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DIOCLETIAN AND MAXIMINIAN.
The parents of Diocletian were Dalmatian peasants, and had been slaves to a Roman senator : but, after they obtained their freedom, he contrived to enter the army; and, having gained much experience under the command of Probus, he rapidly rose to the rank he held when he was made emperor. No one except Augustus displayed such extraordinary talents for government as Diocletian ; but he had a very different people to rule from those of the first emperor, and therefore acted in a very different manner. It had been the constant effort of Augustus to conceal his absolute power; for he was aware that humble familiarity was the best means of securing the head of a nation of republicans such as the Romans were then : but Diocletian's absolute power was secured by the display of it; and his safety, as the head of a nation of slavish habits, was ensured by the adoption of the Oriental custom of pompous concealment. The first act of Diocletian was to associate with himself Maximinian, a well-known general : by birth a peasant, and by disposition the ready instrument of cruelties which his artful colleague did not wish to have charged upon himself. The friendship of these two emperors was never broken; and their flatterers bestowed on them the titles of Jupiter and Hercules ; saying, that Diocletian, like Jupiter, governed the world by his wisdom, and Maximinian, like Hercules, destroyed the monsters that disturbed it. They freed themselves from the control of the Senate and the Prætorians by keeping away from Rome : in time of peace, Diocletian held his court at Nicomedia, and Maximinian resided at Milan; and these imperial cities, being enriched by their respective monarchs, began to rival the capital in magnificence. It appears that Diocletian fixed on Nicomedia as the most favourable situation for overlooking his subjects in Europe and Asia, as it was just on the borders; and it was also in a convenient position to overawe both the northern barbarians and the hostile Persians, being placed at an equal distance from the Danube and the Euphrates.
In the reign of Diocletian, the title of Lord (Dominus) was added to that of emperor (Imperator); and he only refused the title of king (Rex), because old associations made it so hateful to the Romans; his Asiatic subjects always addressed him as king (Basileus, Greek). With a higher title, the Roman emperors henceforward, after the example of Diocletian, adopted a different style of dress and manners. They wore
USURPATION OF BRITAIN.
robes of purple silk embroidered with gold, a diadem of pearls, and even their shoes studded with gems. The emperors had been commonly saluted with no more respect than the magistrates or senators; and their palace, if they were not suspicious tyrants, was open to every one; but now all the forms and ceremonies of the Persian court were adopted, -all the avenues of the palace guarded by different ranks of domestic officers; the interior apartments filled with eunuchs, and the access to the emperor's person made as difficult as possible. And when any subject at length reached the presence-chamber, whatever his rank might be, he was required to fall prostrate at the feet of the emperor, as his lord and master. The system of Diocletian appeared to be admirably adapted for the end he had in view, namely, personal security; and from this time the emperors were usually suffered to die a natural death. The people at large, however, suffered more from the establishment of despotism; and the increased magnificence of the imperial courts added to their oppressive taxes. The united reign of Diocletian and Maximinian was marked by the revolt of the peasantry of Gaul, who were driven to despair by the ill-treatment of the nobles who held them in slavery. They were, however, defeated, and reduced to a worse condition than before. About the same period, Carausius, commander of the Roman fleet in the British Channel, took possession of the valuable province of Britain, and held it for seven years in spite of every attempt to recover it. It appears he was a very able monarch; and, under his government, the advantageous position of this island as commanding the sea, was first perceived. The convenient harbours, the climate, the soil, the mines, the numerous flocks in the rich pastures, the woods free from wild beasts and venomous serpents; all these advantages, and especially the revenue arising from this valuable island, were summed up as sufficient causes for lamenting its separation from the empire. But Carausius vigorously defended his kingdom from the Caledonians on the North; and, as he had possession of Boulogne and the neighbouring country, and his fleet rode securely in the Channel, even Diocletian dared not approach his dominions, but left him to reign in peace. The friendship of the Franks was also an assistance to the sovereign of Britain ; and he cultivated it, by imitating their dress and manners, and by instructing some of their bravest youths both in naval 226
ASSOCIATES OF DIOCLETIAN.
and military arts. Coins issued by Carausius are still in being; and he reigned prosperously for seven years, when he was murdered by Allectus his chief minister.
In A. D. 291, Diocletian, perceiving that the empire was threatened on all sides by the barbarians, determined to appoint two new sovereigns with the inferior title of Cæsars, but with almost imperial power. The two generals, whom he chose, have been already mentioned as serving under Probus. Galerius, originally a herdsman, in character resembled Maximinian ; and Constantius, surnamed Chlorus, a nobleman of a far more amiable disposition than either of the sovereigns, who was inclined to favour Christianity on account of its beneficial influence. In order to strengthen their political union, Diocletian adopted Galerius and gave him his daughter in marriage; and Maximinian acted in the same way towards Constantius. For the sake of this imperial alliance both the Cæsars divorced their former wives; and Helena, the wife of Constantius, with her son Constantine, were deprived of their natural rights, and put aside as mean persons.
The empire was divided and subdivided in the following manner. Gaul and Spain were entrusted to Constantius, with a commission to recover Britain. Galerius reigned over the Illyrian provinces. Italy and Africa were the portion of Maximinian; and Diocletian kept for himself Thrace, Egypt, and the rich provinces of Asia. Each of them was absolute sovereign within his own dominions, and their united authority extended over the whole empire, every public act being done in the names of all : but Diocletian always preserved the superiority by means of his remarkable abilities, and his influence over the minds of the rest as their common benefactor. Their mutual interest kept up an uninterrupted harmony for many years; and it was not broken till the guidance of Diocletian ceased.
Our history will now be rather more difficult to pursue, as we have the movements of different leaders to notice and their connexion with each other, instead of the narrative of a solitary emperor. Before, however, we proceed farther in the history of the world, it is necessary to inquire into the state of the Church during its long period of outward tranquillity.
CHRISTIANS AMONG PAGANS.
THE DIFFICULTIES OF A CHRISTIAN UNDER A HEATHEN GOVERN
MENT.—THE POWER OF THE EXPECTATION OF THE LORD's COMING.-THE LOSS OF THE HOPE OF THE CHURCH.—THE INCREASING WORLDLINESS OF PROFESSING CHRISTIANS.-GE
NERAL COUNCILS.-METROPOLITANS. The Christian's path must always be contrary to the course of the world that lieth in wickedness; and if he be walking in the steps of his Master he will find himself in a narrow way with few companions. It is, however, a path of peace, and a way of pleasantness to his spirit; and the remembrance that it “ leadeth unto life” cheers him amidst every discouragement and difficulty. The particular difficulties, however, of the Christian, at any period, can only be understood by knowing the circumstances in which he is placed, and the temptations to which he is liable. A very little consideration of our previous history will convince us how exceedingly difficult it must have been for Christians to be “ undefiled in the way,” and to preserve a conscience void of offence towards God and man, amidst the reigning vice, and idolatry, and carnal indulgence of a whole empire. We have seen that every public and private relationship, and all the common acts of life, were accompanied by superstitious or idolatrous observances. The arts of music and painting, of eloquence and poetry, were all corrupted in the same manner; and many of the common trades had to do with the making or adorning of idols and their temples.
The Roman Senate was always held in a temple or consecrated place; and, before the senators began business, each of them dropped some wine and frankincense on the altar. The public games, the theatres, and the private entertainments, were alike avoided by the faithful Christian. No feast was concluded without a libation or drink-offering to the gods; marriages and funerals it was impossible for the believer to attend without countenancing idolatry; and even the common salutations he was often obliged to protest against, for it was unlikely a true Christian could hear his Pagan friend exclaim, “ Jupiter bless you,” without telling him of the only true God.
DIFFICULTIES OF THE CHRISTIAN'S PATH.
If the religion of the heathens had been merely the fancy of the human mind, it might have been treated as pitiable folly, and overcome by reason and philosophy. But we have the clear warrant of Scripture that the directors of it were the devil and his principalities, who are “ the rulers of the darkness of this world,” in whatever shape that darkness appears. And, therefore, the apostle says, though we know that an idol is nothing in the world, yet, “ the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils” (1 Cor. x. 20). He does not say they sacrifice to creatures of their own imagination, but “to devils ;' and we are therefore sure that the institutions and doctrines of Paganism were the insti. tutions and doctrines of devils, and it was only the mighty weapons furnished by God that could ever pull down their strongholds.
The early trials of Christians, in preserving their position as “a peculiar people,” must have been very great. A man's foes were commonly those of his own household; and the “di. vision ” which Christ had sent upon earth was very apparent. There were snares to the right hand and to the left; but much glory was brought to the Lord by the consistent and straightforward conduct of his people. One temptation, doubtless, to the believers who saw the dangers and pollutions around them, was that of idleness; there was so much to which they could not conscientiously put their hands, that many would be likely to refrain from working at all. But it was written “ let our's also learn to profess honest trades for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful” (marg. Tit. iii. 14). And, again, “ We command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ that with quietness they work and eat their own bread” (2 Thess. iii. 12).
There were certainly many things a converted person could not do—for instance, no Christian workman at Ephesus could make “ silver shrines for Diana”-but there were many things he could do; and often by choosing a lower grade, or a meaner employment, he might labour with a clear conscience.
As long as the coming of the Lord was the lively and con. stant hope of the Church, it answered to the description of the virgins which took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom. Christians were living in practical separation from the world, and shining as lights in it, with their affections