of as blameless; and his extreme gentleness and benevolence led him to forgive, when, as a just judge, he should have punished the evil-doers. We know not whether he was acquainted with the doctrines of the Christians, but he ceased to persecute, and recalled all who had been banished, except the wife of Flavius Clemens, who was left in exile on account of her relationship to
In gratitude to the senate, who had raised him to the imperial dignity, Nerva took a solemn oath that no senator should be put to death during his reign; and he was not induced to break his promise, even when two of them plotted against his life. He only appeared with them at the theatre, and, in the sight of the people, presented them with a dagger, bidding them strike him if they would, and thus made them ashamed of their intention. An anecdote is also given, proving that Nerva had not that love of money which is a root of great evil. One of his subjects having found a treasure, came to ask what he should do with it? Nerva replied, “ Use it.” The man then offered to give it to him, saying, it was too much for a private person to use. The emperor replied with a smile, “ Then you may abuse it.” The Prætorian guards alone were dissatisfied with an emperor who would not gratify their avarice; and a tumult arose among them under pretence of revenging the death of Domitian who had liberally rewarded them for executing his will. The gentle Nerva laid his bosom bare, desiring them to take revenge upon him rather than any other ; but they still persisted in finding out all who had been concerned in the death of Domitian, and having put them to death, compelled the emperor to make a speech thanking them for their fidelity. Nerva, feeling his own weakness, chose, as his partner and successor in the empire, Trajan, a Spaniard by birth, then governor of Lower Germany. In the adoption of
one so fitted to rule, instead of choosing one of his own family, Nerva showed much wisdom : but, about three months after, he gave a more memorable proof of human folly and imperfection by falling into such a violent passion with one of the senators who had displeased him, that it brought on a fever of which he died, A. D. 98.
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN.-HERESIES OF THE FIRST CENTURY.
CHURCH GOVERNMENT. —SECOND AND THIRD EPISTLES OF JOHN. - THE BOOK OF REVELATION. - FAILURE OF THE CHURCH AT LARGE.- MEANINGS OF THE WORD CHURCH.LAST DAYS OF THE APOSTLE JOHN.
The writings of the Apostle John alone remain to be noticed, as belonging to the foregoing period, and as the last of the promised revelations of the Holy Ghost concerning the things of God (John xvi. 12-15). The value of them cannot be measured any more than that of the other inspired writings; and their seasonableness will also be most apparent when we learn the state of the Church at this period.
The epistles of John were written after all the other epistles ; and their date is usually fixed in A. D. 90, or even later. The first is addressed to the whole family of God, not to any par. ticular church : the second and third are addressed to individuals. Hence there is instruction for the children of God in their relationship to God, and to each other; and there is instruction concerning the personal responsibility of any single member of the family without reference to what others are doing around him. Paul, in his last epistles, had spoken of heretics, that is, persons who were not sound in the faith themselves, or taught false doctrines to others : and he had given directions as to the right treatment of such, writing thus to Titus, “ A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” And he warned Timothy that the profane and vain babblings about the things of God already begun would increase unto more ungodliness, and
HERESIES OF THE FIRST CENTURY.
the word of such men would eat as a canker. From the epistles of John we find that this had really been the case : he uses still stronger language, saying, “ As ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists :" he also adds, “They went out from us,” thus fulfilling the prophecy of Paul before referred to, “ of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things,” &c.
The great heresies of the first century of the Church arose from the foolish attempts of men to explain the great mystery of God manifest in the flesh; in opposition to the Lord's declaration, “No man knoweth the Son but the Father.” One class of heretics, commonly called the Gnostics or Docetæ, denied the reality of Christ's human nature, and tried to explain the mystery of his person by saying, that he only suffered in appearance on the cross : and another class, known as the Ebionites, allowed the perfection of his human nature, but denied that he was God. Neither of these classes could understand the value of the atoning blood; and, therefore, preached that men could be justified by their own works. In the epistles, John seems particularly to allude to the first class, those who deny Jesus Christ come in the flesh; and, in the gospel, he sets forth the godhead of Christ most distinctly, in contradiction of the errors of the latter. Here, indeed, we have the ministry of the Holy Ghost contradicting the doctrines of the devil, and triumphing over all that the enemy could bring forth.
Some of these heretics bore an appearance of great holiness, and pretended they were beyond reach of the defilements of the world or the flesh; others boasted they were saved by Christ, and freely indulged every sinful inclination.
The Docetæ were probably called Gnostics from some resemblance between their notions and those of the Oriental philosophers. They pretended the world was created by an evil being; denied that the Old Testament was a divine revelation ; venerated the serpent as the author of sin, and honoured some of the worst characters in the Bible. The Ebionites held that obedience to the law of Moses was necessary to salvation; they made use of another gospel, and despised the writings of the Apostle Paul. But none of the heretics went to such extremes at first.
No subject, perhaps, has occasioned more divisions among