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things, secretly in the siege and straitness wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates.” Hearing of the inhuman deed, Titus swore the eternal extirpation of the accursed city and people.
On the 17th of July, the daily sacrifice ceased, according to the prediction of Daniel,* no proper person being left to minister at the altar.
The Roman commander had determined to save the temple, as an honor to himself, but the Lord of Hosts had purposed its destruction. On the 10th of August, a Roman soldier seized a brand of fire, and threw it into one of the windows. The whole temple was soon in flames. The • frantic Jews, and Titus himself labored to extinguish it, but
in vain. Titus entered into the sanctuary, and bore away the golden candlestick, the table of shew bread, and the volume of the law, wrapped up in a rich golden tissue. The complete conquest of Jerusalem ensued. Christ had foretold that “there should be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world.” During the siege, which lasted five months, eleven hundred thousand Jews perished; 97,000 were taken prisoners. The number destroyed during the war, which lasted seven years, is computed at one million four hundred and sixty-two thousand. This city was amazingly strong. Upon viewing the ruins, Titus exclaimed, “we have fought with the assistance of God.” The city was completely levelled, and Tarentius Rufus ploughed up the foundations of the temple. Thus literally were the predictions of Christ fulfilled, " thine enemies shall lay thee even with the ground; and there shall not be left one stone upon another.”[
The state of the Jews after the destruction of Jerusalem, was indescribably wretched. Indeed, in consequence of the number slain and carried captive, and the vast multitude of fugitives to other lands, the country was almost depopulated. Only a few women and old men remained about Jerusalem. All the land of Judea was sold by an imperial edict, and the tribute was confiscated which had been annually paid to the temple. They no longer existed as a nation, but were scattered through the earth, and have continued to this day, a wonder, a reproach and a by-word among all nations.
Such were the judgments of heaven, upon the first opposers of the Gospel of Christ.
* Daniel ix. 27. Luke xix. 44.
But the most terrible opposition with which the Gospel met, because supported by the greatest worldly power, was from the Roman Emperors. Every system of religion had been tolerated among Pagan nations, because it tolerated in turn, every other system. But Christianity was an exclusive system. It utterly condemned and discarded all the gods of the heathen as vanity and a lie, and turned into derision all the absurdities of pagan superstition. It waged an exterminating war against all the sacrifices, temples, images, oracles, and sacerdotal orders of Greece and Rome; cut off an immense multitude of priests, of augurs, attendants and artists, from their ordinary means of subsistence; and was so simple in its form of worship, having no visible symbol of Deity, as to appear to the common people, little better than Atheism. By the Heathen, therefore, the Christians were accounted a detestable race; and the ingenuity of the priests was employed in increasing the public prejudice against them, by representing them as the cause of all the judgments of Heaven which descended upon mankind.
Ten general persecutions they are said to have suffered in the early ages of the church; besides many that were limited to particular provinces. This exact number, however, it is difficult for us to verify; but we can specify two before the close of the first century, and others at the commencement of the second, in which the number of martyrdoms was prodigiously great and the sufferings of Christians were beyond description
The first persecution commenced under Nero, about the year of our Lord 64, and continued about four years. This inhuman monster set fire to the city of Rome, that he might have the pleasure of seeing the conflagration. The odium he incurred nearly cost him his head. To clear himself, he charged it upon the Christians, and inflicted upon them the most awful sufferings. The following account, given by Tacitus, an heathen historian, is entitled to the fullest credit, and gives us many interesting and valuable particulars. “But neither the emperor's donations, nor the atonements offered to the gods, could remove the scandal of this report, but it was still believed that the city had been burnt by his instigation. Nero, therefore, to put a stop to the rumor, charged the fact, and inflicted the severest punishments for it upon the Christians, as they were commonly called; a people detestable for their crimes. The author of this sect was Christ, who was put to death by Pontius
Pilate. The destructive superstition which was by this means suppressed for the present, soon broke out again, and not only overspread Judea, where it first arose, but reached even to Rome, where all abominations from every quarter are sure to meet and find acceptance. Some who confessed themselves Christians, were first apprehended, and a vast multitude afterwards upon their impeachment, who were condemned, not so much for burning the city, as for being the objects of universal hatred. Their sufferings and torments were heightened by mockery and derision. Some were enclosed in the skins of wild beasts, that they might be torn in pieces by dogs; others were crucified; and others, being covered with inflammable matter, were lighted up as torches at the close of the day. These spectacles were exhibited in Nero's gardens, where he held a kind of Circensian show, either mixing with the populace in the habit of a charioteer, or himself contending in the race. Hence it came to pass, that criminal and undeserving of mercy as they were, yet they were pitied as being destroyed merely to gratify his savage and cruel disposition, and not with any view to the public good.”
Tacitus had the common feeling about Christianity as a destructive superstition, and about Christians as undeserving of mercy; but his testimony shows the extent and horror of the persecution, and the pity excited in the minds of the people. This persecution ceased at the death of Nero, who destroyed himself; he having been condemned by a decree of the senate, to be whipped to death.
In this persecution Paul and Peter suffered martyrdom. The former, after his two years imprisonment at Rome, once more visited and confirmed the Churches; but, re. turning to Rome, about the year 65, he found no mercy from Nero. He had converted to the faith the tyrant's concubine and cupbearer, and had displayed before him the terrors of the judgment. Such a man was not to be tolerated. He was slain with the sword, by Nero's order.
Peter probably* came to Rome, about the year 63. Here he wrote his two epistles. During the violence of persecution, the brethren begged him to retreat. But he chose to remain, warned of his end, it is reported, in a vision by Christ. He was crucified with his head downward-a kind of death which he requested because he had denied his Lord and Master.
* It is thought by many that Peter never came to Rome, but spent his life in the East.
A second general persecution broke out about 94, under Domitian; a prince greatly resembling Nero, in his temper and conduct. He almost extirpated the Church by his cruelties. Forty thousand Christians were put to death. By him the apostle John was banished to the isle of Patmos, where he had his revelations. By him also, Flavius Clemens, a man of consular dignity, and Flavila Domitilla, his niece or wife, who had become distinguished Christians, were put to death.
Opposition of a deadly character also arose against the Church, from another quarter, in the early stage of its existence. Pretended friends rested in her bosom, who propagated doctrines utterly subversive of the Gospel of Christ. Tertullian and Theodoret reduce them to two classes, the Docetae and the Ebionites. The former deniedt he supreme divinity of Christ, and also that the Son of God had any proper humanity, and asserted that he died on the cross in appearance only. The latter asserted that Jesus Christ was a mere man, though of a most excellent character. They both denied atonement by his blood, and expected justification, by their own works. Among the former were the Nicolatians, whom Christ himself mentions to John with utter abhorrence. They had many disgusting peculiarities: allowed a community of wives, and indulged themselves without restraint in sensual pleasures. Against these heresies, John wrote his epistle, in which he fully asserts the real proper divinity of the Savior. The Ebionites considered the law of Moses as obligatory upon all men, and as bringing sąlvation. They by their activity and zeal in propagating error, and perplexing the early Christians, drew from Paul some of his best epistles. The watchfulness and power of the Apostles, and the care shown by the friends of truth and godliness, to keep themselves distinct from all who perverted the Gospel, preserved the churches from de. struction.
General state of the Church from the first century to Constantine. Extension of the
Gospel. Change of means. Persecution in Bithynia. Pliny's letter to Trajan. Writings of Clement. Death of Simeon. Martyrdom of Ignatius. Favorable decree of Antonius Pius. Persecutions under Marcus. Justin Martyr. Polycarp. Persecutions in France. Rest to the Churches under Commodus. Corruptions of the second century. Increase of Rites and Ceremonies. Easter.
The history of the Church of Christ, from the close of the first century to the commencement of the fourth, is one of continual enlargement, but of gradual and deep declension in doctrine and holy practice; and of awful suffering from the fires of persecution. It was not, as it had been under the ancient dispensation, a distinct nation, governed by its own rulers and laws, appointed by God; but it was composed of a vast multitude, who lived in all parts of the Roman empire who had been persuaded to renounce idolatry, and enlist under the banner of the Lord Jesus Christ; and who who were united in small associations or Churches-each enjoying the ministration of the Gospel and Christian ordinances from a stated pastor. At an early period, these Churches associated in the various provinces and districts for their mutual support and edification; and it became one of the natural consequences of frequent assemblies of their pastors and delegates in eouncil, for him, who was stationed in the metropolis to gain and hold a kind of pre-eminence over his brethren in the surrounding country, and to be their presiding elder and overseer. Hence the parity which Christ had established among his Ministers was destroyed; and the office of Bishop was established, which, before the close of the period above alluded to, became one of immense power in the Church.
Every year, converts to Christianity were prodigiously multiplied, until one of the Fathers could say, “ We have filled all your towns, cities, islands, castles, boroughs, councils, camps, courts, palaces, senate, forum:" but we have no means of correctly ascertaining the exact time when the Gospel was carried to various distant nations, or who were, in all cases, the favored instruments of disseminating the truth. We have already seen with what amazing rapidity it spread during the ministry of the Apostles. But it is not like an art or a science, which mankind find useful to themselves, and which is no sooner known by one nation, than it is carefully sought for and possessed by every other. It must