HISTORY of the CHRISTIAN CHURCH*
CHRISTIAN LIFE IN CONTRAST WITH PAGAN CORRUPTION.
§ 88. Literature.
I. Sources: The works of the Apostolic Fathers. The Apologies of Justin. The practical treatises of Tertullian. The Epistles of Cyprian. The Canons of Councils. The Apostolical Constitutions and Canons. The Acts of Martyrs.—On the condition of the Roman Empire: the Histories of Tacitus, Suetonius, and Dion Cassius, the writings of Seneca, Horace, Juvenal, Persius, Martial.
II. Literature: W. Cave: Primitive Christianity, or the Religion of the Ancient Christians in the first ages of the Gospel. London, fifth ed. 1689.
G. Arnold: Erste Liebe, d. i. Wahre Abbildung der ersten Christen nach ihrem lebendigen Glauben und heil. Leben. Frankf. 1696, and often since.
Neander: Denkwürdigkeiten aus der Geschichte des christlichen Lebens (first 1823), vol. i. third ed. Hamb. 1845. The same in English by Ryland: Neander’s Memorials of Christian Life, in Bohn’s Library, 1853.
L. Coleman: Ancient Christianity exemplified in the private, domestic, social, and civil Life of the Primitive Christians, etc. Phil. 1853.
C. Schmidt: Essai historique sur la société dans le monde Romain, et sur la transformation par le Christianisme. Par. 1853. The same transl. into German by A. V. Richard. Leipz. 1857.
E. L. Chastel: Études historiques sur l’influence de la charité durant les Premiers siècles chrét. Par. 1853. Crowned by the French Académe. The same transl. into English (The Charity of the Primitive Churches), by G. A. Matile. Phila. 1857.
A. Fr. Villemain: Nouveaux essais sur l’infl. du Christianisme dans le monde Grec et Latin. Par. 1853.
Benj. Constant Martha (Member of the Académie des sciences morales et politiques, elected in 1872): Les Moralistes sous l’Empire romain. Paris 1854, second ed. 1866 (Crowned by the French Academy).
Fr. J. M. Th. Champagny: Les premiers siècles de la charité. Paris, 1854. Also his work Les Antonins. Paris, 1863, third ed. 1874, 3 vols.
J. Denis: Histoire des theories et des idées morales dans l’antiquité. Paris, 1856, 2 tom.
P. Janet: Histoire de la philosophie morale et politique. Paris, 1858,·2 tom.
G. Ratzinger: Gesch. der kirchlichen Armenpflege. Freib. 1859.
W. E. H. Lecky: History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne. Lond. and N. Y. 1869, 2 vols., 5th ed. Lond. 1882. German transl. by Dr. H. Jalowicz.
Marie-Louis-Gaston Boissier: La Religion romaine d’Auguste aux Antonins. Paris, 1874, 2 vols.
Bestmann: Geschichte der Christlichen Sitte. Nördl. Bd. I. 1880.
W. Gass: Geschichte der christlichen Ethik. Berlin, 1881 (vol. I. 49–107).
G. Uhlhorn: Die christliche Liebesthätigkeit in der alten Kirche. Stuttg. 1881. English translation (Christian Charity in the Ancient Church). Edinb. and N. York, 1883 (424 pages).
Charles L. Brace: Gesta Christi: or a History of humane Progress under Christianity. N. York, 1883 (500 pages).
§ 89. Moral Corruption of the Roman Empire.
Besides the Lit. quoted in § 88, comp. the historical works on the Roman Empire by Gibbon, Merivale, and Ranke; also J. J. A. Ampère’s Histoire Romaine à Rome (1856–64, 4 vols.).
Friedlaender’s Sittengeschichte Roms (from Augustus to the Antonines. Leipzig, 3 vols., 5th ed. 1881); and Marquardt and Mommsen’s Handbuch der römischen Alterthümer (Leipz. 1871, second ed. 1876, 7 vols., divided into Staatsrecht, Staatsverwaltung, Privatleben).
Christianity is not only the revelation of truth, but also the fountain of holiness under the unceasing inspiration of the spotless example of its Founder, which is more powerful than all the systems of moral philosophy. It attests its divine origin as much by its moral workings as by its pure doctrines. By its own inherent energy, without noise and commotion, without the favor of circumstance—nay, in spite of all possible obstacles, it has gradually wrought the greatest moral reformation, we should rather say, regeneration of society which history has ever seen while its purifying, ennobling, and cheering effects upon the private life of countless individuals are beyond the reach of the historian, though recorded in God’s book of life to be opened on the day of judgment.
To appreciate this work, we must first review the moral condition of heathenism in its mightiest embodiment in history.
When Christianity took firm foothold on earth, the pagan civilization and the Roman empire had reached their zenith. The reign of Augustus was the golden age of Roman literature; his successors added Britain and Dacia to the conquests of the Republic; internal organization was perfected by Trajan and the Antonines. The fairest countries of Europe, and a considerable part of Asia and Africa stood under one imperial government with republican forms, and enjoyed a well-ordered jurisdiction. Piracy on the seas was abolished; life and property were secure. Military roads, canals, and the Mediterranean Sea facilitated commerce and travel; agriculture was improved, and all branches of industry flourished. Temples, theatres, aqueducts, public baths, and magnificent buildings of every kind adorned the great cities; institutions of learning disseminated culture; two languages with a classic literature were current in the empire, the Greek in the East, the Latin in the West; the book trade, with the manufacture of paper, was a craft of no small importance, and a library belonged to every respectable house. The book stores and public libraries were in the most lively streets of Rome, and resorted to by literary people. Hundreds of slaves were employed as scribes, who wrote simultaneously at the dictation of one author or reader, and multiplied copies almost as fast as the modern printing press.564 The excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum reveal a high degree of convenience and taste in domestic life even in provincial towns; and no one can look without amazement at the sublime and eloquent ruins of Rome, the palaces of the Caesars, the Mausoleum of Hadrian, the Baths of Caracalla, the Aqueducts, the triumphal arches and columns, above all the Colosseum, built by Vespasian, to a height of one hundred and fifty feet, and for more than eighty thousand spectators. The period of eighty-four years from the accession of Nerva to the death of Marcus Aurelius has been pronounced by high authority "the most happy and prosperous period in the history of the world."565
But this is only a surface view. The inside did not correspond to the outside. Even under the Antonines the majority of men groaned under the yoke of slavery or poverty; gladiatorial shows brutalized the people; fierce wars were raging on the borders of the empire; and the most virtuous and peaceful of subjects—the Christians—had no rights, and were liable at any moment to be thrown before wild beasts, for no other reason than the profession of their religion. The age of the full bloom of the Graeco-Roman power was also the beginning of its decline. This imposing show concealed incurable moral putridity and indescribable wretchedness. The colossal piles of architecture owed their erection to the bloody sweat of innumerable slaves, who were treated no better than so many beasts of burden; on the Flavian amphitheatre alone toiled twelve thousand Jewish prisoners of war; and it was built to gratify the cruel taste of the people for the slaughter of wild animals and human beings made in the image of God. The influx of wealth from conquered nations diffused the most extravagant luxury, which collected for a single meal peacocks from Samos, pike from Pessinus, oysters from Tarentum, dates from Egypt, nuts from Spain, in short the rarest dishes from all parts of the world, and resorted to emetics to stimulate appetite and to lighten the stomach. "They eat," says Seneca, "and then they vomit; they vomit, and then they eat." Apicius, who lived under Tiberius, dissolved pearls in the wine he drank, squandered an enormous fortune on the pleasures of the table, and then committed suicide.566 He found imperial imitators in Vitellius and Heliogabalus (or Elaogabal). A special class of servants, the cosmetes, had charge of the dress, the smoothing of the wrinkles, the setting of the false teeth, the painting of the eye-brows, of wealthy patricians. Hand in hand with this luxury came the vices of natural and even unnatural sensuality, which decency forbids to name. Hopeless poverty stood in crying contrast with immense wealth; exhausted provinces, with revelling cities. Enormous taxes burdened the people, and misery was terribly increased by war, pestilence, and famine. The higher or ruling families were enervated, and were not strengthened or replenished by the lower. The free citizens lost physical and moral vigor, and sank to an inert mass. The third class was the huge body of slaves, who performed all kinds of mechanical labor, even the tilling of the soil, and in times of danger were ready to join the enemies of the empire. A proper middle class of industrious citizens, the only firm basis of a healthy community, cannot coëxist with slavery, which degrades free labor. The army, composed largely of the rudest citizens and of barbarians, was the strength of the nation, and gradually stamped the government with the character of military despotism. The virtues of patriotism, and of good faith in public intercourse, were extinct. The basest avarice, suspicion and envy, usuriousness and bribery, insolence and servility, everywhere prevailed.
The work of demoralizing the people was systematically organized and sanctioned from the highest places downwards. There were, it is true, some worthy emperors of old Roman energy and justice, among whom Trajan, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius stand foremost; all honor to their memory. But the best they could do was to check the process of internal putrefaction, and to conceal the sores for a little while; they could not heal them. Most of the emperors were coarse military despots, and some of them monsters of wickedness. There is scarcely an age in the history of the world, in which so many and so hideous vices disgraced the throne, as in the period from Tiberius to Domitian, and from Commodus to Galerius. "The annals of the emperors," says Gibbon, "exhibit a strong and various picture of human nature, which we should vainly seek among the mixed and doubtful characters of modern history. In the conduct of those monarchs we may trace the utmost lines of vice and virtue; the most exalted perfection and the meanest degeneracy of our own species."567 "Never, probably," says Canon Farrar, "was there any age or any place where the worst forms of wickedness were practised with a more unblushing effrontery than in the city of Rome under the government of the Caesars."568 We may not even except the infamous period of the papal pornocracy, and the reign of Alexander Borgia, which were of short duration, and excited disgust and indignation throughout the church.
The Pagan historians of Rome have branded and immortalized the vices and crimes of the Caesars: the misanthropy, cruelty, and voluptuousness of Tiberius; the ferocious madness of Caius Caligula, who had men tortured, beheaded, or sawed in pieces for his amusement, who seriously meditated the butchery of the whole senate, raised his horse to the dignity of consul and priest, and crawled under the bed in a storm; the bottomless vileness of Nero, "the inventor of crime," who poisoned or murdered his preceptors Burrhus and Seneca, his half-brother and brother-in-law Britannicus, his mother Agrippina, his wife Octavia, his mistress Poppaea, who in sheer wantonness set fire to Rome, and then burnt innocent Christians for it as torches in his gardens, figuring himself as charioteer in the infernal spectacle; the swinish gluttony of Vitellins, who consumed millions of money in mere eating; the refined wickedness of Domitian, who, more a cat than a tiger, amused himself most with the torments of the dying and with catching flies; the shameless revelry of Commodus with his hundreds of concubines, and ferocious passion for butchering men and beasts on the arena; the mad villainy of Heliogabalus, who raised the lowest men to the highest dignities, dressed himself in women’s clothes, married a dissolute boy like himself, in short, inverted all the laws of nature and of decency, until at last he was butchered with his mother by the soldiers, and thrown into the muddy Tiber. And to fill the measure of impiety and wickedness, such imperial monsters were received, after their death, by a formal decree of the Senate, into the number of divinities and their abandoned memory was celebrated by festivals, temples, and colleges of priests! The emperor, in the language of Gibbon, was at once "a priest, an atheist, and a god." Some added to it the dignity of amateur actor and gladiator on the stage. Domitian, even in his lifetime, caused himself to be called "Dominus et Deus noster," and whole herds of animals to be sacrificed to his gold and silver statues. It is impossible to imagine a greater public and official mockery of all religion.
The wives and mistresses of the emperors were not much better. They revelled in luxury and vice, swept through the streets in chariots drawn by silver-shod mules, wasted fortunes on a single dress, delighted in wicked intrigues, aided their husbands in dark crimes and shared at last in their tragic fate, Messalina the wife of Claudius, was murdered by the order of her husband in the midst of her nuptial orgies with one of her favorites; and the younger Agrippina, the mother of Nero, after poisoning her husband, was murdered by her own son, who was equally cruel to his wives, kicking one of them to death when she was in a state of pregnancy. These female monsters were likewise deified, and elevated to the rank of Juno or Venus.
From the higher regions the corruption descended into the masses of the people, who by this time had no sense for anything but "Panem et Circenses," and, in the enjoyment of these, looked with morbid curiosity and interest upon the most flagrant vices of their masters.
No wonder that Tacitus, who with terse eloquence and old Roman severity exposes the monstrous character of Nero and other emperors to eternal infamy, could nowhere, save perhaps among the barbarian Germans, discover a star of hope, and foreboded the fearful vengeance of the gods, and even the speedy destruction of the empire. And certainly nothing could save it from final doom, whose approach was announced with ever-growing distinctness by wars, insurrections, inundations, earthquakes, pestilence, famine, irruption of barbarians, and prophetic calamities of every kind. Ancient Rome, in the slow but certain process of dissolution and decay, teaches the
"... sad moral
of all human tales;
’Tis but the same rehearsal of the past;
First freedom, and
then glory—when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption, barbarism at last."
§ 90. Stoic Morality
ED. Zeller: The Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics. Translated from the German by O. J. Reichel. London (Longman, Green & Co.), 1870. Chs. x-xii treat of the Stoic Ethics and Religion.
F. W. Farrar (Canon of Westminster): Seekers a after God. London (Macmillan & Co.), first ed. n. d. (1869), new ed. 1877 (Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius, 336 pages).
Comp. also the essays on Seneca and Paul by Fleury, Aubertin, Baur, Lightfoot, and Reuss (quoted in vol. I. 283).
Let us now turn to the bright side of heathen morals, as exhibited in the teaching and example of Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Plutarch—three pure and noble characters—one a slave, the second an emperor, the third a man of letters, two of them Stoics, one a Platonist. It is refreshing to look upon a few green spots in the moral desert of heathen Rome. We may trace their virtue to the guidance of conscience (the good demon of Socrates), or to the independent working of the Spirit of God, or to the indirect influence of Christianity, which already began to pervade the moral atmosphere beyond the limits of the visible church, and to infuse into legislation a spirit of humanity and justice unknown before, or to all these causes combined. It is certain that there was in the second century a moral current of unconscious Christianity, which met the stronger religious current of the church and facilitated her ultimate victory.
It is a remarkable fact that two men who represent the extremes of society, the lowest and the highest, were the last and greatest teachers of natural virtue in ancient Rome. They shine like lone stars in the midnight darkness of prevailing corruption. Epictetus the slave, and Marcus Aurelius, the crowned ruler of an empire, are the purest among the heathen moralists, and furnish the strongest "testimonies of the naturally Christian soul."
Both belonged to the school of Zeno.
The Stoic philosophy was born in Greece, but grew into manhood in Rome. It was predestinated for that stern, grave, practical, haughty, self-governing and heroic character which from the banks of the Tiber ruled over the civilized world.569 In the Republican period Cato of Utica lived and died by his own hand a genuine Stoic in practice, without being one in theory. Seneca, the contemporary of St. Paul, was a Stoic in theory, but belied his almost Christian wisdom in practice, by his insatiable avarice, anticipating Francis Bacon as "the wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind."570 Half of his ethics is mere rhetoric. In Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius the Stoic theory and practice met in beautiful harmony, and freed from its most objectionable features. They were the last and the best of that school which taught men to live and to die, and offered an asylum for individual virtue and freedom when the Roman world at large was rotten to the core.
Stoicism is of all ancient systems of philosophy both nearest to, and furthest from, Christianity: nearest in the purity and sublimity of its maxims and the virtues of simplicity, equanimity, self-control, and resignation to an all-wise Providence; furthest in the spirit of pride, self-reliance, haughty contempt, and cold indifference. Pride is the basis of Stoic virtue, while humility is the basis of Christian holiness; the former is inspired by egotism, the latter by love to God and man; the Stoic feels no need of a Saviour, and calmly resorts to suicide when the house smokes; while the Christian life begins with a sense of sin, and ends with triumph over death; the resignation of the Stoic is heartless apathy and a surrender to the iron necessity of fate; the resignation of the Christian, is cheerful submission to the will of an all-wise and all-merciful Father in heaven; the Stoic sage resembles a cold, immovable statue, the Christian saint a living body, beating in hearty sympathy with every joy and grief of his fellow-men. At best, Stoicism is only a philosophy for the few, while Christianity is a religion for all.
§ 91. Epictetus.
Epicteti. Dissertationum ab Arriano digestarum Libri IV. Euiusdem Enchiridion et ex deperditis Sermonibus Fragmenta ... recensuit ... Joh. Schweighäuser. Lips. 1799, 1800. 5 vols. The Greek text with a Latin version and notes.
The Works of Epictetus. Consisting of his Discourses, in four books, the Enchiridion, and Fragments. A translation from the Greek, based on that of Mrs. Elizabeth Carter, by Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Boston (Little, Brown & Co.), 1865. A fourth ed. of Mrs. Carter’s translation was published in 1807 with introduction and notes.
The Discourses of Epictetus, with the Enchiridion and Fragments. Translated, with Notes, etc., by George Long. London (George Bell & Sons), 1877.
There are also other English, as well as German and French, versions.
Epictetus was born before the middle of the first century, at Hierapolis, a city in Phrygia, a few miles from Colossae and Laodicea, well known to us from apostolic history. He was a compatriot and contemporary of Epaphras, a pupil of Paul, and founder of Christian churches in that province.571 There is a bare possibility that he had a passing acquaintance with him, if not with Paul himself. He came as a slave to Rome with his master, Epaphroditus, a profligate freedman and favorite of Nero (whom he aided in committing suicide), and was afterwards set at liberty. He rose above his condition. "Freedom and slavery," he says in one of his Fragments, "are but names of virtue and of vice, and both depend upon the will. No one is a slave whose will is free." He was lame in one foot and in feeble health. The lameness, if we are to credit the report of Origen, was the result of ill treatment, which he bore heroically. When his master put his leg in the torture, he quietly said: "You will break my leg;" and when the leg was broken, he added: "Did I not tell you so?" This reminds one of Socrates who is reported to have borne a scolding and subsequent shower from Xantippe with the cool remark: After the thunder comes the rain. Epictetus heard the lectures of Musonius Rufus, a distinguished teacher of the Stoic philosophy under Nero and Vespasian, and began himself to teach. He was banished from Rome by Domitian, with all other philosophers, before a.d. 90. He settled for the rest of his life in Nicopolis, in Southern Epirus, not far from the scene of the battle of Actium. There he gathered around him a large body of pupils, old and young, rich and poor, and instructed them, as a second Socrates, by precept and example, in halls and public places. The emperor Hadrian is reported to have invited him back to Rome (117), but in vain. The date of his death is unknown.
Epictetus led from principle and necessity a life of poverty and extreme simplicity, after the model of Diogenes, the arch-Cynic. His only companions were an adopted child with a nurse. His furniture consisted of a bed, a cooking vessel and earthen lamp. Lucian ridicules one of his admirers, who bought the lamp for three thousand drachmas, in the hope of becoming a philosopher by using it. Epictetus discouraged marriage and the procreation of children. Marriage might do well in a "community of wise men," but "in the present state of things," which he compared to "an army in battle array," it is likely to withdraw the philosopher from the service of God.572 This view, as well as the reason assigned, resembles the advice of St. Paul, with the great difference, that the apostle had the highest conception of the institution of marriage as reflecting the mystery of Christ’s union with the church. "Look at me," says Epictetus, "who am without a city, without a house, without possessions, without a slave; I sleep on the ground; I have no wife, no children, no praetorium, but only the earth and the heavens, and one poor cloak. And what do I want? Am I not without sorrow? Am I not without fear? Am I not free? ... Did I ever blame God or man? ... Who, when he sees me, does not think that he sees his king and master?" His epitaph fitly describes his character: "I was Epictetus, a slave, and maimed in body, and a beggar for poverty, and dear to the immortals."
Epictetus, like Socrates, his great exemplar, wrote nothing himself, but he found a Xenophon. His pupil and friend, Flavius Arrianus, of Nicomedia, in Bithynia, the distinguished historian of Alexander the Great, and a soldier and statesman under Hadrian, handed to posterity a report of the oral instructions and familiar conversations (diatribaiv) of his teacher. Only four of the original eight books remain. He also collected his chief maxims in a manual (Enchiridion). His biography of that remarkable man is lost.
Epictetus starts, like Zeno and Cleanthes, with a thoroughly practical view of philosophy, as the art and exercise of virtue, in accordance with reason and the laws of nature. He bases virtue on faith in God, as the supreme power of the universe, who directs all events for benevolent purposes. The philosopher is a teacher of righteousness, a physician and surgeon of the sick who feel their weakness, and are anxious to be cured. He is a priest and messenger of the gods to erring men, that they might learn to be happy even in utter want of earthly possessions. If we wish to be good, we must first believe that we are bad. Mere knowledge without application to life is worthless. Every man has a guardian spirit, a god within him who never sleeps, who always keeps him company, even in solitude; this is the Socratic daimonion, the personified conscience. We must listen to its divine voice. "Think of God more often than you breathe. Let discourse of God be renewed daily, more surely than your food." The sum of wisdom is to desire nothing but freedom and contentment, and to bear and forbear. All unavoidable evil in the world is only apparent and external, and does not touch our being. Our happiness depends upon our own will, which even Zeus cannot break. The wise man joyously acquiesces in what he cannot control, knowing that an all-wise Father rules the whole. "We ought to have these two rules always in readiness: that there is nothing good or evil except in the will; and that we ought not to lead events, but to follow them."573 If a brother wrongs me, that is his fault; my business is to conduct myself rightly towards him. The wise man is not disturbed by injury and injustice, and loves even his enemies. All men are brethren and children of God. They own the whole world; and hence even banishment is no evil. The soul longs to be freed from the prison house of the body and to return to God.
Yet Epictetus does not clearly teach the immortality of the soul. He speaks of death as a return to the elements in successive conflagrations. Seneca approaches much more nearly the Platonic and Socratic, we may say Christian, view of immortality. The prevailing theory of the Stoics was, that at the end of the world all individual souls will be resolved into the primary substance of the Divine Being.574
Epictetus nowhere alludes directly to Christianity, but he speaks once of "Galileans," who by enthusiasm or madness were free from all fear.575 He often recurs to his predecessors, Socrates, Diogenes, Zeno, Musonius Rufus. His ethical ideal is a cynic philosopher, naked, penniless, wifeless, childless, without want or desire, without passion or temper, kindly, independent, contented, imperturbable, looking serenely or indifferently at life and death. It differs as widely from the true ideal as Diogenes who lived in a tub, and sought with a lantern in daylight for "a man," differs from Christ who, indeed, had not where to lay his head, but went about doing good to the bodies and souls of men.
Owing to the purity of its morals, the Enchiridion of Epictetus was a favorite book. Simplicius, a Neo-Platonist, wrote an elaborate commentary on it; and monks in the middle ages reproduced and Christianized it. Origen thought Epictetus had done more good than Plato. Niebuhr says: "His greatness cannot be questioned, and it is impossible for any person of sound mind not to be charmed by his works." Higginson says: "I am acquainted with no book more replete with high conceptions of the deity and noble aims of man." This is, of course, a great exaggeration, unless the writer means to confine his comparison to heathen works.
§ 92. Marcus Aurelius.
Mavrkou jAntonivnou tou' aujtokravtoro" tw'n eij" eJauto;n bibliva ib j(De Rebus suis libri xii). Ed. by Thomas Gataker, with a Latin Version and Notes (including those of Casaubon). Trajecti ad Rhenum, 1697, 2 vols. fol. The second vol. contains critical dissertations. (The first ed. appeared at Cambridge, 1652, in 1 vol.) English translation by George Long, revised ed. London, 1880.
See the liter. quoted in § 20, above (especially Renan’s Marc. Auréle, 1882).
Marcus Aurelius, the last and best representative of Stoicism, ruled the Roman Empire for twenty years (a.d. 161–180) at the height of its power and prosperity. He was born April 26, 121, in Rome, and carefully educated and disciplined in Stoic wisdom. Hadrian admired him for his good nature, docility, and veracity, and Antoninus Pius adopted him as his son and successor. He learned early to despise the vanities of the world, maintained the simplicity of a philosopher in the splendor of the court, and found time for retirement and meditation amid the cares of government and border wars, in which he was constantly engaged. Epictetus was his favorite author. He left us his best thoughts, a sort of spiritual autobiography, in the shape of a diary which he wrote, not without some self-complacency, for his own improvement and enjoyment during the last years of his life (172–175) in the military camp among the barbarians. He died in Panonia of the pestilence which raged in the army (March 17, 180).576 His last words were: "Weep not for me, weep over the pestilence and the general misery,577 and save the army. Farewell!" He dismissed his servants and friends, even his son, after a last interview, and died alone.
The philosophic emperor was a sincere believer in the gods, their revelations and all-ruling providence. His morality and religion were blended. But he had no clear views of the divinity. He alternately uses the language of the polytheist, the deist, and the pantheist. He worshipped the deity of the universe and in his own breast. He thanks the gods for his good parents and teachers, for his pious mother, for a wife, whom he blindly praises as "amiable, affectionate, and pure," and for all the goods of life. His motto was "never to wrong any man in deed or word."578 He claimed no perfection, yet was conscious of his superiority, and thankful to the gods that he was better than other men. He traced the sins of men merely to ignorance and error. He was mild, amiable, and gentle; in these respects the very reverse of a hard and severe Stoic, and nearly approaching a disciple of Jesus. We must admire his purity, truthfulness, philanthropy, conscientious devotion to duty, his serenity of mind in the midst of the temptations of power and severe domestic trials, and his resignation to the will of providence. He was fully appreciated in his time, and universally beloved by his subjects. We may well call him among the heathen the greatest and best man of his age.579 "It seems" (says an able French writer, Martha), "that in him the philosophy of heathenism grows less proud, draws nearer and nearer to a Christianity which it ignored or which it despised, and is ready to fling itself into the arms of the ’Unknown God.’ In the sad Meditations of Aurelius we find a pure serenity, sweetness, and docility to the commands of God, which before him were unknown, and which Christian grace has alone surpassed. If he has not yet attained to charity in all that fullness of meaning which Christianity has given to the world, he already gained its unction, and one cannot read his book, unique in the history of Pagan philosophy, without thinking of the sadness of Pascal and the gentleness of Fénélon."
The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius are full of beautiful moral maxims, strung together without system. They bear a striking resemblance to Christian ethics. They rise to a certain universalism and humanitarianism which is foreign to the heathen spirit, and a prophecy of a new age, but could only be realized on a Christian basis. Let us listen to some of his most characteristic sentiments:
"It is sufficient to attend to the demon [the good genius] within, and to reverence it sincerely. And reverence for the demon consists in keeping it pure from passion and thoughtlessness and dissatisfaction with what comes from God and men."580 "Do not act as if thou wert going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over thee. While thou livest, while it is in thy power, be good."581 "Do not disturb thyself. Make thyself all simplicity. Does any one do wrong? It is to himself that he does the wrong. Has anything happened to thee? Well; out of the universe from the beginning everything which happens has been apportioned and spun out to thee. In a word, thy life is short. Thou must turn to profit the present by the aid of reason and justice. Be sober in thy relaxation. Either it is a well-arranged universe or a chaos huddled together, but still a universe."582 "A man must stand erect, and not be kept erect by others ."583 Have I done something for the general interest? Well, then, I have had my reward. Let this always be present to my mind, and never stop [doing good]."584 "What is thy art? to be good."585 "It is a man’s duty to comfort himself and to wait for the natural dissolution, and not to be vexed at the delay."586 "O Nature: from thee are all things, in thee are all things, to thee all things return."587 "Willingly give thyself up to Clotho" [one of the fates], "allowing her to spin thy thread into whatever things she pleases. Every thing is only for a day, both that which remembers and that which is remembered."588 "Consider that before long thou wilt be nobody and nowhere, nor will any of the things exist which thou now seest, nor any of those who are now living. For all things are formed by nature to change and be turned, and to perish, in order that other things in continuous succession may exist."589 "It is best to leave this world as early as possible, and to bid it friendly farewell."590
These reflections are pervaded by a tone of sadness; they excite emotion, but no enthusiasm; they have no power to console, but leave an aching void, without hope of an immortality, except a return to the bosom of mother nature. They are the rays of a setting, not of a rising, sun; they are the swansong of dying Stoicism. The end of that noble old Roman was virtually the end of the antique world.591
The cosmopolitan philosophy of Marcus Aurelius had no sympathy with Christianity, and excluded from its embrace the most innocent and most peaceful of his subjects. He makes but one allusion to the Christians, and unjustly traces their readiness for martyrdom to "sheer obstinacy" and a desire for "theatrical display."592 He may have had in view some fanatical enthusiasts who rushed into the fire, like Indian gymnosophists, but possibly such venerable martyrs as Polycarp and those of Southern Gaul in his own reign. Hence the strange phenomenon that the wisest and best of Roman emperors permitted (we cannot say, instigated, or even authorized) some of the most cruel persecutions of Christians, especially in Lugdunum and Vienne. We readily excuse him on the ground of ignorance. He probably never saw the Sermon on the Mount, nor read any of the numerous Apologies addressed to him.
But persecution is not the only blot on his reputation. He wasted his affections upon a vicious and worthless son, whom he raised in his fourteenth year to full participation of the imperial power, regardless of the happiness of millions, and upon a beautiful but faithless and wicked wife, whom he hastened after her death to cover with divine honors. His conduct towards Faustina was either hypocritical or unprincipled.593 After her death he preferred a concubine to a second wife and stepmother of his children.
His son and successor left the Christians in peace, but was one of the worst emperors that disgraced the throne, and undid all the good which his father had done.594
Aristotle was the teacher of Alexander; Seneca, the teacher of Nero; Marcus Aurelius, the father of Commodus.
§ 93. Plutarch.
Ploutavrcou tou' Cairwnevw" ta; jHqikav. Ed. Tauchnitz Lips. The same with a Latin version and notes in
Plutarchi Chaeronensis Moralia, id est, Opera, exceptis vitis, reliqua. Ed. by Daniel Wyttenbach. Oxon. 1795–1800, 8 vols. (including 2 Index vols.). French ed. by Dübner, in the Didot collection.
Plutarch’s Morals. Translated from the Greek by several Hands. London, 1684–’94, 5th ed. 1718. The same as corrected and revised by William W. Goodwin (Harvard University). With an introduction by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Boston, 1870, 5 vols.
Octave Greard: De la moralité de Plutarque. Paris, 1866.
Richard Chenevix Trench (Archbishop of Dublin): Plutarch, his life, his Parallel Lives, and his Morals. London (Macmillan & Co.), 2nd ed. 1874.
W. Möller: Ueber die Religion des Plutarch. Kiel, 1881.
Julia Wedgwood: Plutarch and the unconscious Christianity of the first two centuries. In the "Contemporary Review" for 1881, pp. 44–60.
Equally remarkable, as a representative of "unconscious Christianity" and "seeker after the unknown God" though from a different philosophical standpoint, is the greatest biographer and moralist of classical antiquity.
It is strange that Plutarch’s contemporaries are silent about him. His name is not even mentioned by any Roman writer. What we know of him is gathered from his own works. He lived between a.d. 50 and 125, mostly in his native town of Chaeroneia, in Boeotia, as a magistrate and priest of Apollos. He was happily married, and had four sons and a daughter, who died young. His Conjugal Precepts are full of good advice to husbands and wives. The letter of consolation he addressed to his wife on the death of a little daughter, Timoxena, while she was absent from home, gives us a favorable impression of his family life, and expresses his hope of immortality. "The souls of infants," he says at the close of this letter, "pass immediately into a better and more divine state." He spent some time in Rome (at least twice, probably under Vespasian and Domitian), lectured on moral philosophy to select audiences, and collected material for his Parallel Lives of Greeks and Romans. He was evidently well-bred, in good circumstances, familiar with books, different countries, and human nature and society in all its phases. In his philosophy he stands midway between Platonism and Neo-Platonism. He was "a Platonist with an Oriental tinge."595 He was equally opposed to Stoic pantheism and Epicurean naturalism, and adopted the Platonic dualism of God and matter. He recognized a supreme God, and also the subordinate divinities of the Hellenic religion. The gods are good, the demons are divided between good and bad, the human soul combines both qualities. He paid little attention to metaphysics, and dwelt more on the practical questions of philosophy, dividing his labors between historical and moral topics. He was an utter stranger to Christianity, and therefore neither friendly nor hostile. There is in all his numerous writings not a single allusion to it, although at his time there must have been churches in every considerable city of the empire. He often speaks of Judaism, but very superficially, and may have regarded Christianity as a Jewish sect. But his moral philosophy makes a very near approach to Christian ethics.
His aim, as a writer, was to show the greatness in the acts and in the thoughts of the ancients, the former in his "Parallel Lives," the latter in his "Morals," and by both to inspire his contemporaries to imitation. They constitute together an encyclopaedia of well-digested Greek and Roman learning. He was not a man of creative genius, but of great talent, extensive information, amiable, spirit, and universal sympathy. Emerson calls him "the chief example of the illumination of the intellect by the force of morals."596
Plutarch endeavored to build up morality on the basis of religion. He is the very opposite of Lucian, who as an architect of ruin, ridiculed and undermined the popular religion. He was a strong believer in God, and his argument against atheism is well worth quoting." There has never been," he says, "a state of atheists. You may travel over the world, and you may find cities without walls, without king, without mint, without theatre or gymnasium; but you will never find a city without God, without prayer, without oracle, without sacrifice. Sooner may a city stand without foundations, than a state without belief in the gods. This is the bond of all society and the pillar of all legislation."597
In his treatise on The Wrong Fear of the Gods, he contrasts superstition with atheism as the two extremes which often meet, and commends piety or the right reverence of the gods as the golden mean. Of the two extremes he deems superstition the worse, because it makes the gods capricious, cruel, and revengeful, while they are friends of men, saviours (swth're"), and not destroyers. (Nevertheless superstitious people can more easily be converted to true faith than atheists who have destroyed all religious instincts.)
His remarkable treatise on The Delays of Divine Justice in punishing the wicked,598 would do credit to any Christian theologian. It is his solution of the problem of evil, or his theodicy. He discusses the subject with several of his relatives (as Job did with his friends), and illustrates it by examples. He answers the various objections which arise from the delay of justice and vindicates Providence in his dealings with the sinner. He enjoins first modesty and caution in view of our imperfect knowledge. God only knows best when and how and how much to punish. He offers the following considerations: 1) God teaches us to moderate our anger, and never to punish in a passion, but to imitate his gentleness and forbearance. 2) He gives the wicked an opportunity to repent and reform. 3) He permits them to live and prosper that he may use them as executioners of his justice on others. He often punishes the sinner by the sinner. 4) The wicked are sometimes spared that they may bless the world by a noble posterity. 5) Punishment is often deferred that the hand of Providence may be more conspicuous in its infliction. Sooner or later sin will be punished, if not in this world, at least in the future world, to which Plutarch points as the final solution of the mysteries of Providence. He looked upon death as a good thing for the good soul, which shall then live indeed; while the present life "resembles rather the vain illusions of some dream."
The crown of Plutarch’s character is his humility, which was so very rare among ancient philosophers, especially the Stoics, and which comes from true self-knowledge. He was aware of the native depravity of the soul, which he calls "a storehouse and treasure of many evils and maladies."599 Had he known the true and radical remedy for sin, he would no doubt have accepted it with gratitude.
We do not know how far the influence of these saints of ancient paganism, as we may call Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Plutarch, extended over the heathens of their age, but we do know that their writings had and still have an elevating and ennobling effect upon Christian readers, and hence we may infer that their teaching and example were among the moral forces that aided rather than hindered the progress and final triumph of Christianity. But this religion alone could bring about such a general and lasting moral reform as they themselves desired.
§ 94. Christian Morality.
The ancient world of classic heathenism, having arrived at the height of its glory, and at the threshold of its decay, had exhausted all the resources of human nature left to itself, and possessed no recuperative force, no regenerative principle. A regeneration of society could only proceed from religion. But the heathen religion had no restraint for vice, no comfort for the poor and oppressed; it was itself the muddy fountain of immorality. God, therefore, who in his infinite mercy desired not the destruction but the salvation of the race, opened in the midst of this hopeless decay of a false religion a pure fountain of holiness, love, and peace, in the only true and universal religion of his Son Jesus Christ.
In the cheerless waste of pagan corruption the small and despised band of Christians was an oasis fresh with life and hope. It was the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. Poor in this world’s goods, it bore the imperishable treasures of’ the kingdom of heaven. Meek and lowly in heart, it was destined, according to the promise of the Lord without a stroke of the sword, to inherit the earth. In submission it conquered; by suffering and death it won the crown of life.
The superiority of the principles of Christian ethics over the heathen standards of morality even under its most favorable forms is universally admitted. The superiority of the example of Christ over all the heathen sages is likewise admitted. The power of that peerless example was and is now as great as the power of his teaching. It is reflected in every age and every type of purity and goodness. But every period, while it shares in the common virtues and graces, has its peculiar moral physiognomy. The ante-Nicene age excelled in unworldliness, in the heroic endurance of suffering and persecution, in the contempt of death, and the hope of resurrection, in the strong sense of community, and in active benevolence.
Christianity, indeed, does not come "with observation." Its deepest workings are silent and inward. The operations of divine grace commonly shun the notice of the historian, and await their revelation on the great day of account, when all that is secret shall be made known. Who can measure the depth and breadth of all those blessed experiences of forgiveness, peace, gratitude, trust in God, love for God and love for man, humility and meekness, patience and resignation, which have bloomed as vernal flowers on the soil of the renewed heart since the first Christian Pentecost? Who can tell the number and the fervor of Christian prayers and intercessions which have gone up from lonely chambers, caves, deserts, and martyrs’ graves in the silent night and the open day, for friends and foes, for all classes of mankind, even for cruel persecutors, to the throne of the exalted Saviour? But where this Christian life has taken root in the depths of the soul it must show itself in the outward conduct, and exert an elevating influence on every calling and sphere of action. The Christian morality surpassed all that the noblest philosophers of heathendom had ever taught or labored for as the highest aim of man. The masterly picture of it in the anonymous Epistle to Diognetus is no mere fancy sketch, but a faithful copy from real life.600
When the apologists indignantly repel the heathen calumnies, and confidently point to the unfeigned piety, the brotherly love, the love for enemies, the purity and chastity, the faithfulness and integrity, the patience and gentleness, of the confessors of the name of Jesus, they speak from daily experience and personal observation. "We, who once served lust," could Justin Martyr say without exaggeration, "now find our delight only in pure morals; we, who once followed sorcery, have now consecrated ourselves to the eternal good God; we, who once loved gain above all, now give up what we have for the common use, and share with every needy one; we, who once hated and killed each other; we, who would have no common hearth with foreigners for difference of customs, now, since the appearance of Christ, live with them, pray for our enemies, seek to convince those who hate us without cause, that they may regulate their life according to the glorious teaching of Christ, and receive from the all-ruling God the same blessings with ourselves." Tertullian could boast that he knew no Christians who suffered by the hand of the executioner, except for their religion. Minutius Felix tells the heathens601: "You prohibit adultery by law, and practise it in secret; you punish wickedness only in the overt act; we look upon it as criminal even in thought. You dread the inspection of others; we stand in awe of nothing but our own consciences as becomes Christians. And finally your prisons are overflowing with criminals; but they are all heathens, not a Christian is there, unless he be an apostate." Even Pliny informed Trajan, that the Christians, whom he questioned on the rack respecting the character of their religion, had bound themselves by an oath never to commit theft, robbery, nor adultery, nor to break their word and this, too at a time when the sins of fraud, uncleanness and lasciviousness of every form abounded all around. Another heathen, Lucian, bears testimony to their benevolence and charity for their brethren in distress, while he attempts to ridicule this virtue as foolish weakness in an age of unbounded selfishness.
The humble and painful condition of the church under civil oppression made hypocrisy more rare than in times of peace, and favored the development of the heroic virtues. The Christians delighted to regard themselves as soldiers of Christ, enlisted under the victorious standard of the cross against sin, the world, and the devil. The baptismal vow was their oath of perpetual allegiance;602 the Apostles’ creed their parole;603 the sign of the cross upon the forehead, their mark of service;604 temperance, courage, and faithfulness unto death, their cardinal virtues; the blessedness of heaven, their promised reward. "No soldier," exclaims Tertullian to the Confessors, "goes with his sports or from his bed-chamber to the battle; but from the camp, where he hardens and accustoms himself to every inconvenience. Even in peace warriors learn to bear labor and fatigue, going through all military exercises, that neither soul nor body may flag .... Ye wage a good warfare, in which the living God is the judge of the combat, the Holy Spirit the leader, eternal glory the prize." To this may be added the eloquent passage of Minutius Felix605: "How fair a spectacle in the sight of God is a Christian entering the lists with affliction, and with noble firmness combating menaces and tortures, or with a disdainful smile marching to death through the clamors of the people, and the insults of the executioners; when he bravely maintains his liberty against kings and princes, and submits to God, whose servant he is; when, like a conqueror, he triumphs over the judge that condemns him. For he certainly is victorious who obtains what he fights for. He fights under the eye of God, and is crowned with length of days. You have exalted some of your stoical sufferers to the skies; such as Scaevola who, having missed his aim in an attempt to kill the king voluntarily burned the mistaking hand. Yet how many among us have suffered not only the hand, but the whole body to be consumed without a complaint, when their deliverance was in their own power! But why should I compare our elders with your Mutius, or Aquilius, or Regulus, when our very children, our sons and daughters, inspired with patience, despise your racks and wild beasts, and all other instruments of cruelty? Surely nothing but the strongest reasons could persuade people to suffer at this rate; and nothing else but Almighty power could support them under their sufferings."
Yet, on the other hand, the Christian life of the period before Constantine has been often unwarrantably idealized. In a human nature essentially the same, we could but expect the same faults which we found even in the apostolic churches. The Epistles of Cyprian afford incontestable evidence, that, especially in the intervals of repose, an abatement of zeal soon showed itself, and, on the reopening of persecution, the Christian name was dishonored by hosts of apostates. And not seldom did the most prominent virtues, courage in death, and strictness of morals, degenerate into morbid fanaticism and unnatural rigor.
§ 95. The Church and Public Amusements.
Tertullian: De Spectaculis. On the Roman Spectacles see the abundant references in Friedlaender, II. 255–580 (5th ed.)
Christianity is anything but sanctimonious gloominess and misanthropic austerity. It is the fountain of true joy, and of that peace which "passeth all understanding." But this joy wells up from the consciousness of pardon and of fellowship with God, is inseparable from holy earnestness, and has no concord with worldly frivolity and sensual amusement, which carry the sting of a bad conscience, and beget only disgust and bitter remorse. "What is more blessed," asks Tertullian, "than reconciliation with God our Father and Lord; than the revelation of the truth, the knowledge of error; than the forgiveness of so great past misdeeds? Is there a greater joy than the disgust with earthly pleasure, than contempt for the whole world, than true freedom, than an unstained conscience, than contentment in life and fearlessness in death?"
Contrast with this the popular amusements of the heathen: the theatre, the circus, and the arena. They were originally connected with the festivals of the gods, but had long lost their religious character and degenerated into nurseries of vice. The theatre, once a school of public morals in the best days of Greece, when Aeschylos and Sophocles furnished the plays, had since the time of Augustus room only for low comedies and unnatural tragedies, with splendid pageantry, frivolous music, and licentious dances.606 Tertullian represents it as the temple of Venus and Bacchus, who are close allies as patrons of lust and drunkenness.607 The circus was devoted to horse and chariot races, hunts of wild beasts, military displays and athletic games, and attracted immense multitudes. "The impatient crowd," says the historian of declining Rome608 "rushed at the dawn of day to secure their places, and there were many who passed a sleepless and anxious night in the adjacent porticos. From the morning to the evening careless of the sun or of the rain, the spectators, who sometimes amounted to the number of four hundred thousand, remained in eager attention; their eyes fixed on the horses and charioteers, their minds agitated with hope and fear for the success of the colors which they espoused; and the happiness of Rome appeared to hang on the event of a race. The same immoderate ardor inspired their clamors and their applause as often as they were entertained with the hunting of wild beasts and the various modes of theatrical representation."
The most popular, and at the same time the most inhuman and brutalizing of these public spectacles were the gladiatorial fights in the arena. There murder was practised as an art, from sunrise to sunset, and myriads of men and beasts were sacrificed to satisfy a savage curiosity and thirst for blood. At the inauguration of the Flavian amphitheatre from five to nine thousand wild beasts (according to different accounts) were slain in one day. No less than ten thousand gladiators fought in the feasts which Trajan gave to the Romans after the conquest of Dacia, and which lasted four months (a.d. 107). Under Probus (a.d. 281) as many as a hundred lions, a hundred lionesses, two hundred leopards, three hundred bears, and a thousand wild boars were massacred in a single day.609 The spectacles of the worthless Carinus (284) who selected his favorites and even his ministers from the dregs of the populace, are said to have surpassed those of all his predecessors. The gladiators were condemned criminals, captives of war, slaves, and professional fighters; in times of persecution innocent Christians were not spared, but thrown before lions and tigers. Painted savages from Britain, blonde Germans from the Rhine and Danube, negroes from Africa, and wild beasts, then much more numerous than now, from all parts of the world, were brought to the arena. Domitian arranged fights of dwarfs and women.
The emperors patronized these various spectacles as the surest means of securing the favor of the people, which clamored for "Panem et Circenses." Enormous sums were wasted on them from the public treasury and private purses. Augustus set the example. Nero was so extravagantly liberal in this direction that the populace forgave his horrible vices, and even wished his return from death. The parsimonious Vespasian built the most costly and colossal amphitheatre the world has ever seen, incrusted with marble, decorated with statues, and furnished with gold, silver, and amber. Titus presented thousands of Jewish captives after the capture of Jerusalem to the provinces of the East for slaughter in the arena. Even Trajan and Marcus Aurelius made bountiful provision for spectacles, and the latter, Stoic as he was, charged the richest senators to gratify the public taste during his absence from Rome. Some emperors as Nero, Commodus, and Caracalla, were so lost to all sense of dignity and decency that they delighted and gloried in histrionic and gladiatorial performances. Nero died by his own hand, with the explanation: "What an artist perishes in me." Commodus appeared no less than seven hundred and thirty-five times on the stage in the character of Hercules, with club and lion’s skin, and from a secure position killed countless beasts and men.
The theatrical passion was not confined to Rome, it spread throughout the provinces. Every considerable city had an amphitheatre, and that was the most imposing building, as may be seen to this day in the ruins at Pompeii, Capua, Puteoli, Verona, Nismes, Autun (Augustodunum), and other places.610
Public opinion favored these demoralizing amusements almost without a dissenting voice.611 Even such a noble heathen as Cicero commended them as excellent schools of courage and contempt of death. Epictetus alludes to them with indifference. Seneca is the only Roman author who, in one of his latest writings, condemned the bloody spectacles from the standpoint of humanity, but without effect. Paganism had no proper conception of the sanctity of human life; and even the Stoic philosophy, while it might disapprove of bloody games as brutal and inhuman, did not condemn them as the sin of murder.
To this gigantic evil the Christian church opposed an inexorable Puritanic rigor in the interest of virtue and humanity. No compromise was possible with such shocking public immorality. Nothing would do but to flee from it and to warn against it. The theatrical spectacles were included in "the pomp of the devil," which Christians renounced at their baptism. They were forbidden, on pain of excommunication, to attend them. It sometimes happened that converts, who were overpowered by their old habits and visited the theatre, either relapsed into heathenism, or fell for a long time into a state of deep dejection. Tatianus calls the spectacles terrible feasts, in which the soul feeds on human flesh and blood. Tertullian attacked them without mercy, even before he joined the rigorous Montanists. He reminds the catechumens, who were about to consecrate themselves to the service of God, that "the condition of faith and the laws of Christian discipline forbid, among other sins of the world, the pleasures of the public shows." They excite, he says, all sorts of wild and impure passions, anger, fury, and lust; while the spirit of Christianity is a spirit of meekness, peace, and purity." What a man should not say he should not hear. All licentious speech, nay, every idle word is condemned by God. The things which defile a man in going out of his mouth, defile him also when they go in at his eyes and ears. The true wrestlings of the Christian are to overcome unchastity by chastity, perfidy by faithfulness, cruelty by compassion and charity." Tertullian refutes the arguments with which loose Christians would plead for those fascinating amusements; their appeals to the silence of the Scriptures, or even to the dancing of David before the ark, and to Paul’s comparison of the Christian life with the Grecian games. He winds up with a picture of the fast approaching day of judgment, to which we should look forward. He inclined strongly to the extreme view, that all art is a species of fiction and falsehood, and inconsistent with Christian truthfulness. In two other treatises612 he warned the Christian women against all display of dress, in which the heathen women shone in temples, theatres, and public places. Visit not such places, says he to them, and appear in public only for earnest reasons. The handmaids of God must distinguish themselves even outwardly from the handmaids of Satan, and set the latter a good example of simplicity, decorum, and chastity.
The opposition of the Church had, of course, at first only a moral effect, but in the fourth century it began to affect legislation, and succeeded at last in banishing at least the bloody gladiatorial games from the civilized world (with the single exception of Spain and the South American countries, which still disgrace themselves by bull-fights). Constantine, even as late as 313, committed a great multitude of defeated barbarians to the wild beasts for the amusement of the people, and was highly applauded for this generous act by a heathen orator; but after the Council of Nicaea, in 325, he issued the first prohibition of those bloody spectacles in times of peace, and kept them out of Constantinople.613 "There is scarcely," says a liberal historian of moral progress, "any other single reform so important in the moral history of mankind as the suppression of the gladiatorial shows, and this feat must be almost exclusively ascribed to the Christian church. When we remember how extremely few of the best and greatest men of the Roman world had absolutely condemned the games of the amphitheatre, it is impossible to regard, without the deepest admiration, the unwavering and uncompromising consistency of the patristic denunciations."614
§ 96. Secular Callings and Civil Duties.
As to the various callings of life, Christianity gives the instruction: "Let each man abide in that calling wherein he was called."615 It forbids no respectable pursuit, and only requires that it be followed in a new spirit to the glory of God and the benefit of men. This is one proof of its universal application—its power to enter into all the relations of human life and into all branches of society, under all forms of government. This is beautifully presented by the unknown author of the Epistle to Diognetus. Tertullian protests to the heathens:616 "We are no Brahmins nor Indian gymnosophists, no hermits, no exiles from life.617 We are mindful of the thanks we owe to God, our Lord and Creator; we despise not the enjoyment of his works; we only temper it, that we may avoid excess and abuse. We dwell, therefore, with you in this world, not without markets and fairs, not without baths, inns, shops, and every kind of intercourse. We carry on commerce and war,618 agriculture and trade with you. We take part in your pursuits, and give our labor for your use."
But there were at that time some callings which either ministered solely to sinful gratification, like that, of the stage-player, or were intimately connected with the prevailing idolatry, like the manufacture, decoration, and sale of mythological images and symbols, the divination of astrologers, and all species of magic. These callings were strictly forbidden in the church, and must be renounced by the candidate for baptism. Other occupations, which were necessary indeed, but commonly perverted by the heathens to fraudulent purposes—inn-keeping, for example—were elevated by the Christian spirit. Theodotus at Ancyra made his house a refuge for the Christians and a place of prayer in the Diocletian persecution, in which he himself suffered martyrdom.
In regard to military and civil offices under the heathen government, opinion was divided. Some, on the authority of such passages as Matt. 5:39 and 26:52, condemned all war as unchristian and immoral; anticipating the views of the Mennonites and Friends. Others appealed to the good centurion of Capernaum and Cornelius of Caesarea, and held the military life consistent with a Christian profession. The tradition of the legio fulminatrix indicates that there were Christian soldiers in the Roman armies under Marcus Aurelius, and at the time of Diocletian the number of Christians at the court and in civil office was very considerable.
But in general the Christians of those days, with their lively sense of foreignness to this world, and their longing for the heavenly home, or the millennial reign of Christ, were averse to high office in a heathen state. Tertullian expressly says, that nothing was more alien to them than politics.619 Their conscience required them to abstain scrupulously from all idolatrous usages, sacrifices, libations, and flatteries connected with public offices; and this requisition must have come into frequent collision with their duties to the state, so long as the state remained heathen. They honored the emperor as appointed to earthly government by God, and as standing nearest of all men to him in power; and they paid their taxes, as Justin Martyr expressly states, with exemplary faithfulness. But their obedience ceased whenever the emperor, as he frequently did, demanded of them idolatrous acts. Tertullian thought that the empire would last till the end of the world,—then supposed to be near at hand—and would be irreconcilable with the Christian profession. Against the idolatrous worship of the emperor he protests with Christian boldness: "Augustus, the founder of the empire, would never be called Lord; for this is a surname of God. Yet I will freely call the emperor so, only not in the place of God. Otherwise I am free from him; for I have only one Lord, the almighty and eternal God, who also is the emperor’s Lord .... Far be it from me to call the emperor God, which is not only the most shameful, but the most pernicious flattery."
The comparative indifference and partial aversion of the Christians to the affairs of the state, to civil legislation and administration exposed them to the frequent reproach and contempt of the heathens. Their want of patriotism was partly the result of their superior devotion to the church as their country, partly of their situation in a hostile world. It must not be attributed to an "indolent or criminal disregard for the public welfare" (as Gibbon intimates), but chiefly to their just abhorrence of the innumerable idolatrous rites connected with the public and private life of the heathens. While they refused to incur the guilt of idolatry, they fervently and regularly prayed for the emperor and the state, their enemies and persecutors.620 They were the most peaceful subjects, and during this long period of almost constant provocation, abuse, and persecutions, they never took part in those frequent insurrections and rebellions which weakened and undermined the empire. They renovated society from within, by revealing in their lives as well as in their doctrine a higher order of private and public virtue, and thus proved themselves patriots in the best sense of the word.
The patriotism of ancient Greece and republican Rome, while it commands our admiration by the heroic devotion and sacrifice to the country, was after all an extended selfishness, and based upon the absolutism of the State and the disregard of the rights of the individual citizen and the foreigner. It was undermined by causes independent of Christianity. The amalgamation of different nationalities in the empire extinguished sectionalism and exclusivism, and opened the wide view of a universal humanity. Stoicism gave this cosmopolitan sentiment a philosophical and ethical expression in the writings of Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. Terence embodied it in his famous line: "Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto." But Christianity first taught the fatherhood of God, the redemption by Christ, the common brotherhood of believers, the duty of charity for all men made in the image of God. It is true that monasticism, which began to develop itself already in the third century, nursed indifference to the state and even to the family, and substituted the total abandonment of the world for its reformation and transformation. It withdrew a vast amount of moral energy and enthusiasm from the city to the desert, and left Roman society to starvation and consumption. But it preserved and nursed in solitude the heroism of self-denial and consecration, which, in the collapse of the Roman empire, became a converting power of the barbarian conquerors, and laid the foundation for a new and better civilization. The decline and fall of the Roman empire was inevitable; Christianity prolonged its life in the East, and diminished the catastrophe of its collapse in the West, by converting and humanizing the barbarian conquerors.621 St. Augustin pointed to the remarkable fact that amid the horrors of the sack of Rome by the Goths, "the churches of the apostles and the crypts of the martyrs were sanctuaries for all who fled to them, whether Christian or pagan," and "saved the lives of multitudes who impute to Christ the ills that have befallen their city."622
§ 97. The Church and Slavery.
See Lit. vol. I. § 48, especially Wallon’s Histoire de l’esclavage (Paris, new ed. 1879, 3 vols). Comp. also V. Lechler: Sklaverei und Christenthum. Leipzig, 1877, 1878; Theod. Zahn: Sklaverei und Christenthum In Der Alten Welt. Heidelberg, 1879. Overbeck: Verh. d. alten Kirche zur Sclaverei im röm. Reiche. 1875.
Heathenism had no conception of the general and natural rights of men. The ancient republics consisted in the exclusive dominion of a minority over an oppressed majority. The Greeks and Romans regarded only the free, i.e. the free-born rich and independent citizens as men in the full sense of the term, and denied this privilege to the foreigners, the laborers, the poor, and the slaves. They claimed the natural right to make war upon all foreign nations, without distinction of race, in order to subject them to their iron rule. Even with Cicero the foreigner and the enemy are synonymous terms. The barbarians were taken in thousands by the chance of war (above 100,000 in the Jewish war alone) and sold as cheap as horses. Besides, an active slave-trade was carried on in the Euxine, the eastern provinces, the coast of Africa, and Britain. The greater part of mankind in the old Roman empire was reduced to a hopeless state of slavery, and to a half brutish level. And this evil of slavery was so thoroughly interwoven with the entire domestic and public life of the heathen world, and so deliberately regarded, even by the greatest philosophers, Aristotle for instance, as natural and indispensable, that the abolition of it, even if desirable, seemed to belong among the impossible things.
Yet from the outset Christianity has labored for this end; not by impairing the right of property, not by outward violence, nor sudden revolution; this, under the circumstances, would only have made the evil worse; but by its moral power, by preaching the divine descent and original unity of all men, their common redemption through Christ, the duty of brotherly love, and the true freedom of the spirit. It placed slaves and masters on the same footing of dependence on God and of freedom in God, the Father, Redeemer, and Judge of both. It conferred inward freedom even under outward bondage, and taught obedience to God and for the sake of God, even in the enjoyment of outward freedom. This moral and religious freedom must lead at last to the personal and civil liberty of the individual. Christianity redeems not only the soul but the body also, and the process of regeneration will end in the resurrection and glorification of the entire natural world.
In the period before us, however, the abolition of slavery, save isolated cases of manumission, was utterly out of question, considering only the enormous number of the slaves. The world was far from ripe for such a step. The church, in her persecuted condition, had as yet no influence at all over the machinery of the state and the civil legislation. And she was at that time so absorbed in the transcendent importance of the higher world and in her longing for the speedy return of the Lord, that she cared little for earthly freedom or temporal happiness. Hence Ignatius, in his epistle to Polycarp, counsels servants to serve only the more zealously to the glory of the Lord, that they may receive from God the higher freedom; and not to attempt to be redeemed at the expense of their Christian brethren, lest they be found slaves to their own caprice. From this we see that slaves, in whom faith awoke the sense of manly dignity and the desire of freedom, were accustomed to demand their redemption at the expense of the church, as a right, and were thus liable to value the earthly freedom more than the spiritual. Tertullian declares the outward freedom worthless without the ransom of the soul from the bondage of sin. "How can the world," says he, "make a servant free? All is mere show in the world, nothing truth. For the slave is already free, as a purchase of Christ; and the freedman is a servant of Christ. If thou takest the freedom which the world can give for true, thou hast thereby become again the servant of man, and hast lost the freedom of Christ, in that thou thinkest it bondage." Chrysostom, in the fourth century, was the first of the fathers to discuss the question of slavery at large in the spirit of the apostle Paul, and to recommend, though cautiously, a gradual emancipation.
But the church before Constantine labored with great success to elevate the intellectual and moral condition of the slaves, to adjust inwardly the inequality between slaves and masters, as the first and efficient step towards the final outward abolition of the evil, and to influence the public opinion even of the heathens. Here the church was aided by a concurrent movement in philosophy and legislation. The cruel views of Cato, who advised to work the slaves, like beasts of burden, to death rather than allow them to become old and unprofitable, gave way to the milder and humane views of Seneca, Pliny, and Plutarch, who very nearly approach the apostolic teaching. To the influence of the later Stoic philosophy must be attributed many improvements in the slave-code of imperial Rome. But the most important improvements were made from the triumph of Constantine to the reign of Justinian, under directly Christian influences. Constantine issued a law in 315, forbidding the branding of slaves on the face to prevent the disfiguration of the figure of celestial beauty (i.e. the image of God).623 He also facilitated emancipation, in an edict of 316, by requiring only a written document, signed by the master, instead of the previous ceremony in the presence of the prefect and his lictor.
It is here to be considered, first of all, that Christianity spread freely among the slaves, except where they were so rude and degraded as to be insensible to all higher impressions. They were not rarely (as Origen observes) the instruments of the conversion of their masters, especially of the women, and children, whose training was frequently intrusted to them. Not a few slaves died martyrs, and were enrolled among the saints; as Onesimus, Eutyches, Victorinus, Maro, Nereus, Achilleus, Blandina, Potamiaena, Felicitas. Tradition makes Onesimus, the slave of Philemon, a bishop. The church of St. Vital at Ravenna—the first and noblest specimen of Byzantine architecture in Italy—was dedicated by, Justinian to the memory of a martyred slave. But the most remarkable instance is that of Callistus, who was originally a slave, and rose to the chair of St. Peter in Rome (218–223). Hippolytus, who acquaints us with his history, attacks his doctrinal and disciplinarian views, but does not reproach him for his former condition. Callistus sanctioned the marriages between free Christian women and Christian slaves. Celsus cast it up as a reproach to Christianity, that it let itself down so readily to slaves, fools, women, and children. But Origen justly saw an excellence of the new religion in this very fact, that it could raise this despised and, in the prevailing view, irreclaimable class of men to the level of moral purity and worth. If, then, converted slaves, with the full sense of their intellectual and religious superiority still remained obedient to their heathen masters, and even served them more faithfully than before, resisting decidedly only their immoral demands (like Potamiaena, and other chaste women and virgins in the service of voluptuous masters)—they showed, in this very self-control, the best proof of their ripeness for civil freedom, and at the same time furnished the fairest memorial of that Christian faith, which raised the soul, in the enjoyment of sonship with God and in the hope of the blessedness of heaven, above the sufferings of earth. Euelpistes, a slave of the imperial household, who was carried with Justin Martyr to the tribunal of Rusticus, on being questioned concerning his condition, replied: "I am a slave of the emperor, but I am also a Christian, and have received liberty from Jesus Christ; by his grace I have the same hope as my brethren." Where the owners of the slaves themselves became Christians, the old relation virtually ceased; both came together to the table of the Lord, and felt themselves brethren of one family, in striking contrast with the condition of things among their heathen neighbors as expressed in the current proverb: "As many enemies as slaves."624 Clement of Alexandria frequently urges that "slaves are men like ourselves," though he nowhere condemns the institution itself. That there actually were such cases of fraternal fellowship, like that which St. Paul recommended to Philemon, we have the testimony of Lactantius, at the end of our period, who writes in his Institutes, no doubt from life: "Should any say: Are there not also among you poor and rich, servants and masters, distinctions among individuals? No; we call ourselves brethren for no other reason than that we hold ourselves all equal. For since we measure everything human not by its outward appearance, but by its intrinsic value we have notwithstanding the difference of outward relations, no slaves, but we call them and consider them brethren in the Spirit and fellow-servants in religion."625 The same writer says: "God would have all men equal .... With him there is neither servant nor master. If he is the same Father to all, we are all with the same right free. So no one is poor before God, but he who is destitute of righteousness; no one rich, but he who is full of virtues."626
The testimony of the catacombs, as contrasted with pagan epitaphs, shows that Christianity almost obliterated the distinction between the two classes of society. Slaves are rarely mentioned. "While it is impossible," says De Rossi, "to examine the pagan sepulchral inscriptions of the same period without finding mention of a slave or a freedman, I have not met with one well-ascertained instance among the inscriptions of the Christian tombs."627
The principles of Christianity naturally prompt Christian slave-holders to actual manumission. The number of slaveholders before Constantine was very limited among Christians, who were mostly poor. Yet we read in the Acts of the martyrdom of the Roman bishop Alexander, that a Roman prefect, Hermas, converted by that bishop, in the reign of Trajan, received baptism at an Easter festival with his wife and children and twelve hundred and fifty slaves, and on this occasion gave all his slaves their freedom and munificent gifts besides.628 So in the martyrology of St. Sebastian, it is related that a wealthy Roman prefect, Chromatius, under Diocletian, on embracing Christianity, emancipated fourteen hundred slaves, after having them baptized with himself, because their sonship with God put an end to their servitude to man.629 Several epitaphs in the catacombs mention the fact of manumission. In the beginning of the fourth century St. Cantius, Cantianus, and Cantianilla, of an old Roman family, set all their slaves, seventy-three in number, at liberty, after they had received baptism.630 St. Melania emancipated eight thousand slaves; St. Ovidius, five thousand; Hermes, a prefect in the reign of Trajan, twelve hundred and fifty.631
These legendary traditions may indeed be doubted as to the exact facts in the case, and probably are greatly exaggerated; but they, are nevertheless conclusive as the exponents of the spirit which animated the church at that time concerning the duty of Christian masters. It was felt that in a thoroughly Christianized society there can be no room for despotism on the one hand and slavery on the other.
After the third century the manumission became a solemn act, which took place in the presence of the clergy and the congregation. It was celebrated on church festivals, especially on Easter. The master led the slave to the altar; there the document of emancipation was read, the minister pronounced the blessing, and the congregation received him as a free brother with equal rights and privileges. Constantine found this custom already established, and African councils of the fourth century requested the emperor to give it general force. He placed it under the superintendence of the clergy.
H. Wallon, in his learned and able Histoire de l’esclavage dans l’antiquité (second ed. Paris, 1879, 3 vols.), shows that the gospel in such passages as Matt. 23:8; Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11; 1 Cor. 12:13 sounded the death knell of slavery, though it was very long in dying, and thus sums up the teaching of the ante-Nicene church (III. 237): "Minutius Félix, Tertullien et tous ceux communauté de, nature, cette communauté de patrie dans la république du monde, en un language familier à la philosophie, mais qui trouvait parmi les chrétiens avec une sanction plus haute et un sens plus complet, une application plus sérieuse. Devant cc droit commun des hommes, fondé sur le droit divin, le prétendu droit des gens n’était plus qu’ une monstrueuse injustice." For the views of the later fathers and the influence of the church on the imperial legislation, see ch. VIII. to X. in his third volume.
Lecky discusses the relation of Christianity to slavery in the second vol. of his History of European Morals, pp. 66–90, and justly remarks: "The services of Christianity in this sphere were of three kinds. It supplied a new order of relations, in which the distinction of classes was unknown. It imparted a moral dignity to the servile classes, and it gave an unexampled impetus to the movement of enfranchisement."
§ 98. The Heathen Family.
In ancient Greece and Rome the state was the highest object of life, and the only virtues properly recognized—wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice—were political virtues. Aristotle makes the state, that is the organized body of free citizens632 (foreigners and slaves are excluded), precede the family and the individual, and calls man essentially a "political animal." In Plato’s ideal commonwealth the state is everything and owns everything, even the children.
This political absolutism destroys the proper dignity and rights of the individual and the family, and materially hinders the development of the domestic and private virtues. Marriage was allowed no moral character, but merely a political import for the preservation of the state, and could not be legally contracted except by free citizens. Socrates, in instructing his son concerning this institution, tells him, according to Xenophon, that we select only such wives as we hope will yield beautiful children. Plato recommends even community of women to the class of warriors in his ideal republic, as the best way to secure vigorous citizens. Lycurgus, for similar reasons, encouraged adultery under certain circumstances, requiring old men to lend their young and handsome wives to young and strong men.
Woman was placed almost on the same level with the slave. She differs, indeed, from the slave, according to Aristotle, but has, after all, really no will of her own, and is hardly capable of a higher virtue than the slave. Shut up in a retired apartment of the house, she spent her life with the slaves. As human nature is essentially the same in all ages, and as it in never entirely forsaken by the guidance of a kind Providence, we must certainly suppose that female virtue was always more or less maintained and appreciated even among the heathen. Such characters as Penelope, Nausicaa, Andromache, Antigone, Iphigenia, and Diotima, of the Greek poetry and history, bear witness of this. Plutarch’s advice to married people, and his letter of consolation to his wife after the death of their daughter, breathe a beautiful spirit of purity and affection. But the general position assigned to woman by the poets, philosophers, and legislators of antiquity, was one of social oppression and degradation. In Athens she was treated as a minor during lifetime, and could not inherit except in the absence of male heirs. To the question of Socrates: "Is there any one with whom you converse less than with the wife?" his pupil, Aristobulus, replies: "No one, or at least very few." If she excelled occasionally, in Greece, by wit and culture, and, like Aspasia, Phryne, Laïs, Theodota, attracted the admiration and courtship even of earnest philosophers like Socrates, and statesmen like Pericles, she generally belonged to the disreputable class of the hetaerae or amicae. In Corinth they were attached to the temple of Aphrodite, and enjoyed the sanction of religion for the practice of vice.633 These dissolute women were esteemed above housewives, and became the proper and only representatives of some sort of female culture and social elegance. To live with them openly was no disgrace even for married men.634 How could there be any proper conception and abhorrence of the sin of licentiousness and adultery, if the very gods, a Jupiter, a Mars, and a Venus, were believed to be guilty of those sins! The worst vices of earth were transferred to Olympus.
Modesty forbids the mention of a still more odious vice, which even depraved nature abhors, which yet was freely discussed and praised by ancient poets and philosophers, practised with neither punishment nor dishonor, and likewise divinely sanctioned by the example of Apollo and Hercules, and by the lewdness of Jupiter with Ganymede.635
The Romans were originally more virtuous, domestic, and chaste, as they were more honest and conscientious, than the Greeks. With them the wife was honored by the title domina, matrona, materfamilias. At the head of their sacerdotal system stood the flamens of Jupiter, who represented marriage in its purity, and the vestal virgins, who represented virginity. The Sabine women interceding between their parents and their husbands, saved the republic; the mother and the wife of Coriolanus by her prayers averted his wrath, and raised the siege of the Volscian army; Lucretia who voluntarily sacrificed her life to escape the outrage to her honor offered by king Tarquin, and Virginia who was killed by her father to save her from slavery and dishonor, shine in the legendary history of Rome as bright examples of unstained purity. But even in the best days of the republic the legal status of woman was very low. The Romans likewise made marriage altogether subservient to the interest of the state, and allowed it in its legal form to free citizens alone. The proud maxims of the republic prohibited even the legitimate nuptials of a Roman with a foreign queen; and Cleopatra and Berenice were, as strangers, degraded to the position of concubines of Mark Antony and Titus. According to ancient custom the husband bought his bride from her parents, and she fulfilled the coëmption by purchasing, with three pieces of copper, a just introduction to his house and household deities. But this was for her simply an exchange of one servitude for another. She became the living property of a husband who could lend her out, as Cato lent his wife to his friend Hortensius, and as Augustus took Livia from Tiberius Nero." Her husband or master, says Gibbon,636 "was invested with the plenitude of paternal power. By his judgment or caprice her behavior was approved or censured, or chastised; he exercised the jurisdiction of life and death; and it was allowed, that in cases of adultery or drunkenness, the sentence might be properly inflicted. She acquired and inherited for the sole profit of her lord; and so clearly was woman defined, not as a person, but as a thing, that, if the original title were deficient, she might be claimed like other movables, by the use and possession of an entire year."
Monogamy was the rule both in Greece and in Rome, but did not exclude illegitimate connexions. Concubinage, in its proper legal sense, was a sort of secondary marriage with a woman of servile or plebeian extraction, standing below the dignity of a matron and above the infamy of a prostitute. It was sanctioned and regulated by law; it prevailed both in the East and the West from the age of Augustus to the tenth century, and was preferred to regular marriage by Vespasian, and the two Antonines, the best Roman emperors. Adultery was severely punished, at times even with sudden destruction of the offender; but simply as an interference with the rights and property of a free man. The wife had no legal or social protection against the infidelity of her husband. The Romans worshipped a peculiar goddess of domestic life; but her name Viriplaca, the appeaser of husbands, indicates her partiality. The intercourse of a husband with the slaves of his household and with public prostitutes was excluded from the odium and punishment of adultery. We say nothing of that unnatural abomination alluded to in Rom. 1:26, 27, which seems to have passed from the Etruscans and Greeks to the Romans, and prevailed among the highest as well as the lowest classes. The women, however, were almost as corrupt as their husbands, at least in the imperial age. Juvenal calls a chaste wife a "rara avis in terris." Under Augustus free-born daughters could no longer be found for the service of Vesta, and even the severest laws of Domitian could not prevent the six priestesses of the pure goddess from breaking their vow. The pantomimes and the games of Flora, with their audacious indecencies, were favorite amusements." The unblushing, undisguised obscenity of the Epigrams of Martial, of the Romances of Apuleius and Petronius, and of some of the Dialogues of Lucian, reflected but too faithfully the spirit of their times."637
Divorce is said to have been almost unknown in the ancient days of the Roman republic, and the marriage tie was regarded as indissoluble. A senator was censured for kissing his wife in the presence of their daughter. But the merit of this virtue is greatly diminished if we remember that the husband always had an easy outlet for his sensual passions in the intercourse with slaves and concubines. Nor did it outlast the republic. After the Punic war the increase of wealth and luxury, and the influx of Greek and Oriental licentiousness swept away the stern old Roman virtues. The customary civil and religious rites of marriage were gradually disused; the open community of life between persons of similar rank was taken as sufficient evidence of their nuptials; and marriage, after Augustus, fell to the level of any partnership, which might be dissolved by the abdication of one of the associates. "Passion, interest, or caprice," says Gibbon on the imperial age, "suggested daily, motives for the dissolution of marriage; a word, a sign, a message, a letter, the mandate of a freedman, declared the separation; the most tender of human connections was degraded to a transient society of profit or pleasure."638
Various remedies were tardily adopted as the evil spread, but they proved inefficient, until the spirit of Christianity gained the control of public opinion and improved the Roman legislation, which, however, continued for a long time to fluctuate between the custom of heathenism and the wishes of the church. Another radical evil of heathen family life, which the church had to encounter throughout the whole extent of the Roman Empire, was the absolute tyrannical authority of the parent over the children, extending even to the power of life and death, and placing the adult son of a Roman citizen on a level with the movable things and slaves, "whom the capricious master might alienate or destroy, without being responsible to any earthly tribunal."
With this was connected the unnatural and monstrous custom of exposing poor, sickly, and deformed children to a cruel death, or in many cases to a life of slavery and infamy-a custom expressly approved, for the public interest, even by a Plato, an Aristotle, and a Seneca! "Monstrous offspring," says the great Stoic philosopher, "we destroy; children too, if born feeble and ill-formed, we drown. It is not wrath, but reason, thus to separate the useless from the healthy." "The exposition of children"—to quote once more from Gibbon—"was the prevailing and stubborn vice of antiquity: it was sometimes prescribed, often permitted, almost always practised with impunity by the nations who never entertained the Roman ideas of paternal power; and the dramatic poets, who appeal to the human heart, represent with indifference a popular custom which was palliated by the motives of economy and compassion .... The Roman Empire was stained with the blood of infants, till such murders were included, by Valentinian and his colleagues, in the letter and spirit of the Cornelian law. The lessons of jurisprudence and Christianity had been insufficient to eradicate this inhuman practice, till their gentle influence was fortified by the terrors of capital punishment."639
§ 99. The Christian Family.
Such was the condition of the domestic life of the ancient world, when Christianity, with its doctrine of the sanctity of marriage, with its injunction of chastity, and with its elevation of woman from her half-slavish condition to moral dignity and equality with man, began the work of a silent transformation, which secured incalculable blessings to generations yet unborn. It laid the foundation for a well-ordered family life. It turned the eye from the outward world to the inward sphere of affection, from the all-absorbing business of politics and state-life into the sanctuary of home; and encouraged the nurture of those virtues of private life, without which no true public virtue can exist. But, as the evil here to be abated, particularly the degradation of the female sex and the want of chastity, was so deeply rooted and thoroughly interwoven in the whole life of the old world, this ennobling of the family, like the abolition of slavery, was necessarily a very slow process. We cannot wonder, therefore, at the high estimate of celibacy, which in the eyes of many seemed to be the only radical escape from the impurity and misery of married life as it generally stood among the heathen. But, although the fathers are much more frequent and enthusiastic in the praise of virginity than in that of marriage, yet their views on this subject show an immense advance upon the moral standard of the greatest sages and legislators of Greece and Rome.
Chastity before marriage, in wedlock, and in celibacy, in man as well as in woman, so rare in paganism, was raised to the dignity of a cardinal virtue and made the corner-stone of the family. Many a female martyr preferred cruel torture and death to the loss of honor. When St. Perpetua fell half dead from the horns of a wild bull in the arena, she instinctively drew together her dress, which had been torn in the assault. The acts of martyrs and saints tell marvellous stories, exaggerated no doubt, yet expressive of the ruling Christian sentiment, about heroic resistance to carnal temptation, the sudden punishment of unjust charges of impurity by demoniacal possession or instant death, the rescue of courtesans from a life of shame and their radical conversion and elevation even to canonical sanctity.640 The ancient councils deal much with carnal sins so fearfully prevalent, and unanimously condemn them in every shape and form. It is true, chastity in the early church and by the unanimous consent of the fathers was almost identified with celibacy, as we shall see hereafter; but this excess should not blind us to the immense advance of patristic over heathen morals.
Woman was emancipated, in the best sense of the term, from the bondage of social oppression, and made the life and light of a Christian home. Such pure and heroic virgins as the martyred Blandina, and Perpetua, and such devoted mothers as Nonna, Anthusa, and Monica, we seek in vain among the ancient Greek and Roman maidens and matrons, and we need not wonder that the heathen Libanius, judging from such examples as the mother of his pupil Chrysostom, reluctantly exclaimed: "What women have these Christians!" The schoolmen of the middle ages derived from the formation of woman an ingenious argument for her proper position: Eve was not taken from the feet of Adam to be his slave, nor from his head to be his ruler, but from his side to be his beloved partner.641
At the same time here also we must admit that the ancient church was yet far behind the ideal set up in the New Testament, and counterbalanced the elevation of woman by an extravagant over-estimate of celibacy. It was the virgin far more than the faithful wife and mother of children that was praised and glorified by the fathers; and among the canonized saints of the Catholic calendar there is little or no room for husbands and wives, although the patriarchs, Moses, and some of the greatest prophets (Isaiah, Ezekiel), and apostles (Peter taking the lead) lived in honorable wedlock.
Marriage was regarded in the church from the beginning as a sacred union of body and soul for the propagation of civil society, and the kingdom of God, for the exercise of virtue and the promotion of happiness. It was clothed with a sacramental or semi-sacramental character on the basis of Paul’s comparison of the marriage union with the relation of Christ to his church.642 It was in its nature indissoluble except in case of adultery, and this crime was charged not only to the woman, but to the man as even the more guilty party, and to every extra-connubial carnal connection. Thus the wife was equally protected against the wrongs of the husband, and chastity was made the general law of the family life.
We have a few descriptions of Christian homes from the ante-Nicene age, one from an eminent Greek father, another from a married presbyter of the Latin church.
Clement of Alexandria enjoins upon Christian married persons united prayer and reading of the Scriptures,643 as a daily morning exercise, and very beautifully says: "The mother is the glory of her children, the wife is the glory of her husband, both are the glory of the wife, God is the glory of all together."644
Tertullian, at the close of the book which he wrote to his wife, draws the following graphic picture, which, though somewhat idealized, could be produced only from the moral spirit of the gospel and actual experience:645 "How can I paint the happiness of a marriage which the church ratifies, the oblation (the celebration of the communion) confirms, the benediction seals, angels announce, the Father declares valid. Even upon earth, indeed, sons do not legitimately marry without the consent of their fathers. What a union of two believers—one hope, one vow, one discipline, and one worship! They are brother and sister, two fellow-servants, one spirit and one flesh. Where there is one flesh, there is also one spirit. They pray together, fast together, instruct, exhort, and support each other. They go together to the church of God, and to the table of the Lord. They share each other’s tribulation, persecution, and revival. Neither conceals anything from the other; neither avoids, neither annoys the other. They delight to visit the sick, supply the needy, give alms without constraint, and in daily zeal lay their offerings before the altar without scruple or hindrance. They do not need to keep the sign of the cross hidden, nor to express slyly their Christian joy, nor to suppress the blessing. Psalms and hymns they sing together, and they vie with each other in singing to God. Christ rejoices when he sees and hears this. He gives them his peace. Where two are together in his name, there is he; and where he is, there the evil one cannot come."
A large sarcophagus represents a scene of family worship: on the right, four men, with rolls in their hands, reading or singing; on the left, three women and a girl playing a lyre.
For the conclusion of a marriage, Ignatius646 required "the consent of the bishop, that it might be a marriage for God, and not for pleasure. All should be done to the glory of God." In Tertullian’s time,647 as may be inferred from the passage just quoted, the solemnization of marriage was already at least a religious act, though not a proper sacrament, and was sealed by the celebration of the holy communion in presence of the congregation. The Montanists were disposed even to make this benediction of the church necessary to the validity of marriage among Christians. All noisy and wanton Jewish and heathen nuptial ceremonies, and at first also the crowning of the bride, were discarded; but the nuptial ring, as a symbol of union, was retained.
In the catacombs the marriage ceremony is frequently represented by the man and the woman standing side by side and joining hands in token of close union, as also on heathen documents. On a gilded glass of the fourth century, the couple join hands over a small nuptial altar, and around the figures are inscribed the words (of the priest): "May ye live in God."648
Mixed marriages with heathens and also with heretics, were unanimously condemned by the voice of the church in agreement with the Mosaic legislation, unless formed before conversion, in which case they were considered valid.649 Tertullian even classes such marriages with adultery. What heathen, asks he, will let his wife attend the nightly meetings of the church, and the slandered supper of the Lord, take care of the sick even in the poorest hovels, kiss the chains of the martyrs in prison rise in the night for prayer, and show hospitality to strange brethren? Cyprian calls marriage with an unbeliever a prostitution of the members of Christ. The Council of Elvira in Spain (306) forbade such mixed marriages on pain of excommunication, but did not dissolve those already existing. We shall understand this strictness, if, to say nothing of the heathen marriage rites, and the wretchedly loose notions on chastity and conjugal fidelity, we consider the condition of those times, and the offences and temptations which met the Christian in the constant sight of images of the household gods, mythological pictures on the walls, the floor, and the furniture; in the libations at table; in short, at every step and turn in a pagan house.
Second marriage.—From the high view of marriage, and also from an ascetic over-estimate of celibacy, arose a very, prevalent aversion to re-marriage, particularly of widows. The Shepherd of Hermas allows this reunion indeed, but with the reservation, that continuance in single life earns great honor with the Lord. Athenagoras goes so far as to call the second marriage a "decent adultery."650
The Montanists and Novatians condemned re-marriage, and made it a subject of discipline.
Tertullian came forward with the greatest decision, as advocate of monogamy against both successive and simultaneous polygamy.651 He thought thus to occupy the true middle ground between the ascetic Gnostics, who rejected marriage altogether, and the Catholics, who allowed more than one.652 In the earlier period of his life, when he drew the above picture of Christian marriage, before his adoption of Montanism., he already placed a high estimate on celibacy as a superior grade of Christian holiness, appealing to 1 Cor. 7:9 and advised at least his wife, in case of his death, not to marry again, especially with a heathen; but in his Montanistic writings, "De Exhortatione Castitatis" and "De Monogamia," he repudiates second marriage from principle, and with fanatical zeal contends against it as unchristian, as an act of polygamy, nay of "stuprum" and "adulterium." He opposes it with all sorts of acute argument; now, on the ground of an ideal conception of marriage as a spiritual union of two souls for time and eternity; now, from an opposite sensuous view; and again, on principles equally good against all marriage and in favor of celibacy. Thus, on the one hand, he argues, that the second marriage impairs the spiritual fellowship with the former partner, which should continue beyond the grave, which should show itself in daily intercessions and in yearly celebration of the day of death, and which hopes even for outward reunion after the resurrection.653 On the other hand, however, he places the essence of marriage in the communion of flesh,654 and regards it as a mere concession, which God makes to our sensuality, and which man therefore should not abuse by repetition. The ideal of the Christian life, with him, not only for the clergy, but the laity also, is celibacy. He lacks clear perception of the harmony of the moral and physical elements which constitutes the essence of marriage; and strongly as he elsewhere combats the Gnostic dualism, he here falls in with it in his depreciation of matter and corporeity, as necessarily incompatible with spirit. His treatment of the exegetical arguments of the defenders of second marriage is remarkable. The levirate law, he says, is peculiar to the Old Testament economy. To Rom. 7:2 he replies, that Paul speaks here from the position of the Mosaic law, which, according to the same passage is no longer binding on Christians. In 1 Cor. 7, the apostle allows second marriage only in his subjective, human judgment, and from regard to our sensuous infirmity; but in the same chapter (1 Cor 7:40) he recommends celibacy to all, and that on the authority of the Lord, adding here, that he also has the Holy Spirit, i.e. the principle, which is active in the new prophets of Montanism. The appeal to 1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6, from which the right of laymen to second marriage was inferred, as the prohibition of it there related only to the clergy, he met with the doctrine of the universal priesthood of believers, which admitted them all both to the privileges and to the obligations of priests. But his reasoning always amounts in the end to this: that the state of original virgin purity, which has nothing at all to do with the sensual, is the best. The true chastity consists therefore not in the chaste spirit of married partners, but in the entire continence of "virgines" and "spadones." The desire of posterity, he, contrary to the Old Testament, considers unworthy of a Christian, who, in fact, ought to break away entirely from the world, and renounce all inheritance in it. Such a morality, forbidding the same that it allows, and rigorously setting as an ideal what it must in reality abate at least for the mass of mankind, may be very far above the heathen level, but is still plainly foreign to the deeper substance and the world-sanctifying principle of Christianity.
The Catholic church, indeed, kept aloof from this Montanistic extravagance, and forbade second marriage only to the clergy (which the Greek church does to this day); yet she rather advised against it, and leaned very decidedly towards a preference for celibacy, as a higher grade of Christian morality.655
As to the relation of parents and children, Christianity exerted from the beginning a most salutary influence. It restrained the tyrannical power of the father. It taught the eternal value of children as heirs of the kingdom of heaven, and commenced the great work of education on a religious and moral basis. It resisted with all energy the exposition of children, who were then generally devoured by dogs and wild beasts, or, if found, trained up for slavery or doomed to a life of infamy. Several apologists, the author to the Epistle of Diognetus, Justin Martyr,656 Minutius Felix, Tertullian, and Arnobius speak with just indignation against this unnatural custom. Athenagoras declares abortion and exposure to be equal to murder.657 No heathen philosopher had advanced so far. Lactantius also puts exposure on a par with murder even of the worst kind, and admits no excuse on the ground of pity or poverty, since God provides for all his creatures.658 The Christian spirit of humanity gradually so penetrated the spirit of the age that the better emperors, from the time of Trajan, began to direct their attention to the diminution of these crying evils; but the best legal enactments would never have been able to eradicate them without the spiritual influence of the church. The institutions and donations of Trajan, Antonins Pius, Septimius Severus, and private persons, for the education of poor children, boys and girls, were approaches of the nobler heathen towards the genius of Christianity. Constantine proclaimed a law in 315 throughout Italy "to turn parents from using a parricidal hand on their new-born children, and to dispose their hearts to the best sentiments." The Christian fathers, councils, emperors, and lawgivers united their efforts to uproot this monstrous evil and to banish it from the civilized world.659
§ 100. Brotherly Love, and Love for Enemies.
Schaubach: Das Verhältniss der Moral des classischen Alterthums zur christlichen, beleuchtet durch vergleichende Erörterung der Lehre von der Feindesliebe, in the "Studien und Kritiken" for 1851, p. 59–121. Also the works of Schmidt, Chastel, Uhlhorn, etc., quoted at § 88 above.
It is generally admitted, that selfishness was the soul of heathen morality. The great men of antiquity rose above its sordid forms, love of gain and love of pleasure, but were the more under the power of ambition and love of fame. It was for fame that Miltiades and Themistocles fought against the Persians; that Alexander set out on his tour of conquest; that Herodotus wrote his history, that Pindar sang his odes, that Sophocles composed his tragedies, that Demosthenes delivered his orations, that Phidias sculptured his Zeus. Fame was set forth in the Olympian games as the highest object of life; fame was held up by Aeschylus as the last comfort of the suffering; fame was declared by Cicero, before a large assembly, the ruling passion of the very best of men.660 Even the much-lauded patriotism of the heroes of ancient Greece and Rome was only an enlarged egotism. In the catalogue of classical virtues we look in vain for the two fundamental and cardinal virtues, love and humility. The very word which corresponds in Greek to humility661 signifies generally, in classical usage, a mean, abject mind. The noblest and purest form of love known to the heathen moralist is friendship, which Cicero praises as the highest good next to wisdom. But friendship itself rested, as was freely admitted, on a utilitarian, that is, on an egotistic basis, and was only possible among persons of equal or similar rank in society. For the stranger, the barbarian, and the enemy, the Greek and Roman knew no love, but only contempt and hatred. The jus talionis, the return of evil for evil, was universally acknowledged throughout the heathen world as a just principle and maxim, in direct opposition to the plainest injunctions of the New Testament.662 We must offend those who offend us, says Aeschylus.663 Not to take revenge was regarded as a sign of weakness and cowardice. To return evil for good is devilish; to return good for good is human and common to all religions; to return good for evil is Christlike and divine, and only possible in the Christian religion.
On the other hand, however, we should suppose that every Christian virtue must find some basis in the noblest moral instincts and aspirations of nature; since Christianity is not against nature, but simply above it and intended for it. Thus we may regard the liberality, benevolence, humanity and magnanimity which we meet with in heathen antiquity, as an approximation to, and preparation for, the Christian virtue of charity. The better schools of moralists rose more or less above the popular approval of hatred of the enemy, wrath and revenge. Aristotle and the Peripatetics, without condemning this passion as wrong in itself, enjoined at least moderation in its exercise. The Stoics went further, and required complete apathy or suppression of all strong and passionate affections. Cicero even declares placability and clemency one of the noblest traits in the character of a great man,664 and praises Caesar for forgetting nothing except injuries. Seneca, Epictetus, Plutarch, and Marcus Aurelius, who were already indirectly and unconsciously under the influence of the atmosphere of Christian morality, decidedly condemn anger and vindictiveness, and recommend kindness to slaves, and a generous treatment even of enemies.
But this sort of love for an enemy, it should be remembered, in the first place, does not flow naturally from the spirit of heathenism, but is, as it were, an accident and exception; secondly, it is not enjoined as a general duty, but expected only from the great and the wise; thirdly, it does not rise above the conception of magnanimity, which, more closely considered, is itself connected with a refined form of egotism, and with a noble pride that regards it below the dignity of a gentleman to notice the malice of inferior men;665 fourthly, it is commended only in its negative aspect as refraining from the right of retaliation, not as active benevolence and charity to the enemy, which returns good for evil; and finally it is nowhere derived from a religious principle, the love of God to man, and therefore has no proper root, and lacks the animating soul.
No wonder, then, that in spite of the finest maxims of a few philosophers, the imperial age was controlled by the coldest selfishness, so that, according to the testimony of Plutarch, friendship had died out even in families, and the love of brothers and sisters was supposed to be possible only in a heroic age long passed by. The old Roman world was a world without charity. Julian the Apostate, who was educated a Christian, tried to engraft charity upon heathenism, but in vain. The idea of the infinite value of each human soul, even the poorest and humblest, was wanting, and with it the basis for true charity.
It was in such an age of universal egotism that Christianity first revealed the true spirit of love to man as flowing from the love of God, and exhibited it in actual life. This cardinal virtue we meet first within the Church itself, as the bond of union among believers, and the sure mark of the genuine disciple of Jesus. "That especially," says Tertullian to the heathen, in a celebrated passage of his Apologeticus, "which love works among us, exposes us to many a suspicion. ’Behold,’ they say, ’how they love one another!’ Yea, verily this must strike them; for they hate each other. ’And how ready they are to die for one another!’ Yea, truly; for they are rather ready to kill one another. And even that we call each other ’brethren,’ seems to them suspicious for no other reason, than that, among them, all expressions of kindred are only feigned. We are even your brethren, in virtue of the common nature, which is the mother of us all; though ye, as evil brethren, deny your human nature. But how much more justly are those called and considered brethren, who acknowledge the one God as their Father; who have received the one Spirit of holiness; who have awaked from the same darkness of uncertainty to the light of the same truth?... And we, who are united in spirit and in soul, do not hesitate to have also all things common, except wives. For we break fellowship just where other men practice it."
This brotherly love flowed from community of life in Christ. Hence Ignatius calls believers "Christ-bearers" and "God-bearers."666 The article of the Apostles’ Creed: "I believe in the communion of saints;" the current appellation of "brother" and "sister;" and the fraternal kiss usual on admission into the church, and at the Lord’s Supper, were not empty forms, nor even a sickly sentimentalism, but the expression of true feeling and experience, only strengthened by the common danger and persecution. A travelling Christian, of whatever language or country, with a letter of recommendation from his bishop,667 was everywhere hospitably received as a long known friend. It was a current phrase: In thy brother thou hast seen the Lord himself. The force of love reached beyond the grave. Families were accustomed to celebrate at appointed times the memory, of their departed members; and this was one of the grounds on which Tertullian opposed second marriage.
The brotherly love expressed itself, above all, in the most self-sacrificing beneficence to the poor and sick, to widows and orphans, to strangers and prisoners, particularly to confessors in bonds. It magnifies this virtue in our view, to reflect, that the Christians at that time belonged mostly to the lower classes, and in times of persecution often lost all their possessions. Every congregation was a charitable society, and in its public worship took regular collections for its needy members. The offerings at the communion and love-feasts, first held on the evening, afterwards on the morning of the Lord’s Day, were considered a part of worship.668 To these were added numberless private charities, given in secret, which eternity alone will reveal. The church at Rome had under its care a great multitude of widows, orphans, blind, lame, and sick,669 whom the deacon Laurentius, in the Decian persecution, showed to the heathen prefect, as the most precious treasures of the church. It belonged to the idea of a Christian housewife, and was particularly the duty of the deaconesses, to visit the Lord, to clothe him, and give him meat and drink, in the persons of his needy disciples. Even such opponents of Christianity as Lucian testify to this zeal of the Christians in labors of love, though they see in it nothing but an innocent fanaticism. "It is incredible," says Lucian, "to see the ardor with which the people of that religion help each other in their wants. They spare nothing. Their first legislator has put into their heads that they are all brethren."670
This beneficence reached beyond the immediate neighborhood. Charity begins at home, but does not stay at, home. In cases of general distress the bishops appointed special collections, and also fasts, by which food might be saved for suffering brethren. The Roman church sent its charities great distances abroad.671 Cyprian of Carthage, who, after his conversion, sold his own estates for the benefit of the poor, collected a hundred thousand sestertia, or more than three thousand dollars, to redeem Christians of Numidia, who had been taken captive by neighboring barbarians; and he considered it a high privilege "to be able to ransom for a small sum of money him, who has redeemed us from the dominion of Satan with his own blood." A father, who refused to give alms on account of his children, Cyprian charged with the additional sin of binding his children to an earthly inheritance, instead of pointing them to the richest and most loving Father in heaven.
Finally, this brotherly love expanded to love even for enemies, which returned the heathens good for evil, and not rarely, in persecutions and public misfortunes, heaped coals of fire on their heads. During the persecution under Gallus (252), when the pestilence raged in Carthage, and the heathens threw out their dead and sick upon the streets, ran away from them for fear of the contagion, and cursed the Christians as the supposed authors of the plague, Cyprian assembled his congregation, and exhorted them to love their enemies; whereupon all went to work; the rich with their money, the poor with their hands, and rested not, till the dead were buried, the sick cared for, and the city saved from desolation. The same self-denial appeared in the Christians of Alexandria during a ravaging plague under the reign of Gallienus. These are only a few prominent manifestations of a spirit which may be traced through the whole history of martyrdom and the daily prayers of the Christians for their enemies and persecutors. For while the love of friends, says Tertullian, is common to all men, the love of enemies is a virtue peculiar to Christians.672 "You forget," he says to the heathens in his Apology, "that, notwithstanding your persecutions, far from conspiring against you, as our numbers would perhaps furnish us with the means of doing, we pray for you and do good to you; that, if we give nothing for your gods, we do give for your poor, and that our charity spreads more alms in your streets than the offerings presented by your religion in your temples."
The organized congregational charity of the ante-Nicene age provided for all the immediate wants. When the state professed Christianity, there sprang up permanent charitable institutions for the poor, the sick, for strangers, widows, orphans, and helpless old men.673 The first clear proof of such institutions we find in the age of Julian the Apostate, who tried to check the progress of Christianity and to revive paganism by directing the high priest of Galatia, Arsacius, to establish in every town a Xenodochium to be supported by the state and also by private contributions; for, he said, it was a shame that the heathen should be left without support from their own, while "among the Jews no beggar can be found, and the godless Galilaeans" (i.e. the Christians) "nourish not only their own, but even our own poor." A few years afterwards (370) we hear of a celebrated hospital at Caesarea, founded by St. Basilius, and called after him "Basilias," and similar institutions all over the province of Cappadocia. We find one at Antioch at the time of Chrysostom, who took a practical interest in it. At Constantinople there were as many as thirty-five hospitals. In the West such institutions spread rapidly in Rome, Sicily, Sardinia, and Gaul.674
§ 101. Prayer and Fasting.
In regard to the importance and the necessity of prayer, as the pulse and thermometer of spiritual life, the ancient church had but one voice. Here the plainest and the most enlightened Christians met; the apostolic fathers, the steadfast apologists, the realistic Africans, and the idealistic Alexandrians. Tertullian sees in prayer the daily sacrifice of the Christian, the bulwark of faith, the weapon against all the enemies of the soul. The believer should not go to his bath nor take his food without prayer; for the nourishing and refreshing of the spirit must precede that of the body, and the heavenly must go before the earthly. "Prayer," says he, "blots out sins, repels temptations, quenches persecutions, comforts, the desponding, blesses the high-minded, guides the wanderers, calms the billows, feeds the poor, directs the rich, raises the fallen, holds up the falling, preserves them that stand." Cyprian requires prayer by day and by night; pointing to heaven, where we shall never cease to pray and give thanks. The same father, however, falls already into that false, unevangelical view, which represents prayer as a meritorious work and a satisfaction to be rendered to God.675 Clement of Alexandria conceives the life of a genuine Christian as an unbroken prayer. "In every place he will pray, though not openly, in the sight of the multitude. Even on his walks, in his intercourse with others, in silence, in reading, and in labor, he prays in every way. And though he commune with God only in the chamber of his soul, and call upon the Father only with a quiet sigh, the Father is near him." The same idea we find in Origen, who discourses in enthusiastic terms of the mighty inward and outward effects of prayer, and with all his enormous learning, regards prayer as the sole key to the spiritual meaning of the Scriptures.
The order of human life, however, demands special times for this consecration of the every-day business of men. The Christians generally followed the Jewish usage, observed as times of prayer the hours of nine, twelve, and three, corresponding also to the crucifixion of Christ, his death, and his descent from the cross; the cock-crowing likewise, and the still hour of midnight they regarded as calls to prayer.
With prayer for their own welfare, they united intercessions for the whole church, for all classes of men, especially for the sick and the needy, and even for the unbelieving. Polycarp enjoins on the church of Philippi to pray for all the saints, for kings and rulers, for haters and persecutors, and for the enemies of the cross. "We pray," says Tertullian, "even for the emperors and their ministers, for the holders of power on earth, for the repose of all classes, and for the delay of the end of the world."
With the free outpourings of the heart, without which living piety cannot exist, we must suppose, that, after the example of the Jewish church, standing forms of prayer were also used, especially such as were easily impressed on the memory and could thus be freely delivered. The familiar "ex pectore" and "sine monitore" of Tertullian prove nothing against this; for a prayer committed to memory may and should be at the same time a prayer of the heart, as a familiar psalm or hymn may be read or sung with ever new devotion. The general use of the Lord’s Prayer in the ancient church in household and public worship is beyond all doubt. The Didache (ch. 8) enjoins it three times a day. Tertullian, Cyprian, Origen, wrote special treatises upon it. They considered it the model prayer, prescribed by the Lord for the whole church. Tertullian calls it the "regular and usual prayer, a brief summary of the whole gospel, and foundation of all the other prayers of the Christians." The use of it, however, was restricted to communicants; because the address presupposes the worshipper’s full sonship with God, and because the fourth petition was taken in a mystical sense, as referring to the holy Supper, and was therefore thought not proper for catechumens.
As to posture in prayer; kneeling or standing, the raising or closing of the eyes, the extension or elevation of the hands, were considered the most suitable expressions of a bowing spirit and a soul directed towards God. On Sunday the standing posture was adopted, in token of festive joy over the resurrection from sin and death. But there was no uniform law in regard to these forms. Origen lays chief stress on the lifting of the soul to God and the bowing of the heart before him; and says that, where circumstances require, one can worthily pray sitting, or lying, or engaged in business.
After the Jewish custom, fasting was frequently joined with prayer, that the mind, unencumbered by earthly matter, might devote itself with less distraction to the contemplation of divine things. The apostles themselves sometimes employed this wholesome discipline,676 though without infringing the gospel freedom by legal prescriptions. As the Pharisees were accustomed to fast twice in the week, on Monday and Thursday, the Christians appointed Wednesday and especially Friday, as days of half-fasting or abstinence from flesh,677 in commemoration of the passion and crucifixion of Jesus. They did this with reference to the Lord’s words: "When the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, then will they fast."678
In the second century arose also the custom of Quadragesimal fasts before Easter, which, however, differed in length in different countries; being sometimes reduced to forty hours, sometimes extended to forty days, or at least to several weeks. Perhaps equally ancient are the nocturnal fasts or vigils before the high festivals, suggested by the example of the Lord and the apostles.679 But the Quatemporal fasts680 are of later origin, though founded likewise on a custom of the Jews after the exile. On special occasions the bishops appointed extraordinary fasts, and applied the money saved to charitable purposes; a usage which became often a blessing to the poor. Yet hierarchical arrogance and Judaistic legalism early intruded here, even to the entire destruction of the liberty of a Christian man.681
This rigidity appeared most in the Montanists. Besides the usual fasts, they observed special Xerophagiae682 as they were called; seasons of two weeks for eating only dry or properly uncooked food, bread, salt, and water. The Catholic church, with true feeling, refused to sanction these excesses as a general rule, but allowed ascetics to carry fasting even to extremes. A confessor in Lyons, for example, lived on bread and water alone, but forsook that austerity when reminded that he gave offence to other Christians by so despising the gifts of God.
Against the frequent over-valuation of fasting, Clement of Alexandria quotes the word of Paul: The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, therefore neither abstinence from wine and flesh, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
§ 102. Treatment of the Dead
Comp. Chapter VII. on the Catacombs.
The pious care of the living for the beloved dead is rooted in the noblest instincts of human future, and is found among all nations, ancient and modern, even among barbarians. Hence the general custom of surrounding the funeral with solemn rites and prayers, and giving the tomb a sacred and inviolable character. The profane violation of the dead and robbery of graves were held in desecration, and punished by law.683 No traditions and laws were more sacred among the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans than those that guarded and protected the shades of the departed who can do no harm to any of the living. "It is the popular belief," says Tertullian, "that the dead cannot enter Hades before they are buried." Patroclus appears after his death to his friend Achilles in a dream, and thus exhorts him to provide for his speedy burial:
"Achilles, sleepest thou, forgetting me?
Never of me unmindful in my life,
Thou dost neglect me dead. O, bury me
Quickly, and give me entrance through the gates
Of Hades; for the souls, the forms of those
Who live no more, repulse me, suffering not
That I should join their company beyond
The river, and I now must wander round
The spacious portals of the House of Death."684
Christianity intensified this regard for the departed, and gave it a solid foundation by the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body. Julian the Apostate traced the rapid spread and power of that religion to three causes: benevolence, care of the dead, and honesty.685 After the persecution under Marcus Aurelius, the Christians in Southern Gaul were much distressed because the enraged heathens would not deliver them the corpses of their brethren for burial.686 Sometimes the vessels of the church were sold for the purpose. During the ravages of war, famine, and pestilence, they considered it their duty to bury the heathen as well as their fellow-Christians. When a pestilence depopulated the cities in the reign of the tyrannical persecutor Maximinus, "the Christians were the only ones in the midst of such distressing circumstances that exhibited sympathy and humanity in their conduct. They continued the whole day, some in the care and burial of the dead, for numberless were they for whom there was none to care; others collected the multitude of those wasting by the famine throughout the city, and distributed bread among all. So that the fact was cried abroad, and men glorified the God of the Christians, constrained, as they were by the facts, to acknowledge that these were the only really pious and the only real worshippers of God."687 Lactantius says: "The last and greatest office of piety is the burying of strangers and the poor; which subject these teachers of virtue and justice have not touched upon at all, as they measure all their duties by utility. We will not suffer the image and workmanship of God to lie exposed as a prey to beasts and birds; but we will restore it to the earth, from which it had its origin; and although it be in the case of an unknown man, we will fulfil the office of relatives, into whose place, since they are wanting, let kindness succeed; and wherever there shall be need of man, there we will think that our duty is required."688
The early church differed from the pagan and even from the Jewish notions by a cheerful and hopeful view of death, and by discarding lamentations, rending of clothes, and all signs of extravagant grief. The terrors of the grave were dispelled by the light of the resurrection, and the idea of death was transformed into the idea of a peaceful slumber. No one, says Cyprian, should be made sad by death, since in living is labor and peril, in dying peace and the certainty of resurrection; and he quotes the examples of Enoch who was translated, of Simeon who wished to depart in peace, several passages from Paul, and the assurance of the Lord that he went to the Father to prepare heavenly mansions for us.689 The day of a believer’s death, especially if he were a martyr, was called the day of his heavenly birth. His grave was surrounded with symbols of hope and of victory; anchors, harps, palms, crowns. The primitive Christians always showed a tender care for the dead; under a vivid impression of the unbroken communion of saints and the future resurrection of the body in glory. For Christianity redeems the body as well as the soul, and consecrates it a temple of the Holy Spirit. Hence the Greek and Roman custom of burning the corpse (crematio) was repugnant to Christian feeling and the sacredness of the body.690 Tertullian even declared it a symbol of the fire of hell, and Cyprian regarded it as equivalent to apostasy. In its stead, the church adopted the primitive Jewish usage of burial (inhumatio),691 practiced also by the Egyptians and Babylonians. The bodies of the dead were washed, 692 wrapped in linen cloths,693 sometimes embalmed,694 and then, in the presence of ministers, relatives, and friends, with prayer and singing of psalms, committed as seeds of immortality to the bosom of the earth. Funeral discourses were very common as early as the Nicene period.695 But in the times of persecution the interment was often necessarily performed as hastily and secretly as possible. The death-days of martyrs the church celebrated annually at their graves with oblations, love feasts, and the Lord’s Supper. Families likewise commemorated their departed members in the domestic circle. The current prayers for the dead were originally only thanksgiving for the grace of God manifested to them. But they afterwards passed into intercessions, without any warrant in the reaching of the apostles, and in connection with questionable views in regard to the intermediate state. Tertullian, for instance, in his argument against second marriage, says of the Christian widow, she prays for the soul of her departed husband,696 and brings her annual offering on the day of his departure.
The same feeling of the inseparable communion of saints gave rise to the usage, unknown to the heathens, of consecrated places of common burial.697 For these cemeteries, the Christians, in the times of persecution, when they were mostly poor and enjoyed no corporate rights, selected remote, secret spots, and especially subterranean vaults, called at first crypts, but after the sixth century commonly termed catacombs, or resting-places, which have been discussed in a previous chapter.
We close with a few stanzas of the Spanish poet Prudentius (d. 405), in which he gives forcible expression to the views and feelings of the ancient church before the open grave:698
"No more, ah,
no more sad complaining;
Resign these fond pledges to earth:
Stay, mothers, the
This death is a heavenly birth.
Take, Earth, to thy
bosom so tender,—
Take, nourish this body. How fair,
How noble in
death! We surrender
These relics of man to thy care
This, this was the
home of the spirit,
Once built by the breath of our God;
And here, in the
light of his wisdom,
Christ, Head of the risen, abode.
Guard well the dear
treasure we lend thee
The Maker, the Saviour of men:
Shall never forget
But claim His own likeness again."
§ 103. Summary of Moral Reforms.
Christianity represents the thoughts and purposes of God in history. They shine as so many stars in the darkness of sin and error. They are unceasingly opposed, but make steady progress and are sure of final victory. Heathen ideas and practices with their degrading influences controlled the ethics, politics, literature, and the house and home of emperor and peasant, when the little band of despised and persecuted followers of Jesus of Nazareth began the unequal struggle against overwhelming odds and stubborn habits. It was a struggle of faith against superstition, of love against selfishness, of purity against corruption, of spiritual forces against political and social power.
Under the inspiring influence of the spotless purity of Christ’s teaching and example, and aided here and there by the nobler instincts and tendencies of philosophy, the Christian church from the beginning asserted the individual rights of man, recognized the divine image in every rational being, taught the common creation and common redemption, the destination of all for immortality and glory, raised the humble and the lowly, comforted the prisoner and captive, the stranger and the exile, proclaimed chastity as a fundamental virtue, elevated woman to dignity and equality with man, upheld the sanctity and inviolability of the marriage tie, laid the foundation of a Christian family and happy home, moderated the evils and undermined the foundations of slavery, opposed polygamy and concubinage, emancipated the children from the tyrannical control of parents, denounced the exposure of children as murder, made relentless war upon the bloody games of the arena and the circus, and the shocking indecencies of the theatre, upon cruelty and oppression and every vice infused into a heartless and loveless world the spirit of love and brotherhood, transformed sinners into saints, frail women into heroines, and lit up the darkness of the tomb by the bright ray of unending bliss in heaven.
Christianity reformed society from the bottom, and built upwards until it reached the middle and higher classes, and at last the emperor himself. Then soon after the conversion of Constantine it began to influence legislation, abolished cruel institutions, and enacted laws which breathe the spirit of justice and humanity. We may deplore the evils which followed in the train of the union of church and state, but we must not overlook its many wholesome effects upon the Justinian code which gave Christian ideas an institutional form and educational power for whole generations to this day. From that time on also began the series of charitable institutions for widows and orphans, for the poor and the sick, the blind and the deaf, the intemperate and criminal, and for the care of all unfortunate,—institutions which we seek in vain in any other but Christian countries.
Nor should the excesses of asceticism blind us against the moral heroism of renouncing rights and enjoyments innocent in themselves, but so generally abused and poisoned, that total abstinence seemed to most of the early fathers the only radical and effective cure. So in our days some of the best of men regard total abstinence rather than temperance, the remedy of the fearful evils of intemperance.
Christianity could not prevent the irruption of the Northern barbarians and the collapse of the Roman empire. The process of internal dissolution had gone too far; nations as well as individuals may physically and morally sink so low that they, are beyond the possibility of recovery. Tacitus, the heathen Stoic in the second century, and Salvianus, the Christian presbyter in the fifth, each a Jeremiah of his age, predicted the approaching doom and destruction of Roman society, looked towards the savage races of the North for fresh blood and new vigor. But the Keltic and Germanic conquerors would have turned Southern Europe into a vast solitude (as the Turks have laid waste the fairest portions of Asia), if they had not embraced the principles, laws, and institutions of the Christian church.
* Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997. This material has been carefully compared, corrected¸ and emended (according to the 1910 edition of Charles Scribner's Sons) by The Electronic Bible Society, Dallas, TX, 1998.
564 Friedländer, III. 369 sqq. (5th ed.), gives much interesting information about the book trade in Rome, which was far more extensive than is generally supposed, and was facilitated by slave-labor. Books were cheap. The first book of Martial (over 700 verses in 118 poems) cost in the best outfit only 5 denarii (80 cts.). Julius Caesar conceived the plan of founding public libraries, but was prevented from carrying it into effect. In the fourth century there were no less than twenty-eight public libraries in Rome. The ease and enjoyment of reading, however, were considerably diminished by the many errors, the absence of division and punctuation. Asinius Pollio introduced the custom of public readings of new works before invited circles.
565 Gibbon, Decline and Fall, ch. III. Renan expresses the same view.
566 Either from disgust of life, or because he thought he could not live off the remaining ten million of sesterces, after he had wasted sixty or a hundred million. Seneca, Ad Helv. x. 9. Heliogabalus chose Apicius as his model. These, however, are exceptional cases, and became proverbial. See on this whole subject of Roman luxury the third volume of Friedlaender’s Sittengeschichte, pp. 1-152. He rather modifies the usual view, and thinks that Apicius had more imitators among French epicures under Louis XIV., XV., and XVI. than among the Roman nobles, and that some petty German princes of the eighteenth century, like King August of Saxony (who wasted eighty thousand thalers on a single opera), and Duke Karl of Württemberg, almost equalled the heathen emperors in extravagance and riotous living, at the expense of their poor subjects. The wealth of the old Romans was much surpassed by that of some modern Russian and English noblemen, French bankers, and American merchant princes, but had a much greater purchasing value. The richest Romans were Ca. Lentulus, and Narcissus (a freedman of Nero), and their fortune amounted to four hundred million sesterces (from sixty-five to seventy million marks); while Mazarin left two hundred million francs, Baron James Rothschild (d. 1868) two thousand million francs (l.c. p. 13 sqq.). The architecture of the imperial age surpassed all modern palaces in extravagance and splendor, but in parks and gardens the modem English far surpass the ancient Romans (p. 78 sqq.).
567 Decline and Fall, ch. III.
568 Seekers after God, p. 37.
569 Zeller, l.c. p. 37: "Nearly all the most important Stoics before the Christian era belong by birth to Asia Minor, to Syria, and to the islands of the Eastern Archipelago. Then follow a line of Roman Stoics, among whom the Phrygian Epictetus occupies a prominent place; but Greece proper is exclusively represented by men of third or fourth-rate capacity."
570 Niebuhr says of Seneca: "He acted on the principle that he could dispense with the laws of morality which he laid down for others." Macaulay: "The business of the philosopher was to declaim in praise of poverty, with two millions sterling at usury; to meditate epigrammatic conceits about the evils of luxury in gardens which moved the envy of sovereigns; to rant about liberty while fawning on the insolent and pampered freedman of a tyrant; to celebrate the divine beauty of virtue with the same pen which had just before written a defense of the murder of a mother by a son." Farrar (l.c. p. 161): "In Seneca’s life, we see as clearly as in those of many professed Christians, that it is impossible to be at once worldly and righteous. His utter failure was due to the vain attempt to combine in his own person two opposite characters—that of a Stoic and that of a courtier .... In him we see some of the most glowing pictures of the nobility of poverty combined with the most questionable avidity in the pursuit of wealth." For a convenient collection of Seneca’s resemblances to Scripture, see Farrar, ch. XV., 174-185. The most striking passages are: "A sacred spirit dwells within us, the observer and guardian of all our evil and our good ... there is no good man without God."Ep. ad Lucil. 41. Comp. 1 Cor. 3:16."Not one of us is without fault ... no man is found who can acquit himself." De Ira I.14; II. 27. Comp. 1 John 1:8. "Riches .... the greatest source of human trouble. "De Tranqu. An. 8. Comp. 1 Tim. 6:10 ."You must live for another, if you wish to live for yourself."Ep. 48. Comp. Rom. 12:10. "Let him who hath conferred a favor hold his tongue." De Benef. II.11 Comp. Matt. 6:3.
571 Col. 1:7; 4:12, 13.
572 Disc. III. 22. Comp. 1 Cor. 7:35; but also Eph. 5:28-33. Farrar, l.c., p. 213, thinks that the philosopher and the apostle agree in recommending celibacy as "a counsel of perfection." But this is the Roman Catholic, not the Scripture view.
573 Discourses, III. 10. Here E. discusses the manner in which we ought to bear sickness.
574 The only point about which the Stoics were undecided was whether all souls would last until that time as separate souls, or whether, as Chrysippus held, only the souls of the wise would survive."Zeller, l.c., p. 205.
575 Disc. IV. 7: "Through madness (uJpo maniva") it is possible for a man to be so disposed towards these things and through habit(uJpo; e[qou"), as the Galileans." By Galileans he no doubt means Christians, and the allusion is rather contemptuous, like the allusion of Marcus Aurelius to the martyrs, with this difference that the emperor attributes to obstinacy what Epictetus attributes to "habit." But Schweighäuser (II. 913 sq.) suspects that the reading uJpo; e[qou" is false, and that Arrian wrote uJpo; ajponoiva" , wJ" oiJ Gal., so that, Epictetus ascribed to the Christians fury and desperation or dementia. To the Greeks the gospel is foolishness, 1 Cor. 1:22.
576 According to less probable accounts he died of suicide, or of poison administered to him by order of his son, Commodus. See Renan, p. 485.
577 "Quid me fletis, et non magis de pestilentia et communi morte cogitatis?" Capitolinus, M. Aurelius.
578 Medit. v. 31.
579 So Renan, Marc-Aurèle, p. 488, without qualification: "Avec lui, la philosophie a régné. Un moment, grâce à lui, le monde a été gouverné par l’homme le meilleur et le plus grand de son siècle." But elsewhere he puts Antoninus Pius above Aurelius. "Of the two, " he says (Conférences d’Angleterre, translated by Clara Erskine Clement, p. 140 sq.): "I consider Antonine the greatest. His goodness did not lead him into faults: he was not tormented with that internal trouble which disturbed, without ceasing, the heart of his adopted son. This strange malady, this restless study of himself, this demon of scrupulousness, this fever of perfection, are signs of a less strong and distinguished nature. As the finest thoughts are those which are not written, Antonins had in this respect also a superiority over Marcus Aurelius. But let us add, that we should be ignorant of Antonine, if Marcus Aurelius had not transmitted to us that exquisite portrait of his adopted father, in which he seems to have applied himself through humility, to painting the picture of a better man than himself."
580 Medit. II. 13.
581 IV. 17.
582 IV. 26, 27.
583 III. 5
584 IX. 4.
585 . IX. 5.
586 V. 10.
587 IV. 23.
588 IV. 34, 35.
589 XII. 21.
590 IX. 2, 3; XI. 3.
591 The significant title of Renan’s book is Marc-Aurèle et la fin du monde antique.
592 XI. 3: "What a soul that is which is ready, if at any moment it must be separated from the body, and ready either to be extinguished or dispersed, or continue to exist; but so that this readiness comes from a man’s own judgment, not from mere obstinacy, as with the Christians, but considerately and with dignity, and in a way to persuade another without scenic show (ajtragwvdw")." I have availed myself in these extracts of Long’s excellent translation, but compared them with the Greek original in Gataker’s edition.
593 At his earnest request the obsequious Senate declared Faustina a goddess; she was represented in her temples with the attributes of Juno, Venus, and Ceres; and it was decreed that on the day of their nuptials the youth of both sexes should pay their vows before the altar of this adulterous woman. See Gibbon, ch. IV. A bas-relief in the museum of the Capitol at Rome represents Faustina borne to heaven by a messenger of the gods, and her husband looking at her with admiration and love. Renan apologizes for his favorite hero on the ground of the marvellous beauty of Faustina, and excuses her, because she naturally grew tired of the dull company of an ascetic philosopher!
594 Renan thus describes the sudden relapse (p. 490): "Horrible déception pourles gens de bien! Tant de vertu, tant d’amour n’aboutissant qu’à mettre le monde entre les mains d’un équarrisseur de bêtes, d’un gladiateur ! Aprés cette belle apparition d’un monde élyséen sur la terre, retomber dans l’enfer des Césars, qu’on croyaitfermé pour toujours ! La foi dans le bien fut alors perdue. Après Caligula, après Néron, après Domitien, on avait pu espérer encore. Les expériences n’ avaient pas été décisives. Maintenant, c’est après le plus grand effort de rationalisme gouvernemental, oprès quatre-ving quatre ans d’un régime excellent, après Nerva, Trajan, Adrien, Antonin., Marc-Aurèle, que le règne du mal recommence, pire que jamais. Adieu, verta; adieu, raison. Puisque Marc-Aurèle n’a pas pu sauver le monde, qui le sauvera?"
595 So Trench calls him, l.c. p. 112. The best account of his philosophy is given by Zeller in his Philosophie der Griechen, Part III., 141-182; and more briefly by Ueberweg, Hist. of Phil. (Eng. Ver.) I. 234-236.
596 Introduction to Goodwin’s ed. p. xi.
597 Adv. Colotem (an Epicurean), c. 31 (Moralia, ed. Tauchnitz, VI. 265).
598 · De Sera Numinis Vindicta. in Goodwin’s ed. vol. IV. 140-188.
599 Poikivlon ti kai; polupaqe;" kakw'n tamei'on qhsauvrisma, wJ" fhsi Dhmovkrito". Animi ne an corporis affectiones sint pejores, c. 2 (in Wyttenbach’s ed. Tom. III. p. 17).
600 See § 2, p. 9. sq.
601 Octavius, cap. 35.
602 Sacramentum militiae Christianae
603 Symbolum, or,tessera militaris.
604 Character militaris, stigma militare,
605 . Octavius, cap. 37
606 Friedlaender, II. 391: "Neben den gewaltigen Aufregungen, die Circus und Arena boten, konnte die Bühne ihre Anziehungskraft, für die Massen nur durch unedle Mittel behaupten durch rohe Belustigung und raffinirten Sinnenkitzel: und so hat sie, statt dem verderblichen Einfluss jener anderen Schauspiele die Wage zu halten, zur Corruption und Verwilderung Roms nicht am wenigsten beigetragcn."
607 De Spectac. c. 10. Comp. Minut. Felix, Octav. c. 37.
608 Gibbon, ch. XXXI. (vol. III. 384, ed. Smith).
609 Gibbon, ch. XII. (I. 646).
610 See the long list of amphitheatres in Friedlaender, II. 502-566.
611 Friedlaender, II. 370: "In der ganzen römischen Literatur begegnen wir kaum einer Aeusserung des Abscheus, den die heutige Welt gegen diese unmenschlichen Lustbarkeiten empfindet. In der Regel werden die Fechterspiele mit der grössten Gleichgiltigkeit erwähnt. Die Kinder spielen Gladiatoren wie jetzt in Andalusien Stier und Matador."
612 De Habitu Muliebri, and De Cultu Feminarum.
613 On the action of his successors, see vol. III. 122 sq.
614 Lecky, Hist. of Europ. Morals, II. 36 sq.
615 1 Cor. 7:20.
616 Apol. c. 42.
617 Exules vitae.
618 "Militamus," which proves that many Christians served in the army.
619 Apol. c. 38: "Nec ulla res aliena magis quam publica."
620 See the prayer for rulers in the newly discovered portions of the Epistle of Clement of Rome, quoted in § 66,above.
621 Gibbon, ch. 36, admits this in part. "If the decline of the Roman empire was hastened by the conversion of Constantine, the victorious religion broke the violence of the fall, and mollified the ferocious temper of the conquerors." Milman says of the Church: "If treacherous(?) to the interests of the Roman empire, it was true to those of mankind" (III. 48). Lecky (II. 153) says: "It is impossible to deny that the Christian priesthood contributed materially both by their charity and by their arbitration, to mitigate the calamities that accompanied the dissolution of the empire; and it is equally impossible to doubt that their political attitude greatly increased their power for good. Standing between the conflicting form, almost indifferent to the issue, and notoriously exempt from the passions of the combat, they obtained with the conqueror, and used for the benefit of the conquered, a degree of influence they would never have possessed had they been regarded as Roman patriots."
622 De Civ. Dei. l.c. 1.
623 "Facies, quae ad similitudinen pulchritudinis est coelestis figurata." Cod. Just. IX 17. 17.
624 Totidem esse hostes, quot servos." Seneca, Ep. 47. From the time of the Servile Wars the Romans lived in constant fear of slave conspiracies and insurrections. The slaves formed nearly one half of the population, and in some agricultural districts, as in Sicily and Calabria, they were largely in the majority.
625 Lib. v. c. 15 (ed. Fritsche. Lips. 1842, p. 257).
626 Inst. v. 14 (p. 257): "Deus enim, qui homines general et inspirat, omnes aequos, id est pares esse voluit; eandem conditionem vivendi onnibus posuit; omnes ad sapientiam genuit; omnibus immortalitatem spopondit, nemo a beneficiis coelestibus segregatur .... Nemo apud cum servus est, nemo dominus; si enim cunctis idem Pater est, aequo jure omnes liberi sumus.
627 Bulletino for 1866, p. 24. V. Schultze (Die Katakomben, P. 258) infers from the monuments that in the early Christian congregations slavery was reduced to a minimum.
628 Acta Sanct. Boll. Maj. tom. i. p. 371
629 Acta Sanct. Ian. tom. iii. 275.
630 Acta Sanct. Maj. tom. vi. 777.
631 Champagny, Charité chrét. p. 210 (as quoted by Lecky, II. 74).
632 Koinwniva tw'n ejleuqevrwn.
633 Their name eJtai'rai was an Attic euphonism for povrnai. In the temple of Aphrodite at Corinth more than a thousand hetaerae were employed as hierodulae and were the ruin of foreigners (Strabo, VIII. 6, 20). Korinqiva kovrh was a synonym for hetaera, and expressive of the acme of voluptuousness. A full account of these hetaerae and of the whole domestic life of the ancient Greeks may be found in Becker’s Charicles, translated by Metcalf, third ed. London, 1866. Becker says (p. 242), that in the period of the greatest refinement of classical Greece, "sensuality, if not the mother, was at all events the nurse of the Greek perception of the beautiful." Plato himself, even in his ideal state, despaired of restricting his citizens to the lawful intercourse of marriage.
634 Aspasia bewitched Pericles by her beauty and genius; and Socrates acknowledged his deep obligation to the instructions of a courtesan named Diotima.
635 Lecky (II. 311) derives this unnatural vice of Greece from the influence of the public games, which accustomed men to the contemplation of absolute nudity, and awoke unnatural passions. See the thirteenth book of Athenaeus, Grote on the Symposium of Plato, and the full account in Döllinger’s Heidenthum und Judenthum, 1857, p. 684 sqq. He says: "Bei den Griechen tritt das Laster der Paederastie mit allen symptomen einer grossen nationalen Krankheit, gleichsam eines ethischen Miasma auf; es zeigt. sich als ein Gefühl, das stärker and heftiger wirkte, als die Weiberliebe bei andern Völkern, massloser, leidenschaftlicher in seinem Ausbrüchen war ... In der ganzen Literatur der vorchristlichen Periode ist kaum ein Schriftsteller zu finden, der sich entschieden dagegen erklärt hätte. Vielmehr war die ganze Gesellschaft davon angesteckt, und man athmete das Miama, so zu sagen, mit der Luft ein." Even Socrates and Plato gave this morbid vice the sanction of their great authority, if not in practice, at least in theory. Comp. Xenophon’s Mem. VIII. 2, Plato’s Charmides, and his descriptions of Eros, and Döllinger, l.c. p. 686 sq. Zeno, the founder of the austere sect of Stoics, was praised for the moderation with which he practiced this vice.
636 Chapter XLIV., where he discusses at length the Roman code of laws.
637 Lecky, II. 321.
638 Gibbon (ch. XLIV.) confirms the statement by several examples, to which more might be added. Maecenas, "qui uxores millies duxit" (Seneca, Ep. 114) was as notorious for his levity in forming and dissolving the nuptial tie, as famous for his patronage of literature and art. Martial (Epigr. VI. 7), though in evident poetical exaggeration, speaks of ten husbands in one month. Juvenal (Satir. VI. 229) exposes a matron, who in five years submitted to the embraces of eight husbands. Jerome (Ad Gerontiam) "saw at Rome a triumphant husband bury his twenty-first wife, who had interred twenty-two of his less sturdy predecessors." These are extreme cases, and hardly furnish a sufficient basis for a general judgment of the state of society in Rome, much less in the provinces. We should not forget the noble and faithful Roman women even in the days of imperial corruption, as Mallonia, who preferred suicide to the embraces of Tiberius; Helvia, the mother of Seneca, and Paulina his wife, who opened her vein to accompany him to the grave; the elder Arria who, when her husband Paetus was condemned to death under Claudius (42), and hesitated to commit suicide, plunged the dagger in her breast, and, drawing it out, said to him with her dying breath: "My Paetus, it does not pain" (Paete, non dolet); and her worthy daughter, Caecinia Arria, the wife of Thrasea, who was condemned to death (66), and her granddaughter Fannia, who accompanied her husband Helvidius Priscus twice into banishment, and suffered a third for his sake after his execution (93). See Pliny, Epist. III.16; Tacitus, Ann. XVI. 30-34; Friedlaender, I. 459 sqq. . Nor should we overlook the monumental evidences of conjugal devotion and happiness in numerous Roman epitaphs. See Friedlaender, I. 463. Yet sexual immorality reached perhaps its lowest depths in imperial Rome, far lower than in the worst periods of the dark ages, or in England under Charles II., or in France under Louis XIV. and XV. And it is also certain, as Lecky says (II. 326), "that frightful excesses of unnatural passion, of which the most corrupt of modern courts present no parallel, were perpetrated with but little concealment on the Palatine." Prenuptial unchastity of men was all but universal among the Romans, according to Cicero’s testimony. Even Epictetus, the severest among the Stoic moralists, enjoins only moderation, not entire abstinence, from this form of vice. Lampridius relates of Alexander Severus, who otherwise legislated against vice, that he provided his unmarried provincial governors with a concubine as a part of their outfit, because "they could not exist without one" (quod sine concubinis esse non possent)."
639 Ch. XLIV. See a good chapter on the exposure of children in Brace, Gesta Christi, p. 72-83.
640 Among the converted courtesans of the ancient church in the Roman calendar are St. Mary Magdalene, St. Mary of Egypt, St. Afra, St. Pelagia, St. Thais, and St. Theodota. See Charles de Bussy Les Courtisanes saintes. St. Vitalius, it is said, visited dens of vice every night, gave money to the inmates to keep them from sin, and offered up prayers for their conversion. A curious story is told of St. Serapion, who went to such a place by appointment, and prayed and prayed and prayed till the unfortunate courtesan was converted and fell half dead at his feet. See Lecky, II. 338.
641 This beautiful idea (often attributed to Matthew Henry, the commentator) was first suggested by Augustin. De Genesi ad Literam, l. IX. c. 13 (in Migne’s ed. of Opera, III.col. 402), and fully stated by Peter the Lombard, Sentent. l. II. Dist. XVIII. (de formatione mulieris): "Mulier de viro, non de qualibet parte corporis viri, sed de latere eius formata est, ut ostenderetur quia in consortium creabatur dilectionis, ne forte, si fuisset de capite facta, viro ad dominationem videretur preferenda, aut si de pedibus, ad servitutem subjicienda. Quia igitur viro nec domina, nec ancilla parabatur, sed socia, nec capite, nec de pedibus, sed de latere fuerat producenda, ut juxta se ponendam cognosceret quam de suo latere sumptam didicisset." And again by Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol. Pars. I. Quaest. XCII. Art. III. (in Migne’s ed. l.col. 1231).
642 Eph. 5:28–32. The Vulgate translates to; musthvrion in ver. 32 by sacramentum, and thus furnished a quasi-exegetical foundation to the Catholic doctrine of the sacrament of marriage. The passage is so used by the Council of Trent and in the Roman Catechism. Ellicott (in loc.) judges that "the words cannot possibly be urged in favor of the sacramental nature of marriage, but that the very fact of the comparison does place marriage on a far holier and higher basis than modern theories are disposed to admit." Bengel refers "the mystery " not to marriage, but to the union of Christ with the church ("non matrimonium humanum sed ipsa conjunctio Christi et ecclesiae "). Meyer refers it to the preceding quotation from Genesis; Estius and Ellicott to the intimate conjugal relationship.
643 Eujch; kai; ajnavgnwsi".
644 Paedag. III. 250
645 Ad Uxorem, l II.c. 8.
646 Ad Polyc. c. 5. In the Syr. version, c. 2.
647 Tert. Ad Uxor. II. 8; Comp. De Monog. c. 11; De Pudic. c. 4.
648 Vivatis in Deo. See the picture in Northcote and Brownlow, II. 303. In other and later pictures the ceremony is presided over by Christ, who either crowns the married couple, or is represented by his monogram. Ibid. p. 302.
649 According to 1 Cor. 7:12, 16.
650 Legat. 33: JO deuvtero" gavmo" eujprephv" ejsti moiseiva. According to Origen, bigamists may be saved, but will not be crowned by Christ (Hom. XVII. in Luc.). Theophilus Ad Autol. III. 15, says that with the Christians ejgkravteia ajskei'tai, monogamiva threi'tai. Perhaps even Irenaeus held a similar view, to judge from the manner in which he speaks of the woman of Samaria (John 4:7), "quae in uno viro non mansit, sed fornicata est in multis nuptiis." Adv. Haer. III. 17, § 2
651 Comp. Hauber: Tertullian’s Kampf gegen die zweite Ehe, in the "Studien und Kritiken" for 1845, p. 607 sqq.
652 De Monog. 1: "Haeretici nuptias auferunt, psychici ingerunt; illi nec semel, isti non semel nubunt."
653 De Exhort Cast. c. 11: "Duplex rubor est, quia in secundo matramonio duae uxores eundem circumstant maritum, una spiritu, alia in carne. Nequeenim pristinam poteris odisse, cui etiam religiosiorem reservas affectionem ut jam receptae apud Dominum, pro cujus spiritu postulas, pro qua oblationes annuas reddis. Stabis ergo ad Dominum cum tot uxoribus quot in oratione commemoras, et offeres pro duabus," etc.
654 De Exhort Cast. c. 9:Leges videntur matrimonii et stupri differentiam facere, per diversitatem illiciti, non per conditionem rei ipsius .... Nuptiae ipsae ex eo constant quod est stuprum."
655 "Non prohibemus secundas nuptias, " says Ambrose, "sed non suademus." None of the fathers recommends remarriage or even approves of it. Jerome represented the prevailing view of the Nicene age. He took the lowest view of marriage as a mere safeguard against fornication and adultery, and could conceive of no other motive for second or third marriage but animal passion. "The first Adam, " he says, "had one wife; the second Adam had no wife. Those who approve of digamy hold forth a third Adam, who was twice married, whom they follow" (Contra Jovin. 1). Gregory of Nazianzum infers from the analogy of marriage to the union of Christ with his church that second marriage is to be reproved, as there is but one Christ and one church (Orat. XXXI).
656 Apol. I. 27 and 29.
657 Apol. c. 35
658 Inst. Div. vi. 20 (p. 48 ed. Lips): "Let no one imagine that even this is allowed, to strangle newly-born children, which is the greatest impiety; for God breathes into their souls for life, and not for death. But men (that there may be no crime with which they may not pollute their hands) deprive souls as yet innocent and simple of the light which they themselves have not given. Can they be considered innocent who expose their own offspring as a prey to dogs, and as far as it depends upon themselves, kill them in a more cruel manner than if they had strangled them? Who can doubt that he is impious who gives occasion for the pity of others? For, although that which he has wished should befall the child—namely, that it should be brought up—he has certainly consigned his own offspring either to servitude or to the brothel? But who does not understand, who is ignorant what things may happen, or are accustomed to happen, in the case of each sex, even through error? For this is shown by the example of OEdipus alone, confused with twofold guilt. It is therefore as wicked to expose as it is to kill. But truly parricides complain of the scantiness of their means, and allege that they have not enough for bringing up more children; as though, in truth, their means were in the power of these who possess them, or God did not daily make the rich poor, and the poor rich. Wherefore, if any one on account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from marriage than with wicked hands to mar the work of God."
659 For further details see Brace, l.c. 79 sqq., and Terme et Monfalcon, Hist. des enfants trouvés. Paris, 1840.
660 Pro Archia poeta, c. 11: "Trahimur omnes laudis studio, et optimus quisque maxime gloria ducitur."
661 Tapeinov". tapeinovfrwn,tapeinovth", tapeinofrosuvnh.
662 Matt. 5:23, 24, 44; 6:12; 18:21. Rom. 12:17, 19, 20. 1 Cor. 13:7. I Thess. 5:15. 1 Pet. 3:9.
663 Prom. Vinct. v. 1005, Comp. 1040. Many passages of similar import from Homer, Hesiod, Sophocles, Euripedes, etc., see quoted on p. 81 sqq. of the article of Schaubach referred to above.
664 De Offic. I. 25: "Nihil enim laudabilius, nihil magno et praeclaro viro dignius placabilitate et clementia."
665 Comp. Seneca, De ira II. 32: "Magni animi est injurias despicere. Illemagnus et nobilis est, qui more magnae ferae latratus minutorum canum securus exaudit."
666 Cristofovroi, qeofovroi
667 Gravmmata tetupwmevna or koinwnikav: epistolae or literae formatae; so called, because composed after a certain tuvpo" or forma, to guard against frequent forgeries.
668 Comp. James 1:27; Hebr. 13:1-3, 16.
669 Comelius, in Euseb. H. E. VI. 43.
670 De Morte Peregr. c. 13.
671 Dionysius of Corinth, in Eus. IV. 23.
672 Ad Scapulam, c. 1: Ita enim disciplina jubemur diligere inimicos quoque,et orare pro iis qui nos persequuntur, ut haec sit perfecta et propria bonitas nostra, non communis. Amicos enim diligere omnium est, inimicos autem solorum Christianorum."
673 Nosocomia, Ptochotrophia, Xenodochia, Cherotrophia, Orphanotrophia, Brephotrophia, Gerontocomia (for old men).
674 See Uhlhorn, Book III.ch. 4 (p. 319 sqq.).
675 De Orat. Domin. 33: "Cito orationes ad Deum adscendunt, quas ad Deum merita operis nostri imponunt."De Lapsis 17:"Dominus orandus est, Dominus nostra satisfactione placandus est."Epist. xl. 2: "Preces et orationes, quibus Dominus longa et continua satisfactione placandus est."
676 Comp. Acts 13:2; 14:23; 2 Cor. 6:5
677 Semijejunium, abstinentia.
678 Matt. 9:15.
679 Luke 6:12. Acts 16:25.
680 From quatuor tempora.
681 Comp. Matt. 9:15; Gal. 4:9; 5:1.
682 Xhrofagivai, aridus victus. See Tertullian, De Jejuu, 15; Hippolytus. Philos. VIII. 19.
683 And it occurs occasionally even among Christian nations. The corpse of the richest merchant prince of New York, Alexander T. Stewart (d. 1876), was stolen from St. Mark’s grave-yard, and his splendid mausoleum in Garden City on Long Island is empty.
684 Iliad XXIII. 81-88, in Bryant’s translation (IT. 284)-
685 Epist, XLIX. ad Arsacium, the pagan high-priest in Galatia.
686 Eus. IX. 8.
687 Eusebius, H. E. V. I.
688 Instit. Div. Vl.c. 12
689 Testim. l. III.c. 58
690 Comp. 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16. Burial was the prevailing Oriental and even the earlier Roman custom before the empire, and was afterwards restored, no doubt under the influence of Christianity Minucius Felix says (Octav. c. 34): "Veterem et meliorem consuetudinem humandi frequentamus." Comp. Cicero, De Leg. II. 22; Pliny, Hist. Nat. VII. 54; Augustin, De Civ Dei I. 12, 13. Sometimes dead Christians were burned during the persecution by the heathen to ridicule their hope of a resurrection.
691 Comp. Gen. 23:19; Matt. 27:60; John 11:17; Acts 5:6; 8:2.
692 Acts 9:37.
693 Matt. 27:59; Luke 23:53; John 11:44.
694 John 19:39 sq.; 12:7.
695 We have the funeral orations of Eusebius at the death of Constantine, of Gregory of Nazianzum on his father, brother, and sister, of Ambrose on Theodosius.
696 "Pro anima ejus orat!" Compare, however, the prevailing cheerful tone of the epigraphs in the catacombs, p. 301-303.
697 Koimhthvria, cimeteria, dormitoria, areae.
698 From his Iam maesta quiesce querela, the concluding part of his tenth Cathemerinon, Opera, ed. Obbarius (1845), p. 41; Schaff, Christ in Song, p. 506 (London ed.). Another version by E. Cagwall: "Cease, ye tearful mourners, Thus your hearts to rend: Death is life’s beginning Rather than its end."