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meaning of it: and scripture (Acts viii. 38), the Church for many centuries, the rubric of the Church of England baptismal service, and the practice of modern baptists, all agree. The custom of immersion three times, was, probably, intended in honour of the Trinity, and is found with other additional ceremonies in the second century. It was at this period, also, that Tertullian boldly advocated an idea, now so common, that baptism is regeneration : he calls it, moreover, “ the remission of sins, the illumination, the salvation, the water of life, the divine fountain,” &c.

Let us again inquire what the Spirit says by the apostles : John i. 13; iii. 5, 6; Titus iii. 5; God the Holy Ghost is the power in regeneration. I Peter i. 23; James i. 18; Eph. V. 26; the word is the instrument of regeneration. Notice.-Regeneration and believing in Jesus are the operation of the same Spirit at the same time (John i. 12, 13; 1 John v. 1); and baptism is the outward and visible sign of this inward and spiritual grace.

It is now only necessary to add the chief arguments for infant baptism, or rather the grounds upon which it was first introduced. The difference between the two dispensations being overlooked, it is said that as infants were formerly circumcised, they ought now to be baptised. It is replied that, whereas the children of Jews by natural birth belonged to an elect nation, and were threatened with death if left uncircumcised; the children of Christians cannot, by natural birth, belong to an elect Church, but must be introduced into it by believing in Christ, that is, by spiritual birth.

It is not surprising that those who believe baptism to be regeneration and salvation, should so strongly advocate the necessity of baptizing infants. But the lowest view of it now taken by real Christians is, that it is an introduction into the outward church, It is, however, more generally considered as a simple act of dedication to the Lord. Some take a much higher view of it, and suppose that the new covenant, (or at least some of the blessings of it), extends to their children as well as to themselves, and that baptism is the seal of it; even as the covenant made with Abraham included his seed, of which circumcision was the seal (Gen. xvii). Lastly, infantbaptism is considered as the channel of spiritual blessings in answer to prayers made at the time.

The practice of infant-baptism soon became general, and has

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been lasting ; but the practice of giving the Lord's Supper to infants only continued from this century till the eighth.

Ambitious and designing men among the clergy took every means to encourage the idea that these institutions were saving in their nature, rather than the observances of a saved people ; for they desired to be looked up to as the keepers of salvation, and carefully maintained that the administration of these sacraments belonged to them alone.

The doctrine of the Church was also corrupted at this period by the introduction of philosophical notions concerning the state of departed spirits; and prayers for the dead were founded upon the idea that all except eminent saints and martyrs were in a state of purification from their different pollutions. At funerals, and in the liturgies, it was usual to pray for the forgiveness of the sins of the deceased ; and, in time, these prayers were extended, in their mistaken benevolence, to the souls of the apostles, the martyrs, and even to the Virgin Mary.

A most dangerous notion of heathen philosophy was also taken up at the same time, namely, that it was lawful to deceive and even to tell a lie, in order to advance the cause of truth and piety; and this notion was afterwards fully acted upon.

It is to be remarked that, from this period, the number of lifeless professors increased in the Church : ceremonies multiplied, and a great part of the public services had a considerable resemblance to the heathen mysteries. The new forms of baptism will be hereafter described. It was observed with certain military rites, to signify that the newly baptized took Christ for their leader; and the ceremony of setting a slave free was adopted to express their deliverance from Satan.

Prayers were now usually repeated, turning eastward, according to the fashion of all the Eastern nations: and it is deplorable to mark the flesh taking the place of the Spirit, and empty forms put in the place of lost power.

There can, however, be no doubt that the Lord secretly sustained his own people, and kept them from falling into destructive error : and, whatever was the failure of spirituality in the Church, or the influx of error, the conduct of Christians in the world still plainly showed there was a power among them

156

REIGN OF COMMODUS.

that was put forth and experienced no where else,-even the power of the living God.

CHAP. XXVII.

COMMODUS, EMPEROR.—HIS CHARACTER AND AMUSEMENTS.

DEATH OF COMMODUS.- PERTINAX, EMPEROR. - MURDER OF PERTINAX. -SALE OF THE EMPIRE, -HISTORY OF SEPTIMUS

SEVERUS. As there was no imperial interference with the Christians from the time of Marcus Antoninus till the close of the century, we may pursue the history of the succeeding emperors without interruption.

Commodus, at the death of his father (A.D. 180), had no inclination to continue a war which kept him from the luxuries and pleasures of the capital : he therefore made a hasty peace with the barbarians, and returned to Rome in triumph. For the first three years of his reign, he left the care of the state to his father's counsellors, and all went on smoothly; but, at the age of twenty-two, he put to death some of his wisest ministers, and placed his wicked favourites in their stead. Under their management the people were cruelly oppressed, and they were at last sacrificed to the public rage; for it was still hoped the son of Marcus might prove a wise ruler when left to himself. But the Romans were disappointed in their expectations; and the riotous way of living and excesses of Commodus appeared in most striking contrast with the temperate habits of his father.

Among the wicked women who filled his palace, one Marcia, his favourite concubine, had taken a liking to the Christians from some unknown cause. Through her influence Commodus stopped the persecution; and, in this extraordinary manner, by the good providence of God, the Church had peace, though thousands were unjustly condemned by the tyrant.

While Commodus despised the instructions of his father's philosophers, he eagerly practised with the bow and the javelin: and when he had attained great skill, he proclaimed his

.AMUSEMENTS OF COMMODUS.

157

intention of exhibiting at the amphitheatre, and commanded the attendance of the citizens. Curiosity or fear drew together a great multitude; and the feats of the emperor excited general astonishment. It is said, he cut asunder the neck of the ostrich in its rapid course ; and, again, his javelin killed a panther before he could touch the malefactor on which it was let loose : he slew a hundred lions in succession ; and the elephant, rhinoceros, and other strange animals, brought from Ethiopia and India for the first time, were alike overcome by his darts. The triumph of the imperial bowman was unbounded : he required divine honours, and ordered medals to be struck, repre. senting him as the Roman Hercules.* These rare and costly sports were tolerated by the people ; but when the emperor took up the profession of a gladiator, which was only practised by malefactors or foreigners, nothing could exceed the indignation of the Romans; for the meanest of them would have been ashamed to appear in such a character. The most admired kind of combat was carried on in the following manner. One gladiator, called the Secutor (pursuer), had a helmet, a sword, and a shield ; another, the Retiarius (one with a net), was naked, and had only a large net in his hand to entangle his adversary, and a three pronged instrument with which he might kill him if he succeeded. But, if he missed in the first throw, he was obliged to fly from the Secutor, who had thus an opportunity of killing him while he prepared to cast the net a second time.

Commodus fought as a Secutor seven hundred and thirtyfive times, and caused his deeds to be recorded in the public acts. As no one dared to use any skill against him, he always appeared the conqueror, and in public his victories were usually bloodless : but, it is said, in the private school of gladiators, numbers of lives were sacrificed. At length the emperor went to such an extreme, that he required an immense yearly salary to be paid him, as a gladiator, out of the fund raised by the people in support of the entertainments of the amphitheatre.

He became more ferocious in spirit the more he knew of

* Hercules is the Samson of the Pagans; but the fables concerning him describe him as far stronger than Samson, and the destroyer of monsters. He was probably a famous hunter, and worshipped after his death.

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PERTINAX. -DIDIUS JULIANUS.

the hatred and contempt of the people, and even his own household were afraid of him. His favourite, Marcia, fearing her own life was in danger, one day presented him with a poisoned draught of wine when he came in weary with the day's sport: and, after he had retired to sleep, a wrestler went into his chamber and strangled him. Thus was the same horrid scene acted again and again. This event took place in the middle of the night of the first of January, A.D. 193; and Pertinax, prefect of the city, almost the only remaining friend of Marcus, was awakened out of his sleep and offered the empire. The conspirators took him to the Prætorian camp to buy the consent of the guards, and then spread a report through the city that Commodus had died suddenly of apoplexy, and that Pertinax was emperor. Pertinax had governed most of the provinces with wisdom, and was as acceptable to the people as to the senators; but the Prætorians never liked one who made any attempt to curb their lawless spirit. He had just time to repair some of the evils occasioned by the misconduct of Commodus; and he did every thing to relieve the distresses of the people ; but, on the twenty-eighth of March, the rest. less guards broke out into open rebellion, murdered Pertinax in his palace, and carried his head to their camp in the sight of the mourning people.

The scene that followed is, perhaps, the most singular in the history of this, or of any other empire. Sulpicianus, father-inlaw to Pertinax, and prefect of the city, was sent by the senate to try to calm the furious soldiers ; and took this opportunity of offering them large rewards if they would secure the empire to him.

Emboldened by such a proposal from the man who had authority to rebuke them, the leader of the shameless Prætorians mounted the ramparts, and loudly proclaimed that the empire was put up to sale, and might be purchased by the highest bidder.

The report quickly spread through the city; and Didius Julianus, a wealthy old senator, but a weak-minded vain person, soon hastened to the camp to secure the prize. As he had power to give more than Sulpicianus, his offers were soon accepted; and the Prætorians, after obliging the senate to consent to his election, conducted him to the palace. The headless corpse of Pertinax, and the frugal supper prepared

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