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PERSECUTION UNDER M. ANTONINUS.
had touched were presented to them when they left the palace. Verus also had a favourite horse, which was kept in a splendid hall, clothed in purple, and fed with almonds and raisins by his own hand. Of this animal he had a statue of gold, and at its death he raised a magnificent monument on Mount Vatican. In A.D. 168, Verus was called to accompany Marcus in a warlike expedition against the Marcomanni in Germany : there he died of apoplexy, and his body was brought back to Rome and buried with great pomp by his colleague.
Even a foreign war did not lessen the zeal of the emperor in persecuting the Church. The history of the sufferings of the Christians in Gaul, especially at Lyons and Vienne, is very affecting. The simple confession, “I am a Christian,” was punished by cruel torments, which were only ended by the beasts of the amphitheatre into which the bodies of the saints were thrown. Blandina, a weak and delicate female, was one of the noblest witnesses for Christ during this fiery trial ; and the power of God shown forth in her encouraged many to hold fast their profession. Some, however, who came forward rashly, were unable to stand, and fell away in the hour of temptation ; but of these, it appears, the greater number were afterwards restored. It has been observed, that the Church suffered as much persecution from the serious and virtuous Marcus Antoninus, as from the foolish and vicious Nero ; thus proving that the pride of self-righteousness and the excesses of licentiousness equally harden the heart and increase the natural enmity against God. The philosopher is, however, the most inexcusable ; for he knew the Christians and yet hated them. His father had publicly acknowledged their innocence, but he showed them no mercy; and, though just towards the rest of his subjects, he refused every appeal on their behalf, and did not allow them the common rights of Roman citizens.
In the age of Adrian and the Antonines, the love of literature spread through the empire ; and in the reign of Marcus cultivation of mind had probably reached its height; as from that time, it has been observed, there was no Roman writer of original genius, and the works that appeared were for the most part commentaries, abridgments, and compilations. Whilst learning was favoured by the emperors, even the Britons began to study oratory; the works of Virgil and Homer were copied among the German and Dacian provincials; and at Rome every
man of talent and genius found a welcome. The physician Galen (a native of Pergamus) was the intimate friend of Marcus; and his success in the practice of medicine in the capital, made the people think his healing power supernatural. Ptolemy, the celebrated astronomer and geographer, was also favoured by the emperor : he was the most learned man of the age, but came to a wrong conclusion in supposing the earth was the centre around which the other heavenly bodies moved.
Lucian, a witty Greek writer, also attracted the favour of Marcus ; but his “ Dialogues,” composed in ridicule of the Christian religion as well as every other, have been condemned in every age as atheistical and blasphemous. Some of his sharpest arrows against Christianity only point out the real beauty of it: for instance, he says that the Christians were so silly as to despise death, in the full persuasion they should one day enjoy eternal life; and he gives as a reason for their readiness to suffer for each other, that “their first lawgiver, that Great Person who had been crucified in Palestine, had put it into their heads they were all brethren.” Again, speaking of their belief, which was in his eyes only worthy of contempt, he mentions the doctrine of the Trinity, as then held: “ One, Three ; Three, One; the Most High God-Son of the FatherSpirit proceeding from the Father.” In another dialogue he represents, “a sorrowful beggarly company,” and says “ that some of them went the whole day without eating, and spent whole nights in singing hymns.” Nor was this all : probably from their non-interference in public affairs, he accuses them of disaffection towards the government, of wishing for bad news, and of being delighted at the occurrence of any public calamity. It is almost needless to observe how contrary this would be to the mind of God (see 1 Tim. ii. 2; Titus iii. 1). The Jews and Christians, at this period, were so proverbial for firmness, that Galen, when he wanted to express the impossibility of persuading certain physicians, observed, it would be easier to convince the disciples of Moses and of Christ. It is probable the philosophic emperor watched the Jews as well as the Christians with some jealousy ; and at one time he passed some severe laws against the former, observing that they were as unruly as the wild Germans: but it does not appear that his edicts were ever carried into effect, and they remained under the mild treatment adopted by Antoninus. In his reign they had been
THE PHILOSOPHY OF MARCUS,
permitted to circumcise their children, on condition they would not attempt to make any proselytes. Numbers of them were comfortably established in Italy; and many obtained the freedom of the city, though they were not allowed to hold any public office. They had, in fact, become peaceable and industrious subjects: but they were distinguished for over-reaching in trade, which it was their custom to excuse as an allowable advantage over idolaters. The poorest of the Jews went about as pedlars, much as they do now; and many of them encamped in the open air in the neighbourhood of Rome like the modern gypsies.
The philosophy of Marcus led him to hate war, and to call it the disgrace and calamity of human nature : but in a.d. 172, when the northern barbarians again crossed the frontier, he thought it right to defend the empire; and during eight winter campaigns he remained with the legions on the frozen banks of the Danube. The hardships which he endured and the severity of the climate occasioned his death, A. D. 180. His memory was so much respected, that for a century afterwards most of the Romans preserved his image among those of their household gods.
In conclusion, it may be well to make some observations on the celebrated “Meditations” of this emperor; a work in twelve books, chiefly composed in the camp during the last years of his life. Marcus Antoninus, like many other philosophers, supposed that his soul was not only created by God, but a part of God; and in ignorance of his own fallen nature, and the corruption of the human soul, which was originally very good, he said, that to be good was the easiest thing possible ; for it was only to obey the divine, all-sufficient principle within. His religion was the same, in fact, however different in name, with that of all amiable moral men, who are under the control of reason and education, and think themselves quite right because their own unenlightened conscience does not condemn them. And yet, even tried by their own measure, they are constantly found wanting ; how much more when tried by the searching law of God, and exposed to His word, which is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart! How much Marcus Antoninus failed in love the foregoing history has shown ; and this is the grand mark, whether there is any right knowledge of God. “He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John iv. 8).
His uncontrolled natural affections were also very apparent THE CHURCH IN THE SECOND CENTURY.
in two instances. His wife, who was well-known for her criminal passions and vile excesses, he mentions in his “Meditations” as “faithful and loving;' and after her death he obliged the senate to declare her a goddess, and had temples built to her honour. To his son Commodus, when a rash boy of fifteen, he gave a full share of imperial power; and having thus placed him beyond the reach of control, he vainly surrounded him with philosophers and instructors in morality. During the four years that he survived this unwise choice, he had reason to repent it; yet at his death he sacrificed the happiness of millions to his foolish fondness for this worthless son, and confirmed the authority that he had previously given him.
We shall now turn again and look towards the Church, though it does not present the same cheering sight as at first : and we have to learn, again and again, that " all flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof as the flower of grass."
CAUSES OF ERROR. — JEWISH PRIESTHOOD AND CHRISTIAN
MINISTRY. - WORSHIP. - LITURGIES. — ACCOMMODATIONS to PAGANISM. — PUBLIC SERVICES, — THE MEANING, SUBJECTS, AND FORM OF BAPTISM.-INFANT BAPTISM. - INFLUX OF ERROR.
In the second century the light held forth by the Church was still fainter, though it was more widely diffused. Instead of looking simply to Christ as the light, and thus living in the light of his countenance, Christians began to look to each other, or even to those who were “ without,” and consequently lived in a kind of twilight. At every step we may learn it is vain to reverence any antiquity short of the Scriptures, and that the doctrines and practices of the ancient churches are of no value when they differ from the revealed will of God. It is well to be led thus to cease from man and to depend singly on the teaching of the Spirit in searching the written word.
If we lean to our own understanding, being wise in our own conceit, we must go astray : but if we lean wholly on the Lord, taking his word as a lamp to our feet, we shall surely be kept from wandering. That One Spirit will always teach the same 148
MINISTRY IN THE TWO DISPENSATIONS.
things, and the written word is unchangeable; therefore it could only be from want of submission to the teacher of the Church that such a variety of doctrines and practices was introduced into it. From the same cause, subjects of difference remain such from age to age; a melancholy proof of human pride and infirmity.
The difference, and even contrast, between the Jewish and Christian dispensations has been already pointed out: but, partly through ignorance, partly by intention, they were soon confounded; and this confusion led to all the serious mistakes that followed. Soon after the destruction of Jerusalem, an idea arose that there should be the same distinction between those who ministered in the Church and their brethren as between the Jewish priests and people that the bishop answered to the high-priest, the presbyters to the priests, and the deacons to the Levites. We know that the family of Aaron was set apart for the priesthood, and that of Levi for the service of the priests ; but there was no similar arrangement in the constitution of the Church, and if those who were put into the ministry answered to any ministers under the old dispensation, it would have been to the prophets; this name is indeed applied to them, whereas that of priests is never used except in speaking of the whole Church (Rev. i. 6).
The prophets were not chosen on account of family descent; and their calling (like that of Paul) was not of men, neither by man. Without any previous preparation of their own, they were qualified by the Lord for the work, and sent forth to speak his word, whether from the plough, as Elisha; from among the priests, as Ezekiel; or from the midst of the herdsmen, as Hosea.
In the new dispensation we see the same exercise of the sovereignty of the Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will ; and who could say to him, “What doest thou ?" or try to confine his operations to any class or succession of men. Matthew was called from the receipt of custom; Peter, Andrew, James, and John from their fishing-nets : and they that were scattered abroad in the first persecution went every where preaching the Gospel. The eloquent Apollos, who was so mighty in the Scriptures, was not directed even to the apostles for instruction or permission to preach ; but Aquila the tent. maker, and his wife, were sufficient to expound to him the way of God more perfectly; and he mightily convinced the Jews and