Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Chosen People by Charlotte Mary Yonge

Part 2 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

themselves, which did not suit these selfish men, who did not care to
have a wife for a help-meet, but only for a slave and toy; so that poor
Vashti was set aside and degraded for being a modest woman; and the
tyrant sent and swept away every beautiful girl from her home, to be
brought to his palace on trial, and if she did not become queen, to be
a slave for ever. Thus the young Benjamite orphan, Esther, whom her
kinsman, Mordecai, had tenderly trained in the right way, was taken
away, never to see his face again, but to live in the multitude of
slavish heathen women, who were taught no kind of employment, and
thought even spinning and embroidery unworthy of a queen. But even the
king's passion was made to serve God's ends. It was for no vain purpose
that the noble beauty of the family of Saul had come down to Esther, and
though she alone demanded no ornaments to set her off to advantage, she
was the only maiden who took the king's fancy. Mordecai, her cousin,
soon after found out a plot against the king's life, and sending her
warning, she told the king, and he was thus saved. Mordecai daily sat at
the palace gate to hear of his beloved cousin, and there daily saw the
king's new counsellor pass by--Haman, an Agagite, descended from that
hateful Amalekite nation, whom Saul ought to have totally destroyed.
Mordecai would not bow before the man whom his law had taught him to
loathe; and Haman, taking offence, and remembering the old enmity
between the two nations, that had begun at the battle of Rephidim,
promised the king 10,000 talents of silver for permission to let their
enemies loose upon the Jews in their still unwalled city, and destroy
them everywhere by a general slaughter. The king actually granted this
horrible request, though without taking the bribe; and Haman, setting
the royal seal to his decree, made it one of the unalterable Persian
laws. The day was fixed for the massacre, and Haman prepared an enormous
gallows on which to hang Mordecai, or as is supposed, to nail him up
alive. But Mordecai contrived to warn Esther, and order her to persuade
the king to save their lives. She was in a great strait, for it was
death to enter the king's presence unbidden, unless he were in the
mood to show mercy, and should hold out his golden sceptre; but in her
extremity she took courage, arrayed herself royally, and came before
him, fainting with fear. The Power above stirred his heart, and he held
out the sceptre; but she dared not accuse his favourite, and only
asked him and Haman together to a banquet in her apartments. Twice she
received them before she took courage to speak; but at last she told the
king that she and her people were sold to utter destruction. He demanded
in anger who had dared to do this. "The adversary and enemy is this
wicked Haman," she said: and when the king found how horrible a decree
had been surprised from him, and that the gallows had been made ready
for the queen's cousin, the man who had saved his life, he flew into
such a rage, that he caused Haman to be hung on his own gallows at once,
and all his sons to be slain with him. Still the order to destroy the
Jews had gone forth, and could not be repealed, but Mordecai obtained
that the Jews should be allowed to arm themselves; and having due
notice, they defended themselves so well that they killed 800 of their
enemies at Susa, and 75,000 of the spiteful Samaritans and other foes
who had come upon them at Jerusalem.

Esther's power with the king seems to have done more for the Jews, and
a new gift was sent from the treasury to Jerusalem, under the care of
Ezra, a man of the seed of Aaron, and very learned in the Law. He gave
himself up to the work, which had sadly languished since Zerubbabel's
time; and he began in the right way, for ere entering the Glorious Land,
he halted all the companions of his pilgrimage, and fasted three days,
entreating the Lord for forgiveness, and protection from their enemies.
It is from this time, about 458, that the seventy weeks of years,
mentioned by Daniel, began to be counted, perhaps because till this time
the work hardly proceeded in earnest. Another great helper soon followed
Ezra, namely Nehemiah, one of the palace slaves, who, hearing of the
miserable state of Jerusalem, prayed with all his heart, weeping so
bitterly that when he went to wait upon the king and Queen Esther at
their meal, they remarked his trouble; and on their asking the cause, he
told them, with secret prayers, how his heart was grieved that his city
and his fathers' sepulchres lay waste, and begged for permission to go
with authority to Jerusalem, to assist in the rebuilding. His request
was granted, authority was given to him, and he set off with a train of
servants and guards, for he was a very rich man; but when he came near,
he left them all, and rode on by night to examine the state of the city.
Most sad was the sight; the gates broken and burnt, and the walls lying
in ruins, the streets blocked up so that no one could pass! Nehemiah at
once encouraged the Jews to set to work, and build up the breaches; and
they heartily began, while he kept open house at his own expense for all
his poor brethren. Down upon them came the Samaritans again, scoffing at
those "feeble Jews," saying that a fox could break down their wall,
and then attacking them; so that Nehemiah was forced to set a constant
watch, and the workmen built with their swords ever ready for use. When
the walls once more girded around the city built upon the hill, the
inhabitants were no longer easily molested by their foes; and a great
assembly was held, when Ezra read and explained the Law, for seven days,
at the feast of the Tabernacles, after which there was a great fast and
confession of sin, and the Covenant was solemnly renewed. Still a great
purification was needed; the Sabbath had become ill observed, many of
the people, even priests and Levites, had married heathen wives, and one
of the sons of the High Priest was son-in-law to Sanballat, the worst
enemy of the Jews. Ezra and Nehemiah brought many to a sense of their
sin: no burdens were allowed to be touched on the Sabbath, and the
heathen wives were put away; but this priest refusing to part with
his wife, was thrust out from the priesthood, and was received by the
Samaritans, who afterwards built a schismatical temple upon Gerizim, the
Mount of Blessing.

At this time lived Malachi, the last of the prophets, who left the
promise of the coming of the Prophet Elijah, as the forerunner of the
Messiah, and of the rising of the Sun of Righteousness. Ezra is believed
to have composed the Books of Kings from older writings, under the
guidance of inspiration, to have collected the latter part of the book
of Psalms, and to have been taught to discern which histories, and which
books of the Prophets to keep, and which to cast aside. The Scriptures
were all put under the keeping of scribes, who wrote the copies out with
the utmost care, and were held guilty if the smallest point or mark
failed; and a roll was placed under the care of the priests, besides
many others which were dispersed through the country, that they might
never be forgotten again. Ezra likewise arranged, that in places too far
from Jerusalem for people to come weekly to worship at the Temple, there
should be synagogues, or places of meeting for prayer, though of course
not for sacrifice. There, every Sabbath day, eighteen prayers were
appointed to be said, and lessons from the Scripture were read aloud and
explained. In their exile, the Jews had forgotten their Hebrew tongue,
and learnt to speak Chaldean, so that after the Law was read in their
own language, a scribe stood up to translate and explain it, and thus
they were saved from forgetting the Scripture, as they had done in
the time of Josiah, and from resorting to groves and high places for
worship. Idolatry was so thoroughly purged out of them, that they never
returned to it; and their hope of the Messiah was kept alive, though
they had no new prophets.

They enjoyed quiet and peace for many years; and most of the Jews who
were settled in other countries--in Persia, Babylon, and Egypt--came
from time to time to keep the feasts, and make offerings; while those
settled near enough kept the three yearly pilgrimages to Jerusalem,
singing, as it is believed, the beautiful psalms called in the Bible
the Songs of Degrees, as the parties from towns and villages went up
together in procession towards the Hill of Sion.

In the meantime, their masters, the Persian kings, grew worse and worse;
brother killed brother, son rose against father, and the women even
committed horrible crimes. They invented tortures too horrid to mention,
and lived between savage cruelty and vain luxury, till there was no
strength nor courage in them, and in less than 200 years from the time
that Cyrus had conquered Babylon, their realm was rotten, and their time
of ruin was come. All through this time, the Jews were chiefly ruled
by the high priests, though paying tribute to the Persian king, and
sometimes visited by the Satrap of the Province of Syria, to which
Palestine belonged.



"Ships shall come from Chittim, and shall afflict Eber, and shall
afflict Assur."--_Num_. xxiv. 24.

Mountain lands, small islets, and peninsulas broken into by deep bays
and gulfs, rise to the northward of the east end of the Mediterranean,
and were known to the Jews as the Isles of the Gentiles. The people who
dwelt in them have been named Greeks; they were sons of Japhet, and were
the race whom God endowed, above all others, with gifts of the body and
mind, though without bestowing on them the light of His truth. They had
many idols, of whom Zeus, the Thunderer, was the chief; but they did not
worship them with cruel rites like the Phoenicians, and some of their
beautiful stories about them were full of traces of better things. Their
best and wisest men were always straining their minds to feel after more
satisfying knowledge of Him, Who, they felt sure, must rule and govern
all things; and sometimes these philosophers, as they were called, came
very near the truth. Every work of the Greeks was well done, whether
poems, history, speeches, buildings, statues, or painting; and the
remains have served for patterns ever since. At first there were many
separate little states, but all held together as one nation, and used
to meet for great feasts, especially for games. There were the Olympian
games, by which they reckoned the years, and the Isthmean, which were
held at the Isthmus of Corinth. Everyone came to see the wrestling,
boxing, racing, and throwing heavy weights, and to hear the poems sung
or recited; and the men who excelled all the rest were carried high in
air with shouts of joy, and crowned with wreaths of laurel, bay, oak, or
parsley, one of the greatest honours a Greek could obtain. Of all the
cities, Athens had the ablest men, and Sparta the most hardy; and these
two had been the foremost in beating and turning back the great Persian
armies of Darius and Xerxes; but since that time there had been quarrels
between these two powers, and they grew weak, so that Philip, King of
Macedon, who had a kingdom to the north of them, and was but half a real
Greek, contrived to conquer them all, and make them his subjects.

The ensign of Macedon was a he-goat, the rough goat that Daniel had seen
in his vision; and the time was come for the fall of the Ram of Persia.
Philip's son, Alexander, set his heart on conquering the old enemy of
Greece; and as soon as he came to the crown, in the year 333, though he
was but twenty years of age, he led his army across the Hellespont into
Asia Minor. His army was very brave, and excellently trained by his
father, and he himself was one of the most highly-gifted men who ever
lived, brave and prudent, seldom cruel, and trying to do good to all
who fell under his power. The poor weak luxurious Persian King, Darius,
could do little against such a man, and indeed did not come out to
battle in the way to conquer; for he carried with him all the luxuries
of his palace, his mother, and all his wives and slaves. Before his
army marched a number of men carrying silver altars, on which burnt the
sacred fire; then came three hundred and sixty-five youths in scarlet
dresses, to represent the days of the year; then the Magi, and the
gilded chariot and white horses of the Sun; and next, the king's
favourite soldiers, called the Immortal Band, whose robes were white,
their breastplates set with jewels, and the handles of their spears
golden. They had small chance with the bold active Greeks; and at the
Battle of the Issus they were routed, and Darius fled away, leaving all
his women to the mercy of the conqueror. The poor old Persian Queen, his
mother, had never met with such gentle respect and courtesy as Alexander
showed to her old age; he always called her mother, never sat down
before her but at her request, and never grieved her but once, and that
was by showing her a robe that his mother and sisters had spun, woven,
and embroidered for him, and offering to have her grandchildren taught
the like works. She fancied this meant that he was treating them like
slaves, and he could hardly make her understand that the Greeks deemed
such works an honour to the highest ladies, and indeed thought their
goddess of wisdom presided over them.

While Darius fled away, Alexander came south to Palestine, and laid
siege to Tyre upon the little isle, to which he began to build a
causeway across the water. The Tyrians had an image of the Greek god
Apollo, which they had stolen from a temple in Greece, and they chained
this up to the statue of Moloch, their own god, to hinder Apollo from
going over to help the Greeks; but neither this precaution nor their
bravery could prevent them from being overcome, as the prophet Zechariah
had foretold, "The Lord will cast her out, and will smite her power in
the sea, and she shall be devoured with fire."

"Gaza also shall see it, and shall be very sorrowful." Alexander took
this brave Philistine city after a siege of two months, and behaved more
cruelly there than was his wont. It was the turn of Jerusalem next; but
the Lord had promised to "encamp about His House, because of him that
passeth by;" and in answer to the prayers and sacrifices offered up by
the Jews, God appeared to the High Priest, Jaddua, in a dream, and bade
him adorn the city, and go out to meet the conqueror in his beautiful
garments, with all his priests in their ephods. They obeyed, and as
Alexander came up the hill Sapha, in front of the city, be beheld the
long ranks of priests and Levites in their white array, headed by the
High Priest with his robes bordered with bells and pomegranates, and
the fair mitre on his head, inscribed with the words "Holiness unto the
Lord." One moment, and Alexander was down from his horse, adoring upon
his knees. His friends were amazed, but he told them he adored not the
man, but Him who had given him the priesthood, and that just before he
had left home, the same figure had stood by his bed, and told him that
he should cross the sea, and win all the chief lands of Asia. He then
took Jaddua by the hand, and was led by him into the Temple, where he
attended a sacrifice, and was shown Daniel's prophecies of him as the
brazen thighs, the he-goat and the leopard; he was much pleased, and
promised all Jaddua asked, that the Jews might follow their own laws,
and pay no tribute on the Sabbath years, when the land lay fallow.

Alexander next passed on to Egypt, where he built, at the mouth of the
Nile, the famous city that still is called by his name, Alexandria;
indeed he founded cities everywhere, and made more lasting changes than
ever did conqueror in the short space of twelve years. He then hunted
Darius into the mountain parts of the north of Persia, and after two
more victories, the Greeks found the poor Persian king dying on the
ground, from wounds given by his own subjects. So the soft silver of
Persia yielded to the brazen might of Greece. After this, Alexander
called himself King of Persia, and wore the tiara like an eastern king.
He took his men on to the borders of India, but they thought they were
getting beyond the end of the world, and grew so frightened that he had
to turn back. All that the Medes and Persians had possessed now belonged
to him, and he wanted to make Babylon his capital; he made his court
there, and received messengers who paid him honour from all quarters;
but he was hurt by so much success; he grew proud and passionate; he
feasted and drank too much, and did violent and hasty things, but worst
of all, he fancied himself a god, and insisted that at home, in Greece,
sacrifices should be offered to him. He tried to restore Babylon to what
it had been, and set multitudes to work to clear away the rubbish, and
build up the Temple of Bel; but when he ordered the Jews to share in the
work, they answered that it was contrary to their Law to labour at an
idol temple, and he listened to them, releasing them from the command.
He wished to turn the waters of the Euphrates back into their stream,
and drain the swamps into which they had spread; but Babylon was under
the curse of God, and was never to recover. Alexander caught a fever
while going about surveying the unwholesome swamps, and after trying to
hold out against it for nine days, his strength gave way. He said there
would be a mighty strife at his funeral, perhaps recollecting how the
prophecy had said that his kingdom should not continue; and instead of
trying to choose an heir, he put his ring on the finger of his friend,
and very soon died. He was but thirty-two, and had not reigned quite
twelve years; but perhaps no one ever did greater things in so short a
time. He died in the year 323; and so the great horn of the goat was
broken when it was at the strongest. No one hated him; for though
sometimes violent, he had generally been kind; he was frank, open,
and free-handed, warm-hearted to his friends, and seldom harsh to his
enemies, and he had done his best to educate and improve all the people
whom he conquered. It was owing to him that Greek manners and habits
prevailed, and the Greek tongue was spoken everywhere around the eastern
end of the Mediterranean, though Persia itself soon fell back into the
old eastern ways. Babylon became almost deserted after his death; the
swamps grew worse, till no one could live there, and at last, the only
use of the great walls was to serve as an enclosure for a hunting
ground, where the wild beasts had their home, and kept court for ever.



"Why hast Thou then broken down her hedge, that all they that go by
pluck off her grapes?"--_Ps_. lxxx. 12.

The leopard of Daniel's vision had four heads--the great horn of the
rough goat gave place to four horns; so when Alexander was taken away so
suddenly from the midst of his conquests, leaving no one in his room,
his great officers divided them between themselves; and after much
violence and bloodshed, four Greek kingdoms were formed out of the
fragments of his conquests, Thrace, Macedon, Egypt, and Syria. It is
only the two last of which we have to speak. The angel who spake to
Daniel called their princes the Kings of the North and South. The north,
or second kingdom of Syria, was very large, and went from Asia Minor to
the borders of India, and it had two great capital cities, Antioch in
Syria, and Seleucia upon the Tigris, where the Babylonians went to live
when their city became deserted and uninhabitable. Both these places
were named after the Greek Kings of Syria, who were by turns called
Seleucus and Antiochus.

It would have seemed natural for Palestine to have belonged to Syria,
but the Greek King of Egypt, whose name was Ptolemy Lagos, contrived
to secure it. He entered Jerusalem on the Sabbath-day, when the Jews
thought it wrong to fight, and so he gained the city without a blow;
but this was no great misfortune to them, for the first Ptolemies were
milder masters than the Seleucidae, and did not oppress their subjects.
Ptolemy, however, brought a colony of Jews and Samaritans to live in
Lybia and Cyrene, parts of Egypt, and so fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy,
that five cities in Egypt should speak the language of Canaan. They were
treated with much favour, for he saw that they were the most trustworthy
of all his people. Indeed, the Greeks respected them much; and one of
Ptolemy's soldiers tells this story: he says that while travelling in a
large company by the Red Sea, he fell in with a very brave strong Jew,
called Masollam. Presently the whole company came to a halt. Masollam
asked why; and a soothsayer, pointing to a bird, told him that if the
bird stopped, it would be lucky for them to stop; if it flew on, they
might go on; if it went back, so must they. All the answer Masollam
made, was to fit an arrow to his bow-string, and shoot the bird dead;
and when the Greeks cried out at him, he rebuked them for thinking the
poor bird could know their future, when he could not even save himself
from the arrow.

At this time the High Priest was Simon the Just, son of Onias, the
same who is so highly praised in the fiftieth chapter of the Book of
Ecclesiasticus, and compared to the morning star, and to a young cedar
of Libanus, when he stood before the Altar in his beautiful robes, and
turned round and blessed the people. He was the last of the hundred
and twenty great prophets, or wise men, whom the Jews called the great
Synagogue; and it was he who sealed up the Old Testament, adding to the
former collection the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi; and it is
thought, compiling the books of Chronicles from older writings, for the
genealogy of the house of David there given, comes down to about the
year 300, when he was alive, since he died in 292. The Jews thought
nothing went so well with them after his time, and were alarmed when
the scape-goat, with the band of scarlet wool on his brow, instead of
rushing down a precipice, as usual, and being killed at once, ran off
into the desert, and was eaten by the Arabs. They enjoyed tolerable
peace for the whole of the time they were under the Greeks of Egypt.
Ptolemy Lagos wanted to make his new city of Alexandria as much famed
for learning as Athens; and for this purpose he founded a great
library there, collecting, from every quarter, books written either on
parchment, or on the paper rush of Egypt. When he died, in the year 284,
his son, Ptolemy Philadelphus, or lover of his brethren, went on still
more eagerly seeking for curious writings; and among those for which he
wished were the Holy Scriptures. As they were in Hebrew, he caused them
to be translated into Greek; and the Jews believe that this was done by
seventy-two elders, who were shut up all day, two and two, in thirty-six
little cells in a palace on a little island in the Nile, each pair
taking one book of the Bible, and going back every evening to sup with
the king. This history does not seem likely to be true, but it is quite
certain that a version of the Old Testament from the Hebrew into Greek
was made about this time, and is called the Septuagint, from this
tradition about the seventy. It came more and more into use, as Greek
was considered the language of all learned men in the east. Most of the
quotations in the New Testament are taken from it, and it is of great
value in helping to show the exact meaning of the old Hebrew.

But if Ptolemy did desire to have the Scriptures in his own tongue,
it was only for curiosity, not for edification, for he was a great
idolater; and when his wife died he tried to build a temple to her at
Alexandria, which was to have a loadstone arch, with a steel statue of
her in the middle, where he hoped the equal attraction would keep it as
if flying in the air; but of course the fancy could not be carried out.
He had a quarrel with Antiochus Theos, King of Syria, but it was made up
by his giving his daughter Berenice in marriage to the Syrian, as
Daniel had foretold: "The king's daughter of the South, came to make an
agreement with the King of the North." But Antiochus had another wife
before, whom he loved better; so when, in 246, Ptolemy Philadelphus
died, he put Berenice away, and took her back. She requited him by
poisoning him for fear her favour should not last, and her son,
Seleucus, became king, and taking Berenice prisoner, put her to death.

"But out of a branch of her roots shall one stand up in his estate,
which shall come with an army, and shall enter into the fortress of the
King of the North." This was the brother of Berenice, Ptolemy Euergetes,
or the Benefactor, who came out of Egypt, overran Syria, and killed the
murderess, carrying home much spoil and many of the Egyptian gods, which
had been taken from the temples there in the time of Cambyses. Ptolemy
Euergetes himself came to Jerusalem, and attended a sacrifice in the
Temple; but Greek learning was doing the Jews no good, and some began
to reason like the heathen philosophers. A man named Joseph taught that
people ought to be holy for the love of goodness, and not for the sake
of a reward after death; and his follower, Zadok, or Sadoc, went still
farther, saying that there was no promise of any reward. His disciples,
who were called Sadducees, declared that the soul was not separate from
the body, but died with it; that there were no angels, nor spirits,
and that only the five books of Moses were the real Word of God, thus
casting aside all the prophecies. Such Jews as abhorred this falling
away, kept themselves apart, and were called Pharisees, from a word
meaning separate; and these grew the more strict in the observance of
all that had come down to them from their fathers, adding to it much
that had gradually been put into the explanations and interpretations of
the Law which were read on the Sabbath in the Synagogue.

Ptolemy the Benefactor was the last brave man of his family; his son,
Ptolemy Philopator, or lover of his father, was weak and violent, and
had a disastrous war with Antiochus the Great of Syria. In the course of
the conflict he came to Jerusalem, and tried to force his way into the
Holy of Holies, though the High Priest and all the priests and Levites
withstood him, and prayed aloud that the profanation might be hindered.
When he came to the court of the priests, such a strange horror and
terror fell on him, that he reeled and fell, and was carried out half
dead; but he was only hardened by this great wonder, and on his return
revenged himself by collecting the Jews at Alexandria, and insisting
that they should be marked with the ivy leaf, the sign of the Greek god
of wine, or else be made slaves, or put to death. Out of many thousands,
only three hundred submitted to this disgraceful badge; so in his rage,
he collected all the others in the theatre, and caused elephants to be
made drunken with wine and frankincense, so that when driven in on them,
they might trample them to death. But for two days following the king
was too drunk himself to be present at the horrible spectacle, and the
Jews had all that time for prayer; and when, on the third day, the
execution was to take place, the beasts ran upon the spectators instead
of upon the martyrs, so that though numbers of Greeks were killed,
not one Jew was hurt, and Ptolemy gave up his attempt; though he did
afterwards commit one savage massacre on his Jewish subjects. He died
when only thirty-seven years of age, worn out by drunkenness; and the
Jews, who had learnt to hate the Egyptian dominion, gladly received the
soldiers of his enemy, Antiochus the Great, into Jerusalem, deserting
his young son, who was only five years old; and thus, in the year 197,
Jerusalem came to belong to the Seleucidae of Syria, instead of to the
Ptolemies of Egypt. The history of Ptolemy Philopator in predicted from
the 10th to the 13th verse of the 11th chapter of Daniel's prophecy. The
Jews suffered terribly all through these wars, which were usually fought
out on their soil. Each sovereign robbed them in turn, while they were
too few to guard themselves, and could do no otherwise than fall to the



"The dead bodies of Thy servants have they given to be meat unto the
fowls of the air, and the flesh of Thy saints unto the beasts of the
land."--_Ps_. lxxix. 2.

The history of Antiochus the Great is foretold in the 11th chapter of
the prophet Daniel, from the 14th to the 19th verse. On the death of
Ptolemy Philopator, this king entered Palestine with a great army, and
easily obtained from the time-serving Jews the surrender of Jerusalem.
Some of them who had forsaken their Law to gain the favour of Ptolemy,
were punished by Antiochus, because he knew that no trust could be
placed in men who cared for their own profit more than for their God. He
then laid siege to Gaza and to Sidon, and won great victories, ravaging
and consuming the adjoining lands with his armies; and afterwards made
peace with young Ptolemy Epiphanes, giving him his daughter in marriage,
hoping that she would betray her husband to him. She, however, entirely
forsook him, and made common cause with her husband. "After this," the
prophecy declared that he would "turn his face to the isles and take
many." This meant that he should make an expedition to Greece, where he
gained a good deal of land; but here he came in contact with the iron
power, shadowed out by the great and terrible beast of Daniel's second

Some four hundred years before this time, the city of Rome had begun to
grow up on some of the seven hills on the banks of the Tiber in Italy.
The inhabitants were a stern, earnest, brave, honest set of men; not
great thinkers like the Greeks, but great doers, and caring for nothing
so much as for their city and her honour. They thought their own lives
and happiness as nothing in comparison with Rome; and all the free
citizens had a share in the government, so that their city's concerns
were their own. Their religion seems in early times to have been more
solemn and grave than that of the Greeks. Jupiter was their chief god,
the King of gods and men, who held thunderbolts in his hand, and they
had eleven other principal gods; but by the time they had learnt to
write books, they had begun to think these were the same gods as the
Greeks worshipped under other names; they said Jupiter was the same as
Zeus, and told of him all the foolish stories which the worse sort of
Greeks had invented of Zeus, and as their religion grew worse, they
became more selfish, proud, and cruel. At first, their neighbours in
Italy were always fighting with them, and their wars were for life or
death; but after nearly three hundred years of hard struggling, without
one year's peace, the Romans had conquered them all, and had safety at
home. But they had grown too fond of war to rest quietly, so they built
ships and attacked countries farther off, beginning with the great
Phoenician city of Carthage in Africa, which it is said was settled by
Canaanites who fled away from Joshua, and whose first queen was Dido,
Jezebel's niece. A great Carthaginian general, named Hannibal, who had
been banished from home, came to Antiochus, and offered to help him in
his war upon Greece. This Hannibal did chiefly out of hatred to the
Romans, who were pretending to assist the Greeks, only that they might
become their masters. If Antiochus had taken the advice of Hannibal, he
might have succeeded better, but he was self-willed; the Romans gave him
a terrible defeat, and he was obliged to promise to pay a great sum of
money, and a heavy tribute afterwards; to keep no elephants to be used
in war, and to give up his younger son, Antiochus, as security for his
performance of the conditions. The tribute he had to pay to Rome quite
ruined him; and while he was trying to rob an idol temple at Elymais,
the people rose on him and slew him, in the year 187.

His son, Seleucus, called by. Daniel "a raiser of taxes," was very poor
in consequence of the tribute, and therefore greedy. He tried to raise
money by sending his servant, Heliodorus, to rob the temple at Jerusalem
Onias, the High Priest, and all the people, were in great distress,
and made most earnest entreaties to God to deliver them from such
profanation. Heliodorus came, however, to the temple, and was pressing
on to the treasury, when suddenly a horse, with a terrible rider,
appeared in armour like gold, and cast the spoiler to the ground, while
two young men, of marvellous beauty, scourged him on either side, so
that when the heavenly champions had vanished, he lay as one dead. Onias
prayed for him, and he was restored; the same beings who had struck
him down coming to reveal to him that his life was granted at the
intercession of the High Priest. When he returned to his master, and
was consulted as to who might be a fit man to send to Jerusalem, he
answered, "If thou hast any enemy or traitor, send him thither, and
thou shalt receive him well scourged." So little impression did such a
revelation of glory make on that hard selfish heart! The man who had
been smitten by a visible angel could jest about it, and soon went on to
greater crime. He poisoned his master in the hope of becoming king, as
Seleucus's son was a hostage at Rome, that is, he had been given as
a pledge that the tribute should be paid; but Seleucus's brother,
Antiochus, who was on his way home from captivity at Rome, flattered the
adjoining kings into helping him, drove Heliodorus away, and became king
in 178. He was the little horn of the Grecian goat, "the vile person to
whom they should not give the honour of the kingdom," so much was it
fallen since the time of his father, Antiochus the Great. Vile indeed he
was, nearly mad with violence and excess, going drunk about the streets
of Antioch crowned with roses, and pelting with stones those who
followed him, so that the Greeks laughed at him for calling himself
Antiochus Epiphanes, or the Illustrious, and said he was really
Antiochus the madman. He cared little for the old Greek gods; but the
Roman Jupiter, "a god whom his fathers knew not," was his chief object
of devotion, and in his honour, he instituted games like those of
Greece. Some of the Jews had begun to weary of their perfect Law, and
fancy it narrow and vulgar, and the brothers of the good Onias were
among the worst; Joshua, the next in age, changed his glorious prophetic
name to the Greek Jason, and going to Antioch, offered a great sum of
money to be made High Priest, and for leave to set up at Jerusalem a
place for the practice of the heathenish games of strength, where men
fought naked. Antiochus was but too glad of the offer; so the good High
Priest was carried off to die a prisoner at Antioch, and the apostate
was set up in his room in order to pervert the Jewish youth to idolatry.
However, he was soon overthrown by his apostate brother, Menelaus, whom
he had sent to pay the tribute at Antioch, and who, when there, promised
the king a larger revenue, and to bring all the Jews to embrace the
heathen worship. Jason fled to the Ammonites, and Menelaus and his
brother sold the gold vessels of the Temple to the Phoenicians. The
Jews sent complaints to the king at Tyre, but instead of attending, he
murdered the messengers, so much to the horror of the Tyrians, that they
gave them honourable burial.

Antiochus now began a war with Egypt, (Dan. xi. 25,) and while he was
there, Jason came back from the Ammonites and regained Jerusalem; but
the news brought the king back in the utmost rage, Jason fled to Greece,
and Antiochus, coming to Jerusalem, cruelly treated the people, robbed
the treasury, himself went into the holy place, led by that horrible
traitor, Menelaus; and uttering blasphemy, he sacrificed a hog upon
the altar, and boiling the flesh, sprinkled the Temple with the broth,
carried off the candlestick and all the rest of the gold, and when
he went away to continue his wars, he left a captain and garrison to
oppress the Jews, and an old man to teach them the worship of Jupiter. A
little altar for sacrifice to Jupiter was raised on the true altar, the
Temple was dedicated to Jupiter, as was also that of the Samaritans on
Mount Gerizim, the Sabbath was abolished, so was circumcision, and on
the day of the king's birth, in each month, the Jews were forced to eat
swine's flesh, and partake of idol sacrifices, and, at the feast of the
god of wine, to carry ivy in the mad drunken processions in his honour.

It was the most utter misery that had yet befallen the Jews. Temple,
Priesthood, all gone! "We see not our tokens; there is not one prophet
more;" and yet that was the great time of glorious Jewish martyrdoms.
Numbers of the faithful were burnt to death together in a cave, where
they had met to keep the Sabbath day; two women who had circumcised
their babes, had them hung round their necks, and were then pitched from
the highest part of the wall of Jerusalem; and the aged scribe, Eleazar,
who was ninety years old, when swine's flesh was forced into his mouth,
spat it out again, and was scourged to death, saying with his last
breath that he bore all this suffering because he feared the Lord. A
mother and her seven sons were taken, and as each refused to share in
the idol rite and break the Law, they were put to death, one by one,
with horrible tortures, each before the eyes of his remaining brethren;
but the parting words of all were full of high hope and constancy. "The
Lord looketh on us, and hath comfort in us," said one. "The King of the
world shall raise us up who have died for His laws unto everlasting
life," was spoken by another. "Think not our nation is forsaken of God,
but abide awhile and behold His great power, how He will torment thee
and thy seed," said another, (for they were as yet only faithful Jews,
hope and forgiveness for their persecutors was for the Christian.) The
mother stood firmly by while each son's limbs were cut off, and he was
roasted to death over a fire; and all her words were to exhort them to
be stedfast, and to assure them their Creator could raise them if they
died for Him. When the turn of the last son came, the persecutors,
pitying his youth, entreated him to change his resolution, promising him
riches and prosperity if he would adore the idol, and even calling his
mother to plead with him. Then the noble woman laughed the tyrant to
scorn. "Have pity on me, my son," she began; but it was not by saving
his life, but by losing it, that she bade him show pity on her, so that
she might receive him again with his brethren. He made a still fuller
confession than the rest--he was slain by a still more savage torture;
and then his mother, blessing God, died gloriously like her sons. Others
fled, and lived in the mountains, lurking in caves, and feeding on wild
roots and herbs. Of such St. Paul says, "They were tempted, were slain
with the sword; they wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being
destitute, afflicted, tormented: of whom the world was not worthy."



"In that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all
people; all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in
pieces."--_Zechariah_, xii. 3.

Never was there a time when God left Himself without a witness; and in
these darkest times of the Jewish history, He raised up a defender of
His Name. There was a small town, named Modin, near the sea shore,
whither a Greek officer called Apelles was sent to force the people into
idolatry. He set up an altar to one of his gods, and having ordered all
the inhabitants to assemble, insisted on their doing sacrifice. Among
them came a family of priests, who, from their ancestor, Hasmon, were
known as the Asmoneans. The father, Mattathias, declared with a loud
voice that he would permit no such dishonour to his God, and the first
Jew who approached to offer incense, was by him struck down and slain.
Then with his five brave sons, and others emboldened by his example, he
fell upon Apelles, drove him away, and pulled down the idolatrous altar.
He then fled away to the hills, where so many people joined him, that he
had a force sufficient to defend themselves from their enemies; and he
went round Judea, circumcising the children, and rescuing the copies of
the Law which the Greeks had seized from the synagogues. Some of these
holy books, which had been defiled by paintings of the heathen idols,
were destroyed, by order of Mattathias, after the writing had been
carefully copied. It was at this time that the Jews began to read
Lessons from the Prophets in the synagogue, because Antiochus had only
forbidden reading the Law, without specifying the prophetic books.
Mattathias, who was already an old man, soon fell sick; and gathering
his sons about him, reminded them of the deeds that God had wrought by
the holy men of old, and exhorting them to do boldly in defence of His
Covenant. He appointed as their leader his third son, Judas, who for his
warlike might was called Maccabaeus, or the Hammerer; and the second,
Simon, surnamed Thassi, (one who increases,) was to be his chief

In the year 166, Judas Maccabaeus set up his standard, with the motto,
"Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, among the gods?" the first letters of
which words in Hebrew made his surname, Maccabee. He went through the
land, enforcing the Law, and putting the cities in a state of defence.
Antiochus, meantime, was holding a mad and hateful festival at Daphne;
but on hearing of the revolt of the Jews, he went into a great rage, and
sent a huge army to punish them. Maccabaeus defeated this force, drove
it back to Antioch, and then marched to Jerusalem, and forced the Greek
garrison to take refuge in a fortress called Akra, on Mount Zion. The
courts of the Temple were overgrown with shrubs which stood like a
forest, the priests' chambers had been pulled down, and the Sanctuary
lay desolate. These brave men rent their clothes and wept at the sight;
and then set at once to repair the holy place, their priest-leader
choosing out the most spotless among them for the work. They pulled down
the Altar that had been defiled, and setting aside its stones, built
a new one, and out of the spoil that was in their hands, renewed the
Candlestick, the shewbread table, and the Altar of incense; and then
they newly dedicated the Temple, after three years of desolation. The
anniversary was ever after kept with gladness, and was called the winter
feast of dedication. Still Judas was not strong enough to take the
castle on Mount Zion; but he built strong walls round the Temple, so
that it too became a fortress, and he then went to Bethshan to defend
the south border of Judea against the Edomites.

These tidings terribly enraged Antiochus, who was gone on an expedition
to Persia, and he designed to form a league with his neighbours for the
utter destruction of the Jews; but "he came to his end, and none could
help him," for an overturn of his chariot so much increased an inward
disease that had already begun, that he fell into most horrible
tortures, and was in such a state of decay that scarcely anyone could
bear to come near him. Horrible fears tormented him, and in his remorse
he repented of all the evil he had done to the Jews, and sent them a
letter assuring them of his favour; but it was now too late, and he died
in great misery in 164. His son, Antiochus Eupator, was only nine years
old, and his affairs were managed by a governor named Lysias, who
continued the persecution, and led an army to the relief of the garrison
in Mount Zion. Judas marched out to meet him, but was repulsed with the
loss of six hundred men, and of his younger brother, Eleazar, who seeing
an elephant of huge size, with a tower of unusual height on its back,
thought the king himself must be there, and running beneath it, stabbed
it so as to be crushed himself in its fall. Lysias then advanced upon
Jerusalem, and laid close siege to it, placing the Jews in extreme
peril. Just then another regent rose up against Lysias, and he made a
hasty peace with Maccabaeus, and was admitted into the city; but when he
saw its strength, he broke his promises, and overthrew the wall. On his
return to Antioch, he punished the apostate high-priest, Menelaus, as
the author of all these misfortunes, by smothering him in a tower filled
with ashes. "Woe to the idol shepherd who had left his flock!" Another
half heathen, named Alcimus, was appointed in his place, and when the
Jews would not receive him, brought down their enemies upon them again.
Judas gained a victory, and wrote to entreat the alliance and protection
of the Romans; but ere the answer to his letter arrived, he had, with
only 800 men, fallen on a whole army of the Syrians, and was killed in
the battle, B.C. 161. His brothers, Jonathan and Simon, took up his
body, and buried it at Modin, in the tomb of their fathers; and they
continued to lead the faithful Jews, while Alcimus held Jerusalem, and
there began to alter the Temple, taking down the wall of separation
between the courts of the Jews and that of the Gentiles; but in the
midst of the work he was smitten with palsy, and died.

It was the plan of the Romans to take the part of a weak nation against
a strong one, because it afforded them an excuse for conquering the
mightier of the two, so they gave notice that the quarrels of the Jews
were their own; and after much fighting, Jonathan obtained two years of
peace, and became high-priest. Onias, the son of the good Onias, whom
Jason had set aside, went to Egypt, and ministered in a temple built by
the Jews, who had settled there.

Ever since the Syrian kings had begun to misuse the Jews, they had grown
weak and miserable. Antiochus Eupator was dethroned and murdered by his
cousin Demetrius; but shortly after, a man named Balas came forward,
calling himself the son of Antiochus Epiphanes, and begging Jonathan to
take his part, sending him a golden crown and purple robe, and naming
him commander of the Jewish force. In a battle in the year 153,
Demetrius was slain; and Balas became king. Both Balas and his son
Antiochus treated Jonathan with great favour, and he fortified
Jerusalem, got possession of many other towns, and considerably
strengthened the rightful cause: but a wicked rebel named Trypho, who
designed the murder of his young master, Antiochus, began his conspiracy
by treacherously assassinating Jonathan in the land of Gilead, B.C. 143,
and soon after succeeded in killing the young king.

Simon Thassi was the only survivor of the brave Maccabaean brothers, but
he finished their work, and obtained from Rome, Egypt, and Syria, an
acknowledgment that the Jews were a free people, and that he was their
prince and priest. He took the castle on Mount Zion from the Syrians,
and so fortified the Temple, that it became like another citadel, and he
was honoured by all his neighbours. He built a noble tomb for all his
family at Modin, consisting of seven pyramids, in honour of his father
and mother, and their five sons; all covered in by a portico, supported
on seven pillars, the whole of white marble, and the pediment so high
that it served for a mark for sailors at sea. He died, like his brave
brethren, by a bloody death, being murdered at Jericho, B.C. 135, by his
own son-in-law, who hoped to usurp the government; but his eldest son,
John Hyrcanus, was able to punish the murderer, and to obtain the full
authority, by giving large presents both to the Romans and Syrians. It
is said that he found, laid up in the sepulchre of David, 3000 talents
of silver, which he used for this purpose. Hyrcanus was a very powerful
and mighty prince, and not only reigned over all Judea, but conquered
Edom, with all the curious dwellings in the rocky caves of Petra; he
brought the country under subjection, circumcised the inhabitants, and
brought them under the Mosaic Law. From that time Idumea decayed, and
now has become an utter wilderness, the carved faces of the rocks still
witnessing to the truth of prophecy, as they stand forth, lonely and
deserted in their grandeur, though glowing freshly with the rosy
marblings of the rocks of Seir.



And He shall put a yoke of iron on thy neck until He have destroyed
thee.--_Deut. xxviii._48.

Aristobulus, the son of Hyrcanus, was called King, as well as High
Priest of the Jews; but the mixture of worldly policy with the sacred
office did not suit well, and the Asmonean Kings were not like their
fathers, the Maccabees. Still their courage and steadiness made the Jews
much respected; and the Greeks and Romans around them began to read
their books, and there were some few who perceived that the religion,
there taught, was purer than idolatry, and wiser than the beat
philosophy. The kings were assisted in government by what was called the
Sanhedrim, a council of a hundred and twenty of the Scribes and of the
chief priests, namely, the heads of the courses of priests. This council
met daily in a hall near the great gate of the Temple, and heard cases
brought before them for judgment, after the example of the seventy
elders appointed by Moses. Alexander Janneus, the son of Aristobulus,
reigned from B.C. 104 to B.C. 77, and left his kingdom to his wife,
Alexandra, who trusted much to the Pharisees, and raised them to great
power. Her eldest son, Hyrcanus, was High Priest, and she left the
kingdom to him at her death, B.C. 69; but his brother, Aristobulus,
rebelling, with the help of the Sadducees, defeated him, and drove him
from his throne.

Hyrcanua was indolent, and was rather glad to be relieved from the
trouble of reigning; but his friend, Antipas, an Edomite by birth, and
of the Jewish religion, persuaded him that his life would not be safe in
Judea, and stirred him up to ask help, first from the Arabs, and when
they were beaten, from the Romans, to whom however, Aristobulus had
already sent a present of a golden vine, in hopes of winning their

The great awfulness of the Roman power was in the sureness of its
conquests. It did not fly onward without touching the earth, like the
great eastern conquerors; but let it set one claw on a nation, and the
doom of that nation was fixed. First the help of the Romans was asked
and readily given; then in return a tribute was demanded and paid; then
the Romans would meddle with the government, till their interference
became intolerable, and there was a rising against it, which they called
rebellion; then they sent an army, and ruined the nation for ever. The
king, queen, generals, and all the riches, were carried to Rome, where
the conqueror came in to enjoy what was called a triumph. He was seated
in a chariot drawn by white horses, a laurel wreath round his head, and
all his captives and spoils displayed behind him; the senate or council
coming out to meet him, and the people shouting for joy as they led him
to the Temple of Jupiter to give thanks. The captives were afterwards
slain; and, as a farther festival, the people were entertained with
shows of gladiators, namely, slaves trained to fight, even to death,
with each other or with wild beasts. Then the conquered land became a
Roman province. After the magistrates had served a year at Rome, they
were allowed to choose which province they would govern; and there they
did as they pleased, and laid heavy burthens on the poor inhabitants,
for all men, not of Roman birth, they called barbarian, and used like
slaves; nor was there any hope of breaking this heavy bondage, for each
city was a station of Roman soldiers, who were the bravest and best
disciplined in the world. The army was divided into legions, each about
6,000 men strong, with a silver eagle for the standard; these were again
subdivided into cohorts, and again into hundreds, each commanded by a
centurion, whose helmet had some mark by which his men might know him.
No soldier could miss his place, either in battle, on a march, or in the
perfect square camps which they set up wherever they halted; they obeyed
the least word, and feared nothing; and nothing could hold out against
their steady skill, perseverance, and progress. Wherever they went they
built fortresses, and made wonderful straight solid roads, some of which
remain to this day; and their ships and messengers going for ever from
one province to another, made their empire all like one country; where
the stern Roman was the lord, and the native was crushed down under his

They had just at this time put down the kingdom of Syria, and conquered
nearly all Asia Minor. Their great general, Pompey, was holding a court
at Damascus, whither, among ten other suppliant princes, Hyrcanus and
Aristobulus came to lay their cause before him, thus asking a heathen
who should be the Priest of the Most High. Pompey took the part of the
elder, as the rightful heir, and led an army against Jerusalem. The
siege lasted three months, and so strong was the place, that it would
have held out much longer, but that the Jews would not defend themselves
on the Sabbath, at least no more than enough to protect their own lives.
They would not disturb any of the operations of the siege, nor keep the
engines from the walls on that day; and thus, B.C. 63, the Gentiles
again entered Jerusalem on the very day observed as a fast in memory of
Nebuchadnezzar's conquest.

Pompey spared the city from plunder, and touched none of the treasure
in the Temple; but he would not be withheld from going into every part,
even into the Holy of Holies; and though no immediate judgment followed,
it was remarked that from that time his prosperity left him. He set up
Hyrcanus as High Priest, but not as King--made him pay a tribute, put
him under the control of Antipas, and forbade him to extend his domains.
Aristobulus and his sons were carried off to appear in Pompey's triumph,
but their lives were spared. Thus Judea, by her own fault, fell under
the dominion of the fourth power with the teeth of iron.

Rome had hitherto been ruled by two consuls, who were chosen every
year, and after their rule at home was over, went to make war in the
provinces; but of late this plan had been wearing our, and the great
general, Julius Caesar, who had conquered France, then called Gaul, and
had visited Britain, was making himself over-powerful. Pompey stood up
for the old laws, but Caesar was too strong for him, and at last hunted
him to Egypt, where he was murdered by the last of the Ptolemies. Julius
Caesar, who was one of the greatest warriors and most able men who ever
lived, managed Rome as he chose, and coming to Syria, confirmed Hyrcanus
in his rank, and finding him careless and indolent, made Antipas
procurator, or governor for the Romans; and thus Antipas and his son,
Herod, held all the real power in their hands, though still under the
Romans. Going back to Rome, Julius Caesar became so powerful, that it
was thought he would make himself king, and after four years, some of
the friends of the old laws killed him with their daggers in the Senate
House, B. C. 44. After this, there was great confusion; and while
Augustus Caesar, the nephew of Julius, gained power in the west, Mark
Antony, another Roman general, came to Egypt to attend to the affairs of
the East. He was a selfish licentious man, who cared more for Cleopatra,
the beautiful sister of the last Ptolemy, and Queen of Egypt, than for
Rome or for his duty; and he took bribes from Herod to support his power
over the old prince, Hyrcanus, to whose daughter, Mariamne, Herod was

The son of the deposed Aristobulus, Antigonus by name, made friends with
the Parthians, the descendants of the old Persians, and bursting into
Judaea when the nation was unprepared, carried off poor old Hyrcanus as
a prisoner, and cut off his ears that such a blemish might prevent him
from ministering again as High Priest. Herod escaping, went to Rome,
where he represented his case so ably, that Augustus and Antony gave him
men and money that he might drive out Antigonus, and promised that he
should himself be king under them. The Roman army helped him to win back
the country; and as the caves in the hills were full of robbers, he
let down soldiers in boxes over the face of the precipices, and thus
contrived to destroy them all. After a siege of six months he took
Jerusalem, and Antigonus surrendered to the Romans, who kept him
prisoner for some time, and then, at Herod's entreaty, put him to death.

Herod thus became King of the Jews, B.C. 37. He married Mariamne, who
was very beautiful and amiable, and thus he hoped to please the Jews who
were attached to the old line; but as he was an Idumean, and therefore
could not be High Priest, he gave the holy office to her brother, until
becoming fearful of the young prince's just rights to the crown, he
caused his attendants to drown him while bathing, and afterwards
appointed High Priests, as he chose, from the chief priests of the
Sanhedrim. Indeed Herod lived in constant fear and hatred of every
Asmonean, and at last even turned against his own wife, Mariamne. He
caused her to be put to death, and then nearly broke his heart with
grief for her; and afterwards the same dread of the old royal stock led
him to kill the two sons she had left to him.

The seventy weeks of Daniel were drawing to a close, and everyone
expected that the long-promised Deliverer and King would appear. Some
flatterers said it was Herod himself, the blood-stained Edomite, and he
did all in his power to maintain the notion, by repairing the Temple
with great care and cost, making restorations there that were forty-six
years in progress, and spreading a golden vine over the front of the

There were others who said the one great King, whom even the heathen
expected, was coming to Rome. Augustus Caesar had gained all the power;
he had beaten Antony and Cleopatra in a sea-fight, and following them
to Egypt, found that they had both killed themselves, Antony with his
sword, Cleopatra by the bite of an asp, in order to save themselves
from being made prisoners. Augustus was welcomed at Rome with a great
triumph, and was called Emperor, the name always given to a victorious
general; the Romans gave him all their offices of state, and he ruled
over all their great dominions without anyone to dispute his power, any
enemy to conquer at home or abroad. There was a great lull and hush all
over the world, for the time was come at last. But the King was neither
Herod in Judea, nor Augustus at Rome! Nay Herod, as a son of Edom, was
but proving that the Sceptre had departed from Judah; and the reign of
Augustus was a time when darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness
the people, for the Greeks and Romans had lost all the good that
had been left in them, and were given up to wicked cruelty and foul
self-indulgence; when one of their own heathen oracles was caused to
announce to Augustus that the greatest foe of the Roman power should be
a child born among the Hebrews.



"It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel."--_Gen_. iii.

It was in the 4004th year of the world, the 30th of the empire of Caesar
Augustus, the 37th of the reign of Herod the Edomite, that Augustus,
wishing to know the number of his subjects, so as to regulate the taxes
paid by the conquered countries, to provide corn for the poorer Roman
citizens, sent out an edict that each person should enroll his name at
his native place, and there pay a piece of money. Thus the Divine Power
brought it to pass, that the Blessed Virgin, who was about to bring
forth a son, should travel with her betrothed husband to the home of
their fathers, Rachel's burial place, Bethlehem, the little city, whence
David had once been called away from the sheepfolds.

There the stable of the ox and ass received, the Master of Heaven and
earth, when His people considered Him not, and shut their doors when,
"Unto us a Child was born, unto us a Son was given." There, the
shepherds on the hills heard the angels sing their song of peace on
earth, good will to men; there, on the eighth day of His Life on earth,
that Child was circumcised, and received the Greek form of the Divine
name, Jehovah the Saviour, the same which had been borne before by the
Captain and by the Priest, who had led His people to their inheritance.
Thence the Desire of all nations was carried to His presentation in the
Temple. He was truly the first-born of all creation, but He was only
known to the aged Simeon and devout Anna, as the messenger of the
covenant, the Lord for whom they had waited. To Bethlehem came the
mysterious wise men from the east. They had been led by the star to
Jerusalem, and were there directed on by the scribes, learned in the
prophecies; but their inquiries had alarmed Herod's jealousy, and he
sent forth the savage order, that the babes of Bethlehem should all be
murdered, in hopes of cutting off the new-born King of the Jews; but
while the mothers wept for the children who should come again to them in
a better inheritance, the Holy One was safe in Egypt, whither Joseph had
carried Him, by the warning of God.

This massacre was well nigh the last of Herod's cruelties. He was
already in failing health, and after having killed his innocent sons
because of their Asmonean blood, he was obliged to put to death the son
of another of his wives for rebelling against him. A terrible disease
came on, and fearing that the Jews would rejoice at his death, he
declared they should have something to mourn for; and sending for all
the chief men to Jericho, where he lay sick, he shut them all up in the
circus, or place for Roman games, and made his sister promise that the
moment he expired, soldiers should be sent in to kill them all. In this
devil-like frame, Herod died, in the seventieth year of his age, and the
thirty-fourth of his reign, the first year of our Lord;[A] and his
sister at once released the captives. He had had nine wives, and many
children, of whom he had himself put three to death. Archelaus and Herod
Antipas were the sons of one mother, Herod Philip of another, and the
murdered son of Mariamne had left two children, named Herod Agrippa and
Herodias. Archelaus took the kingdom, but had not power to control
either the people or the army. Three thousand Jews were massacred by the
soldiers in the Temple, and Archelaus went to Rome to beg to be
confirmed on his throne, and assisted in keeping his people in order;
but his brother, Herod Antipas, was there already, begging for a share
in the kingdom, and the Jews sent after Archelaus, saying, "We will not
have this man to reign over us!" Augustus thereupon refused to give to
either the title of King, but split Palestine into four divisions called
tetrarchies, from _tetra_, the Greek word for four, giving to Archelaus
Judea, Samaria, and Idumea; to Antipas, Galilee; to Philip, Iturea, the
part beyond the Jordan; and to a Greek named Lysanias, Abilene, in the
north, near Mount Hermon. After this, Joseph returned from Egypt, but
avoided the dominions of the cruel Archelaus, by going to his former
abode in Galilee.

[Footnote A: From the Birth of our Lord, time is counted onwards, and
the years marked as A.D., Anno Domini, Year of the Lord.]

Archelaus grew so wicked, that in the year 12 A.D. an accusation against
him was sent to Rome by the Jews and Samaritans; and Augustus deposed
him, sending him into banishment to Vienne, in Gaul. His brothers did
not obtain his domain, but it was joined to the province of Syria, and
put under the charge of a Roman procurator or governor, who kept down
disturbances by the strong hand; but this made the Pharisees very
discontented, as they fancied it was against the Divine Law to pay
tribute to strangers. Augustus had been all his life busy in setting his
empire in order, and making laws for it. It stretched from the Atlantic
Ocean nearly to the river Euphrates, and bordered the Mediterranean Sea
on both sides, the Alps shutting it in to the north, and the deserts of
Africa to the south. The Roman citizens considered themselves the lords
of all this space; and though at first only the true-born Romans were
citizens, Augustus gave the honour to many persons of the subject
nations. It freed them from being taxed, gave them a right to vote
for magistrates, and saved them from being under the authority of the
governors of the provinces. Every educated person spoke Latin and
Greek, but the latter tongue was most used in the east, as the Romans
themselves learnt it as an accomplishment. Augustus died, A.D. 17,
leaving his power to his step-son, Tiberius, whom he had adopted as his
own son, and thus given him the name of Caesar. Tiberius had not
been kindly treated in his youth, and he was gloomy and harsh, and
exceedingly disliked by the Romans. Under him, Pontius Pilate was made
Procurator of Judea, and took up his abode in Caesarea, a city built by
Herod and him son Philip, on the coast, and named after the emperors.
Pilate set up shields with idolatrous inscriptions in Jerusalem; but the
Jews petitioned Tiberius, who ordered them to be removed, and there was
much hatred between the Procurator and the Jews. The thirty years of
silent bearing of the common lot of man were now nearly over; and six
months ere the Messiah began to make Himself known, His messenger, John,
the Desert Priest, began to prepare His way by preaching repentance in
the spirit and power of the great Elijah, and then baptizing in the
Jordan unto repentance. Such washing was the manner in which the Jews
accepted their proselytes, as they called the strangers who embraced the
Law. The great purpose of the Old Covenant was accomplished when John,
having made his followers feel all the weight of their sins against the
Commandments, pointed out Him whom he had already baptized, and said,
"Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!" A few
faithful Galileans followed and believed, and miracles began to testify
that here was indeed the Christ, the Prophet like to Moses, giving bread
to the hungry, eyes to the blind, feet to the lame. Decreasing as He
increased, John offended Herod Antipas by "boldly rebuking vice." This
Antipas had forsaken his own wife, the daughter of an Arabian king, and
had taken in her stead, his niece Herodias, the wife of his brother
Philip; and for bearing witness against this crime, John was thrown into
prison, and afterwards beheaded, to gratify the wicked woman and her
daughter, Salome. The Arab King avenged his daughter's wrongs by a war,
in which Antipas met with a great defeat.

Meanwhile, the Pharisees and Sadducees, their heads full of the
prophecies of greatness and deliverance, to which their minds gave a
temporal, not a spiritual meaning, grew more and more enraged at every
token that the lowly Nazarene was indeed the Saviour, the Hope of the
whole world. Each token of perfection, each saying too pure for them,
each undoubted miracle, only made them more furious, and for once they
made common cause together. The Passover came. Herod Antipas came to
Jerusalem to observe the feast, Pilate to keep the peace among the Jews;
and Jerusalem saw her King coming, meek, and riding on an ass, and amid
the Hosannas of the children, weeping at the vengeance that He foresaw
for the favoured city where He had been despised and rejected, and where
He was Himself about to become the true Passover, which should purchase
everlasting Redemption.

The traitor sold Him to the Sanhedrim, or council, in which the last
words of the prophecy through the Priesthood had declared that one man
must die for the people; and a band of Roman soldiers was obtained from
Pilate. Meanwhile, our blessed Lord instituted the new Passover, the
Communion by which all the faithful should be enabled to partake of the
great Sacrifice; then He went out to the garden, among the grey olives
which still stand beside the brook Kedron, and there, after His night of
Agony, He was betrayed by a kiss, and dragged before the High Priest,
under an accusation of blasphemy; but as the Sanhedrim had not power of
life and death, and such a charge would have mattered little to a Roman,
a political offence was invented to bring before Pilate. The procurator
perceived the innocence of the Holy One, but feared to befriend Him
because of the raging multitude; and after vainly trying to shift the
responsibility on Herod Antipas, he washed his hands, to show that it
was no affair of his own, and gave the Victim up to the murderers. They
chose the most shameful death of Roman slaves, that they might show
their hatred and contempt, unwitting that each act and each word had
been foretold and foreshown in their own Law and Prophets. For six hours
He hung on His Cross, while the sun was dark, and awe crept on the most
ignorant hearts. Then came the cry, "It is finished;" and the work was
done; the sinless Sacrifice had died; the price of Adam's sin was paid;
the veil of the Temple was rent in twain, to show that the way to the
true Mercy-Seat was opened. The rich man buried Him--the women watched;
and when the Sabbath was over, the Tomb was broken through, and the
First-fruits of them that slept arose, wondrously visited His followers
for forty days, gave them His last charges, and then ascended into
Heaven, carrying manhood to the bosom of the Father. Satan was for ever



"Ten men shall take hold, out of all language of all nations, even shall
take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with
you, for we have heard that God is with you."--_Zech._ viii. 23.

By the coming of Him who had been so long promised, in His human Body,
and the completion of His sacrifice, all the objects of the old
ceremonial Law were fulfilled; the shadows passed away and substance
took their place, so that the comers thereunto might be made perfect.
Instead of being admitted to the covenant by circumcision, which was
only a type of putting away the uncleanness of the flesh, the believers
were washed from sin in the now fully revealed Name of the Holy Trinity,
in the Fountain of Christ's Blood, open for all sin and uncleanness, and
the penitent had a right to be constantly purified in the living
cleansing streams of grace and pardon. The one great Passover had been
offered, to redeem the chosen from the slavery of Satan, and the highway
was opened for the ransomed to pass over with songs of joy, keeping the
Resurrection Day instead of the Sabbath. Means had been given of their
constantly partaking of that Passover, the Lamb slain from the
foundation of the world; and thus tasting of the Eternal Sacrifice, in
right of which they prayed to the Father, to whom they were united as
members of His Son. The one great Day of Atonement was over, and the
true High Priest had entered for ever into the Holy Place, opening a way
where all might follow to the Mercy Seat, there offering His own
Sacrifice, and presenting their prayers. And even in Heaven, He still
was the Shepherd of the little flock, to whom it was His good pleasure
to give the Kingdom; feeding them, appointing under shepherds, and
guarding them gently from His Throne above. The sealed Book of type and
prophecy was open and clear at His touch; and the Old Testament found
full explanation and fulfilment in the New; and now it, remained to make
known the good tidings, and gather in all nations, Jew and Gentile
alike, to the Lord's Flock, the Church or House of the Lord, as it was

One hundred and twenty believers in their risen Lord awaited together
the coming of the promised Comforter, who should abide with them for
ever, to guide them into all truth, and to enable them to proclaim the
accomplishment of all the promises. The eleven Apostles, who, as their
name[1] implied, had been sent forth by their Lord, added to their
number Matthias, in the place of the traitor Judas, laying hands on him
in order to carry on the Gift that the Saviour had breathed upon them.
Besides these, there were the seventy whom our Lord had sent out in
pairs, and whose order was afterwards called the elders, presbyters, or

They were all gathered in the upper room to keep the Feast of Weeks, in
memory of the giving the Law, when He came upon them Who could enable
that Law to be kept, bringing the Divine Presence, which is the
pervading Life of the whole Body. His coming was marked by such open
signs, as to draw the attention of all the pilgrim Jews, who had come
from their distant homes to keep the feast. St. Peter expounded to them
that the time of fulfilment was come, and that Jesus, crucified and
risen, was their Salvation. 3,000 at once accepted the New Covenant, and
were baptized; and thus, on the day of Pentecost, A.D. 33, the Church of
Christ sprang into full life. Many of the converts sold their goods, and
brought the price to the Apostles, all living on one common stock, and
giving bounteous alms; but the new converts of Greek education, found
their poor less well provided than the native Jews, and to supply them,
seven deacons, or ministers, were set apart as the serving order of the
ministry. Foremost of these was Stephen, who, about two years after the
Ascension, bore the first witness through death to the doctrine which he

[Footnote 1: Apostle--one sent] being stoned by the people in a sudden
fit of fury, at his showing how the whole course of their history was
but a preparation for Him whom they had crucified.

In the year 37, Pilate was recalled to Rome to answer the many charges
against him. He was sentenced to banishment in Gaul, and there suffered
so much from remorse, that he killed himself. At the time of his
deposition, the Caesar, Tiberius, was dying, hated by all, and leaving
his empire to his nephew, Caligula, who had been a youth of great
promise; but he lost his senses in a fever, and did all sorts of strange
wild things--made his horse a consul, tried to make him eat gilded oats,
and once, at a wild beast show, turned the lions in on the spectators.
Shortly before his illness, Herod Agrippa, the son of Herod the Great's
murdered son, Aristobulus, while driving in a chariot with him, had said
how glad everyone would be to see him reigning. The charioteer reported
the speech, and Tiberius punished it by keeping Herod in prison, chained
to a soldier; but to make up for his sufferings, Caligula no sooner
became emperor than he set him free, gave him a crown, made him King of
Trachonitis and Abilene, and presented him with a gold chain of the same
weight as the fetters which he had worn in prison. This chain Herod hung
up in the Temple, for he was a zealous Jew, although such a friend
of heathen princes, and he seems to have been greatly puffed up with
admiration of his own good management. His sister Herodias, envious
of his crown, persuaded her husband, Herod Antipas, to go and sue for
another at Rome; but all he gained by his journey was an inquiry into
his conduct, which ended in his being exiled to Gaul, and his domain
being given to Herod Agrippa. In A.D. 41, the miserable madman Caligula,
was killed, but Herod Agrippa continued in high favour with the next
emperor, the moody Claudius, and under him the Jews had again the power
of giving sentence of death. They used it to persecute the disciples;
and this led to many leaving Jerusalem, and carrying the knowledge of
the faith to more distant parts. Saul, or Paul, a Benjamite, born at
Tarsus, in Asia Minor, a place where the inhabitants were reckoned
as Roman citizens, was learned in Greek philosophy, and deeply versed
in the Jewish doctrines: he was a zealous Pharisee, and a vehement
persecutor, till he was called by the Lord Himself from Heaven, and told
that his special mission should be to the Gentiles; and about the same
time, it was revealed to St. Peter in a vision, that the hedge of the
ceremonial Law was taken down, and no distinction should henceforth be
made between the nations, who had been all alike cleansed by the Blood
of Redemption. The Roman soldier, Cornelius, was the first-fruits of
a mighty harvest; and the Greeks and Romans in general, gave far more
ready audience to the Apostles, than did the Jews.

The hatred of the Jews moved Herod Agrippa to put to death James the son
of Zebedee, the first Apostle to drink of his Master's Cup; and he would
likewise have slain Peter, had not the Angel delivered that Saint out of
prison, in answer to the prayers of the Church. The pride of Herod
had come to a height. He celebrated games at Caesarea in honour of the
emperor, and in the midst came forth in a robe of cloth of silver, to
give audience to an embassy from Tyre and Zidon. At his speech, the
people shouted, "It is the voice of a god, not the voice of a man!" But
while Herod listened and took the glory to himself, he felt a deadly
stroke, which made him cry, "Your god is dying!" and in five days he
was dead. His son, Agrippa, was too young to take the government, and a
Roman procurator was appointed.

About this time the Apostles departed on their several missions. It is
said that ere doing so, they agreed on the Creed or watchword of the
Church; but it was not written down till more than three hundred years
later, lest the heathen should learn it and blaspheme it. Wherever they
went they ordained elders and deacons, and in most cities they left one
to whom they had conveyed their own apostolic powers. These were not
called Apostles, as that name was kept for those sent by our Lord in
person, but sometimes angels or messengers, and usually bishops, or
overlookers of the shepherds. St. James, the cousin of our Lord,
remained as Apostle of Jerusalem, while his brothers, Sts. Simon and
Jude, went into Mesopotamia, St. Andrew to Arabia, his brother, St.
Peter, to the dispersed Jews; St. John and St. Philip to Asia Minor,
Sts. Thomas and Bartholomew to India, Sts. Matthew and Matthias to
Ethiopia, but not till the former had written his Gospel, which
several of the Apostles carried with them, and which has been found in
possession of the most ancient Churches by them converted.

Little is known of their labours, as from this time the Acts of the
Apostles chiefly dwell on the history of St. Paul; but it seems certain
that everywhere they began by preaching to the dispersed Jews; and when
these rejected the offer of Salvation, they turned to the heathen, by
whom in general it was far more readily received. The Romans, heeding
this world's greatness more than any spiritual matter, were not inclined
to interfere with any one's religion, and only fancied the Church a sect
of the Jews. They usually gave the Apostles their protection if the Jews
raged against them; and their ships, their roads, and the universality
of their dominion, made the spread of the Gospel much more easy, so that
they were made to prepare the way of the Lord, even while seeking only
their own grandeur. It was about this time that the Emperor Claudius
came to Britain, and his generals won all the southern part of the
island, rooting out the cruel worship of the Druids in their groves
of oak, and circles of huge stones. He died in the year 55, and was
succeeded by his step-son, Nero, a half-mad tyrant, who used to show
off like a gladiator; racing in a chariot before all the Romans at the
games, collecting them all to listen to his verses, and putting those to
death who showed their weariness. He was so jealous and afraid of plots
on his life, that he killed almost all his relations, even his mother,
for fear they should conspire against him; and all the richer and nobler
Romans lived in terror under him, though the common people liked him
for being open-handed, and amusing them with the cruel gladiator shows.



"Of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by
him, and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell
between His shoulders."--_Deut._ xxxiii. 12.

After Saul's marvellous call from Heaven, he spent three years in
solitude in Arabia, ere entering on his work. Then returning to
Damascus, he began to set forth the Gospel. The Jews were so angry at
his change, that they stirred up the soldiers of the Arabian king,
Aretas, and he only escaped them by being let down over the wall in a
basket. Coming to Jerusalem, the gentle Levite, Barnabas, was the first
to welcome him, and present him to the company of the Apostles; but he
spent some years in retirement at his home at Tarsus, before Barnabas
summoned him to come and aid in his preaching at Antioch. There the Word
was heartily received, and the precious title of Christians was first
bestowed upon the disciples; there, too, on the occasion of a famine in
Judea, the first collection of alms for brethren at a distance was made.

At Antioch, a heavenly revelation signified that Paul and Barnabas were
to be set apart for a special mission; and after prayer and consecration
they set out on their mission, accompanied by the nephew of Barnabas,
John, surnamed Mark. Barnabas had once had great possessions in the isle
of Cyprus, and thither they first repaired, preaching in all the chief
places; and then going into Asia Minor, where they showed such power
from on high, that the rude people of Lycaonia fancied them gods in
the likeness of men, and had well-nigh done sacrifice to them, though
afterwards the spiteful Jews led the same men to draw Paul out of the
city, stone him, and leave him for dead. In such perils, Mark's heart
failed him, and he departed from them.

Returning to Antioch, they found the Church in doubt whether the
Christians of Greek birth were bound to obey the rites of the Jewish
Law. To decide this, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem, after fourteen
years' absence, taking with them a Greek, named Titus; and here was held
the First General Council of the Church, a meeting of her Apostles and
elders, in the full certainty that the Divine grace would inspire a
right judgment, according to the promise that Christ would be with those
who should meet in His Name. St. James presided, and St. Peter spoke;
and it was decided that the whole object of these rites had been
fulfilled, therefore that they were among the old things that had passed
away; and that no such rule need be imposed on the Gentiles, save that
given to Noah ere the parting of the nations. It was agreed that St.
Paul should go especially to the Gentiles, and St. Peter and St. John to
the scattered Jews, while St. James remained at Jerusalem. Two Jewish
Christians, Silas and Barsabas, went back with the two Apostles, to
notify the resolution to the Church at Antioch, and St. Peter shortly
followed them; but there continued to be a great tendency among the
Christians of Jewish blood to avoid their Gentile brethren, and St.
Peter was drawn in to do the same, so that St. Paul, always more
stedfast, was forced to rebuke him. Paul and Barnabas intended to set
out on a second journey, and Barnabas wished again to take his now
repentant nephew, but Paul would not trust him a second time; and after
a dispute on the subject, Barnabas left him, and took Mark to Cyprus,
where it is believed that the "Son of Consolation" was at length

Paul, taking Silas as his companion, went over the former ground in Asia
Minor, and at Iconium ordained a disciple, named Timothy, whose father
was a Greek, but whose Jewish mother and grandmother had faithfully bred
him up in the knowledge of the Scriptures. A Greek physician, named
Luke, likewise at this time joined him; and with these faithful
companions, he obeyed a call sent him in a dream, and crossed over into
Macedon, where he gained many souls at Philippi and Thessalonica, but
the Jews stirred up such persecution, that he was forced to go southward
into Greece. Athens was no longer a powerful city, but it served as a
sort of college for all the youths of the Roman Empire who wished to be
highly educated; and it was full of philosophers, who spent their time
in the porticos and groves, arguing on questions of their own--such as
whether, this life being all of which they were sure, it was best to
live well or to live in pleasure. The Stoics were the philosophers who
upheld the love of virtue and honour; the Epicureans said that it was of
no use to vex themselves in this life, but that they might as well enjoy
themselves while they had time. St. Paul was well learned in all these
questions, and set forth to the Athenian students, in glorious words,
that the truth was come for which they had so long yearned, and declared
to them the Unknown God Whom they already worshipped in ignorance.
Some few believed, but the others were too fond of their own empty
reasonings, and Athens long continued the stronghold of heathenism. He
had better success at Corinth, where he spent eighteen months, working
at his trade as a tent-maker, and whence he wrote his two Epistles to
his Thessalonian converts, about the time that St. Luke was writing his
Gospel, it is thought by direct revelation, since neither he nor St.
Paul had been with our Lord. The Jews hunted them away at last; after a
short stay at Jerusalem, they went back to Asia Minor, and passed three
years at Ephesus, whence were written the Epistle to the Galatians,
against the Jewish practices, and the First to the Corinthians, on some
disorders in their Church. Ephesus was the chief city in Asia Minor, and
contained an image of the Greek goddess of the moon, Diana, placed in a
temple so beautiful, that it was esteemed one of the seven wonders of
the world, and thither came a great concourse of worshippers. There was
a silversmith who made great gain by selling small models of her temple;
and he, growing, afraid that his trade would be ruined if idols were
deserted, stirred up the mechanics to such a frenzy of rage, that for
two hours they shouted, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" and they
would have torn Paul to pieces, had they not been with much difficulty
appeased. He was obliged to leave the city, and go to Macedonia, whence
he again wrote to the Corinthians, to console them in their repentance,
and he also wrote to the Church at Rome, which he had never yet seen.
After visiting the Greek Churches, a Divine summons called him back to
keep the feast of Pentecost at Jerusalem, though well knowing that
bonds and imprisonment awaited him there; and on his way he had a most
touching meeting at Miletus, with the elders of Ephesus, who sorrowed
grievously that they should see his face no more. His beloved Timothy
was left with them as their bishop.

At Jerusalem, a terrible tumult arose against him for having, as the
Jews fancied, brought Greeks into the Temple, and he was only rescued
by the Roman garrison, who treated him well on finding that he was a
citizen. Then the Jews laid a plot to murder him, and to prevent this
he was sent to the seat of government at Caesarea, where he was brought
before the procurator, Felix, and his wife, Drusilla, a daughter of
Herod Agrippa. His words made Felix tremble, but the time-server put
them aside, and neither released him nor sent him to Rome for judgment,
but on going out of office left him in prison. Festus, the new
procurator, could not understand his case, and asked the young Agrippa
and his sister Bernice, to help him to find out under what accusation to
send him to Rome. Again St. Paul's speech struck his hearers with awe,
and Agrippa declared himself almost persuaded to be a Christian, but
he loved too well the favour of the Jews and Romans, and his petty
tetrarchy of Trachonitis, to become one of the despised sect. The noble
captive would have been set free, but that he had sent his appeal to
Rome, and therefore could only be tried there.

On his way, coasting along as sailors did before the compass was known,
came his shipwreck at Malta, when the life of his shipmates was granted
to him. The Emperor Nero was so much more disposed to amusement than
business, that St. Paul's cause was not heard, but he lived in his own
hired house, under charge of a soldier seeing the Christians freely, and
writing three beautiful epistles, full of hope and encouragement, to his
children at Ephesus, Colosse, and Philippi, also a friendly intercession
for a runaway slave to Philemon, and letters of pastoral counsel to
Timothy at Ephesus, and to Titus, who was Bishop of Crete. It is thought
that the Epistle to the Hebrews, which shows how the Old Covenant points
throughout to the New, must be also of this date; but we have no longer
the inspired pen of St. Luke to tell of St. Paul's history, and it is
not certain whether he were ever at liberty again, though some think
that he was free for a short time, and went to Spain, Gaul, and even to
Britain. St. Peter had likewise come to Rome. He had met with St. Mark,
and taken him as his companion, and, as it is believed, assisted in
composing his Gospel. St. Peter likewise wrote two epistles to the Jews
dispersed abroad. But dark times were coming on the Church. St. James,
who left an epistle, was, in his old age, slain by the Jews, who cast
him from the top of the Temple, and then beat out his brains. The
Emperor Nero had also broken out in sudden rage. In a fit of folly, he
set Rome on fire to see how the flames would look, and then persuaded
the citizens that it was done by the Christians. St. Peter, who is
considered as the first Bishop of Rome, and St. Paul, were thrown into a
dungeon; and about that time Paul wrote his last letter, to call to
his side Timothy, and also the once weak Mark, now profitable to the
ministry, even as the ever faithful Luke. The fight was over, the crown
was ready, and on the same day, the two Apostles went to receive it; the
Roman citizen by the sword, the Jewish fisherman by the cross, esteemed
dishonour by the Romans, but over-much glory by the saint, who begged to
suffer with his head downwards, so as not to presume on the very same
death as that of his Master. Many Christians likewise perished; thrown
to wild beasts, or smeared with grease, and then slowly burnt, to light
the Romans at their horrible sports; but to them death was gain, and
the Church was only strengthened. St. Timothy went back to his post at
Ephesus, and St. Mark founded a Church at Alexandria, where, many years
later, he was martyred by being dragged to death through the streets.



"The Lord hath accomplished His fury; He hath poured out His fierce
anger, and hath kindled a fire in Zion, and it hath devoured the
foundations thereof"--_Lam._ iv. 11.

In His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, oar Lord had wept for the woes
of the city which would not own Him, and had foretold that the present
generation should not pass away until His mournful words had been
fulfilled. One alone of His Apostles was left to tarry until this coming
for vengeance; the rest had all gone through the pains of martyrdom to
their thrones in Heaven. St. Andrew died in Greece, bound on a cross
shaped like the letter X, and preaching to the last. His friend, St.
Philip, had likewise received the glory of the Cross in Asia; and the
last of the Bethsaida band, St. Bartholomew, was tied to a tree and
flayed alive, in Armenia. St. Matthew and St. Matthias died in Ethiopia
or Abyssinia, leaving a Church which is still in existence; and St.
Thomas was slain by the Brahmins in India, where the Christians of St.
Thomas ever after kept up their faith among the heathen around. St. Jude
died in Mesopotamia, after writing an epistle to his flock; and his
brother, St. Simon Zelotes, also went by the same path to his rest; but
their deaths only strengthened the Church, and their successors carried
out the same work.

The judgments of God were darkening around Jerusalem. A procurator named
Florus was more cruel and insulting than usual, and a tumult broke out
against him. Agrippa tried to appease it, but the Jews pelted him with
stones, and drove him out of Jerusalem; they afterwards burnt down
his palace, and rose in rebellion all over Judea, imagining that the
prophesied time of deliverance was come, and that the warlike Messiah of
their imagination was at hand. Nero was much enraged at the tidings, and
sent an army, under a plain blunt general, named Vespasian, to punish
the revolt. This army subdued Galilee and Samaria, and was already
surrounding Jerusalem, when Vespasian heard that there had been a great
rebellion at home, and that Nero had been killed. He therefore turned
back from the siege, to wait and see what would happen, having thus
given the token promised by our Lord, of the time when the desolation
of Jerusalem should be at hand, when the faithful were to flee.
Accordingly, in this pause, all the Christians, marking well the signs
of coming wrath, took refuge in the hills while the way was still open.
Armies were seen fighting in the clouds; a voice was heard in the Holy
of Holies saying, "Let us depart hence!" the heavily-barred gate of the
Temple flew open of its own accord; and a man wandered up and down the
streets day and night, crying, "Woe to Jerusalem! Woe! woe!" The Jews
were hardened against all warning; they had no lawful head, but there
were three parties under different chiefs, who equally hated the Romans
and one another. They fought in the streets, so that the city was full
of blood; and fires consumed a great quantity of the food laid up
against the siege; yet still the blind Jews came pressing into it in
multitudes, to keep the now unmeaning Feast of the Passover, even at the
time when Vespasian's son, Titus, was leading his forces to the siege.

It was the year 70, thirty-seven years since that true Passover, when
the Jews had slain the true Lamb, and had cried, "His Blood be on us
and our children!" What a Passover was that, when one raging multitude
pursued another into the Temple, and stained the courts with the blood
of numbers! Meanwhile, Titus came up to the valleys around the crowned
hill, and shut the city in on every side, digging a trench, and guarding
it closely, that no food might be carried in, and hunger might waste
away the strength of those within. Then began the utmost fulfilment of
the curses laid up in the Law for the miserable race. The chiefs and
their parties tore each other to pieces whenever they were not fighting
with the enemy; blood flowed everywhere, and robbers rushed through the
streets, snatching away every fragment of food from the weak. The famine
was so deadly, that the miserable creatures preyed on the carcases of
the dead; nay, "the tender and delicate woman" was found who, in the
straits of hunger, killed her own babe, roasted, and fed upon him. So
many corpses were thrown over the walls, that the narrow valleys were
choked, and Titus, in horror, cried out that the Jews, not himself, must
be accountable for this destruction.

For the sake of the Christian fugitives in the mountains, these dreadful
days were shortened, and were not in the winter; and in August Titus's
soldiers were enabled to make an entrance into the Temple. For the sake
of its glorious beauty, he bade that the building should be spared; but
it was under the sentence of our Lord, and his command was in vain. A
soldier threw a torch through a golden window, and the flames spread
fast while the fight raged; the space round the Altar was heaped with
corpses, and streams of blood flowed like rivers. Ere the flames reached
the Sanctuary, Titus went into it, and was so much struck with its
beauty, that he did his utmost to save it, but all in vain; and the
whole was burnt, with 6,000 poor creatures, whom a false prophet had led
to the Temple, promising that a wonder should there be worked for their
deliverance. The city still held out for twenty more days of untold
misery; but at last the Romans broke in amid flames quenched in blood,
and slaughter raged everywhere. Yet it was a still sadder sight to find
the upper rooms of the houses filled with corpses of women and children,
dead of hunger; and indeed, no less than a million of persons had
perished in the siege, while there were 97,000 miserable captives,
12,000 of whom died at once from hunger. As Titus looked at the walls
and towers, he cried out that God Himself must have been against
the Jews, since he himself could never have driven them from such
fortresses. He commanded the whole, especially the Temple, to be leveled
with the ground, no two stones left standing, and the foundation to be
sown with salt; and he carried off the Candlestick, Shewbread Table, and
other sacred ornaments, to be displayed in his triumph. An arch was
set up at Rome in honour of his victory, with the likeness of these
treasures sculptured on it. It is still standing, and the figures there
carved are the chief means we have of knowing what these holy ornaments
were really like. He gave the Jews, some to work in the Egyptian mines,
some to fight with wild beasts to amuse the Romans, and many more to be
sold as slaves. Other people thus dispersed had become fused into other
nations; but it was not so with the Jews. "Slay them not, lest my people
forget it, but scatter them abroad among the heathen," had been the
prophecy of the Psalmist; and thus it has remained even to the present
day. The piteous words of Moses have been literally fulfilled, and among
the nations they have found no ease, neither has the sole of their foot
found any rest; but the trembling heart, and failing eye, and sorrowful
mind, have always been theirs. They have ever been loathed and
persecuted by the nations where their lot has been cast, ever craving
for their lost home, ever hoping for the Messiah of their own fancy.
Still they keep their Sabbath on the seventh day; still they follow the
rules of clean and unclean; and on each Friday, such as still live at
Jerusalem sit with their faces to the wall, and lift up their voice in
mournful wailing for their desolation. Their goodly land lies waste, the
sky above like brass, the earth beneath like iron; her fruitfulness
is over, and from end to end she is a country of ruins, a sign to all
nations! Some there are who read in the prophecies hopes for the Jews,
that they may yet return and learn Who is the Saviour. Others doubt
whether this means that they will ever be restored as a nation; and
still the Jews stand as a witness that God keeps His word in wrath as
well as in mercy--a warning that the children of the free New Covenant
must fear while they are thankful.



"I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will
set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender
one, and will plant it on a high mountain and eminent."--_Ezekiel_,
xvii. 22.

In the year 70, the same in which Jerusalem was destroyed, happened the
first great eruption of the volcano, Mount Vesuvius, in which was killed
Drusilla, the wife of Felix. Her brother, Agrippa, ruled by favour of
the Romans for many years in the little domain of Chalcis. Titus was
emperor after his father. He was a very kind-hearted man, and used to
say he had lost a day whenever he had spent one without doing a good
action; but he was soon poisoned by his wicked brother, Domitian, who
succeeded to his throne in 81. Domitian was a savage tyrant, cruel to
all, because he was afraid of all. He hated the Jews; and hearing that
some persons of royal blood still existed among them, he caused search
to be made for them, and two sons of St. Jude were brought before him.
They owned that they came of the line of David; but they told him they
were poor simple men, and showed him their hands hardened with toil; and
he thought they could do him so little harm, that he let them go. He
also laid hands on the aged St. John, and caused him to be put into a
caldron of boiling oil; but the martyr in will, though not in deed, felt
no hurt, and was thereupon banished to the little Greek Isle of Patmos.
Here was vouchsafed to him a wonderful vision, answering to those of
Daniel, his likeness among the prophets. He saw the true heavenly
courts, such as Moses had shadowed in the Tabernacle, and which Ezekiel
had described so minutely; he saw the same fourfold Cherubim, and
listened to the same threefold chant of praise, as Isaiah had heard; he
saw the seven lamps of fire, and the rainbow of mercy round about the
Throne; and in the midst, in the eternal glory of His priestly robes, he
beheld Him on Whose bosom be had lain, and Who had called him beloved.
From His lips he wrote messages of counsel and warning to the angels, or
Bishops, of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor; and then came a succession
of wonderful visions, each opening with the Church in Heaven and in
earth constantly glorifying Him that sitteth on the Throne, and the
Lamb, for ever and ever; but going on to show the crimes in the world
beneath, and the judgments one after another poured out by the Angels;
the true remnant of the Church persecuted; and the world partly curbed
by, partly corrupting, the visible Church; then the destruction of the
wicked world, under the type of Babylon; the last judgment; the eternal
punishment of the sinful; the final union of Christ and His Church; and
the eternal blessedness of the faithful in the heavenly Jerusalem, with
the Tree of Life restored.

When Domitian was killed, in 86, St. John went back to Ephesus, and
there wrote his Gospel, to fill up what had been left out by the other
three Evangelists, and especially dwelling on the discourses of the Lord
of Life and Love. That same sweet sound of love rings through his three
Epistles; and yet that heart-whole love of his Master made him severe,
for he started away from a house he had entered, and would not go near
it while it contained a former believer who had blasphemed Christ. A
young man whom he had once converted fell into evil courses in his
absence, and even became a tobber. St. John, like the Good Shepherd,
himself went out into the wilderness to find him, and was taken by
the thieves When his convert saw him, he would have fled in shame and
terror; but St. John held out his arms, called him back, and rested
not till he had won him to repentance. So gentle was he to all living
things, that he was seen nursing a partridge in his hands, and when he
became too old to preach to the people, he used to hold out his hands in
blessing, and say, "Little children, love one another." He died in the
year 100, just before the first great storm which was to try the Church.

The Emperor Trajan had found out that the iron of the Roman temper had
become mixed with miry clay, and that the men of his time were very
different from their fathers, and much less brave and public spirited.
He fancied this was the fault of new ways, and that Christianity was
one of these. There were Christians everywhere, in every town of every
province, nobles, soldiers, women, slaves, rich and poor; all feeling
themselves members of one body, all with the same faith, the same
prayers and Sacraments. All day they did their daily tasks, only
refusing to show any honour to idols, such as pouring out wine to the
gods before partaking of food, or paying adoration to the figures of the
Caesars, which were carried with the eagle standards of the army; and so
close was the brotherhood between them, that the heathen used to say,
"See how these Christians love one another!" At night they endeavoured
to meet in some secret chamber, or underground cave. At Rome, the
usual place was the Catacombs, great vaults, whence the soft stone for
building the city had been dug out, and where the quarry-men alone knew
the way through the long winding passages. Here, in the very early
morning of Lord's Day, the Christians made every effort to assemble,
for they were sure of meeting their Bishop, and of receiving the Holy
Communion to strengthen them for the trials of the week. The Christian
men and women stood on opposite sides; a little further off were the
learners, as yet unbaptized, who might only hear the prayers and
instructions; and beyond them was any person who had been forbidden to
receive the Holy Eucharist on account of some sin, and who was waiting
to be taken back again. The heathen knew nothing of what happened in
these meetings, and fancied that a great deal that was shocking was done
there; and Trajan ordered that Christians should be put to the torture,
if they would not confess what were their ceremonies. Very few would
betray anything, and what they said, the heathen could not understand;
but the emperor imagining that these rites would destroy the old Roman
spirit, forbade them, and persecuted the Christians, because they
obeyed God rather than man. The Bishop of Antioch was an old man named
Ignatius, who is believed to have been the little child whom our blessed
Lord had set in the midst of His disciples as an example of lowliness.
He had been St. John's pupil, and always walked in his steps, and he is
the first Father of the Church, that is, the first of the great wise men
in those early days, whose writings have come down to us. As Trajan was
going through Antioch, he saw this holy man, and sentenced him to be
carried to Rome, there to be thrown to the lions for the amusement
of the bloody-minded Romans. As has been said, from early days the
favourite sport of this nation had been to sit round on galleries,
built up within a round building called an amphitheatre, to watch the
gladiators fight with each other, or with savage beasts. Many of these
buildings are still to be found ruined in different parts of the empire,
and one in especial at Rome, named the Coliseum, where it is most likely
that the death of St. Ignatius took place, when, as he said, he was the
wheat of Christ, ground by the teeth of the lions. He is reckoned as one
of the Fathers of the Church. His great friend was Polycarp, Bishop
or Angel of Smyrna, the same, as it is believed, to whom St. John had
written in the Revelation, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give
thee a crown of life."

The Emperor Antoninus began a persecution, which was carried on by his
successor, Marcus Aurelius; and in 167, St. Polycarp, who was a very
aged man, and had ruled the Church of Smyrna towards seventy years, was
led before the tribunal. The governor had pity on his grey hairs, and
entreated him to save his life by swearing by the fortunes of Caesar,
and denying Christ. "Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He has
never done me a wrong; how could I then blaspheme my King, who hath
saved me?" said Polycarp; and all the threats of the governor did but
make him glad to be so near glorifying God by his death. He was taken
out to be burnt alive, and as he stood bound to the stake, he cried
aloud, "Lord God Almighty, Father of the blessed and well-beloved Son,
Jesus Christ, by Whom we have received the grace to know Thee; God of
angels and of powers, God of all creatures, and of the just who live in
Thy Presence, I thank Thee that Thou hast brought me to this day and
hour, when I may take part in the number of the martyrs in the Cup
of Thy Christ, to rise to the eternal life of soul and body in the
incorruption of the Holy Spirit. May I be received into Thy Presence
with them as an acceptable offering, as Thou hast prepared and foretold,
Thou the true God Who canst not lie. Therefore I praise Thee, I bless
Thee, I glorify Thee by the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus
Christ, Thy beloved Son, to Whom, with Thee and the Holy Ghost, be glory
now and for ever and ever. Amen." The fire was kindled, and to the
wonder of the beholders, it rose into a bright vault of flame, like a
glory around the martyr, without touching him; whereupon the governor
became impatient, and caused him to be slain with the sword. He was the
last of the companions of the Apostles; but there was no lessening
of the grace bestowed on the Church. Even when Aurelius's army was
suffering from a terrible drought in an expedition to Germany, a
legion who were nearly all Christians, prayed aloud for rain, a shower
descended in floods of refreshment. The emperor said that his god
Jupiter sent it, and caused his triumphal arch to be carved with figures
of soldiers, some praying, others catching rain in their helmets and
shields; but the band was ever afterwards called the Thundering Legion.
This unbelieving emperor persecuted frightfully, and great numbers
suffered at Vienne in Gaul, many dying of the damp of their prison, and
many more tortured to death. Of these was the Bishop Pothinus of Lyons,
ninety years old, who died of the torments; and those who lived through
them were thrown to wild beasts, till the animals were so glutted as to
turn from the prey; but no pain was so great as not to be counted joy
by the Christians; and the more they were slain, the more persons were
convinced that the hope must be precious for which they endured so much;
and the more the Word of God prevailed. Aurelius Caesar died in 180, and
the Church was left at rest for a little while,



"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for
theirs is the Kingdom of heaven."--_Matt_ v. 10

It had been revealed to St. John that the Church should have tribulation
for ten days; and accordingly, in her first three hundred years, ten
emperors tried to put out her light. Nero, Domitian, Trajan, Antoninus,
and Aurelius, have been mentioned; and the next persecutor was Severus,
an emperor who went to Britain, firmly established the Roman power over
England, and built the great wall to keep the Scots from injuring the
northern settlers.

In his time died the glorious band of martyrs of Carthage--five young
converts, two men, named Satur and Saturninus, a noble young married
lady, called Perpetua, who had a young infant, and two slaves, Revocatus
and Felicitas, the last of whom gave birth to a daughter in the prison.
But not even love to their babes could lead these faithful women to
dissemble their belief; Perpetua left her child with her family;
Felicitas gave hers to a Christian woman to bring up; and the lady and
the slave went out singing, hand in hand, to the amphitheatre, where
they were to be torn by beasts. A wild cow was let loose on them, and
threw down the two women; but Perpetua at once sat up again, covered
herself with her garments, and helped up Felicitas, but as if in a
dream, for she did not remember that the cow had been loosed on her.
Satur had an especial horror of a bear, which was intended to be the
means of his death, and a good soldier named Pudens put meat in front of
the den, that the beast might not come out. A leopard then flew at him,
and tore him; Satur asked the soldier for his ring, dipped it in his own
blood, and gave it back as a memorial, just before he died under the
teeth and claws of the animal. The others were all killed by soldiers in
the middle of the amphitheatre, Perpetua guiding the sword to her own

The persecution of the Emperor Decius was one of the worst of all,
for the heathen grew more ingenious by practice in inventing horrible

Under the Emperor Valerian died St. Lawrence, a young deacon at Rome,
whom the judge commanded to produce the treasures of the Church.
He called together all the aged widows and poor cripples who were
maintained by the alms of the faithful, "These," he said, "are the
treasures of the Church." In the rage of the persecutors, he was roasted
to death on bars of iron over a fire. St. Cyprian, the great Bishop of
Carthage, was beheaded; and one hundred and fifty martyrs at Utica
were thrown alive into a pit of quick-lime. At Antioch one man failed;
Sapricius, a priest, was being led out to die, when a Christian named
Nicephorus, with whom he had a quarrel, came to beg his forgiveness ere
his death. Sapricius would not pardon, and Nicephorus went on humbly
entreating, amid the mockery of the guards, until the spot of execution
was reached, and the prisoner was bidden to kneel down to have his bead
cut off. Then it appeared that he who had not the heart to forgive, had
not the heart to die; Sapricius's courage failed him, and he promised to
sacrifice to the idols; and Nicephorus was put to death, receiving the
crown of martyrdom in his stead. The persecuting Valerian himself came
to a miserable end, for he was made prisoner in a battle, in 258, with
the Persians, and their king for many years forced the unhappy captive
to bow down on his hands and knees so as to be a step by which to climb
on his elephant, and when he died, his skin was taken off, dyed red, and
hung up in a temple. After his captivity, the Church enjoyed greater
tranquillity; many more persons ventured to avow themselves Christians,
and their worship was carried on without so much concealment as

But the troublous times were not yet over, and the rage of the prince of
this world moved the Romans to make a yet more violent effort than any
before to put down the kingdom of the Prince of Peace. Two emperors
began to reign together, named Diocletian and Maximian, dividing the
whole empire between them into two parts, the East and the West. After a
few years' rule, they both of them fell savagely upon the Christians.
In Switzerland, a whole division of the army, called the Theban Legion,
6,000 in number, with the leader, St. Maurice, all were cut to pieces
together rather than deny their faith. In Egypt the Christians were
mangled with potsherds, and every torture was invented that could shake
their constancy. Each tribunal was provided with a little altar to some
idol, and if the Christians would but scatter a few grains of incense
upon it, they were free; but this was a denying of their Lord, and the
few who yielded in the fear of them who could kill the body, grieved all
their lives afterwards for the act, and were not restored to their place
in the Church until after long years of penance, or until they had
atoned for their fall by witnessing a good confession. Sometimes they
were not allowed to receive the Holy Communion again till they were
on their dying beds. But these were the exceptions; in general, God's
strength was made perfect in weakness, and not only grown men, but
timid women, tender maidens, and little children, would bear the utmost
torture with glad faith, and trust that it was working for them an
exceeding 'weight of glory. St. Margaret of Antioch was but fifteen
years old, St. Agnes of Rome only twelve, and at Merida, in Spain,
Eulalia, at the same age, went out in search of martyrdom, insulting
the idols, until she was seized and put to death full of joy; but in
general, the Christians were advised not needlessly to run into the way
of danger.

This was the first persecution that reached to Britain, There a
kind-hearted Roman soldier, named Alban, received into his house a
priest who was fleeing from his persecutors, and while he was there,
learnt from him the true faith. When search was made for his guest,
Alban threw on the dress of the priest, and was taken in his stead; he
was carried to the tribunal, and there declaring himself a Christian,
was sentenced to be beheaded. The city where he suffered is called after
him St. Alban's, and a beautiful church was afterwards built in memory
of him. These cruelties did not long continue in Britain, for the
governor, Constantius, had married a Christian British lady, named
Helena; and as soon as he ventured to interfere, he stopped the

Diocletian became tired of reigning, and persuaded his comrade,
Maximian, to resign their thrones to Constantius and to another prince
named Galerius. Constantius forbade all persecution in the West, but
Galerius and his son-in-law, Maximin, were very violent in the East; and
Maximin is counted as the last of the ten persecuting emperors. Under
him a great many Christians were blinded, scarred with hot iron, or had
their fingers and ears cut off. Some were sent to the deserts to keep
the emperor's cattle; some were driven in chains to work in the mines.
These, who suffered bravely everything except death, were called
confessors instead of martyrs. Galerius died in great misery in 311,
of the same horrible disease as the persecutor of the Jews, Antiochus
Epiphanes; and like him, he at last owned too late the God whom he had
rejected, and sent entreaties that prayers might be offered up for him.



"The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and
of his Christ."--_Rev_. xi, 15.

The son of Constantius, Constantine, became emperor in 307. He was in
doubt between the two religions; he saw that Christianity made people
good, and yet he could not quite leave off believing in the heathen
gods, and was afraid of neglecting them. As he was passing the Alps to
put down a very powerful and cruel tyrant, who had made himself master
of Italy, he and all his army suddenly beheld in the sky, at mid-day, a
bright light shaped like a cross, and in glorious letters round it, the
Latin words meaning, "In this sign thou shalt conquer." This wonderful
sight made Constantine believe that the cross was truly the sign of
salvation, and that He who could show such marvels in heaven, must be
the true God. He set the cross on his standards instead of the Roman
Eagle; and such great victories were vouchsafed to him, that by-and-by
he became the only emperor, and put down all his enemies.

He was not as yet baptized, but he was a hearty believer, and he tried
in everything to make the Church prosperous, and to govern by Christian
rules. From that time all the chief powers of this world have professed
to be Christian, and the Church has been owned as the great means
appointed by God of leading His people to Himself. Constantine's mother,
Helena, though in her eightieth year, set off to the ruins of Jerusalem
to try to trace out the places hallowed by our Saviour's suffering. All
was waste and desolate, and no one lived there save a few very poor Jews
and Christians in wretched huts. The latter had never lost the memory of
the places where the holy events of the Passion had taken place; and the
empress set men to dig among the ruins on Mount Calvary, till she found
the Holy Sepulchre, and not far from it, three crosses, and the nails
belonging to them. She built a most beautiful church, so large as to
cover the whole of Golgotha. The sepulchre itself formed a round vault
within, crusted over with marble, and lighted with silver lamps. The
true Cross was kept in the church, but the nails she brought home as the
most precious gift she could carry to her son. She also beautified and
made into a church the cave of the Nativity at Bethlehem, and she built
another church on Mount Carmel in memory of Elijah. From her time it
became a habit with devout persons to go on pilgrimage, to worship at
the holy tomb and in the Cave of Bethlehem; and a new city of Jerusalem
rose upon the ruins of the old one, though, of course, without a Temple.
Rome was so fall of the tokens of heathenism, that Constantine feared
that his court would never be heartily Christian till he took it to a
fresh place; so he resolved to build a new capital city for his empire.
This was the city called after him, Constantinople, the city of
Constantine, on the banks of the Bosphorus, just where Europe and Asia
nearly meet. The chief building there was a most beautiful church,
dedicated to the holy Wisdom of God, and named in Greek St. Sophia. The
Bishop there was termed the Patriarch of Constantinople. There were
already five patriarchs, or great Father Bishops, to rule over divisions
of the Church at Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome. The Patriarch
of Rome was called the Pope. All was peace and prosperity, and the
Christians were so much at their ease, that some finding that they
missed the life of hardness, which they used to think a great blessing,
went apart from men, and lived in caves, quite alone, working hard for
very scanty food, and praying constantly. These were called hermits. But
there soon were troubles enough rising up within the Church herself, for
a man named Arius, a priest at Alexandria, began wickedly to teach that
our blessed Lord was not from all eternity, nor equal with God the
Father. So many persons were led away by this blasphemous heresy, (which
means a denial of the faith,) that it was resolved to call together
as many Bishops as possible from the entire Church, to hold a General
Council, and declare the truth.

The emperor came to Nicea, in Asia Minor, in the year 325, and there
met three hundred and eighteen bishops from every quarter, many of them
still scarred by the injuries they had received in the persecutions,
and many learned priests and deacons, among whom the most noted
was Athanasius of Alexandria. Together, they drew up the two first
paragraphs of the confession of faith called the Nicene Creed, and three
hundred of the bishops set their sign and seal to it, declaring it was
the truth, as they had been charged to hold and teach it fast, the
Catholic or universal faith. Arius was put out of the Communion of the
Church, and all his followers with him. But they were many and
powerful; and in after times, Constantine became confused by their
representations. He ought to have seen that he who was not even baptized
ought not to interfere in Church matters; but instead of this, he wrote
to Athanasius, who had just been made Patriarch of Alexandria, telling
him to preserve peace by receiving Arius back to Communion. Athanasius
refused to do what would have tainted the whole Church, so Constantine
banished him, and allowed Arius to come to Constantinople. There the
heretic deceived him so completely, that he desired that he should be
received back on the next Sunday. While the faithful clergy wept and
prayed that the Church might be kept clear from the man who denied
honour to the Lord who bought him, Arius went through the streets in
triumph; but in the midst he was smitten by a sudden disease, and died
in a few moments. This judgment convinced Constantine, and he held
to the Catholic faith for the rest of his life. He was baptized, and
received his first Communion on his death-bed, when sixty-four years
old, and is remembered as the first believing monarch.

After him came worse times, for his son, Constantius, was an Arian, and
persecuted the Catholics, though not to the death. St. Athanasius was
driven to hide among the hermits in Egypt, and a great part of the
Eastern Church fell into the heresy. Then, in 361, reigned his cousin,
Julian the Apostate, who, from being a Christian, had turned back to be
a heathen, and wanted to have the old gods worshipped. In hopes to show
that the prophecies were untrue, he tried to build up the Temple at
Jerusalem, and the foundations were being dug out, when balls of fire
came bursting out of the ground; and thus God's will and power were made
known, so that the workmen were forced to leave off. Julian was very
severe towards the Catholics, and it seemed as though the old times of
persecution were coming back; but after three years he was killed in
battle, and the next emperor brought back better days. St. Athanasius
finished this life in peace, and left behind him writings, whence was
taken the glorious Creed that bears his name.



"The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee;
and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles
of thy feet; and they shall call thee the City of the Lord, the Zion of
the Holy One of Israel"--_Isa_. lx. 14.

The empire was again divided into two parts, which were held by two
brothers. Valentinian, who had the eastern half, was an Arian; and
Valens, who ruled at Rome, was a Catholic. Though all the empire was
Christian, still there were sad disputes; for many had fallen away into
the heresy, and there was so great a love of arguing in a light careless
manner in market-places, baths, feasts, and places of common resort,
that it was a great distress to the truly devout to hear the most sacred
mysteries discoursed of so freely.

The great and learned Saint Jerome hid himself away from this strife of
tongues, to pray and study in a hermitage at Bethlehem. By the desire of
the Pope, he did the same work for the New Testament as Simon the Great
had done for the Old Testament: he examined into the history of all the

Book of the day: