III.--THE ROMAN EMPIRE AS RELATED TO THE INTRODUCTION AND SPREAD OF CHRISTIANITY.
The history of our Lord's birth is prefaced by the statement that a decree went forth from Cæsar Augustus for the taxing of the whole world (Luke ii. 1).
Thus Christianity was born at the mid-day of the imperial greatness of Rome. Evidently this conjunction was no accident. The age of Augustus was the age of the Advent, because in the decision of God the fulness of time had then come. The Roman Empire was divinery appointed to be the field in which the seed of the gospel should be sown. And this field was for the first time in proper readiness when the honor of Augustus could be celebrated with this inscription: "Safe are now land and sea; the cities flourish in unity and peace." [Found at Halicarnassus.] All the aids to Christian evangelism which a hostile heathen world was competent to provide were now at hand. [In the outlook upon the Roman Empire which is here attempted, much service has been rendered us by the following authors : Theodor Mommsen, History of Rome, translated by W. P. Dickson; G. Uhlhorn, Der Kampf des Christenthums mit dem Heidenthum, --a very inspiring volume, accessible to the English reader in the translation by Smyth and Ropes; C. Schmidt, Essai Historique sur la Société Civile dans le Monde Romain et sa Transformation par le Christianisme; L. Friedlaender, Darstellungen aus der Sittengeschichte Roms (3 vols., 1881); J. J. I. Döllinger, Heidenthum und Judenthum; G.P. Fisher, Beginnings of Christianity.]
1. INTERCOMMUNICATION, END BREAKING-DOWN OF NATIONAL BARRIERS.-- The Roman Empire was in a remarkable sense a world-realm. Its extent was great. It stretched from the Atlantic to the Euphrates, from the Lowlands of Scotland to the African deserts and the cataracts of the Nile. Its population was probably between eighty and a hundred and twenty millions. But it was not mere extent which gave to the Roman Empire its peculiar cast of universality. Other empires have surpassed it in this respect. The Roman was pre-eminently a world-realm in that it was preeminently representative of the whole world during the centuries of its supremacy. To the apprehension of its citizens and subjects, there was scarcely any thing worthy of attention beyond its borders. The great factors of civilization, Greek, Roman, Jewish, Oriental, were here brought together. Barbarian tribes made their contribution of fresh life and capacity for new developments. In short, stretching her borders about all the lands circling the Mediterranean, and compassing the more important portions of three continents, Rome took up into herself the most valuable products of past ages, and the most fruitful germs of those that were to come. No wonder that she appeared destined, in her unrivalled possession of the world, to perpetual dominion; and that even among the persecuted Christians the idea found entrance, that when Rome fell the end of all things would immediately follow. ["We know," says Tertullian, " that a mighty shock impending; over the whole earth --in fact, the very end of all things, threatening dreadful woes-is only retarded by the continued existence of the Roman Empire." (Apologeticus, xxxii.; compare ad Scapulam, ii.) Lactantius writes: "The subject itself declares that the fall and ruin of the world will shortly take place; except that while the city of Rome remains, it appears that nothing of this kind is to be feared. But when the capital of the whole world shall have fallen, who can doubt that the end has now arrived to the affairs of men and the whole world ? " (Div. Inst. vii. 26.)]
The building-up of an empire by Rome was, in an emphatic sense, a work of unification. She brought together the dissevered. She established peaceful communication where no interchange had existed except that of war and plunder. The entire plan of Roman conquest and polity encouraged intercommunication. The idea which Augustus had in mind when he see up a golden milestone in the Forum was industriously pursued. From the capital a net-work of highways was extended, designed to bring the most distant provinces into intimate connection with the great centre. These Roman roads are justly celebrated. Their very remains are calculated, above almost any thing else, to fill the mind with reverence for the greatness of Rome. Five main lines led out from the imperialcity. Maps giving directions, distances and stopping-places, ministered greatly to the convenience of the traveller. Probably Europe at the beginning of this century enjoyed no better means of communication by land than were provided in the major part of the Roman Empire. It may be doubted, also, whether, prior to the building of railways, travel has ever borne a greater ratio to population than it did under the Roman Czesars. [The subject is amply treated in all its bearings by Friedlaender. It would appear, from a number of instances which he cites, that the excellent highways afforded means of a quite rapid transit. Cæsar, for example, is said to have travelled seven hundred and ninety-six miles inside of eight days. (Sittengeschichte Roms, vol. ii, p. 17.)] The demands of government kept officials moving to and fro. Enlarged opportunities of trade brought men out of their isolation. An intense curiosity naturally stimulated the residents of the provinces to visit the renowned seat of empire. Already in the time of Cicero we find Rome described as a community assembled from out of the nations, civitas ex nationum conventu constituta. [De Petitione Consulatus, xiv.] Between Augustus and Marcus Aurelius the population of the city averaged above a million, possibly at times reached a maximum of two millions. On the other hand, curiosity, personal interests, and governmental policy sent great numbers from Rome and Italy to the provinces. Tourists poured into Greece, Asia Minor, and Egypt. Students flocked to the renowned seats of culture, especially Athens and Alexandria. Sophists and rhetoricians were commonly itinerants. Armies went forth and served in remote districts as agents of Romanizing influences. The mere fact of this interchange was enough to greatly weaken tribal and national feeling, and to make men conscious of their relation to the vast body of the race within the Empire. It was all in the direction of the fusion of the individual in the universal. But to this means others were added by the Roman administration. The colony was made to perform an important part. "In her numerous colonies," says Uhlhorn, "Rome stretched herself out into the provinces; they were a section of Rome in the midst of Spain, Gaul, or Greece. The colonists took with them their citizenship and their Roman jurisprudence. Often strangers were received into the colony; and, even when they formed a separate community in its neighborhood, they were placed still under the constant influence of the Roman spirit." [Kampf das Christenthums, Book I., chap. i. An equally apt description is that given by Conybeare and Howson. "The characteristic of a colonia was, that it was a miniature resemblance of Rome . . . The colonists went out with all the pride of Roman citizens, to represent and reproduce the city in the midst of an alien population. Their names, were still enrolled in one of the Roman tribes. Every traveller who passed through a colonia saw there the insignia of Rome. He heard the Latin language, and was amenable, in the strictest sense, to the Roman law." (Life and Epistles of St. Paul, vol. i, chap. ix] Among the places celebrated in New-Testament history, Philippi, Troas, and Antioch in Pisidia may serve as examples of the colony.
Similar in design to the planting of colonies was the extension of privileges to communities and individuals in the provinces. The good-will of distinguished places was solicited or confirmed by constituting them free cities. Athens, Thessalonica, Tarsus, and the Syrian Antioch held, among others, this rank, and enjoyed in virtue of it certain rights of local self-government. The crowning right, that of citizenship, was much extended after the time of Julius Caesar. Under his rule it was made to reach and even to cross the extreme limits of Italy, being conferred upon those dwelling beyond the Po, and also upon many communities in Transalpine Gaul and in Spain. Succeeding emperors enlarged the circle of enfranchisement, until at length, in the early part of the third century, the outside provinces stood on an equality with Italy in this respect. [The decree extending citizenship to the subjects of the Empire generally was issued under Caracalla. His motive is said to have been quite other than an enlightened liberality. (Dio Cassius lxxvii. 9.)] Citizenship carried with it exemption from scourging, the right to appeal to the emperor, the right of suffrage, and eligibility to office.
Roman jurisprudence likewise performed an important function in the great unifying process. To be sure, Roman law was primarily designed for Roman citizens. Its application therefore was not co-extensive with the Empire till the right of citizenship became general. But even before this era, it shaped, more or less, the administration of justice in all the provinces. Thus there was a movement toward an all-embracing system of jurisprudence, a system which in many points showed an admirable appreciation of the relations of man to man. Here, evidently, was an efficacious means of unity and homogeneity. Like the framework of a building, Roman law extended through the structure of Roman society.
Something like an index to the progress made in breaking down national barriers may be seen by comparing the language of Aristotle with that of Marcus Aurelius. According to the testimony of Plutarch, Aristotle advised Alexander the Great, on the eve of his expedition into Asia, "to bear himself as a prince among the Greeks, his own people, but as a master among the barbarians; to treat the one as friends and kinsmen, the others as animals and chattels." "My nature," says Marcus Aurelius, "is rational and social; and my city and country, so far as I am Antoninus, is Rome, but so far as I am a man it is the world." [Meditations, vi. 44.] The philosophic Emperor here expresses the Stoic idea of an universal citizenship. The requisite conditions for the development of that idea were first supplied by the conquests of Alexander, and the Roman Empire provided for its further growth and continued assertion. To be sure, the universal citizenship of the Stoic was very much of an abstraction. As contrasted with the universal brotherhood of Christianity, it was, practically, like the shadow compared with the substance. In other words, Stoicism had little inspiration or power for the realization of its ideal. Still, the existence of the ideal is a clear token of a relative disappearance of national boundaries, and the exaltation of the idea of a common humanity. From our stand-point it is difficult to realize the importance of this work of disintegration, this breaking-down of national barriers. A community exists between the great body of nations to-day that was quite foreign to the states of antiquity. Such a bond of union as is supplied by a common Christian civilization was unknown to them. Had they remained intact, unfused, Christianity would have been obliged again and again to penetrate through the hard wall of a tenacious national spirit. Roman power set open doors before the advancing gospel. Its universal temporal rule prepared for the universal spiritual dominion of Christianity. A missionary activity like that of Paul, it has been well said, is inconceivable save upon the theatre of an empire like that of Rome. [This is a truth which was not hid from the observation of early Christian writers. Origen, among others, taught in very explicit terms that the fusion of the nations into one monarchy was a providential preparation for the preaching of the gospel to the whole world. (Cont. Celsum, ii. 30.)] Moreover, in proportion as national barriers disappeared, the conditions were made directly favorable to the reception of the monotheistic faith. In the view of polytheism, individual gods were, to a great extent, associated with individual nations. As these nations were absorbed into a common whole, they felt, of course, less occasion for asserting their respective deities. In proportion as the unity of the race was acknowleged, it was easy to acknowledge the Divine units.
2. CULTURE.-- The culture within the Roman Empire most worthy of attention, most serviceable to Christianity, was Greek rather than Roman. Rome was more a representative of the will than of the intellect; her office was rather that of the lawgiver and the ruler than that of the teacher. Her strictly original contributions to polite literature and philosophy were of but moderate compass. At Rome, says Mommsen, nobody speculated except the money-changers. [History ot Rome, Book IV., chap, xii.] Nevertheless, it was no mean service which Rome performed for culture. If she did not create largely, she distributed widely. The versatile Greek had already carried his treasures into many lands; Rome caused those treasures to be scattered over a still broader field. Among the contributions of Greek culture we notice, --
(1) A language admirably adapted to the uses of Christianity. At the time the gospel began to be proclaimed, Greek approached the character of an universal speech. The Greeks were very early a colonizing people, and carried their language into various settlements, from Asia Minor to Spain. The conquests of Alexander spread the same language over a large section of the Asiatic Continent. It was extensively spoken in Palestine; the disciples of Christ, very likely, had heard it from their childhood. In Egypt, especially at the great city of Alexandria, it was made the instrument of a varied, active, and highly celebrated scholarship. It found, after the Roman conquest of Greece, an open road to Rome. A multitude of Greek slaves diffused it far and wide among the principal households of Italy. Teachers, rhetoricians, and philosophers supplied also numerous agents for its introduction. Cicero could plead with entire sincerity in behalf of Archias: "Greek is read in almost all nations; Latin is confined by its own boundaries, which, of a truth, are narrow." [Pro Archia poeta, chap. x]
Probably the French language, at the era of its highest ascendency in Europe, was far less the medium of mercantile and polite intercourse than was the Greek in the Roman Empire in the age of the apostles. [Compare Fisher, Beginnings of Christianity, chap. ii.] In almost every city the Greek-speaking evangelist could find listeners who would readily understand his proclamation. Nor was the Greek the special servant of Christianity merely in virtue of its universality: it was such in virtue, also, of its peculiar excellencies as a language. Without a rich and flexible medium, the new truths which Christianity was designed to teach could not have found suitable expression. The Greek language supplied such a medium. It was capable of expressing different shades of meaning with nice discrimination. It was comparatively rich in religious and ethical terms, and so was adapted to be the language of the New-Testament oracles. It was rich in philosophical terms, and so was well suited to the uses of a fundamental theology.
(2) Elements more or less akin to the Christian system. "Hellenism is as much a prodigy of beauty as Christianity is a prodigy of sanctity." [Renan, The Apostles, Intro.] The ideals embraced by the two are different, but the very fact that both embrace high ideals establishes a certain affinity between them. High ideals cannot be antagonistic to each other. However it may be in other spheres, in the moral sphere the beautiful stands in close conjunction with the good; indeed, the supremely beautiful is here identical with the good. A keen sense for the beautiful, therefore, carried into the sphere of moral thought, naturally brings forth products in which Christianity, as the system of the good or the holy, can take pleasure. The products are in full correspondence with the soil, when we find in the Greek poets, and especially in the philosophy of Plato, passages which express high and noble views upon man's moral relations. We are far from discovering, it is true, even in Platonism, the full Christian ideal, either as respects God or man. For example, that principle of holy love which Christianity makes the crowning glory both of God and of man, the sum and source of moral excellence, was but dimly discerned by Plato; at least it does not receive an adequate prominence in his system. Still, Platonism embraced many lofty and healthful conceptions of the Godhead, and of man's nature and place in the universe. Historical proof that it possessed a certain kinship to Christianity is at hand in the fact that itserved not a few inquiring minds as a stepping-stone to the faith of the gospel.
(3) A striking example of man's need of divine instruction and help. This negative contribution was of no small worth. The intellectual system of the Greeks was the highest triumph of the human mind in the ancient world. It was the supreme specimen of what the natural man may achieve. As such it served as a test of man's natural ability to give a satisfactory solution of the problems of life and destiny, and a satisfactory supply to spiritual needs. Had Greek wisdom accomplished this, then the human soul might have congratulated itself upon its ability to work out its own salvation. But it failed: it was able to meet suitably neither the questionings nor the moral needs of the soul. Its best conclusions were too much of the nature of guesses, did not carry with them the requisite authority and assurance. In this relative failure Creek wisdom published the need of something higher and more efficient than itself. The issue of its history re-enforced the suggestion of Plato, that a revelation must come from the Godhead to man if be is to be guided securely. [In the midst of a dialogue on the destiny of the soul, Simmias, after remarking to Socrates respecting the exceeding difficulty of reaching certainty on such subjects, is made to say of the investigator, "He should persevere until he has attained one of two things: either he should discover or learn the truth about them ; or, if this be impossible, I would have him take the best and most irrefragable of human notions, and let this be the raft upon which he sails through life, --not without risk, I admit, if he cannot find some word of God which will more surely and safely carry him.]" (Phædo, Jowett's translation.) The gospel might indeed be repelled as foolishness in the first impulses of pride. Put the need had been proved. The gospel stood over against a demonstrated, and in some measure a felt, need. There was an empty place in the human soul which it was suited to fill, and which it would be called to fill when it had broken down the bars of opposition by the proofs of its intrinsic virtue.
3. MORALS.--The age immediately preceding and following the birth of Christ affords a striking example of the difference between good moralizing and good morals. There was a plenty of the former. In no prevous era of classic antiquity had casuistry been so fully developed, the duties of men in all relations so elaborately specified. Many noble sentiments, many maxims worthy of a place in a hand-book of Christian precepts, found expression. Especially fruitful in this direction was the New Stoicism, which numbered Cato and Brutus among its earliest representatives at Rome, and found in Seneca (A.D. 2-66) its most noted literary exponent. But what was the practical result of all this preaching and indoctrination? A few men made stronger and more robust in character, and probably only a few. Those who used the fine sounding dialect of Stoical virtue were greatly in excess of those who fulfilled its difficult precepts. Even the Seneca who moralized so grandly on the nothingness of the world is credited with having added to his immense fortune by oppressive usury. [Merivale, General History of Rome. Dio Cassius, lxii. 2.] He seems also not to have been above a species of accommodation in his relation to the emperors, having written the official laudation of Claudius which was pronounced by his successor, [Tacitus, Annal., xiii. 3.] though his real opinion of that emperor was expressed in a satire [Dio Caasius, lx. 35.] and having composed, moreover, the lying epistle to the Senate, which attempted to clear Nero from the guilt of murdering his mother. [Tacitus, Annal., xiv. 10, 11. J. F. Hurst, Meth. Rev., April, 1876] Other charges of a very serious nature were whispered by contemporaries [A full list is given by Dio Cassius, lx. 8, lxi. 10.] but they may properly be disregarded as being perhaps only the malicious insinuations of the slanderer. Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius seem to have been better models as respects personal conduct. They stood, however, in a small group. The Stoic morality was in general powerless to heal either society or the individual. It was strikingly destitute of motive power, in pursuance of its pantheistic theory it obscured the reality of sin, the personality of God, the distinction between providence and fate, and see a limit to the separate existence of the soul. Pushed to its logical issue, it stamped emptiness and vanity upon the very nature of man. It is scarcely surprising, therefore, that it did so little to arrest the progress of corruption. The work of the philosopher is not indeed to be despised. All honor is due to his good intent, his noble lessons in morals, and, in some instances, his example of high-minded conduct. But Roman society evidently needed more powerful means of regeneration than any which he was able to contribute.
In the states of Greece, a marked decline in morals was apparent soon after the Peloponnesian war. The binding power of the oath was greatly diminished; honesty and purity were at a discount. A similar declension began in the Roman Republic after the second Punic war, and went on with widening and deepening effect far into the first century of the Christian era. As the field of conquest was enlarged, the sturdy Roman virtue came into contact with demoralizing customs and influences. Greek laxity, Oriental indulgence, and abounding wealth brought their temptations to bear. As if to make up for ages of continence in the past, pleasure-seeking was now pursued to an amazing extreme of voluptuousness and license.
The moral bankruptcy of the times is amply attested both by the statements of writers and the evidence of facts. The vigorous impeachment by the Apostle to the Gentiles [Epistle to the Romans, i.] is not at all in excess of that which comes from Seneca. "All things," says the Roman moralist, "are full of crimes and vices. A great struggle is waged for pre-eminence in iniquity. Daily grows the appetite for sin; daily wanes the sense of shame. All respect for excellence and justice being cast aside, lust rushes on at will. Crimes are no longer secret: they stalk before the eyes of men. Iniquity is given such a range in public, and is so mighty in the breasts of all, that innocence is not merely rare: it has no existence. Think you that there are only a few individuals who have made an end of law? From all sides, as at a given signal, men have sprung to the task of confounding right and wrong." [De Ira, ii. 9.] In the satires of Juvenal the strictures, upon the age, if less serious in tone than the above, are no less indicative of moral degeneracy. Some allowance may be made for rhetorical exaggeration in the statements of these writers; but a glance at the different ranks of society and the different phases of social and domestic life will satisfy us that their arraignment was far from groundless.
(1) The Emperors and the Imperial Court. -- To judge society at large by such emperors as Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, Domitian, and others of like stamp, would doubtless be gross injustice. They are not to be taken unqualifiedly as exponents of their times. On the other hand, it would be an irrational excess of charity to regard them as complete exceptions to their age. They were not so much foreign to the soil upon which they grew, as its ranker and more towering growths. Their tyranny was only an exaggerated form of the current disregard of human life. When we hear Caligula remarking, in a moment of disappointment and spite, that he wished the Roman people had but one neck, [Suetonius, in the same paragraph in which he records this exclamation of Caligula, says, "He generally prolonged the sufferings of his victims, by causing them to be inflicted by slight and frequently repeated strokes; this being; his well-known and constant order: "strike so that he may feel himself die." (Lives of the Twelve Cæsars: Caligula, xxx.)] we recognize simply the same temper, grown to monstrous proportions, which made the populace delight in the cruel and bloody sports of the amphitheatre. In like manner their overgrown luxury was but a crowning expression of the voluptuousness and prodigality of the age. A Caligula spending four or five hundred thousand dollars on a single day's banqueting; [Seneca says, " C. Cæsar Augustus, quem mihi videtur rerum natura edidisse, ut ostenderet, quid summa vitia in summa fortuna possent, centies sestertio coenavit uno die. Et in hoc omnium adjutus ingenio vix tamen invenit, qnomodo trium provinciarum tributum una coena fieret. (Ad Helviam, x.) Compare the following from Suetonius: "In the devices of his profuse expenditure, he surpassed all the prodigals that ever lived, inventing a new kind of bath, with strange dishes and suppers, washing in precious unguents, drinking pearls of immense value dissolved in vinegar, and serving up for his guests loaves and other victuals modelled in gold; often saying that a man ought to be a good economist or an emperor." (Caligula, xxxvii.) It has been suspected that in the eccentricity of Caligula there was a spice of real insanity.] or a Nero building his "golden house," [A special feature in Nero's palace was the provision for luxurious banqueting. "The supper-rooms were vaulted; and compartments of the ceilings, inlaid with ivory, were made to revolve and scatter flowers, while they contained pipes which shed unguents upon the guests. The chief banqueting-room was circular, and revolved perpetually, night and day, in imitation of the motion of the celestial bodies." SUETONIUS: Nero, xxxi.)] with its lavish adornment, and its triple colonnade reaching the length of a mile, or travelling with a thousand vehicles as his ordinary retinue (the animals being shod with silver, the drivers and footmen dressed in showy and costly garments), while a herd of five hundred she-asses was added for his wife Poppæa, that she might daily bathe in their milk, -- these were examples which many were ready to imitate in proportion to their means.
(2) The Nobility. --In the closing period of the Republic, the civil wars had greatly reduced the number of the old senatorial families. To keep their ranks good, it was necessary from time to time to add recruits from the second rank of the nobility, the knights. Sometimes men of the third rank were promoted to the first. Even freedmen, in the later times of the Empire, were occasionally lifted to the summit of the nobility. The senators, in virtue of their position, belonged especially to the city of Rome; the knights were scattered over the Empire, and occupied the first place in the provincial cities.
The senators were the foremost sharers in the spoils of conquest. In the current phraseology, a senatorial estate was but another name for a large fortune. The richest had an annual income approaching to a million of dollars. The annual income of senators of the second rank ranged from two hundred to three hundred thousand dollars. [See estimates of Friedlaender, vol. i.] Senatorial estates were found in all parts of the Empire. In the time of Nero, six land-owners possessed half of the province of North Africa. [Ibid.]
Expenditure, however, was quite on a par with income. To support the ordinary senatorial dignity, in accordance with the ideas of the times, required no small outlay. Many were involved in bankruptcy, [The incapable debtor commonly postponed a declaration of insolvency to the latest date possible. "Instead of selling his property, and especially his landed estates, he continued to borrow and to present the semblance of riches, till the crash only became the worse, and the winding-up yielded a result like that of Milo, in which the creditors obtained somewhat above four per cent of the sums for which they ranked." (MOMMSEN, Book V., chap. xi.) Such prodigality in the use of riches was of course accompanied by much iniquity in their acquisition. " Falsifying of documents and perjuries had become so common, that in a popular poet of this age an oath is called 'the plaster of debts.' Men had forgotten what honesty was. A person who refused a bribe was regarded, not as an upright man, but as a personal foe." (Ibid.)] and instances were not wanting of senators and knights, out of sheer desperation, turning gladiators. Those whose great wealth seemed to defy exhaustion went beyond all bounds in luxurious living, especially between the reigns of Augustus and Vespasian. ["The luxury of the table," says Tacitus, " which from the battle of Actium to the revolution by which Galba obtained the Empire, a space of a hundred years, was practised with the most costly profusion, began then gradually to decline." (Annal., iii. 55.)] Their banquets, in particular, were scenes of indulgence and display. No delicacy that money could provide was wanting. Hosts of slaves, bands of musicians, and dancing-girls were in attendance. Even the coarse expedient of an emetic was sometimes used to prolong the pleasures of appetite. "They vomit,"says Seneca, "that they may eat, and eat that they may vomit, and will not so much as digest the viands which they bring together from the ends of the earth." [Vomunt ut edant, edunt ut vomant, et epulas, quas tote orbe conquirunt, nec concoquere dignantur." (Ad Helviam, x.)] No doubt, as regards the mere amount of income and outlay, individuals in recent times have rivalled the Roman millionnaires. But in no age or country, probably, has abounding wealth been accompanied to such a degree by mere greed of display, by mere lust after bodily pampering, as it was among the grandees of Rome in the first century. This followed largely from the manner of its acquisition. Large fortunes, gathered by plunder from the vanquished, or by extortion from subject provinces, were naturally made subservient to a carnal prodigality.
(3) The Untitled Freemen. -- The tendency within this class was toward a common level of poverty. The large number of small landholders, who so worthily represented the class at an earlier period, had gradually disappeared, at least in the Italian provinces. Confiscations in the time of the civil wars dispossessed many of those who were most attached to the soil. Men who had served in the legions naturally became tainted with unquiet and feverish impulses, retained little taste for the sober employment of agriculture, and speedily sold out their possessions. Small estates were merged in the larger, until a few landholders held the whole country. Meanwhile, slavery closed the great mass of employments against the freemen. Aside from the unfavorable competition which was created by an overflowing slave-market, the institution put the seal of disgrace upon labor. ["The often used and often abused phrase of a commonwealth composed of millionnaires and beggars applies perhaps nowhere so completely as to Rome of the last age of the Republic; and nowhere perhaps has the essential maxim of the slave-state --that the rich, man who lives by the exertions of his slaves is necessarily respectable, and the poor man who lives by the labor of his hands is necessarily vulgar -- been recognized with so terrible a precision as the undoubted principle underlying all public and private intercourse." (MOMMSEN, Book V., chap, xi.)] Only in a few departments of industry, such as medicine, architecture, philosophy, and the office of the advocate, could a man retain his respectability? [See Cicero, De Off., i. 42. Schmidt, Essai Historique, i. 3. 1.] Even trade, except on the scale of large speculations and wholesale transactions, was counted disreputable. There was no chance, therefore, for a flourishing middle class. A few who had the courage to brave public opinion, and to enter lucrative but unpopular employments, amassed good fortunes. Some found a meagre living by acting as clients of the rich. Many were supported by rations from the public crib. From one hundred thousand to three hundred and twenty thousand men were fed in this way at Rome, and lived in idleness. With idleness was naturally joined an excessive greed for amusements. Bread and plays were the demand of the populace.
(4) The Freedmen. --If lower in honor, the freedmen were in many respects higher in privilege than the free-born. A great variety of trades and offices was open to them. They served as select employees of the nobility. In the earlier history of the Empire they constituted nearly the whole body of officials at the imperial court. Some acquired immense fortunes, and vied with the senatorial rank in luxurious living. Narcissus possessed four hundred million sesterces (about twenty million dollars), Pallas three hundred million sesterces, and some others scarcely less. [Friedlaender, vol. i., p. 83.] As to character, their circumstances tended to foster an extra degree of depravity. Slavery had educated them in the arts of deceit; the stain of their former position impaired their sense of honor; opportunities were frequently provided for advancing themselves by serving the baser impulses of their patrons. By natural consequence, the band of flatterers, informers, and supple tools of tyrants found many a recruit from among the freedmen.
(5) The Slaves. --At the beginning of the Christian era, the slave portion of the Roman Empire no doubt greatly out-numbered the free. In the Grecian states, while yet they retained their independence, the slaves were vastly in excess of the freemen. Attica had four hundred thousand slaves at a time when the whole number of free native-born citizens was only twenty thousand, and the resident strangers ten thousand. This may be regarded as an exceptional ratio, but some approach to it may have existed in other districts. Roman conquests turned men into slaves by the ten thousand. Single masters, in some instances, possessed from ten to twenty thousand. [Döllinger, Heidenthum und Judenthum, p. 708.]
Greek slavery for the most part was of a somewhat milder type than the Roman; but even among the Greeks there was no security whatever for the chastity of female slaves. Tn general, the slaves were so much material placed at the absolute disposition of the lust and caprice of the owner. He could maim, torture, or even kill without being called to account. The prætor Domitianus caused a slave, who unseasonably had slain a boar in the chase, to be crucified. Cicero simply remarked on the case: "That might, perhaps, seem severe." [Uhlhorn; Schmidt.] A slave who broke a valuable dish at a banquet where Augustus was present was condemned by his enraged master to be cast to the fishes. [Seneca, De Ira, iii 40.] In course of time the law placed some restrictions on the absolute power of the master. But as late as the reign of Nero an old law was put in force, which allowed, in case of the murder of a master by an unknown hand, that all slaves who had slept under the roof at the time should be put to death. Under this law, the murder of the city prefect, Pedanius Secundus, was avenged by the execution of four hundred slaves. An eminent senntor, C. Cassius, defended this rigor before the senate. [Tacitus, Annal., xiv. 42-45.] Practically, and to a large extent theoretically; the slave was placed outside the pale of a common humanity. The benevolent teaching of Seneca, that even a slave is a man and is to be treated with consideration, [De Clem., i. 18; De Beneficiis, iii. 20); Epist., xlvii.] was commonly regarded as only a specimen of fanciful and enthusiastic sentiment. Evidently such a system must have been, beyond all estimate, corrupting. It depraved both parties. It worked licentiousness and tyranny in the master, and debased the slave. So patent was the latter fact to the slave-dealers themselves, that the market price of one who had served a year was less than that of a new slave. [Döllinger, Heid. und Jud., P. 713.]
(6) Domestic Life. -- The most emphatic token of moral downfall appears in the loss of the proverbial honor and fidelity of Roman women. The Japhetic birthright of chastity was nobly maintained in Italy for centuries. All through the history of Rome, down to the close of the second Punic war, many a Roman matron had the spirit of a Lucretia. Divorces were comparatively unknown. Plutarch says that there was no case of divorce for two hundred and thirty years, and another writer has given the much longer period of five hundred years. [Plutarch is thus quoted by Uhlhorn. Döllinger refers to Dionysius as naming the longer period. Tertullian makes the interval nearly six hundred years. (Apol. vi.) One can hardly escape here a suspicion of exaggeration.] Whether strictly correct or not, these statements are indicative of wonderful fidelity to family ties among the early Romans. But in the last days of the Republic, and the first of the Empire, the unmaking of marriages was about as common as their making. Marriage without the manus became the current form as admitting the most ready dissolution. People in high life led the way in the growing laxity. "C. Sulpicius divorced his wife because she had gone unveiled upon the street. Q. Antistius Vetus divorced his because she had spoken openly and familiarly to a freedwoman. P. Sempronius Sophus sent his away because she had gone to the play without his knowledge. Æmilius Paulus, the conqueror of Perseus, put away his wife without assigning any cause at all. And how was it among the contemporaries of Cicero? He himself separated from his first wife, in order to take a wealthier one; from his second, because she did not seem sufficiently afflicted over the death of his daughter. Cato, with all his moral strictness, divorced his first spouse Atilia, who had borne him two children, and delivered over his second wife Marcia, with the approval of her father, to his friend Hortensius, after whose death he married her again. Pompey put away his wife Antistia, in order to make family connection with Sylla, and took his step-daughter Æmilia, who, however, had first to be separated from her husband Glabrio, by whom she was with child. After her death he took Mucia, whom he also divorced in order to marry Cæsar's daughter Julia. On their side, women separated themselves from their husbands without any cause except their mere pleasure." [Döllinger, Heid. und Jud., p. 702.] In fine, it was not altogether hyperbole when Seneca spoke of noble women as reckoning their years by their successive husbands rather than by the number of the consuls. [Seneca, De Beneficiis, iii. 16.]
Corresponding to the facility of divorce was the infidelity to existing conjugal relations. Seneca goes so far as to affirm that a species of contempt attached to the man who had no love-intrigues. [Ibid., 1. 9.] "Liaisons in the first houses," says Mommsen, "had become so frequent, that only a scandal altogether exceptional could make them the subject of special talk; a judicial interference seemed now almost ridiculous." [Book V., chap. xi.] In individual instances women of noble family, in order to suffer no hinderance from the laws against adultery, went to the horrible extreme of having their names entered on the list of public prostitutes. [Suetonius, Tiberius, xxxv. Tacitus, Annal., ii. 85.]
The same spirit which gave a loose reign to passion naturally was averse to the cares of family. Great numbers avoided the marriage bond; so that in the time of Augustus, the State thought it necessary to take cognizance of the matter, and to impose a special tax upon those remaining unmarried above a certain age. To many of the married, children were an undesired burden; and the practice of infanticide, or of exposing the new-born, was correspondingly frequent. Roman conscience became as lax upon this subject as the Greek. The old law which forbade the exposing of children except in case of abnormal birth, and then with consultation of neighbors, became obsolete. The jurist Paulus, in the time of the emperors, recognized the full right of the parents over the life of newly born children. [Döllinger, Heid. und Jud., p. 716. Schmidt, Essai Historique. Tertullian accuses the Romans in these terms : "Although you are forbidden by the laws to slay new-born infants, it so happens that no laws are evaded with more impunity or greater safety, with the deliberate knowledge of the public, and the suffrages of this entire age." (Ad Nationes, i. 15.)] As a natural result, Italy began to experience a state of things with which Polybius a little earlier had reproached Greece, and which he distinctly referred to criminal abuse of the parental relation. The Roman stock was more and more reduced.
Supplementing the ordinary forms of impurity, were those excesses and those unnatural vices of which "it is a shame even to speak." Impurity was the crying iniquity of the declining classic world. Even worship was made to pay tribute to licentiousness. Prostitution entered into the religious service of Aphrodite at Corinth. The Bacchic orgies, as practised among the Greeks, and transferred to some extent to Rome, were accompanied by indecent excesses. Pederasty was so common in Greece that all sense of its enormity seems to have vanished. Some of the most eminent Romans, from the emperor down, copied the vice. Hadrian had the shameless infatuation to deify, and build temples to, the youth Antinous with whom he had lived in this vile affinity. [Clement of Alexandria speaks of the worship still paid in his day to Antinous, and adds a worthy inculcation of the Christian idea that there is no true beauty apart from purity. (Cohortatio, iv.) Compare Origen, Cont. Cel., iii. 36.]
(7) Plays and Shows. --The theatre endeavored to sustain itself by pandering to the depraved tastes of the populace, and offered plays in which scenic exhibitions, striking or obscene, took the place of the substance. But, with all its accommodation, the theatre could not fairly compete with the attractions of the circus and the amphitheatre. The race of the circus and the combat of the amphitheatre were the highest luxuries of a people fanatically intent upon pleasure. The exhibitions of the kind at Rome were thronged by tens or even hundreds of thousands. The great circus in the time of Titus had seats for two hundred and fifty thousand persons, and in the fourth century it could seat three hundred and eighty-five thousand. The amphitheatre of the Flavians was able to accommodate eighty-seven thousand spectators.
In the eyes of the politician, great shows were not merely luxuries, but necessities. They were looked upon as approved means of keeping the people in proper humor. Hence, they were provided by the best and the most frugal of the rulers, as well as by the worst and most prodigal. The games instituted by Augustus during his reign brought ten thousand men into the arena. An equal number fought during the games instituted by Trajan, and extended over the space of one hundred and twenty-three days. Eleven thousand beasts were slain during the same time. Spectacles in which large bodies of combatants simultaneously engaged were sometimes given,--battles and sea-fights, [These were sometimes given in the amphitheatre, there being ample means for flooding the arena as occasion required. Sometimes spectacles of this order were on a scale exceeding the accommodations of the amphitheatre. The most extensive sea-fight was that given by Claudius on Lake Fucinus. (TACTITUS, Annal., xxii. 56.)] that mimicked and in part reproduced the stern tragedy of war.
The demand for combatants caused gladiatorial schools to be established, in which, as Cyprian complains, "training was undergone to acquire the power to murder." [Epist., i. 7. Compare the incisive words of Tatian: "You slaughter animals for the purpose of eating; their flesh, and you purchase men to supply a cannibal banquet for the soul, nourishing it by the most impious bloodshedding. The robber commits murder for the sake of plunder, but the rich man purchases gladiators for the sake of their being killed." (Orat. ad Græcos, xxiii.)] The gladiators consisted mainly of condemned criminals, captives taken in war, and slaves. [There were instances, however, in which knights, senators, and even women fought in the arena. (Suetonius: Augustus, xliii.; Nero, xii.; Domitian, iv. Dio Cassius,xliii. 23, ii. 22.)] In some instances men volunteered for the bloody trade. The number of lives sacrificed in these inhuman spectacles, though not comparable to the number of those slaughtered in the wars of the times, must still have been very great. For we must recollect that the gladiatorial combat was by no means confined to Rome. "Wherever the ancient world bore the impress of Roman culture, the spectacle of the amphitheatre was extended; and from Jerusalem to Seville, from England to North Africa, there was no important city in which the arena was not, year after year, moistened with the blood of numerous victims." [Friedlaender, vol. ii] Sometimes scenes were introduced into the arena excelling in savagery the fight between man and man. Use was made of condemned criminals to reproduce the tragic scenes of history and mythology. "Arrayed in costly, gold-embroidered tunics and purple mantles, adorned with golden crowns, they present themselves. However, as from the fatal vesture of Medea, flames suddenly spring out of these splendid garments, in which the unfortunates miserably perish. Scarcely was there a form of torture or fearful mode of death known to history and literature, with whose representation the people were not entertained in the amphitheatre. One saw here Hercules upon Oeta, dying the fiery death; Mucius Scævola holding his hand over the basin of Goals until it was consumed; the robber Laureolus, the hero of a well-known farce, torn to pieces by wild beasts, while he was suspended from the Cross. [Friedlaender, vol. ii. See instances cited by Tertullian, Apol., xv.; Ad. Nationes, i.10.] We recoil from the thought of men and women making a pastime out of scenes like these. But such, almost without exception, was the case with the heathen Romans. At any rate, apart from Seneca, [Epist., vii. Cicero speaks of those who regarded the gladiatorial combat as cruel and inhuman. His reply indicates his belief that such a spectacle, though degenerating into cruelty as actually managed, might under proper limitations be made to serve a useful end. (Tusc. Disput., ii. 17.)] we find in the Roman literature of the times scarcely an expression of abhorrence of these cruel diversions. The amphitheatre is, by itself, a powerful testimony to the fact that Roman antiquity knew little about the sanctity which Christianity attaches to man as man.
The description which has been given of Roman morals applies more strictly to the capital city than to other portions of the Empire. Still it has its application in the broader range. Many of the provincial cities went far toward emulating the vices of the great metropolis. Corinth, for example, was not far behind her imperial mistress in reputation for licentiousness. From a city no larger than Pompeii, relies of an impure civilization have been exhumed which deserved to have been buried longer than eighteen centuries.
There is, no doubt, a liability to an exaggerated impression upon this subject. We must make due account of the stand-point of the age. We must not overlook the instances of upright living. There were noble-spirited men in the first century, as the example of Plutarch and others assures us. There were pure homes, faithful husbands and wives, as may be gathered from sepulchral inscriptions. License and inhumanity were not everywhere supreme. But it must be acknowledged that they were fearfully prevalent. No subsequent age has produced a parallel. While local corruption in some instances may have approached the standard of the degenerate Romans, there has been no modern instance in which society, throughout its length and breadth, from the top to the bottom of its civilization, has been equally vitiated. The demoralization was extreme, because the demoralizing agencies were of unwonted force. There were no props to virtue adequate to meet the pressure which ensued when Occident and Orient met together, when the pride and egoism nurtured by unbounded conquests came into contact with Eastern laxity and luxury. [If one desires the verdict of a liberal critic, he has it, at least as respects the higher classes, in the following from Renan: "The Roman aristocracy which had conquered the world, and which alone of all the people had any voice in public business under the Caesars, had abandoned itself to a Saturnalia of the most outrageous wickedness the human race ever witnessed." (The Apostles, chap. xvii.)]
In some respects this state of morals was unfavorable to the introduction of Christianity. Sensibilities benumbed by vicious indulgence are not the most readily responsive to a deeply spiritual message. But, on the other hand, indulgence itself may create a sense of satiety. So was it to no inconsiderable degree in the Roman Empire. An oppressive sense of the emptiness and vanity of earthly things rested upon many minds. The age had reached the goal of illicit pleasure-seeking. It had gone down to the bottom of the inclined plane, and had found there its fill of misery. By a natural reaction, a desire was awakened for a better state of things. Christianity came forward just at the right time to re-enforce and to guide this desire.
4. RELIGION.--Parallel with the decline of morals was the disintegration of religion. The first movement here was in the direction of unbelief; then followed a movement in the direction of superstition. Very positive tokens of the former development were apparent in Greece by the close of the fifth century before Christ; in Rome it had not made much headway till two or three centuries later. The zenith of this sceptical tendency was probably reached before the preaching of the gospel by the apostles.
Among the causes contributing to unbelief were great political revolutions. The classic religions were local in their scope; they were intimately associated with particular soils; they were interwoven with the interests and functions of individual states. Hence, any great disruption of the State, any extensive and permanent revolution of its condition, was likely to affect vitally its religion. Irretrievable calamity left men to question whether the gods whom they had worshipped as the special guardians of their nation were worthy of their homage; and this question was put with all the more doubt because temporal rather than spiritual good was sought from the gods. We can easily imagine, that, as the despotism of Rome swallowed up state after state, the faith of the people in their ancestral deities was severely strained. On the other hand, unexampled prosperity, an expansion of empire such as fell to the lot of the Romans, carried them beyond the sphere with which at least many of their gods were commonly associated. This led naturally to the recognition of new gods, or to changed conceptions of the old ones. In either case the innovation was more or less of an unsettling factor, and could easily result in scepticism.
This brings us to a second occasion of unbelief, -- the contact of different religions. Heathen systems more or less diverse in spirit and principle were brought within the bounds of the same empire. Romanism, with its practical gods, viewed pre-eminently as guardians of political, social, and domestic relations; Hellenism, with its aesthetic gods, its ideals of grace and beauty; Orientalism, with its worship of the various symbols of the divine life that abides in nature, with its mysticism and elements of austere devotion, -- all came into relations of mutual contact and interchange. Men's ears were assailed with the names of strange gods. Their attention was called to a motley group of deities, who, in accordance with Roman custom, were invited from conquered provinces to take up their abode in the "eternal city." What wonder, when so many were putting forth claims to homage, if in many minds the claims of all were discredited!
Another occasion of unbelief was intellectual growth and philosophic thought. The fables and follies of the old polytheisms became too apparent to men of intelligence and scholarship to permit any real faith on their part in those systems. In some instances, scepticism verged upon atheism. Epicureanism was practical atheism, inasmuch as it put aside all question and concern about the existence of a Supreme Being. But in the majority of instances the learned rejectors of the ancient mythologies acknowledged the Godhead in some form; many were inclined to a kind of pantheistic conception of the Supreme Being, and regarded him as the soul of the universe. If, as was generally the case with this class of men, they practised and enjoined the old state worship, it was simply on grounds of policy. They looked upon such a worship as a necessary bond of unity in the State, a necessary instrument in the control of the great mass of men who were incapable of apprehending any thing better. Hence, we find Polybius (about 204-122 B.C.) praising the political wisdom which the Romans manifested in so carefully sustaining the religion of the State. Varro (116-28 B.C.), though he was devoid of all faith in the common polytheism, and taught that the State is older than the gods, as the painter is older than the picture, still thought it necessary to maintain the customary worship of the gods among the people. Cicero (106-43 B.C.) end Strabo (about 54 B.C. to A.D. 24) gave evidence of a like conviction with respect to the practical utility of the civil religion. Seneca also judged that respect for order, and reverence for ancestral customs, supplied a sufficient occasion for worshipping the gods according to the established religion, though in his opinion such worship was nothing to the gods themselves. [Compare Augustine, De Civ. Dei., iv. 30, 31, vi. 10.]
How far the unbelief of the learned descended to the masses, is a question that is difficult to answer. Probably among the majority of those in any wise accessible to the new currents, scepticism was more practical than theoretical, and consisted rather in loss of enthusiasm for the ancient faith than in positive denial and repudiation of the same. They were not so much prepared to reject their old divinities as to give them a fragmentary worship, making new objects of idolatry their rivals. Still we may presume that there was a fraction of the people in all the large cities to whom the common heathen religion was nearly as much a blank as it was to Valerius Maximus, when, in the preface to his work (A.D. 29-32), he appealed to the Emperor Tiberius rather than to another god, because the emperor was a god who was known to exist, while the existence of the other gods was only a matter of conjecture. In fact, no inconsiderable portion of the worship came to be paid to the emperors. Magnificent temples were dedicated to the divine Augustus, and the other imperial gods in various quarters of the Empire. Some of the emperors did not wait for the post-mortem deification. Augustus and Tiberius yielded to requests of Asiatic cities who wished to give them a place among their deities. [Tacitus, Annal, iv. 37.] Caligula went further, arrogating for himself the character of a god, and ordaining a magnificent worship in his own honor. ["He instituted a temple and priests, with choicest victims, in honor of his own divinity. In his temple stood a statue of gold, the exact image of himself, which was daily dressed in garments corresponding with those be wore himself. The most opulent persons in the city offered themselves as candidates for the honor of being his priests, and purchased it successively at an immense price." (Suetonius: Caligula, xxii.)] Domitian was equally in haste for divine honors, and applied to himself the title, "Lord and God." [Suetonius, Domitian, xiii.] In some instances the favorites of the emperors were raised to the deified rank. Ending with Diocletian, we have, it is computed, no less than fifty-three formal deifications, of which fifteen applied to women of the imperial family." [Döllinger, Heid. und Jud., p. 616.] Think of being required to pay homage to such gods! Yet for no gods over or in the Empire was homage so jealously exacted as for these. To refuse to render tokens of idolatrous respect to the emperor, was counted not merely an infraction of religious duty, but a crime against the majesty of the State. It was just this refusal, therefore, which sent thousands of Christians to martyrdom.
The emperor-worship was only one among the innovations of the age. Unbelief had hardly reached its maximum before the current set in the direction of superstition. For any surrender of old rites, double compensation was sought in new and strange worships. If the old system of auguries and omens was in part neglected, a swarm of astrologers, soothsayers, and necromancers were eagerly consulted in its place. A decisive bent toward the mystic and the obscure in religion was engendered. On this account the rites of the Orient became especially attractive. Egyptian, Syrian, and even Persian gods claimed their devotees in Rome. The feeble opposition of the Government was soon broken down. Emperors themselves became worshippers of Isis and others of the mystic deities of Egypt and the East. Nero, after devoting himself for a time to the Syrian goddess, turned to fetichism, and awarded his supreme confidence to the image of a little girl which was given him by an obscure plebeian. [Suetonius, Nero, lvi.] According to Pliny, he also indulged his superstition in a less harmless way, offering human sacrifices in connection with the magic arts which he practised for a long time. [Hist. Nat., xxx. 5, 6.] In the second century superstition almost wholly took the place of unbelief, within the domain of heathenism. Among the strongest evidences of this is the fact that the most eminent and philosophic men of the time paid tribute to superstitious fears or beliefs. Even the Stoic philosophy of Marcus Aurelius was no adequate safeguard; and we find him, in connection with the war against the Marcomanni, calling priests from all lands to Rome, and engaging himself so long with the foreign rites that he joined the army considerably later than was expected.
This relative disintegration of heathen religions is one of the most prominent tokens that the fulness of time had come. Between men satisfied with their faith and men who have become restless or dissatisfied, there is an immeasurable difference, as respects the feasibility of conversion to a new system. The heathen world had become restless. It found no lasting satisfaction in unbelief; and where unbelief had come to its logical result, and issued in increased superstition, it still failed of real satisfaction. Men became the devotees of different gods, and experimented with different rites, to discover that none could bring the desired rest and healing. A longing was felt for a God in whom unlimited confidence could be reposed. At the same time an unwonted attention was directed toward the future. There was a growing desire for definite assurance with respect to the life beyond the grave. It was largely in pursuance of this desire that men were so zealous after initiation into mysteries old and new; for these had special reference to the gods presiding over death and hades. In the enjoyment of their special favor, the initiated hoped for a happier life in the hereafter than was prepared for men in general. It was a searching, experimenting age. Men felt the need of a more perfect revelation concerning God and immortality than was anywhere to be found in the heathen world.
With desire some measure of expectation was joined. Place was found for the idea that the whole circle of the ages, from the golden to the iron, having been run, the circle was now to begin afresh, and a new golden age to be introduced. Virgil, already, in the reign of Augustus, took up this hope; and in his fourth eclogue embodied it in the son of Pollio, in language strongly suggestive of the words of Isaiah (ix., xi). He pictures a divine child who was to usher in an era of unknown peace and blessedness, --a true presentiment, but wrongly applied, for this son of Pollio died miserably in prison,a victim of Nero's tyranny. According to Döllinger,the description of Virgil was only one among several interpretations that were given to a prediction found in the Sibylline prophecies at Rome. [Heid. und Jud., p. 733.] In any case, it is probable that Jewish prophecy had much to do in originating these expectations. Perhaps we may refer to the same source the saying, mentioned by Suetonius [" A firm persuasion," says Suetonius, "had long prevailed through all the last, that it was fated for the empire of the world at that time to devolve upon some one who should go forth from Judæa." (Vespasian, iv.)] and Tacitus, [Historiæ, v. 13. "Pluribus persuasio inerat, antiquis sacerdotum litteris contineri, eo ipso tempore fore, ut valesceret Oriens profectique Judæa rerum potirentur."] that he should go forth from Judæa, who was destined to rule the world.
The sense of need, and the gleams of expectation entertained in the heathen world, especially the former, ministered greatly to the victorious progress of Christianity. To be sure, Christianity did not assume to meet the need in a way that was acceptable. It was too spiritual and too crucifying to the pride of the natural man to be readily received by the great mass. The heathen world, apart from an elect few, misunderstood its teachings, spurned its offers, and contended fiercely against its evangelism. Nevertheless, Christianity was essentially adapted to meet the needs of which that restless heathen world had an underlying consciousness. It proclaimed the God in whom unlimited confidence could be reposed, and declared the immortal life with an inspiration and authority that had never before been witnessed. Prejudice and carnality were strong to oppose the religion of the Crucified, but the deep needs and aspirations of the age were stronger still to urge its acceptance. The pagan multitudes in the first centuries were much like the stalwart sinner under conviction, --loath to yield to Christ, violent against Him, but still drawn toward Him by pressure of need.