« AnteriorContinuar »
CARACALLA AND GETA.
intention of reconciliation. While they were in conversation some armed men rushed into the room, and Julia was wounded in the hand and covered with blood, as she tried to protect her younger son from the assassins encouraged and assisted by Caracalla. As soon as Geta was murdered, his wicked brother hastened to the Prætorian camp, and related, with pretended horror, that he had narrowly escaped the murderous attempts of Geta, and had only slain him in self-defence.
Geta was, the favourite of the soldiers; but the gifts of Caracalla silenced their complaints, and the remaining son of Severus was permitted to reign without opposition. But he had no peace in his conscience, and often fancied he saw the angry forms of his father and brother rising up to threaten and upbraid him. His remorse, however, only led him to remove all who could remind him of his murdered brother; and it is said above twenty thousand persons of both sexes suffered death merely because they were Geta's friends. His mother, too, would have been destroyed, had she not prudently changed her tears into smiles, to avoid the wrath of her fierce son. Papinian, the Prætorian prefect, who had justly used an authority only second to that of the emperor's, during the last seven years of the reign of Severus, was put to death for refusing to make an oration to the senate in palliation of the crime of Caracalla. “ It is easier,” said he, “to commit such a crime than to justify it ;" and this reply led to the execution of the wisest statesman of the times.
Until this period the best emperors, such as Augustus, Adrian, and Trajan, had been the most active; and the worst, such as Tiberius, Nero, and Domitian, had chiefly confined themselves to their luxurious palaces. But Caracalla left Rome the year after the murder of Geta, and never returned there. He obliged the senate to accompany him in his journeyings, and to provide for his entertainment at an immense cost; and, in this manner, the wealthiest . families were ruined, and the subjects in general burdened with taxes. Every province in turn was the scene of the emperor's rapine and cruelty, and no act of benevolence marked his travels. When at Alexandria, upon some slight provocation, he ordered a general massacre of the inhabitants; and after viewing the slaughter of thousands, he stopped the work of destruction, and coolly told the senate all were alike guilty, even those who escaped,
DEATH OF CARACALLA.
Caracalla's maxim was, that if he secured the affection of his soldiers, the rest of his subjects were of little consequence. To that end he imitated the dress and manners of the common legionaries, treated them as familiar friends, and increased their pay. The death of Caracalla took place under very singular circumstances. An African astrologer foretold that Macrinus, the Prætorian prefect, would be the next emperor; and one of his enemies, wishing to ruin him, sent a letter to Caracalla informing him of the prediction. But as the letter arrived with many others, when the emperor was going to a chariot-race, it was given to Macrinus himself, and he at once determined to engage some one to destroy Caracalla in order to preserve his own life. He found a ready instrument in a soldier who had just been refused the rank of centurion. This man watched for an opportunity, and stabbed the emperor when on his way to the temple of the moon in Syria. The assassin was immediately killed by the guards; and the army, whom the murdered emperor had so much indulged, would not be satisfied till the senate promised to rank Caracalla among the gods, A. D. 217. Macrinus bribed the legions to proclaim him emperor; and they did so, on condition that he would associate his son, a promising youth then only twelve years of age, in the empire. But when his concern in the death of Caracalla was discovered he became very unpopular, and the murmurs of the legionaries, during an idle winter in Syria, increased day by day. Macrinus caused Julia to be put to death because she would not own him as emperor, and banished her sister Mæsa from his court at Antioch. She retired to Emesa with an immense fortune, heaped together during twenty years of imperial favour; and in that place one of her grandsons, the eldest representative of the family, became high-priest in the temple of the sun. This temple contained a conical black stone called Heliogabalus, supposed to have fallen from heaven; and the young priest, in the heat of his zeal, took this name, and would never use any other.
The Roman soldiers who visited the temple were struck with admiration at the appearance of Heliogabalus in his splendid robes, and began to whisper to each other that he resembled their late emperor. The artful Mesa readily expended her wealth in purchasing military favour for her grandson, and at last a great part of the army were prepared to proclaim the Syrian priest, emperor of Rome. The success of Heliogabalus
REIGN OF HELIOGABALUS.
in the contest that followed was attributed to the appearance of his mother and grandmother on the field of battle, animating the soldiers with their words and looks. Macrinus and his son were slain ; the whole army submitted to Heliogabalus, and the eastern provinces gladly acknowledged the first emperor of Asiatic birth, A.D. 218.
This young man, raised to absolute power at the age of fifteen, was an example of that sore evil, “ folly set in great dignity.” He spent the first few months of his reign in slowly journeying towards Italy, being occupied with the most trifling amusements by the way. In the meantime his picture was sent to the senate-house; and the graver Romans sighed when they found the new emperor wore the flowing priestly robes of silk embroidered with gold, an eastern diadem, and loads of ornaments, his eyebrows painted black, and his cheeks red and white. Heliogabalus entered Rome driving six white horses in a chariot containing his favourite black stone, which he wished to introduce as a new object of worship. A temple to the sun was soon built, and the chiefs of the state and army gratified the emperor by appearing in Phænician tunics to assist at his expensive sacrifices. To crown his folly, Heliogabalus sent for the image of the moon, worshipped in Africa by the name of Astarte; and when it was brought to Rome he ordered the union of these foreign deities to be celebrated as a marriage festival throughout the empire. The religion of this young emperor was the strangest mixture of foreign ceremonies ; he practised circumcision and abstained from swine's flesh in imitation of the Jews; and if he could have found any thing to copy from the Christians he would have adopted it, to annoy his subjects: for with all their tastes and feelings he loved to sport. To this end he associated his mother, Somias, and his grandmother, Mesa, with him in the empire, and allowed them to assemble a female senate, where they presided and regulated all the fashions of the day. At last he committed not only extravagant follies but shameless cruelties, and such abominations as even sank him in the esteem of the vilest among the soldiers.
Moesa was so desirous to keep the imperial dignity in her family, that she persuaded Heliogabalus to adopt as his successor, Alexander, his cousin, the son of her younger daughter, Mammea. This young man had been differently educated, and
STATE OF THE CHURCH.
was of a totally opposite disposition from that of the emperor, and soon obtained universal esteem.
The jealousy of Heliogabalus was awakened, and in order to try the soldiers he spread a report that Alexander was murdered. The news occasioned such a tumult that he was obliged to send for his cousin to quiet it ; and he then proceeded to condemn the chief of the rioters. But the guards, instead of executing his commands, turned their swords against him, and after dragging his body through the streets, threw it into the Tyber, A. D. 222.
During the reigns of these three violent and vicious emperors, the Church had uninterrupted peace. It has been before observed, that it is supposed Caracalla had a Christian nurse; and it is added, that when he was only seven years old he was angry at seeing one of his schoolfellows beaten because he was of the Christian religion. It is certain that, during his whole reign, he was the protector of the Christians. Macrinus and Heliogabalus did not use their abused power against them; and thus, it is clear, that the Lord, for his people's sakes, can “turn the hearts of kings as the rivers of water, whithersoever he will."
THE CHURCH IN THE WORLD.—HERESY OF MONTANUS.-TAE
ECLECTICS.—ORIGEN.-- REMARKS ON FASTING.–NEW MODE OF INTERPRETING SCRIPTURE.
The Church, as compared with the world, was indeed still as light to darkness, though the bright shining of its first light was greatly diminished, and still continued to decrease. If all had with open face turned only to the Lord,-all would, like a mirror, have reflected only His glory ; but we have seen there was a partial turning to Judaism and Gentilism, and therefore there was of course some reflection of both in the Church.
Towards the close of the second century, a learned writer of the age observed, concerning the Christians, “ in truth, whereever they reside they triumph in their practice over the worst
of laws and the worst of customs.” It is also observed, that the Christians of the half-civilized regions, such as Persia, Parthia, Bactria, and Gaul, did not practise the crimes so common to their countrymen.
But it was at this period that two new and distinct evils became very conspicuous, and both must be acknowledged as the consequence of departure from the truth and the chastening for it. The devil, whose very name, Satan, signifies that he is the adversary, is always counter-working wherever God is working. Immediately before and after the time of the first appearing of Christ, he set up many false Christs; and we have to expect such attempts in the present day, when Christians are expecting their Lord's second appearing. So after the Holy Ghost came with his many gifts, Satan was at work with his spirits, so that the apostle had to say, “ Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John iv. 1). But it was only when the operations of the Holy Ghost were cramped by formal arrangements, and His real presence practically denied in the adoption of human inventions; it was only then, that the enemy could dare to set up a false comforter. It was Montanus, a native of Mæsia, who pretended to be the comforter promised by Christ; and, in order to make his doctrine more acceptable, he said that the Holy Ghost given at Pentecost, was not the promised com. forter; the latter being simply a divine teacher, sent to perfect the moral doctrines of Christ. He and all his followers, male and female, professed to be inspired, a pretension similar to that of Irving's followers. Two ladies of rank, amongst others, began to preach in public; and their chief object was to denounce woe to the world, and particularly to the Roman empire. All the arts and sciences, and even the comforts of life, were forbidden among the Montanists; but, though there was a great show of holiness in their conduct, they were condemned by the Christians generally, like other heretics. The error which led to their extravagancies seems to be that which causes many of the Lord's people to wander, namely, mistaking the natural emotions of the mind for the operations of the Holy Ghost. The only way to avoid such a serious mistake must be to examine how far such impulses cor